Manifesto, from the Middle French, manifeste, meaning to make manifest. Also a written declaration of views and explanation of conduct, with emphasis on political and artistic public written declarations. (1)
To make something happen, first write it down. The manifesto falls into the category of textual art, written magic, a scribal activity that channels the power of the inspired word out into the world. The action of writing a manifesto can bring on changes in a culture or society and is illustrative of the process of manifestation. As such, the writer of the manifesto bears the weight of responsibility for whatever he has wrought. Perhaps this is why so many manifestos have been issued by a collective of people, to share out the burden, or why they have been published anonymously or under a pseudonym, as if that alone could deflect the forces invoked. Artistically, having your name tied to a movement is a mixed bag. Andre Breton is remembered as the father of Surrealism. It could be said that the movement itself was his greatest work of art. How many people have actually read his novels or poetry as compared to those who have heard of Surrealism and think immediately of Salvidor Dali?
The effect of the manifsto itself is mixed bag. Some manifestos fail in bringing about the changes they desire. Others do succeed in galvanizing some sector of the human race into work on a particular project or aim. Most lie somewhere in the muddy in-between. Where there were clear waters before the circulation of a tract, seeing the way ahead is now hard because the writing has stirred up debris. Still a manifesto has its uses, and can help act as a strainer, removing the excrement from a once pure spring, or pointing a way for those who have become lost.
Manifestos exist as pixels inside the illuminated screens of the electronic frontier. Lingering on some forlorn weblog they may never get read by more than the author and a handful of her friends. Thus the potential for inciting revolutionary action is diluted. They are also amenable to print and dissemination as handbills and broadsides. These manifestos can be wheat-pasted to the sides of buildings and telephone polls, left on the bus, or at the bar, so that anyone who stumbles across their path may potentially inherit the underlying memes and act as a transmitter of the word-virus. The printed format will also continue to exist in times when computer technology is no longer viable.
The manifesto may be oriented towards magical, artistic, political, scientific, or educational areas. It may combine all of the above into a smorgasbord or just a few into a unique synthesis. In the magical realm the manifestos that gave birth to the Rosicrucian movement helped to usher in another tide of growth in the magical revival of the West; a tide of growth that I believe is a braided counterpart to the ongoing collapse of Western civilization.
“The Rosicrucian idea, as presented in the Fama and Confessio, can be seen as an embryo which, in the years immediately following the publication of the manifestos, began to grow and develop surprising traits. The way in which this organism evolved into its mature form was determined to a large extent by those who leapt to the defense of the brotherhood in the furor that followed the appearance of the manifestos.” -Christopher McIntosh, The Rosicrucians: The History, Mythology, and Rituals of an Esoteric Order (2)
The various Rosicrucian orders that sprang into being did not exist until after the manifestos associated with it began to circulate, first in Germany and then elsewhere in Europe. There may have been a Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross that existed in secret before the Fama Fraternitatis and Confessio were published. Whether or not they did is “immaterial” to how many people and groups took up the Rosicrucian cause in the wake of the manifestos. It is certain that the inner impulse that gave rise to the Rosicrucian manifestos already existed on the inner planes -thus the person or people who penned these documents participated in a form of “contacted writing”.
“Witchcraft is a strength, not a command. Witchcraft is rhizomatic, non-hierarchical. Witchcraft challenges the organization, not the meaning. We are merely marked” (3)
will be used and taken up by workers. What is certain now is that it is a strong call to action, for “if the land is poisoned, witchcraft must respond“. A poisoned land is part of the post-industrial heritage humanity is leaving unto seven generations. We must not only seek the grail, but use it towards remediating the wasteland when it has been found. There is much to do even during that particular quest.
Another warning is due to those who would write a manifesto, and that is to beware of the slippery slope that would turn a manifesto into a creed. Aleister Crowley fell down this slope when he wrote Liber Oz whose main declaration is “There is no god but man“a fallacy proved through the observation of Nature and true mystical and magical experience -which has the effect of showing just how small Man and his “Will” actually are.
It is unfortunate that over time manifestos will turn into creeds, even if precautions are taken to stop this from happening. New artistic movements come along that need to break from the heterodoxy of practice a manifesto may establish. They are a fun form to work with, and are suitable vehicles for containing transcendental vitriol. As such they are filled with fire. Both writer and reader may end up getting burned.
1. interpolations from the etymology in the Oxford English Dictionary.
2. Christopher McIntosh, The Rosicrucians: The History, Mythology, and Rituals of an Esoteric Order, Samuel Weiser, York Beach, Maine 1997
3. Peter Grey, Apocalyptic Witchcraft, Scarlet Imprint, 2013
Divine Madness is a liminal book. It traces the inner lives of a number of visionaries who dwell in the margins of our culture. It looks at both gods and men, to see where they have been cracked, and shines a light through the fissure to create a pattern of connection. These poems about people expose the places where the tower of human society has cracked only to make a building game out of the resultant rubble.
Paul Pines has listened to the dead whisper, and in these poems, he becomes a speaker for a diverse assembly of cultural ancestors. Thomas Paine rubs elbows with Leonard Bernstein. Columbus and Giordano Bruno are enshrined with Audubon and Telemachus. His ear has been attuned, and now he can share the same ear that Chan-Bahlum “pressed to the spirit tube / on the platform / of the Temple of The Inscriptions / at Palenque” and so can empathize with the life of Van Gogh who “chewed so much foxglove / his world turned yellow.” In listening closely to these lives touched by the madness of the Muses, Paul is able to show his readers that “the voices of the gods make us / ciphers for what cannot / be deciphered”.
To truly listen to the dead speak, the volume knob of reason will need to be turned down. “We who are trapped / in a nation / of lost intimacies / can’t hear // what the dead / buried / in our hearts// ask us to honor / in their name”. Peoples boundaries have become rigid. The veil separating the living from the dead has become thick, where once it had been thin. The underworld is a clogged sewer, filled with all the things humanity rejects. Children feel this “unspoken / terror of our fear”. To really sit and be with the fear requires the person who has been infected with divine madness to go and sit on the edge, between sanity and lunacy, between wilderness and civilization, between the outer person made of skin, bones, body, and the inner self, of our imagination, the shining body, and the eternal flame. Paul Pines has become comfortable walking these edges.
Vulcan is another edge-walker who appears in the pages of this book, “whose hairy blacksmith hands” can make “a net of fire in water” or a net of words thrown across the page in brief dancing lines. The spaces in between those lines make another kind of confluence, just as the workshop of Vulcan lies deep beneath the oceans waves in a cavernous cleft of volcanic lava.
The artisans of culture sit forever betwixt the crossroads on the outskirts of town. They are exiles, whether from Olympus or Eden. They are alchemists who take the raw ore buried in the earth and forge it into the ploughshare that is also a sword. Agriculture and warfare, are the uneasy twins of the city-state, progeny of the blacksmith. The inspired gifts brought forth by the hands of the metal worker are both fearsome and awe-inspiring. These poems elicit a similar response in how they mediate Paul’s encounters with the numinous. The terror and ecstasy which come from making contact with powers and beings outside of oneself are both here.
Yet these words also speak to the “alchemists / of the every-day heart” who experience the “coagulatio et separatio” even as they “punch a clock / drive kids to school //support the weight / of a routine”. I may meet gods and daimons in the inner worlds but I come back here to my wife and children and work. Even if I climb Jacob’s ladder to the stars and their snaking heavens, I return to this place of my body and face my own mortality. Paul writes, “His wife kisses him / then turns away / a pillow tucked to her chest // awake in the hotel room / afraid of death / he counts possible years / left // calculating his daughters age / if he lasts twenty more”.
This where Paul Pines excels. He sends the reader out on a “raft of snakes” into the terra incongnita, pushing the voyager to cross boundaries and seek new horizons, and then he shows the common rubble everyone must contend with, and brings it all back home, into the present, making Divine Madness something that anyone can aspire to be touched by.
“The first task of the man who wants to be a poet is to study his own awareness of himself, in its entirety; he seeks out his soul, he inspects it, he tests it, he learns it. As soon as he knows it, he must cultivate it! . . . –But the problem is to make the soul into a monster, like the compachicos, you know? Think of a man grafting warts onto his face and growing them there.
I say you have to be a visionary, make yourself a visionary. A Poet makes himself a visionary through a long, boundless, and systematized disorganization of all the senses. All forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he exhausts within himself all poisons and preserves their quintessence’s. Unspeakable torment, where he will need the greatest faith, a superhuman strength, where he becomes among all men the great invalid, the great criminal, the great accursed–and the Supreme Scientist!” -Arthur Rimbaud to Charles Izambard
The Systematic Derangement of the Senses
The original sense of Arthur Rimbaud’s call to systematically disorganize all the senses as a means for knowing one’s self in the depths has been lost since he wrote these words in the 19th century. Since this call was taken up by the Surrealists, and later the Beats, it came to take on the singular connotation of experimenting with drugs. While it is true the precocious Arthur was an avid drinker of Absinthe and had the leather lungs of a Hashish smoker, the passage from his letter to Charles Izambard does not specifically mention the use of substances.
Poisons are mentioned, and drugs can certainly be classified as a poison. There is even a branch of magical/poetic praxis termed “the poison path” by Dale Pendell (best exemplifed by his own writings in the Pharmako trilogy, as well as by Daniel Schulke, speficifically in the latter’s Veneficium). I think that while the Poison Path may encompass a disciplined approach to the systematic derangement of the senses, all too often the person who intends to use a plant or a chemical as a tool ends up getting used instead. In the context of magical service “being used” or “ridden” may be a good thing. But when it comes to using drugs as a means for doing creative and magical work the person who is to do so must really Know Thyself beforehand, or else the relationship with a plant or substance as an ally is likely to be misjudged and instead form into a mutually destructive co-dependence.
Yet exploding the head is a time honored tradition among artists, and the use of plants in magic goes back all the way to its beginnings in shamanism. Yet drug use has exploded in previously undreamt of ways throughout the 20th century, alongside a black market that parallels the growth of Big Pharma. Part of this growth in users has been just another side effect of industrialization. There are simply more drugs available: soft, to hard, exotic entheogens, or designer creations from the laboratory. Most use falls into the recreational category. Drugs are simply one of the many ways people deal with the unique stresses of our time. An artist or magician, being no more special than anyone else, can fall prey to these as much as the next guy or gal.
Outside of the moral black, white, and gray zones surrounding discussions of drug use, the meme of the artist as a user or addict, and the lateral notion of creators being inherently mentally unbalanced or ill has had wide cultural ramifications. Witness the number of savants who become idiots the minute they take a toke and have a “brilliant” idea. I’ve been in this category more times than I care to recall, and by the same token my ideas on this matter are informed by my own experiences, and readings.
The myth of the mindfucked artist has been with us for awhile. We have Edgar Allan Poe’s depression, Sylvia Plath’s depression, Van Gogh’s depression. The schizophrenia of Louis Wain and John Clare who also spent time in an asylum. People as different as Joe Meek and Antonin Artaud. For those born without apparent mental or emotional aberration drugs have been used by the aspiring decadent aesthete as a means for overcoming this deficit. The question remains however, whether or not the scrambling of the sensorium will result in an enlightening synaesthesia or the (comfortably) numb feeling of anaesthesia? The answer to this question depends in part on what substances a person ingests and there individual reactions. While the broad effect of various classes of chemicals, plants and the like can be known, they interact with each persons system in subtle and unique ways.
The euphoric and overblown thought bubbles of a marijuana high for one person can turn into a flight of fear and paranoia in another, or even the same person depending on the situation. After repeated exposure to THC molecules the inner life of a smoker can turn slack and stagnate, despite the seeming elasticity of their imagination while stoned. Alcohol may relax the guard of our boundaries and inhibitions, disarming the sense of self. At low dosages this may be fine for the “social” drinker; yet as the number of beers, shots or glasses of wine increases behavior may become more erratic (though broadly predictable across the range of drunkeness). Stimulant uses engages the neuro-semantic circuit of consciousness, and are a favorite among writers and hackers.
For those who sample from the many dishes available at the Psychedelicatessin, prolonged hours of intense shoegazing or looking at the walls and floors as they breathe become the norm. Pattern recognition becomes heightened, aural perception overclocked. Trips can be intensified by intentional inner journeys that lead to “new” revelations, universal cognition or interpersonal insight. These somehow disappear for the most part after coming down. A period of reintegration follows. In the case of those predisposed to mental illness this reintegration may never happen. Other factors such as sheer quantity of a psychedelic ingested, or recent emotional disturbances, may also lend themselves towards fragmentation of the soul.
Hallucinatory drugs tend to dissolve the sense of self and being. While this can have long lasting positive influences on a person under the right circumstances, the dissolution of self can lead to more serious instances of Soul Loss. This is a danger any users should be aware of. It becomes increasingly common when experimentation turns into regular use, then dependence and addiction. I don’t mean to suggest that any and all use leads to addiction or Soul Loss but that those possibilities exist inside a spectrum of predictable outcomes.
The malady of addiction itself has been romanticized as the special domain of artist and mystic explorer. Addiction creates severe distortions in the mirror of self knowledge which prevent the seeker who started out earnest, from seeing a true inner reflection. Instead fantasizing-without-footwork replaces the more arduous and slow procedure of splashing ice water on the face and looking at your self in the cold light of day.
I will not deny my own experiences as a psychonaut. I have had powerful visions using LSD, DXM, and Marijuana. I did however experience Soul Loss as well. Luckily, these fragments of myself were recovered from a sewer-passage in the Underworld by means of Dreamwork. Other friends from those times have gone the route of the acid casualty, a famous example of such being Syd Barret.There is nothing casual about hallucinogens.
Astral parasitism is another danger. The parasites will feed off the energy produced while a person is high, inducing the addictive behavior, all so they can get a meal. Furthermore, my visionary experiences while on drugs were not any more earth shattering than the ones I have received sober. It takes more discipline to cultivate the means of receiving of waking and magical visions, but it is worth the effort. While some of the inspiration from certain trips went into writing poetry and making music, the use of substances did not help me to establish the good work habits and self-discipline necessary to be a working artist.
Many are the artists whose mental stir fry has been laid on the canvas or the page in an explosive fury of creation. The explosion may produce something beautiful or throw light onto an interior realm long closed. Yet after the explosion the artist is spent, and the social landscape around them may also be damaged by their actions. I feel that using drugs as a doorway to creativity is like skipping foreplay with your partner and jumping straight to the orgasm. It may feel good for a moment, but it leaves neither person fully satisfied. The overemphasis on the culminating moment of pleasure redefines the experience of making love. Tearing down the doors of perception to peer behind the veil of reality may induce a feeling of elation on having reached a mountaintop or plateau only you arrive at the top with all of your baggage still attached, when it was supposed to have been jettisoned along the way. The little skills that would have been learned in training, in building psychic muscle, in climbing up the foothills, in taking the long route with many burdens, is bypassed in the instant approach. The user is catapulted into a psychic state or realm they have not been prepared to navigate. Furthermore, the usual safety nets are gone, leaving the person open to the less savory denizens of the astral commons. And if one of these fuckers gets their hooks into you, it may take some time to undo the damage.
A case in point may be the work of Kenneth Grant. I think he is at times brilliant, other times completely inaccessible and of no use to the beginner. He pushed his New Isis Lodge in directions other versions of the O.T.O. feared to go, building on Aleister Crowley’s foundation of Thelema, rather than allowing it to become a fossil. In Richard Kaczynski’s masterful biography of the Beast, Perdurabo, he speaks of The Master Therion teaching Astral Projection to Kenneth Grant by the administration of Ether. That this method worked as a way of abstracting the astral body from the physical I do not dispute. But did this foundation of practice later lead to some of the wilder magical ideas he put forth in the later volumes of the Typhonian Trilogies? (Please note, these particular comments are not intended to disparage the great works Grant did do, such as popularizing the work of Austin Osman Spare, upholding the work of Frater Achad and Nema, or his creation of a unique and highly personal system of magick. I just have a hard time grappling with many elements of his work myself -but that would require another critical article.)
Knowing the difference between exploration, work, recreation or addiction when using substances to derange the senses is difficult for even the most astute funambulist. Consider how many resources drug use eats up -time, money, physical health, concern or distancing from within family/community. In a country where access to critical resources will become the prime concern for most people, this area of research may be better off left at arms length. Furthermore, the energies directed to using could be better put into making and doing. As supply chains break up, whether unofficial black market drug dealings, or legit transactions at the pharmacy or seven-eleven to purchase pills and booze, there will be many dry drunks and addicts forced to go cold turkey without wanting to. This is a potential area of service for many people to become involved in and it will require their own level headed sobriety to help clean up those who get that way out of necessity rather than desire. Art therapy and spiritual counselling are two ways the artist or priest/ess & magician may be of help.
News Flash! My friend Ken Henson is having an opening for his show The Emerald Tablet this Saturday, Feb 24, at the Lloyd Library. Ken and I first met over a decade ago at the occult bookstore Aquarius (a place that is no longer with us sad to say). We only met that once, until with the help of Abraxas: International Journal of Esoteric Studies, our paths crossed again. I had an article that came out in issue 4 and he has an article due out in issue 5 on J. Augustus Knapp, illustrator of many books by John Uri Lloyd, and Manly P. Hall. Ken has also been at work on an exciting project with the Philosophical Research Society to reissue the Revised New Art Tarot of J. Augustus Knapp and Manly P. Hall.
It has been great to connect with Ken since our initial reconnection last summer. We are kindred spirits in our love for the occult history of Cincinnati, and have a number of similar interests and approaches in esoteric matters. It will be great to celebrate the success of his Curtis G. Lloyd Fellowship with him this coming Satyr-day. I hope to see some other fellow astral travelers there!
The show will also launch Ken’s new treatise, “Alchemy and Astral Projection: Ecstatic Trance in the Hermetic Tradition”. I was gifted a copy of this volume yesterday at psychometric lunch. With full color pictures of paintings made during his fellowship, and with the words of our ancestral alchemists in red, it serves as a fitting bridge into the Otherworld.
“The Emerald Tablet”: Solo Art Show by Ken Henson
Exhibition Dates: February 24-May 17, 2014
The Lloyd Library is pleased to announce its upcoming new exhibition, “The Emerald Tablet,” a solo art show by Ken Henson, the first Curtis G. Lloyd Art Fellow (at right). The show features several new works by Henson, an Art Academy of Cincinnati professor, on the theme of alchemy and astral projection. Henson’s body of work is driven by his interests in magic and mysticism, of which alchemy is a part.
One of the hallmarks of the Lloyd collection is its great diversity of topics all centered on science. Ken Henson, a 2013-14 Curtis G. Lloyd Fellow, spent the summer researching alchemy texts in the Lloyd collection, of which there are many. Henson, already driven by his interests in magic and mysticism, was fascinated by these texts and has created several new artworks based on his experiences with these rare volumes.
Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to see these fantastic new artworks, meet the artist, and hear about how his research experiences fueled the creation of these unique, new pieces.
Plus! This is the public debut of Henson’s new alchemical treatise, “Alchemy and Astral Projection: Ecstatic Trance in the Hermetic Tradition,” also the result of Henson’s research at the Lloyd. The Treatise will be on display throughout the show. To learn more about Ken, visit his website:http://www.artistkenhenson.com/
The show promises to be otherworldly! If you can’t get away this winter, this might be the perfect staycation!
About the Lloyd: The Lloyd Library and Museum, a 501 (c)3 not-for-profit organization, is a local and regional cultural treasure, which began in the 19th century as a research library for Lloyd Brothers Pharmacists, Inc., one of the leading pharmaceutical companies of the period. Our mission is to collect and maintain a library of botanical, medical, pharmaceutical, and scientific books and periodicals, and works of allied sciences that serve the scientific research community, as well as constituents of the general public, through library services and programming that bring science, art, and history to life. For more information, visit the Lloyd website atwww.lloydlibrary.org.
/fjuːˈnæmbjʊlɪst/ A performer on the tight (or slack) rope, a rope-walker, a rope-dancer.
All the world is a circus, and many are the clowns, sad faced or wild eyed, ready to stab you with a surprise seltzer water in the face. Life has a way of making you eat pie. Some people think they are ringmasters holding a rapt audience in the palm of their hand. Others are would-be lion tamers, at home in the pit with beasts who haven’t had a proper wild meal after all the long weeks on the road. Who is to say the tiger won’t turn on his captors? The trapeze artist swings low on her chariot, whooshing through air purloined with popcorn, the sick scent of cotton candy. Outside the freaks are on break, smoking cigarettes rolled by the quadriplegic.
Inside the big tent the tightrope walker makes his ascent. His attention is bent to the bones on the floor below him -all those who attempted to walk the stretched rope before him, and failed; not because the woven threads of cord weren’t stretched tight enough, but because they wavered on the bridge from one side to the other. There is only so much time practice with a safety net is allowed before it becomes necessary to move on to higher stakes. There are people in the audience who remain invisible, yet he knows their eyes are intent on his every footstep across the rope. He wanders if the rope will be the noose that hangs him, yet now, five steps away from the platform he started on, going backward is just as fraught with danger as moving ahead. He gingerly rests his toe, the loud brass band braying below him cannot break his concentration. He thinks of how he’ll feel when all this is done, eating his spaghetti-o’s in his trailer before going to sleep. So many times he’s walked across this rope. Yet despite the familiar way he can trust it to dip down in the middle, he still feels like there is a scorpion in his stomach, just hanging out, ready to dip a pincer in. The tightwire in his head is so strained he thinks he might snap, yet when he steps onto the second platform he feels the tension dissolve.
Next time, maybe it won’t be so hard, he thinks, easing down the ladder back to the ground. Yet as much as he thinks he understands the mechanics behind his funambulism, every time he steps out onto the rope a new dynamic emerges. Some of it is predictable and he prepares, but widely divergent elements, such as the mood of the crowd, or the sudden gust of wind, he cannot account for. His own internal weather also being subject to fluctuation. Yet like everyone else in the circus, he has a job to do, and so when he sets out to walk the rope, musters all his resources and attention to walking that thin line with determination and focus.
Music geeks and musicians, and artists in general, have placed a premium on obscurity, on the making of limited editions and hard to get albums. There is something enticing about what is Not Available. The unheard album, the lost studio track, the book that is so expensive you will never be able to buy it, and therefore never know what it contains, becomes a cipher for the numinous, for mystery. The search for the obscure becomes a spiritual quest.
Sometimes the edification of the obscure is annoying. No one wants to be sitting in a bar or coffeehouse next to a hipster who can only talk about how cool such-and-such a band is because hardly anyone else has heard about them. These snobs give off an immature reek. Ownership of a limited edition items becomes a mark of elitism in the possessors imagined hierarchy of self-worth.
On the other hand, one of a kind and limited editions break up the monotony of sleek mass produced products and forms of work. They exist as threats to the status quo. Not everyone can have them because not everyone will like them or understand them or need them. At the apogee however are works made without the intention of ever releasing them to the public. They may be shared in private or enjoyed alone by the creator. It is in this category that albums such as The Residents, “Not Available” fall into.
The work was inspired by the legendary Bavarian composer and sometimes Resident collaborator N. Senada. It was a direct application of his theory of obscurity which states that an artist can only truly create pure art when the expectations and influences of the outside world are not taken into consideration. Thus The Residents recorded their album in secrecy with the intention of never releasing the work until they themselves had forgotten about its existence. It only took a few years after recording however before the album was released. The release of their album Eskimo kept getting pushed back and so the record company, Cryptic Corporation, demanded this treasure from the vault. It now exists as a testament to the power of creating something without compromising the potential vision inherent in a piece of work in favor of what might be termed, “market forces” which are ever a threat to the artist who would keep her integrity.
The album Pagan Day by Psychic TV is similar. Subtitled, Sketches from a Notebook, the songs were recorded onto four-track tape by Genesis P-Orridge and Alex Fergusson as part of an evening ritual. They were doing this just for fun, a way of relaxing and being creative as they watched the children play while the sun went down. The album was made just for the fuck of it, and only later released, almost like an afterthought.
The Theory of Obscurity could be equated magically to Silence, the fourth power of the Sphinx. These are the secret operations no one ever knows about. They are not done to achieve lasting fame, but to hermetically seal the circle of art in which the operation is performed. These acts remain invisible to all but the denizens of the Inner Planes. The majority of magical work partakes of the draught of silence.
In artist work then, remember the power of silence. The notebook, sketchbook, dream journal, albums and songs which no one but you alone have heard are pregnant with power. The act of making something for you own eyes and ears alone has tremendous value. These pieces can later inform and instruct when work needs to be done for other eyes and ears. It isn’t just practice, though that is part of it, but is also about planting seeds. Some of them may sprout and grow to maturity later, others may simply rest and be reabsorbed into the soil after being added to natures compost heap. Either way the imagination will be fortified.
William S. Burroughs personally destroyed at least a thousand pages of his writing. In a lecture he gave at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics he said, “Sinclair Lewis said that if you have written something that you think is just great and you cant wait to show it to somebody he said throw it away it’s terrible. Now this is very often true. I had the experience of say writing something that I thought was just great and I read it the next day and said for God’s sakes tear into very small pieces and throw it into somebody else’s garbage can. It’s awful. And that is one of the deterrents to writing – the amount of bad writing you’re going to have to do before you do any good writing.”
The important thing is to have something to throw away, to do something and not speak about it. This practice will in turn fortify the practice of editing, of cutting, of letting go. Silence is also an aspect of Invisibility. The cultivation of invisibility can be used when engaging in various aspects of guerilla art and illegal public art.
There is another aspect to things being Not Available, and they are particular to a world where the resources people grew accustomed to during the trip upwards to Hubbert’s Peak will not be around anymore. Accordingly, the making of certain types of work which rely on industrial products will no longer be available. Gaps in production, transport of once common goods will be de rigeur. Ingenuity is the red headed step-child of necessity; as such she won’t have all the same toys to play with as her elder siblings had. She’ll have to learn how to work with the scraps available to her, mix her own paints, fix her own guitar. The visions she has may not feasibly translate into works on the physical plane of existence. Therefore what she builds may only be available on mental and spiritual levels.
1. The Residents, “Not Available” album
2. Psychic TV, “Pagan Day” album
3. William S. Burroughs Workshop – Jack Kerouac Conference, Naropa University, Bolder Colorado, July 23, 1982 as Transcribed from the Original Audio Recording by Marcus D. Niski.
In the first part of my analysis of what potential uses the lore, legacy and toolkit of the medieval guilds might have in these interesting times I did not fully explore what a Master Librarian would look like. Since libraries are the field work I know best, they are what I am using as an example. So let me again pose this question to myself. What is a Master Librarian?
“The fundamental learning situation is one in which a person learns by helping someone who really knows what he is doing.” -Christopher Alexander et al, A Pattern Language
In a traditional guild a Master was someone who not only created a masterpiece -a kind of graduate level project that summed up all she had learned as Journeyman and Apprentice- but also was an individual who had worked her way up to be able to oversee the operation and training of the Apprentices and Journeymen beneath her.
Nowadays these are the librarians who get onto the management track and end up being in charge of their own branch. Yet any benumbed worker who is on the bottom of the corporate style chain-gang of command can tell you that management does not equal mastery. This is endemic in any field. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few great managers, also a few who left a lot to be desired. And even one or two whom I’d call a Master.
I think a Master in any field is someone who has developed a nose for the work after years of practice and application. Does it come from getting an MA at the University? Explicit training and study can help, but until you get your nose to the grindstone you won’t be able to sniff out anything. In a library a Master would know not only the collection he oversees with intimacy, but also be familiar with the coda of cataloging, the principles of collections development, have the temperament of a social worker (because public libraries often serve the needy and underprivileged) and the tenacity of a journalist to dig up and uncover elusive information.
A Master librarian has a sense of serendipity, because so often what a person thinks they are looking for is not what they need, and what they need turns out to be in a book that might just fall off the shelves as if by magic. Having come up through the ranks themselves they can nurture talent where they see it, and also help the industrious.
I’d see a Master as someone whom could talk or demonstrate the depth of their learning and skill of application in an area once you get them greased up and the faucet of their intellect flowing. There are people like that around in many jobs, and if you are in the process of learning the ropes yourself, it is these people whom you want to talk to and make friends with. So often what we learn in any vocation does not come to us directly from instruction, but through the resonance emanating out of a particular individual. Just being around an adept at the top of their game can rub off on your own performance. In the guilds of old an Apprentice would live with his Master and share in the daily life of the family. While this may not seem acceptable to a rugged American individualist, the kind of day-in and day-out association with a Master working in any area also inculcated in a student the habits surrounding the work itself which would seep into the subconscious of the Apprentice. The little things you pick up on often have enormous leverage later on.
In today’s world we do have internships, and apprenticeships in some cases. What I see missing from many jobs and areas of activity is a sense of vocation and calling, and within that vocation groups fostering brother-and-sisterhood alongside the usual networking. In my next post in this series I will look at the socioeconomic dimensions of the guild and how in a competitive marketplace where the benefits of full-time employment are continuing to erode, the toolkit of the guild can offer a compensation package, that while not lavish by boomer standards, will be a boon to those on the limited planetary budget our collective future has in store for us all.
The stacks are one of my favorite places to hang out.
Grappling with peak-oil and the collapse of industrial civilization is similar to undergoing the death-in-life initiation of the Mystery Schools. Indeed some writers on the subject have equated acceptance of peak-oil and other converging crises with the five-stages of grief elucidated by the brilliant death-worker, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Along this road to the stage of acceptance there is often a crisis of meaning. Where once the view showed a rosy future propped up and propelled onwards by the optimistic preaching of a media in the pocket of the tech-sector, now the picture is dimming and the promised trajectory has been shown to be empty. So meaning in life, in the activities which used to bring pleasure, in the diversions and distractions where I once sought escape, are empty as well.
When I first started undergoing the death-of-civilization initiation it disabled my love of recorded music. I had been writing music reviews for Brainwashed.com and after a few years passed I really started to contend with the fact that all the energy I had put into listening to and loving a particular musical format was most likely drawing to a close. This being the culture of cassettes and CDs I had grown up with. Sure, they’d already been usurped somewhat by the MP3, a loss I had bemoaned. When I projected the potential future of the CD fifty years hence into a further destabilized society, the pursuit of championing this format started to shatter, and along with that fragile sense of self I had belt my love for the medium. After all, I had spent much time as not only a devotee of the recorded album, but also as a priest of the record, playing them on the airwaves as a programmer and DJ.
One way I began to grapple with this was by writing a short-story about a radio DJ in small town about seventy or so years from now who used phonograph records as his main medium. I have faith that radio can survive the long descent, though I moved on from being radio active myself. I still have hope that phonographic recording can be preserved into the future. I think what many interesting labels, such as Vinyl-On-Demand and the many independents releasing new music on vinyl are doing is the musical equivalent to the trend in publishing of making fine edition books. There is a definite market for “Talismanic Music on Vinyl”. Vinyl, when properly cared for has a longer shelf life than the other formats for recorded music. It’s pretty much stayed the course since its invention, while tape, CD, and eventually MP3 will have all come and gone. Will the technology to be able to record also survive in the same way? Will I be able to have a steampunk hi-fi set? The album as such is a new format for the consumption of music, made only in its particular manner because of the technology.
As far as artistic legacies go, my feelings started to sink about the album. Books are a much stabler format. And even if I know that nothing I produce may survive for more than a couple of generations, striving to make something that is durable is a significant driver in human behavior. Especially for the whole slew of Gen X, Y and millenium slackers who think -or thought- of themselves as artists. Was the recording and broadcasting of music still an area of cultural production I wanted to my resources on? In the end, no, and one of the reasons why I gave up my radio show.
Letting go of who we think we are is hard to do, not only for ourselves, but for our loved ones and friends. We may see a change in ourselves. We may see a potential for change that we’d like in someone close to us. The process of maneuvering through what we might actually need to do to change has the unwelcome tendency to disturb settled habits. Those habits may need to be disturbed, and given time, after a major transition, things do have a way of re-settling into a new pattern. Magic, meditation, and other forms of inner work all have a way of pushing our boundaries, dissolving them, forcing the worker to look at themselves in the cold light of day. Things are seen for what they are. Fantasy is replaced by the urge to get to work on things that truly matters.
These are all things that happen to an individual when they reach out and touch death. Letting go. From fear of death to acceptance.
Looking at peak oil, climate change, and other collapse related subjects is kind of a macro vision of death on a large scale. It’s not just yourself anymore, but the society that you grew up in that is going to die. Of course that’s been true for civilizations and people all across history. Doesn’t make it easy or comfortable. But an initiate has to learn to become okay with uncomfortable.
Thinking about the future of music in a society on the downward slope got me to thinking about art in general, and how much of a luxury it can be, but also how necessary music and art are to life. They will certainly be a part of our society down the road. They always have been. What forms they will take is another matter, and one that I seriously began to contemplate.
In addition to listening to a lot of avant-garde music I’d spent much of my time studying the theories and practices of avant-garde musicians, artists, and writers. I was especially interested in the points where their working practices crossed over into the realms of the esoteric and occult. I began to feel that there was so much innovation in art since around the 1880′s, roughly coinciding with the magical revival, that it would be a shame for this body of practice to be lost to the vagaries of time.
I also wanted to work further on synthesizing the artistic avant-garde with magic. As occupiers of fringe territory in society they already share a lot of common ground, but to bring the two subject into further dialogue in my writing is one of my ongoing projects. So in order to save what I can, at least for awhile, I have started putting together an avant-garde grimoire of artistic and occult praxis. It does not contain the seals and sigils of spirits and entities, but rather is a collection of grammar from my wide range of reading on these practices; like any good vocabulary, it should be put to use.
is my preferred method of doctoring
as a chance to cut is a chance to cure.
It’s time for a facelift
as long as it ain’t no plastic surgery disaster.
In this theater of memory
the only operations not on display
are the cleaning of my tools on the autoclave
after the skin was resewn
from where it was torn at the fray.
I’ve been listening to soundtracks
whose movies are yet unmade,
and I’ve been searching for suture
in sonic landscapes
trying to escape the auto da fe
to ease on down this road, still unpaved.
The hardest thing has been restringing the banjo
the harp of new albion
because when I crane my neck to listen, it strains
all I hear are tortoise shell echos,
lost in the din of the city.
We are so close to the landing strip
all I ever hear is music for airports
never the fashion or the fame of the runway/
That’s why I’ve had so much trouble
following my own trains
faraway thoughts are passing by
leaving me breathless.
I knew I’d need to spend more time
breathing but its winter
below freezing is hard on the lungs,
and on the microscopic lifeforms in the soil;
I’m waiting to be wheeled in a new air supply
it’d be my dirt of luck if it was helium, or nitrous oxide
to make the stars of my lid spin.
Only just now I feel like a deerhoof
hit me in the kidney, and I’m burning
so fast it scares me, in my coffin
I’ve been making maps and atlases
of the Underworld, so ready for the sun to hit.
I hit a low period in my practice
lived a low-life, and had to reach
for a new order,
so I cried out to the universal mother
for the faith & courage
to close down this extended concert,
a stethoscope on my heart.
There will be time enough for anthologies
and tape enough for ninety-minute compilations
but for now I call on the Elf power of the smoke Fairies.
and I seek Elf protection as I search for the hidden stone.
If the ambulance died in the poets arms
then I must reach for a new Balance.
Heaven’s blade is double edged after all.
Can I inch towards the gates of dawn
without going mad?
The crazy diamond will shine on
and music will always be a part of my medicine, man
its beauty will have left a bruise
so I take iodine, before this radio active tan
makes my hair fall out.
The truth is
I’ve been suffering a sickness of snakes
Father Asclepius visited it upon me
and I’ve given it a decade and more to incubate
but the ink won’t wait for baited breath
and the clinic has a long line.
My secretary has been complaining
the paperwork here is all in a disarray
so she jabbed me with the needle of fate
and I’m hopeful and pray to all the saints
just before the curtain hits the cast
that before I put on my autumn sweater
to put all I remember into an album
and play new songs made out of words.
The channels on my psychic TV
have started to change
sometimes, I turn off my mind
just drifting, float downstream
into softness and sleep, into the void.
-Justin Patrick Moore, January 2014
Tonight’s episode of On the Way to the Peak of Normal is the second to last broadcast of the radio program. Tune in tonight on 88.3 FM, WAIF, Cincinnati. January 23rd, 10PM to Midnight.
The final episode will be broadcast on January 30th, 2014.
There are natural lifespans for any creative project or endeavor, and after 15 years of hyper Radio Activity, I’m moving Beyond the Peak of Normal, to focus with more devotion on my other artistic passions in the areas of writing, literature and publishing.
I didn’t reach this decision overnight, and there has been a good deal of heartwrenching and soulsearching over the question of “do I continue to dedicate my time and energy resources to the medium of radio?” It’s a medium I love, but I have reached the peak of what I can do with it and what it can do for me and the community without putting further efforts and resources into the show. Those are the resources and efforts which I have to put into other areas of my life. For so long I thought I could do it all. Now I’ve reached a point where both my writing path and my radio path will stay on about the same level as each other unless I divert one stream into the other. It is written in the Gospel of Thomas that ““If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” I have brought forth many things on the air that I was compelled to do. I have been equally compelled in the area of the written word, but those words have not have had the energy to move out of me. Now they will.
I feel the Fates were at work in forcing my hand. I’ve been thinking about ending the show since around September of 2013. A number of synchronicities occurred which caused me to pause and reflect. To start with, I ran into someone whose radio work I highly respect unexpectedly at a place I never see him and he told me of his own decision to leave the station. I had been thinking of that myself as I left work towards the bust stop only to find him walking with his daughter and offer me a ride. Then, I ordered a La Monte Young CD through interlibrary loan to play on the show. The double disc album arrived, and when I popped the first disc out it snapped in half. This ended up costing me 120 dollars as the library who owned it would not waive their damage fee. This was followed by the crashing of my computer (hence the lack of podcasts since December, and an issue I’m still working on) and the losing of 1000+ songs. Sure, tough shit. Stuff like this happens. But I took them as signs that it was time for me to move on.
After I rest and recuperate from my 15 odd years of doing shows like the Psychedelicatessin -my fist show on the pirate station Anti-Watt at Antioch (1999), and Art Damage (2001-2003 were my years on the show) and On the Way to the Peak of Normal (2004-January 2014) I may go back and digitize some of the tapes and upload some of those early shows before I started podcasting topeakofnormal.org, which I will still keep up. But I do need a break from the rigors of podcasting for a time.
Until then I’d like to thank everyone who has stood by me on the journey. First to all the listeners without whom no show would be worth doing, and to all my guests who kept things interesting when I didn’t have a direction or something to say, and to the bands and musicians who came in to play live over the airwaves. And all the people who supplied me with interesting and innovative recordings over the years. You are to numerous to name.
In particular I want to thank the following people who shared or contributed in some way to my radio journey: Ben Hoffman, Jesse Dew, Uncle Dan, Douglas Cannon, Ron Orovitz, Jeremy Lesniak, Andrew Hissett, Craig Kelley, Joe Walkenhorst, Brian “Thriftstore Leather” Riley, Elliott “the Turnip ” Beal, my parents and family, and my wife Audriel.
If you can’t tune in live, as soon as my primary computer is back in complete working order, I will be podcasting the final shows I did from December and January.