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.