Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Brief and Terrible Intermission

Pantaloon - Doug Nox
Oh blood and bone and clocks and trains
My coat will keep you from the rain
Alas our love is all in vain
The briar and the rose

I will not wait, I cannot thread
The tenor of the things you've said
My love is true and we must wed
The briar and the rose

I don't know how, I don't know why
I never meant to make you cry
My love is blind and so I chose
The briar and the rose
- the Briar and the Rose

Occasionally, if you want to call yourself a sorcerer and not a ‘student of magic’ you have to let it all hang out there.  And I don’t mean endless cascades of words you found in books and your opinions on them, though that certainly isn’t the worst thing you could do.  I mean you have to give up the safety of convention and see how far your juju can carry you.  You have to test the model of the world you have unconsciously constructed in that meat machine against the chaos of the world as it is.  I miss the heady days of dangerous magic and dangerous magicians.  Crowley with his drug use and experimental sex.  Parsons with his polyamoury and crazy science.  Burroughs with his renegade philosophy and blatant homosexuality.  When the mad cabalist Charlie Jones returned to Canada after his falling out with Crowley he stripped naked and ran around the airport until he was arrested for indecent exposure, all to get the ‘UK out his system’.  Spare, even P. B. Randolph all have possessed what can only be described as idea’s which were a clear and present danger to the status quo.  They were fucking rock stars.

If some aspect of your sorcerous model exists solely to validate that false construct then it will break against the world as it is.  I call this ‘finding the handle’.  After many years of mercenarial work I can safely say that I have been burned a lot, certainly more than the average student of magic, devout Wiccan or pious neophyte.  As my old friend Mr. VI told me when I complained about it in the early years, “you can’t spend all day wandering around a battlefield and then complain when you get shot.”  The sheer volume of burns and nails flying about porn valley at any given moment is pretty ridiculous.  I think that has to be one of the most heavily ensorcelled pieces of real estate in the world and perhaps history.  A great many of those nixes just roll right off because they are really meant for me at all, they are meant for someone’s idea of me.  A burn meant to punish me for being the devil incarnate will not be terribly effective because I am not actually the devil incarnate (a devil perhaps but certainly not the devil).  Much more problematic are burns getting slung without any personal malice (the ‘it’s just business’ burn) or my own work getting efficiently cycled back to me (I call this ‘going Frankenstein’).

Besides an enthusiastic and regimented cleansing and clearing routine the best way I learned to keep the fallout from becoming unbearable was to become largely indestructible.  Also known as, learning some esoteric Buddhism.  I am not talking shallow appropriation here either; I would like to emphasize here how little good a stature of Buddha will do on your altar.  If there is a deity (wrong word for a Buddha but if you are thinking a statue on your altar is the way to go, it’s how you are thinking about it) that cares less about the fact that you are getting burned I don’t know what it would be.  I mean the spiritual mechanics at work under the hood.  Especially, the ideas of ‘attachment’ and the ‘poisons’.  Namely, that as conscious beings we place an undue amount of significance and emotional validity on particular by-products of our sensory organs.  The notion that time and space are inherently illusory, insofar as we perceive them with our eye’s and ear’s and hand’s and what-not is obviously logical, western philosophers have been riding that meal ticket for centuries but it breaks down on the rocks of personal experience.  We get attached, to pleasure, to fear, to love and through these attachments we accrue karma because we are invested in an illusion.  Karma is the scrunched up newspaper to the bonfire of any magical working.  So being ‘indestructible’ in a magical sense is to be without attachment.  Without the accumulation of karma the burn can’t ‘find a handle’.

The key here however, is realizing that being impervious to the fallout does not equate to feeling no pain.  It is embracing the pain, the sense of loss, inhabiting it and allowing it to pass through you.  In this way the karma is cleansed and a more meaningful perspective is achieved.  Sometimes of the ways you yourself have contributed to your problems, sometimes that the thing which you feared was not the end of the world, sometimes that the catharsis of grief and loss is the way to beauty.  The black Buddha-sage Dharmaraja is a refuge in times of turmoil like that, during the Ordeals and Pilgrimages of our sort, wandering peregrine about the hellscapes gathering his devotee’s from among the devils and fox spirits.  I count myself among that number, no less a child of the nail because of it, perhaps in a sense more truly a child always a child because of it.  In this sense, an effective burn is a gift of the Buddha’s that reveals to us some hitherto secret accumulation of karma.

Crowley and Burroughs and the others I mentioned at the outset, they didn’t just come into this world capable of seeing through the veil of social convention and morality.  For most of them in fact, it was quite the opposite.  They obtained to a perspective beyond the social norm because of a willingness to examine the fallout of the illusions that hold those conventions in place and evaluate their true value in their own lives.  Among the figures of the Burlesque, normative social mores are embodied by Pantaloon or as we have come to call him, ‘the Idiot’.  In the old plays he embodies the limitations of the status quo, of class and income disparity, of honor and obligation, of sexual roles and dynamics.  He always represents the obstacle which must be surmounted by the lovers to achieve union but he is not so easily defeated.  He is always both sides of the coin of conventional morality.  The old Pastor demanding pious chastity while lecherously lusting after Columbine, the old Father demanding familial piety while he defies the wishes of his son or daughter.  Regardless of the story, it is his presence that necessitates the involvement of the devil Harlequin, only a trickster can negotiate the self-validating dualisms of the cultural norm because as a liminal figure he can observe them from beyond their borders as a complete thing which can be objectified and manipulated.


Honoring the Idiot is a tricksy business because he/she is always both ends of a dualism.  Every honorific is simultaneously an insult, every gift he might bestow simultaneously a curse.  At the most basic and profound levels the spirit which fills this mask is akin to Azathoth, mad beyond reason.  It cannot be contained in a narrative arc because it defies grammar and syntax, remakes them over and over into endless cascades of meaning.  I had contemplated writing this entire piece without any grammatical structure whatsoever but decided in the end that would be a bit too hipster douche bag of me.  There is a real value in this figure and it serves nothing to cloud it with clever misdirection.  That is a bag of tricks best left to Harlequin.  The Idiot is best honored in the absence of pomp and circumstance, in the acceptance of the good with the bad, the sad with the happy, the gain with the loss, his presence is automatic in action in which we challenge the comfort of our cultural norms or the safety of the status quo.  The spirit that fills that mask is the spirit of the world and he can only embrace it by giving ourselves over to it.  To be manhandled and molested and challenged in our preconceived notions.  To love bravely, most importantly that, to love bravely in the face of loss and grief knowing that one’s heart cannot break before it has been filled to bursting.

1 comment: