Overweening Generalist

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sirius A, B and Maybe Even C Has Influenced Pop Culture...

...and some of us hope it will continue to. They have their ways.

There was a very strange musician from Europe who claimed to be from Sirius. He influenced Miles Davis, Jefferson Airplane, Frank Zappa, Grateful Dead, Kraftwerk, and many others. The Beatles were influenced by him. Look at your copy of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; he's on the cover, top row, fifth from the left, between Lenny Bruce and W.C. Fields. His name was Karlheinz Stockhausen. If you listen to his music (try THIS?), you may start to believe he really did emanate from the Dog Star system.

Clearly, the Airplane took what Sirius-born Stockhausen had to say in lectures at UC Davis...in some other way.


I just got through re-reading Carl Sagan's piece "White Dwarfs and Little Green Men," collected in his book Broca's Brain, and originally in August 1979 issue of Omni. Sagan was a marvelous popularizer of science and wrote with verve. I recommend the essay, because he tries to refute claims made by Robert K.G. Temple in his book The Sirius Mystery. The Dogon people of West Africa told anthropologists Griaule and Dieterlen scientifically factual things about Sirius that they could not possibly know, given their level of technology. Sagan does a fairly good job of persuading us that the Dogon had been "contaminated"with European scientific knowledge before Griaule and Dieterlen talked to them, and my favorite rhetorical ploy Sagan used in that essay (I wish I could find it online for you; you'll have to obtain the book) was anecdotes about other anthropologists who'd been taken in (for a spell) by remote tribesmen.

But I'm not entirely convinced by Sagan's debunking. See Temple's answers and refutations of Sagan's debunkery HERE.

I'm not convinced the Dogon were told, or had information passed down to them, by ancient fish-men-like astronauts, either. Maybe the 1893 French expedition to Central West Africa to witness the total eclipse of the sun on April 16th seeded the Dogon with some Sirius knowledge. Noah Brosch in Sirius Matters think this may be the case. But still, it seemed the Dogon knew too much. I remain agnostic, but very interested.


Temple's work is audacious and has kept the debunkers awake ever since his book appeared in 1976. Temple tried to link Sir Philip Sydney, the Knights Templars, Dr. John Dee, and Giordano Bruno together within an occult tradition that carries on to today. Temple got the Sirius idea to write a book because he'd been working with the helicopter inventor and scientific mystic Arthur Young, who may have hinted he'd been in contact with Higher Intelligence from Sirius. I don't know what to say about this, but Robert Anton Wilson's dear friend and co-writer of the Illuminatus! trilogy, Robert Shea, told Neal Wilgus that "It frequently helps an artist to imagine that the work he is creating has a separate life of its own and is being transmitted to him..." Shea then cited Stravinsky, Nabokov, Keats and Charles Rycroft. (Shea interview with Neal Wilgus, c. 1980, collected in Seven By Seven, a 1996 book, pp.43-44)

Robert Anton Wilson, Shea's friend, co-writer and co-conspirator, knew of RAW's exceedingly odd experience with (maybe) communication from Sirius, which started on July 23rd, 1973. As Wilson puts it, after many years of intense experimentation with yoga, psychedelic drugs, Crowleyan ceremonial magickal techniques, intense study of books dense, difficult and erudite, depth psychologies, non-Aristotelian logics, and a continued study of Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics, "The outstanding result was that I entered a belief system, from July 1973 until around October 1974, in which I was receiving telepathic messages from entities residing on a a planet of the double star Sirius." (Cosmic Trigger vol 1, p.8.)

As RAWphiles know, his previous grounding in scientific methods of doubt, Buddhistic doubt, Korzybskian linguistic doubt, and Niels Bohr's Copenhagen Interpretation of the quantum theory - among other systems of thought and practice - led him to posit many models of what had happened to him. Maybe he was being contacted telepathically by beings from near Sirius. But maybe he'd pushed his nervous system in a way few humans have, and this is the sort of oddness that happens. Maybe he'd reached a level of neurologic status which you just have to chalk up to cosmic hilarity. The key word here is maybe. 


At around this same period, fellow Californian science fiction writer Philip K. Dick began to have contact with an intelligent entity he called VALIS, an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System. He too developed a welter of multi-perspectivalisms to explain this extreme weirdness. The scientist John Lilly seems to have had an equally uncanny experience - or series of them - around this time. His metaphors for superintelligent entities were the ECCO (Earth Coincidence Control Office) and SSI (Solid State Intelligence). Lilly's SSI reminds me a lot of VALIS, but there are differences, of course.

In 1971, the brothers McKenna had an experience so weird, so unheimlich that you really have to read about it for yourself - it involves intelligence from UFOs, among other Things - as chronicled in Terence McKenna's book True Hallucinations.


"World's Oldest Temple Built to Worship the Dog Star", from August 14, 2013 issue of New Scientist. Read it and make of it what you will.


The Great UFO Wave of 1973: "Well before Patty Hearst became the poster child for Stockholm Syndrome, hundreds of ordinary Americans were already experiencing their own versions of this syndrome in connection with visitations from outer space. In what became known as the Great UFO Wave of 1973, a series of sightings began in late summer and climaxed in October, ushering in a new era of official and public interest in UFOs, later commemorated by Steven Spielberg's 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind." - 1973 Nervous Breakdown, Andreas Killen, p.133. Killen then cites "debunkers" who pointed out how bad things were going for Unistatians socially at the time: war broke out in the middle east (Israel-Palestine), and Kissinger put the nation on nuclear alert because the Soviets threatened to send troops to the conflict. Many in the press thought Nixon had gone mad. Then OPEC caused an artificial gas shortage, veep Agnew resigned over tax evasion charges, and talks about Nixon being impeached ramped up. "Arguing that people 'see things' as a reaction to social stress, several prominent psychologists suggested that the UFO wave was a predictable response to a month of particularly bad news." - ibid, p.134

Okay, so I think social stress may have an effect on human visual perception, but who reading this in 2015 (or later) thinks this is mostly yet another example of "experts" who are full of crap? Was there a massive wave of UFO sightings after 9/11? I don't think so. Anyway...

One reason why we might use the word "gnostic" to describe Stockhausen:

Five fingers. Four limbs. Two eyes. A brain. And a name, too: homo bipedus, sapiens, loquens. It is easy to describe man with the detachment of an inhabitant of Sirius. But the Gnostics did have this feeling that they came from Sirius, or rather from a world that was even farther away, stranger and still more puzzling, a world beyond Sirius. Perhaps this explains the alien and, above all, contemptuous view they took from our hominoform appearance, our anthropoid conformation, our condition as foetuses dropped prematurely into the deserts of the world, and therefore crying out unceasingly with the same howl of anguish that announced our arrival on earth. - The Gnostics, Jacques Lacarriere, p.34 in my hardcopy, but p.25 in the PDF linked to here)


NB: Lilly, PKD, and the McKennas do not cite Sirius as the main deal. Also note: these writers, along with Robert Anton Wilson, are/were all imaginative people, steeped in science fiction, the hard sciences, logic, math, linguistics, and neuroscience, in addition to the history of esoteric thought. They all also used psychedelic drugs (and other drugs) in order to probe the deeper recesses of Mind.

Wilson wrote about LSD and the possibility that it opened up "noise" into the human nervous system. Writing in what appears to be pre-July 1973, he says that John Lilly thought he had been contacted by alien intelligences and that Wilson knew of other LSD users who'd had the same experience. (See Sex, Drugs and Magick, p.214) All I urge Dear Reader to do here is note the profusion of metaphors for odd experience. Noise, mathematically, is information that had been previously unintelligible to a given human nervous system. Noise represents something that was unexpected, and once it interfers with a person's ontology, it must be dealt with; interpretations must be made. As an analogy, in effort to illustrate this, The Reader is urged to obtain a copy of James Joyce's book Finnegans Wake and try to read it. It may seem very "noisy" but, with experience trying to make sense of it (reading it aloud, making notes about the phenomenology of the experience of reading it, using secondary sources, reading it in a group, etc), you may notice that what was previously noise now seems understandable and even psychedelic.

In the early 1970s, while all this was going on, Timothy Leary was in prison and developing his ideas for Starseed, which involved contact with Higher Intelligence.

                                      section of a Stockhausen score

The OG has been using the term Higher Intelligence, but there might be other semantic senses of this term. I have seen very many articles and books that assert, like the true conspiracy of the CIA's MK-ULTRA program, that clandestine intelligence groups have been involved in this High Weirdness. (See for example, The Stargate Conspiracy, pp.282-287, esp. writer Lyall Watson's very bizarre experience in 1973 that supposedly came from some sort of Higher Intelligence of Black PsyOps, pp.218-219)

Indeed, Wilson knew all too well about these sorts of things, and was even accused by some counterculturalists as being a CIA man himself. Paranoia feeds on itself, and its ravenous hunger seemingly knows no bounds. RAW was circumspect enough to wonder if he had been what the CIA calls a "useful idiot."

RKG Temple himself has claimed that after he publication of The Sirius Mystery he'd been hounded by multiple governmental intelligence agencies. The skeptic here, Jason Colavito, says he has found no proof of Temple's assertion, but that intelligence agencies have investigated a more popular - and less scholarly - "ancient astronaut" writer, Erich Von Daniken.

Maybe Colavito is right. What's far more interesting to me is his book, The Cult of Alien Gods: H.P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture, published in 2005. I have not yet read this book, but the reviews look promising. RAW, PKD, the McKennas all had read Lovecraft.

Could it be that intelligence agencies followed anyone who proclaimed some metaphysical relationship with Sirius because that's what mystic/Christian fascist/all-time weirdo William Dudley Pelley had done? Just throwin' it out there...


In his "historical grammar of poetic myth," Robert Graves unpacks myth after myth, digging deeper and deeper and making us feel weirder and weirder. Graves's book The White Goddess has proven to function as a strange wind, blowing many minds, mine included.

There is an ancient story that includes a male roe deer called a roebuck, a short-billed bird called a lapwing, and...a dog. And various heroes. See if we can follow Graves here:

But why Dog? Why Roebuck? Why Lapwing?
The Dog with which Aesculapius is pictured, like the dog Anubis, the companion of Egyptian Thoth, and the dog which always attended Melkarth the Phoenician Hercules, is a symbol of the Underworld; also of the dog-priests, called Enariae, who attended the Great Goddess of the Eastern Mediterranean and indulged in sodomitic frenzies in the Dog days at the rising of the Dog-star, Sirius. But the poetic meaning of the Dog in the Cad Goddeu legend, as in all similar legends, is "Guard the Secret," the prime secret on which the sovereignty of a sacred king depended. Evidently Amathaon had seduced some priest of Bran - whether it was a homosexual priesthood I do not pretend to know - and won from him a secret which enabled Gwyndion to guess Bran's name correctly. Hercules overcame the Dog Cerberus by a narcotic cake which relaxed its vigilance; what means Anathaon used is not recorded.

Okay, so Graves is fucking my mind here. There is much wild knowledge and obscure names of gods and goddesses and symbols that lead up to this paragraph, and lead onto many similar, that I confess pixillates me somewhat. Still: dog symbols guarding a secret? Sodomy and proto-Bill Cosby-like drug cakes are a fun addition. The erudition is staggering, the style bewitching. But the SECRETS!

Notice Thoth, the messenger-god of the Egyptians. He also gave them other little things, such as writing. Hermes is the Greek version. More than a couple Lovecraft scholars have identified Lovecraft's own Nyarlathotep in his Cthulhu mythos with those other two messenger gods.

What "is" the message?

I don't know. Neither did Robert Anton Wilson, but if you obtain a copy of Cosmic Trigger, vol 1 and study very very VERY closely pages 13-16, I think you might be onto the Final Secret of The Illuminati.

I said "might." Which seems a close cousin to "maybe."

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sirius the Dog Star in Some Poetry and Prose of Note

As I write, in Northern California, 'tis the Dog Days. The days are still, long, and marked by heat and, lately, drought. In yin-yang fashion, the heat can be modeled physically as atoms moving faster, with more energy. We're exposed all day by Earth's tilt to direct sun, and we're closer to our star, too. Correspondingly, our own atoms seem to slow down. Small exertions bring panting and sweat, and we crave the couch, a ceiling fan, whatever's in the fridge. While no doubt our ever-accelerating capital treadmill will keep many exercising and working to "get ahead" <cough>, the general run of things compass lethargy, languidness, longing.

And yet, this seems a time of supreme weirdness for our species, though this seems underreported.

                            Sirius A and B, simulated by Chris Laurel's 3-D imaging tech
                            named Celestia. Wikimedia Commons.

Here's W.H. Auden, around the Fall of 1949, nailing the listlessness of these days well:

Under Sirius

Yes, these are the dog days, Fortunatus:
The heather lies limp and dead
On the mountain, the baltering torrent
Shrunk to a soodling thread;
Rusty the spears of the legion, unshaven its captain,
Vacant the scholar’s brain
Under his great hat,
Drug though She may, the Sybil utters
A gush of table-chat.

And you yourself with a head-cold and upset stomach,
Lying in bed till noon,
Your bills unpaid, your much advertised
Epic not yet begun,
Are a sufferer too. All day, you tell us, you wish
Some earthquake would astonish,
Or the wind of the Comforter’s wing
Unlock the prisons and translate
The slipshod gathering.

And last night, you say, you dreamed of that bright blue morning,
The hawthorn hedges in bloom,
When, serene in their ivory vessels,
The three wise Maries come,
Sossing through seamless waters, piloted in
By sea-horse and fluent dolphin:
Ah! how the cannons roar,
How jocular the bells as They
Indulge the peccant shore.

It is natural to hope and pious, of course, to believe
That all in the end shall be well,
But first of all, remember,
So the Sacred Books foretell,
The rotten fruit shall be shaken. Would your hope make sense
If today were that moment of silence,
Before it break and drown,
When the insurrected eagre hangs
Over the sleeping town?

How will you look and what will you do when the basalt
Tombs of the sorcerers shatter
And their guardian megalopods
Come after you pitter-patter?
How will you answer when from their qualming spring
The immortal nymphs fly shrieking,
And out of the open sky
The pantocratic riddle breaks –
‘Who are you and why?’

For when in a carol under the apple-trees
The reborn featly dance,
There will also, Fortunatus,
Be those who refused their chance,
Now pottering shades, querulous beside the salt-pits,
And mawkish in their wits,
To whom these dull dog-days
Between event seemed crowned with olive
And golden with self-praise. 
Longing for the earthquake that would astonish reminds me of Kathryn Schulz's recent article in The New Yorker, about the Cascadia fault line/subduction zone, that will leave Seattle in ruins and render, according to one expert, everything west of the Interstate 5 highway "dust." Now that would bring any one of us out of the doldrums, eh?
I marvel at Auden's ability to render the listless, sluggish mental and bodily states brought on by the Dog Days. And "On the mountain, the baltering torrent/Shrunk to a soodling thread" is so Joycean-trippy I'm envious of anyone who writes a line like this... 
Astronomers tell us Sirius begins to rise in conjunction with the sun, for those larks who like to wake with the Sol. For the Egyptians, Sirius's appearance meant very soon the Nile would flood their fertile fields: irrigation from the gods! To the naked eye, only Alpha Centauri is brighter, and Sirius (we're not yet addressing Sirius's cosmic brethren: soon) is the fifth-nearest known star to Earthlings. It's 8.7 light years from us, but let's let Tom Robbins flesh that out in poetic prose.
Tom Robbins

The afternoon lasts approximately as long as fourth grade. However long it takes a wuf of light from Sirius the Dog Star to reach its reflection in a puddle of tar on the Dog House roof, that's how long it takes the afternoon to go by. The afternoon is a million-car train rattling at half-speed through a crossing in a prairie town. - Half Asleep In Frog Pajamas, p.83

James Joyce

In the Ithaca chapter of Ulysses, the style has switched to a series of catechism-like questions, which  are posed regarding the interactions of the young, drunk artist Stephen Dedalus, and his symbolic father, Leopold Bloom. It's around 2AM in Dublin, June 17th, 1904:

With what meditations did Bloom accompany his demonstration to his companion of various constellations?

Meditations of evolution increasingly vaster: of the moon invisible in incipient lunation, approaching perigee: of the infinite lattiginous scintillating uncondensed milky way, discernible by daylight by an observer placed at the lower end of a cylindrical vertical shaft 5000 ft deep sunk from the surface toward the center of the earth: of Sirius (alpha in Canis Major) 10 lightyears (57,000,000,000,000 miles) distant and in volume 900 times the dimension of our planet: of Arcturus: of the precession of equinoxes [...] - p. 698 in the old Viking ppbk version.

Bloom was an Everyman of 1904, but he was interested in everything. By 1905 Sirius was measured at 8.6 light-years away from us; Bloom seems to remember it as 10. So, the number for light-years is low and so is the volume: it's not 900 times that of Earth but closer to 2,834,000 times more voluminous. The important thing here is that Bloom is filled with wonder about such things and wants to share his knowledge with the younger man. 
Ezra Pound

The following passage was written under the most extraordinary circumstances: Pound had been captured by the Allies for broadcasting Fascist propaganda (Pound seemed to think he was doing what Thomas Jefferson would have wanted[?], although the broadcasts are filled with disgusting antisemitic remarks; Pound seemed to have some sort of "sickness" I know not what) to the Allies from Italy, with Mussolini's imprimatur. On May 22, 1945, Pound was taken to the Disciplinary Training Center (DTC) at Pisa where he remained for six months, as a political prisoner. At first he was kept by the Americans (Pound was born in Idaho) in a wire and concrete cage six feet by six and a half feet, open to the sky, no protection from wind and rain.  Most of the other prisoners were murderers and rapists. Pound had thought he was exercising free speech with his broadcasts. Two guards watched him at all time, and weren't supposed to speak to Pound. Pound cracked after three weeks. Under these barbaric, insane conditions, he continued with his lifelong work: writing his Cantos, encyclopedic/epic poetry, polyglot, profoundly erudite, a poem with his own version of history as he had made it from his readings. By the time he'd been apprehended, his ideas about how Modern poetry should be had largely "won" with other poets and intellectuals. With the intervention of those he'd influenced and helped (Hemingway and William Carlos Williams were disgusted by what Ez had said, but were committed to defending him should he come to trial for treason): cummings, Eliot, Archibald MacLeish, Amy Lowell, Auden, Katherine Anne Porter, Allen Tate and many others later awarded the section of Cantos that Pound had written while in captivity the Bollingen Prize. He received this award while housed in St. Elizabeth's Hospital for the criminally insane in Washington, DC. Here's a bit with Sirius in it; Pound is in the panther cage and the moon is coming up, along with Sirius:

the water seeps in under the bottle's seal

                Till finally the moon rose like a blue p.c.
of Bingen on the Rhine
                round as Perkeo's tub
then glaring Eos stared the moon in the face
       (Pistol packin' Jones with an olive branch)
       man and dog
                               On the S.E. horizon
               and we note that dog precedes man in the occident
               as of course in the orient if the bloke in the
               is proceeding to rightwards
      "Why war?" sd/the sergeant rum-runner
       "too many people! when there git to be too many
                      you get to kill some of 'em off."
-Canto LXXX

Water seeps through into his cage while the moon rose like a blue postcard. Bingen is a city on the Rhine located near a whirlpool. "Perkeo" was a jester in the court of Karl Phillip of Heidelberg, and an elaboration of this very Ezratic allusion can be found here. Eos is Venus at dawn. Jones is an officer at the DTC. Man and dog refer to Orion and Sirius. Then Pound makes an observation about syntax in chinese writing vs. Indo-European. After "bloke in the" we are supposed to see a Chinese character that shows the characters for "dog" and "man," which, in the text, is shown in the margins. This tiny section of Canto 80 ends with overheard conversation illustrating the almost idiotic level of political understanding by Unistat military; my impression is that not much has changed since 1945.

W.S. Merwin

Heavily influenced by Pound, Merwin won his second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his 2008 book The Shadow of Sirius. I read this luminous book and, while there are no poems "about" Sirius, reading Merwin we must keep in mind that, for him, creativity comes from something inside us that we didn't know about: our Shadow. So, his poetry comes from the "shadow of Sirius," as Sirius is a strange star system (more later). Here's a section from a transcript of an interview Merwin had with Bill Moyers, after Merwin won the Pulitzer:

BILL MOYERS: He does leave his island reverie from time to time to read his work at universities and libraries — and to pick up his Pulitzer Prize. Here's the book that won, THE SHADOW OF SIRIUS. Its author is with me now. W.S. Merwin, welcome to the Journal.
BILL MOYERS: You titled this new book, the one that just won  the Pulitzer Prize, "In The Shadow of Sirius". Now, Sirius is the dog star. The most luminous star in the sky. Twenty-five times more luminous than the sun. And yet, you write about its shadow. Something that no one has ever seen. Something that's invisible to us. Help me to understand that.
W.S. MERWIN: That's the point. The shadow of Sirius is pure metaphor, pure imagination. But we live in it all the time.
W.S. MERWIN: We are the shadow of Sirius. There is the other side of-- as we talk to each other, we see the light, and we see these faces, but we know that behind that, there's the other side, which we never know. And that — it's the dark, the unknown side that guides us, and that is part of our lives all the time. It's the mystery. That's always with us, too. And it gives the depth and dimension to the rest of it.
(for entire interview see HERE.)

In Voltaire's Micromegas he's invented a giant from the planet Sirius. It's a proto-science fiction story. This giant promises to give men - "infinitely insignificant atoms" - the secrets of nature in a large volume of philosophy. When the Society of the Academy of Sciences opens up the book, it's nothing but blank pages. "Aha!," says the Secretary: "Just as I expected."


"Well, Lew angled his thumb aloft and eastward, where sure enough a very bright, luminous object had been slowly on the rise all evening, "it's a good one to get, all right." It was the Dog Star Sirius, which ruled this part of the summer, and whose blessings, tradition held, were far from unmixed." - Against The Day, Thomas Pynchon, p.901