Overweening Generalist

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Pound Notes: (Ezra), Paideuma and You

I just finished re-reading 1992's Trialogues at the Edge of the West: Chaos, Creativity and the Resacralization of the World, a collection of far-out-there "trialogues" between the chaos mathematician Ralph Abraham, the late hyperarticulate psychonaut Terence McKenna, and the arch-Heretic of Biology, Rupert Sheldrake. These conversations about eschatology, climate crisis, morphological fields, comparative religion, discarnate entities in world history, wellsprings of creativity, educational reform and metaphors about "light" - among other things - seemed ancient. With the acceleration of information and experienced time, I revisited this book that I'd read soon after it came out. I had forgotten how NeoPlatonist all three thinkers were. One riff that runs pretty much through all these conversations - held at Esalen - was: what do we need to do to re-think what got us into this predicament? And they all seem to agree we need an updated archaic revival: of partnership society (not patriarchy), of getting back into nature and connecting in a deep way with plants and life. We need to find ways to lessen our own toxic egos, dissolve boundaries between each other, and sex is really healthy and good. Psychedelic mushroom use was one thing they all agreed was a potentially powerful way to catalyze all this.

                               this photo of Pound seems to have originally appeared in the 
                               New York Daily News with the caption: "Jew Hater"

By 1939, Pound had gone over the edge. He'd lost his center, but he didn't know it yet. He had been driven...mad? into paranoid antisemitic conspiracy thought? into deep delusions? It's up to The Reader to decide. Having a great number of artist-friends killed in the 1914-1918 World War...for what? The Poet - who, let's face it: was probably born an extra-ordinary person - decided to investigate the ultimate reason(s) this war happened. And he soon got into economics: money, banks, bankers, usury, and...oy!

Ezra Pound thought pretty much the same things about an "archaic revival" as the three Wiggy Thinkers I mentioned above (except for the drugs, which about which, later, below): In 1939 Pound wrote:

What we really believe is the pre-Christian element which Christianity has not stamped out. The only Christian festivals having any vitality are welded to sun festivals, the spring solstice, the Corpus and St. John's eve, registering the turn of the sun, the crying of "Ligo" in Lithuania, the people rushing down to the sea on Easter morning, the gardens of Adonis carried to Church on the Thursday.

Soon after, Pound wrote:

Paganism included a certain attitude toward; a certain understanding of, coitus, which is the mysterium. The other rites are the festivals of fecundity of the grain and the sun festivals, without revival of which religion can not return to the hearts of the people.

["Ligo" here is not to be confused with the recent news that Einstein's gravitational waves have finally been found by LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Waves Observatory. Pronounced "leegwa," Ligo here is the summer solstice as celebrated in Latvia and Lithuania; it's like their xmas.]

Put blood simple, Mad Ol' Ez was for the sex goddess Aphrodite, and Helios: the sun god. Fucking outdoors in Nature: that's the true religion for those of us in Europe and the West. It gets to the heart of Pound's idea of paideuma, which was the semantic unconscious of a people; the deep tangles of ideas that form a culture and make it unique.

 I've been reading A.David Moody's third volume of biography of Pound, Ezra Pound: Poet Vol III,  and it's magisterial. I've long regarded Pound's life as the most compelling, dramatic, spellbinding, weird and tragic of all 20th century artists. This bio covers "the tragic years 1939-1972," to Pound's death. Moody confirms some of my ideas about the inexhaustible Ez. It extends almost all of my ideas about the guy who edited The Wasteland. It's the sort of biographical subject-writing that a street intellectual who maybe had only "heard about" Pound might still thrill at reading. It's almost like Pound was "made up" by some other Mad Poet-Genius, in order to compete with a figure like Faust. But Ez wuz real!

Around the time the Trialogues book came out, Ray Muller produced a fantastic documentary film about Hitler's favorite filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, called The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. Pound's life was at least as wonderful and horrible as Riefenstahl's.

The term paideuma was coined by Leo Frobenius, who I wrote about HERE.

In her terrific book on lost writings by Pound, Machine Art and Other Writings, Maria Luisa Ardizzone has a long footnote about Pound and his understanding and use of Frobenius's term which is worth repeating here:

Pound's idea of culture as Paideuma is crucial for understanding his virulent anti-Semitism from the 1930s onward and for his treatment of aesthetics. Frobenius's idea that there is a connection between, for instance, the form of a bed which certain people make and use and the kind of economy (agricultural and sedentary, or nomadic)(see Frobenius, Anthology, 9) is crucial for Pound's idea that an economy of usury will influence art: "form." Pound summarizes this idea in a single assertion, variously reiterated: "The form of objects is due to CAUSE" In Guide to Kulchur, 57, Pound explains the meaning of "Paideuma" as follows: "To escape a word or a set of words loaded up with dead association Frobenius uses the term "Paideuma" for the single or complex of the inrooted ideas of any period." In "For a New Paideuma" he writes, "The term "Paideuma" as used in dozen German volumes has been given the sense of an active element in the era, the complex of ideas which is in a given time germinal, reaching into the next epoch, but conditioning actively all the thought and action of its own time." (Selected Prose, 284; emphasis [Ardizzone's]. I have stressed the importance of the word "complex," which in Pound's work belongs to the idea of a unity that is one and plural. - pp.44-45, note #45, Machine Art

[Quick observation: I agree totally with Ardizzone about Pound's desire to see a paideuma as a unity that is plural. Pound had metaphors for aesthetic growth and movement in culture before World War 1, such as "the vortex." His Imagism was a deliberate attempt to revolutionize Modern Art. Hell, all of his aesthetic manifestoes and books sought Rev. The plurality within a unity metaphor seems isomorphic to Sheldrake's morphogenetic fields, which are invisible fields that carry memories of both themselves and other morphogenetic fields. It's similar to Leibniz's "monads" and Jung's collective unconscious. It also bears a family resemblance to the sociology of "ideologies" which have a public face of claims to rationality, and to being above the fray of power and politics yet are quite likely a special interest. All of these ideas have often been presented as a unity with much plurality "carried" within. Sorry for the digression!- the OG]

So: Pound fell in love with this invention by Frobenius and sought to extend it. But for a "sick" mind such as Pound's what it meant had to do with what got us into WWI: war profiteering, banking crooks, and bad ideas that Pound saw were complexly rooted in an alien paideuma: the Semitic one. It had infected Europe and his United States. He needed to wake us all up to this invisible but deeply rooted menace.

Quick Glance Into Pound's Paranoia: Drugs
I wrote above that Pound was not in line with McKenna, Abraham, and Sheldrake about drugs. And this gives a hint. Moody tells us that Pound said he "knew" since 1927 the Commies were drugging us as a political weapon. Yep: "drugs" - no delineation between mescaline or cannabis or amphetamines, just "drugs" - were being used by Jew-Commies to corrupt and destruct the goys. Get a load of this, Ez in a letter to Olivia Rossetti Agresti, August, 1954, Pound in the loony bin at St. Elizabeth's in DC:

heroin is pushed/ and the negro attendant knows that big chews are back of it...AND the kikes go for the WHOLE of the more sensitive section of the younger generation/ 'all' jazz musicians on marijuana/which 'is not habit forming' and leads to heroin/ and 'Benzadrine is harmless, they give it to aviators'/ so that after carpet bombing they will go on with some drug habit or other. - Moody's vol 3, p.317

[Brief comment: talk to Mezz Mezzrow, a jew-turned black about marijuana among jazz musicians!]

On with it...

Now, because I could go on for another 2000 words but won't, I want to end by floating out this idea: If we look at Frobenius's life: he was proto-fascist, but was one of the first Modern Europeans to raise up Africa as filled with brilliant and genius traditions, or as Frobenius's biographer Janheinz Jahn wrote, Frobenius gave to German people a counter-idea about Africa: an "insignia of nobility: human dignity, culture, art, literature, and history...it helped Africans and Afro-Americans to find a new consciousness of themselves within the African tradition." - from a short bio titled Leo Frobenius: The Demonic Child

Now: inventing the notion of certain geographical areas as living organisms and works of art and ideas seems fine on the surface, but it's an old trap, innit? If WE are one thing, THEY are another. And we may see beauty or value in the OTHER, but reading history for the last 30 years: far too often: THEY are simplified into a threat. "They" become demonized...

And there are other ideas like paideuma floating around out there. I guess the trick is to see the human race as one family (actually, we are: see "Everyone On Earth Is Actually Your Cousin" and note any changes in your consciousness after you've understood it). We're all in this together, the world is getting smaller and smaller, eh?

And THEN let's think about the human collective unconscious, or paideuma, or mazeway, or whatever you want to call it. It's an idea seemingly tailor-made for Generalists. What are your preliminary diagnoses? Where did we get the idea we must always be armed to the teeth? Why do men rule over women? Why must "my" version of the Sky-God have a bigger dick than your Sky-God? What about money? What about ownership of land? Please feel free to add ones that puzzle you.

See what you can make of it before we realize what Pound thought had already happened: he thought we'd made a "botched civilization." How do we use our imaginations to get out of this? Take your time, even though we sorta are pressed, no?...

                                           art: Bobby Campbell


Eric Wagner said...

Interesting post. My chronological trip through film history has reached 1976, and I have found myself thinking about some issues similar to what you write about here. I think some interesting processes happened in our civilization during the 1960's and early 70's, but it largely got shut down. (Pound told McLuhan to see the Cantos as a detective story: "Who stole Western Civilization"?) Pynchon's Vineland sees the Nixon counterrevolution as a major factor in the shut down.

Eric Wagner said...

Oops, "Who killed Western Civilization"

Bob Campbell said...

Whew! This set off cascading chain reaction of freely associated ideas and images :)))

Hope you don’t mind if I use your comment section to brainstorm some

So maybe Paideuma is the Medium is the Message?

Reminds me of Pratityasamutpada. Interacting processes processing interactions in the supercontextual substratum, where everything exists interdependently w/ everything else, so much so that to isolate any one element from the whole leaves you nothing in particular to speak of, Sunyata!

McKenna claimed Sunyata was a nihilistic idea, which I always found to be a logical misunderstanding, per his sometimes less than generous interpretation of ideas contrary to his own.

Though just recently I read about how McKenna swore off Psilocybin in the late 80’s, never to take it again, bc of a bad trip where he saw everything as “meaningless.”

Pretty bizarre, right!? Understanding that life has no meaning seems like a kinda basic Psychonaut idea! Joseph Campbell explains stuff like that on PBS TV specials w/ a twinkle in his eye. Though thinking back on McKenna’s oeuvre it actually makes perfect sense that this would disturb him so, and also why he would mistake emptiness for nothingness.

McKenna, like Pound before him, strived to use language to enchant history itself, the objective record of existence.

In contrast, RAW, like Joyce before him, strived to use language to enchant consciousness itself, the subjective realities of experience.

That’s a sloppy distinction that falls apart if you think about it too long, but I think the general idea works.

McKenna/Pound tending towards objective principals.

RAW/Joyce tending towards subjective principals.

Yin/Yang, Hodge/Podge, etc/etc

(For the next generation I’d add Alan Moore & Grant Morrison to that contentious duality, but who goes where is a whole other can of worms!)

NOTICE! The Cantos, based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, a linear hierarchical journey from Inferno to Purgatorio to Paradiso, has a story structure that resembles a 1. Whereas Finnegans Wake, based on Vico’s ricorso, a circular holistic journey around and around the divine, heroic, and human ages, has a story structure that resembles a 0.

Both Mckenna & RAW agreed that Joyce, Pound & McLuhan functioned as the prophets of the digital age: 101010101010101010101 :)

I’ve listened to the Trialogues at the Edge of the West lectures over and over, some of my fav brain food, w/ inexhaustible insight. Interesting to think of it in terms of being post bad trip McKenna, where he begins to present himself as an alt rational materialist. Abraham & Sheldrake even make fun of him for it, noting the difference from his previous act as the self-transforming machine elf guy. Though of course still pursuing his transcendental OBJECT.

I notice RAW had a tricky way of redeeming lost genius. He had me so hooked on Pound that I just couldn’t discard him after eventually learning about his Fascist & Anti-Semitic breakdown. His innovations were too valuable to lose to his human failures. (Notice how many of RAW’s primary influences were brilliant innovators outcast from the mainstream, and how he incorporated their ideas into his own, making it so those memes wouldn’t be lost due to their originators bad PR)

I’m reminded of this bit from Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman:

“But the best of us, the gold in us, will survive in you! All that is impure will be burned to ash. And all that is strong and great and true will survive... And be reborn."

Okey-dokey! Thanks for this great word “Paideuma” and for the impetus to rethink all of this. I’m in one of those Agnosis! holding patterns where the story has gone to ground in unfamiliar territory and I’m in research & development mode.



Anonymous said...

FAO Bobby Campbell:

"Though just recently I read about how McKenna swore off Psilocybin in the late 80’s, never to take it again, bc of a bad trip where he saw everything as “meaningless.”

Six months or so ago I read an interview with his brother Dennis about Terence swearing off Psilocybin, but he never explained why. This led me to spend a lot of time wondering "What did Terence actually see?"

It almost seems an anti-climax. Well duh, of course it's meaningless. As you say, Psychonaut 101. Above the clear white light is an empty black void, as Crowley once put it.

I suspect you're right with your outline of the hodge-podge analysis of subjectivity-objectivity. RAW was always ahead of the curve in this regard I think - he understood that a lot of phenomena could be both-and, rather than either-or.

I'm unfamiliar with Pound, so can't really comment as to his ideas. McKenna once called such vast overarching conspiracy theories "epistomological cartoons", which seems quite a nice term for it.

Wheels in our heads indeed. Keep them spinning, Michael.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I have trouble with reconciling the crazy guy ranting about Jews and jazz musicians with the giant of modernist literature from earlier in the century. Do you get the impression that he was sane in his earlier years and just went crazy?

michael said...

@Eric- I'm still not decided on what "western civ" is; it seems highly contested. That it has been stolen seems worthy of a long essay, but I'm not the one to write it. I tend to see it more along what some French historians have called the longue duree, and that's isomorphic to "The Empire never ended."

I re-read Vineland last year and found it funnier and yet darker than previous readings. The theme of the State forcing dissenters to rat on each other seems really dark, and there's similar riffs in Delillo's _Libra_. I tend to consider all of this as a piece with omni-surv, persecution of gvt whistleblowers, the privatization of prisons, the Prez having a secret "I get to kill whoever I want by drone" hideousness, billionaire fascists buying elections (and now running in them), and questions about how atomization of citizens happens. Etc.

Bob Campbell said...

Right on, DD!

Psychonaut 101, that was just the phrase I had in mind!

I think McKenna wanted to be an Isaac Newton level of scientific innovator, and that he was really hoping to develop an objective principal from hyperspace that he could factually prove. Most of us aren’t aiming for that, and thus aren’t terribly disappointed to find out such things essentially futile.


I’m sure OG will have a sparkling response for you, but I have a head of steam worked up on this stuff, and so here’s my 2 cents also!

I forget where I originally picked it up, maybe Hugh Kennar, but it remains the most satisfying explanation of Pound’s duality to me, which is that he was what was then called an “idiot savant” and what we would now call “on the spectrum.”

So he had this brilliance in language, but maybe a limited social intelligence, and that this combination allowed him convince himself of several squirrelly notions.

Some these squirrelly notions that he convinced himself of were tremendous innovations of thought & language that will be taught in universities for decades to come, and others were... well... you know...

Also, I think the standard interpretation was that World War I did his head in, perhaps exacerbating a pre-existing condition.

When I brought this up to RAW he seemed to think that Pound’s breakdown had a limited effect on his work, and that he had never noticed any anti-semitism in The Cantos. (Though Eric pointed out to me that “Usura” is a pretty obvious dog whistle, and that I should use the word "Avarice" instead)

michael said...

@Bob Campbell

The totality of your comment seems to constitute a great "lost footnote" to the blog post itself. The riffs on Terence/Pound and objectivity and RAW/Joyce and subjectivity seems worth meditating upon.

How substantive is the story that Terence had a bad trip and quit sometime around 1990? Yet he still advocated for the transformative possibilities with psilocybin? I had read that this happened, but it was couched in "What a hypocrite he was!" rhetoric. I have not read Dennis McKenna's _Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss_ yet: does Dennis address this? I wonder if Terence's glioblastoma onset had anything to do with this imputed Bad Trip? I wonder how harrowing this trip must have been - if it's true - because he'd taken so many DMT and psilocybin trips before, under "heroic" doses.

Your riff on RAW's tricky way of "redeeming lost genius" has long been a focal point for my close readings of RAW. It seems under-addressed so far.


michael said...

@ dirtydiscordia-

I should hunt down that interview with Dennis.

I've long resonated with Alan Watts, who, when asked if he still experimented with psychedelics, said he'd stopped. When asked to elaborate, Watts said something to the effect that when one has picked up the phone and gotten the message, one hangs up.

Man, I wish Terence told us what he experienced. I'd easily accept him as an ex-psychonaut. I just wish he were here still to regale us with his gift of gab: he was in my top 5 Most Spellbinding Speakers Ever. His idiolect was priceless, and he's one of those speaker-writers who are so thrilling to listen to that when you read their books, you get to "hear" them in richochet through your nervous system, a most delightful auditory hallucination.

KPFK, the Pacifica station in Los Angeles, introduced me to Terence. Roy ("Of Hollywood") Tuckman played McKenna talks at midnight. Then suddenly he stopped. So I called the station and Roy answered the phone. I asked why no more Terence? He sounded evasive but I do remember saying "I don't trust him." I said, "What happened?" And he never answered, just repeating he didn't trust Terence. Keep in mind, on Wednesday "nights" at midnight Tuckman had played Mae Brussell-sprout Dave Emory's talks for years on end. Tuckman continued to play Emory after he quit playing McKenna, make of that what we will...

I appreciate dropping TM's "epistemological cartoons" and RAW's "both-and" view. Thanks for the comment!

michael said...

@ Tom Jackson-

Your Q gets near the center of why I find Ez so fascinating. I think genius can get wrapped in all sorts of eldritch tangles.

Anyone who becomes interested in the prime mover of Modernist esthetics who was also almost executed by the US gvt for treason while receiving the Bollingen Prize at the same time should be aware of Pound's sad final years, when I woke up to the horror of his own antisemitic idiocy. It seems he could barely live with himself. He'd gone silent. He realized he'd fucked everything up with his "suburban" antisemitism, and hurt everyone he loved. AND he had Jewish friends. Read the numerous versions of when Allen Ginsberg visited him in Rapallo and played him Beatles records and offered Ez a joint. It's fucking weird stuff, man.

Coming to grips with what Pound's life meant is one of my lifelong pursuits.

I mean, think about it: at age 18 he resolved to "know more about poetry by age 30 than any man alive," and he pulled it off. He wanted to make an Aesthetic Revolution for the new century, and he tirelessly advocated for funding for unknowns he thought were brilliant: people like Joyce, cummings, Frost, Hemingway, all kinds of painters and sculptors. All the while he went without, being a tough guy and making his own crude furniture by hand.

michael said...

@ Bob Campbell-

Yea, Ez may have been on the spectrum (hell: I might be!); it's just that being a bit weird AND getting the chance to broadcast your "knowledge" about "the Jews" and calling FDR "Stinky Rosenstein" - as if FDR were Jewish! - to the Allies for Mussolini? An amplification of crazy that most similarly afflicted would, these days, be confined to yelling at "liberals" on TV.

I do detect a lot of Jew-hate in The Cantos, but only from a limited period.

I like Moody's 3-vol life of Pound, but I do think Kenner's _The Pound Era_ is the best place to start.

Add here: because the specter of Pound is so divisive, I don't think his economic ideas have been given enough respect: read them, and discount the ideas that Jews are behind all the banks. I find his ideas fascinating that way. RAW read Pound's economics that way. Some of it is wild and very speculative, but RAW was always about getting our thought out of claustrophobic boxes. Lewis Hyde's brilliant book _The Gift_ has a terrific and thoughtful disagreement with Pound over what Hyde called "the fate of vegetable money." But still: few writers have seemed up to developing thoughtful critiques of Pound's economics. Kenner is a wonderful explainer of Pound and money and value and usury and how this all ties in with the lives of artists and the fate of "our culture."

Eric Wagner said...

The question of Pound's sanity seems interesting. Don Hall thought Pound had a nervous breakdown in the late 30's. Ginsberg saw Pound as a sort of Sufi in his silence at the end of his life. Pound's very few prose writings in his last decade seem magnificent - the obit for Eliot, the preface for Selected Prose, etc.

Leslie Fiedler asked what 60 year old American poet would not seem insane to the American public. He answered "Robert Frost".

Eric Wagner said...

Pete Fairchild observed that Pound really did know a lot about certain areas - early French poetry, etc. As Pound got older, he became convinced he had a deep understanding of more and more areas: politics, economics, Tibetan history, Chinese, etc.

Pound knew one hell of a lot about poetry, but he knew next to nothing about Rumi. Poetry seems vaster than any single nervous system, even that of a genius like Pound.

michael said...


Yea, I'd forgotten that Donald Hall thought that about Ez. For some reason I have this memory of Hall talking about watching Ez play tennis. It seems like a dream. Do you remember what book?

I read a bunch of Frost letters last year, and even though Ez helped him, Frost seemed kinda dickish about it. A lot of poets who were helped by Pound or were simply heavily influenced by him had all sorts of ambivalence about him. It does seem that the friends he made before the radio broadcasts did help him not get executed.

Really great poets do seem pretty weird, to me, for the most part, so Fielder's line makes me laff. And Fairchild is right about Ez knowing a LOT, but he also seemed to think he knew far more than he did. And some of his ideas about esthetics are almost comically ridiculous. I remember him talking about the decor in someone's receiving room, and he thought it was in poor taste...which meant there was something wrong with their entire culture. (Somewhere in the Hapsburg Empire?) I can't remember who it was, but any reader of Pound's essays will happen upon passages like that. But he'll follow it up immediately with something incredibly interesting or very brilliant.

I know this about myself: If I pick up any book by Pound - I own about 15 by him - and open at random, his dazzling mind plays within every sentence. Even if the passage I happen upon is stuff I reject now out of hand, I can find something in the presentation that's amusing. The only exception: call me garish, but I asked for xmas this last, and received, the book of transcribed Pound talks he got busted for, _Ezra Pound Speaking_. Quite of lot of it is him at his worst. There are passages that are funny, but all in all, it's fucking CRAZY shit, man. You read that and then say, "Yep. A guy like that was bound to be locked up somewhere along the line..."

Speaking for myself, Pound is practically _never_ boring.

As Nietzsche might have said had he lived to witness the Pound drama: Human, all-too human.

Bob Campbell said...

What an awesome thread of ideas to wonder over w/ my morning coffee!

The story about McKenna having a bad trip and quitting psilocybin comes from Dennis McKenna, though the only specifics of his existential crisis comes third hand from Dennis' description of McKenna's wife's description of Terence's description: "a lack of all meaning, a lack of all meaning." All of which comes from "The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss" which I've been slacking on. I must admit having read The Invisible Landscape & True Hallucinations the idea of getting the La Chorrera story from Dennis' POV seems pretty intimidating!

I don't think TM was a hypocrite for continuing to talk about his mushroom experiences though! In fact, thinking back on his later talks, he was pretty open about his current mind state, and I can think of numerous examples of McKenna expressing new found caution of the psychedelic experience. "There are bold Psychedelicists, and old Psychedelicists, but there are no bold old Psychedelicists!" etc etc

I find myself trying to find reasons to justify continuing to study and eventually teach Pound's work despite his breakdown, but maybe his breakdown actually makes him more interesting and worthy of study. An isolated node of the Mass Psychology of fascism. Something that oddly hadn't occurred to me was how susceptible he obviously would be to powerful aesthetic propaganda coming from Italy and Germany.

Eric Wagner said...

I remember reading a discussion online between McKenna and Hunter about McKenna's drug use years ago.

Don Hall wrote about Pound's mental health in _Remembering Poets_ which he expanded into _Their Ancient Glittering Eyes Are Grey_. I love both books, but I prefer the expanded version. Man, I read that about 32 years ago, but it really made an impact on me.

Yeah, Pound's radio addresses have some terrible stuff. I had experiences like Bobby's - Bob Wilson got me hooked on Pound. I would get disgusted by Pound, but then I'd come back to Pound and get excited again about the wise things he had to say. He had a fascinating mix of wisdom and hatred - a true Cosmic Schmuck.

Anonymous said...

""This isolating aspect of individualism was something Crowley understood completely. "I am alone", he wrote, "there is no God where I am."" (J.Higgs - "Stranger Than We Can Imagine" p.76)

It seems, there was no God where Ezra Pound was either.


michael said...

@ Bob Campbell-
"A lack of all meaning!" I will take this as if it's exactly what happened, and what Terence said. It must have been a profoundly bad trip.

But, I hafta say, when you have modeled the universe (or the one we live in) along the Logos, which is Plato who then infected xtianity and the monotheisms: "meaning" will come from some One or transcendental object OUT THERE. Whereas I was never able to buy this (although I find it a profound idea), I have always thought we - humans- make all meanings. That's my number one model ontologically and I haven't seen a better one come along, although...HELLO? I'm WAITING ovah heh! Whatcha got?

I don't think my No Ideas From Some Transcendent Being of Object is "right" - 'cuz I'm a model agnostic about it. It's my 2nd favorite model.

I was never sure how "serious" Terence was about some of his ideas. There were little riffs that made it sound like "this is all entertainment" but then he'd sound so earnest. I never knew.

What I do know is I have to get hold of _Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss_ somehow. No libraries around here have it, so I will have to get creative.

I'm not sure Ez was all that influenced by German fascist propaganda; I think he must have been a bit influenced by Italian fascist ideas in the air, but in my investigations, it's weird. Because it's Pound.

I see no reason to disbelieve him when he wrote to US Atty Gen. Biddle in Aug, '43 that it was all "free speech" over the radio, and that "I have not spoken with regard to _this_ war, but in protest against a system that creates one war after another, in series and in system. I have not spoken to the troops, and have not suggested that the troops should mutiny or revolt."

It seems to me Pound really did think he was upholding ideals of the US Constitution. He was just off in his world, trying to get through to us in "this" world.

I do think his breakdown - or whatever it was - makes him more interesting.

Also: thanks for the line - from Terence? - that there may be bold and old Psychedelicists, but no bold AND old ones. That one rattled in my brainpan for a few hours.

michael said...

@Eric: Yea, _Their Ancient Glittering Eyes Are Grey_. I loved that one. I think that's where the image of Pound playing tennis came from.

There was a section of Rhoney Gissen's book on Owsley about Hunter accidentally taking WAY WAY WAY too much acid and an epic bad trip. I think it was in the candy bowl backstage at a Janis Joplin concert. He didn't know.

Pound may have been one of the great Cosmic Schmucks. You're right. Some of his Schmuckiness lowered a bit over the late 1960s till death in '72.

michael said...

@ Alex-

The Q about Ez and the gods has long fascinated me. He may have had the gods with him all along and was driven nuts by others not experiencing same. A line from Canto 93:

The Gods have not returned. "They have never left us."
They have not returned.
Cloud's processional and the air moves with their living.

Pound hated monotheism. Get a load of this line, from a 1932 essay about the Italian life:

"The glory of the polytheistic anschauung is that it never asserted a single and obligatory path for everyone."

There are scads- SCADS I tells ya! - of lines like that in Pound. In a proto-environmentalist essay from 1930 about the naturalist-poet WH Hudson:

"As long as 'Christendom' is permeated with the superstition that the human body is tainted and that the sense are not noble avenues of 'illumination,' where is the basis of a glory in the colour-sense without which the bird-wings are unapprehended, or of audition without which the bell-cry of the crested screamers is only a noise in the desert."

Coitus as "mysterium" indeed!

A "polytheistic anschauung": experiencing the gods as divine presences without any abstracting. IF he felt this - and I see no good reason why he didn't - it too gives a clue to how "out there" he was compared to most of us, eh?

(I take "anschauung" as roughly isomorphic to Korzybski's "event level" or possibly the next level up, but still pre-verbal.)

Bob Campbell said...

Great point about McKenna & the Logos! He wanted there to be a telos not a sunyuta.

Though I don't think that his bad trip convinced him that there actually was a lack of all meaning, but rather that since the mushroom made him think that, it was time to stop taking the mushroom. (The medium not the message)

There's a McKenna talk out there about his early days where he describes himself as having process schizophrenia post La Chorrera, and talks about the strategies he came up with to function through it. He talks about how he would fake a detachment from his "crazy" ideas, and that he could get away with talking about them so long as he presented himself as being comfortable about being wrong about this stuff. Maybe hence the persistence of his earnestly just for laughs attitude. He then says he eventually integrated the La Chorrera experience and his mental state became less manic. Dennis says the bad trip made him question his sanity. I think for McKenna life still had meaning, it was just the mushroom was too much for him anymore.

The "bold old" line is indeed McKenna's, one of a few that popped in my head as reflective of his change of attitude. Also, when he describes the proper attitude of going to the Psychedelic experience as being with knees shaking in fear. or "not this cookie!" in response to how others use psychedelics and do regular stuff like go to concerts or amusement parks.

Thanks for context about EZ! I was thinking specifically about the how the crazy SI SI SI SI Mussolini statue outside of the National Fascist Party headquarters looked like it could have been cover art for an issue of BLAST magazine. And thinking about how the fascist and national socialist movements came on almost like the art movements EZ had so much enthusiasm for. That's just my imagination kicking things around though, I should learn more of the actual history!

michael said...

Bob: thanks for putting me straight on Terence. Clearly, I have some reading to do. I remember the first time I heard him - on the radio, late at night on KPFK in LA - and he was talking about being in the Amazon, taking stropharia cubensis, his brother was freaking out, there were hallucinations about aliens, he had a copy with Finnegans Wake in his pack...and his articulation was spellbinding.

So, I came in the middle of the show. It wasn't until he put out the book _True Hallucinations_ that I got a picture of what went down in and around La Chorerra. And this was a travelogue for every freak like me; I couldn't put it down. Also, having read widely in the short history of cultural anthropology and Westerners traveling to far-flung areas for wild adventures, I was skeptical about...SOMETHING in the whole story. Because it seemed almost too marvelous. Sure, he wasn't sugarcoating what happened to Dennis. And later I found out Dennis was doing really well.

"Process schizophrenia" was something I thought he'd used to delineate his by all measures EXTREME experience in the Amazon. Because he seemed to hyperintelligent and witty after this - by dint of his books and talks I heard - I assumed he was okay. Clearly I need to reevaluate. And I need Dennis's book.

By the time _True Hallucinations_ came out I had by then been exposed to RAW's model agnosticism, so I kept a lot of Terence's stories in a "maybe" state, but had zero doubts he was the greatest psychonaut-entertainer I'd ever listened to or read.

Also: I wonder about Shulgin: he may have violated the "old and bold" psychonaut claim. I get the feeling RAW hadn't taken psychedelics for quite some time before Jan, 2007. Only cannabis. Does anyone know? I never asked him, "When was the last time you dropped acid or did psilocybin?" RAW seemed wizened to the end.

In a talk in San Francisco around 2001, but I think before 9/11, someone asked RAW about DMT. He had a bad experience on it during a "businessman's lunch." It lasted for 90 minutes, not 20, and he found himself back at work locked in his office, typing jibberish so no one would come in and bother him until it wore off.

We know Aldous went out on a heroic dose.

I should learn more of the actual history of Terence McKenna!

michael said...

ADDENDA: I totally agree with what you say about Terence and one's attitude before taking psychedelics. It's what Leary advocated too. Have massive respect for the entheogen, or empathogen. Its proper use should be not as party drug, but as powerful but ancient technology that can possibly change your attitude toward life profoundly. Be humble, be prepared, and hope for a heaping dose of Gnosis.

Hell, I even mostly think of cannabis this way, although it too depends on dosage, set and setting. Sometimes you want to talk all night with one or two good friends, listen to music, Net-surf, or read poetry and look at art books. Or then there's "coitus the mysterium" and tantra. (You know: true religion)