Jaques and the Wounded Stag by William Hodges (from Shakespeare's "As You Like It")
By Gregory Arnott, guest blogger
One simple observation about the haikus this week is that all of them have to do with the occluding of the light in some way. Whether this was an intentional theme, simply a result of living on the foggy Northern Californian coast, or an archetypical theme recurring in an elder’s ruminations is open to interpretation. My favorite one was the only haiku so far to receive a title “Midnight Haiku,” I didn’t say it was a good title; does anyone have any opinion on haikus herein on the form in general. I’ll admit that I’ve written one haiku sequence during an afternoon in Boulder and found it personally pleasing but I’m no Basho.
“Schrodinger’s Other Cat” is a short review of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. I haven’t read Adams’ since I was in eighth or ninth grade and I never made it to his Dirk Gently series so I have little to say about this essay and honestly I wonder if some other more substantial piece could have been here instead. However, I do see how it follows along with the themes in the book as a whole. On pg. 40 RAW refers to Dirk Gently as “the most scientific novel of the year,” later it would be noted on the back of the books and brought up by RAW in interviews that his Schroedinger’s Cat Trilogy was called “the most scientific of all science fiction novels.”
Considering that The Universe Next Door was published a few years before this review would have been written I think this is a funny synchronicity.
pg 41: Let us pause here and consider ~dove sta memora~
Paranoia: Do you believe that individuals who profit from illegal business pay off our lawmakers to continue their way of life? Is this even a question anymore? Again, I must point out that the situation has degraded since the Bush years that now seem relatively sane.
Black Magick & Curses: Secrets of ye Arte call’d Ducdame
Melancholy Jaques, of “All the world’s a stage/And all the men and women merely players” fame, provides the following song to the exiled court after the wonderful statement “I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs.”:
JAQUES Thus it goes:
If it do come to pass
That any man turn ass,
Leaving his wealth and ease
A stubborn will to please,
Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame.
Here shall he see
Gross fools as he,
An if he will come to me.
AMIENS What’s that ‘ducdame?
JAQUES ‘Tis a Greek invocation to call fools into a circle. I’ll go to sleep if I can. If I cannot, I’ll rail against all the firstborn of Egypt.
An invocation to call fools into a circle and an essay on our primate game rules…can’t think of what he could possibly be implying there. (For the curious my Norton Shakespeare helpfully notes that ‘ducdame’ is “[a] word of unknown meaning. Possibly a variation on a Welsh phrase meaning “Come hither” or on a Gypsy phrase meaning “I foretell.” It also points out that the term “Greek” could simply mean unintelligible rather than a magical word derived from the Graeco-Egyptian magical cults of late-antiquity.)
(RAW begins his essay with two references to Shakespeare, who perhaps more than any other single person altered the English language, but I haven’t read King John so I won’t comment on the quotation.)
Since magic is essentially humanity’s first grand survival technique so it is appropriate that a discussion of magic would be contextualized as a survival manual for any humans trapped on the planet of the apes. I can think of many different examples of ducdame and different tribal taboos that I’ve encountered. Like last week’s focal essay, “Black Magick and Curses” is an excellent summarization of the bigger themes in RAW’s work. And I swear to god I have read the definition and illustrative passage from Magick on pg. 46 so many times I mumble it in my sleep. Funnily I’ve never really been impressed by Crowley’s definition or illustration here or I have at least failed to grok its profundity.
“In other words the distinction between “magick” and “communication” exists only in our traditional ways of thinking.” (pg. 47)
And herein lies the whole of the essay. In 2003, when the “Black Magick” was initially published, the premise would have hardly been original; but it is something we can take for granted thanks to writers such as RAW who helped explain Crowley that such theory is common knowledge to anyone interested in the field.
On the next page where RAW speaks about the dangers that arise when type [A] and type [B] statement become mixed together is directly related to the themes of one of his most important and impassioned essays “The Right Man.”
We are treated to a little summary of NLP theory concerning the meta- and Milton models and a general discussion of how exactly language can be used and is used to directly influence our realities, while this is the meat of the essay, I again have little to add as I am unfamiliar with NLP, although I did begin thumbing a copy of The Structure of Magic that I own after initially rereading this, so anyone more knowledgeable feel free to jump in.
NLP founder Richard Bandler
To the closing remarks of the essay I will relay this story: Alan Moore, in a interview from the same time as this essay, discussed why he felt the spelling of magick with a k was unnecessary. This spelling of magick originated with Aleister Crowley who used it to distinguish his occult rites from the sleight-of-hand and misdirection of stage magic. However, according to Moore, there is much less difference between the two than Crowley would admit. Hence, the distinguishing letter is obsolete. Moore also points out in various places that the Bard is superior than the Magician.
On pg. 53 the mention of Charles Laughton reminds me of a similar curse the poor man might have had unjustly put on him by the magician Kenneth Anger. I know since I read Anger’s salacious story that I haven’t been able to watch any movie with Laughton in it the same way. And I used to love The Private Life of Henry the VIII (that and the Laughton/Gable Mutiny on the Bounty were favorites of my Mother).
I highly recommend F for Fake if RAW’s constant discussion of the film hasn’t caused you to watch it for yourself yet. One thing I think he fails to mention anywhere is that part of what makes Fake so much fun is it is basically a framed around a large/chaotic party so the experience is all through that filter which makes it deliciously intoxicating. It is a look at Ibiza before those damn kids and their designer drugs cemented its infamy.
We close with the nonsense rhyme “Antigonish” by William Mearns that brings the circle of primate game rules, language, and magic to a close around the fools.
Next week: Pages 54-78 of the Hilaritas Press edition, e.g. through the end of "Dreams of Flying."