Monday, March 11, 2013

Chasing Pidgins

or A Brief Return to the Shores of Fitzrovia

A.O. Spare.  I am just going to come right out and say it, I think this dude is a bit over-rated.  Not in a dismissive sort of way, just that we don’t really examine his work with a critical eye.  Given the last hundred years or so of Eclectic, Discordian and Chaos magic we can say with some authority that the whole alphabet of desire thing only kind of works if it is isolated from the rest of Spare’s praxis.  In reality Spare spent a lot more time on his theory of Atavistic Resurgence, which was the product of his automatic drawing and writing.  Essentially, a sort of spiritual reduction of Darwinian Evolution in which all stages of the evolution of the human animal found some hidden expression within the unconscious.  Originally, Spare claimed he developed the alphabet of desire as a result of studying hieroglyphics in Egypt during his war service but no one mentions that anymore because it was in reality a big fucking lie, no one is perfect right.  He most likely didn’t refuse Hitler a portrait either.  It was the Second World War, peeps be crazy.

I like Spare, don’t get me wrong but there is a sort of depressing linearity to Darwinian models.  It’s never a this and that scenario, it’s always either/or.  To Spare the unconscious was moar primal moar sexual moar powerz, it was the phenomenon of animal consciousness always fully utilizing its physical form.  This was the popular conception at the time, that the ego was some sort of wizard-retarding engram that had to be permanently excised so that you could release the true potential of your inner Thetan.  This whole period in British occulture owes Nietzsche and his pet ubermensche a great deal.  Spare was highly critical of emerging psychological models that invalidated the static system of consciousness that gave rise to Nietzsche and his supermen, like those of Freud and Jung, which cast his perception of himself as the Steppenwolf as a bit of childish whimsy.

Still, there is the implication of the Consciousness Pidgin Gordon and I have been pontificating around.  He has his little pseudo-hieroglyphs which he meditated (read: jizzed) on and a regular praxis of engaging with automatic functions of consciousness through art. 

Enter King Mob.  “The “hypersigil” or “supersigil” develops the sigil concept beyond the static image and incorporates elements such as characterization, drama, and plot. The hypersigil is a sigil extended through the fourth dimension. My own comic book series The Invisibles was a six-year long sigil in the form of an occult adventure story which consumed and recreated my life during the period of its composition and execution. The hypersigil is an immensely powerful and sometimes dangerous method for actually altering reality in accordance with intent.”  (Grant Morrison, Pop Magic, The Book Of Lies.)   Let it be known that I am quoting Morrison not because he is the preeminent voice on the subject but rather because he is the loudest.  I think statements like ‘extended through the fourth dimension’ sound like a lot of cock-talk.  Essentially, the elements of psycho-drama usually expressed through the vehicle of ceremonial ritual are re-introduced.

We can reinforce this understanding by travelling a bit farther back than the comicbook sorcerors of the 80’s to William Burroughs and Brion Gyson and the ‘Cut-Up’ technique.  The Cut-Up first appears as a bit of Dadaist method.  Gyson ‘rediscovered’ the technique after laying out newspaper on a tabletop to protect it while he used a razor to cutup lines of text for a collage he was working on.  As he worked away he noticed that the new juxtapositions created between the now highly randomized lines and layers of text began to emerge as lucid, meaningful prose, he and Burroughs found great meaning in this.  The result of that first collaborative exploration was the book Minutes to Go.  You can read an essay by Burroughs on the concept here.

Stay with me here.  Gordon is doing this as well.  Social media as it currently works over the internet functions along those lines we have just illuminated.  It is a seemingly random stream of personally relevant information that reveals the narrative or your life without your intending it to.  You cut it up, that photo is flattering, you feel sad and want arbitrary well wishes from strangers, dick pics, twitter links to the contemporary events in which you see your own world view reflected back at you.  It is a meta-narrative that you generate out of seeming errata.

When that cloud of sigils on the bizarro mirror anchors itself into that meta-narrative, that pretty thoroughly fits our classic definition of a hypersigil and perhaps effectuates the whole thing more gracefully than old King Mob ever could have.  Gordon is not a fiction, he is not using a fiction to facilitate his schooling desire and so his hypersigil is never derailed by that air of fabrication that haunts both Mob and Morrison.  Burroughs and Gyson believed that the narrative was innate, that we as a species imply it even when it isn’t there, that ‘narrative’ was one of those automatic functions of consciousness.  The bizarro Gordon that looks out from that bizarro mirror all ensconced in sorcerous doodles is the wizard of Runesoup who exists solely on Royal flotillas, or drinking in ancient Fitzrovia.  When the British drought of 2012 was broken we were left with only two possible explanations.  I know because I read them on Runesoup, firstly that Gordon the wizard of Runesoup was the greatest western wizard in ages (that was the first possibility and frankly the most obvious) and second was the fact that everyone was wrong and there was never in fact going to be a drought (all of western science was wrong [EDIT:   "All of western science" is an ambitious description for 3 chicken littles in the MetOffice. ] ).  Gordon goes on to argue a retrocausal action based on the second explanation but none of us are convinced are we, even that makes so much sense it accidentally reinforces the first explanation.  Even the science done by the wizard of Runesoup is more sensible and pragmatic than everyone else’s.

“The hypersigil is a dynamic miniature model of the magician’s universe, a hologram, microcosm, or “voodoo doll” which can be manipulated in real time to produce changes in the macrocosmic environment of “real” life.”  That’s our benevolent King Mob from Pop Magic again.  I am finishing on that quote because I like how “real” life is in quotations.  I am real, so are you.  When Gordon posted his drought-breaking enchantment the sorcerous potential of that work was no longer limited to what he himself could envision but rather it found a new horizon in what we collectively envisioned or most reasonably some interplay between the two.  The world as it exists perceived by me (or you) is just as ‘real’ as the one you perceive and the dialogue between the two is an arbitrary cut-up upon which we impose narrative significance. 

I think the pitfalls of obsession and delusion like those which plagued Morrison at times regarding his self-association to an overly simplified cartoon or Spare’s Atavistic Resurgence (which would be better known as ‘Anthropomorphize All Da Tings’) can be readily circumvented by just not imposing a fabricated narrative on the hypersigil, by not insisting on an unreality.  I think Gordon did in fact break the drought (as crusty hillbilly this kind of juju is par for the course and I don’t personally find it difficult to conceive of the wizard of Runesoup changing the weather,) because he imposed no ‘unreality’ on his hypersigil.  There was no disconnect between what I thought Gordon capable of and those ritual actions he intended to take all along. 

That’s my theory anyway.  


  1. Disagree with your reading of Spare. He may be over-rated but I think chaos magic reductionism did everyone a disservice.

    I think you're doing Spare a massive disservice with tis whole chunk: "To Spare the unconscious was moar primal moar sexual moar powerz, it was the phenomenon of animal consciousness always fully utilizing its physical form. This was the popular conception at the time, that the ego was some sort of wizard-retarding engram that had to be permanently excised so that you could release the true potential of your inner Thetan. This whole period in British occulture owes Nietzsche and his pet ubermensche a great deal."

    Spare was about using Art as Arte to accomplish something - the physical power thing is only an isolated example.

    *ducks and runs*

    1. Seriously, you're using Ego in a completely different way to Spare does in his writings. He was rather fond of it.

      And bollocks was it Nirtzsche that influenced British Occulture - it was more Eastern/Indian Philosophy than Continental and bog standard Western Philosophy.

      See Blavatsky & Crowley, and even the translations of Taoism etc of the time period.

    2. Really, I agree with you here, which is why I reference his process at the outset. I didn't mean to limit the scope of those 'powerz' with that critique, just having a bit of fun at his expense because I really don't think we are collectively critical of his work.

      I think that reductionism was a problem to, which is why I mention his life long occupation with Atavism and how it has to be a component of our examination of his sigil work.

      If your going to be fair, you have to concede that Chaos Magic got it's casual reductionism from Spare, at least in part. If he must fall on that knife then so be it.

    3. I say Bollocks to your bollocks.

      Nietzsche was huge and everyone was arguing at that moment about what it was he was trying to say. Cuz of that whole Hitler thing.

      Crowley and Blavatsky had about as good a grasp on Eastern spiritual philosophy as they did on Egyptian religion. This was not a time of cultural sympathy on the part of the British. They appropriated they did not embrace.

      I don't think Spare ever equated what he did with Tantra, I think it was Kenneth Grant that got that ball rolling. I could be wrong. I am pretty sure Spare had his Darwin/Nietzsche blend socks and never took them off and because of that his idea's surrounding consciousness are a bit naive.

    4. Um...what time period are you talking of? Hitler is 1930s. Book of Pleasure is first decade of the 20th century. Nietzsche himself is a product of a European climate which was full of Ariosophy. Spare had obviously been influenced by Nietzsche's writing style - or rather, the style of 19th Century iconoclasts (see Anathema of Zos for a Zarathustra analogue) but to say its down to ubermenschen lacks understanding on the 19th Century and early 20th century millieu.

      I agree the Europeans weren't sympathetic, they ruthlessly pilfered and altered Eastern teachings. Nevertheless, they were highly influential on British occulture, more so than German philosophical writings.

      Reuss and Kellner were more influential on the scene than Nietzsche, to say nothing of Steiner or Grosche/Gregorius and that happened through Crowley's synthesis and appropriation.

      You're right in a sense - Spare's association with 'tantra' only occurs during his relationship with Grant, and not before that, though he saw the value of taboo breaking etc.

      My problem with your argument is that you've grossly simplified thjings down to Nietsche and Hitler, which presents a caricature of what the actual climate was pre WWII

    5. Oh no you don't. I know when you lot start tossing around fancy terms like 'millieu' I have already lost.

      I really don't have a great grasp on that timeline, you do have me there. But weren't the German philosophers the ones to pretty much shape how Europe understood the Eastern cosmologies? Perhaps I am oversimplifying that again, I will differ on this point if you will offer some clarification. (I guess the 'period' were discussing is Spares life.)

      I think Spare was in some senses in the business of caricature and I think that's why it was easy to reject more nuanced perspectives on his process. That Darwinian thing trumped philosophy for a while the Ariosophy (you mentioned and then subsequently had to explain over messenger because I had no idea what that was) is an excellent example.

      Darwin was BIOLOGICAL SCIENCEZ, he trumped everything else and it was to his grave that Spare made his pilgrimage. Spare was amazing at condensing his social collective into a caricature, brilliant and accurate caricatures.

      I agree that the grand spread was more nuanced than I am making it out to be here but I don't think that Spare was. Actually, I think he prided himself on his simplicity.

  2. I'll second VI on your squirrelly understanding of early twentieth-century European intellectual culture, but that's really neither here nor there when it comes to the most powerful remark in your whole essay (imho): "Burroughs and Gyson believed that the narrative was innate, that we as a species imply it even when it isn’t there, that ‘narrative’ was one of those automatic functions of consciousness." The power and implications of that statement and how you expand on it are SO essential and vast. And your average magic blogger or reader will totally miss it because it doesn't have anything to do with candles, tools, strange smelling oils, or objects with sinister-looking symbols scrawled on them. But narrative really is the name of the game. (Disclaimer: I have a whole chest full of candles, tools, strange smelling oils, and objects with sinister-looking symbols scrawled on them, but I'm sure you get what I mean.

    1. My thinking is that narrative is how we process pattern recognition, that when you get out of the way its innate, retrocausal the way Gordon is discussing in his earlier blog. Glad you liked it.

    2. And the hypersigil is the virtual meta-narrative that our ever sense producing mind is projecting over/in all that actually occuring sub-narratives? That's nice. Then the hypersigil is the big statement of intend that structures all the intentions that the subnarratives are stating? :)

  3. God isn't dead, he just went underground.