By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger
I’ve been looking forward to writing about Chapter 11 since the nascent planning stages of our Prometheus Rising group. I vividly remember this chapter and how it “opened a door” for me to understand some of the experiences I had had since beginning practicing magic. After rereading the chapter, I realize that Wilson (and many, many other writers) is correct…the ineffable doesn’t lend itself to translation…also, most of my experiences with neurosomatic consciousness are intensely private. Talking too much about one’s personal experience with the fifth circuit is akin to telling someone else about your dreams…unless you’re Coleridge or Steve Moore, you’re probably not going to come up with anything of interest.
Some notes on the chapter: the drawing at the beginning of the chapter is not by Aleister Crowley but rather Lady Frieda Harris, though it was executed according to Crowley’s specifications. Crowley’s remarks on pranayama come from The Book of Lies and Book 4, Part 1 respectively. To disagree with Uncle Bob, I think that Crowley’s Liber E provides clear enough, if overly ambitious, instructions for pranayama. The years when I regularly practiced pranayama were some of the most productive in my life- and while I never achieved a regular regimen of an hour each day, for some time I practiced it for around forty minutes morning and evening. After fifteen minutes I would almost always feel a “shift” inside myself and would spend the remainder of practice blissfully snorting and blowing away. I think resuming pranayama will be the main exercize I follow from this chapter, and hopefully my sinuses will cooperate.
When I read this chapter the first time I wasn’t particularly struck by the material on Christian Science and faith healing. While Mary Baker Eddy was a fascinating woman, and I always think of her when I stumble on ice, my exposure to people who really, really believe in “laying on of hands” and possess, in my opinion, an unhealthy reliance on homeopathy did not set me up to have much sympathy for such ideas. Today’s pandemic of anti-scientific thinking in the face of a global crisis has alienated me further from such beliefs. What would have appealed to me was Wilson’s sober-minded exploration of the Dark Night of the Soul and the unpleasant side of the fifth circuit and his whizz-drunk recounting of Hassan-i-Sabbah’s pleasure gardens. While I had read about the Old Man of the Mountain in other places and in Wilson before, I love his luridly detailed recreation of history. (And, I must say that I am incredibly skeptical of the level of detail added by Wilson or whatever historian Wilson was using as a source. While I’d like to believe that Sabbah had some time-released-fun-pills, I doubt it.)
Wilson’s remarks about Hassan-i-Sabbah and whatever philosophies he liked to group under “tantra” appealed to me enough to soon try the third exercize from this chapter and explore Sex, Drugs, and Magick which would lead to some experiences that would greatly affect my own comprehension of reality and pleasure. Again, this is mostly highly personal experimentation that isn’t comfortable to write about nor would it be interesting to read. That said, I think it is time to begin thinking about beginning the Sex, Drugs, and Magick reading group on Jechidah- I’m thinking the new group will most likely begin February 28th, which should give me time to finish up some other projects before moving on to something else. Let me know what everyone thinks!