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Monday, June 5, 2017

Email to the Universe reading group, Week Four!

By Gregory Arnott, guest blogger

So, this week is a doozey. One of the thoughts that has preoccupied me while reading this book is how well it has aged and whether the ideas that RAW introduces are as relevant today as they were a little more than a decade ago. When I first read email to the Universe I was what I would call a RAW-purist and naturally agreed with everything I read- emphatically so. Now that I have changed and am revisiting the text I am finding the reading to be a much more provoking and rewarding experience.

pg 54 In the initial haiku we have a reference to dolphins and their presumably idyllic lifestyle (without money! how nice of an idea) which echoes back to Howard and his compatriots in Illuminatus!

- also, the quote is originally from Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (I’ve only read Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions)
The essay Shocking Hidden Facts About Male Non-Violence was an arduous read for me. Not because I outright disagree with RAW but in today’s delightful iteration of the Culture War this little piece is, if anything, more dangerous than at the time of its writing and later publication. The conversation about feminism and masculinity in our society has somehow accelerated and become more of a muddle.
In light of the recreational and medical Heresies mentioned on pg. 55 that had resulted in so many arrests I’d like to link to an article about how Oakland, CA is taking steps to correct this assault.
On page 56 RAW complains about the brutish perception of men in the context of his androphobia. I would like to point out that much of the brutishness and foolish accoutrements of masculinity are not due to the incorrect perspectives of observes but certain malignant programs in our own society concerning the male gender. Toxic and Fragile Masculinity are concepts worth familiarizing yourselves with that help to pinpoint the flaws that help create the more brutish types of male hominids.
I also enjoy the digs at Amy Lowell, an early twentieth century Imagist poet whose work is widely looked down upon, and Hildegarde of Bingen. I’m not quite in the know about the mediaeval mystic and composer’s history but elsewhere in RAW’s work he talks about how “feminist” historians have tried to raise her compositions unfairly about those of the male Beethoven’s.
I would also say that on pg. 57 I’m not sure that bringing up the masculine nature of the “major,” especially the Abrahamic faiths, does much to help RAW’s argument. The decidedly patriarchal systems of these religions has caused undisputable harm to men, women, and all parts of the spectrum of sexuality. Later on page 86 RAW discusses the differences between “matrist” and “patrist” societies and how the former seems preferable. This is one of my favorite paradigms he introduces to the reader and does so eloquently in Ishtar Rising.  
Today’s dialogue has reduced such protests to the stereotypical response of “Not All Men!” which belies a concern for the wellbeing of a male’s reputation over the very real statistics of rape and violence against women. However, RAW’s point in the next essay shows how such reactions are unhelpful to finding a solution. The classic double-bind that RAW mentions on pg. 58 is another example of the irritating and befuddling position that many progressive males find themselves in today. A particularly distressing example is the case of Professor Brett Weinstein at Evergreen College in Oregon who has been confronted with mob justice and forced off campus because he refused to be excluded from the campus by a minority group simply because he happens to be a white male. I’m sure not even RAW could have foreseen the dramatic changes our increasingly noisey world would have upon our world in but a decade but email to the Universe does seem to be a primer for what was going to happen.
On pg. 59 Wilson brings up Andrea Dworkin who was a radical feminist who made all other feminists look terrible. After she decided that pornography was so evil that she was willing to align herself with the rev. Falwell (who we’ll get to read about next week) I feel she lost all respectability or reason to command our attention. Human-hating-radicalism loves human-hating-radicalism and as witnessed by the collusion between Fascists and Soviets circa 1939 and 2016-17.
More so than his predictions of our near-future immortality the last paragraph written by RAW on pg. 60 seems to be a devastatingly optimistic prediction.  We now live in a world where the various parts of society are more weary and spiteful of each other and an anti-Semite holds the President of the United States’ ear.
Our next haiku repeats a motif from the first insofar as it is composed around the image of an animal, this time the free flying gulls. (Remember that RAW will reference the free-flying feel-good Jonathan Livingston Seagull in the third essay this week.)  
Language, Logic, & Lunacy
“The first rule of politics is to use language precisely. Otherwise, no one understands anybody else, and everything falls into Chaos.”  Given the themes of this book and the references to Count Korzybski I think we might all be able to agree that once “politics” is replaced by “life” we have been given a cornerstone approach to this work and the world.
Humorously I can add a personal corollary to his definition of ching ming (“be sure brained turned on before setting mouth and motion”); all my problems are caused by not knowing when to shut my damn mouth.
The difference between the majority of positions of power are held by white men and all men hold a position of power is the cause for much of the current political ire today as it was when RAW initially penned this essay. Today, along with terms like “toxic masculinity” and “fragile masculinity,” we have been introduced to the terminology of privilege. I don’t care to pontificate upon my beliefs here but instead ask if this new aspect of the dialectic would have made any sense to RAW. This also isn’t to say that the idea of white- or male- privilege discounts the argument that is made herein: not all white men live lives of luxury or lives that are necessarily easier or better than their female or minority counterparts. While I cannot agree as whole-heartedly with the slant of these two essays (for example, the mention of “Nazi madness” did not make me think of the irksome narratives of Buzzfeed and radical Academia but the disturbing rise of Richard Spencer and his ilk) I think their ultimate point is fire-hardened by the cognitive dissonance caused by the added nuance of eleven years.
I’m exhausted with my ambiguity. I hope I’m not exhausting you, dear reader.
On pg. 66 RAW robs me of my animal motif or perhaps solidifies it for the triumvirate by causing a reverse Anselm arrangement: the real is crowned by becoming imaginary.
Dreams of Flying
I haven’t read The Dream Illuminati.
In consideration of Jungian archetype that appears in so many Saturday morning cartoons I’d like to recount that at the same time I was reading this essay I was in the middle of a popular history, Rousseau’s Dog by David Edmonds and John Eidinow, and came across the following passage:
“The overall impact of Hume’s fusillade on common sense was, and still, most unsettling. Applying the utmost intellectual rigor, he blows away the ground under our day-to-day assumptions: we are like the cartoon dog that runs in midair until he sees there is no ground under his paws. If that was where Hume’s head had led him, with his heart he was almost apologetic. He did not mean to disorient.”  (pg. 134)
I think this is important because Hume is a name we haven’t heard in email to the Universe but whose works are a pioneer of RAW’s own. (In Masks of the Illuminati RAW writes that part of the difference between Einstein and Joyce was that Einstein “betrayed a greater allegiance to Hume, the Master of Those Who Don’t Know” whereas Joyce “stood foursquare behind Aristotle, the Master of Those Who Know.”) I would heartily recommend “An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding” as a supplementary reading to this book. I feel that since Aristotle and his fallacious-yet-pervasive universe play such a vital part in the dialectic of this work (I’m so sorry to use that word twice, I’m not trying to be pretentious, I just can’t think of a better term.) I should recommend one of his works. But I’ll confess ever since my attempt at reading his Politics was the only example of the time writing had lulled me to sleep, I haven’t revisited his work.
Concerning the discussion of Art vs. Science and their respective origins (as well as the origin of Religion) I would not hesitate to point everyone in the direction of Ramsey Duke’s excellent essay S.S.O.T.B.M.E. which was penned during the Seventies but of whose existence I believe RAW was unaware.
The discussion of Stravinsky as a “sound engineer” on pg. 69-70 reminds me of a more modern example: Brian Eno whose scrupulous self-excavating is the stuff of modern legend.
Also on pg. 70 we have RAW’s (to me entirely unfamiliar) definition of “shaman” as “he who walks in the sky.” This does jive with the dramatic sequence in The Teaching of Don Juan where the infamously factitious Man of Knowledge transforms his student into a crow whilst Carlos is under the influence of humidio (a mixture of psychotropic mushrooms and herbs). This is parodied on the Firesign Theater album Everything You Know Is Wrong which is misquoted in Cosmic Trigger.
pg. 71  “of course the universe can count above two” would seem to be a key to the thrust of this tome and a cure to our current stalemate.
pg. 73 I think it is curious that when RAW described 2001 as “the most beautiful, the most haunting” science fiction film I was instead reminded of Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth which draws so heavily upon the Icarian theme.
Gentle reader, please compare the recounted dream on pg. 74-75 and the “absurd good news” with Alan Moore’s account of the night of January 7, 1994 from the essay Unearthing which primarily concerns the goddess of dreams.
“This is it, this is real, this lamp-glow that’s inside the world like torchlight through a choirboy’s cheeks, the mystical experience as Gilbert Chesterton’s absurd good news and it goes on for hours, goes on forever.”
On page 76 we have an interesting discussion of qabalistic concepts. One thing that RAW fails to note is that Elohim is a bisexual term that is perhaps defined as “the gods and goddesses.” It is occasionally described as a feminine plural. Secondly, Crowley never commented on the Middle Pillar Ritual which was developed exclusively by Dr. Israel Regardie. While the quote that RAW provides is derived from the late Eighties work Enochian Sex Magick by Lon Milo Duquette and Christopher S. Hyatt I can't think of or find any direct quotation from Crowley’s work. The closest example I can find is a similar tenor and use of the word “perpendicular” in his Liber O, section 6, which concerns rising on the astral planes.
If we are to “get wise” in the Socratic and hardboiled meaning of the phrase it may be useful to remember the denouement of Socrates’ teaching.
I leave Crowley and RAW the last words. The brilliant Qabalist Will Parfitt once nominated Crowley’s “Introduction” in Magick as the most succinct and potent description of that most secretive Art.


Anonymous said...

There’s an interview where RAW says that every so often his mother would go crazy and beat him up, and ever since then he’s been afraid of angry women. I consider it most charitable to treat the two Not All Men essays as triggered reactions and move on to more interesting parts. (There’s some good stuff in them, but he’s said it better elsewhere.)

Another book about flying is J.G. Ballard’s The Unlimited Dream Company.

Neophobes, like paranoids and stereotypes, are never entirely mistaken. As John Sladek said, “They laughed at the Wright Brothers. They laughed at the Marx Brothers.”

Oz Fritz said...

I was laughing at the Marx Brothers about 20 minutes before seeing this comment; just watched Horse Feathers.

Eric Wagner said...

The password is swordfish.

Branka Tesla said...

General statements and careless language can probably lead "beyond the bounds of reasonable discourse"; especially the narrow and manipulative language of political discourse we hear every day, such as: "We need more jobs". In my view we do not need more jobs at all. We need more well paid jobs, meaning jobs that pay $20 and above. Who needs more $9 or $11 jobs? Another example that makes me go ballistic when I hear politicians say: "That's what American people want." Really? Which American people? If politicians would just modify their language by inserting words like "some" or "most" (Some/ Most American people want that.) I think it would help a lot instead of constantly putting all American people in the same basket as if differences do not exist. When anyone from this administration makes a statement: "That IS who American people voted for and that IS what American people want" - I find it sounding very hierarchical and patriarchal (even if a woman says it). (Welcome to Disunited Kingdom of USA!) As RAW wrote: "Every tribe has its own "reality - map"."

The person who really caught my attention in the past several weeks was Tristan Harris, a Silicon Valley insider who left Google to lead "Time Well Spent" movement to align technology with our humanity. I am sure some of you watched him on "60 Minutes" or on Bill Maher's HBO show. Here is the link on "how technology hijacks people's minds and psychological vulnerabilities":

Harris posits that "attention based companies" such as Google, Facebook, etc, are in "race for attention" in "attention economy" where only one side profits in billions of dollars. I wonder if we could use technology to abolish poverty in the US and globally? Imagine getting paid on each click !

Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in digital media and author of "Who Owns the Future?", postulates that the vast majority of internet users (mainly the middle class) is increasingly disenfranchised from online economies. According to Lanier firms can accrue large amounts of data from users at virtually no cost and instead of paying each individual for their contribution firms keep all the money to themselves.

We have all heard of "shared economy". Where is it?

Eric Wagner said...

The discussion of Confucius on page 62 points to Wilson's study of Ezra Pound and Fenollosa, two members of the Tale of the Tribe.

Coincidentally, I just watched "The Making of Sgt. Pepper" where Paul discusses Julian Lennon's painting "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and mentions how children often paint people floating, not connected to the ground. I thought of this reading pg. 67 on dreams of flying.

Branka, I enjoyed Harris on "Real Time".

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I reread "Shocking Hidden Facts About Male Non-Violence" during my lunch hour today, and I thought it held up fine. Of course, there's a problem with the minority of males who are violent, as anyone who follows the news knows, but there is also a problem with a minority of Muslims who are violent. Yet if RAW had written an essay attacking Islamophobia, I daresay many readers of this blog would be fine with it. Perhaps it is a feature and not a bug that the piece, as Gregory observes, has become more controversial.

Branka Tesla said...

Eric, I am glad you watched Harris on "Real Time". I sent a letter to both of them: Tristan and Jaron. I am very concerned about the "invisible hand" style of violence.

The State - all it has, it has stolen!
It even bites with stolen teeth!
- Nietzsche

Joshua Hallenbeck said...

I agree with Cleveland Okie on this one.I think "Shocking Hidden Facts About Male Non-Violence"holds up just fine. It's one of the many things I love about Bob. Not being afraid of cultural taboos.Master of intelligent dissent indeed. I also love that Bob refers to Leary's info-psychology in this text. I first heard about Info-Psychology through Christopher S. Hyatts book Undoing Yourself and other energized meditations. Talk about a reality-tunnel enlargement! Info-Psychology really changed my perspective on our planet and the "big picture" of humanity. S.M.I.2.L.E. Do you know what I mean?😉🖖

Oz Fritz said...

Yes, swordfish is the password that gets Groucho into the Speakeasy where he wants to hire football players in “Horse Feathers.”

“Shocking Hidden Facts About Male Non-Violence” reads to me as a very sarcastic caricature of the radical feminist literature of the time. I’m not familiar with the propaganda of “Steinheim and Company” so call it an intuitive guess or speculation. The “suppressed facts” starting on page 56 sound exaggeratedly absurd and one-sided (like a caricature) and really have nothing to do with gender. An example of the one-sidedness of one of the less absurd facts: “Jazz, was created almost entirely by Black males.” This appears true, but leaves out the part that jazz musicians got their first gigs playing the brothels in New Orleans – working women provided the first public outlets to hear jazz. I suggest that Wilson intends to highlight the selective perception of radical feminist propaganda in this and the other “facts.” He ends that section by saying: “All of this sounds strange, bizarre, almost unbelievable, I know.”

I find amusement taking some of Wilson’s statements into a different, current context as if they became inadvertently prophetic. P. 65: “ … that the Republicans represented the Orangemen…” Recently busted classified secrets leaker, Reality Winner, allegedly referred to Donald Trump as an “orange fascist.” Trumps orangeness appears a much visited trope in current politically based comedy. P. 68: “… and the Fool is depicted walking off a cliff – just like Donald Duck or Wiley Coyote in the cartoons. Funny coincidence, what?” E.J. Gold, a consistently strident vocal critic of the fake President has referred to him as “Donald Duck Trump” among other things. P.68: “ Like Porky Pig walking off a cliff…” Bill Maher recently ranted about Trumps overweight physique.”

In the Introduction, R. Michael Johnson wisely hints at examining the form of “Email to the Universe.” A main theme in the essay “Dreams of Flying,” starting on p.67, concerns going beyond limits as suggested by the quote from “The Center of the Cyclone” by John Lilly on p. 69. John Lilly also distinguished himself as one of the foremost researchers into dolphin intelligence. “Dreams of Flying” is framed by three haikus, one before and two after this essay. Two of them mention dolphins, the third describes clouds floating above the hills. Lilly also designed the first floatation tank. Wilson talked about using floatation tanks as an imprinting technique in his lectures. Coincidentally, I mentioned “The Center of the Cyclone” in a short interview about floatation tanks a couple of weeks ago. That video interview got posted on Facebook yesterday by the people who made it.

p. 74 – 76: Wilson mentions a dream that he apparently really wants people to know occurred in 1968. He mentions that fact FOUR times – three of those times on p. 76. The number 68 previously turned up on the first page of “Illuminatus!” I have discussed the 68 trope frequently in the past. The paragraph on p. 68 that begins, “The Sufi order employs as its emblem a heart with wings …” and ends with “… Hermes, was portrayed as more human, but had bird’s wings on his sandals” symbolically communicates how I interpret the 68 trope.

Great original description of Nuit, one of Crowley’s primary conceptual persona, at the top of p. 74.

I agree with Wilson’s comments about the film “2001, A Space Odyssey.” The word he puts in quotes, “haunting” has interesting gematria related to the multiple symbolism expressed earlier in the same sentence. I’ve had profound contact experiences with both “2001” and with “The Man Who Fell To Earth.”

Oz Fritz said...

p. 74 RAW advises practicing the excellent Middle Pillar ritual on a daily basis for students of qabala suggesting that this became his praxis at one time. Gregory correctly states that Crowley didn’t write this ritual though the quote does accurately paraphrase what Crowley wrote in Liber O (Sub Figura VI) section 6. Any beginning student of magick knows that Regardie and not Crowley came up with the Middle Pillar ritual, so in my opinion this doesn’t indicate an oversight on RAW’s part, rather a deliberate piece of minor disinformation that aligns with a Crowley trope RAW used to publicize that roughly goes: “other gurus say believe me, believe me, Crowley says DON’T believe me.” This piece of disinformation suggests not automatically “believing” everything RAW writes. I suspect this reflects RAW’s intention with the disinformation.

Much further exegesis of this amazing essay on magick, “Dreams of Flying,” could surface, but there is only so much time in the day.

chas said...

While it has been noted elsewhere On this blog that there is no evidence that Umberto Eco followed Robert Anton Wilson, it is interesting that Foucalt's Pendulum followed Illuminatus! by 12 years, and that Eco's Serendipity: Language and Lunacy followed Bob's similarly titled essay by two years.