We are the Music Makers

August 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is one from a few years back.

If you’ve any interest in weird writing, you’ve probably heard of Oscar Kiss-Maerth. Oscar posed, in his book Der Anfangwar das Ende (in English, The Beginning Was The End) the idea that it was eating the brains of other hominids that allowed human beings to develop the thinking power we have now. (Oscar also feels this to be a horrible crime against nature, but if I was going to sit here and relate all of Oscar’s crazy theories I’d just be regurgitating his book, and really, you should experience it for yourself.) Oscar has apparently never heard of Kuru or other diseases spread through the consumption of brains, like the various Spongiform Encephalopathy conditions. Still, it is interesting to consider Oscar’s theory of cannibalistic hominids developing greater and greater intelligence (while also stunting the ESP that Oscar believes all other animals share) to more measured paleontological sources. In as prosaic a source as the Walking With Beasts series, you can hear the dulcet tones of Kenneth Branaugh as he introduces the idea that it was indeed the consumption of meat that gave our omnivorous ancestors the resources to grow into the thinking machines they are now. It’s an interesting notion, that predation makes for a more efficient thinker both by forcing one to come up with strategies for the killing of prey and by providing dense proteins that make the development of the brain more feasible.

It does lead me to wonder, though. An alternative theory of brain development comes from the work of Terence McKenna.

The first encounters between hominids and psilocybin-containing mushrooms may have predated the domestication of cattle in Africa by a million years or more. And during this million year period, the mushrooms were not only gathered and eaten but probably also achieved the status of a cult. But domestication of wild cattle, a great step in human cultural evolution, by bringing humans into greater proximity to cattle, also entailed increased contact with the mushrooms, because these mushrooms grow only in the dung of cattle. As a result, the human-mushroom interspecies codependency was enhanced and deepened. It was at this time that religious ritual, calendar making, and natural magic came into their own. Shortly after humans encountered the visionary fungi of the African grasslands, and like the leafcutter ants, we too became the dominant species of our area, and we too learned ways of “keeping the bulk of our species safe in subterranean retreats.” In our case these retreats were walled cities.

Terence McKenna, Food of the Gods

As McKenna puts it a few pages later, My contention is that mutation-causing, psychoactive chemical compounds in the early human diet directly influenced the rapid reorganization of the brain’s information-processing capabilities. In other words, he and Maerth agree that it was something we ate, even if they differ in terms of what it was. I personally see no reason to assume it was one or the other, myself. While I am not willing to ignore the effects of encephalopathy disorders, why not assume that it was the meat of various carrion and later even domesticates animals and the mushrooms that grew in their droppings that had a synergistic symbiotic effect on us? It seems as elegant a theory as any…that the meat, bloody and carnal (And it is the life thereof, of course) provided us with the raw energy and materials with which to grow, and the chemicals in the plants and fungus provided us with the reorganization, new pathways and new means of thinking. To a degree, it reminds one of the infamous fruit of the knowlege of good and evil and other chemicals that have come down to us throughout myth and religion…the wine of Dionysus, the soma of Indra, the intoxicants that make man as a god.

According to the opinion that the vine was banished together with Adam from the Garden of Eden, Noah intended to rectify the vine with which Adam had transgressed. However, instead of sanctifying the wine which he made from the grapes, he became drunk on it. He thus debased himself by repeating Adam’s sin, as the Zohar explains elsewhere. The sin of the Tree of Knowledge was that Adam drank the juice which Eve squeezed from its grapes.

Moshe Miller, translator, Zohar

J.E. Harrison, who first pointed out (Prolegomena ch. viii) that Dionysus the Wine-god is a late superimposition on Dionysus the Beer-god, also called Sabazius, suggests that tragedy may be derived not from tragos, ‘a goat’ as Virgil suggests but from tragos, ‘spelt’ – a grain used in Athens for beer-brewing. She adds that, in early vase-paintings, horse-men, not goat-men, are pictured as Dionysus’s companions; and that his grape basket is, at first, a winnowing fan. In fact, the Libyan or Cretan goat was associated with wine; the Helladic horse with beer and nectar. Thus Lycurgus, who opposes the later Dionysus, is torn to pieces by wild horses – priestesses of the Mare-headed goddess – which was the fate of the earlier Dionysus.

Robert Graves, The Greek Myths

According to Diodorus, the new Dionysian dynasty in Thrace was initiated into the secret rites of the Dionysian (Bacchic) mysteries and, although seemingly of Anatolian descent, Dionysus himself was seen by ancient authors as a Thracian god. Various mythological stories recount the conquest of Dionysus and his cult in Thrace, Greece and even in India, which the god was said to have traversed with a great army, the ‘soldiers of Dionysus’, bringing to the Indians civilization and the discovery of wine.

Yuri Stoyanov, The Other God

It’s been established that the horse and cattle are of long standing religious significance to the various indo-european and semitic peoples. We can compare Vedic and Celtic myths to see the re-occurance of similar themes involving cattle, from cattle raids to the epithets of cow-eyed goddesses, and goddesses such as Epona (a Celtic goddess of the horse, also known as Macha) have their parallels in the mare-goddess of the Greeks, Shiva symbolized by his seven headed horse, etc, etc. As time passed, new intoxicants replaced older ones, and beer and wine took over pride of place from psilocybin (being, on the whole, less drastic…still, the power of wine was not to be overlooked by the unwary, as the murderous rampage of Dionysus across the Aegean shows us), although if John M. Allegro is to be believed the mushroom cult didn’t go far and may have held on in various mystery religions. (Allegro actually believes that Christianity itself is a transfigured mushroom cult, and that all the early talk of take, eat, this is my body is a reference to the divine flesh of the mushroom itself, that phallic meat that brings divine madness and new sight. He also thinks St. John of Patmos was tripping his gourd off when he wrote Revelations and that Jesus never existed, and that Yahweh was originally conceived as a giant phallus in the sky ejaculating rain down to make the Earth fertile, and that the mushrooms were believed to be his seed having taken root. Just thought you’d like to know that.) It’s not that hard to imagine the interdevelopment of new myths with new chemicals and new animals, the basic shape of the idea of our inter-relation being maintained even as the specific animals and plants changed from place to place. One in fact wonders if Diodorus got it wrong, and it was the god Soma himself who marched out of long-distant Harrapa and Mohenjo-Daro at the head of a vast army to bring indo-european civilization to Greece, only to be transfigured in turn as new plants took over the role of old. In Egypt, Hathor the cow goddess, and also a goddess of wine and beer retained favor, and beer received hymns and was offered in tombs, while wine was considered sacred to Osiris as well.

Meat and plant, the twin streams of our omnivorous diet, the dual snakes of the Caduceus that crawled their way down the tree of knowledge and into our beings. What were the consequences of our development into what we are now?

He said to the woman, “With this tree God created the world – the world of Assiyah, which is the lowest world. If you eat of it, you will surely become like God, knowing good and evil, and you too will be able to create worlds.”

Moshe Miller, translator, Zohar

Up until now we’ve held steady with a fairly animistic view, albeit one also partaking of relatively prosaic scientific roots. Whether you see the transformative bloom of human intelect as a beneficial chemical synthesis that helped select the smartest, best fed individuals to pass on their blood to their descendants or a more divine influx of the life from beast, plant and fungus to help us bridge the gap between this world of gross matter, helping us cross the bridge of separator that divided the sublime world of thought from the gross world of physical matter, to borrow from Manicheanism a touch. Indeed, the Manichean hostility to the physical world and the belief that only through gnosis could the spirit be redeemed becomes especially interesting when considered in this light. (I apologize for the Manichean pun.) To Mani himself, the only means to spiritual purity was to come to understand and embody the separation between Light and Darkness…the light being of life and the dark being of death…and the body itself, this frame that holds the mind is by its inherent nature impure. Matter is impure, is evil, to the Manichean. Mani himself claimed to come to this understanding through interaction with his Syzygus, his ‘divine twin’ sent to him via the direct intercession of the Father in Heaven. Mani’s synthetic religion, intended to serve as a universal faith encompassing all others, combined the original gnostic spirit/matter duality with the dualism of Zoroastrianism, which considered the universe to exist as between two eternal concepts endlessly at war with one another. Manicheanism argues that the soul suffers due to its cage of fleshly existence, which causes the inconsistent and contrary principles of spirit (which is good, and of the Light) and matter (which is evil, and of Darkness) to be bound together. The cage of fleshly existence can only be severed by coming to an understanding of the truth, that spirit and matter are not to be joined, that Light and Darkness are to eventually and permanently be severed.

In the world of Adam Kadmon everything is seen in one broad overview, but the exact details are not yet separated and ordered into the categories of reality. All the details of creation, from the beginning of space to the end of space, and from the beginning of time to the end of time – are all superimposed in this one thought, for in Adam Kadmon there is no concept of space and time whatsoever. There is as yet no inside and no outside, no up and no down, no before and no after. There is only a potential for these limitations. Everything is undefined, unified and simultaneous.
Moshe Miller, translator, Zohar

You can see a contrast between the Manichean view that spirit and matter are eternally at odds and the Zohar, which argues that in the higher levels of reality the Light and the Vessel (the spirit and the body) are in fact one…indeed, that the closer to the pure light of god one ascends (in essence, the closer to Ain Sof Aur, the limitless light that Adam Kadmon is the mirror, or image of) the less separate they in fact are. And that contrast seems, in part, to mirror the idea inherent in the Zohar of a descent from Ain Sof Aur through the five worlds of existence, Adam Kadmon, Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. In each of the five worlds there is either a degeneration or a diversification, depending on how you look at it, as things move from a potential for separation between idea and vessel (in Adam Kadmon, where all things are one and there is no time nor space) through increasing levels of variation (for instance, in Atzilut, where the idea and the vessel for it are both one, yet can at least be seen to be separate aspects) until finally reaching Asiyah, where thought and thinker are at last distinct entities from each other, where spirit and matter are divided. But the Zohar argues that all is eventually to be reconciled through tikkun, the rectification of matter and spirit, of indeed all things, though the process of emanation itself. In other words, while Manicheanism would set spirit and matter, mind and body at eternal odds, forever divided, the Zohar argues that they will, and must, be reconciled as part of the perfect creation and revelation of God. Orot and Kelim will come together again.

You’re wondering what this has to do with the human mind as a seething mass of neurochemicals given the divine fire through the consumption and absorption of various chemicals in plants and animals. I don’t blame you.

Imagine the higher worlds where mind and body are one. Before thoughts, what existed there? When one thinks of Adam Kadmon as described in the Zohar one easily sees parallels to David Bohm’s implicate order, where there is no space and no time, where reality is explicated into our world and then introjected back to rewrite itself in the dance of the habits of the universe. So saying before thoughts may make little sense. In fact, it is possible to imagine Adam Kadmon as a blueprint for reality inspired by, and even created by, the reality that it describes, informs and creates. This is an acausal world, DNA that that self-mutates and builds based on the mutated plan. It is as though an arm with a pencil drew itself drawing the pencil that draws it as it draws the body that the arm is attached to. So it becomes possible to imagine entities that exist in the worlds above…in the hyperspatial interstices of McKenna, the halls of the gods, the Otherworld, the Dreamtime…entities that are pure spirit, pure thought, pure idea. Beings to whom mind is body. Beings that interact with a primitive apish creature and direct him to the means to chemically alter the brain and its development…to better grow a mind that can think, and create new thoughts, new ideas, a fitting house to grow spiritual beings that will then reach back and interact with a primitive, apish creature. Time and space are but potential in Adam Kadmon.

Everything God creates manifests itself to Man sooner or later. Sometimes God confronts him with the devil and the spirits in order to convince him of their existence. From the top of Heaven, he also sends the angels, his servants. Thus these beings appear to us, not in order to stay among us or become allied to us, but in order for us to become able to understand them. These apparitions are scarce, to tell the truth. But why should it be otherwise?

Paracelsus, Why These Beings Appear To Us

If you’ve ever studied UFO reports, you’ve heard of the Oz Effect. In the presence of UFO’s, and sometimes just in the presence of those ubiquitous Men in Black that seem to follow around after them like the hounds of the Wild Hunt, time goes nuts and space distorts. Sometimes people vanish and crowded streets become deserted, or libraries packed with students are suddenly empty. Hours pass in seconds. What is even more interesting during all this is the idea that the Men in Black often seem to want to prevent people from discussing UFO’s, and yet sometimes they seem almost to encourage such discussions. Speaking articulately with a slight accent Rojcewicz thought to be “European”, he asked what the young man was doing. A short conversation on UFO’s followed. When the stranger asked if he had ever seen a UFO, Rojcewicz said he was more interested in the moment in stories of flying saucers than in the question of whether UFO’s existed as physical spacecraft. The man suddenly shouted, “Flying saucers are the most important fact of the century, and you’re not interested?” It becomes compelling to consider all the times these black suited gentlemen seem to operate at cross purposes to themselves. John Keel, who often had run ins with a mysterious Man in Black who called himself ‘Mr. Apol’, argued that the man did not have an understanding of himself and was unable to tell the past apart from the future, that he was ‘a prisoner of our time frame’ who found himself moved from time to time with no volition and was even programmed to act as he did…“living – or existing – only so long as they could feed off the energy and minds of mediums and contactees.”

Keel defines all manner of monsters and spirits as ultraterrestrials that come from some place beyond time and space as we understand it, and in so doing he joins a long list of people to have a similar concept, going back to Mani himself (who saw angels and devils as incursions from the kingdom of the Father or the Lord of the Lie) and mimicking Charles Fort’s infamous dictum I think we’re fished for. Now imagine beings of pure mind descending from one of the higher levels of existence, a place of no time and no space where mind is body, shifting from ‘time’ to ‘time’ in our reality in order to perform the duty of manifestation. Perhaps there are factions who manifest for different reasons, or the same faction manifesting and it appears to be at cross purposes to us because we are limited to a fixed perspective in time and space. As these entities introject themselves into our explicate universe, they distort time by their mere presence, affecting the minds of those they contact…and being affected by them, in turn. Perhaps Keel, in his hostility to what he calls the games of the ultraterrestrials is actually missing the significance of what they are doing. Think back to the Men in Black as they warn some to talk not of UFO’s and question others about their experiences. What if what they are doing is attempting to control and channel the direction of our fancies?

We are prodigiously imaginitive. We think up things all the time. We imagine cosmologies, gods, monsters, demons, angels, aliens…and to these beings of Atzilut, thought is body. Our imaginations may well exist in their frame of reference…indeed, to beings who are mind and who can climb the ladder of worlds using the skeleton of the sephiroth as rungs, it is possible that our ominvorous ancestors created chemical colonists who broke the cage of fleshly existence and went forth into the higher world. The ‘gods’ may well be entirely descended from the first abstract thoughts we managed to cobble together using our manifold somas…and perhaps some of them don’t want any more competition. Indeed, try this exercise: I want you to conceive of an infinite emerald and purple serpent with wings that shred the night into tatters and fangs that drip pure hatred, whose body blazes with a fire of pure annihilation.

Congratulations. Somewhere in the Otherworld, at least two of those things are running amok. The one I created, and the one you created. So perhaps the Men in Black, the fair folk, the ultraterrestrials or whatever you want to call them are engaged in fighting the infinite fires of the human mind. Perhaps they are trying to create firebreaks. They build religions to direct our thoughts along myths they approve of (perhaps even struggling with rivals who have different directions) in an attempt to channel that enormous power of thought creation. If you live next to a raging river, you may well build a dam, and if you live near a hot spring you may sink a geothermal tap. Human minds may be the creators and the foundries and the factories of the mind born, and also the causes of their earthquakes and other calamities. And perhaps some of them get too close, and are torn asunder and pinned in the cage of fleshly existence itself, used as raw materials in our developing minds, what Mani called the great calamity. They made us because we made them make us, and they were made by us to make us capable of making anything, which made them by default, and therefore they exist only by our sufferance. Without us, they never would have existed…but now that they have existed, they always will, since time and space don’t exist where they dwell and they can move around what is an insurmountable barrier to us because it is not there for them.

It becomes fairly easy to look upon the contradictory messages of the beings of spirit…take, eat, it is my body versus you may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden save that of the tree of knowledge, say…the cults of the mushroom and other intoxicants being sacred to certain gods and reviled by others…the Manichean cage of fleshly existence locking the spirit in a debased evil state vs the Zohar’s message of ultimate reconciliation with flesh no more nor less evil than anything else…as antipathy towards the blessing that created the human mind, and thus human thoughts, and thus themselves. Without the minds of man, they would not exist at all, and yet the minds of man can conceive of almost anything, be it glorious or infernal, and to them thoughts are as real as anything. Most humans are almost incapable of not thinking (is Television perhaps a gambit to try and dull our thoughts and kill our imaginations…and was the trade-off worth flooding the realm of thought with game shows and Survivor, or are they now maddened by their own Sisyphean blunder, inundated with thoughts of grey banality so enervating that the cure is worse than the disease?) and so we are like a source of fire that provides life and yet can rage out of control, destroying and deforming. We can mutate the mindscape with a casual musing. Perhaps the beings who are as gods to us find us as gods to them?

I conceive of one inter-continuous nexus, in which and of which all seeming things are only different expressions, but in which all things are localizations of one attempt to break away and become real things, or to establish entity or positive difference or final demarcation or unmodified independence – or personality, or soul, as it is called in human phenomena – That anything that tries to establish itself as a real, or positive, or absolute system, government, organization, self, soul, entity, individuality, can so attempt only by drawing a line about itself, or about the inclusions that constitute itself, and damning or excluding, or breaking away from, all other “things”

Charles Fort, The Book of the Damned

Indeed, if we consider this cycle of timeless spaceless beings creating us as we are so that we might create them, we come upon the idea of localizations, of this breaking away to become real things that Fort spoke about. Or as Paracelsus put it, Everything God creates manifests itself to Man sooner or later. Sometimes God confronts him with the devil and the spirits in order to convince him of their existence. The entities come into more sharp existence, paradoxically, only when separated from Adam Kadmon where there is no definition, all is unity with no distinctions. You can only be by descending, walking the bridge of separator, and passing through the cage of fleshly existence. Only by divesting yourself of universality can you be distinct enough to be something, as opposed to everything. The Men in Black come to instill in us the idea to think about strange things, and in so doing make them more real by definition. The angels and demons and unicorns…even, perhaps, God itself can only exist as a distinct, real thing by being thought of…and thus is tikkun achieved, and the road back up walked. Perhaps the fall of the rebel host was an inability to see tikkun in the wake of tzimtzum, the constriction that shattered Ain Sof Aur and allowed the Tohu, or Chaos, to come into existence. Hesiod said “Verily, at the first, Chaos came to be” and without the coming to be of chaos, the defined order cannot come into existence.

Our minds are chaos. We think contradictory thoughts. We are large, we contain multitudes, to paraphrase Mr. Whitman. Call us Legion, for we are many. We create angels and demons alike…we bring nurturing Hathor and raging Sekhmet into existence, we dream up the means to repair great injury and the means to inflict it. We imagine worlds that never were. And perhaps in all our imaginings, we are the means by which God creates the mosaic of the universe…never ourselves seeing the whole, always limited by our position as both spirit and matter, mind and flesh, and yet taking part in the art. The individual tiles of the Pankrator’s eye.

We are the music-makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

Arthur O’Shaughnessy, Ode

Take pity on the gods and monsters, please, and try and think good thoughts for a little while. And if you can’t do that, at least try and be interesting in the great calamities you visit upon them. The gods are flies to we wanton babes, who kill them for our sport. Hail Soma, and hail the mushroom and the meat, who made of us poor shaggy things the killers and creators of the world above.

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