Saturday, December 21, 2013

Piphilology: Mnemonics for Pi: O, lest the world should task you to recite


More of the Memory Project. Memorization of poems, prose, songs, lists are all enhanced by the meaningful context, syntax, semantics, cause and effect, mathematical sequence and chronology. Spiritual, mental, emotional and physical associations arise, in a manner or speaking, out of the thing being committed to memory. What it means to learn something "by heart."

Then there is the mathematical constant π: the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter:  3.14 as it is most commonly known. It is an irrational number, infinite with no repeats. As far as memory is concerned, it has an aura of purity around it. Pure memorization. No rhyme or reason to it. Nothing to lock on to. Just an endless series of numbers.

The current record holder is Mr. Chao Lu from China, who on November 20th, 2005 spent 24 hours and 4 minutes reciting Pi to 67,890 places. In an interview, he said that it took him a year to memorize that many digits. In 2006, Krishan Chahal from India recited Pi to 43,000 places in 5 hours and 21 minutes. It is worth noting that the youngest person on the Pi World Ranking List is 6 year-old Sarianna Kuuttila, who recited Pi to 20 digits in 4.47 seconds.

There are many methods for memorizing Pi. Piphilology is the study of mnemonic techniques for Pi. Since I use poetry and music as primary mnemonic aids, I was interested to find two mnemonic poems to Pi. The first, composed by Jill Britton, is relatively easy and most people might be surprised that they can memorize Pi to 31 places (note that the number of letters in the word correspond to Pi):

Sir, I bear a rhyme excelling
In mystic force and magic spelling
Celestial sprites elucidate
All my own striving can’t relate
Or locate they who can cogitate
And so finally terminate. Finis.


The second is more interesting. Created by Joel Doerfel as part of his Neon Shakespeare Project , it uses a clever mnemonic technique of, what he calls "synathesia" - a sort of derivation of a number from the homophonetic sound of the word or phonetic elements of the word. In Japan, there is a form of wordplay called Goroawase similar to this. By using this method for the duration of 14 line sonnet, with approximately 10 "number-sounds" per line, you can memorize Pi to 140 places.

I must admit that as fascinating as the video is, the recitation leaves something to be desired as for as a helpful mnemonic device. So, I have taken the liberty of doing an interlinear "translation" below to assist with memorization.

From Poems that Rhyme with Pi:
This sonnet is an experiment in synaesthesia. Why rhyme with pi? What's the relation between sound and number? What happens to our ears when we hear pi reinforce itself with repetitive numbers? What happens to our ears when we hear a poem reinforce itself with repetitive sounds? This sonnet explores these questions and more...

Sonnet 72 
dreams number us like pi. runes shift. nights rewind
daytime pleasure-piles. dream-looms create our id.
moods shift. words deviate. needs brew. pleasures rise.
time slows. too late? wait! foreign minds live in
us! quick-minds, free-minds, minds-we-never-mind,
unknown, gyrate! neuro-rhymes measure our
minds, for our minds rhyme. crude ego-emanations
distort nodes. id, (whose basic neuro-spacetime rhymes),
plays its tune. space drones before fate unites
dreams' lore to unsung measures. whole dimensions
gyrate. new number-games donate quick minds and
weave through fate's loom. fears, hopes, digits, or devils
collide here—labor stored in gold-mines, lives, lightcone-
piles. fate loops through dreams and pleasure-looms...


dreams number us like pi. runes shift. nights rewind
    3.       1     4    1   5    9      2      6        5        3    5       
daytime pleasure-piles. dream-looms create our id.
  8    9          7         9         3         2      3   8     4   6        
moods shift. words deviate. needs brew. pleasures rise.
    2         6       4        3 3 8     3         2          7          9     
time slows. too late? wait! foreign minds live in
   5        0     2     8      8        4    1      9          7       
us! quick-minds, free-minds, minds-we-never-mind,
  1     6         9        3      9          9        3    7         5     
unknown, gyrate! neuro-rhymes measure our
   1    0         5   8    2    0     9          7          4             
minds, for our minds rhyme. crude ego-emanations
   9         4    4    5          9           2     3  0    7    8   1     
distort nodes. id, (whose basic neuro-spacetime rhymes),
  6    4    0        6     2         8  6    2  0     8      9      9       
plays its tune. space drones before fate unites
  8      6     2       8        0       3    4     8   2    5             
dreams’ lore to unsung measures. whole dimensions
   3          4    2   1    1      7                0       6      7      
gyrate. new number-games donate quick minds and
 9  8        2    1     4     8         0   8      6      5        1     
weave through fate’s loom. fears, hopes, digits, or devils
  3         2            8     2           3       0           6 6    4    7
collide here—labor stored in gold-mines, lives, lightcone-
  0   9     3        8   4    4       6    0      9          5       5    0 
piles. fate loops through dreams and pleasure-looms….
5          8      2       2            3        1       7         2  

And here is Sonnet 72 from Shakespeare:

O, lest the world should task you to recite
What merit lived in me, that you should love
After my death, -- dear love, forget me quite,
For you in me can nothing worthy prove;
Unless you would devise some virtuous lie,
To do more for me than mine own desert,
And hang more praise upon deceased I
Than niggard truth would willingly impart:
O, lest your true love may seem false in this,
That you for love speak well of me untrue,
My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me nor you.
For I am sham'd by that which I bring forth,
And so should you, to love things nothing worth.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Wheel of Mnemonic Correspondences for the Hebrew Alphabet and the Major Arcana

Wheel of Mnemonic Correspondences

Recently, in accordance with a memory project that I am working on, I was searching for a Mnemonic Wheel that would align the correspondences between the Hebrew Alphabet and the Major Arcana of the Tarot.  My interest is not so much in the Kabbalistic qualities of the system but in those symbols which facilitate memory. My sense of it is that the Mnemonic and Kabbalistic are not far apart. However, after some searching, I could not find anything suitable. So I made my own.


The outermost circle of Roman Numbers, excepting 0, is the ordinal sequence for the Rider-Waite Tarot.

The next circle is the Hebrew Alphabet.

Below this is the circle of attributes corresponding to the letters of the alphabet.

Below this are the letters for the cards in the Major Arcana of the Rider-Waite Tarot.

Next are the numbers associated with the Hebrew Alphabet.

Then, the attributes associated with each Major Arcana cards.

In the center is the Tree of Life or 10 Sephirot - to which the Major Arcana also have correspondence.

I have found it a helpful mnemonic tool for both the Hebrew Alphabet, the Major Arcana and the Sephirot. A sub-chapel in the Memory Cathedral.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Colin Wilson Is Dead


Colin Wilson died on December 5th.

From Colin Wilson World:

It is with sadness and regret that I have to report that Colin Wilson passed away on the evening of Thursday December 5, peacefully, in hospital. His wife Joy and daughter Sally were with him. He was 82. After a serious spinal operation in 2011, Colin suffered a stroke, the effects of which he was unable to overcome, and in October this year he was taken into hospital suffering from pneumonia, although later he was allowed home. 

Many years ago, I was traveling through Cornwall and had an opportunity to meet Colin Wilson. On the verge of walking up to his door, I stopped and turned away. At the time, I was an enthusiastic reader. Had read almost everything he had written. I had journeyed down to Cornwall in a large part to see if I could meet him, spend the afternoon with him in "deep philosophical discussion." However, some guiding impulse, thankfully, stopped me.

I often think about why I chose to not meet Wilson. I have played out scenarios that range from icy British door slamming receptions to welcoming dinners followed by late night conversations. (From what I have read, he regularly received uninvited guests with welcome and warmth.) Over the years, through working in bookstores and for the Texas Book Festival, I have met many authors. It was not from anything like shyness that I turned away. More of an understanding, there on his doorstep, that I didn't need to meet him. Everything was there for me in the books. Colin Wilson was an excellent Virgil for me when I was younger. Introducing me to many influential writers, artists, poets, philosophers, saints. I was thankful for this and, perhaps, should have just knocked on the door to shake his hand, say thanks and leave. The half-ironic, half-amusing question here is: what would an authentic outsider have done?

Every time I open The Outsider, I am reminded of how excited he was about his subject. How crucial a poem or a piece of music or a quote was to his intellectual development. It was intensely personal. Life or death. Ideas as dangerous as climbing a mountain or walking a tightrope. The Outsider, Religion and the Rebel, Introduction to the New Existentialism, Beyond the Outsider, The Mind Parasites, The Philosophers Stone, God of the Labyrinth and Anti-Sartre all stand out as his best work - resonating with the same passionate intensity as The Outsider. All of his biographies are insightful introductions. 

I tried to follow along into the occult and crime but never found them intellectually compelling. I took great joy and humor in reading his novels of ideas, delighting at a character's "Wilsonian moments" of insight and increased consciousness. The Spiderworld series is one of the most entertaining in this regard.

I smile still when in conversation I stumble through a Wilsonian metaphor: it was as if I had been seeing the world with a tiny flashlight and suddenly figured out how to turn on the overhead lights; my entire life I had been playing only a few piano keys, simple melodies, now I have the full range of the keyboard; I was trying to drive the car in first gear, not realizing I could shift into third or fourth and do the same thing with less energy, etc.. And I am always pleasantly surprised to return to one of his books and note that the occasion where I was first introduced to a lifelong influence: how perplexing and strange it was to me then and how natural it is to me now. Much to be grateful for here.

However, I have to confess there remains a faint ember of hope that a genuinely rigorous and profound philosophical work might be posthumously published - something like a mix of Boethius' Consolation and Wittgenstein's Tractatus. (Oddly, Kazantzakis' Saviors of God shimmers in the crux.) I recall a comment of Wilson's that The Outsider owed a considerable debt to Reinhold Niebhur's Nature and Destiny of Man. After reading some Niebhur, I found this comment puzzling and glib. Still it planted a fanciful seed of suspicion that in the midst of generating his prolific corpus of books-he-could-write-in-his-sleep, there was The Work. All of the luminous promise that filtered through the assembled blinds of The Outsider would be revealed. However, there is nothing to indicate Wilson ever thought of his work as having not been entirely explained. His work did not gather around any doubt or aporia. "Dogged optimism" haunted him to the end.

[ From 2005. ]

One of the authors that I used to seriously collect was Colin Wilson. At one point in my life, his books - especially the Outsider Series - were like maps, guiding me through unknown territories. I eagerly hunted down everything in and out of print. And in those dark pre-Amazon days, it was a real triumph of discovery to find a copy of the long out-of-print Beyond the Outsider, signed by Wilson, on the dusty lower shelf in an old bookstore.

I am still a great fan of his work. I will admit that his prolific ventures through the fields of the occult and crime have left me somewhat cold. But I retain a great fondness for his earlier "philosophical" books and fiction. Consequently, I was a bit dismayed, slightly amused, to read the recent round of reviews for his latest book, the autobiography, Dreaming to Some Purpose. In particular, the non-review by Lynn Barber in The Guardian made me wince with its winking venom, reminding me of the initial backlash to The Outsider and the rest of the Angry Young Men.

So I was delighted to have it brought to my attention (by the inimitable Jeff G.) that there has arisen something of a defense of Wilson and his work - in the New York Times, no less.

The full article has been reproduced below. However, before that, I have included an autobiographical review I wrote on The Outsider several years ago for the now defunct

I first encountered Wilson during my dreadful freshman year at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. A friend of mine from high school, Bill, who had opted not to attend college, was working nearby at Taylor's Bookstore on Northwest Highway. Often I would stop by between, and sometimes during, classes to chat about what he was reading and see if anything interesting had come in.

One day Bill approached me as soon as I walked in the door, handed me a book and said, "Buy this. Forget everything else. Go home and read this now." High recommendation from someone usually reticent towards praise. The book was The Mind Parasites by Colin Wilson, published in an unusual style by Wingbow Press. On the back there was an intriguing quote from Wilson stating the novel should attack reality like an axe cutting into a tree. That plus Bill's enthusiasm was enough for me. I purchased the book and read it as an excuse to skip classes for the rest of the day. Late that night, when I closed the covers of the book, I realized that something as yet indefinable, but significant, had changed in my perspective on the world.

I returned to Taylor's the next day to discover what other books had been written by Wilson. There were several on the occult, a companion to The Mind Parasites called The Philosopher's Stone and a work called The Outsider. Of course I bought The Philosopher's Stone and also picked up The Outsider. Mid-way through The Philosopher's Stone, I became so stimulated by the ideas and the possibilities, the I opened up The Outsider to see if it explored the same issues.

I skipped past the Marilyn Ferguson foreword and the introduction by Wilson, to the first chapter, "The Country of the Blind". And from that first sentence, "At first sight, the Outsider is a social problem", and then, the quote from Barbusse ending with the line, "It is not a woman I want - it is all women, and I seek for them in those around me, one by one...", I was shot through with the hook, the line and the sinker for the "philosophy" of Colin Wilson.

I finished The Philosopher's Stone and began a deep reading of The Outsider- again neglecting most of my classes. When I did attend, it was as if I were participating in a surreal experiment of Outsiderism. What the professors were trying to teach me was utterly irrelevant to the life that was opening before me. And what my classmates wanted to discuss was even more banal and dead to me. I felt the "nausea" of Roquentin on an acute level, hours after having first read about it in The Outsider. And I came to the verge of recognizing that my college education was a complete sham when I got to chapter five, "The Pain Threshold" where Wilson cites the question by William James:

Does it not appear as if one who lived habitually on one side of the pain threshold might need a different sort of religion from one who habitually lived on the other?

For many years after, The Outsider and the "outsider series" were guiding and teaching texts to me. I took it upon myself to read as many of the primary works referenced as I could. I soon dropped out of college and began what was to be a life of working in book stores. During this time, I carried around a paper inscribed with these "conclusions" by Wilson:

  • The Outsider wants to cease to be an Outsider.
  • He wants to be 'balanced'.
  • He wants to achieve a vividness of sense-perception.
  • He would also like to understand the human soul and its workings.
  • He would like to escape triviality forever, and be 'possessed' by a Will to power, to more life.
  • Above all, he would like to know how to express himself, because that is the means by which he can get to know himself and his unknown possibilities.

Below this, were the two discoveries about the Outsider's 'way':

  • That his salvation 'lies in extremes'.
  • That the idea of a way out often comes in 'visions', moments of intensity, etc.

The Outsider was one of the first books directly responsible, in an extreme and literal sense, for vast changes in the manner in which I lived my life. It was not just that my perspective was altered, but that important life decisions were generated and nurtured under its influence. That a book could have such power was simply amazing to one who had been educated such as I had been. Since then, thankfully, there have been many "life changing" books for me.

Ross MacDonald once remarked that there are certain writers that once were the heart and soul of your direction, that one day you come to be able to "see around" them. (Shakespeare, he added, was one that you could never "see around".) To a certain extent, I can now "see around" The Outsider - and not without a measure of sorrow. I still find myself returning to it often for "tuning". And I am still surprised when I dig into the roots of a current theme and discover what led me there initially, long ago, was a reference from The Outsider.

Although the book was written nearly fifty years ago, it still retains much of its relevance. I understand that there is a peculiar folly in "backward thinking", but in many ways the issues that were of concern to the "intellectuals" of the 1950s are even more prevalent today. Of course, the questions of value and meaning of human existence are bound up in the nature of what defines consciousness. However, the problems of alienation of self in a society that is morally, intellectually and theologically bankrupt have never been more critical. Perhaps this is why that of all of Wilson's books, The Outsider has been kept in print longer and more often than any other.

And, now, here is the NYT defense of Wilson that appeared August 17, 2005:

Philosopher of Optimism Endures Negative Deluge By Brad Spurgeon

Gorran Haven, Britain - Any intellectual who divides opinion as much as Colin Wilson has for almost 50 years must be onto something, even if it is only whether humans should be pessimistic or optimistic.

Mr. Wilson, who turned 74 in June and whose autobiography, "Dreaming to Some Purpose," recently appeared in paperback from Arrow, describes in the first chapter how he made his own choice. The son of working-class parents from Leicester - his father was in the boot and shoe trade - he was forced to quit school and go to work at 16, even though his ambition was to become "Einstein's successor." After a stint in a wool factory, he found a job as a laboratory assistant, but he was still in despair and decided to kill himself.

On the verge of swallowing hydrocyanic acid, he had an insight: there were two Colin Wilsons, one an idiotic, self-pitying teenager and the other a thinking man, his real self.

The idiot, he realized, would kill them both.

"In that moment," he wrote, "I glimpsed the marvelous, immense richness of reality, extending to distant horizons."

Achieving such moments of optimistic insight has been his goal and subject matter ever since, through more than 100 books, from his first success, "The Outsider," published in 1956, when he was declared a major existentialist thinker at 24, to the autobiography.

In an interview last month at his home of nearly 50 years on the Cornish coast, Mr. Wilson was as optimistic as ever, even though his autobiography and his life's work have come under strong attack in some quarters.

"What I wanted to do was to try to create a philosophy upon a completely new foundation," he said, sitting in his living room along with a parrot, two dogs and part of his collection of 30,000 books and as many records. "Whereas in the past optimism had been regarded as rather shallow - because 'oh well, it's just your temperament, you happen to be just a cheerful sort of person' - what I wanted to do was to establish that in fact it is the pessimists who are allowing all kinds of errors to creep into their work."

He includes in that category writers like Hemingway and philosophers like Sartre. In books on sex, crime, psychology and the occult, and in more than a dozen novels, Mr. Wilson has explored how pessimism can rob ordinary people of their powers.

"If you asked me what is the basis of all my work," he said, "it's the feeling there's something basically wrong with human beings. Human beings are like grandfather clocks driven by watch springs. Our powers appear to be taken away from us by something."

The critics, particularly in Britain, have alternately called him a genius and a fool. His autobiography, published in hardcover last year, has received mixed reviews. Though lauded by some, the attacks on it and Mr. Wilson have been as virulent as those he provoked in the 1950's after he became a popular culture name with the publication of "The Outsider."

That book dealt with alienation in thinkers, artists and men of action like T. E. Lawrence, van Gogh, Camus and Nietzsche, and caught the mood of the age. Critics, including Cyril Connolly and Philip Toynbee, hailed Mr. Wilson as a British version of the French existentialists.

His fans ranged from Muammar el-Qaddafi to Groucho Marx, who asked his British publisher to send a copy of his own autobiography to three people in Britain: Winston Churchill, Somerset Maugham and Colin Wilson.

"The Outsider" was translated into dozens of languages and sold millions of copies. It has never been out of print.

The Times of London called Mr. Wilson and John Osborne - another young working-class man, whose play "Look Back in Anger" opened about the same time "The Outsider" was published - "angry young men." That name was passed on to others of their generation, including Kingsley Amis, Alan Sillitoe and even Doris Lessing.

But fame brought its own problems for Wilson. His sometimes tumultuous early personal life became fodder for gossip columnists. He was still married to his first wife while living with his future second wife, Joy. His publisher, Victor Gollancz, urged him to leave the spotlight, and he and Joy moved to Cornwall.

But the publicity had done its damage. His second book, "Religion and the Rebel," was panned and his career looked dead.

Mr. Wilson said the episode had actually saved him as a writer, however. "Too much success gets you resting on your laurels and creates a kind of quicksand that you can't get out of," he said. "So I was relieved to get out of London."

He said his books were probably heading for condemnation in Britain anyway. "I'm basically a writer of ideas, and the English aren't interested in ideas," he said. "The English, I'm afraid, are totally brainless. If you're a writer of ideas like Sartre or Foucault or Derrida, then the general French public know your name, whereas here in England, their equivalent in the world of philosophy wouldn't be known."

He never lost belief in the importance of his work in trying to find out how to harness human beings' full powers and wipe out gloom.

"Sartre's 'man is a useless passion,' and Camus's feeling that life is absurd, and so on, basically meant that philosophy itself had turned really pretty dark," he said. "I could see that there was a basic fallacy in Sartre and Camus and all of these existentialists, Heidegger and so on. The basic fallacy lay in their failure to understand the actual foundation of the problem."

That foundation, he said, is that human perception is intentional; the pessimists themselves paint their world black.

Mr. Wilson has spent much of his life researching how to achieve those moments of well-being that bring insight, what the American psychologist Abraham Maslow called "peak experiences."

Those moments can come only through effort, concentration or focus, and refusing to lose one's vital energies through pessimism.

"What it means basically is that you're able to focus until you suddenly experience that sense that everything is good," Mr. Wilson said. "We go around leaking energy in the same way that someone who has slashed their wrists would go around leaking blood.

"Once you can actually get over that and recognize that this is not necessary, suddenly you begin to see the possibility of achieving a state of mind, a kind of steady focus, which means that you see things as extremely good." If harnessed by everyone, this could lead to the next step in human evolution, a kind of Superman.

"The problem with human beings so far is that they are met with so many setbacks that they are quite easily defeatable, particularly in the modern age when they've got too separated from their roots," he said.

Over the last year, he has been forced to test his own powers in this area. "When I was pretty sure that the autobiography was going to be a great success, and when it, on the contrary, got viciously attacked," Mr. Wilson said, "well, I know I'm not wrong. Obviously the times are out of joint."

Though "Dreaming to Some Purpose" was warmly received in The Independent on Sunday and The Spectator and was praised by the novelist Philip Pullman, the autobiography - and Mr. Wilson - received a barrage of negative profiles and reviews in The Sunday Times and The Observer. These made fun of the book's more eccentric parts, like his avowed fetish for women's panties.

As a measure of the passions that Mr. Wilson provokes, Robert Meadley, an essayist, wrote "The Odyssey of a Dogged Optimist" (Savoy, 2004), a 188-page book defending him.

"If you think a man's a fool and his books are a waste of time, how long does it take to say so?" Mr. Meadley wrote, questioning the space the newspapers gave to the attacks.

Part of Mr. Meadley's conclusion is that the British intellectual establishment still felt threatened by Mr. Wilson, a self-educated outsider from the working class.

"One of my main problems as far as the public is concerned is that I've always been interested in too many things," Mr. Wilson said, "and if they can't typecast you as a writer on this or that, then I'm afraid you tend not to be understood at all."

Related Laughing Bone:

Thanks to Don Webb and Raven Gatto

Friday, November 29, 2013

This deadly, suffocating, bestial state of fear

The Sacrifice - Andrei Tarkovsky

"Lord, deliver us in this terrible hour. Do not let my children die, my friends, my wife... I will give you all I possess. I will leave the family I love. I shall destroy my home, give up my son. I shall be silent, will never speak with anyone again. I shall give up everything that binds me to life, if You will only let everything be as it was before, as it was this morning, as it was yesterday: so that I may be spared this deadly, suffocating, bestial state of fear."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"The music, in a sense, plays us."

The orchestra of the Janowska Camp in Lvov, Poland in 1943

"During the worst periods of despotism and tyranny, people could learn musical scores by heart. Even where music was forbidden, they could still commit it to memory. Music is very difficult to censor. Yes, it can by stopped. It can be suppressed. Musicians can be hunted and hounded and tortured. But still, it is there. And, always, its strange mystery remains. [  ] to remember the last concerts of that very ambiguous genius, Furtwängler. The lights went out regularly. And we have recordings where you hear the gunfire of the Russian artillery approaching Berlin. In Furtwängler's Beethoven and one Haydn recording at that time played in the dark, the people in the audience knowing they were doomed, knowing they are doomed - and to a horrible fate. And there are no greater recordings or readings of that music known to me than those. There is something in the music which is much stronger even than our greatest performers. The music, in a sense, plays us. We are played by it."

From ARSC: Sound Recording Reviews (pdf):

"Walter Gieseking was acutely aware of every sound his fingers and pedaling produced; he was a perfectionist of the highest order. The New Grove Dictionary accuses him of setting standards that have proved impossible to surpass in his definitive Debussy and Ravel series. His Beethoven concertos were just as notable. In this performance Arthur Rother expertly guides the Berlin Radio Orchestra. The dignified tone set by the first powerful E-Flat chord remains throughout the rest of the concerto. The epithet “Emperor" is well deserved. 
Tom Nulls liner notes point out that Napoleon’s conquest of Austria culminated while Beethoven composed this piece. As the artillery neared Beethoven covered his damaged ears with pillows while he took refuge in his brother’s cellar. Once the city had fallen though he stormed and ranted at Napoleon, and finished this concerto. 
How ironic and appropriate that booming anti-aircraft guns in the waning days of World War ll are perceptible in the background of this performance. Near the end of the first movemetns cadenza a faint “ta-toom... ka-thoom... brrrooom” faintly, yet distinctly sounds at a great distance, like some ghost timpani. Gieseking’s piano playing rolls right along, gently erasing all remembrance of the storms and stresses of war."

From blechmusik:

"In the cadenza and some quiet passages you can hear the artillery from outside the RRG-building (2´30"+, 5´40"+). For me this is just unbelievable, a historical document and an impressive testimonial against war.

Historic Stereo-Recording from 1944 with Walter Gieseking as soloist and Arthur Rother and the Großes Berliner Rundfunkorchester. 2009 we can celebrate the 65th anniversary of stereophonic tape recordings. So I thought it might be interesting to upload a few recordings that Mr. Helmut Krüger made at the RRG in Berlin in the early 40´s with the AEG-Telefunken K7 stereo tape recoder (Krüger was nicknamed by his radio colleagues Krüger-Krüger, in witty reference to his habit to record everything in stereo).

After the soviets brought the complete RGG-archive to Moscow in 1945 unfortunately from the hundreds of Stereo recordings only a handful found their way back to Berlin. And in a very bad condition.

The over 60 years old tape was transfered directly to digital equipment without any processing."

From Public Address: Nightingales/Bombs/Beethoven:

"Beethoven’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No 5 had been recorded by RRG in Berlin, as part of the on-going stereo experiments at the very end of 1944. Featuring the great German pianist Walter Gieseking, and the Großes Berliner Rundfunkorchester under Arthur Rother, the stereo taping had also unintentionally caught the sounds of the anti-aircraft batteries outside the RRG building during an allied air-raid. In the quiet passages of the Allegro movement, (2´30"+, 5´40"+ in the clip), the thumps of the anti-aircraft fire are clearly discernible. 
The combination of Beethoven and artillery in a stereo recording from the heart of the German Reich in the last days of the war is another profound historic and audio experience. Under fire, Gieseking and the Großes Berliner Rundfunkorchester prove themselves every bit as good as the well-regarded Berlin Philharmonic. The sound-engineering is crisp, even through the medium of Youtube. The bang of anti-aircraft batteries is an unrhythmic atmosphere. The counterpointing of human impulses, destruction and creation, is almost unique [sic]."

From Behold Media:

"Recording of Nightingale birdsong from a garden in Surrey, England on May 19th 1942 as 197 Wellington and Lancaster bombers fly overhead on a bombing raid to Germany."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

It is forbidden to laugh in the kingdom of death: Three Instances

The woman's (assumed) hysterical laughter. The stoic calm of the donkey. The slapstick nature of the dilemma. The cartoonish Aesopian elements all combing to create a fundamentally humorous situation. But exactly what makes it so funny is the concern here. Jokes and humorous incidents like the donkey and the overloaded cart share with music modal difficulties related to language. Chopin's famous "explanation" of piece of music by playing it again. Koestler's bisociaton assists with the deconstruction in a philosophical sense:

"[Humor] is the perceiving of a situation or idea in two self-consistent but mutually incompatible frames of reference or associative contexts."

But this still has a long way to go to get to the humor of the donkey and the cart. The words pile up desperately, trying to unravel the strange and ridiculous response in the sound of laughter. Why do we make this sound? So close to cries of pain. What is this ululating primal, wheezing noise coming out of our mouth? Why is it so contagious? What is it about pain, the uncomfortable situations of others, that brings it about so readily? Why is the suspended donkey so funny? And why is it funnier to hear someone else laughing over it?

Certainly the pressure of being, of the daily endurance, in this world is relieved through laughter. Hydraulic metaphors come immediately to mind. Laughter as a means of "letting off steam". Nietzsche claimed:

"Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter."

There is evidence that man is not alone here. Animals exhibit a curious perplexity about the world at times that indicates a sort of proto-laughter. Dogs quizzically turning their heads. Horses neighing and nickering. Dolphins squealing and clicking. Monkeys howling and panting. Perhaps it is all anthropomorphic conceit: the overburdened donkey's hee-haw seems all too human until it dies of a heart attack in the traces. The point here is that, contra-Nietzsche (although I believe his statement to have been rhetorical and not without a measure of irony), man did not "invent laughter".

"Indeed, Provine maintains that almost all mammals laugh in this way—”If you tickle a rat, it laughs; we just can’t hear it.”

By contrast, “the human ‘ha-ha-ha’ chops up an exhalation the same way speech does,” Provine says. If you digitally remove the “ha” sound from a human laugh the way Provine has in a recording studio, you hear a long exhalation or sigh. This extended sigh may be our most primal existential defense mechanism, controlling our breathing in ways known to lower heart rate and blood pressure. Decoupling the laugh from respiration—so that we can giggle instead of pant—was a crucial evolutionary moment, Provine postulates, because it enabled the vocal control that allowed us to make all kinds of other “fancy sounds” needed for speech.

To reach that moment, though, Provine believes we needed to begin walking on two legs, taking pressure off the thorax, since four-legged mammals must synchronize their strides with their breath. The enhanced vocal control facilitated by this shift required “restructuring” our nervous system, adding cells to the area of the spinal cord that controls respiration and bulking up the part of the brain that coordinates these cells and facilitates speech and comprehension." 

It is interesting to imagine laughter as a vestigial byproduct of evolution or an epiphenomenal ghost in the machine. At the same time, the quality of our humor (the language here is riddled with outmoded paradigms) is central to our well-being. Without laughter, to paraphrase Schopenhauer, life would seem to be a mistake. Again, what is this strange behavior?

Milan Kundera, in his Jerusalem Address, states:

"There is a fine Jewish proverb: Man thinks, God laughs. Inspired by that adage, I like to imagine that François Rabelais heard God's laughter one day, and thus was born the idea of the first great European novel. It pleases me to think that the art of the novel came into the world as the echo of God's laughter. 
But why does God laugh at the sight of man thinking? Because man thinks and the truth escapes him. Because the more men think, the more one man's thought diverges from another's. And finally, because man is never what he thinks he is."

The Vision of God Laughing by B. Jones

Most often, when God enters the discourse, laughter is forbidden. The puritanical Protestant stands in caricature. Laughter as sin. Jesus never laughed (or danced, for that matter - earning Nietzsche's distrust). Many would have it that to laugh is to mock God, to even defy him. So the simple and closed minded wear their countenances with grave and stern decorum.

Enter Quixote, Gargantua, Falstaff. Laughter is overabundance of energy, of will, of spirit. Even so, unbridled it can lead to ruin. Rites of passage remark this with revelatory implications. To be able to laugh at death, to know how, when and where to laugh at death, even with death, is the key to our meaning.

"Interdiction of laughter also occurs in ritual, namely, in the rite that represents the descent into the kingdom of death and the return from it, namely, the initiation of youths at the onset of puberty. In spite of a huge literature, data on initiation are very sparse, since this rite is a deep secret. Nevertheless some things are known. In Boas's extensive study of the social organization and secret societies of the Kwakiutl tribe are two brief mentions of the fact that during the rites the initiates are forbidden to laugh (Boas 1897, 506, 642). P. W. Schmidt gave a more detailed picture for one of the islands of Oceania. The last act of the ceremony is an attempt to make the youths laugh. They line up in a row. "Now there appears a young woman dressed in men's clothing; she behaves and speaks like a man. She carries a spear with many spearheads and a burning torch and she walks along the line of boys. If none of them laughs she reaches the end of the line, but if someone laughs, she rejoices and goes away without finishing her walk. The boys have been warned of the man-woman and instructed not to laugh. If someone laughs his father says to him, 'Now we won't receive any gifts.' (Schmidt 1907. 1052). 
In light of the data given above this case also becomes clear. It is forbidden to laugh in the kingdom of death. The whole rite of initiation is a simulation of death. The one who laughs discovers that he has not been fully cleansed of earthly things, just as a shaman in the kingdom of death gives himself away as alive by laughter. Note also that the one who laughs does not receive gifts: he is considered not to have passed the test (we cannot go into the phenomenon of travesty although it is not accidental here). [...]
If the facts set forth here are indeed based on one single concept of laughter, they can explain some other facts that at first glance seem baffling, for instance, laughter accompanying death a classic example of which is so-called sardonic laughter. Among the very ancient people of Sardinia, who were called Sardi or Sardoni, it was customary to kill old people. While killing their old people, the Sardi laughed loudly. This is the origin of notorious sardonic laughter (Fehrle 1930, 3), now meaning cruel malicious laughter. In light of our findings things begin to look different. Laughter accompanies the passage from death to life; it creates life and accompanies birth. Consequently, laughter accompanying killing transforms death into a new birth, nullifies murder as such, and is an act of piety that transforms death into a new birth." [ emphasis mine ]

- Theory and History of Folklore, Vladimir Propp

Note in the examples below when laughter is inappropriate, taboo, how powerful it becomes. Also contagious. It is difficult to not laugh. Even with repeated viewings, knowing what to expect, laughter still arises as a natural reaction. Why? On the most immediate level, a report of a man chopping up his wife and another man with a high-pitched voice (in another language no less) are not occasions for humor. Both instances are charged with laughter. The killer's staring face, the man's unexpected voice and the laughter it occasions in the reporter and interviewer. Then in us, watching. Why are we laughing?

Following Kundera, the less we think and the more we laugh, the closer we get to God. But this is an enlightened laughter conscious of the pollution of "earthly things". What does such laughter sound like? Jesus on the Cross looking upwards with a grim smile. The Buddha touching the earth after the moments of temptation. Lao-Tzu at Han Chou Pass giving the gatekeeper a small book of writing.

All fascinating, revealing, mysterious, and transformative. 

"De resurgentibus dicitur, quod ridere no soleant."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Theophagy or Eucharist: "They ate every part of the body, even the bones."

Saturno devorando a su hijo - Francisco de Goya(1819-1823)

Dark night in the mountains and no drums beating. No flute music like birdsong from the forest above the village — the men controlled the flutes and this was women’s business, secret and delicious, sweet revenge. In pity and mourning but also in eagerness the dead woman’s female relatives carried her cold, naked body down to her sweet-potato garden bordered with flowers. They would not abandon her to rot in the ground. Sixty or more women with their babies and small children gathered around, gathered wood, lit cooking fires that caught the light in their eyes and shone on their greased dark skins. The dead woman’s daughter and the wife of her adopted son took up knives of split bamboo, their silicate skin sharp as glass. They began to cut the body for the feast. 
By the time Dutch, German and English ships began to anchor at the mouths of the island’s great tidal rivers, in the mid-nineteenth century, it was common knowledge among Europeans that the savages of New Guinea were cannibals. But there are cannibals and cannibals: warriors who eat their enemies, hating them, but also relatives who eat their kin in a mortuary feast of love. Fore women ate their kin. “Their bellies are their cemeteries,” one observer remarks. “I eat you” was a Fore greeting. 
Down in the garden in the flaring firelight, the dead woman’s daughters ringed her wrists and ankles, sawed through the tough cartilage, disjointed the bones and passed the wrinkled dark hands and splayed feet to her brother’s wife and the wife of her sister’s son. Slitting the skin off the arms and legs, the daughters stripped out muscle, distributing it in dripping chunks to kin and friends among the eager crowd of women. They opened the woman’s chest and slack belly and the smell of death wafted among the sweet-potato vines. Out came the heavy purple liver, the small green sac of the gallbladder cut carefully away from the underside and its bitterness discarded. Out came the dark red heart gory with clotting blood. Out came the looping coils of intestines, dully shining. Even the feces would be eaten, mixed with edible ferns and cooked in banana leaves. 
The crowd of women and children got busy at collecting and chopping as the body of the dead woman diminished. (Her name survives as a discreet abbreviation in a medical thesis: Tom. Tomasa?) One of the daughters doing the butchering cut around the neck, severed the larynx and esophagus, sawed through the cartilage connecting the vertebrae, disjointed the spine and lifted the head aside. The other daughter skinned back the scalp skillfully, took up a stone ax, cracked the skull and scooped the soft pink mass of brain into a bamboo cooking tube. Their cousins, the North Fore, cooked bodies whole with vegetables in steam pits lined with hot stones, but the South Fore preferred mincing the flesh of the dead and steaming it with salt, ginger and leafy vegetables in bamboo tubes laid onto cooking fires. They ate every part of the body, even the bones, which they charred at the open fires to soften them before crumbling them into the tubes. The dead woman’s brother’s wife received the vulva as her special portion. If the dead had been a man, his penis, a delicacy, would have gone to his wife. 
…the isolated highlanders…wore beaded and feathered headdresses, nose bones, necklaces of pig tusks and aprons of woven bark or grass and smeared their bodies with fire char and rancid pig fat against the insects and the cold. Men carried stone axes or longbows. Some of them affected phallocarps instead of aprons — braggadocio penis sheaths made of great curving hornbill beaks or ornate sea shells traded up from the unknown coast. Women wore grass skirts and went bare-breasted. They cut off finger joints in mourning, wore mourning necklaces of the dried hands of lost babies, carried a husband’s rotting head in a woven bag, a bilum, on their backs for months after his loss, suffering the stink.
Eating the dead was not a primordial Fore custom. It had started within the lifetime of the oldest grandmothers among them, at the turn of the century or not long before. They learned it from their neighbors to the north. It spread to a North Fore village and word got around. “This is sweet,” an anthropologist reports the Fore women saying when they first tasted human flesh. “What is the matter with us, are we mad? Here is good food and we have neglected to eat it. In future we shall always eat the dead, men, women, and children. Why should we throw away good meat? It is not right!” The meat was sweet and so was the revenge the women took thereby against the men who claimed the best parts of pig — pigs the women had sometimes suckled at their own breasts. They did not eat lepers or those who died of diarrhea, but the flesh of women killed by sorcery they considered clean. Dying Fore asked to be eaten and assigned their body parts to their favorites in advance. 
The Fore admitted their cannibalism freely to the first Europeans who questioned them, though they gave it up when missionaries and Australian police patrols pressed them to do so in the late 1950s — Sputnik was beeping overhead — and deny it today. Whatever its connection with ritual, cannibalism in New Guinea was also a significant source of protein, two American anthropologists have calculated: “A local New Guinea group of one hundred people (forty-six of whom are adults) which obtains and eats some five to ten adult victims per year would get as much meat from eating people as it does from eating pork.” 
The women at their mortuary feast butchered and cooked down in the garden, but they ate in private, carrying the steaming bamboo tubes back to their separate women’s houses, sharing the feast with their children. A young American doctor who came a few years later to live and work among them thought their eating habits almost as surreptitious as the toilet habits of Westerners. It wasn’t that they were ashamed of eating the dead — they were just as surreptitious with pig. Eating meat was orgiastic. The men said that the women were insatiable, wild, like the forest. When the men pulled the wild grass at the edge of the forest they said it was women’s pubic hair. Marriage barely tamed them. 
Lately, more and more Fore women had been dying of sorcery, which only men practiced, a fatal bewitchment they called kuru. Kuru meant shivering — with cold or with fear — and by 1950 it was claiming women in every Fore village. The Fore men earned a fearsome reputation across the highlands as sorcerers. Once the shivers of kuru began, the bewitchment progressed inexorably to death. Women bewitched with kuru staggered to walk, walked with a stick and then could no longer walk at all. Before losing the ability to swallow they got fat and the flesh of those who died early of pneumonia was rich meat.

- From Deadly Feasts: The "Prion" Controversy and the Public's Health
by Richard Rhodes. Originally found on the beautiful Ellamorte

The Last Cannibal Supper - Greg Semu, 2010.

The dying person would normally express their wishes as to how their body was to be disposed of; otherwise the family would decide. In the kuru-affected region, all methods of disposal of the body involved being eaten. If the body was buried it was eaten by worms; if it was placed on a platform it was eaten by maggots; the Fore believed it was much better that the body was eaten by people who loved the deceased than by worms and insects. By eating the dead, they were able to show their love and to express their grief. The ritual allowed the aona and yesegi to be recycled within the family and for the loved ones to receive blessings from the ama, which would strengthen their aona. The eating removed doubts about family or community loyalties as the kwela would attack any woman who ate whose family had been involved in the death of the deceased. By the eating of the body, the danger of the kwela during the period of what would have been decomposition was averted as the kwela was confined inside the anagra who ate the body, thus protecting the family. By performing the obsequies correctly, the relatives ensured that the souls of the deceased departed to kwelanandamundi and the deceased was reborn as an ancestor.

In the morning the women took any remaining meat, the bones and stones from a river bed to the fireplace that had been used the previous day to cook the body. They then performed an obsequy called ikwaya ana during which the rest of the body was eaten. The bones were dried by the fire so that they broke easily without sharp edges. Concave stones were placed on the ground containing a breadfruit leaf and a wild grass called igagi; the bones were placed on this with more igagi on the top and then crushed with another stone. This technique was used to ensure that none of the bone was lost during the process as it was important that the whole body was consumed. Once crushed, the bones and grass were placed in bamboo tubes, cooked and eaten. Finally, all the utensils used over the preceding 2 days were burnt on the fire. Sometimes the ashes from the bamboo utensils were mixed with wild green vegetables and eaten to ensure that the whole body was consumed. The exceptions were the jaw bone and collar bones, which were normally kept and worn by women in memory of the deceased and by men as a portal to request help from the ama of the deceased. In the evening, the women returned to the widow's house and continued to eat the body until it was all consumed.

- From Mortuary rites of the South Fore and kuru


Much later, Alpers, who had always felt discomforted by the term cannibalism — “you don’t like to call your friends cannibals” — would invent a new term for the Fore ritual: “transumption”. It borrowed from the lexicon of Catholic doctrine around the Eucharistic transubstantiation of bread into the body and blood of Christ. He defined the Fore custom as “incorporation of the body of the dead person into the bodies of living relatives, thus helping to free the spirit of the dead”. It was a final act of love by the grief-stricken. Yes, as anthropologists had insisted, there was a gastronomic element: people had given ready testimony that humans were delicious, especially their brains. But this was a perk, not a driver, of the practice, Alpers insisted, in papers citing the secrets shared with him and others over decades.

- From The Last Laughing Death by Jo Chandler

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Codex Baroccianus: Oracula: The Devil at the Birth of the Anti-Christ


An unusual subject matter. I cannot recall having ever seen an Anti-Christ nativity. Of particular interest is the singular and enigmatic shrouded form of the mother, the snorkel nose and phallic tail of the Devil and the rigid quiescence of the Anti-Christ. See detail below.

Also, mark the presence of William Laud.

There is a scalable image at the Bodleian link.

Title: 'FIGVRA 22. Fatus scolestus'. The Birth of the Antichrist. Woman seated on bed in centre of the composition, newborn baby in a cradle on rockers, attended by a maiden seated in the foreground. Scene takes place in walled courtyard of a house, maid comes out of building on the right. Three women frightened by the irruption of the Devil from another building on the left. He is depicted as a hairy horned demon with long snout, goat hind legs and holding a sceptre. Drapery hangs between the two buildings over the courtyard. Above, in dark clouds, are two winged demons.

- Bodleian Library, Oxford, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, MS. Barocci 170, Manuscript, Leo the Wise; Francesco Barozzi (translator), fol. 025v, Dated 1577

Codex Baroccianus: Baroccianus is an adjective applied to manuscripts indicating an origin in the Baroccianum, a Venetian collection assembled by the humanist Francesco Barozzi (Barocius). A large part of that collection was sold after the death of Iacopo Barozzi or Barocci (1562-1617), nephew and heir to Francesco;[1] and the purchase by William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke led in turn to his donation in 1629 of a substantial collection of Greek manuscripts from the Baroccianum to the Bodleian Library. The designation Codex Baroccianus followed by a number is an indication that a manuscript is in the Bodleian Catalogue and has its provenance in this donation.

The Earl of Pembroke's purchase cost him £700; his donation was bound in 242 volumes. He was persuaded to make the deal and gift by William Laud. 

- Wikipedia: Codex Baroccianus

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Insane from being imprisoned in his instrument

But like the musician in Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, who is caught in his harp, his arms outstretched as though dead or passed out, played by the song that sends him into ecstasy, insane from being imprisoned in his instrument, that is, in the body of a voice of the other - the poet, too, is robbed by that excess which names but remains unnameable.

- Michel de Certeau, Chapter 6, Mystic Speech, Heterologies, 1986

Thanks, A.A.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

20 Plates from the Codex of Little Hope

The Codex of Little Hope (catalogued CODEX PAULLUM SPES, AB 679, Borgesian Library, Steiner College in Austin, TX.) is a 16th century Mesoamerican pictorial manuscript. The Codex is one of two known, possibly degraded, variations of the Codex Laud. The Codex of Little Hope is a pictorial manuscript consisting of 22 leaves (44 pages) from pre-Columbian Central Mexico.

While in Mexico conducting anthropological research among the Huasteca tribes in 1964, Charles Jones was informed by Jose Garcia Payon of the discovery of a looter’s chamber in the Pyramid of the Niches at the archaelogical site of El Tajin, near Papantla. Jones assisted Garcia Payon in excavating the chamber for several months, uncovering the Codex in addition to many archeological treasures once considered lost from the Y Manifest of Cabeza de Vaca. Jones was also responsible for saving Garcia Payon’s life after a chamber collapse. Subsequently, Garcia Payon and the Mexican government presented Jones with the Codex as a reward for his efforts.

After years of research and comparison with other similar codices, Jones concluded that the Codex of Little Hope was exceptional in its subject matter. The Codex Laud, of which it is a variation of, is concerned with religious rituals regarding the eclipse of the sun and the cycles of the seasons. According to Jones, the Codex of Little Hope is concerned with the death or “absence” of the gods. He believed the Codex indicated an explicit set of rituals to recover the bones and skull of the dead god(s) in order to “purify the language of the tribe” and establish a transcendental ground for hope, i.e. the deification of human being.

Jones’ interpretation is, to phrase it lightly, considered idiosyncratic by most scholars of Ancient Mesoamerican religion. Some scholars have even gone so far as to label it “insane and dangerous” and perhaps “inspired by an overindulgence in hallucinogenic drugs.”

Jones, in an effort to substantiate his thesis, isolated and reconstructed 20 crucial “hieroglyphic instances” as instructive plates. We are proud to have the privilege of displaying these plates here.

The Codex of Little Hope is preserved in the Borgesian Library at the Steiner College of Osteological Ontology in Austin, Texas.

God Darkening the World
(Unfinished Hieroglyphic Plate)

Note: Jones did not complete this image. In lieu of his words, we do not believe he would object to those that follow.

“The darkening of the world, the flight of the gods, the destruction of the earth, the transformation of man into a mass, the hatred and suspicion of everything free and creative, have assumed such proportions throughout the earth that such childish categories as pessimism and optimism have long since become absurd. Only God can save us now.”  - Martin Heidegger.

Being Devoured by God:
The Ecstasy of Surrender

The reverse communion wherein the transubstantiation occurs within the soul seeking god in order to be devoured by god. Depiction from Miccailhuitontli, the Feast of the Dead, wherein the one who seeks god is treated as a god for 90 days. At the end of which the godlike person is devoured by those that have been worshipping him. Allegories of the soul surrendering to God with such intensity that the desire for oneness is symbolized as being eaten alive by the god. Skulls surround. The vulture to the left removes the flesh from the bones.  The deer to the right represents the flight of the spirit. 

The King and Queen of the Dead
Holding the Soul Over the Abyss

The Lord of the Underworld, Mictlantecuhtli, and his wife, Mictecacihuatl, who dwell in a windowless house full of spiders. Their skeletal jaws are open to recieve the stars that descend into them at the end of night, at the end of time. Death is always hungry for more flesh, more dream, often devouring itself. The naked soul is held above the Abyss. Nearby are the red snake-like flames of desire. This is the path to the god, marked by footprints, burning the flesh away until the white smoke of the bones, purified intention, rises evenly from the ashes of the named and faced soul.

The Unfolding of Time
Within the Belly of the Goddess

The Royal Hawk, a Nagual bird of Ometeotl, Lord of Duality, descends, 
unfolding the eternal into the temporal, represented by the pregnant goddess, Chalchiutlicue, goddess of waters, preparing to give birth to the world. She sits upon the sacred raft, against the phallic lingam, floating upon the milky waters of creation. Framing her are the every present flames of desire, attachment, licking out towards her like tongues. Duality surrounds her and informs her, the separation of the One into the aspects of the Many: light and dark, male and female, life and death, Being and Nothingness. There is the one and there is the other and there is both of them together. 

The Dance of the Bones in the Hole

The twin gods, Quetzalcoatl and Xolotl, set out to steal the bones of the dead gods, which were guarded by Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Underworld. As they were leaving the underworld with the god’s bones, Mictlantecuhtli appeared and forced them to drop all of the carefully preserved bones and skulls which shattered and scattered. Retrieving what they could, the twin gods made it back to this world and, with those fragments, created all the varieties of human being. It is said that after we die, our bones begin to dance and return to the forms of the dead gods.

The Ritual Return to the Womb/Tomb

The ritual decapitation by burial within the womb/tomb, the endpoints of the line of human being, the spiderweb floating over the jaws of the Abyss, the Great No Thing. The loss of the singular skull of the self in the Dark Night, re-enacts the birth of the sun god, Huitzilopochtli, whose wisdom within the Tomb, brought forth the Light of the World. The central hieroglyph is framed by the fetal soul curled within the jaws of the Abyss. At each corner, lurks the shadow beast of doubt. After rebirth, there is no doubt, no double mind. William Blake: “If the sun were to doubt, it would go out.” 

Free From the Bonds of the Flesh,
The Soul Ritually Decapitates Itself

The senses bind down the soul like demons, giving substance to the illusion of this world. It is only when the soul is able to separate the head from the body of senses that the Way to the Gods is revealed. The hieroglyph depicts what seems impossible, but which is necessary before the Godskull can be worn. Before we can become as gods, we must be able to remove our own heads. This subtle balance is like standing upon the three-pointed arrow of being. Fertility images multiply: the red phallus, the glyphs for semen, seed and sprouting plant forms. 

Metanoia / Transformation:
Wearing the Godskull, Holding The Head

After ritual self-decapitation, the human head is replaced with the Godskull. This is the Divine Vision, no longer dependent upon human eyes, now blindfolded. The single edged axe blade is transformed into the double edged blade of discernment. Wearing the Godskull, the being is on fire, burning away all memories, dreams and desires. It is represented in the explosive blades of blood alternating with the singular all seeing eye. 

The Frame is the Mirror:
Looking Into the Face of Evil

The hieroglyph of Tlazolteotl, she who eats filth, causes death by lust, also the goddess of purification, of steam and cleansing. The frame is a mirror. Becoming gods, with godlike vision, the world becomes our dream, our mirror. Everything, even evil, filth and sin, are extensions of our dreaming world creating minds. By confronting the mirror, the Face of Evil, we see deeper into the god within, attaining purification in the process. Aspects of purification, death and holiness surround the frame. 

The Fugitive God
(Unfinished Hieroglyphic Plate)

Note: Jones did not complete this image. In lieu of his words, we do not believe he would object to those that follow.

“To be a poet in a destitute time means: to attend, singing, to the trace of the fugitive gods. This is why the poet in the time of the world’s night utters the holy.”  - Martin Heidegger

Opening to the Sacred Plant:
God Speaks to the Soul

The soul stands upon the three-pointed arrow of being, breathing in the powder of the sacred plant, the morning glory of Ololiuqui mixed with the “God-Mushroom” Teonanácatl. The god Huitzilopochtli manifests its being in full, resting upon the divine throne, one foot extended onto the sacrificial fire. Through the revelatory powers of the entheogens, the god extends his tongue of sacred blood into the skull of the soul. Mythology indicates the birth of language out of such intercourse. Dialectical knots, animate skulls and the god crown surround the hieroglyph. 

Who Can Wear the Godskull?
Who Can Withstand the Weight of Being?

Legend has it that the gods have departed this world, like fugitives traveling through the darkening night. Those that remained behind in this world are dead, their bones trembling into dust in the desert under the light of distant stars. The soul seeking what remains of god will find his path leads to an enormous skull, like a broken, empty cathedral. The challenge is to have the strength and discipline to annihilate the self and to place the Godskull upon one’s own being. A riddle: what sort of being is it that will be able to wear a cathedral, an entire pyramid upon his head? Fibonacci sequences and the lamp of illumination offer clues. 

Only True Sacrifice
Can Purify the Dialect of the Tribe

The red ring of blood, the river pulsing within our being. Our tears fall down like rain. Our sweat sweetens the earth. Our blood gives it life. The sacrifice of another being to god, for god, because of god is older than Abraham and Isaac. The grammar of angelic speech is violent and brutal. Only an ongoing sacrifice can sustain the transcendental ground of futurity, of hope, of Being. We are macehualli, “those who do not deserve life except that it be redeemed through penance.” This is a Mystery. The Flower of Ecstasy, the rain god, Tlaloc and the snake points towards an Edenic trace haunting every culture. 

The Soul Begins the Dream Journey

At the crossroads, the intersection of the sacred and the profane, the soul lays down to dream the Goddream. The god Ometecuhtli is dreaming the universe but has forgotten that he is dreaming. The soul must find the god and begin to dismember him, setting the parts of the god’s body on the 
sacred fires. Only by doing this can the soul awaken the dreaming god from the nightmare of time and begin the world again.

Too Late for the Gods,
Too Early for Being

Arranging the vestments of the diety upon one’s flesh, the godmachine engages the holy, the numinous, the Mysterium Tremendum. The soul is removed from time into the eternal and is given the vision of the Too Bright Light, the Smile on the Void. Everything returns to the One, awakening to be reborn. The I Am becomes the Am I? Here is soul is expelled from the eternal back into time, tumbling out of the vestments of god as a newborn child back into the world. Framed by the fires tending the warming lamps of illumination and verb/spring plants. 

The Mysteries of Language

Two sacred altars, one resting upon a Teocalli, God-House, the other hovering in the air. The two worlds of language: what can be said and what can not. Rising from the Teocalli altar is the glyph for sacred language, Teoxochi. From that arises the glyph for Teocuicatl, The Silence Out of Which Arises Being. Analogies to O. The combination of the two creates the sound-word Xochicuicatl, flower-song or poetry. Such songs exist only in performance in which the god is revealed, is “un-forgotten,” conditions of aletheia. Between the two worlds is the glyph for ecstasy. To the right are date markings for the beginning and ending of the world. 

Who Sings Death in the Night?

Chalchiuhtecolotl, the Owl-God, with burning eyes, harbinger of Mictlantecuhtli, God of Death. It is said that when you hear the song of Chalchiuhtecolotl, death is not far behind. A broken haiku of questioning who’s. With the wisdom of the death of god, comes the death of self. Who is dreaming who? The owl will often catch blind snakes and take them back to their nest to protect their young from vermin. Six eggs extend out of the nest to the left. Where dead things are, all creatures gather. Isaiah 34:15 Framed by the vulture, the deer, the coyote and death. 

The Languge of River Speaks
to the Initiated Soul

The Soul beside the River is singing. The Wind God, Ehecatl, harnesses vital energies, containing inspiration, divine breath. The hands hold the stolen bones of the Dreaming God, Tezcatlipoca. The sacred altar rests between them. Between water and air, the river and the wind, the soul recovers the language. By listening to the babbles and whispers of the Fugitive Gods, the soul learns to speak again with the True Language. Vesica Piscis, representing the forgotten words of God, fill the river. Along the edges, the wind sings with the wolves howling sacred words of beautiful death. Three marks the crucial thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis of the mandorla. 

From the Venom of the Dream Serpent
Spins the Lie of the Mind

The frightened soul approaches the spread jaws of the Dream Serpent, seeking an elixir to ease the sickness of the flesh. The venom is collected in the vessel of the moon, hoping to appease the god, Tecciztecatl. This is the path of the false sun, of illusion, of the world drained of color. Glyphs for ecstasy corner the scene. Above and below is the vessel the moon, supplanting the sun. The dragon, feathered serpent, Quetzalcoatl, is torn in half. This is the way of madness, the way of the modern world, full of such fear and trembling, bowing down before the Great Lie of Dreadful Mind. 

The Scorpion Woman

Malinalxochitl, goddess of the scorpions, snakes and things that crawl through the Desert. Temptress of the Fugitive Gods as they made their way out of the World. She sits upon an overturned altar, dark demi-urges at her feet, clothed in her disguise as a bird. The soul approaches what seems a heavenly creature only to be stung with enrapturing desire. Malinalxochitl then opens the soul and feeds upon the bones. The soul is left a sack of skin which she hangs from  the cactus for the Birds of Appetite to feast upon with the dawn.

Born From the Bones of Love:
The World Tree

Mayahuel, goddess of the maguey plant. After having sex with Quetzalcoatl, she was killed by an angry goddess. Quetzalcoatl planted her bones in the ground, which then became the maguey tree. The sweet milky white sap, aguamiel, believed to be her blood, is fermented to make the sacred drink pulque, which sits in her right hand. Her other hand holds the sacred bones of the Dreaming God. She sits triumphant upon the Snake of Desire and the Tortoise of Ignorance. To her right is the glyph of path and language, meaning that through her, pulque, one may speak the truth. Below is an axe used to harvest the sap. She is surrounded by glyphs for vulture and fish.


Biographical Note

Charles “Bonesy” Jones (August 6, 1945 to November 15, 2005) was an American graphic artist, writer and poet. Reputedly born in Little Hope, Texas, much of his early life is shrouded in mystery and misinformation.

In 1962, Jones was graduated summa cum laude from the Steiner College of Ontological Osteology where he studied Legerdaemonic Epistemology and Allegorical Cetology. He then briefly attended the University of Oxford, but left after a dispute with one of the Dons over the Nature of the Hesychast Controversy.

He traveled to Mexico in 1964 and lived with the Nahuas of La Huasteca, near the small agraian village of Aquismon. He conducted ethnobotanical research on entheogenic plants native to the region, traveling often to El Tajin, where he helped to uncover the Codex of Little Hope.

From 1965 until 1972 he lived in an international art colony north of Abiquiu, New Mexico, working as a surrealist painter and poet, receiving some money from his family. There, he carried out anthropological research with the Penetintes and was involved in several controversial crucifixions.

In 1973, he traveled to Mt. Athos in Greece where he studied the teachings of Theophan the Recluse under the guidance of Archimandrite George, Abbot of Holy Monastery of St. Gregorious.

He returned to the United States in 1983, settling in Austin, Texas, operating a small bookstore near the University for many years.

Just after the first of the year of 2005, Jones was struck by a car while riding his bicycle home one night. He suffered extensive head injuries. Shortly after, he began to experience selective retrograde amnesia and a progressive anomic aphasia (grammatic, but empty, speech). In October of that year, realizing he did not have long to live, he asked me to assist him in the journey back to his “spiritual home.” He died beside the fire under the full moon of November 15th in the hills above the Chama River in New Mexico, not far from the Monastery of Christ in the Desert. His last words were: “In the end, these bones...” - as fitting an epitaph, at least to my mind, as any Japanese Death poem.

I knew Jones for almost 20 years. No one has had a greater influence upon my life. As much as he prepared me over the years for “the day the bones step out of the skin,” it still shocks and saddens me in every hour to realize that he is no more. The absence of his burning presence will haunt me for the rest of my days.


Legal Notice

Due to ongoing litigation between myself [Scot Casey] and the estate of Charles “Bonesy” Jones [Nora Boney, executrix], EST Case #19620319 TX, Boney v. Casey, I am hereby required to state that I am not in any way, shape or form representing any work from the Non-Digital
Archives from the Estate of Charles “Bonesy” Jones.

It was the expressed will of Mr. Jones that the Digital Archive is under my custodianship and that I have full right to display and/or present any work from this archive in any manner that I see fit.

Scot Casey