By Gregory Arnott, guest blogger
It was nearly chic to have an idea about the true meaning of alchemy during the early twentieth century. A surprising amount and varied array of individuals sallied forth with their interpretations from Daumal to Jung to Fulcanelli to Reuss. But alchemy, derived from the Arabic Al-kimmiya, has never been well-defined, even judged by the standards of occultism with explanations ranging from the get-rich-quick chicanery, to the chemical, psycho-spiritual, or erotic yoga RAW proposes. Most likely it was some combination of these disparate elements and its definition varied from person to person as it does today. Happily this essay is concerned with alchemy solely in the sense of the IX° work of the O.T.O. instead of history and truth. It is as good an essay on the working of sex magic as Crowley’s Energized Enthusiasm and an exciting essay but I will admit I prefer his treatment of the subject in the third and fourth chapters of Sex, Drugs, and Magick (whose contents he does note in the essay).
I’d like to discuss RAW and Louis T. Culling because I read Culling a few years ago after deciding to follow up on Wilson’s footnote in Cosmic Trigger where he declares that Sex Magick teaches Crowleyean methods of Tantra. And boy, does it kinda do that and kinda spins a line of bullshit that had me gaping and occasionally guffawing in sheer incredulity; I’d like to think this is why RAW liked him so much and his recommendation is at least a self-aware instance of existential leg-pulling. For how RAW nearly dismisses Kenneth Grant* as an “oddball magician,” and Grant is pretty consistent in his assertions and elaborations in his admittedly bizarre interpretation of magic, Culling seems to me to be nearly too bombastic as to having been real in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong. I find Louis Culling to be an interesting and inventive fellow whose system of sex magic was adapted from the workings of C. F. Russell, a mathematician and American student of Crowley’s who spent time at the Abbey of Thelema at Cefalu before heading stateside to create his own Thelemic order “The Choronzon Club” which later became the the Great Brotherhood of God . (For more on C.F. Russell, his eccentric interpretation of Crowleyean sex magick and Yi Jing please check out Steve Moore’s excellent “Change in a Parallel World.”) So RAW is incorrect insofar as his assertion goes that Culling was taught by Crowley — he never met the man. The version of sex magic presented by Culling in Sex Magick and The Complete Curriculum of th G.’.B.’.G.’. entails three degrees of magical chastity, karezza, and finally the sex magic discussed in this essay with an emphasis upon the bud-will mentioned in Crowley’s Liber Aleph.
For a taste of the delightful absurdity that abounds in Culling’s books I’d like to present the following:
“I have received so many plaints [sic] about getting a suitable partner that I have decided to give a special exemplar. In this case, the husband and wife were incompatible and they had agreed to separate within thirty days. He, being a brother member in a secret magickal order [presumably the G.’.B.’.G.’.], had high aspirations in the Great Work. Due to his frustration he had an intense desire to have a suitable magickal partner...even though his wife was not a good partner, the very intensity of his desire served much to overcome the incompatibility between them, in assaying to create the Bud-Will Intelligence to have a good partner.
After five congrexes [sic] he was certain that he had given autonomous intelligence to the Bud-Will, and that is where his story begins.
He insisted on writing the story himself, and for the sake of anonymity he even used my name, Lou. I lived near close by and intimately knew all of the principles involved, so well it almost feels like my own experience.
I was driving from Fallbrook with grocery supplies for my place in Rainbow Valley. Halfway home there was a woman thumbing a ride. I never pick up hitchhikers so I did not stop. Suddenly it hit me: there was something about the way we exchanged glances that struck me as a possible sign. I stopped about a hundred yards past her. She disdained another car that had stopped and started to walk rapidly to my car and eagerly entered it.
She said, “I have to get home to San Bernardino to take care of my two kids. Was at a family reunion in San Diego. All of ‘em drunk yesterday and all night and I ain’t had no sleep and nothing to eat. Here I am, chattering like a guinea hen and ain’t even told you my name. Name’s Alice, born in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.”
Suddenly her hand dropped heavy on my shoulder and she was asleep. In turning from the main road and going to my place, the jolting of the car woke her.
“Where are we at?” she asked.
I said. “We are going to my place and while you are having some sleep I am going to cook a steak for you and then I’ll buy you a ticket to San Berdou.”
She looked at me through the eyes of 100 per cent woman and said, “Lou, I must be dreaming: you are such a swell guy.”
After eating she flopped on the bed again and was asleep within a minute. When I awakened her she said that she could get the midnight bus. “Kiss me, Lou.” she said.
“Ever since I had titties I have dreamed about being loved by a man like you. Let’s take our clothes off and you just love me. That’s all: no sex.”
But the gods (and the Bud-Will) work in devious ways. She said that it would be soon enought to take the early morning bus. “Crimonetly! Tain’t no good being treated like I was an angel by a man like you that I could worship. I just got to be loved by you, all the way, even if only once. Take me, Lou.”
On the following morning she said, “You’ve taken me up almost to heaven and now I am dropped back down to earth. It hurts like hell to fall so hard. I know you are not for me no more. My old man gets out of jail next week and I have to be with him. But Lou, I am going to do something for you. I am going to give you my sister. Up till two weeks ago she was raised in the Ozarks by Granny. Then she came here to drunken Ma. Only seventeen and nobody to take care of her. And I seen some of those Berdou dudes sniffing around. You are the only man in the whole world I’d trust to have her.”
I was too stunned to say anything. We went to the only store in the valley, Ed’s Grocery and Eatery to wait for the bus. After we had ordered a cup of coffee, Alice went behind the counter and was talking to Ed in a low voice. Then she told me, “I see you’re poke flat for money and I asked him if he would give part-time work to my sister Mabel. He said yes, he needs her.”
Only three days passed before Alice brought Mabel down in a borrowed car. When Alice drove away I said. “Well, that is switch. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but here the Lord is giving something back even better.”
Mabel did not know what I meant but on the morning after the second night she said to me, “The Lord shore gives.” And the Lord gave on many succeeding nights, according to Mabel.
I raised hand-tamed animals on my place and one day a dude from San Diego came to Ed’s place inquiring about the ranch. The dude’s uncle wanted him to put down a deposit on a pair of wolf pups.
Mabel was just getting ready to leave the restaurant to go back to the ranch. She said to the dude, “Lou ain’t in today but he lets me handle his business. Give me $100 for a deposit.”
But the dude was looking her over, with ideas. He said, “I want to see those wolves first.”
“Let’s go,” said Mabel.
The dude whispered to Ed, “I’m going to get some of that stuff.”
At first the dude played it cautious but it was enough to give Mabel suspicions and she planted her legs apart and gave him a taunting laugh.
“I forget what I first said to her,” the dude told Ed. “but she just stared at me with a smile and said ‘I am a one man woman.’ Then I got my arms round her and said ‘Don’t play it coy baby. Gorgeous stuff like you has been had by plenty of men.’ Then she yelped. ‘You hadn’t auta said that!’ and she came up with her leg and gave me the knee right in my knockers- hard. Cripes that hurt.”
Ed laughed in derision. “More ambition than good judgement.”
I think I have the best magickal congrex partner in the world. I married her, but not because I wanted to own her. She was a precious gift which should not be owned.
The reader of this exemplar will do better to trace the workings of the Bud-Will Intelligence for himself than to have it outlined for him. It is clear enough. May this experience inspire others to work for a magickal partner rather than wishing for it, and also to be resourceful and patient enough to train her, and to treasure her when you get her. This is my hope and advice.
Now, I don’t know if what you just read was the worst pulp romance, a testimonial to an obscure sex technique, a country music song, or the occult equivalent of The Room but whoever wrote that was certainly drunk when they jotted out that whopper. Delightful. And this is the man who RAW soberly commends to his audience as an authority. Wilson does write about the importance of finding the right partner for sex magic workings in the essay but not all of us are Bob and Arlene. RAW’s main experiences with sex magic presumably were during the mid-Seventies. “This time, I used the Lily tape and the Crowley invocation again, without drugs, but with prolonged and holy rituals or Tantric sex-trance involving the cooperation of the Most Beautiful Woman in the Galaxy.” - Cosmic Trigger
The glossary definitions of alchemical code words as well as the example of Valentine’s alchemical doubletalk is derived from the same chapter as the bizarre yarn about Ozark child brides and molesty wolf purchasers. Culling’s interpretation of the Rubaiyat is included in the third Appendix of Sex Magick titled “Sufi Philosophy.” It perhaps endeared RAW to Culling that two of his other appendixes focus on the magical uses of marijuana, champagne, and damiana. Thomas Vaughan, the other alchemist mentioned by RAW in the essay, is a favorite of his who is mentioned throughout his corpus. Also considering that Basil Valentine died two hundred years before Vaughan’s birth they were nowhere near contemporaneous in the sense of human life spans. Unless I’m contemporaneous with Lord Byron or Admiral Nelson.
The alchemical theories of Dr. Israel Regardie are discussed. While we have it from the essay that from no less of an authority than Dr. Regardie himself that Wilson has correctly interpreted his alchemical code it is worth noting that in the one work Regardie published solely concerned with alchemy, The Philosopher’s Stone, that Regardie seems to adopt the psycho-spiritual approach that was favored by Dr. Jung. Or maybe that’s what he wanted you to think. While RAW writes on pg. 213 that Regardie “wrote a series of books which have influenced contemporary American occultism more than the work of any other singly author,” I think by now that title has passed on to the author of the essay. While Wilson never formerly declared himself to be a magician, aside from psychological experiments, he has made an indelible impact on the magical landscape and still serves as a vital beginning of an answer to the question “how can anyone really use this shit?”
The techniques of sex magick did not begin with the Sufis and Hassan-ibn-Sabbah most likely never had a time release capsule of opium, cocaine (considering the coca plant is native to South America), and hashish. Sex magic can best be traced back to the Tamili tantra cults of medieval India; an excellent practical resource on Tantra for westerners was written by Francis X. King (RAW’s favorite “non-insane” occult historian) titled Tantra: The Way of Action. Much of the underlying theory about technique and mechanisms is similar to the Spare-devised sigil magic floating around the interwebs today. King’s book offers a method of practice for either two or one participants. Hey we’re all not lucky enough to have a clearly-fictitious seventeen year old fall into our lap after we fuck her sister, that is more satisfying than the current masturbate-and-wish method that apparently not one of its practitioners is self-aware enough to realize is the perfect commentary on their lives. It also contains some excellent scholarship on J. W. Brodie-Innes, whose damnable silly quote is mentioned on pg. 220, and his contributions to western esotericism.
In the spirit of this collection I’d like to add on my own quote from Blake, taken from the Proverbs of Hell from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and recited by Miss Mao in Illuminatus!:
Prisons are built with stones of Law; brothels with bricks of religion.
*RAW also herein accuses Grant of being obsessed with menstrual magic. Elsewhere I’ve read other authors state that Grant is obsessed with either promoting or suppressing anal sex magic. While I haven’t read anywhere near to his entire output I’ve made a good dint into his Typhonian Trilogies and Nightside Narratives and never felt he discussed sex in a way that was either strikingly peculiar or excessive compared to other writers in the field. Although he does provide gems of ridiculousness as such: “The assumption of god-forms practiced by the Golden Dawn and Austin Spare’s technique of Atavistic Resurgence are magical explorations of Space and Time. They are aspects of ancient sorceries-once performed in Atlantis-that will be developed during the current aeon and will ultimately transcend both Space and Time.” I enjoy such eccentricities. More than anything I’d say Grant’s odd obsessions center more upon Lovecraft and whatever the fuck happened in the Nu-Isis Lodge back in the fifties. For all that he is maligned Grant was an important influence upon RAW during the time he was initially exploring sex magic and to most magicians after the seventies. He certainly is the only reason that the artist-magician Austin Osman Spare is known at all today.
As a post-script I’d like to say while I adore the works of Frances Yates and they filled up a lot of my bibliographies in undergrad- Prospero was clearly based on John Dee, as elaborated upon by the brilliant Alan Moore, and not Bruno. Although the Berowne theory is convincing.
Oh Jesus Fucking Christ. http://www.avclub.com/article/cbs-all-access-adds-sex-magicks-and-will-ferrell-i-258887
It seems to me that Gregory's post is important because sex magick is an element in many of Robert Anton Wilson's books. To cite a couple of obvious examples: Illuminatus! and Cosmic Trigger. Sexual tantra comes up in Robert Shea's "All Things Are Lights," which I have argued is a "thematic prequel" to "Illuminatus!"
I agree, Tom, sex magick played a significant part in RAW's hierophantic work.
I see this week's essay,"Sexual Alchemy" as giving a solution to the problem symbolically presented in last week's piece, "The Horror on Howth Hill." This problem seems less an abstract, philosophical issue, but rather a current, immediate, existential threat. The solution suggests how that threat may get countered. The problem, allegorically presented as how to measure King Kong's Dong, refers to rampant, out of control, male, yang, animal energy which ultimately breeds violence. The North Koreans measure Kong's Dong by testing an ICBM. The Yankees take their own giant phallic measurement by flying bombers over the Korean peninsula, testing their anti-missile shooters and sending up an ICBM of their own. Last week King Kong and his Dong linguistically (via tweet) chased Fay Wray (Transgenders) out of military service. This analogy gets affirmed with the language the power possessers publicly use - see ex-Comm Director, The Mooch's candid opinions about his former colleagues Rance Priebus, and the apparently very physically flexible Steve Bannon published in the New Yorker.
On p.199 Wilson associates Kong with The Devil tarot card: "... adds numerologically to 15, the number of the Devil card in the Tarot. King King, you see, had to emerge from the collective unconscious ..." This card symbolizes male energy. A new best-selling book on the remarkably gymnastic Steve Bannon and his influence in Trumpworld is called, "The Devil's bargain."
Wilson presents a solution to this problem throughout "Email to the Universe" by suggesting to the reader how they can learn to "keep the lasagna flying," or as I call it, Theurgic Magick. Most of the time this solution gets coded in qabalistic subtext- this subtext also sternly warns against entirely spilling the beans though hints are allowed. Occasionally he hides the solution right out in the open, like in Poe's "The Purloined Letter", which he does in "Sexual Alchemy." We also find it in a very elementary symbolic form on the first page of "The Horror On Howth Hill." This solution will often not be seen because, outside of occult circles, it's generally not accepted as possible; hence Wilson's inclusion of Lilly's "Beliefs Unlimited" in "Email..." The solution takes minutes to discover, and a lifetime to effectively put into practice. Keep the lasagna flying.
I'm just disappointed no one else found Culling as interesting as a figure as I did.
You really should do a Robert Shea reading group Tom if you ever have the time.
Thanks for sharing your thought Oz Fritz, as always they're erudite as all hell and shed light on angles I hadn't espied.
It seems to me that Robert Shea is a bit neglected, even by RAW fans.
I loved Shea's Shike books.
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