I select my materials by responding to local happenings, spontaneous sense-impressions. I perform acts of listening, openly and receptively, with few preconceptions and little to no prejudgment. Signs when received are taken lightly, but still granted due reverence, as befits things of wonder and mystery. Let us reply our way into an economy of giving. “In mythology, medieval literature and occultism,” say texts of yore, “the language of the birds is postulated as a mystical, perfect divine language, green language, Adamic language, Enochian, angelic language.” Listen and learn. Track down 12th century Persian poet Attar of Nishapur’s The Conference of the Birds.
Culture is a necessary inheritance — a preinstalled “operating system” of sorts. Yet with our dreams and our fantasies, we can hack it, play new mind games, produce new subjectivities. D.W. Winnicott points a way forward in his theories about use of the “intermediate area,” the space inscribed in the ludic magic circle drawn between internal and external reality, past and future. Infants use what Winnicott calls a “transitional object” in their experiments with this area. Books and poetry are transitional objects of this sort for me, allowing me to communicate with myself across the years. An old journal entry from August 1999, for instance, points me across a twenty-year gap toward the organ part in “I Am a Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel, knowing me enough to know I’d like it.
Some dude gets on a mic and introduces my city to Schrödinger’s Cat and theories of parallel worlds as we gather for an outdoor screening of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Downtown appears thoroughly transformed by gentrification, landscaping, redevelopment. But there’s still the excitement, the unrealized potential of the assembly of a local, democratic multitude, one that embraces and tolerates its self-constitution through dance, performance, and play. Man-in-the-Moon arrives as Gwen Stacy reviews her origin story. I imagine myself a moonlit Silver Surfer listening to “Lonely Surf Guitar” by the Surfaris.
“By cutting a pentagram into the air or dancing a wild spiral dance,” writes Erik Davis in his account of Pagan ritual, “the self submits to the designs of human and cosmic powers on a more visceral plane than philosophical conceptions or sermons allow” (TechGnosis, p. 192). Davis stresses, though, that this Pagan use of ritual instrumentalizes the latter’s transformative potential, raising worrying questions when what this “technology of the sacred” operates upon and instrumentalizes is imagination and the unconscious. What ritual possesses, however, and what reason lacks, is fidelity to wonder, reverence, and awe. Pagans, for instance, “seek sacred communion” with Nature. Theirs is a “visionary materialism” (194). I can also relate, though, to the “will to utilize” informing the magical practices of figures like Genesis P-Orridge and his group Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. Their aim is to use magic to disrupt the spell of the global totalitarian society of the spectacle.
Timothy Leary, ever the magician, pinches together his thumbs and forefingers to form a symbol of infinity, an eye out of which stream prismatic beams of light. Sarah and I sit on a blanket in a park reading beside a tree. Afterwards, on Erik Davis’s recommendation, I turn on and watch “Tones, Drones, and Arpeggios,” a BBC documentary on the birth of minimalism featuring LaMonte Young and Terry Riley in counterculture California.
[And here’s Episode 2.]
I learn about time-lag accumulation, weird spells, past dragged into the future. Interesting things start happening. A universe of cycles rather than arrows. The revolution of Terry Riley’s “In C.” Communism in action. Couple that with Steve Reich’s “Music as a Gradual Process,” and doors begin to open. (By the way, Erik Davis is the real deal. He’s been walking the freak beat for decades, his senses and inclinations honed by years of practice. I remain awed by his sharp analysis and critical takedown of the 1960s/1970s counterculture’s fetish for “consciousness tools” and “technologies of transformation”  in his book TechGnosis.)
My eyes pass along the spines of mountainous rows of books. A small portion of my home library. Because of its size, much of the collection will go unread. Each book represents a kind of journey out of body. Yet I often prefer to remain in my body, walking through my neighborhood soaking in and re-transmitting positive vibes. It is here on the streets, or sitting at tables in parks, out and about, where I practice my “secret philosophy,” with its hints and codes. In the mutability of the day-to-day I find revealed to me a unity. Grand syntheses of ideas, even amid birdsong and crying children.
Sarah and I listened to Ought’s “Beautiful Blue Sky” off their album Sun Coming Down while driving to see Godspeed You Black Emperor the other night, the last moments of sunlight shining through the rear window, warming the backs of our necks. Standing at the show afterwards, I wondered: “Who today are my countrymen? Who today stand opposed both to machines and to those who make them?” Recalling these thoughts now, I wonder: is the true power of witchcraft and sorcery their ability to provoke consciousness-alteration in oneself and in others? Those affected vape and dance despite their dehumanizing professions, as nonhuman nature finds its springtime groove. A television in the corner of a Chinese takeout disturbs my peace of mind with an infomercial hawking beauty products: some sort of ‘Cindy Crawford’-sponsored age-defying skin treatment super-serum. The ex-‘global supermodel’ collects a tax, even if just as burdensome interruption of one’s soundscape and field of vision. I’d rather lie around all day in a state of jouissance. Kicking up dust, reading old reports, watching The Godz, a short work by psychedelic filmmaker Jud Yalkut.
“There are a lot of minds in here,” says one invented voice among many. A hound pants and howls. A witch gasps and cackles. Consciousness interrupts itself, stops watching itself, and for once actually listens. Linger on natural delights, I tell myself. Bits of media detritus float past, signaling that inner setting menus are now accessible. With binaural metaprogramming, black magick’s principled ideal of godhood inches this side of attainable. The image confronts me, though, of two roads diverging in a yellow wood: the Left Hand Path and the Right. Am I ready to enact the praxeology of divination, evocation, and soul travel? The so-called “Three Godly Powers”? Or would I prefer to live as if watched over by a machine of loving grace?