By Apuleius Charlton
Special guest blogger
Wilson writes during Chapter 11: “[m]any have turned on the neurosomatic circuit due to prolonged illness, especially if they grow impatient with doctors and resort to self medication and/or faith-healing. The bathroom of Nietzsche, according to Stefan Zweig, looked “like a pharmacy shop,” due to the large number of drugs and medicines with which the philosopher treated his chronic migraines. Gurdjieff employed cocaine, hashish and yoga techniques (probably including pranayama) to treat the incessant and increasing pains resultant from his war wounds and two car accidents. The “harshness” of these two philosophers, their contempt for ordinary human suffering, their visions of the superhuman state beyond emotion and pain, all probably derived from neurosomatic Turn Ons alternating with acute pain. That is, they experienced the whole of evolution from the lower circuits to the full development of neurosomatic bliss, and were expressing chiefly contempt for their own relapse into less-than-blissful consciousness.”
As someone who has been trying to engender the state of being that Leary and Wilson code as the eight-circuit model and monkeying around the Tree of Life for the past fourteen years, I don’t think that I have much problems triggering the fifth circuit; it is the transition back to less-than-blissful consciousness that still haunts and binds me. Therefore, my main exercises, that I am merely laying the foundation for, have been driven towards balancing the blissful and less pleasant modes of consciousness/who I am right now. Pranayama and the other techniques discussed in the chapter work well for getting on the ride- I am now chiefly concerned with maintaining the thrills and chills of fifth circuit consciousness when I find myself stuck in the realm of the terrestrial four.
(I don’t mean to propose that I have fully explored or understand the fifth circuit, just that I am familiar with some aspects of it. I am, as I mentioned during my last post, unable to get over my third circuit priggishness to really grok the self-healing abilities that Wilson speaks so highly of in this chapter.)
After the first four-five years of studying occultism and Wilson, I turned myself over to the analysis of a practitioner of psychosynthesis who diagnosed me with ongoing existential pain. As someone who was quite happy to pretend I had overcome the existential crisis of adolescence, I was disappointed to hear this. But he was correct. So I followed the techniques of psychosynthesis to try to bring together the disparate parts of myself or my selves and weave them into a workable whole. The success or failure of this effort is still being decided as my life progresses. One technique, which I have never forgotten but have neglected, is “simply” (somehow) meaningfully grounding the experiences of the “higher” realms of consciousness into the more prevalent world of everyday consciousness. Like most magical/mystical practices, you can read about examples of grounding techniques, but experimentation and innovation are always going to be your best bet for success. The inspiration for what I need to do to synch up my different states of being came from comments left by Oz while I was kvetching about the internet and information-overload during some of my more recent posts.
Aside from pranayama, one of the techniques that Crowley is absolutely sincere about is the efficacy of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram which he calls “the Medicine of Metals and the Stone of the Wise.” It is generally one of the first things a student of ceremonial magic learns and therefore can easily be overlooked as “basic” or even dull. That is the arrogance of a little experience…forgetting that without basics, there is very little to build or stand upon. Oz’s gentle reminder that techniques like the Lesser Ritual are quite effective when employed regularly served as a jolt from an acceptance of the “horror” of the modern world to a reminder that I have been neglecting the most important measures of making sure I am up to the task of dealing with the day-to-day. Performing something as rudimentary as the Lesser Ritual regularly is like brushing my teeth, as my psychosynthesis teacher would say; it doesn’t feel like much at the time, but boy does it make a difference.
Like Nietzsche and Gurdjieff, people can confuse Crowley’s philosophy with “harshness.” I have never understood how, despite their many uncouth jabs at conventional life and the clusterfuck of society, people interpret the works of writers like Crowley as anything other than an overly-honest attempt to do some demonstrable good for the rest of the human race. Crowley, Nietzsche, Gurdjieff were acutely aware of the pains and miseries of quotidian human existence; there would be no reason for the Herculean efforts to overcome that existence otherwise, and endeavored to free who they could from their “mind-forged chains.” Aside from chronic migraines and war wounds, we all bear the brunt of the sheer inconvenience of existence. Reading the works of these philosophers and holy men can help us diagnose our problems and articulate why the everyday world isn't that much fun. Yet, it simply does not do to ignore the constant emphasis on practice along with theory. That’s what I’m trying to remind myself right now -- being a student doesn’t end.