Cosmic Trigger 2: Night of the Fools

thothfool

23rd November of this year was the anniversary of a lot of things: among others, it was the birthdays of both Harpo Marx and Doctor Who. It was also the first anniversary of the end of the Cosmic Trigger: Find The Others festival, which included my performing an impromptu wedding for writer/director Daisy Campbell and her long time partner Greg.

And, because Daisy literally can’t avoid biting off more than any rational person could chew, then swallowing the lot, it marked the start of the process of staging the Cosmic Trigger play… including, Eris Willing, a US performance in Robert Anton Wilson’s final home of Santa Cruz, California.

To set the process going, Daisy and the Trigger Pullers held an event in London – the first of 22, each connecting to a Tarot Major Arcana. This was the Night of the Fool(s) – and I was asked to give a (23 minute, natch) talk. I decided to look at how The Fool, synchronicity and magic connect… and opened a whole can of worms for myself in the process.

By request, here’s that talk in full, with links to quoted folk added.

Continue reading “Cosmic Trigger 2: Night of the Fools”

Catch-up: Speaking on Fandom, Religion, Robert Anton Wilson

Been a while since I updated, and a fair bit happened in the interim… (and I’m not even mentioning the many splendid gigs I went to!). The last 5 weeks were especially busy.

The end of July had a personal first: I was invited to give a lecture at an academic conference, based on blind-read peer review selection of my paper. This was a big deal for someone with no college at all!

The conference was on Fandom and Religion at the University of Leicester. It was a fascinating three days. Science fiction and fantasy fandom was only a small part of the range – there were great talks on the religious aspects of everything from Polish football teams to music fans (two talks alone on Bono!).

My talk was called The Tulpa In The West (which you can read at that link to academia.edu) here’s the abstract;

The concept of the Tulpa first appears in Western thought within the writings of world traveller and mystic Alexandra David-Neel in 1929, in her book Magic And Mystery In Tibet. In David-Neel’s account, the Tulpa (which she translates as ‘thought-form’) is a human-form, physically manifest ‘spirit’ entity created by her Buddhist-trained visualization and meditation. After creating her tulpa, she lost control of both its form and intent, having to eventually banish it back to wherever it came from. This concept has infiltrated both popular culture and the occultism of the 20th and 21st century.

Authors such as Walter B. Gibson (the creator of The Shadow) and comics scribe Alvin Schwartz have used the tulpa concept to describe elements of fictive reality leaking into the ‘real’ world. The tulpa has appeared in a variety of other modern works, ranging from TV shows such as Supernatural to the near-future science fiction comic book Doktor Sleepless. It also formed a major element in the origin of the fictionally-derived but potent urban myth of The Slenderman, and has led to magical practices such as the chaos magic ‘egregore’ summonings and the internet-originated, fandom-adjacent act of ‘tulpamancy’. I discuss the rise of this Westernised conception of the tulpa, its considerable variance from the actual praxis of Tibetan Buddhist worship and its implications for both our post-structural, ‘hyperreal’ society and modern occult praxis.

My enormous thanks to the scholars who organised, spoke at and attended this conference, who were uniformly kind and friendly to an unschooled weirdo.

Last week was a double-header. Some of you might recall my involvement in the stage version of Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger (as co-worker at the Liverpool street ritual which channeled the synchronicity powers of both Carl Jung and John Constantine, and then my being the surprise celebrant for director Daisy Campbell’s impromptu wedding the day after the premiere last November)… and that I gave a talk earlier in the year at Senate House Library on the subject of Wilson.

On 27 August, I gave a very expanded version of this talk at my beloved Treadwells bookshop, which seemed to go down well. I’ll hopefully be posting a YouTube video of the talk over the weekend for those unable to attend. As Daisy, Kate Alderton (who played Arlen Wilson in the play) and my Daily Grail colleague/instigator/KLF biographer John Higgs were in the audience, it was quite the reunion… and one which continued into the next day.

On the 28th, John Higgs held the launch for his new book, ‘Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense Of The 20th Century‘, which I can’t recommend too highly. This book deserves to be as big a hit as A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME & read by far more of its purchasers.

It takes all the major developments through that century – from shifts in art and culture to the end of empires, the birth of science fiction and our networked world – and not only explains their development lucidly and ties the whole lot together, he makes it downright hilarious in places. (Especially how he explains postmodernism by comparing it to Super Mario Bros.)

It was great to see the enthusiasm for John’s work here, and meet up with even more of the Cosmic Trigger crew. Even more exciting: Daisy unveiled plans to bring the play to the US in 2017, the tenth anniversary of Bob’s Death. Santa Cruz, Ca, 23 July. Make a note!

Talks and talking

I did a podcast a couple of days with my friend and fellow Grinder Mikey Pirate (who is totally not the leader of an Asteroid Death Cult): we talked about the usual stuff – hyperreal religion, metafiction, Trickster Gods, Slenderman, Babylon 5‘s Rangers and why those who cosplay the Engineers from Prometheus might not be the nicest people to have over for a cup of tea.

Here it is:

 

Next week, I’m giving two different talks in London on two consecutive days:

22nd April, I’m speaking at the Royal College of Art’s Battersea campus (RCA students only, sadly) on neopaganism, the hyperreal (again), authenticity and Midsummer.     Details here.

On the 23rd, appropriately enough, I’m giving a talk on ‘Robert Anton Wilson – Gnostic Agnostic’ at the University of London’s Senate House Library’s ‘Marginal Presences’ Symposium – there should still be tickets available for this, and you can learn more here.

Science Fiction’s Gifts to Paganism: talk video and footnotes

I am pleased to be able to post the video of my 12 February 2015 Treadwells talk on ‘Science Fiction’s Gifts to Paganism’. My huge thanks to the Treadwells staff as always, especially to Marco Visconti for filming and editing the talk.

The YouTube video went live on 27 February – tragically, this was the day Leonard Nimoy died. Out of the huge respect I had for the man, and how he embodied the concepts of IDIC which I explored in the talk, I waited to post this until now.

(And, not long after, Terry Pratchett also died. I’m glad to have given both these gentlemen some small tribute here.)

As some of the audience requested, I have a few footnotes on the talk below.

Continue reading “Science Fiction’s Gifts to Paganism: talk video and footnotes”

Cthulhu, Fiction and Real Magic: talk & footnotes

cthulhutalkpic

On 3 December I gave a talk at Treadwells on about how Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos – both in his hands and in those of his contemporaries and followers – had been a surprisingly potent influence on modern occultism. It seemed to go pretty well… for the first time ever, a talk of mine was both sold out and had a ticket waiting list!

Sadly, plans to video the talk fell through, but there was an audio recording made: you can listen to it here:

 

Quite a few of the audience asked for a list of footnotes and links for the stuff I referenced, so here we are.

First thing is the bit of research I didn’t get the chance to do… ST Joshi’s mammoth Lovecraft biography, I Am Providence, which looks fascinating. (I did read some of his shorter essays, though – start here.)

LOVECRAFT

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/10/13/heres-why-h-p-lovecraft-matters-more-than-ever/

http://www.jasoncolavito.com/pauwels-bergier-and-lovecraft.html

http://lovecraft.wikia.com/wiki/Cthulhu_Mythos

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/09/ghostbusting-lovecraft A great thinkpiece on Ghostbusters as the most optimistic expression of the Mythos.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/20/ten-things-you-should-know-about-hp-lovecraft

The HP Lovecraft Historical Society are at http://www.cthulhulives.org/

(This is where you can get the excellent Miskatonic University t shirt I wore, by the way.)

Their history: http://www.cthulhulives.org/whatisit2.html

The Michel Houellebecq HPL piece. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/jun/04/featuresreviews.guardianreview6

 

Official history of the tabletop roleplay game:

http://www.hplovecraft.com/life/myths.aspx

http://www.chaosium.com/on-call-of-cthulhu/

Alan Moore on his published and upcoming HPL comic books:

http://thequietus.com/articles/16129-alan-moore-providence-cthulhu-philosophy-language-lovecraft

Plush Cthulhu history:
http://www.toyvault.com/history.html

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2012/mar/07/cuddly-cthulhu-hp-lovecraft-merchandising

On HPL & the World Fantasy Award furore: http://www.elizabethbear.com/?p=2513

Me on True Detective and The King In Yellow: http://www.spiralnature.com/culture/hype/true-detective-flat-circle-chapel-perilous.html

FICTION

As ever, one core aspect of my talk was Adam Possamai’s theories regarding Hyperreal religion. You can read my in-depth introduction to his ideas in the Darklore journal here:

http://darklore.dailygrail.com/samples/DL8-IV.pdf

MAGIC

My main source for the history of chaos magic and HPL’s influence was The History of British Magick After Crowley by Dave Evans: it’s not specific about the influence of Robert Anton Wilson on the original cohort, but his thought is clearly present.

If you haven’t done it already, read Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati. If you have, then read it again. And if you ever get the chance, see the play.

Fnord.

If there’s any specific questions about the talk, please drop them in comments.

campuscrusadecthulhu

Update: Hyper-real in the Year of the Slenderman

It’s been a while since I put up a post – a lot’s been happening. For one thing, I turned fifty years old – and honestly, it feels pretty good.

I have a new monthly column at the venerable occulture site Spiral Nature: called ‘The Hype’, I’m taking a look at currents in occult-related pop culture which are sliding further into both the cultural mainstream and the ‘real’ world. The first piece sets up my angle of attack (using the perspective of sociologist Adam Possamai and his theories on hyper-real religion – hence the name). The second article considers the way True Detective brought the cosmic horror of The King In Yellow to a far wider audience and the third, up today, considers The-City-As-Character in urban fantasy – with a specific, personal focus on London.

(My interest in Possamai’s models will also be involved in my next piece for the Darklore journal, coming later this year.)

I’ve been doing more for Daily Grail, including my partial review/flag-waving for the upcoming stage adaptation of Robert Anton Wilson’s autobiography Cosmic Trigger which promises to be extraordinary (there’s a crowdfunding campaign for a planned 23 November premiere in Liverpool – get on that!). I’ve also done a review of the recent Current 93 gig at Halifax Minster church and the NSA’s facial recognition algorithm seen in light of the prescient (and excellent) TV show, Person Of Interest.

And then there’s Slenderman…

At this point, pretty much everyone has heard about the shocking events in Wisconsin: the attempted murder of a twelve year old girl by two of her friends, trying (allegedly) to sacrifice her in order to become Slenderman Proxies. News agencies across the world have been trying to get a handle on this ever since – I was interviewed for The Guardian a few days after it happened. Then, two more cases involving Slenderman happened – one was a similar attack by a child upon her mother, the second an aside in the multiple cop-killing in Las Vegas by a husband-wife pair, whose interests included right-wing extremism and cosplaying as Joker/Harley Quinn and Slenderman.

Two days after the latter attack, it was the fifth anniversary of Slenderman’s birth – I noted the occasion for Daily Grail.

And… I’ve been commissioned by Fortean Times to write a feature on Slenderman for the next issue. This is a big deal for me, to put it mildly. I hope to do the subject – and the fall-out from the Wisconsin tragedy – justice.

It’s a strange world, and getting stranger by the day. Be safe out there, folks…

The Right Man/Violent Male

I was googling for links describing the Right Man syndrome (for, of all things, a post to the AV Club’s review comments on this week episode of The Good Wife), and I found 2 things – there’s still not a vast amount of stuff on this vital model of extreme male behaviour, and something I wrote on the subject for the Dark Christianity LJ is still on the first page – and I don’t have it reprinted here. So, here it is (mostly, as you can see, quoting RAW) & a few additions after.

I’ve often mentioned here the theory of the Right Man/Violent Male as a model for the behaviour of the Dominionists. This was created by AE van Vogt and later developed by Colin Wilson – but there’s not much about it online.

Here is a lengthy but excellent consideration of the model by Robert Anton Wilson, which puts the model in context.

“If, as Colin Wilson says, most of history has been the history of crime, this is because humans have the ability to retreat from existential reality into that peculiar construct which they call The “Real” Universe and I have been calling hypnosis. Any Platonic “Real” Universe is a model, an abstraction, which is comforting when we do not know what to do about the muddle of existential reality or ordinary experience. In this hypnosis, which is learned from others but then becomes self-induced, The “Real” Universe overwhelms us and large parts of existential, sensory-sensual experience are easily ignored, forgotten or repressed. The more totally we are hypnotized by The “Real” Universe, the more of existential experience we then edit out or blot out or blur into conformity with The “Real” Universe.

Concretely, the Violent Male—the extreme form of the Right Man1—edits out the suffering and pain he causes to others. That is only appearance and can be ignored. In The “Real” Universe, the victim is only one of Them—one of all the rotten bastards who have frustrated and mistreated the Right Man all his life. In existential reality, a large brutal male is beating a child; in The “Real” Universe of self-hypnosis, the Right Man is getting his just revenge on the oppressors who have abused him.

We have repeatedly employed Nietzsche’s metaphor in which existential reality is abysmal. In one dimension of meaning, this merely asserts that it is endless: the deeper you look into it, the more you see. It has the sense of infinity about it, whether or not it is topologically infinite in space-time.

The “Real” Universe—the model which has become experienced as the real universe—is, on the other hand, quite finite. It is compact and tidy, since it has been manufactured by discarding all the inconvenient parts of existential experience. This is why those self-hypnotized by a “Real” Universe of this sort can be so oblivious to the existential continuum around them. “How could a human being do something so cruel?” we sometimes ask in horror when an extreme Right Man is finally apprehended. The cruelty was “only” in the world of existential appearances; it does not exist in the edited and improved “Real” Universe of the Right Man. In The “Real” Universe, the Right Man is always Right.

The ghastly acceleration of violent, inexplicable and seemingly “pointless” crimes by Right Men in this century—and their hideous magnification into mass murders and war crimes by Right Men in governments—indicate the prevalence of this type of self-hypnosis and what Van Vogt calls “the inner horror” that accompanies it. This “inner horror” is a sense of total helplessness combined with the certainty of always being Right. It seems paradoxical, but the more totally Right a man becomes, the more helpless he also becomes. This is because being Right means “knowing” (gnosis) and “knowing” is understanding The “Real” Universe. Since The “Real” Universe is, by definition, “objective” and “outside us” and “not our creation,” we are made puny by it. We cannot act but only re-act—as The “Real” Universe pushes us, we push back. But it is bigger, so we will lose eventually. Our only defense is in being Right and fighting as dirty as possible.

This, I think, is in succinct form the philosophy of Adolph Hitler. It is the philosophy of the Marquis de Sade, and of any rapist or thug you can find in any prison in the world. Where Single Vision reigns—where The “Real” Universe is outside us and impersonal—this shadow-world of violence and horror follows in its wake.”

 

The new stuff: Found a couple of excellent pieces on the subject from blogger PHinn – here’s a shortish quote, drawing mostly from Colin Wilson’s A Criminal History of Mankind:
“The notion of ‘losing face’ suggests an interesting alternative line of thought. It is obviously connected, for example, with the cruelty of Himmler and Stalin when their absolute authority was questioned. They were both men with a touchy sense of self-esteem, so that their response to any suspected insult was vindictive rage. Another characteristic of both men was a conviction they they were always right, and a total inability to admit that they might ever be wrong.”

“Himmlers and Stalins are, fortunately, rare; but the type is surprisingly common. The credit for recognising this goes to A.E. Van Vogt who is also the author of a number of brilliant psychological studies. Van Vogt’s concept of the ‘Right Man’ or ‘violent man’ is so important to the understanding of criminality that it deserves to be considered at length…”

[…]

“In 1954, Van Vogt began work on a war novel called The Violent Man, which was set in a Chinese prison camp. The commandant of the camp is one of those savagely authoritarian figures who would instantly, and without hesitation, order the execution of anyone who challenges his authority. Van Vogt was creating the type from observation of men like Hitler and Stalin. And, as he thought about the murderous behaviour of the commandant, he found himself wondering: ‘What could motivate a man like that?’ Why is it that some men believe that anyone who contradicts them is either dishonest or downright wicked? Do they really believe, in their heart of hearts, that they are gods who are incapable of being fallible? If so are, are they in some sense insane, like a man who thinks he is Julius Caesar?”

“Looking around for examples, it struck Van Vogt that male authoritarian behaviour is far too commonplace to be regarded as insanity. […] [For example,] marriage seems to bring out the ‘authoritarian’ personality in many males, according to Van Vogt’s observation.”

[…]

“… ‘the violent man’ or the ‘Right Man’ […] is a man driven by a manic need for self-esteem — to feel he is a ‘somebody’. He is obsessed by the question of ‘losing face’, so will never, under any circumstances, admit that he might be in the wrong.”

 

PHinn knows what he’s talking about and is well worth reading on the subject.

For me… Colin Wilson makes a good case in Criminal History that the Right Men were the drivers of civilization – they tend to be charming when not pushed, smart and driven at what they do, and usually unconcerned by the consequences of their need to be Right – in short, excellent generals, leaders and despots. But the price of having them eventually becomes too high.

I think that time is now.

Dunno about you, but I’m seeing signs that this habit of thought is appearing more and more, especially in the intersection of politics & religion.

It’s impossible to negotiate with a Right Man – so a prevalence of them appearing in, say, the leadership of various extreme Dominionist Xtian paths makes any kind of resolution of opposing philosophies almost moot. They Are Right. Can’t argue with that. But, knowing how their rage cannot fail but descend if you insist (however politely and calmly) that they are in error… well, I leave that as an exercise for the combat philosophers in the audience. (And I know there’re a few – Hi Damien!)

The fewer of these in the world, the better. I don’t mean slotting them – I mean breaking them. Force them to show their monstrous nature whenever possible. Taunt them, tell jokes, satirize them  where they can’t help but see it. Drop these fuckers like Cain dropped Abel, like Godzilla dropped Tokyo. Break their wills, so hard and strong but oh so easily shattered.

Because they’re as Wrong as men can be.

(Colin Wilson’s books on the Right Man, Criminal History… The Killer & Written in Blood are all still available, as is van Vogt’s initial Report on the Violent Male.)