Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Hourglass of Aeons (Part 2)


The precise origins of the Hourglass are lost in the shifting sand of many pasts, as are the beginning of all things in the Dying Aeon.  There is, however, a story which is told by certain reptilian tribes regarding the creation of the world, which goes as follows –

In the beginning, there was only the great snake Abdu, resting in his endless coils.

And Abdu knew all things, for the only thing that could be known was Abdu, and Abdu was happy resting in his endless coils, snoozing but never falling fully asleep, his vast, bejewelled eyes pulsing in his wakefulness, and dimming in his drowsiness.  And Abdu was happy resting in his endless coils, knowing all things.

And many aeons of our time passed Abdu in this happy state, until there came a time when his eyes started to pulse less, and grow dimmer all the time, and Abdu knew that he had grown tired of knowing all things, and that his eyes would soon dim out altogether, and then there would be nothing, for Abdu would be asleep, and there could be nothing ever to wake him again.  And then a momentous thing happened, which none of the Hierarchs or theologians have ever understood, though they have discussed it long into the night, and tramped their feet bitterly into the sand.  Abdu resolved that instead of knowing everything, he wanted to know one thing from another.  Alas, being all things, he did not know how he might differentiate one thing from any other, but as his thoughts on this question remained unresolved, they hardened and congealed into round orbs that fell about his coils in great clusters.  And since Abdu did not cease thinking on the problem of knowing one thing from another, those orbs grew limbs which allowed them to move about and work upon the problem which Abdu had set them.  And Abdu became quiescent then, and as the deathless one drifted into abeyance, his sleepy thoughts formed a kind of fine vermilion dust that drifted through the air around his coils.  

And the orbs began to gather all the vermilion dust that drifted in the air about them, and pile it into great heaps on the scales of Abdu.  But how can we differentiate one grain of this sand from another they wondered, for it is all the one thing?  After much disputation, the orbs resolved that though the individual grains could not be differentiated, it might be that if sand were moved from one place to another, then the sand in the first place would be one thing and the sand in the second another.  Hence, they set their ingenuity to constructing a device which might keep the sand in constant or near-constant motion.  They created a vast glass structure composed of an upper and a lower bulb, connected to one another by a narrow central funnel, and they filled the lower bulb with the sand of Abdu’s restful thoughts.  About the bulbs they erected a container like to the grandest temple ever raised by mankind to honour his gods: the glass was enclosed by cyclopean foundations and pillars, adorned with hieroglyphics that none but Abdu would ever understand; and the whole structure was connected to a machinery of levers and pulleys which allowed the hourglass to be turned and the slow falling of its vermillion sands initiated.

And when the sand started to fall, Abdu’s eyes gleamed once again, and the Hierarchs and theologians of those tribes tell us that ever since that moment, Abdu has lain contentedly in his coils, watching the sand as it falls slowly through the great celestial machinery which they call the Hourglass of Aeons.  And they tell us that the stars in the heavens are but grains of sand in this Hourglass, for all time and space as we know it are contained in the disordered thoughts of Abdu as they fall from the higher bulb down to lower; and when every last grain has finally come to rest in the bottom bulb, our world and everything we have ever known will come to an end, and then the orbs will rouse themselves to turn once more the great machinery, and the elements of the last world will once again be intermixed and set in falling motion, and many people will remember having lived other lives prior to this one, and remember the character of other worlds contrary to this one, some better and some worse, and those people will remember aright, for many times has the Hourglass of Aeons been turned, and many contrary worlds has it created, all composed of the same core elements, and the visions men see in this world, and the exotic artworks which they create, are but memories of the previous admixture of sand which fell through the Hourglass, or an adumbration of the next, and no one knows how many times the Hourglass of Aeons has been turned, none save Abdu, happy resting in his endless coils.

This antique tale provided the mythic prototype for the talisman which had found its way into Ah Pook-Nar.  It had been fashioned long ago by reptilian craftsmen as a miniature model of the celestial hourglass celebrated in their ancestral legendry.  The sand in the hourglass was deemed to be the key to its peculiar narcotic effects.  This sand, Kadmon had heard, was a bright shade of vermilion red which shimmered and sparkled with a lustre unlike that of any naturally occurring mineral.  Some avow that its origins were meteoritic; others claim that a mystic once awoke from a profound trance to find himself clutching two fistfuls of the mysterious sand, like a keepsake preserved from a fading dream.  Whatever its origin, gazing at the sand as it fell through the hourglass had a peculiarly mesmeric affect: the gazer lost all consciousness of time, and became wholly absorbed in vivid hallucinations and fantasies.  Having existed for centuries in the open desert, the lizard people’s perception of time differed radically from that of city dwelling humans; knowing only the great, brooding silence and essential homogeneity of that terrain, their sense of time had gradually become less insistent, and more mystical and undifferentiated in character.  Hence, the effects of the hourglass were less pronounced on them, and they used it as a kind of oracle.  In the district of Malrudia, upon the roof of whose ziggurat men have strenuously cultivated gardens and pasture land, the priests slaughter lambs and oxen and profess to divine the course of future events in such patterns as the poor beast’s ruptured entrails assume; peasants in Kadmon’s home in the north-east cast straws to point them to enigmatical verses which were said to be the mathematical equations by which some elder demiurge composed the fortunes of men; even worldly migrants practised a form of random divination whereby they accepted the next sight or happenstance the city presented to them as an oracular cypher, thus making of the whole city a sacrificial beast whose ruptured gut was a disordered dream of things yet to come.  In such a fashion, the old reptilian priests and chieftains consulted the hourglass of aeons, until at some point its reveries lead them astray, and their tribes were dispersed and the hourglass itself lost in the sand with all the other fragments of untold aeons.

Eventually, the hourglass was discovered by a group of Diggers, and found its way into Ah Pook-Nar, where it quickly acquired a notoriety for leading wealthy aesthetes into lives of opiated dissipation and hermetic squalor, and yet the more lives it destroyed, the greater grew the mystique surrounding its visionary potency.  A group of gossiping thieves told Kadmon that the hourglass had fallen into the hands of an obscure wizard, and in its prolonged absence from the open market, it had become an object obsessively coveted by certain collectors, aesthetes, and hedonistic adventurers.  Some even avowed that the Autarch himself desperately wanted to add the hourglass to the library of inexplicable technologies and ancient totems which he and his processors had patiently accumulated over the centuries, as though in the hope that all would one day be found to be parts of a single and all-powerful divine contraption which might ensure the perpetuity of their reign beyond the eventual death of the New Sun.  

Continued shortly.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Youtube Surrealism 2: The Strange Tale of Valiant Thor.

Admittedly, this isn't the most riveting tale I've ever encountered, but it packs a strange kind of anti-climatic punch:

The Man is at the Door: Ray Mansarek 1939 - 2013.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Youtube Surrealism: The Dying NASA Scientist Videos.

The youtube account nasajim108 uploads videos which purport to be the testimony of a dying NASA scientist.  I came across these videos before, and thought they were fairly typical of a certain type of 90s conspiracism - the coagulation of UFOs and right-wing New World Order paranoia that fueled William Cooper's militia manifesto Behold a Pale Horse, and the succession of dubious whistle-blowers that provided grist for the Coast to Coast mill during the height of the Mulder millennium spring to mind.  Some of the dying NASA scientist videos are so bizarre, however, that you might almost suspect some kind of surrealist art prank at work: 

If you thought that was a little weird, try to wrap your head around this one:

The videos seem to contain a odd stew of lurid tabloid conspiracism and esoteric and occult symbols and concepts.  References to a Jacob and Lorber law firm would seem to point in the direction of the Christian mystic and seer Jacob Lorber (whom I came across before, if memory serves, in some relation to the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's peculiar assertion that he was "educated at Sirius").

Anyway, whether these guys are true believing conspiranoids or surrealist pranksters, or some mixture of the two, I can only tip my hat to producers of material as inexplicable as the following: 

Thanks, Christopher Knowles!

UPDATE: The Truth has been found, in the immortal words of Grace Slick, to be lies; it appears the Dying NASA scientist is the brainchild of comedian Duncan Trussell.   My compliments.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Dance of Reality: Trailer for Alejandro Jodorowsky's New Movie.

The first film in 23 years from the great Alejandro Jodorowsky has premiered at Cannes.  Can't wait to see it.  Here's a trailer:

Here's an early review.

Monday, May 13, 2013

EVERYBODY RELAX AND WATCH ME WORK: James Brown Live At the Apollo, 1968.

James Brown's Live at the Apollo, Volume II is an amazing, landmark live set.  It captures the transition from JB's roots in more conventional soul and r and b into the sparser, grittier, groove-orientated funk sound that defined African-American popular music in the 70s, and casts a long shadow over dance music and hip-hop culture to the present day.  Of course, the sound developed slowly over a period of years, going back to Out of Sight and Papa's Got a Brand New Bag in '64 and '65, but for me, if you want one track and one moment that really crystallizes the birth of hardcore funk, it's got to be the recording of There Was a Time on the '68 Apollo record.  I first heard this record in New York when I visited the States for the first and only time in my early twenties.  Going to America is a really exciting, surreal experience for many Europeans, because we grow up with America as the semi-mythical landscape of movies and television and popular music.  So riding the subway is a surreal experience - you expect Walter Hill's Warriors or the takers of Pelham 123 to bust on at any stop.   I bought Live at the Apollo on cd on Montague Street, and started listening it on the subway home on what cats used to call a CD walkman, feeling like I was injecting all the bustling excitement of post-war urban America straight into my veins.  Side 2 features the centerpiece of the album, a long medley of Let Yourself Go, There Was a Time, and Cold Sweat.  The groove of There Was a Time flows so sinuously out of Let Yourself Go that you barely register it starting - suddenly it's just there, repeating and swelling and building, and JB, both leading the sound and being carried along with it, sings or screeches or incantates baby BABY BAY-BA BAAY-BAAA  My head felt like it was going to explode from the intensity of this track.   (The only other time I can remember being similarly overwhelmed by the intensity of a song was when I heard Sister Ray by the Velvet Underground at age 13 and was almost frightened by it.)  

This guy tipped me on the shoulder and said "What you listening to?"  and I said "James Brown Live at the Apollo" and he says "That's my roots, man, that's my roots!" and whipped the walkman off me and started shuffling up and down the train-car, screeching and whooping.  And I was thinking to myself Man, this awesome and I hope that cat comes back with my CD walkman.

Anyway, here's some primal and astonishing footage of James Brown performing in the Apollo in '68 which gives an adequate sense of what a sheer physical dynamo the man was during that period: 

I can't find the full medley from Live At the Apollo on youtube, but here is the track that counts - still one of the most badass pieces of live music - and most amazing examples of a performer's absolute control of band and audience - that I've ever heard: 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Before Lady Gaga, the Monkees were Victims of Illuminati Mind Control.

The above is the first time I've ever used the collocation "Lady Gaga" and "Illuminati Mind Control" in a headline on this blog; I'm sure it will cause a massive spike in traffic.  In this way out clip from the 1969 NBC television special 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee, the Monkees receive Monarch-like programming from beat sensations Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll, who rather unexpectedly turn out to be mid-level archons on the global Illuminati chess-board.  Can't seem to embed, so here is the youtube link.  (Hope Manson wasn't watching).  Julie cut a really striking figure on stage, like Ziggy Stardust's earth-born sister.  Here's a great blast of the Trinity rocking it live on French television:

Julie Driscoll and the Trinity's stunning version of Let the Sunshine In is about the only thing I've ever really liked about the musical Hair.   Well, that and Gelt MacDermot's First Natural Hair BandEdit: Oh, and also this kitsch masterpiece and old favorite of this blog:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ray Harryhausen (1920 - 2013)

A giant of twentieth century popular culture.  The peculiar innocent joy and imagination of his effects sequences has never been diminished by the passing of time.  His stuff still feels realer to me than about 99.9% of cgi........because it was real.  You can't fool the eyes, but you can beguile them with lovingly crafted trickery.  RIP.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Towards the Visionary Antipodes of the Human Psyche: Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft Anticipate the Psychedelic Experience.

           There was a strongly exciting sense that my knowledge of past (or present?) reality was enlarging pulse by pulse, but so rapidly that my intellectual processes could not keep up the pace.  The content was thus entirely lost to retrospection - it sank into the limbo into which dreams vanish as we gradually awake.  The feeling - I won't call it belief - that I had a sudden opening, had seen through a window, as it were, distant realities that incomprehensibly belonged with my own life, was so acute that I cannot shake it off today.

              William James.

             And it is precisely this which gives them their numinous quality, their power to transport the beholder out of the Old World of his everyday experience, far away, towards the visionary antipodes of the human psyche.

              Aldous Huxley, Heaven and Hell.

            So when I learned of the drug which would unlock the gate and drive me through, I resolved to take it when next I awaked.

              H.P. Lovecraft, Ex Oblivione.

"Dream of flying over a city."

              I've never really subscribed to the commonplace that H.P. Lovecraft was a bad writer redeemed by a prodigious imagination.  To me, this view feels predicated on a narrow sense of what good prose or good writing should be like.  Gene Wolfe once said that the essence of good writing lies in matching the right style, register, or "voice", to the specific type of story being told.  By this criterion, it is difficult to find fault with Lovecraft as a stylist.  His distinctive literary voice - sounding somewhere between a carnival barker luring you into a darkened tent, a gibbering madman whispering quasi-scientific delusions in your ear, and an arch spoofer who is completely in on the joke - fits the weird contours of his fictional universe like a glove.  Lovecraft as a prose writer is like Vincent Price as an actor - we find them completely believable because their camp artifice is perfectly attuned to the ambiance of the world into which it is embedded.

           A reasonable argument might be made, however, that Lovecraft's work has enjoyed a pervasive cultural resonance and influence which somehow exceeds his abilities and accomplishments as a writer - that it possesses some peculiar x-factor which elevates it above the work of other more technically skilled writers.  The most common explanation offered for this x-factor is that Lovecraft's work embodies a consistent philosophical worldview, and might be construed as offering a mythic cosmology for a materialistic, post-religious era, or, more paradoxically, a myth-cycle for an era for whom the world can no longer be organized according to myths.  According to this view, the value of Lovecraft's work lies in its imaginative articulation of what Teilhard de Chardin called the modern "malady of space-time", the "feeling of futility, of being crushed by the enormities of the cosmos." (The Phenomenon of Man.)  This certainly articulates the difference between Lovecraft and his great contemporary Clark Ashton Smith.  Smith was a better prose writer and poet than Lovecraft, but his work tended towards a purer, more lush and visual type of fantasy.  This argument doesn't seem entirely convincing, though.  Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood also expressed a philosophical worldview in their stories, and yet they have not enjoyed the enduring cultural fascination of the Providence misanthrope.  Also, if the primary value of the work lies in its articulation of a despairing, nihilistic philosophy of modern materialism, why has it proven so appealing to hardcore occultists like Kenneth Grant and Alan Moore?

             Lovecraft is one of the few iconic authors in the weird fiction/fantasy realm that I am aware of who was also, at least on the surface, an atheistic materialist.  The two things do not immediately go together.  Most really great authors of fantastic literature, I think, have a kind of Platonic attitude towards the realm of the imagination - they tend to regard the imagination as being of equivalent or even superior importance to the material realm.  This is natural enough.  You wouldn't spend your professional career underwater unless you thought there was something down there.  Most of Lovecraft's most significant influences - particularly Machen and Blackwood - were mystics who regarded their weird fictions as an expression of how they thought the world really was.  In Lovecraft, however, we find the paradox of a materialist who chose to express his cosmic philosophy for the modern scientific epoch by means of a mythopoeia of ancient gods and resurgent atavisms, and who found his ideas and images more in the manner of a shaman than a scientist.  The real x-factor in Lovecraft's work, I think, is that he was a visionary writer.  I mean visionary in this context to denote the type of artist who does not seen to create alternative realities, but rather to describe them.  Although perhaps a little difficult to nail down in concrete terms, this is a characteristic that we instantly recognize.  The ordinary or even highly accomplished artist toils to create scenarios involving things they have invented or using preexisting archetypes which have come down to them from other artists, but the visionary seems to see things which are not immediately associated with their own personalities or personal histories.  Discussing psychedelic and visionary states in his essay Heaven and Hell, Huxley expresses this sense whereby the truly visionary experience does not seem to derive from our own subjective selves and personal histories:

          "Almost never does the visionary see anything that reminds him of his own past.  He is not remembering scenes, persons or objects, and he is not inventing them; he is looking at a new creation.  The raw material for this creation is provided by the visual experiences of ordinary life; but the molding of this material into forms is the work of someone who is most certainly not the self who originally had the experiences, or who later recalled and reflected upon them.  They are (to quote the words used by Dr J. R. Smythies in a recent paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry) 'the work of a highly differentiated mental compartment, without any apparent connection, emotional or volitional, with the aims, interests, or feelings of the person concerned.'"

           One of the most intriguing qualities about Lovecraft's work is the strangely obsessive and consistent quality of his visions, which we know to be largely derived from his dreams; the obsessive reiteration, for example, of aerial visions of gigantic, antediluvian architectures.  The Call of Cthulhu famously suggests that the dreams of artists, poets, and the insane possess a peculiar consistency and sensitivity to perturbations of the cosmic ether; this faculty is notably absent in men of industry and scientists:

           "These responses from aesthetes told a disturbing tale.  From February 28th to April 2nd a large proportion of them had dreamed very bizarre things, the intensity of the dreams being immeasurably the stronger during the period of the sculptor's delirium.  Over a fourth of those who reported anything, reported scenes and half-sounds not unlike those which Wilcox had described; and some of the dreamers confessed acute fear of the gigantic nameless thing visible towards the last."

            Lovecraft was clearly haunted and preoccupied by the visions he experienced in dreams.  A sizable percentage of his work (the Dunsany-influenced pieces) directly concern dreams and dream-quests.  His journals and commonplace books are littered with references to dreams, and the story Celephais was occasioned by a dream which he describes thus: "Dream of flying over a city."  The first paragraph of the very peculiar prose poem Nyarlathotep was apparently written while the author had not fully awoken from the dream which inspired it. In his annotations to the Complete Fiction, S.T. Joshi also notes a very intriguing entry: "Man journeys into the past - or imaginative realm - leaving bodily shell behind."  First of all, the association of the dreaming mind, the imagination, and the deep past is a pregnant one in the light of Lovecraft's fictional obsessions, and the second half of the quote has a peculiar savor of Platonic mysticism to it, considering the author's putative materialism.  We thus find in Lovecraft a bundle of contradictions - an obsessive visionary who publicly regarded his stories as errant but entertaining nonsense; an antiquarian and anti-modernist who wrote about antediluvian terrors and horrifying atavisms; a champion of the scientific worldview whose stories constantly posit true knowledge of the universe as something the human race would be much happier (and saner) without ever acquiring.  These contradictions reflect a conflict between Lovecraft's rational faculties and the overwhelming power of his visionary dream-life, a conflict which is echoed, one suspects, in his attitude towards science and materialism.  I will leave these ideas, however, to form a backdrop to this essay, which will explore various ways in which Lovecraft and weird fiction form a precursor to the psychedelic explosion of much later postwar culture.

Opening the Door in the Wall.  

                                                                   William James


           Last night I swallowed the drug and floated dreamily into the golden valley and the shadowy groves; and when I came this time to the antique wall, I saw that the small gate of bronze was ajar.

            H.P. Lovecraft, Ex Oblivione.

           We tend to regard the psychedelic era as spanning roughly from the 50s (the decade during which the term was first coined) to the mid or late 70s (by which time mass experimentation with LSD and other drugs had permeated the ambiance of the larger culture through music, cinema, and design aesthetics).  Of course, ceremonial and ritual psychedelic drug-use goes back probably as long as we have been anatomically modern humans, and has remained an integral part of various isolated tribal and hunter/gatherer communities ever since.  As a large scale phenomenon of western culture, however, we find only small, isolated pockets of psychedelic or quasi-psychedelic experimentation occurring on the bohemian fringes of society prior to the 1960s.  Lets look briefly at an interesting precursor to the psychedelic revolution which took place in in the late 19th century.  At some point in the 1870s, the New York-born poet and philosopher Benjamin Paul Blood was given nitrous oxide as an anesthetic during a routine dental operation.  What followed was anything but routine; Blood had a full-blown mystical epiphany under the influence of the gas, and promptly produced a rhapsodic 37-page pamphlet called The Anesthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy.  Blood's pamphlet, and the brief flurry of excitement it generated among fellow travelers, would probably be forgotten today, were it not for its influence on his friend William James.  Blood turned the great Harvard psychologist and philosopher on to nitrous oxide, and he had similarly profound experiences under its influence.  In fact, one suspects that James' anesthetic revelation formed the chief undercurrent of his imperishable classic The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).  It was in this work, while discussing his experiences with nitrous oxide, that James set the whole tone for the much later psychedelic era in an iconic, oft-quoted passage:

            "Some years ago I myself made some observations on this aspect of nitrous oxide intoxication, and reported them in print.  One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken.  It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special kind of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.  We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation.  No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded."

           The implications of this assertion remain radical to this day.  It has become a commonplace that the advance of scientific knowledge has served to dethrone man from his assumed position of centrality in the universe.  Our knowledge of cosmology has made planet earth just one other planet in one solar system in one of many, many galaxies; our knowledge of evolutionary biology has made man but one branch among many, many other actual and potential organic permutations, and so on.  This has a pleasant air both of humility and veiled self-congratulation about it (what but our own mighty intellects divined such things?), but James went much further.  After centuries of domination by the Mind of God and the godlike minds of rational philosophers and scientists, James asserted that the very medium of rational intelligence doing all the dethroning was itself just one specific type of consciousness, among many others; and the type of world or reality which that type of consciousness apprehended was just one of many worlds and realities actualized under each separate medium of conscious awareness.  We can note the similarity of this to a central underlying concept in weird fiction: that our world, unbeknownst to us, intersects with a variety of alternative realities and alien orders of being, separated from our cosy assumptions of normalcy by the "filmiest of screens."  Or, in the later words of another great American philosopher, "You unlock this door with the key of imagination.  Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind.  You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas.  You've just crossed over into the twilight zone."  Dorothy was about to step out of the maelstrom and wreckage of the Old World into the Technicolor soundstage of Oz.

          Drawing on the theories of Henri Bergson, Aldous Huxley elaborated on this idea of rational, everyday consciousness as a kind of a reducing valve (which would become crucial to the emerging psychedelic movement) in The Doors of Perception:  "But so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive.  To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funnelled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system.  What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help  us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet."  For Huxley, then, ordinary consciousness had evolved in order to facilitate the utilitarian, Darwinian business of staying alive and reproducing on planet earth; in its deeper strata, however, this utilitarian brain connected up with a kind of Platonic universal consciousness with Huxley labelled Mind at Large, or in the Doors' sequel Heaven and Hell, the visionary antipodes of the human psyche.  Again, we find the metaphor (if it is even that) of other worlds intersecting with our own:  "That which, in the language of religion, is called 'the world' is the universe of reduced awareness, expressed and, as it were, petrified by language.  The various 'other worlds,' with which human beings erratically make contact are so many elements in the totality of the awareness belonging to Mind at Large.  Most people, most of the time, know only what comes through the reducing valve and is consecrated as genuinely real by the local language."  

          I've tended to regard surrealism, weird fiction, and the later psychedelic movement as the separate strands of a single cultural history which all emerged out of the same basic appetites, and which all converged, by their separate routes, on the same essential mental terrains and vistas.  The internal struggle in H.P. Lovecraft between the rational and visionary faculties was being played out in a western culture at large which was disillusioned with the age of industrial assembly lines and corpse-strewn trenches; and weird fiction and surrealism were a two-pronged assault on Mind at Large which serendipitously found the perfect chemical analogue to its inner explorations with the advent of the psychedelic era.  Chronologically, surrealism and weird fiction were closely aligned.  Although its European roots go back a ways, weird fiction as a fully crystallized literary genre was a phenomenon of the 20s and 30s.  Weird Tales was first published in 1923 (what other year?); a year later Andre Breton published the Surrealist Manifesto.  1924 was also the year in which Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg began to formulate the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, capping off one of the most genuinely mind-bending eras of discovery in the history of science.  Then, of course, in 1938 Albert Hoffman first synthesized LSD, and all but forget about it until a "peculiar presentiment" in '43 lead him to take his historic bike ride into the antipodes of the human psyche.  As Charles Fort once observed, "a social growth cannot find out the use of steam-engines, until comes steam-engine-time."  The visions of surrealism and weird fiction had become odorless, tasteless, and soluble in water.  The internal combustion engine of the mind had arrived.

        For readers who are perhaps skeptical of the weird fiction/psychedelia connection, I'm going to finish up with a quick look at the most remarkably proto-psychedelic of all weird fictions, Clark Ashton Smith's 1931 masterpiece The City of the Singing Flame.  The first part of the story is told from the perspective of Giles Angarth, a writer of weird fiction.  While holidaying in a cabin in a remote area of the Sierras, Angarth discovers on a trek a "clear space amid the rubble in which nothing grew - a space that was round as an artificial ring.  In its center were two isolated boulders, queerly alike in shape, and lying about five apart."  Stepping through these peculiar monoliths, Angarth discovers that he has passed through a dimensional gateway into a strange other realm: "I had read a number of transdimensional stories - in fact, I had written one or two myself; and I had often pondered the possibility of other worlds or material planes which may co-exist in the same space with ours, invisible and impalpable to human senses.  Of course, I realized at once that I had fallen into some such dimension."  Angarth finds himself in a vast plain of violet grasses and forests of weird, alien vegetation, over which towers an ancient city of red stone and solemn, rectilinear architecture.  Exploring the city, he finds that it contains a temple wherein a great green flame burns from a central pit.  The flame emanates a kind of hypnotic music, and exerts a strange magnetic attraction; Angarth watches as entities from various distant planets arrive in the temple, and throw themselves into the heart of the green flame.  When Angarth finally looks directly at the flame, we find a passage which reads uncannily like a description of the effects of mescaline or LSD:

           "The fire was green and dazzling, pure as the central flame of a star; it blinded me, and when I turned my eyes away, the air was filled with webs of intricate colour, with swiftly changing arabesques whose numberless, unwonted hues and patterns were such as no mundane eye had ever beheld.  And I felt a stimulating warmth that filled my very marrow with intenser life...."

            It is only, however, when the second narrator leaps into the green flame that Smith's language take its full flight into the visionary antipodes:

          "It was as if we no longer existed, except as one divine, indivisible entity, soaring beyond the trammels of matter, beyond the limits of time and space, to attain undreamable shores.  Unspeakable was the joy, and infinite the freedom of that ascent, in which we seemed to overpass the zenith of the highest star.  Then, as if we had risen with the Flame to its culmination, had reached its very apex, we emerged and came to a pause."

          "My senses were faint with exaltation, my eyes blind with the glory of the fire; and the world on which I now gazed was a vast arabesque of unfamiliar forms and bewildering hues from another spectrum than the one to which our eyes are habituated.  It swirled before my dizzy eyes like a labyrinth of gigantic jewels, with interweaving rays and tangled lustres, and only by slow degrees was I able to establish order and distinguish detail in the surging riot of my perceptions."

        "All about me were endless avenues of super-prismatic opal and jacinth; arches and pillars of ultra-violet gems, of transcendent sapphire, of unearthly ruby and amethyst, all suffused with a multi-tinted splendor.  I appeared to be treading on jewels, and above me was a jeweled sky."

        Reading the story fully through, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Smith either had a direct experience with a psychedelic substance (most likely peyote), or had somehow managed to trigger in his brain the precise neurochemical reactions of a HEAVY psychedelic trip.  Either way, The City of the Singing Flame is a remarkable adumbration of the psychedelic zeitgeist which was some three decades ahead of its publication date.  Adventures of future science indeed:

 Part one of two - concluded shortly.

I got the image of Cthulhu here.   Weirdly, this spell check recognizes Cthulhu.

I got the images of The City of the Singing Flame here, at a post where John Coulthart also discusses the story's proto-psychedelic qualities.

You can read The City of the Singing Flame in its entirety here, courtesy of Eldritch Dark.