Monday, June 22, 2020

Chapter 8, Nature's God reading group


Week Eight: Chapter Eight “My Lady Greensleeves” pg. 139-147 Hilaritas Press edition

By Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger

After asking Oz for confirmation, I am confident in saying that the structure of this chapter is taken from Crowley’s Liber Aleph. This is ironic for a chapter dealing explicitly with Maria’s initiation into a Wiccan coven as Oz pointed out that Liber Aleph was written as a series of letters from father to son. (Specifically from Crowley to Charles Stansfeld Jones, better known as Frater Achad, his “magical son.”) The intermittent Latin titles are used throughout Liber Aleph and Robert Anton Wilson uses the same device in Masks of the Illuminati. The biblical phrase for He is like a refiner’s fire also appears prominently in the earlier novel. The tone of this chapter, specifically the ecclesiastic sounding “yea, the…” repetition, is also taken from Crowley’s Holy Texts.

Here is my Google-assisted hack-job translation of the titles, considering the action that happens following each title I believe my unwieldy versions make some sense:

The Hardening of Man
On the Danger of Alternative Love
On the Four Equal Virtues
The Female Formula
The Crazy Love
The Great Works of the Microcosmic Star of Which there is Four
The Secret Horror
The Delicate Powers of Art and Love
Hold, Illegitimate Vigor

The coven that Maria is initiated into is more-or-less an anachronism with the language taken from post-Gardnerian Wicca. Bear with me and for any neo-pagans who might be reading, I’m not trying to be offensive.

The fact that the language is so strongly influenced by Crowley’s writings is appropriate. As Kenneth Grant and other writers have related, during the Twilight of the Magicians, the lingering years of the two great English occultists of the 20th century, namely Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare, an eccentric customs-officer named Gerald Gardner was lurking around in their company.

Gardner, who follows in the grand tradition of magic by being a goddamn liar, claimed that his Wiccan practices were derived from a coven that had kept pre-Christian religion alive. He had mostly made up his practices from stitching together elements of the, now discredited, anthropological studies of Margaret Murray about a supposed witch-cult, Freemasonry, and ceremonial magic. In fact, the three degree ceremonies presented by Gardner for the purpose of Wicca were penned by, wait for it....Aleister Crowley.

Curiously, RAW’s use of terms such as “women’s mysteries” and the “burning times” doesn’t appear to be ironic. I believe this is curious when we consider how much hostility towards some late-twentieth century academic models of femininity RAW displayed in his writings, especially since both of those terms are complete, artless bullshit. The concept of “women’s mysteries” bastardized the study of pre-modern religion and tried to replace the complex mythological development of goddesses such as Demeter, Sekmet, Selene, and Isis into a group of gentle Montessori teachers whose feminist, pre-agricultural utopia was ruined by the arrival of phallic gods. Given that there is nary a drop of historical evidence for these gentle matriarchal societies and that the historical record of how these goddesses were apprised and worshipped is much more ambiguous didn’t stop the believers from trying to rewrite history. (Though Crowley doesn’t spend the time moralizing like later witches, it is worth noting that according to his structure of history the first Aeon was matriarchal and was subsumed by the agricultural-phallic second Aeon. We are now in the third Aeon where the focus is on the development of the complete person, the child, and individual sexual dimorphism seems to be the rule of the day.) Perhaps even more annoying is the use of the idea of “the burning times” which, forgive me, is such a stupid fucking concept my ears bleed anytime I hear someone utter it.

There was no “burning time” that modern covens suffered through and survived underground as they watched legions of innocent believers of the “old religion” burn at the stake. Historical evidence, known as far back as the turn of the twentieth, indicates that pretty much every witch hunt was either a power-play by ruling/ecclesiastic authorities or the result of hysteria. The excellent Swedish film Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages presents a compelling and intelligent examination of these phenomena- even better, watch the version with William S. Burroughs narrating.

In conclusion, this chapter is made up, not that big of a revelation in a novel, almost whole cloth from twentieth century notions that couldn’t have existed because ceremonial magic hadn’t come along to create them yet. The notion of the four elements was around at the time but the codification of what those elements mean “spiritually” wasn’t wholly accomplished until a bunch of old Rosicrucians got together to combine the works of Paracelsus, Agrippa, the Qabalah, and Tarot into one system of magic. A study of the Tarot will reveal how many of our romantic notions (for example, that the modern playing deck is derived from the cards smuggled from ancient Egypt) are entirely erroneous. Indeed, before Moina and MacGregor Mathers codified the Qabalah to to the Tarot, building on the work of Eliphas Levi, any use of it for divination or meditation would have been no more sophisticated than basic cartomancy. Even the pentagram, today used as a symbol of neo-paganism, wasn’t imbued with its microcosmic significance until the Golden Dawn came along to create the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and their study materials.

Yes, there are examples of the four elements, the four apostles, the four faces of Ezekiel’s angels throughout history, but to say that there was a working system of knowledge, linked with similarly initiated members throughout history is as romantic and ahistorical a notion as the existence of Sigismundo Celine, Old Kyte, and Maria Babcock. And blimey, I haven’t talked about anything that actually happens in the chapter -- I guess that’s a sign that it’s time for me to get to bed before I become any crankier and end up with a crudely fashioned crystal tipped wand through my throat or a mail order athame through the heart.

The stuff about the I Ching is mostly accurate in that Leibniz was obsessed with the similarities between the Hexagrams and his notions of binomial numbers and Calculus, however it would still be almost a century before writers began to connect the I Ching to Western Mysticism. The pioneer of this connection? You guessed it, Aleister Crowley.

From Eric: A soundtrack for our “Study-Group or Coven or whatever this was called” (Nature’s God, pg. 142). https://youtu.be/nwn2zd8ROlQ 

My own musical offering: https://youtu.be/zE4yQxRvWGU



15 comments:

Eric Wagner said...

Leibniz notes parallels with binary numbers not binomial numbers. I suspect this may have some parallels with actual 18th century practices.

supergee said...

I would translate De Ludo Amoris as “about the game of love.”

I like the modest claim “Wicca, older than Kwanzaa.”

Eric Wagner said...

Revision: I think this chapter may have some parallels with actual 18th century practices. For how the Kabbalah got wedded to the tarot before Levi, see http://nightmarealleys.blogspot.com/p/rhapsodies-of-bizarreorigin-of-occult.html .

Rarebit Fiend said...

@Eric- I am the worst person to write about mathematics/numbers imaginable. I tried to keep my statement short to not make an ass out of myself and still managed to be wrong. My knowledge of Leibniz is entirely derived from his spat with Newton, my knowledge of which is mostly derived from Cryptonomicon, and Candide being devoted to mocking his proposition that this is "the best possible universe."

The book looks really interesting and I'll have to look that up. I would still say that my point stands that the tarot is neither ancient nor is it inherently mystical without documented innovation. Even in this case, without trying to be classicist/racist, the tradition is still traced back to burgeoning continental occultism, which would become ceremonial magic, not to folk traditions.

While herblore, practices we would call magical, and folkloric practices did exist, I was mostly bitching about the movement to make up a contiguous ancient religion that simply did not exist.

@Supergee- I knew my translations were going to be way off. I only got through a month of Latin with Duolingo, haha.

I do like that motto.

Rarebit Fiend said...

There were some early druidic revivals in the 18th century, but they wouldn't have resembled the practices in this chapter.

That book is proving difficult to find.

Eric Wagner said...

Perhaps. I loved Rhapsodies of the Bizarre. I think Glenn Wright (Jess Karlin) knows more about tarot than anyone alive. He can seem a nasty fellow though.

Rarebit Fiend said...

I think that I should have translated the last Latin inter-title as "Hold On Until It's Over, You Bastard."

Oz Fritz said...

Excellent music selections! The magick in this chapter does appear anachronistic, yet not incredulously so. It has more to do with U2's version of Songs of Innocence than accurately portraying the music of the 18th Century. Francis Barrett's The Magus was first published in 1801 and contains a lot of Qabalah and other like information that made its way into The Golden Dawn.

What page are the "refiner's fire ..." and "burning times" references on? I ask, because the chapter title adds to 73 and there's a line from Book of Lies Chapter 73: "Bite not, Zelator dear, but bide! Tens days didst thou go with water in they belly? Thou shalt go twenty more with a firebrand at thy rump!"

That also relates to: "... Advice on Johnny's Teething problems..." (p. 140) which adds to 20 with the unusual capital letters, and tooth = shin = fire; problems with fire.

Once again, RAW appears to expand upon and perhaps critique Crowley a little by writing in the style of Liber Aleph, The Book of Wisdom and Folly with his own brilliant twist. Particularly, this sentence appears to criticize while expanding Crowley's presentation of magick p. 140: "Maria told her that would only happen when the World through the Waxing of Wisdom and Waning of Folly no longer believed it required a Willy to practice the Art of Medicine scientifically." That sentence can get looked at in at least two completely different, but relevant ways, by reversing some things, like what Willy represents, for one example.


Eric Wagner said...

Bob called “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” the best film about witchcraft.

Rarebit Fiend said...

@OZ, I like the analogy. I didn't mean to come off as too abrasive or somehow offended by the chapter- I was just charting my understanding of the chapter with my understanding of magical history.

I thought about including Barrett when I was listing the sources of the Golden Dawn. I didn't because he's often written off as merely synthesizing Agrippa's Three Books. However, Barrett adds a lot of flavor to the writing, has a better organization, and includes a section of magician's biographies in the back making it much more readable and enjoyable, in my opinion, than Agrippa. Francis King's "The Flying Magician" is an interesting short biography of Barrett and covers a lot of of his other main venture- amateur balloonist. I remember the first time I read it I began to laugh at what seemed to be an impressive catalog of failure.

@Eric- I'd have to say "I Married A Witch" would be mine, the more recent film "The Love Witch" is a fucking masterpiece.

Oz Fritz said...

By Notarikon, the chapter title "My Lady Greensleeves" = 73

The title comes from the chorus of the song Greensleeves

"Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves my heart of gold
Greensleeves was my heart of joy
And who but my lady Greensleeves."

And who but my lady Greensleeves, who but The High Priestess, played wonderfully by Maria Babcock in this chapter, will lead us through the abyss?

Even in the song, Greensleeves connects with The High Priestess as this verse shows:

"Thy petticoat of slender white
With gold embroidered gorgeously;
Thy petticoat of silk and white
And these I bought gladly."

White = Kether; Gold = Tiphareth: The High Priestess connects Tipharth with Kether.

The first line of the Commentary to Chapter 73 from the Book of Lies reads: "The Hebrew letter Gimel adds up to 73; it means a camel." The title of that chapter The Devil, The Ostrich, And The Orphan Child apart from conjuring Olga, RAW's ostrich familiar, signifies male energy; the contents of this chapter portray Crossing the Abyss from the male perspective. RAW implicitly connects with this while explicitly writing from the female pov, from the perspective of the guide, The High Priestess, Maria Babcock. I am at a loss of words and time, for the moment, to further explain just how mind blowingly brilliant this appears. He simultaneously reverses while affirming Crowley's points on this. It goes beyond linguistics and symbolism into the actual approach and attitude of theurgic sex magick, the male implicit, female explicit. Reading Chapter 73 from BoL might help and is highly advised for any detectives digging into this. "Hold ON Until It's Over, You Bastard."
Olga's role gets told in a future installment.

Oz Fritz said...

NOTE: My next two comments were written and meant to be read before the comment that starts "By Notarikon ..." that one should make more sense when read after the following two, originally one comment that may have been too large to post on its own.

Rarebit Fiend wrote: "I think that I should have translated the last Latin inter-title as "Hold On Until It's Over, You Bastard." - this works for me. The soundtrack for this section might be The Unforgettable Fire by U2.

Perhaps these references are getting a little inside, I'll attempt to explain. The last title reads: TENEBO, ILLEGITIMATE PERDURABO. Perdurabo is one of the more well-known mottos of Aleister Crowley which he adopted when he signed up as a Neophyte in the Golden Dawn. He interpreted it as "I shall endure unto the end" and got it from the Gospel of Mark Chapter 13, verse 13 (remember those numbers!) which reads: "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."

This whole chapter has several occult allusions to the second big Thelemic ordeal called Crossing the Abyss. The Abyss, pictured as a desert has a burning hot, dry climate, hence the references to fire and problems with fire. "Hold on until it's over, you bastard."

Oz Fritz said...

This chapter has far more than stylistic influences from Liber Aleph, it covers some of the same material, for instance how the Parsifal myth relates to sex magick. The Crossing the Abyss references connect with the background that led to the writing of Liber Aleph , a book Crowley wrote for his magical son, Frater Achad. Achad was considered this because fairly soon after taking up magick and yoga, he swore the Oath of the Abyss - to Cross the Abyss which any student can lawfully do at any time. There is an opinion that he did this prematurely, he did it because he accepted a doctrine that Crowley needed a student at that grade for Crowley to advance. Approximately nine months before Achad did that, Crowley tried to make a biological child with his current girlfriend and when that didn't work, but this other event happened, Crowley took him to be his spiritual heir. Also, Achad made significant contributions to the understanding of The Book of the Law.

The path of Gimel (key number 13) directly crosses the Abyss connecting Tiphareth with Kether; The Tarot card = The High Priestess. Maria Babcock easily fits that role. Gimel translates as "camel" which makes sense as a camel can store water to cross the desert. The number 13 appears explicitly 7 times in the last paragraph with the last two being 13 x 13 recalling Mark 13:13 and "I shall endure unto the end" - Perdurabo. The 3 caps in the first phrase of this section add to 13.

Oz Fritz said...

Chapter 8. 8 = Mercury = Communication. This chapter has a wealth of magick instruction both explicit and implicit (i.e qabalistically coded). The irregular use of capital letters throughout provides multiple new opportunities for communicating this data. He gives a strong hint to dig deeper in the final words of this chapter: "And if all this could be coded, as John said Leibnez said ..."

The chapter title, "My Lady Greensleeves" = 73. The title of Chapter 73 from BoL = "The Devil, The Ostrich, and the Orphan Child." Enter Olga.

As far as I know, Olga made her debut on the world stage when RAW ran for the governor of California in 2006 in which, if memory serves, he got narrowly defeated by The Terminator. Olga continues to make her presence known through Hilaritas Press.

Richard Rasa provides a great account of Olga's genesis that I find relevant to this chapter. Rasa quotes RAW: "Anyway God has personally endorsed the GUNS AND DOPE PARTY and cursed Tsardom. He told me so, speaking through an ostrich named Olga who co-starred with Orson Welles in a thriller called SOUTHERN STAR."

The whole account is recommended to read:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/21887797208/permalink/10157237288772209/

RAW also changed his email address to olga666@rattlebrain.com
666 = one of Crowley's identities or masks, among other things. Perdurabo = a different mask for Crowley. The final inter-title: TENEBO, ILLEGITIMATE PERDURABO.
TENEBO = TEN + E + B + O
10 = Malkuth
E = The Star
B = The Magus
O = The Devil = Pan = All.

The title of the film where RAW says found Olga, SOUTHERN STAR connects with a very important chapter in the BoL, Chapter 29, "The Southern Cross.

Rarebit Fiend said...

I remember reading "Master of the Temple" the first time and having a big problem with the rather grandiose language Achad and Crowley used to describe their funny club. I should reread that.

And "Liber Aleph." I'll admit that "Aleph," along with "Little Essays Towards Truth" is one of those texts I read on my laptop in my dorm room and haven't really revisited other than excerpts.

As always Oz, your commentary is invaluable.