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!
February 28 sounds good. Nice post. I have never had a ton of success with pranayama. I did do my daily Christian Science readings for years, and I rarely got sick during that period, whereas I did get frequent colds before that. I don't do the readings any more, but I still don't get sick too often. For a while in 2020 they had the daily Christian Science readings on the web for free, but I couldn't find them for free this month.
Nice introduction to the higher circuits. Implicit in this post - one need practice and experiment to turn on C5. Pranayama does live up to its high rating, the benefits cited don't seem hyperbole. I agree with both Apuleius and RAW - you can learn an excellent pranayama practice from Crowley, you can also find a competent instructor, pretty easily and try various other excellent breathing exercises. Because it can get boring, I found when going for a lengthy duration, I could watch a good film at the same time. Music works well too.
p. 166: "The lives of the saints are full of stories which seem "miracles" to the four-circuited majority or are rejected as 'lies, hoaxes, yams' by the three-circuited dogmatic Rationalist."
I wonder who RAW quoted that rejected paranormal phenomena as yams? Or if this intends surrealistic humor, or just simply a typo for "scams?"
Merely reading this chapter makes me feel high. I went into a Christian Science Reading Room once, but didn't see their lesson book. I've practiced using the power of attention - the power of the mind, on my health with consistent results. I'm fortunate to have good health, so far. Stage 14, the integrating stage of C5, from Leary's Game of Life had a profound influence. It includes methods for consciously altering one's biochemistry for maximum fun, profit, and health. I've taken vitamin & other supplements since that time.
p. 171, Speaking of Mrs. Eddy — "If her writings are hard to decipher, if they often sound like the 'ravings of a disordered mind'(Aleister Crowley's description of mystic writings including his own), they also have moments of astonishing lucidity. For instance, she knew and wrote with total clarity that illness is fear and love is its cure."
Associating Eddy with Crowley seems deliberate, it implies parallels between Christian Science and Thelema, and/or to look at it through Qabalah. Christian Science has an obvious symbolic connection to Tiphareth. The phrase "astonishing lucidity" recalls Liber Al, The Book of the Law. This chapter on C5 has 6 exercizes.
I've been to and recorded many Sufi weekend seminars - in the sense I believe RAW intended the word Sufi, not traditional, orthodox Sufism. One of my favorites featured Claudio Naranjo talking about meaning in classical music.
I look forward to starting Sex, Drugs & Magick February 27th.
Spookah, your last comment last week had some great insights. I agree with you about some of the Tarot and Qabala attributions in The Game of Life feeling a little forced, but also appreciate seeing the completely different view of that symbol system.
Thank you Apuleius for this great first post on the neurosomatic circuit.
Is the picture from Light on Pranayama? I have a copy of Light on Yoga, and the photographs therein look similar.
I have for some time now implemented in my daily routine diverse breathing exercises. One encouraging aspect is that I started to notice improvements pretty quickly over the mastery of my lungs. As a wise one once said, ‘THC helps’. I somehow seem to get much more satisfying results when high. RAW mentions cannabis several times in this chapter.
David Lee has a free course on basic breathwork, which he calls ‘magical self-care’.
“This ‘floating’ aspect of the fifth circuit is preparing us for extraterrestrial migration.” (p.171)
That’s typically a sentence I wish RAW would have written in E-Prime, as this is exactly what makes some people call his writings “the ravings of a disordered mind”, and forgo the rest. Not that I have any problem with it, just saying.
Since Crowley appears many times, I would say that his Eight Lectures On Yoga is a nice complementary reading to this chapter. For a more modern and, I assume, scientifically oriented perspective, the next book I plan on reading is The Body Keeps the Score, which was recommended by Mike Gathers in his recent addendum video to the podcast on Wilhelm Reich.
If we are to accept that lower and upper circuits connect together, to me C1>C5 is where this feels the most apparent, and the PR chapters on those reflect this. For instance, they both features quotes from the Gospel of Matthew (once in chapter 3, twice in chapter 11). Retroactively, after so many chapters we can now advance the idea that “unless ye be as a little child…” could be understood as ‘not until you have reprogrammed all wrong imprintings that do you disservice’.
Mary Eddy Baker also pops up in both chapters. Her quote in Chap.3 was “All illness is manifested fear”. And now it is said that she “wrote with total clarity that illness is fear and love is its cure.” This calls to my mind Gerald Jampolsky’s book Love Is Letting Go of Fear. I first thought that his views were mostly influenced by Buddhism, but as it turns out he derives them from A Course In Miracles.
ACIM might not exactly be Christian Science, but it is supposed to be the word of Jesus channeled, and mostly relates to self-faith healing. As with everything else, the great Jeffrey Mishlove has an episode on this book:
I find it interesting that they do draw many connections with Buddhism, and that part of their conclusion is to keep an open mind, in a way that reminded me of model agnosticism and chaos magick.
I also look forward to the reading group over at Jechidah.
And now, some C5 related music:
Love is the law, love under will.
Cool connections between the chapters, Spookah.
@Spookah The photos are from one of my copies of Book 4- I have the 70s Weiser edition of Eight Lectures on Yoga which contains no illustrations aside from a frontispiece. I don't have my Equinox at my apartment, its in well preserved storage, but I believe these photos were originally published therein. I absolutely agree about reading Eight Lectures! It is a truly wonderful book that really plays into the idea that Crowley's writings are every morphing works that change along with the reader. It was one of the first books I read by Crowley, I think it was the third or fourth so I was finally piecing together his language, and it was very eye-opening. I've read it a couple times since and it always seems to contain something that I needed but had forgotten/didn't absorb previously. I think Crowley's description of the states of mystic consciousness is one of the clearest descriptions/schema ever put to paper. (Which, probably isn't very clear without experimentation.)
I like pranayama after smoking as well. However, I usually use it in those cases to alter the high or make it stronger. I came upon the technique from a strung out hippie chick in Wilson's The Sex Magicians.
@Eric and Oz- I think it is interesting how we all have different techniques that appeal to us from this chapter. Makes plenty of sense. Beyond pranayama, I've gotten a lot more out of the "tantric" practices and cannabis, but as I said, writing about such things seems artless. Or beyond my capabilities. Either one! I look forward to talking about Sex, Drugs and Magick with y'all. Where I'll probably write about artless things.
Really enjoyed the Love and Rockets track Oz. I still need to read the comic series one of these days.
David J has collaborated with Alan Moore at few times, or at least on the first Moon and Serpent album, and it was spectacular.
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