Week Nine and a Half: Chapter Nine “Cherry Valley” Part II pg. 169-184 Hilaritas editionBy Gregory Arnott
Special guest blogger
I would say with some confidence that I have never read any description of the psychedelic state as enjoyable and heady as Wilson’s crescendos of psyche and soul. They’re a pleasure to read- like being inside a game show booth grabbing at references to Joyce, music, magic, and ribaldry instead of dollar bills. This pleasurable quality does not extend itself to writing as the tempest of erudition leaves far too many footnotes to fill in...too many references that need to be explored. (I am completely lost on the identity of Dr. Cyprus and would love for someone else to clear that up for me.) So, I beg your forgiveness if I am not necessarily thorough.
As Colonel Muadhen experiences PTSD in an army hospital and continues to see the Creation of a Jealous and Vengeful God his consciousness guides the reader into Sigismundo’s flailing attempts to keep reality together. The four guardians have become Diversion, Perversion, Subversion, Diversion. Sigismundo’s consciousness, seemingly led into some fashion of self-referencing bear trap by Miskasquamish, is transported from their encampment in the sweltering, sulphurous brook to the frigid floor of an English forest where Maria Babcock is possessed by Lady Greensleeves.
The dual setting of this iteration of Chapel Perilous is interesting: two men in some sort of magical contest and twelve women passively watch the thirteenth suffer from a deluge of magical energy. The men struggle in an alchemical crucible, the yellow-sulphur imagery is a little strong, while the women are gathered in the cold forest in the dark of night. There is balance between the visionary experiences, however unpleasant it may be. The four guardians tumble throughout both visions, their morphing and unpleasant guises echoing the tumbling down of the world around Sigismundo and Maria Babcock.
Of course, the emphasis on the sulphurous brook near Sigismundo’s dwelling is made explicit when he “hallucinates” into the future and sees the road marker reading DAYTON 20 MILES. Sigismundo has been living in the spot of the future Yellow Springs, where Wilson would later live with his family and experience peyote. (He would also be arrested in a sit-in for desegregation.)
Miskasquamish’s magic strongly resembles that of Don Juan’s when Sigismundo pants that he cannot walk to the brooke, Miskasquamish simply comments “Then you will crawl.” There’s the flavor of Castaneda’s irascible man of power...much like Don Juan, we find out that Miskasquamish is not what he seems. In another manner the transformation of the bear-people into magicians of all ages and nations resembles the accounts of magicians throughout time during the apogee of psychedelic or ritual operations. There is a presence of many minds.
Sigismundo’s trip is more traumatic than those he has experienced earlier in the series and stronger than Sir Babcock the Younger’s spiked-champagne evening chronicles in Part 5 of Masks of the Illuminati. Miskasquamish eventually leaves as the bear-people transfigure themselves into magi to be replaced by old Abraham Orfali.
Maria is Crossing the Abyss, an undertaking not to be taken lightly, without immediate preparation. But, like the Knowledge and Conversation of the Guardian Angel, the process will occur if the aspirant remains on the path of magic, and if well-guided and sincere, the magician will have been prepared. After all, pure folly is the key to initiation. Maria’s blindside-Samadhi is linked to Sigismundo's own abysmal experience. Traditionally, at least in the sense that Crowley’s writings track as “traditional,” the Crossing of the Abyss is very similar to Wilson’s description of Chapel Perilous in Cosmic Trigger: the aspirant will either give up their ego, every last shred of their paltry conception of “myself” and attain another state of being, or they will fail in that endeavor and go mad. (RAW is a bit gentler saying you’ll either come out completely agnostic or raving paranoid.) Orfali, the Initiator, provides Sigismundo with the necessary tool to complete his Crossing.
Our Author is still kind to his creation; Sigismundo is no longer running from anything and has transcended...something.
Before Miskasquamish and Sigismundo “enter eternity,” Sigismundo realises that “the whole of nature was identified as a mongoose.” I believe this is a reference to a joke that is said to contain the whole secret of magic. While the original is found in Crowley’s Magick In Theory and Practice, I first read it in Alan Moore’s Promethea #12 “The Magic Theatre.” I’ll relate it as I have told it on evenings similar to those experienced herein by Balsamo and Maldonado:
There are two men inhabiting the same railroad carriage, sitting directly across from one another. One of the men has a box with a perforated lid sitting on his lap. His fellow passenger’s curiosity is piqued and after some time he inquires what the other man has in the box.
“Well,” said the other man with a smile of indulgence. “It is a mongoose.” The passenger nods and sits for a moment before asking again:
“I’m sorry to press, but a mongoose is an awfully exotic creature around these parts- why are you transporting a mongoose? Is it your pet?”
The other man smiles again and magnanimously says, “My dear fellow, trusting in your discretion, I shall let you know that my brother has a terrible drinking problem. Furthermore whenever he drinks he sees snakes all over. I am bringing him this mongoose to chase away the cobras, as it were.”
The passenger is surprised at the other man’s sincerity and accepts the matter as it is before remarking: “But, and I’m sorry to press, aren’t those snakes imaginary?”
The other man smiles again, “Yes,” he gestures at the box, “but this is an imaginary mongoose.”
There you go, the ultimate secret to magic. I expect payment.
Sigismundo decides to set aside his wilderness onanism and sets out beyond his clearing. There he finds out that Miskasquamish, like Don Juan, Aiwass, Jesus Christ, The Ascended Masters, Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hogwarts, Max Headroom, Australia and my parents’ acceptance wasn’t....fucking...real. Okay, at least he existed at one time if one counts being a ghost in a fictional novel any sort of existence.
From Eric: “A musical preview of George Washington knock-knock-knocking next week. https://youtu.be/rnKbImRPhTE ”
Dr. Cyprus went to med school with Dr. Benway.
The mongoose/cobra story also appears in Masks of the Illuminati.
Great write-up! I'm glad we get a second chance to comment on this chapter, though it has been difficult to find the time; currently in a very busy cycle. I disagree, however that the bardo contact with Miskasquamish "wasn't fucking real" RAW gives it a valid reality in the fictional world of the novel by mentioning that Sigismundo learned to speak the language of
Miskasquamish even though he communicated better with him than with the living members of the tribe. He at least learned enough of the language from the ghost to communicate with them. Doing readings to the recently deceased in the context of the Tibetan Book of the Dead or some such, might make one more agnostic about this after the reader experiences contact with the departed soul. This seems pretty much guaranteed if one practices it long enough, particularly if the opportunity arises to read for someone going through or immediately after transition.
I also remain agnostic regarding the nonreality of Don Juan, particularly after listening to an unreleased interview with my friend, Claudio Naranjo. Naranjo hung out with and called Castaneda his best friend when they both attended UCLA. Naranjo said he received an invitation from Castaneda to meet Don Juan.
Eric- I had a dream about mugwumps a couple weeks ago.
supergee- I have probably read that novel more than any other book in my life and I can't believe I didn't mention that. Especially considering how significant the joke is to my inner cosmology.
Oz- I was lost without your comments this week! Glad to hear from you. My sense of humor could be regarded as gnomic if one was in a generous mood. I love pointing out the inconsistencies and absurdities of magical thought while engaging heavily in the practice. My wife once mentioned that when I use the term "fiction" it is a very loaded term.
Regarding Castaneda: I have written about how much I (reluctantly, at first) learned from the Don Juan novels. I don't particularly care if he was real, based on another shaman, or entirely a construct of Castaneda's imagination. The correlation with Don Juan's philosophy and my lived experiences is much more important than any "objective" existence. It took me years and years to truly realize that fact. (Fake it till you make it, one of the greatest magical dicta.)
Anyways, when I use a phrase it means what I want it to mean. (While I loved the White Knight more as a kid, the Humpty Dumpty chapter of "Through the Looking Glass" is Dodgson's masterpiece.)
Rarebit Fiend, Deleuze found inspiration from Lewis Carroll as one springboard to write Logic of Sense, (another main one being Antonin Artaud) my favorite book of philosophy in this or the last century. It starts with Alice eating the mushroom to grow larger or smaller with Deleuze twisting it slightly to have her doing it simultaneously then relating it to a concept of time he calls Aion, at right angles to standard time, simultaneously having events as they occur go forward and backward infinitely in time. Crowley used and rewrote a Buddhist exercise, sammasati, right memory, RAW has also talked about it, basically a meditation on events as they might go backwards in time.
p. 180: "Sigismundo's first teacher in the Cabala." My first teacher in Cabala was RAW. The first thing I learned was the 23s; getting hip to that pattern recognition became a stepping stone. The next seriously major quantum leap I had in this education gets demonstrated in the sentence quoted. The Notarikon of the whole sentence = 102 = "A white goose" which could relate to Sigismundo's later statement about the mongoose. 102 also has a sense of optimism, if you look it up, connected with the number 110, the Notarikon of the phrase following RAW mentioning 2020.
Interesting "fiction": (p. 181) "She was in terrible danger, and he alone could save her. That was the logic of things, out here beyond space and time and matter, in the heart of creation.
and (p. 182) "'To save Maria,' Abraham said. 'To save the world from the bombs that fly.'"
RAW writes a really elegant dramatization of crossing the Abyss that brings to life in an artistic way Crowley's teaching on the subject.
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