Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Spooky Bits [EDITED]

Silence! Silence! Silence!
Symbol of the Living, Incorruptible God!
Guard me, Silence, NECHTHEIR THANMELOU!”
“Silence! Silence!
I am a star, wandering about with you,
shining forth out of the deep, OXY O XERTHEUTH!
- PGM IV. 475-829. (Untitled/“The Liturgy of Mithras.”)
See what I did there? Bwahaha. Anyway. On a recent set of posts, Robert begs the questions of whether “should magick be taught?” and if “magicians accept responsibility for the harm they cause?

I find these interesting and I'm going to hammer away at each, simply to provide counter-points (some of which appear in his comments, and I'll quote where appropriate) to his sentiments. They're both interesting...

He writes, on the first entry:
“So, if you do magick to get a woman, get a job, get money, get a a book etc. you are changing the choices of another. Basically, if I change my relationship with a promotion (as in from separation to unity) I am also changing the relationship of another inversely. No big deal you say.

What if you attract a girl you would have never met, have great sex and she or you misses the opportunity to be with a life mate? Oh, watch the magicians rationalize that away. Congratulations single person of 20 for getting that job! Too bad the mom whose husband just ran off with a bimbo leaving her with two kids to feed didn't get it. She should have learned magick. Not my fault they scream. Uh huh.”
This is one of those risky examples of counter-points to magickal utility that I've seen expressed by others; the first is that if any one at all has their course in life changed, or there is fall-out, the magician is principally at fault. He goes on to state that many younger magicians fall prey to their “lower selves”. I consider this a dangerous example of dualistic thinking, for it presumes to understand the nature of magickal work and break everything into a “Good/Evil” dichotomy, a mind-virus that individuals in the West have a tendency to suffer from.

First, Robert appears to be making the mistaken assumption that the young magician being led around by the nose by their “lower-self” will not be lead into circumstances that lead them to knowledge and conversation with aspects of their “higher-self.” Secondarily, he's following the prototypical “it's all power!” assessment that bothers me very much. He assumes that if the magician uses “Get Laid Quick!” sigils, they'll be using it a means of power over someone else, or neglecting a desire for love. As I stated in my responses to his Sitri post, I see nothing wrong with using magick to engineer circumstances in which sex might occur. What I consider wrong is mistaking sex for love, or the desire for sex as a mistaken desire for love. If we stand by the admonition of “Know Thyself!” then we must also understand the root(s) of our desires.

This means that if a magician is performing magick to get sex, he or she should understand that it is only sex that will come of it. A more complex desire, like finding someone you might fall in love with, will require vastly more effort to achieve because it involves more complex variables. The magician who seeks only sex with a partner he or she finds attractive need only take factors specific to that desire into account. Then they need only visit a bar, or single's night, or whatever to create the appropriate opening for that desire to manifest. There remains the risk of misfire, but this risk remains regardless of the operation before performed and desire manifested.

To tell someone that they must seek love over sex, or vice versa, is a fatal conceit. It presumes to know the desire, path, and capability of any given young magician. It is a very foolish thing to do, even if people do hurt themselves.

Part of living this world is learning to live with the hurtful things that happen in it. Any system of magick, spirituality, or mysticism that seeks to diminish this factor is also foolish, for we cannot live without pain. Part of the essence of Spare's “Neither-Neither” technique is that to use it is to realize that the associations we have that form around a given subject form our basis of thought and that these associations shape how we think just as much as the internal items to which they are bound. Thus, it is natural for many to think of compulsive spells when the subject of “Love Magick” comes up. Further, the community as a whole suffers from this tendency.

During the course of actions that led to myself and VVF meeting, we both performed “Love Magick” of different sorts seeking out someone who was satisfactory to both of our desires. The end result was we both stumbled upon one another, discovered we got along, built a relationship over time and ended up sticking together through more than a few years so far.

At no point did either of us cast spells to force the one another to love each other. That is a natural result of our desires, of waiting and seeing how events played out, and deciding to come together. All it took for me was a thoughtform that would advise (I did not take what was told to me as the gospel truth, merely informed advice) me on who in my social circles met my criteria. On her part? I believe she altered a witch-bottle. A very girly witch-bottle.

But Jack!” You say, “what about that single mother and her children when you stole her job with your 'I need a goddamn job!' thoughtforms?”

First, assuming you can see all the given variables in any situation is wrong-headed. Even if that single-mother may end up without what may be the first, and easiest to seek out job, is to assume she will not within a week apply for a job that pays more money and gives her what she needs. Second, as Jason points out in his comments, you can specify not to harm others. I cannot speak for others, but almost all of my work for material items involves divination beforehand, and careful consideration of the results. I have passed over many-a-working because I drew the “Tower” card in an particularly inauspicious position, with similarly terrible cards arranged around it. My perspective has always been that “we all go to the Tower, some more than others!” but that doesn't mean I prefer to avoid intensely messy situations. Included in plenty of those divination performances were questions regarding how those around me or involved may be impacted by my actions.

I have also made plenty of mistakes by failing to perform the above, normally due to my own personal conceits. Like I've said, you cannot learn without making mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes hurt both you and those who you did not wish to hurt.

Before the close of the post, Robert goes on to say that:
From a spiritual perspective, there are many ways of reaching higher states that do not involve such magicks. So, it isn't necessary to teach them to those seeking that goal. In fact, the powers so given by magick can be a distraction in and of themselves. Moreover, the results of the magick can distract one for a lifetime, especially when one does deep impact magick that satisfies one's lower nature to a point that overrides one's spirit. In short, to be what one is not.”

I recognize that Robert is speaking from the place he currently is living at. However, I want to state that I did not begin practicing magick to turn out a Saint, or a Buddha, or whatever. I don't want to be Jesus. Jesus was Jesus, and while I recognize that he may have been an amazing magician, just a damn fine spiritual individual, or the son of [a] God, that wasn't my intent. My intent upon entering the sphere was to give myself to the capability to survive the world I had been born into. I don't expect others to understand what it means when I say that I'm a “bastard,” or that at points in my youth I felt myself so securely stripped of all empowerments that I swore never to allow that to happen again. While I now understand that Mageia/Goetia and Theurgia may coincide (see the Magical Papyri for some very neat deonstrations), I was interested in Mageia and Goetia from the get-go. Now, by using the rather misunderstood “Goetia,” I do not mean strictly Demonaic Evocation. This is a fatal mistake plenty of people make. I mean a distinctly lower-class form of Shamanism practiced in Greece so long ago that most of what we have left can best be described as dusty remnants, and in other cases, sheer misinterpretation.*

If you wish to perform Theurgia and seek your higher-self, and those spirits that coincide with it? I totally recommend doing that. However I do not think you have the right to suggest that course of action is best for everyone. It may be best for you, because that is your path. I like plenty of Cthonic gods. Lots of people have no idea what I mean when I speak those words. That's okay. It isn't their path.

Finally, Robert comments: “I do not want some magician chasing his crotch to interfere with my relationship even unintentionally do you?”

What, you can't gain the skills to stop that process or recognize what's happening? Just a suggestion: if this happens, then you need to increase your skill set to recognize manifestations for what they are and put a stop, as the person whose Will is being impacted, before that situation arises. You cannot blame someone for a manifestation that you failed to take into account. You could have spent time learning those skills, rather than simply doing soul-work. I don't accept ignorance as an excuse, rather ignorance is a teaching tool and demonstration on how to become a better magician, in my eyes.

Moving along.

In his second post he writes:
I have seen people even deny the possibility that their magick could have possibly impacted a third party negatively. This disturbs me.

How is it possible that only magick is devoid of the possibility of error, negative impact and even accidental death when industries like automobile manufacturers, construction companies and the medical establishment cannot manage the same? Oh, no, I see, it is only your magick that can't hurt anyone. Really?”
Again. Getting hurt, and hurting others, is a part of life. When we hurt others, we stand a chance of seeing how are actions (what we do and say, etc) affect those around us. We can come to the conclusion that we were wrong and alter our course so that we do not make those mistakes again. This doesn't make the activity and its response any better, but to presume godlike knowledge of what will occur is to be very presumptuous of our rather limited, completely human, sphere of influence.

I met a beautiful redhead many years ago, for example, and ended up having what was both one of the best and worst relationships in my life. In terms of love, affection, and crazy sex the relationship was fantastic. Contrast this with the way we fought, which was terrible and horrible. After the horrible break-up, I spent time alternating between rage over how things had worked out, and guilt over my responses. When she'd been upset, I'd shut her down emotionally by vilifying her and acting like she was crazy. Caught up in the whirlwind of emotion and stormy passions of a given fight, I'd stop considering what I was saying. And so the rudest, most terrible complaints would issue out of my mouth.

I sat, waking up in tears one morning, and considered how much I'd done wrong. How much I'd probably hurt her feelings. Years had passed, and I was over the break-up. I could plainly see how each action, and each result, and head to relatively worse situations. Each outcome had become progressively worse.

Who had fed that cycle? I could blame her, but she was not at fault for my responses. I was. And thus my course of action became markedly different. All the problem I saw in myself have taken a long time to begin fixing. It's a slow process. I have to watch my emotional state, monitor my statements, consider what I'm being told rather than responding emotionally. I don't always succeed, a factor obvious in this blog. But my relationships have gotten better – I think – and I do recognize how wrong I often have been in the past.**

Does this commentary have anything to do with magick? Nope. It's purely mundane. But take it from me. Try not to judge people for their failings. They are the ones who will wake up, sweaty and tearful, at 3 AM to consider those ramifications. Not you.

He states:
Because you really can't see magick working. It isn't as if you see a giant hand pluck the kid from a safe place and stick in him in the road to be hit. No way to tell really, is there?”
I really, really disagree there. Magicians can follow the course of their manifestations across the astral and find corresponding points. They can learn to recognize a manifestation in real time. They have access to a wide variety of skills that require very little effort, but a lot of practice. Let me repeat that: a lot of practice.

And we're not talking about purely theurgical practices here, either.

Anyway. I don't want to beat Robert into the ground, so I'll stop now. I just wanted to sit down and write a lengthy response.

Please: feel free to critique my thoughts!

* I guess it wasn't the get go. I became interested in 'classical Goetia' due to Morton Smith about the same time I was first working with Dionysos. I asked a great many forum frequenters about it. They had an obnoxious habit of telling me about the Lemegeton. JSK's True Grimoire combines both elements, and is cool. But most of the people who have talked to me about the Lemegeton neither understood the Grimoire, nor what I actually wanted information on. I suppose that's expected from some sectors of the community.
** As for others and their manifestations? You are responsible for you and what happens in your life, and how you respond to it. You may not be able to control events around you, but you can control how you respond. You better learn to cancel out those influences if you want to learn how to avoid certain pitfalls. It's a very hard fact to come to grips with. Whose life is this we're discussing? Yours. If someone else accidentally entangles you in foolishness, and you have certain skills, then they're going to learn a new lesson of their own: to play willy-nilly with the lives of others can come with serious risks and responses. Especially if other pagans/magicians/witches are involved. Anyone that throws a compulsive love-spell at VVF or myself can look forward to a response from either myself, or her. And that response may be a serious fucking sending of a raving-mad and angry spirit, an alteration of their thoughtform followed by a return to sender, etc.

Robert responded here. I've commented on his page for the rest, including admitting my mistakes in assuming his assumptions. Silly me! Making assumptions! 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Let It Begin: More Piracy Discourse, Less Brutal Rudeness [EDITED]

Behold, the Swarm.
 If you're going to discuss piracy, then there are a few things I want you to understand. The first is that while the conventional wisdom is that piracy amounts to nothing more than theft, it actually represents a much more complex series of actions and subsequent reactions. I'm going to stick to recent events to correlate these facts for you, so that we duck discussing proto-capitalists boarding and taking over ships centuries ago.

  1. In recent years, piracy has occurred due to increasing technology and industry's decreased ability, or at the very least their denial of that technology, to take advantage of that sudden change.
Example A.: The MP3.

The MP3 is part of a long series of innovations in music technology that largely went unnoticed until the force of its appearance was pretty much forced the record industry of today to take notice. It's history is very interesting, and very telling:
The MPEG format was very clunky, like other digital music formats, and only terribly useful for adding digital tracks to movies prior to around 1998, when the first series of digital musical devices began hitting the market. I was actually in middle school around this time, and I still recall listening to my first MP3 between 1998-1999. What the biggest change to the format that the third generation of the series added was the ability to compress the size of the given music file without losing too much sound quality. These two things pretty much meant that digital music was forth-coming, whether or not anyone noticed them.

Initially, at least prior to the release of the first generation of iTunes software, MP3s were actually a pain in the ass to accumulate. The architecture to pirate them hadn't become all but ubiquitous, and therefore the individual who wanted a massive selection of digital music on hand would have to “rip” their CD collection one at a time. Some of the earliest MP3 encoding software could be best described as crap. Sometimes you'd rip a CD and find that your music track skipped too much because you didn't have enough RAM to encode a high quality product, etc, etc, etc. It was very annoying, and prior to P2P software there were more MIDI tracks on the internet than there were MP3s.

Napster changed that, by attempting to market the then newly arrived P2P software to create the “biggest music library on earth.” All went fairly well until Metallica and other bands/musicians discovered people were sharing their music. At which point P2P software mainstreamed, and a culture war emerged.

We will return to this later with my second point.

Example B.: Ebooks.

Electronic books have actually been around for a very long time. In fact, they follow a pattern of emergence right along side the internet as we know it today. Some of the first ebooks were released in the 1980s and 1990s, and hypertext files constituting a book have been around for just as long. They were not expressely popular except amongst geeks, or computer nerds, and thus they largely escaped notice except in some circles. Around 1998 certain libraries began stocking them for free.

Several things were happening at once at this time to keep in mind: first, printer and scanner technology (“digital photography and digital printing” if you will) was increasing at a fairly exponential rate, but not enough to gain notice right away. Second, Adobe and other companies (not to mention freeware programmers) were releasing programs like the Acrobat reader to allow for easier ebook reading (amongst other capabilities), and the PDF was heading on its way to emerge as the #1 used format. Third, almost all major traditional publishers that I'm aware of were doing their best to avoid the market and stick by what they knew best. You cannot entirely blame them.

The PDF actually emerged by 1993, but interest in it doesn't seem to have peaked – at least to me – until around the 2000s. By around 2006, publishers in the occult industry could have begun cornering the market on the files if they had just paid attention to what small cabals of occultists were doing. Namely? Sharing hard to find, extremely rare, almost impossible to buy limited edition runs of books in that format.

P2P software again emerged, allowing for even easier sharing of files too large to email. By 2006 it was already becoming relatively cheap to buy a scanner and scan one's favorite, almost impossible to find, books and give them to friends. These things didn't just appear out of the blue, is what I'm basically saying. Demand for them was increasing and those demands were pretty much ignored until around the emergence of the Kindle... At which point half my friends told me that they were selling their libraries and just keeping ebook archives.

  1. The failure of traditional markets to meet the demands of new technology and move with them, along with those markets demand to simply “stop piracy” actually increased the efficiency of that technology.

Napster was closed down, and the lawsuits that occurred as this happened taught “information pirates” lessons that they took to heart. The first was that a centralized network of peers was not only easy to shut down, but also allowed for individuals to sued for downloading a song like “Happy Birthday” to play at someone's birthday.

As such a new form of decentralized network began to emerge, the resultant sum of which is the Torrent. Torrent technology actually solves several problems at once: first, it allows for a decentralized network of peers to share files (whether legitimately gained or illigimately gained). Second, it over comes the “whole-file-peer-to-peer” basis of the first wave of P2P file sharing. By sharing “bits” rather than whole files, the files can be downloaded at a much, much faster rate than was seen with Napster. Where once an Ebook or even an MP3 could take half an hour to hours to get, now this rate could be cut far beyond “in half”. In short: it's now very easy to download a large number of files quickly, and broadband connections have made this even faster. It's hard to argue with how the Torrent system of peers in a swarm works. It's actually nothing short of brilliant, but so far no one but pirates are seriously making use of it. This is very saddening to see.

Had the RIAA and others jumped on the MP3/Digital music market faster, they would have secured a place and eased the reasons that pirates first turned to each other, which was to share music they'd bought and taken time to painstaking “rip” into their libraries. Instead, they did precisely the opposite and made just about every geek on the internet increasingly infuriated. The lawsuits which came of this resulted in better technology, more people using it, and drastic losses in profits whereas initially there were gains (albiet ignored).

The best example is Metallica's S&M, one of the albums that launched the culture war I'm currently discusing. S&M was actually selling better than previous albums the band made when they began raving about piracy and losses. Why? The answer is one which will repeat itself in a moment: people shared the music, liked it, and bought it despite the “conventional wisdom” regarding piracy and losses.

Of all the companies to take advantage of this, the first one to cross their t's and dot their i's was Apple with the iTunes market... Which has made them massive bank, despite the belief that digital music would never sell that was encountered prior to their emergence. Who would you rather be right now, the RIAA or Apple?

The MPAA shares a sordid history with the RIAA when it comes to this discussion. There emerged in the 2000s the DIVX (freeware = XVID) file format, which allowed for high quality digital reproduction of films and high quality sound reproduction (often using MPEG audio formats). Demand began emerging for these files which was ignored, and they spread across Napster (and later torrent and other systems) like wildfire. Rather than acknowledge this and corner a market, the industry again sought legal methods of suppression. I've already discussed those results several times. This same technology would come to be used for “fan favorite” T.V. Shows (I admit to downloading plenty of Invader Zim as a teenager).

The conventional wisdom again concluded that this was nothing more than theft, and for suppression. Enter Mark Pesce and the Battlestar Galactica aspects. As he points out, Battlestar Galactica's initial first episode was leaked to the pirate crowd, largely composed of computer nerds and geeks, and the result of this incident was... Well, it was actually damn good ratings. This situation repeated itself with the emergence of the new Dr. Who series...

Which, despite being pirated, ended up with some of highest ratings for the show at that time.

Go back and re-read those words if you're shocked or suffering from cognitive bias. Hell, let me repeat it painfully slowly.

Some. Of. The. Highest. Ratings. For. The Show. At. That. Time.*

These shows didn't just do well: they went on to do very, very well. Why? Pesce proposes this is because Geeks love to talk to each other about Geek things and recommend them. Plenty probably downloaded the episodes. Plenty more waited and watched with baited breathe. Battlestar Galactica went on to be one of the best rated shows that the then SciFi Channel had, and Dr. Who continues to remain running strong.

This, despite piracy. Perhaps even fueled in part due to it.

Is a pattern emerging to you? Suppress the right to share files and people will evolve even greater and harder to stop sharing architectures. Furthermore, they will pirate more and more and buy less and less. Leave those same individuals alone and they will speak of you gloriously, if you give them a decent product, and tell their friends to read/listen/watch/buy your product.

In short? Alienate a group of people and call them nothing but thieves and they will be sure to remember that, and remember that you're out to get them. Leave them alone and let them market for you, and they just might turn around and make some of your wildest dreams come true.

There is an emerging need to balance these two poles in the occult community. Very few people have done it, and fewer have tried to be experimental until they've been more or less forced to consider it. But we do need new forms of experimentation, both with emerging technologies and the way we see the industries.

But who on earth will do that? Well, I suppose it's left to those of us who aren't so old that we think nothing ever changes, and shaking fingers at people will get anything, at all done. Except ensure more losses and far, far more hostility.

Be seeing you,
Jack Faust.

PS. I can link the shit out of this stuff if you ask me. I've just rehashed what's actually in my head from many, many, many long years of reading – from my teens to this point.
PPS. Think of this as my way of apologizing for being an asshole to a vast amount of people, in large part due to seeing the same crap happen all over again. I should have known better. I fucked up. I'm sorry for being such a rampant dick. Except to that one guy. He really seemed to want my angry response.

*EDIT:  Initially I said that it lead to the highest ratings on TV at the time. That is wrong. The ratings were still hiiiiigh. 10.81 million viewers high.

Re: Santeria

I said it on Facebook, but the conversation has passed 60 posts. So I'm going to post it here.

If you want to learn about Santeria, or a number of other things? Don't just buy a book and try to incorporate a form of spirituality you probably don't fully grokk yet. That requires patience if you don't want a kick in the ass from the universe, or spirits/gods/so forth that you've grossly offended on accident. Good lord. I feel like I'm quoting Moloch.

Hike, or drive, or bus down to your local Botanica. If you live in CA? There are many. If you live in the midwest or somewhere else without a community that fosters them? 'Eh. You're kinda out of luck. Anyway, you'll find tons of the shops with rows upon rows upon rows of the books, often very cheap ($5 - $10) on the Orishas, Santeria, etc.

Purchase those. If the shop is owned by a Santera or Santero? It has been my experience that they'll speak to you. This is especially true if you follow it up with a bunch of interesting ritual components. I have yet to run into a single shop where discussing what the person that owns it is practicing is seen as taboo.

In doing so you will:
1. Show support for your local community and their practitioners.
2. Take the first step in learning about something you may be completely oblivious about.
3. Have an adventure.

Even if #3 is all that comes of it? You're still coming out ahead. Because, and I've said this before, the best magick often comes from choosing, intentionally, to have an adventure.

I was going to leave out the part of speaking to local practitioners, initially, because I love when people discover that on their own. But it's unfair to leave it out!

Times are hard. Give love where love is due.

Jack Faust

EDIT: I do not practice Santeria. But I think it's pretty cool. Like, you know, most magical and spiritual systems I encounter. 'Eh... Is system the wrong word? WAIT. TRADITION. That is the word I was looking for.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Polishing the Brass on the Titanic*

The student that the blogger describes chooses to be in school. He chooses to have a part-time, minimum wage job and go to school. That means he chooses to be short on money.
HAHAHAHA. AHAHAHAHAHA. You really had me until you said that. I was actually nodding and thinking. Hell, I almost felt bad. But now?

My rage is such that no, I won't be responding. Thankfully, Mike C. has.

Go polish the brass on the Titanic and be done with it. I pity the authors you'll probably drag down with you as the silliness escalates. Feel free to brush off my annoyance with your company, which has a policy not to fact check so that they can blame everything on their respective authors. I mean, that's what you tell people at P-con, right?

As for Wippler?

Here's one Palo community, rabidly pissed at her. Her expertise may well be in Santeria, but she has this amazing ability to alienate other parts of the ATR community. I look forward to the forth-coming Llewellyn ATR oriented books. I'm sure they'll have experts from all around to discuss other traditions and call them evil.

Get off my blog, Old Man. You have truly, 100% pissed me off. And after that post? I'm now going to stand by my stance to ignore everything you have to say.

I'm done.

Mr. Vitimus? You're cool. I remain convinced that the company you work for is very not.


*EDIT: PS. I do not think that Piracy is always good, however, the intent of my post was not to say that I'm a pirate. It was to discuss issues I had in the past which pirates I know today continue to discuss with me. If you made that flaw in reading the last post? You misunderstood my comments. 90-100% of the time, I'm not the one pirating your shit. The last book I went out of my way to look for on the internet was one which I purchased, which did not arrive. It was the usual shenanigans. I asked why they charged me if the book was not coming. They insisted they hadn't. My $50 was gone. I found an ebook. That was not piracy. That was letting the company keep my cash, and getting my book. End of story. It's rare for me not to shell out $5 - $15/$20 for an ebook. It's an ebook for Christ's sake. I'm happy to give a company money for their time and effort, if that book doesn't suck. If it does? I don't buy it.

I know I'm not alone in this.

I also happen know people who do perform piracy. I ask them why they do it, what they actually purchase, etc. I want to know. This interests me. For many reasons. Like, you know, how to avoid getting Pirated and whatnot.

I'm not going to bother discussing the subject with an upper middle class writer that blames poor people struggling to get a leg up, who go out of their way to buy his books, for their poverty. He's unwelcome on this blog, and to quote me again. You can quote me on that.

Get off my blog. Don't come back.


“A DRUNK has been jailed after she stole a 100-seat ferry and smashed into boats, yelling, “I’m Jack Sparrow! I’m a pirate!”
Alison Whelan, 51, boarded the 45ft Dart Princess with a friend after a two-day bender, where she got drunk on Lambrini and ate poisonous deadly nightshade, which causes hallucinations.
She undid the mooring ropes in the early hours and drifted up a river on the tide, bashing into other boats “like a pinball machine”...”

You just can't make this stuff up. I hope she doesn't read my blog... That's... Close to home. All my worst nightmares in one media report.

I've written about entheogens, and poisons, over time because altered states are part and parcel of certain traditions of magick, whether or not people like hearing it. At the same time, these activities do not amount to re-enacting a scene from Pirates of the Carribean.

When I recently ended the post about some of the problems facing the medical community stemming from BigPharma, I choose Wade Davis's essay because one of the things he discusses is the ritual uses that other cultures maintain or maintained in the past or present when it came to treating the natural, flowering, psychoactive beauty of nature and working that within the context of their rituals. I consider that natural, beautiful, and harmonious.

This is at a sharp disconnect with the recreational use of the same plants, or the chemicals derived from them. In some cases, there is absolutely no problem with the recreational use of psychoactive substances.* I do not always choose to treat alcohol as a sacramental drug: in plenty of cases, I'm perfectly happy to drink with friends, or go out to have a few drinks. Nonetheless my feelings about alcohol drastically change when I'm using it in a ritually charged space. It is part of generative and degenerative nature: it's an access point, a sign-post, back to the various cults and religions that used it before. This doesn't matter whether we're discussing mead, whiskey, wine or any other form of alcohol.

Thinking about the fermenting process, and the early mead and wine cults which also worshiped the dead reminds me again of the regenerative and degenerative aspects of nature and how something we typically think of as being painful or terrible (death, degeneration, etc.) can end up inspiring an almost endless seeming array of cults and religious movement in which man saluted his ancestors as intoxication set upon him.

As a counter-point to a view I'm coming to: I've often seen it expressed that religion, and the source of religion, is to create social order. The argument goes that since certain drugs allow for the deconstruction of that order, and a new order to arise, and because when abused they can be dangerous, it therefore follows that suppression of entheogens is a natural course of action. I've seen people go so far as to cite Hinduism as the basis for this process of ideas.

The problem with this remains to be: Viktor Sarianidi (if you watch the entire three part set of that episode, it's wonderful. I can find other articles on his work if the desire is made known to me) is one of the few to have actually have archeological evidence of what Soma may have been. Mentioned in the RigVeda, Soma was also known as Haoma to the Zoroastrians. It is believed to be a mixture of Ephedra, Cannabis, and Poppy seeds or opium. One easily can imagine why an opiate, a psychedelic plant, and a stimulant might have inspired the writers of the Vedic texts!

It also shows just how different such treatment might be to the way our culture discusses the subject, and more importantly, uses and treats the plants. They are treated as no more than a distraction; a plaything. That nature produces, much less than spontaneously, these wonderful compounds is seen as nothing more than a mechanical mechanism. Meanwhile aspects of our shared religious history seem to treat the matter very differently.

My mind flutters back to Otto's Dionysus: Myth and Cult:
Folklore has given us much evidence for believing that the pleasure man takes in the fruits and flowers of the earth, the enjoyment he has in her intoxicating liquids – in fact, that gaiety, in general, can be linked with those moments when man salutes his dead...”
But this salute does not just entail his dead! Also his Gods, and the world around him! For the things which flower would not be if not for the insects which pollinate them, nor would they be without other aspects of the ecosystem that sustain them. Like humanity in general, there is a great chain linking each to each. Consider:

This treatment and approach to the world – to create poetry, art, religious and spiritual thought and foci – differs from the drug binge fueled stories of the west. We've reached the point of treating these aspects of nature as nothing more than mechanisms, things to be used to cure or kill, rather than recognizing the cycle.

I strongly suspect this is by and large a byproduct of the Industrial revolution. Do I wish to see it end? Absolutely. Right away. I grow tired of hearing stories about how meth ruins lives, or individuals went on a rampage because they treated the plants and drugs like nothing more than a pill you take to get away from reality and put them in their bodies simply to run away from the present.

I do not believe nature displays these properties just so one can have a good time, or simply to cure ills. Rather, it is a form of communication between the plant kingdom and the world we live in. We've just yet to see how and why this communication began, in my opinion.

In short, drugs can be abused. The plants and the compounds do get abused. Regularly. This abuse fuels the current way we look at them, and we fail to see where they entered our respective cultural narratives. But that doesn't mean they have to be, and running around like a loon rather than using them for contemplation, reflection, to break up every-day aspects of consciousness and see anew with new eyes: this is part of a long process.

You're not getting away from reality, anyway. Sober up, as many will know, and reality will return. You can't escape the world, nor it's pains. But you can celebrate the beauty and solemnity of it.

So raise a glass to your ancestors, and your precursors, and take a swig keeping in mind: in vino veritas. Even if you use intoxication to try and escape the truth, it will still remain where it always has been. Right beside you, staring you in the face, demanding your attention and telling you that there are things yet left that need to be fixed.

On the other hand? There's nothing wrong with having the occasional round of drinks with friends, reciting poetry, and dancing wildly.

After all: that's perfectly in line with tradition, isn't it? Just remember: it's part of a chain of things. Not something to denigrate and consider by itself, whether we're talking about marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco. None of these plants or chemicals exist in isolation. That's why we make sure to try and raise them when we fall in love with them, isn't it?***

* How you determine that seems to be cultural or based on toxicity, though. Alcohol is not terribly dangerous unless one is prone to violence or seriously abuses it over a long time.
** I'm pretty sure the Germans also had mead cults, but finding a specific citation of that fact was rather annoying. I just kept finding “anti-cult” websites.
** This comment doesn't include completely synthetic drugs, of course. They're an entirely different kettle of worms.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Re: Piracy, a Response to Andrieh Vitimus.

I mostly just like this woodcut for the poppets. Srsly.
 I was reading an entry from a couple months ago by another Chaos Magician about piracy, occult authors, and the current situation that stands. A lot of the points he makes are very, very good. But I still find myself somewhat annoyed by certain things. I don't blame him for failing to consider them, but I'm going to offer my thoughts as a counter-point – not to be antagonistic.

So, let's start off.

Let's imagine I'm currently 20 years old. I work at Taco Bell making 8.50$ an hour, or the minimum wage in California. Let's imagine I go to school and I'm not getting much help paying for it, and I'm carrying a full course-load while working just beneath the full-time arrangement. Something like 34 hours a week or so.

Discounting what comes out of my paycheck for taxes, social security, etc:
I make about $315 a week. Or I make $1260 a month.*

If I live alone and I've found the cheapest possible housing, in the cheapest possible neighborhood**, around $250 (if I have a roommate). If I live alone, I maybe pay something like $500 a month. I will probably spend at least 100$ a week on food, unless I want to live on top ramen or buy nothing but generic and healthy products, which might reduce that price by a 5th. I'm already nearing having spent half my money even before I get it, just on cost of living. Now, let's say I go to city college, so I need between $800 to $1200 per semester, before including books. Including books, I probably shell out between $300 - $500 dollars per semester. This means that of my remaining cash, I'm probably putting between half of what's left or more in a savings account and not touching it to continue my schooling.

In the end, I'm left with $200 - $300 per month to spend. If I own a car, then the rest of my expenses are probably sunk into it.*** If I choose to forgo quick and efficient transportation and choose to have some money, I'm left with a minute amount of spending cash. So I scrap together $100 or perhaps a bit more for books. I might even have $5 left over for Starbucks! Hah!

I pay somewhere around $20 - $25 per publication. This is maybe cheaper now that ebooks are easier to get... Only a dollar or two actually goes to the actual author, with the rest being sunk into publishing expenses and heading towards the publisher having the ability to publish future works. I get between 4 and 5 books per month.

With, as Mr. Vitimus puts it, the high signal to noise ratio, I have to be fairly selective at this. I have to make sure my money goes where it deserves. The problem that begins to occur is in direct relation to the publisher, and their desire to make money. Going out on a limb, let's say that most publishers – even the larger and mainstream ones – want to put out good material. But to do that, they still have to publish crap books that are essentially worthless to continue making money and putting out other books.

Like I've said, I'm not making much money. Let's assume I'm also a noob, and so I'm sinking my money into beginner books. If I should discover that the publisher has given me crap, then I'm out of my cash. I can try to get it back, but it can become fairly unlikely in some cases. The publisher makes money off of me, but all I get is some paper and ink with material I already have – it's effectively worthless.

Assuming that something like 10 out of ever 100 books are worth my time, that still leaves a very large amount of crap books. This amount may increase or decrease depending on the publisher and their commitment to quality material. Since their primary goal is to make money, especially if they're a major mover and shaker in these parts, they don't actually end up losing anything when they knowingly produce a book filled with crap.

The loss sits on my shoulders. I now have maybe two out of four or five books that's worth my time, and if I really want to learn magick to improve my conditions (which, I imagine, many younger magicians do – I know I did! I'm happy it worked occasionally), about 50% of what I just got is a money sinkhole. The publisher has knowingly produced crap, and they have absolutely no liability in this unless I write a downright scathing review and others do it, too.

So they've made money off exploiting me, and my position, and my lack of knowledge. They get to walk way more or less free of this situation and continue to do what they do, and I get to feel the total effects.

To suggest that this situation is bullshit is not to understate this factor. Around twenty years old, I began sinking most of my money into academic publications. These are far more expensive, but I at least know I'm getting decent material that's been subjected to a peer review process – unlike the occult paperback market. I'm getting something at least remotely historically correct and if I'm smart, I can probably use it. When I got my copy of Richard Kieckhefer's Forbidden Rites, I think I paid something like $40. You can find it cheaper now... I can immediately turn to using CLM 849, and summoning up demons and trying to recoup that loss. It's only twice as much as most Llewellyn books I've come across, but unlike them, it's actually worth my money. I have a Grimoire to try and work with, and an academic's take on it to take into account.

Meanwhile, we might compare this with Christian Day's A Witches' Book of the Dead, which is also introduced by Raven Grimassi. Regardless of the validity of Day's book or not, which I've avoided reading, some issues occur. Some time ago Day came to the attention of the blogosphere when he hit the mainstream press for “cursing” Charlie Sheen for calling himself a Warlock. The ritual was uploaded to Youtube, and if it's still up, you can watch Day and crew botch the LBRP and make some massive mistakes. Based on the ritual on Youtube, some serious questions might be raised about the validity of his book, which was put out by Weiser last year. It apparently never occurred to Weiser that working with the dead and making huge, possibly dangerous, mistakes while working with the dead might be terrible for business... And consumers. The list price for the book is around $20 bucks. If I buy Day's book, I can probably look forward a bunch of techniques that might be dangerous even if they do work. Do I really want to trust someone that summons the dead and then leaves an audience outside the circle to watch? Do I really want to trust someone that can't even make sure the LBRP is performed correctly for a ritual publicly uploaded?

Or do I want to spend twice that amount of cash on a solid book?

Another example: Migene Gonzalez-Wippler's Santeria: the Religion put out by Llewellyn. However much the information on Santeria in it might be correct – and with what I'm about to say – the information contained in the chapter on Palo (chapter 19) looks to be complete crap, mixed in with drama and misinformation that can be best be said to be extremely divisive. Especially when considering the sheer number of practicing Paleros who are also Santeros or Santeras. Again, the price is around $20. For just a bit more, I could pick up a copy of Palo Mayombe by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold from SI. I may not learn much about Santeria in it, obviously, but at least I'm not being spoon-fed bullshit and forced to reconsider everything written in the book when I stumble upon glaring issues. You can find Santeria in plenty of bookstores; you will have to order SI's book in most cases, especially in the U.S.

Now, Llewellyn could have fact-checked the bullshit. So could the editors at Weiser. They didn't bother, and produced their books. Why? Even if it's crap, if someone buys the books then they lose fuck-all. This is compared with their complaints about piracy, wherein Llewellyn has been hilarious. I won't even get into it. Every word I've seen that company issue on the subject has been hypocritical: they rip us off all the time, and never, ever consider that it might be wrong to do so. They take advantage of our communities and then pretend we should act like they help us. As much as I appreciate books from Patrick Dunn, Fr. U.D., and a few others that are worth reading, I'm still left with an overwhelming majority of publications that are rehashes of the same tiresome Wicca 101 bullshit, or recasting other forms of magick as Wicca (and thereby confusing beginners, who the rest of us are forced to try and educate: it's beyond tiresome, it's very annoying).

No accountability is held to the publishers for this glut of bullshit. Nor to many of the authors, who are often recast as celebrity figures and treated as a godsend.

However much I want to support the worthwhile authors, how am I to tell? Are we to begin requesting that future authors put a chapter of their forth-coming book on a blog so that we can get a feel for what's about to produced? Should we just accept the sink-hole scenario, which hurts everyone? Should I suggest that you never work with certain publishers again?

I believe that there are more reasons for piracy being frequently performed than many authors realize. I want authors worth being supported to be supported – but what about the crap? Who pays for that? Who takes that hit? As the former kid who lost money to Llewellyn, I think they owe me an either better policy when it comes to editing, or they need to accept that they poisoned the well. They pursued money above quality.

I contrast this with S.I., who has not only begun publishing paperbacks but also made cheap e-books available for the future magicians of tomorrow. When they began complaining about piracy, my biggest complaint was that the publications could not be obtained by everyone and therefore it was unfair to place the full blame on the pirates. If all of your publications range from $120 - $150, then only a select amount of consumers can obtain them. That means the only default for someone who cannot is to either pirate it, or sit around and save up until the book maybe falls out of print. This situation has been rectified, and I do applaud them for that.

So you have to ask yourself a question:
When I publish my work, do I want to ally it with a publisher committed to excellence, or someone who will put me in every store?”

If you choose the latter, then you reap what is to come of it. Buyer and writer beware! Your work may end up shunned, not because it's bad, but because everything around it is bad. It's not terribly fair, but it's also the way things are going.

As for “paying it forward?” I have discussed this factor with many of the pirates I know, most of whom are poor kids that I laid out earlier. Many of them actually state that they try to buy the materials in hardcopy the second that they can afford it. Plenty have told me that if they love something, they review it. I doubt more than a few could take you out to eat, though, bro.

As for actually paying occultists for their hard work? I love the idea. But I'm still left questioning it.

I want to see Jason Miller travel the U.S. and get payed for his important work; I'd love to see the same of Barrabbas and R.O. and many more. Then again, do I think that Christian Day, or any other easily identifiable moron to get paid to teach potentially harmful techniques to noobs that know no better? Absolutely not. If that's the future of witchcraft or occultism, count me out. I'd rather write for free and never be paid a cent for a lecture, than tie myself to such a system.

We stand a crossroads, I guess, as an occulture. The question is: will you support more crap, or will you work on changing the situation by refusing to engage in a system that has become unthinkably filled with crap?

When you publish with a company, you're choosing to make a type of alliance, or a pact. Thus you will be considered not just on the merits of your work, but the works produced around it. I think many authors, especially the ones publishing today, forget this. Don't. Either work to change the issues with your publisher, or publish with someone else.

At this point, you are left with very little choice. I'm sorry it's this way. But it has been for $30 years. As the Depression and economic issues set in, you should expect the state of affairs to remain. Consider who is buying your work, how much time and effort it takes for them to get it, along side with your own concerns.

I wish him the best with whatever book Mr. Vitimus writes next.

*This is a very high estimate due to ignoring the issues that I've already said earlier.
** I can look forward to living next to drug dealers, etc. Which, in fact, was the case when my roommate and I lived for precisely around that amount over half a decade ago. So, yes, what I'm saying is more than a bit person.
*** To avoid those expenses, I used a bike. More physically taxing, but economically cheaper.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Re: Apocalypse Pharmaka*

A View From Afar

Is there any difference between the way the witches ‘paltered with’ Macbeth ‘in a double sense’ and the way drug companies do with me, or rather with you? At least the witches showed him all the data which is more you can say for the drug companies.”
Standing on the outside, after struggling to get inside a failing system for so long... Well, it feels like watching a series of thermonuclear explosions occurring on the sun while standing on the moon. But one has to be careful about confirmation bias.

But then again...
In 2010, researchers from Harvard and Toronto found all the trials looking at five major classes of drug – antidepressants, ulcer drugs and so on – then measured two key features: were they positive, and were they funded by industry? They found more than 500 trials in total: 85% of the industry-funded studies were positive, but only 50% of the government-funded trials were. In 2007, researchers looked at every published trial that set out to explore the benefits of a statin. These cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce your risk of having a heart attack and are prescribed in very large quantities. This study found 192 trials in total, either comparing one statin against another, or comparing a statin against a different kind of treatment. They found that industry-funded trials were 20 times more likely to give results favouring the test drug.”
You've been duped. I know, I know. It hurts. It turns out that BigPharma learned its lessons from Psychiatry and Psychology: build a model, stress that model, hyper-medicate. Deny any possibility of problems. Meanwhile the problems escalate as we cling to the notion that our laws, our ways of looking at medicine, and at life are in fact right as everything spirals outwards.

Let's take a moment step back, though. Because what's happening can be understood, you just need to consider the following:
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, in the face of a widespread and dangerous exploitation of patients with mark ups on drugs of the order of 400 and 500 per cent, the creation of an advertising industry that sold beauty rather than health, product labeling that was grossly fraudulent, and a lack of effective treatments, there was a push to regulate the pharmaceutical industry.

Industry protested but the first regulations were put in place in the United States in 1906 and a series of regulations followed in other countries. It is now clear that a predictable consequence of regulation is to foster a growth in company size as the companies that survive put an apparatus in place to manage their regulatory requirements and this is built into the cost of drugs while other companies go to the wall...”
“The initial thrust behind the regulation of drugs was patient safety. The first call was for an accurate labeling of the contents of products, aimed at empowering consumers. During the 20th century there was a steady push towards some specification of the efficacy of drugs. This interest in efficacy was originally a safety issue. If a drug didn’t have efficacy it couldn’t be safe.
The emergence of the randomized controlled trial (RCT) bolstered the argument that demonstrating efficacy was important and a requirement for controlled trials was built into the last set of regulations we have had, the1962 Food and Drugs Act. But far from improving comparative safety, this development has led to a comparative efficacy market that has had adverse consequences for safety.
As with all other regulatory developments, in 1962 the changes followed on a drug safety crisis, involving the sleeping pill thalidomide. This crisis fed into more general concerns about the pharmaceutical industry. The upshot was a series of changes. One involved the incorporation of controlled trials to determine efficacy. A second lay in a decision taken about the patent status of pharmaceuticals. The third development lay in making new medications available on prescription only.
Just as earlier regulations led to company complaints but also a predictable increase in company size and the emergence of the pharmaceutical companies we know today, so there has been a predictable set of consequences to the 1962 regulations. But there has also been a confluence of changes that created a unique market that few have noticed and none has taken fully into account.”
- “Dancing as fast as we can: the crisis in healthcare.

Meanwhile, in his “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish” Healy makes another interesting comment:
Recent estimates suggest companies spend over $50,000 per annum on marketing to each and every doctor in the United States – possibly considerably over $50,000. Despite this, there is not a single medical course on earth that teaches doctors about pharmaceutical company marketing.

Has this marketing done anything to erode the skepticism of doctors? In 1960 doctors rarely had patients on more than one drug at a time and the drugs that were used were for the most part only used for a limited course. Until the early 1990s, the recommendations for antidepressants were for a three-month course, now patients are told they are like insulin and will have to be consumed for life. Now an increasing number of every doctor’s patients are on 10-15 drugs indefinitely. Doctors in other words are consuming several thousand times more drugs than they once were. Left to their own devices few of a doctor’s patients would ever take 10-15 over the counter drugs at the same time for indefinite periods no matter what the supposed benefits.
Caricature of Mesmer treating his patient. Stolen uprentantly.

Some of today's more interesting marketing tricks come from hypnosis techniques, particularly the ones favoring suggestion. These techniques have their roots in the theories of Franz Anton Mesmer. In 1784, a French commission of the practitioners in the arts of medicine concluded that his theories on Animal Magnetism were wrong. Well, actually, that's wrong to say. The commission actually was in disagreement over whether Mesmerism worked or not, with one member siding with Mesmer. The decision to censure Mesmer and his experiments and treatments is presently believed to have been more for the purposes of politics, particularly as revolutionary fervor heated up in France.

The result of this, and with (in the same year!) Puysegur discovering “Somnambulic Sleep,” also called “Magnetic Sleep” in some circles. Mesmerism flooded into less mainstream markets, even being adopted by various groups of occultists prior to the rise of the Theosophical society and the Golden Dawn. A man named Dr. Johann Malfatti de Montereggio took up Mesmerism to increase his medicinal expertise, but also applied it to some of his other studies: namely, occultism. Malfatti ended up combining Mesmerism with very early Theosophy to produce a very early Westernized view of the subtle body in his Anarchism and Hierarchy. I will be discussing some of his life, although his work is very hard to find, in a forth-coming post currently entitled “The Arch-Materialized Wizard, The Rosicrucian, & the Assassin.” (Malfatti, for the record, is the assassin. Or at least, he very probably was one for the state of Vienna.)

In occult circles, with the exception of Franz Bardon, Paschal Beverly Randolph appears to have been one of the last individuals to teach Mesmer-based techniques to practitioners and encourage them for scrying and other interesting experiments. In the scientific community, James Braid introduced the words “Hypnotism” and “Hypnosis” to the medical community, whereby Mesmer's early experiments were repacked based largely on the hypnotic state and suggestion. Since then, the field has grown enormously and continues to do so today.

Today some of the best advertisers, if not all of them, appear to have some knowledge of how to create images and sets of words directly meant to affect the person seeing them. This problem continues at an unprecedented rate: just watch some T.V. and take note of all the elements involved in commercials involving anti-depressants. One of my recently seen favorites involves a cartoon woman telling a story about her depression. The depression, in this case, is illustrated in the ad by a blue frowning umbrella who follows her around where-ever she goes, even after she discusses going on her medication. The idea is to leave the viewer with the impression that depression is abnormal, and more importantly, never goes away.

It's generally understood that Depression is something everyone will fear at one point or another in their life, and that stress factors and other events in life culminate in it. What's less understood is that the primary drugs on the market to treat depression do not always work, have adverse risks attached that Doctors and Patients do not know about (because the companies making them hid those results), and that we are continually spewing more and more of them out at a very alarming rate, while repeating the mantra we've been told by our Corporate Overlords: “These drugs are safe. No reason to be alarmed. It's just a chemical imbalance.”

In this case the chemical is Serotonin, and there are issues with it's overtreatment. In an interview with Counter Punch that is very revealing (it's from 2001, back when the BigPharma companies were harassing Mr. Healy for speaking out about the risks of suicide for Prozac patients; we now pretty much know that what they've been doing is systematic) with Healy:
RG: How do Prozac and the other SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) like Paxil cause suicidal ideation ("We can make healthy volunteers belligerent, fearful, suicidal and even pose a risk to others," you wrote in the June 2000 Primary Care Psychiatry. "People don’t care about the normal consequences as you might expect. They’re not bothered about contemplating something they would usually be scared of)?
DH: There is a greater difference between Prozac and other SSRI’s on the one side and placebo on the other side in the rate in which they cause agitation, than there is between Prozac and the other SSRI’s and placebo and the rate at which they get people who are depressed better(i.e. the SSRI’s cause more agitation in testing subjects than sugar pills, but they also tend to outperform sugar pills at getting depressed people better). The fact that companies have chose to market them as antidepressants rather than agents that cause agitation is a business decision rather than a scientific matter. It is certainly not one that was "ordained by God." You could say that the fact that some people who are depressed get better is a side effect.
These drugs are drugs that primarily work on the serotonin system. There is no evidence for any abnormality in the serotonin system in people who are depressed. There are however variations in the serotonin system in people who are depressed. There are however variations in the serotonin system in all of us so that some of us will have quite different effects from these drugs than others. It would have been a relatively simple matter to do work on this 10 years ago to find out which of us were more likely to have problems with the drug than which of us were more likely to do well on them.

We can stop what's happening now. But it will be hard work and contingent on people in America becoming more aware of what is happening. We also need to put a stop to the Citizen's United rulings that brought about the ability for these massive companies to influence our laws. Second, we need to alter how we approach drugs in general. We need to gain an understanding, as a culture, as to what they do and how they work – and why. This includes witches' discussing the flying ointments and potions. It's no longer cool to mis-class deliriant effects as “hallucinations,” nor to play the “it's all spiritual!” card. There are biological effects the ointments have. These tie in with the spiritual potentials of the plants. They go hand in hand, and trying to dissect them from one another is how we ended up in the absolutely horrifying predicament of losing knowledge. Yage is a spiritual drug, used in South America for spiritual purposes, and it works because the chemicals in the plants work with our own unique biosystem.

Wade Davis, in Plants of the Gods, writes that:
The pharmacological activity of the hallucinogens arises from a relatively small number of chemical compounds. While modern chemistry has been able, in most cases, successfully to duplicate these substances or even to manipulate their chemical structures to produce novel synthetic forms, nearly all such drugs have their origins in plants. In the plant kingdom, they occur only among the advanced flowering plants and the more primitive spore-bearing fungi. Most are alkaloids, a family of about 5,000 complex organic molecules that also account for the biological activity of most toxic and many medicinal plants. These active compounds may be found in various concentrations in different parts of the plant-root, leaves, seeds, bark, and flowers -- and they may be absorbed by human body in a number of ways, as is evident in the wide variety of folk preparations. Hallucinogens have been smoked or snuffed, swallowed fresh or dried, drunk in decoctions and infusions, absorbed directly through the skin, placed in wounds, or administered as enemas.”
Before that he states:
The standard scientific explanation, trial and error, may well account for certain innovations; but at another level, it is but a euphemism disguising the fact that ethnobotanists have very little idea how Indians originally made their discoveries...

The problem with trial and error is that the elaboration of the preparations often involves procedures that are exceedingly complex or that yield products of little or no obvious and immediate value. Banisteriopsis caapi is an inedible, nondescript liana that seldom flowers. True, its bark is bitter, but scarcely more so than a hundred other forest vines. An infusion of the bark causes vomiting and severe diarrhea, hardly conditions that would encourage further experimentation. Yet not only did the Indians persist; they became so deft at manipulating the various ingredients that individual shamans developed dozens of recipes, each yielding potions of various strengths and nuances for specific ceremonial and ritual purposes.

The Indians have their own explanations, rich cosmological accounts that from their perspective are inherently logical: sacred plants that had journeyed up the Milk River in the belly of anaconda, potions created by primordial jaguar, the drifting souls of shaman dead from the beginning of time.”

I'll leave you with that.

*I want to thank Gordon, and a fellow I'll call MM for referencing me to Healy. I've had concerns about some of this shit for years.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The last post.

I won't lie.

On re-reading even bits of it, I hated most of it. It didn't capture the awesome scope I saw in my mind. It has mistakes a-plenty. Typos. Errors in judgment.

But I'm going to leave it up because, like I said, there was an agreement for a very specific purpose made for it. The initial rush of, visit the Venusberg! had been intense. It was one of the first times I'd remembered to ask for help searching for information related to a subject, and the information had fallen into my hands. Except The Night Battles, which I've read and re-read a dozen times because it's awesome.

Anyway. I know it's not great, and I know it could be better. But I'm leaving it. I hope that the anti-Christian rhetoric has mostly been toned down and it remains just a slightly subversive middle finger towards certain thoughts.


Ember Days

[Day of Venus + Hour of Venus: Ember Days]

(Promises are promises, you know? This is not a "channeled" piece. I retrofitted scenes in Wagner's operas to suit my needs and added in details from Carlo Ginsburg's The Night Battles to supply the individuals who supposedly visited the Venusberg. I always imagine that at the end of this, Tannhauser would either end up gutted or running off with Elisabeth to hang with Venus/The Queen and her serpent-women friends. Because the ideal romantic relationships during that era kinda sucked, you know?)

The Fairy Queen by Marjorie Cameron

A Pagan Hero in Christian Europe*

The tale has been told – and sung, more importantly – before. A story of a man, who estranges himself from the highest companies of men: the Minnesinger. Having been estranged, this fellow takes to wondering and isn't seen for ten years. But – we would have the tale differently. Out of order, disconnected from the flow of the whole. And then we would wish to diverge...

The year is 1207 of the common era; and we find ourselves in the grand Hall of the Wartburg amongst a company of Knights. The castle was established just over a century and a half ago, when Ludwig the Springer passed by the mountain it now sits atop. He is reported to have stopped, glared upward for a moment and then shouted the words: “Warte, Berg – du sollst mir eine Burg werden!”

This translates to something like: “wait, mountain! You shall become a castle for me!” All this proves is that the pun (like Eros) is as old as time itself...

It is just past noon, and the light of the sun is cascading brilliantly through the stained glass widows of the Hall; depictions of Martyrs, and of Saints (their heads crowned with the Light of God, their hands wrapped around bound books – fingers lifted exalting heaven, even as the pretty childlike face of the Saint gazes unthinkingly upward), of knights and near the end of the Hall, nativity scenes of Jesus Christ's birth. The hue is almost unmistakable, and the light wholesome and full but not oppressive. To gaze at the scenes is to become enraptured with blues as wondrous as the ocean, yellow that glimmers like the sun, and what of rose? Ah, the rose light of a is something to behold...

The Hall is held aloft by six beautifully sculpted columns, which hold up the domed ceiling. Along the length of the hall and at its center is a long table, around which are nobles and aristocrats of the court. Hermann, the Landgrave of Thuringia, has called them together for a contest of Minnesingers. There is a blast of a trumpet from the courtyard beside the Hall; a signal that the last of the nobles have arrived.

Silence descends as the Landgrave approaches the edge of his balcony above the Hall, where seated just behind him is the saintly seeming Elisabeth. Hermann's words, selected carefully, have caught the attention of those beneath. His deep, and bass resonate voice shivers through the hall as he speaks: “My people, today is a day of celebration! In our time, we have driven blood-thirsty invaders from our land; we have taken areas of land we thought lost forever back into our ancestral hands, and returned to the greatness of our forebears! And having done all this, we have abandoned our swords and taken up our pens and harps so that those same swords would not be at some turned against our people.”

His fleshy cheeks flush a bit as he speaks; a side-effect of the wine in his cup. But then – no one's perfect, right? He pauses for a moment and glances back at Elisabeth, clad in a stunning white and blue gown which reveals almost nothing of her figure and yet seems to amplify her charm. His gaze turns from his niece back to the nobles and Knights seated beneath and he speaks again. “Having accomplished so much, it is now time for a contest – a contest of song. Those who sing the song which most truly involves the virtues, the perfection, of love... Let them sing now, and we will award to the winner any request he would make of Elisabeth.”

Applause cascades through the hall, and then there is silence again as the feasting begins and the first of the Minnesingers approaches the end of the banquet table. Harp in hands, Biterolf begins his song. One might say that the song reflects his nature; for it is vicious, and unsound of heart. His fingers seem to tremble at times, and there is something off to his voice; as if the pitch isn't quite right. Hardly fitting for one of the great singers of the 13th century, is it?

And something is wrong. It's hard to detect but if one relaxes, passes their gaze down the table toward the end, nearly enshadowed in the back is the figure of a man who doesn't quite fit in. He seems neither knight nor noble, and is wearing a green cloak that appears to have the dress of a grey friar beneath it. And is it..? Why, yes! It is Hienrich Tannhauser!

And – none of those around him know. None of them realizing that dozing amongst them is a representative of the past. And he's sleeping, his hands filled comfortably with his harp. One need not wonder what it is that he dreams of, not now:

He is moving through a vast chamber, deep in the earth. Beneath the Monte della Sibilla, near Narnia, Italy – a torch is in his hands as he looks up at the chamber, seeing the bones of dragons that have petrified with age. All around him are the bones of the Jurassic, forgotten. Does a chill enter his heart, then?

He had stopped in Narnia briefly and heard the tales of the mountain, ruled by the Lady. And of a cave in which one had before tried to venture, but none could find the end of it. It had sparked upon his mind that attempting to traverse that dark territory would make an excellent song; perhaps even a few poems, and so Hienrich had begun the trek down the summit of the mount.

Now, as he descends deeper into darkness and the light of day is long forgotten, he knows that the Lady is not – and never was – human. But he has no idea of what is is that she actually might be. A fairy, perhaps? One of the few surviving nymphs from the classical times?

Hienrich Tannhauser has no idea that he's about to meet the Goddess deep beneath the mountain that she rules. And it is perhaps fitting that we leave him anxiously testing his fate as he descends, ever deeper into the labyrinth without time and the bowels of the earth.

Not knowing of what his friend dreams, it is now Wolfram's turn to sing for the audience. Slowly, the great minstrel approaches the head of that great table, and he begins to sing a sweet, sweet melody. His voice harmonizes with the jubilation of those gathered perfectly; it amplifies and intoxicates them. To them does Wolfram sing of the sweet, chaste love that Tannhauser – the dozing, poor looking wanderer far in the back – and Elisabeth had before their friend departed. He dedicates the song to them in verse, even as he lifts his praises to Elisabeth, who had at that time been torn between mysticism and her higher callings and the world of men and the joys of marriage. He goes on; he compares this higher, chaste love with that of the great lovers – of Anthony and Cleopatara, of Helen and Paris, and of those who have soared in the literature of their times... And he finds them all lacking. None of them have cultivated virtue as well as has Elisabeth. You might even say he's buttering the girl and her uncle up.

And all this time, no one realizes what it is that has descended into their midst. What it has that has journeyed back from the far, and the dark, and the dank underground... None of them realizing that it is Tannhauser who is about to rule the day.

For as he dreams, he has returned to the abode of the Goddess. She had warned him that this would happen; that he would be discontent with the world of his peers, and that he would never find satiety amongst them.

It was the Goddess, Venus, that ruled the mountain. Not the seer or oracle of folklore that many suspected; but something else entirely has come to rule this place. Gods don't die easily, you see. And she had simply retreated to the last space left to her. Here, in the twilight grotto, his mind rests with her. Roseate light, as bright and bold as the light from those stained glass windows that filter the light of the dayside world he is not presently inhabiting, fills the garden of Un-Earthly Delights. Both night and day blooming flowers rise around an underground stream that seems to stretch into the eternity of darkness beyond the twilight, in which the dryad and naiads of old bath themselves, chattering away.

Eros has slunk away, surrounded by a cadre of unearthly females and is dozing with some of the other sorts that have made it to the deep, forgotten abode. Oh, our boy Tannhauser is not by any means alone.

Within the giant alcove are many, many of the others that have made their way from afar. Some by land, some by sea (sailing accidentally outside time), and some by air – riding the astral waves, as it were. There are the Clerici Vagantes, who would later appear in Germany claiming to have ridden the “air ship of the Goddess,” as it were. They had, they would tell any who would listen, found themselves on the Vernusberg during the course of their wanderings, and now they had a sacred duty to fight for fertility!

That they were mad did not necessarily detract from such statements, but instead prompted most to ignore them.

And in the corner, sitting above a pool of water and gazing deep within like Narcissus is the figure of Diel Breull. The poor bastard doesn't even know how he got there, but he'll have trouble when he returns to the world of daylight in about 400 years later. The poor bastard of a sorcerer was just scrying – looking out at what there is to look at, if you will – when he found himself here in the Garden of the Vernusberg. He'd timidly asked the Lady if she was 'Frau Holte', considered in his time – and we are timeless here, you see – and she had agreed. Panicked, Diel Breull had suddenly realized he'd met the goddess and become part of a “nachtfahr:” a nocturnal band of warrior men-folk. There was no going back at that point, you see. He'd ceased to be a sorcerer and, under the influence of the Goddess, simply become something else. Something that Tannhauser already knows he is. And something that in 1630, Diel Breull will be put on trial for. There is no place, presently, in the world for such men it would seem. Which is perhaps why they are here, and not with their daylight living brethren.

He remembers well the moments before he'd left this place: the fight with Venus. He'd found himself wishing for the company of men, and she'd retorted that there were “plenty here already.”

That is not what I meant,” he'd said angrily. “You cannot just have endless contentment! Inspiration doesn't just dawn on men.”

But it does!” She'd said pleadingly, and he'd rebuked her with a wave of his hand. At that point she'd become angry. “You will find no solace in the world of men! No satiety! It is only here, in this garden hidden in the far, far lands, that you will find it. And you are here because you are a hero; only such a one can venture to this place!”

Heroes aplenty,” he'd snarled. And she'd suddenly realized that she'd pushed the prideful Hienrich too far – for that was the bane of the lovers of Venus. Something of that prideful viper that the Christians are always worried about came upon them. She implored him not to return to the loveless world of men. But it was too late, then. The next stage was at hand, and –

And so Hienrich Tannhauser had shouted the words, “Goddess of all delights, not with thee shall my soul find its peace! My salvation lies in Mary!

There had been an eruption; like the entire world ripped apart, dissolving all around one: his almost juvenile exorcism dragging him from that section of timeless space and back into the world of men. Thus it was that Hienrich Tannhauser been journeying, against the wishes of the Goddess and mostly to spite her, to the Pope to gain absolution for his deeds. Such had he been when the company of men he now sleeps amongst had found him. They had bid him to come with them, but he'd been unwilling. Unwilling, at least, until Wolfram had begged him to come for the sake of his lost and forsaken love: Elisabeth. And so he'd agreed.

And now, dreaming, he remembers it all because it can no longer be suppressed and hidden from his conscious mind. It is not guilt, or shame that he feels now that he understands what has transpired. It was not for the sake of Mary that he has forsaken the company of Venus. It was for Elisabeth. And she is to be wed to the victor of this silly contest, regardless of how she felt about such a person. Suddenly, he understands that he could not have remained in that state forever while someone he loved would be suppressed into a loveless marriage where the highest ideal is frozen alienation from their soul...

And so he suddenly awakens with a start – his eyes opening, body shifting as if possessed. He has suddenly returned to them, even though none in the Hall realized he had ever left. And as he stands, he begins playing his harp. The tune is half-mad, almost disjointed and yet simultaneously harmonious. It represents all that Wolfram's song does not have. And Hienrich begins to sing, a song of bitterness and anger in response to Wolfram's loveless tune.

His song is about something else entirely: Wolfram, he sings, does not know love. He advances triviality before the truth of love. None of them, none standing, know love as he knows it. And he begins to sing to them of the sweetness of love; of the deep, driving power of its influence. His song vibrates through the Hall. It assaults the balcony above. It stirs all that listen. And what they feel is sudden, alien horror, at this afront in a green cloak that is suddenly singing from the far side of the table.

He sings: should not love be full, like the touch of flesh? Do they not realize that the cup they drink from is an endless well, and we are here for the fulfillment of it? And is not love ruled by another, one for whom none of them has spoken? Oh, yes. He sings to them now of the truth of the love he has known. The fullness of it, the heaviness of it that was so pure and true that he could not abide to remain within it forever: such a state is madness for weary men. If they would know of this love, all encompassing, all abiding – without restraint – then he sings to them that they should fly with him to the Hill of Venus.

The hall is in an uproar. Chairs are being upturned. Glorious and eternal, the first God to rule creation, Chaos has re-emerged. The nobles and knights gathered now know that is not a man they have been eating with, but something else entirely. An atavistic throwback to a different time; emergent qualities that cannot be undone, only guarded against. Hienrich Tannhauser has abandoned the law and edicts of another, and returned to the law of Other Times, Other Places. And he would have them do the same.

“Kill him where he stands!” Biterolf shouts as he draws his blade, hurtling down the side of the table toward his opponent. The other knights, all seven of them, draw their swords. The air is pierced and it is hardly silent. The female nobility has had several members faint at this revelation; they shant go to Heaven now, if they abide having eaten with a heathen and a fornicator, now can they?

Elisabeth is in shocked silence, sitting and looking lost high above the balcony. Wolfram is singing, begging those who will listen to calm themselves. Of high ideals. Of holding their tempers for their beloved, and lost friend. And that viper in verdant green, a cloak given to him on the Venusberg, is shifting backwards as he plays his harp still. His legs and posture indicate fierce defiance; pride like a shield, all powerful. You may kill me, his stance says, but you will always remember my song.

The nobles are fleeing out the door; that's the nobility, for you. They'll watch a man hang and make jokes about him, but watching knights cut down an unarmed man? Well. That's just... horrifying. Even if he is a witch. And Tannhauser is singing again, defying them: come with me, he's saying. Come with me. You just might like it.

But, as the seven knights advance upon him, Hienrich Tannhauser is not singing for them. He's singing for Elisabeth. Who cares what the rest of them think, anyway?