Monday, February 25, 2013

Walter Benjamin, "To the Planetarium," from One-Way Street, trans. Edmund Jephcott

If one had to expound the doctrine of antiquity with utmost brevity while standing on one leg, as did Hillel that of the Jews, it could only be in this sentence: "They alone shall possess the earth who live from the powers of the cosmos." Nothing distinguishes the ancient from the modern man so much as the former's absorption in a cosmic experience scarcely known to later periods. Its waning is marked by the flowering of astronomy at the beginning of the modern age. Kepler, Copernicus, and Tycho Brahe were certainly not driven by scientific impulses alone. All the same, the exclusive emphasis on an optical connection to the universe, to which astronomy very quickly led, contained a portent of what was to come. The ancient's intercourse with the cosmos had been different: the ecstatic trance. For it is in this experience alone that we gain certain knowledge of what is nearest to us and what is remotest to us, and never of one without the other. This means, however, that man can be in ecstatic contact with the cosmos only communally. It is the dangerous error of modern men to regard this experience as unimportant and avoidable, and to consign it to the individual as the poetic rapture of starry nights. It is not; its hour strikes again and again, and then neither nations nor generations can escape it, as was made terribly clear by the last war, which was an attempt at a new and unprecedented commingling with the cosmic powers. Human multitudes, gases, electrical forces were hurled into the open country, high-frequency currents coursed through the landscape, new constellations rose in the sky, aerial space and ocean depths thundered with propellers, and everywhere sacrificial shafts were dug in Mother Earth. This immense wooing of the cosmos was enacted for the first time on a planetary scale, that is, in the spirit of technology. But because the lust for profit of the ruling class sought satisfaction through it, technology betrayed man and turned the bridal bed into a bloodbath. The master of nature, so the imperialists teach, is the purpose of all technology. But who would trust a cane wielder who proclaimed the mastery of children by adults to be the purpose of education? Is not education above all the indispensable ordering of the relationship between generations and therefore mastery, if we are to use this term, of that relationship and not of children? And likewise technology is not the mastery of nature but of the relation between nature and man. Men as a species completed their development thousands of years ago; but mankind as a species is just beginning his. In technology a physis is being organized through which mankind's contact with the cosmos takes a new and different form from that which it had in nations and families. One need recall only the experience of velocities by virtue of which mankind is now preparing to embark on incalculable journeys into the interior of time, to encounter there rhythms from which the sick shall draw strength as they did earlier on high mountains or at Southern seas. The "Lunaparks" are a prefiguration of sanatoria. The paroxysm of genuine cosmic experience is not tied to that tiny fragment of nature that we are accustomed to call "Nature." In the nights of annihilation of the last war the frame of mankind was shaken by a feeling that resembled the bliss of the epileptic. And the revolts that followed it were the first attempt of mankind to bring the new body under its control. The power of the proletariat is the measure of its convalescence. If it is not gripped to the very marrow by the discipline of this power, no pacifist polemics will save it. Living substance conquers the frenzy of destruction only in the ecstasy of procreation.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Kenneth Grant, from "The Sorceries of Zos (Austin O. Spare)," in Cults of the Shadow; and "Austin Osman Spare and the Zos Kia Cultus," in The Magical Revival

It has been suggested by some authorities that the original witches sprang from a race of Mongol origin of which the Lapps are the sole surviving remnants. This may or may not be so, but these ‘mongols’ were not human. They were degenerate survivals of a pre-human phase of our planet’s history generally—though mistakenly—classified as Atlantean. The characteristic that distinguished them from others of their kind was the ability to project consciousness into animal forms, and the power they possessed of reifying thought-forms. The bestiaries of all the races of the earth are littered with the results of their sorceries.
They were non-human entities; that is to say they pre-dated the human life-wave on this planet, and their powers—which would today appear unearthly—derived from extra-spatial dimensions. They impregnated the aura of the earth with the magical seed from which the human foetus was ultimately generated.

*     *     *     *     *
As explained in Images and Oracles of Austin Osman Spare, Spare was initiated into the vital current of ancient and creative sorcery by an aged woman named Paterson, who claimed descent from a line of Salem witches. The formation of Spare’s Cult of the Zos and the Kia[i] owes much to his contact with Witch Paterson who provides the model for many of his ‘sabbatic’ drawings and paintings. Much of the occult lore that she transmitted to him suffuses two of his books—The Book of Pleasure and The Focus of Life. In the last years of his life he embodied further esoteric researches in a grimoire[ii] which he had intended publishing as a sequel to his two other books. Although death prevented its publication, the manuscript survives, and the substance of the grimoire forms the basis of this chapter.
Spare concentrated the theme of his doctrine in the following Affirmation Creed of Zos vel Thanatos:
I believe in the flesh ‘as now’ and forever… for I am the Light, the Truth, the Law, the Way, and none shall come unto anything except through his flesh.
Did I not show you the eclectic path between ecstasies; that precarious funambulatory way… ?
But you had no courage, were tired, and feared. THEN AWAKE! De-hypnotize yourselves from the poor reality you be-live and be-lie.  For the great Noon-tide is here, the great bell has struck… Let others await involuntary immolation, the forced redemption so certain for many apostates to Life. Now, in this day, I ask you to search your memories, for great unities are near. The inceptor of all memory is your Soul. Life is desire, Death its reformation… I am the resurrection… I, who transcend ecstasy by ecstasy, meditating Need Not Be in Self-love…
This creed, informed by the dynamism of Spare’s will and his great ability as an artist, created a Cult on the astral plane that attracted to itself all the elements naturally oriented to it. He referred to it as Zos Kia Cultus, and its votaries claimed affinity on the following terms:
Our Sacred Book:                        The Book of Pleasure.
Our Path:            The eclectic path between ecstasies; the precarious funambulatory way.
Our Deity:            The All-Prevailing Woman.
                                                (‘And I strayed with her, into the path direct.’)
Our Creed:            The Living Flesh. (Zos.)
                                                (‘Again I say: This is your great moment of reality—the living flesh’).
Our Sacrament:             The Sacred Inbetweenness Concepts.
Our Word:            Does Not Matter—Need Not Be.
Our Eternal Abode:            The mystic state of Neither-Neither; The Atmospheric ‘I.’ (Kia.)
Our Law:            To Trespass all Laws.
The Zos and the Kia are represented by the Hand and the Eye, the instruments of sentiency and vision. They form the foundation of the New Sexuality, which Spare evolved by combining them to form a magical art—the art of visualizing sensation, of ‘becoming one with all sensation,’ and of transcending the dual polarities of existence by the annihilation of separate identity through the mechanics of the Death Posture. Long ago, a Persian poet described in a few words the object of Spare’s New Sexuality:
The kingdom of I and We forsake, and your home in annihilation make.
The New Sexuality, in the sense that Spare conceived it, is the sexuality not of positive dualities but of the Great Void, the Negative, the Ain: the Eye of Infinite Potential. The New sexuality is, simply, the manifestation of non-manifestation, or of Universe ‘B,’ as Bertiaux would have it, which is equivalent to Spare’s Neither-Neither concept. Universe ‘B’ represents the absolute difference of that world of ‘all otherness’ to anything pertaining to the known world, or Universe ‘A.’ Its gateway is Daäth, sentinelled by the Demon Choronzon. Spare describes this concept as ‘the gateway of all inbetweenness.’
In terms of Voodoo, this idea is implicit in the Petro rites with their emphasis upon the spaces between the cardinal points of the compass: the off-beat rhythms of the drums that summon the loa from beyond the Veil and formulate the laws of their manifestation. Spare’s system of sorcery, as expressed in Zos Kia Cultus, continues in a straight line not only the Petro tradition of Voodoo, but also the Vama Marg of Tantra, with its eight directions of space typified by the Yantra of the Black Goddess, Kali: the Gross of the Four Quarters plus the inbetweenness concepts that together compose the eightfold Cross, the eight-petalled Lotus, synthetic symbol of the Goddess of the Seven Stars plus her son, Set or Sirius.
*     *     *     *     *
Austin Spare suspected, as early as 1913, that some such energy was the basic factor in in the re-activization of primal atavisms, and he treated it accordingly as cosmic energy (the ‘Atmospheric I’) responsive to subconscious suggestion through the medium of Sentient Symbols, and through the application of the body (Zos) in such a way that it could reify remote atavisms and all possible future forms.
During the time that he was preoccupied with these themes Spare dreamed repeatedly of fantastic buildings whose alignments he found quite impossible to note down on waking. He supposed them to be adumbrations of a future geometry of space-time bearing no known relation to present-day forms of architecture. Eliphaz Lévi claimed a similar power of reification for the ‘Astral Light,’ but he failed to show the precise manner of its manipulation. It was to this end that Spare evolved his Alphabet of Desire ‘each letter of which relates to a sex-principle.’ That is to say he noted certain correspondences between the inner movements of the sexual impulse and the outer form of its manifestation in symbols, sigils, or letters rendered sentient by being charged with energy. Dali refers to such magically charged fetish-forms as ‘accommodations of desire’ which are visualized as shadowy voids, black emptinesses, each having the shape of the ghostly object which inhabits its latency, and which IS only by virtue of the fact that it is NOT. This indicates that the origin of manifestation is non-manifestation, and it is plain to intuitive apprehension that the orgone of Reich, the Atmospheric ‘I’ of Austin Spare, the Dalinian delineations of the ‘accommodations of desire’ refer in each case to an identical Energy manifesting through the mechanics of desire. Desire, Energized Will, and Obsession, are the keys to unlimited manifestation, for all form and all power is latent in the Void, and its god-form is the Death Posture.
These theories have their roots in very ancient practices, some of which—in a distorted form—provided the basis of the medieval Witch Cult, covens of which flourished in New England at the time of the Salem Witch Trials at the end of the17th century. The subsequent persecutions apparently obliterated all outer manifestations both of the genuine cult and its debased counterfeits.
*     *     *     *     *
Although Spare was convinced that an occult Intelligence frequently painted, drew, or wrote through him, he was unable to discover its identity. He was, however, in almost daily contact with a familiar, a spirit-guide, known as Black Eagle whom he had clearly seen and drawn on several occasions. But he was convinced that Black Eagle was not the sole source of his automatism. Spare had but to turn his head suddenly and he would sometimes catch a glimpse of the familiar spirits that constantly surrounded him. Several times he had “caught” one of them long enough to make a lightning-swift sketch.
*     *     *     *     *
In another writing (also unpublished), Spare declared that “Sorcery is a deliberate act of causing metamorphoses by the employment of elementals. It forges a link with the powers of middle nature,[iii] or the ether, the astrals of great trees and of animals of every kind. Will is our medium, Belief is the vehicle, and Desire is the force combining with the elemental. Crytptograms are our talismans and protectors.”
The will, or nervous energy, must be suppressed in order to create tension, and released only at the psychological moment. “At that time, gaze into and beyond the immediate vista, into the Aeon—the spaciousness beyond your meannesses, beyond your borrowed precepts, dogmas and beliefs—until you vibrate in spacious unity. Indraw your breath until the body quivers and then give a mighty suspiration, releasing all your nervous energy into the focal point of your wish; and as your urgent desire merges into the ever present procreative sea, you will feel a tremendous insurge, a self-transformation. And the Devil himself shall not prevent your will materializing.”

[i] ‘The body considered as a whole I call Zos’ (The Book of Pleasure, p. 45). The Kia is the ‘Atmospheric I.’ The ‘I’ and the ‘Eye,’ being interchangeable, the entire range of ‘eye’ symbolism—to which repeated reference has been made—is here applicable.
[ii] This was to have been divided into two parts: The Book of the Living Word of Zos and The Zoëtic Grimoire of Zos; in the present chapter it is referred to simply as the grimoire.
[iii] i.e. The astral plane, between the spiritual and physical realms.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hart Crane, "Atlantis"

Through the bound cable strands, the arching path   
Upward, veering with light, the flight of strings,—
Taut miles of shuttling moonlight syncopate   
The whispered rush, telepathy of wires.
Up the index of night, granite and steel—
Transparent meshes—fleckless the gleaming staves—
Sibylline voices flicker, waveringly stream   
As though a god were issue of the strings. . . .   

And through that cordage, threading with its call
One arc synoptic of all tides below—
Their labyrinthine mouths of history   
Pouring reply as though all ships at sea   
Complighted in one vibrant breath made cry,—
“Make thy love sure—to weave whose song we ply!”   
—From black embankments, moveless soundings hailed,   
So seven oceans answer from their dream.

And on, obliquely up bright carrier bars   
New octaves trestle the twin monoliths
Beyond whose frosted capes the moon bequeaths   
Two worlds of sleep (O arching strands of song!)—
Onward and up the crystal-flooded aisle   
White tempest nets file upward, upward ring   
With silver terraces the humming spars,   
The loft of vision, palladium helm of stars.

Sheerly the eyes, like seagulls stung with rime—
Slit and propelled by glistening fins of light—
Pick biting way up towering looms that press   
Sidelong with flight of blade on tendon blade   
—Tomorrows into yesteryear—and link
What cipher-script of time no traveller reads
But who, through smoking pyres of love and death,   
Searches the timeless laugh of mythic spears.

Like hails, farewells—up planet-sequined heights   
Some trillion whispering hammers glimmer Tyre:   
Serenely, sharply up the long anvil cry
Of inchling aeons silence rivets Troy.
And you, aloft there—Jason! hesting Shout!   
Still wrapping harness to the swarming air!   
Silvery the rushing wake, surpassing call,
Beams yelling Aeolus! splintered in the straits!

From gulfs unfolding, terrible of drums,   
Tall Vision-of-the-Voyage, tensely spare—
Bridge, lifting night to cycloramic crest   
Of deepest day—O Choir, translating time   
Into what multitudinous Verb the suns   
And synergy of waters ever fuse, recast   
In myriad syllables,—Psalm of Cathay!
O Love, thy white, pervasive Paradigm . . . !

We left the haven hanging in the night
Sheened harbor lanterns backward fled the keel.   
Pacific here at time’s end, bearing corn,—
Eyes stammer through the pangs of dust and steel.   
And still the circular, indubitable frieze
Of heaven’s meditation, yoking wave
To kneeling wave, one song devoutly binds—
The vernal strophe chimes from deathless strings!

O Thou steeled Cognizance whose leap commits   
The agile precincts of the lark’s return;
Within whose lariat sweep encinctured sing   
In single chrysalis the many twain,—
Of stars Thou art the stitch and stallion glow
And like an organ, Thou, with sound of doom—
Sight, sound and flesh Thou leadest from time’s realm   
As love strikes clear direction for the helm.

Swift peal of secular light, intrinsic Myth
Whose fell unshadow is death’s utter wound,—
O River-throated—iridescently upborne
Through the bright drench and fabric of our veins;   
With white escarpments swinging into light,   
Sustained in tears the cities are endowed
And justified conclamant with ripe fields
Revolving through their harvests in sweet torment.

Forever Deity’s glittering Pledge, O Thou   
Whose canticle fresh chemistry assigns   
To wrapt inception and beatitude,—
Always through blinding cables, to our joy,   
Of thy white seizure springs the prophecy:   
Always through spiring cordage, pyramids   
Of silver sequel, Deity’s young name   
Kinetic of white choiring wings . . . ascends.

Migrations that must needs void memory,
Inventions that cobblestone the heart,—
Unspeakable Thou Bridge to Thee, O Love.
Thy pardon for this history, whitest Flower,
O Answerer of all,—Anemone,—
Now while thy petals spend the suns about us, hold—
(O Thou whose radiance doth inherit me)   
Atlantis,—hold thy floating singer late!

So to thine Everpresence, beyond time,   
Like spears ensanguined of one tolling star
That bleeds infinity—the orphic strings,   
Sidereal phalanxes, leap and converge:   
—One Song, one Bridge of Fire! Is it Cathay,   
Now pity steeps the grass and rainbows ring   
The serpent with the eagle in the leaves. . . . ?   
Whispers antiphonal in azure swing.