LSD and Aleister Crowley tarot
Sunday, February 18 2001
Cyber "sex" is absurd, right? What kind of intimacy can one have in an AOL Instant Messenger window? But what's interesting about it is that the feelings you have afterwards are nearly identical to those of real sex. You feel a mix of embarrassed, titillated, intrigued and (at least for me in this case) satisfied. Another thing that's interesting is that it's possible to carry on in this way in one window while doing something entirely different (in this case debugging an error in the VBScript of the UK site) in another AIM window, and no one is the wiser. My brain is so perfectly adapted to being interrupted in the middle of things and returning to them later (pre-emptive multitasking, in other words) that it really wasn't difficult. People were revolted by the idea of Bill Clinton getting oral sex from Monica Lewinski while negotiating important matters of state, but really all he was doing was showing himself to be the first 21st Century President. Can you imagine George W. Bush pulling off such a feat given his primitive cognitive faculties? "I won't tolerate any further Libyan incursions into Chad's fly, I mean, northern territories."
Meanwhile, Linda had arranged with me to go with her and Julian to some sort of amusement park in the Valley to ride around on race cars (you know, Chinese cars, African-American cars, Aborigine cars, that sort of thing). But as the hour grew late the plan devolved into one of taking LSD at Julian's place in Park La Brea. People don't seem to take LSD all that much anymore, but it was available, and these days I'm always game to alter my consciousness.
So, as they always have to do, Linda and Julian drove out to pick me up. Julian and I ate the blotter paper, Linda abstained, and we all sat around in the apartment playing Puzzlefighter on the PlayStation for awhile. As I've said before, I'm not nearly as good at Puzzlefighter as Linda or Julian, and for whatever reason (perhaps the ecstasy I took last night) I was exceptionally bad at it today. It seemed that they would quickly grow bored playing against me and have to trade off.
Later Linda brought out her deck of Aleister Crowley tarot cards and did her best to interest me in them. At first I was thinking that they weren't very interesting: the art was kind of unimpressive and unattractively washed out and pastel. But then Linda pointed out all the hidden and not-so-hidden symbols: Hebrew characters, astrological signs, etc., and I realized it was speaking in languages I could actually understand, more or less, especially once the LSD started kicking in.
So then Linda had me do a couple of tarot readings about questions that I refused to divulge. Linda left me by myself in the bedroom to feel out the cards and then she'd come in and do a reading. On the second reading, I secretly set it up so that the first card, the one that reflected my past, was a card Linda had come to associate (through previous readings) with Bathtubgirl, the Hierophant. The second card, representing the present situation, I set to be "the Lovers" and the the last, foretelling the future, I set to be "Success." For the "method" card, I set up the "Interference" card. I was hoping Linda would interpret this set of cards to mean that I should interfere with Bathtubgirl's relationship to Snow, but she completely missed it. I had to stifle my laughter as she pored over the cards with great solemnity.
Around this time the LSD seemed to be kicking in fairly strongly. Its biggest affect was on my aural perceptions. The distant clunking and paper-crumpling of Julian's housemate Stevie sounded strangely filtered and oddly profound, as if they were coming from speakers in a surround-sound movie theatre.
Somehow we (Linda, Julian and I) launched into an extended discussion of Crowley's tarot deck, which is evidently why Linda had encouraged us to take LSD in the first place.
As practical as I am, I still see real value in pseudoscientific pursuits such as astrology and tarot. They provide frameworks for understanding the world, and even if they are based on arbitrary and unscientific principles, they have rigid internal consistencies that serve to effectively classify the things they are charged with classifying. And once someone knows the language of tarot or astrology, that person is now equipped with a language for describing personalities to others with the same knowledge. Similarly, Christian fundamentalists with sound knowledge of the Bible can converse in a sort of short hand about all sorts of topics, accessing replicated databases with primary keys of, for example, "Luke 12:13." There's nothing wrong with language systems built on erroneous or superstitious principles (surely English itself is!). What's wrong is when people use these systems as sources of absolute truth. For her part, Linda wasn't interested in using tarot for doing anything more than exploring her subconscious, which seemed like a reasonably healthy application.
Julian introduced the idea of using tarot for quick and dirty decisionmaking, asking a question aloud and pulling out a card for an answer. Somewhere along the line Linda started complaining about the early King Missile that Julian was playing. So I suggested that we use the tarot deck for something else: we should find a card that best summed up the tension involved in their disagreement over the music. As I saw it, Linda and Julian were both trying to entertain me, and that while Julian was trying to showcase early King Missile (having heard later King Missile at my house), Linda was annoyed by its overly Weird Al Yankovic quality. We decided it was some sort of frustration, perhaps Mars bogged down in a water sign or Saturn working his usual mischief. When I suggested Mars in Pisces, Linda looked up the Mars in Pisces (Ten of Cups) tarot card and revealed that, in the Crowley Universe, Mars in Pisces (which I have in my astrological chart) isn't a bad thing at all. I was surprised; the interpretation always given to Mars in Pisces by conventional astrology (such as was studied by the denizens of Big Fun) was that it represented a sort of ineffectualness. But to Crowley it means Satiety, a good thing.
Later Julian and I were discussing how tarot cards are good for representing relationships between things, no matter what they are. From a database standpoint, then, a deck of tarot cards is the ultimate universal mapping table. We joked that we should present a deck of Crowley tarot cards to the VP of Data System as the new proposed database architecture, and, after being told "surely you must be joking," we'd say, "no, we're serious!" We then consulted the deck to see what the VP of Data System's response would be and got the card "Works" - Mars in Capricorn. Our interpretation was, "As long as it works, he wouldn't care."
One thing I didn't like about being on LSD was my discomfort with the way I smelled. My jacket seemed to be musty and fragrant and in need of a good wash. I hated feeling so dirty. Eventually I stretched out on the floor and thumbed through an interesting book about how to construct the universe using a few simple tools such as a compass and a straight edge. Then Linda and Julian broke out some of Julian's collages he's done over the years. One set consisted of a series of small Styrofoam cubes covered with various random clippings. Another was a set of standard playing cards, sort of like a stream-of-consciousness Crowley tarot deck. They were entertaining to examine because the constituent clippings came from many varied sources.
Interestingly, for the entire night the energy was unexpectedly balanced between Linda, Julian and myself. Often they have a tendency to do the nauseating cute kissy-kiss thing with each other in a way that leaves me feeling uncomfortable and excluded, but for some reason they didn't do that much tonight. The energy in the room was platonic in a child-like way, with no perceptible sexual tension whatsoever. We were like three five-year-olds playing happily together with our toys. It probably helped that I had, you know, done the cybersex thing just before heading out for an evening of LSD with my cute couple friends.
After awhile it seemed we grew weary of talking, so all we did was sit around and thumb through books. Eventually Linda fell asleep and then Julian and I went off to play endless rounds of PuzzleFighter. By the time we were saturated with the game, it was well past 4am and all the lights of Park La Brea looked like the falling screen objects we'd just had to manipulate. In particular, one lamp in the tower across the parking lot looked exactly like one of those opalescent diamonds you're supposed to drop on a color to nuke every instance of it on the board.
So then Julian drove me home, and the entire length of the ride down Wilshire seemed to be peopled by the lights of PuzzleFighter. I find that if I do anything repeatedly, I begin to see the whole world in that narrow context. I remember back in the days when I used to sword fight my brother with willow poles, after we'd quit fighting I'd walk around and see tree branches and immediately calculate how I'd block them if they were swords coming at me at those angles.
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