Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga (1985)

hammerofthegods

‘Hammer of the Gods’ is the cult classic Led Zeppelin biography, famous for its unflinching portrayal of the band’s legendary exploits with groupies, orgies, violence, hotel destruction, black magic, and drugs. With this book, Stephen Davis captures the true spirit of the “sex, drugs and rock and roll” philosophy of the 70s and vomits it up on the curb for all to see. If you have an aversion to seeing the word ‘fuck’ in print, or to reading descriptions of groupies getting fucked by dead sharks and whipped by live octopi, then definitely do not read Hammer of the Gods. Wild offstage behaviour aside, Stephen Davis expertly documents the bands musical career from their Yardbirds beginnings right through to their tragic breakup after John Bonham’s death in 1980 and Page’s descent into a daily heroin addiction that lasted seven years. Stephen Davis covers the musical side of the Led Zeppelin saga very well and dissects each of the albums they put out song by song, and also details the set lists of some of their key live performances out of the 600+ they performed during 1968-1971 and their tours in 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1979. The author has updated the book since its original publication to include extra chapters detailing the post-Zeppelin days, up to and including their 2007 reunion concert; however, most of this material is boring and unnecessary (it mainly focuses on Robert Plant’s solo career because Page was too strung out on heroin and John Paul Jones was too much of a recluse for either of them to have done anything interesting) and I found myself speed reading the rest of it till I hit the finish line. Besides the boring new material (Part 3: Hammer of Robert Plant) the rock biography lives up to all its hype and made for a very entertaining travel read (I read it in Japan). I’ll close by recommending a couple of Led Zeppelin live albums to buy or download should your ears be unfortunate enough to not have met with their music.

The Song Remains the Same
How the West Was Won

* * * * 4 stars 

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Prometheus Rising (1983)

PROM_RISE_TAPE Prometheus Rising (1983) by Robert Anton Wilson is a mind-blowing neuropsychological manual on how to reprogram your own brain. The book combines Timothy Leary’s Eight Circuit model of consciousness, psychological imprinting and conditioning theory, Gurdjief’s self-observation exercises, Quantum Mechanics, Yoga, Cybernetics, Freudian psychoanalysis, sociobiology, psychedelics, Alfred Korzybski’s general semantics and much more to construct a strange but enlightening lens for viewing the world and our place in it. Prometheus Rising began as Wilson’s Ph.D. dissertation called “The Evolution of Neuro-Sociological Circuits: A Contribution to the Sociobiology of Consciousness” in 1978-79 for University Paideia, but in 1982 Wilson rewrote the manuscript for commercial publication by removing footnotes, adding chapters and exercises, sketching out diagrams and illustrations, and injecting plenty of humour. Oh, and he threw in a chapter on how to brainwash yourself and others titled ‘How to Wash Brains and Robotize People’.

Each chapter in Prometheus Rising sets up and explains in detail one of the Eight Circuits of the brain that governs our consciousness and moulds the ego or sense of self that we identify with. Drawing from Piaget’s Stages of Development, Wilson suggests that at different points in our life we are subject to a period of ‘imprint vulnerability’, which is when our brains are susceptible to rapid hard-wired learning that shapes all subsequent learning or conditioning. At these moments a certain thought system or behaviour is imprinted in one of the eight circuits. For example, Konrad Loranz found that the newborn gosling (baby goose) is vulnerable to imprinting a protective mother entity immediately after hatching. During this vulnerable period, anything roughly matching the genetic archetype will be imprinted. These experiments resulted in Lorenz having geese following him around thinking he was their mother, and he also reported a gosling that imprinted a ping-pong ball and followed it about attempting to nest with it and vocalizing to it as it would toward a real Mother Goose. Evidently, the fact that the ping pong ball has a round white body, like a Mother Goose, was enough to trigger the genetic imprinting process.

Wilson insists that the model is not to be taken too seriously and is merely a map that can help guide us, and often reminds us that ‘the map is not the territory’, or ‘the menu is not the meal’. The eight circuits, as outlined by Wilson are as follows:

1 – The Oral Bio-Survival Circuit – This is imprinted by the mother or the first mothering object and conditioned by subsequent nourishment or threat. It is primarily concerned with sucking, feeding, cuddling, and body security. It retreats mechanically from the noxious or predatory – or from anything associated (by imprinting or conditioning) with the noxious or predatory.

2 – The Anal Emotional-Territorial Circuit – This is imprinted in the ‘Toddling’ stage when the infant rises up, walks about and begins to struggle for power within the family structure. This mostly mammalian circuit processes territorial rules, emotional games, or cons, pecking order and rituals for domination or submission.

3 – The Time-Binding Semantic Circuit – This is imprinted and conditioned by human artifacts and symbol systems. It ‘handles’ and ‘packages’ the environment, classifying everything according to the local reality tunnel. Invention, calculation, prediction and transmitting signals across generations are its functions.

4 –  The ‘Moral’ Socio-Sexual Circuit – This is imprinted by the first orgasm-mating experiences at puberty and is conditioned by tribal taboos. It processes sexual pleasure, local definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, reproduction, adult-parental personality (sex role) and nurture of the young.

The development of these circuits as the brain evolved through evolution, and as each domesticated primate (human) brain recapitulates evolution in growing from infancy to adulthood, makes possible gene-pool survival, mammalian sociobiology (pecking order, or politics) and transmission of culture. The second group of four brain circuits is much newer, and each circuit exists at present only in minorities. Where the antique circuits recapitulate evolution-to-the-present, these futuristic circuits precapitulate our future evolution.

5 – The Holistic Neurosomatic Circuit – This is imprinted by ecstatic experience, via biological or chemical yogas. It processes neurosomatic (‘mind-body’) feedback loops, somatic-sensory bliss, feeling ‘high’, ‘faith-healing,’ etc. Christian Science, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and holistic medicine consist of tricks or gimmicks to get this circuit into action at least temporarily; Tantra yoga is cocnerned with shifting consciousness entirely into this circuit.

6 – The Collective Neurogenetic Circuit – This is imprinted by advanced yogas (bio-chemical – electrical stresses). It processes DNA-RNA-brain feedback systems and is ‘collective’ in that it contains and has access to the whole evolutionary ‘script’, past and future. Experience of this circuit is numinous, ‘mystical,’ mind-shattering; here dwell the archetypes of Jung’s Collective Unconscious – Gods, Godesses, Demons, Hairy Dwarfs and other personifications of the DNA programs (instincts) that govern us.

7 – The Meta-programming Circuit – This is imprinted by very advanced yogas. It consists, in modern terms, of cybernetic consciousness, reprogramming and reimprinting all other circuits, even reprogramming itself, making possible conscious choice between alternative universes or reality tunnels.

8 – The Non-Local Quantum Circuit – This is imprinted by Shock, by ‘near-death’ or ‘clinical death’ experience, by OOBEs (out-of-body-experiences), by trans-time perceptions (‘precognition’), by trans-space visions (ESP), etc. It tunes the brain into the non-local quantum communication system suggested by physicists such as Bohm, Walker, Sarfatti, Bell, etc.

Prometheus Rising is a groundbreaking work that will make you rethink and reinterpret your belief systems and quite possibly transform your entire thought process from the ground up. If you dogmatically hold onto one map of reality then you might find the book confronting as it demands a flexible perspective. If this sounds like the book for you you can read it for free in pdf form here.

 * * * * * 5 stars 

The Only Dance There Is: Book Review

ram dassThe book I am reviewing – The Only Dance There Is – is a compiled transcription of two lectures Ram Dass gave to a room of psychotherapists in the early 1970s. The first lecture was at the Menninger Foundation in 1970, and the second at the Spring Grove Hospital in 1972. Seeing as Ram Dass was a trained Harvard professor and psychiatrist before he transformed into a yogi, he was in the fortunate position of having two perceptual vantage points to overlook the whole thing. His clear insight into the Western approach to solving man’s spiritual problems through psychology, and his new understanding into the Eastern approach through yoga and meditation allowed him the opportunity to act as a solid concrete bridge between the worlds of East and West. Prior to Ram Dass bridges existed, but they were of the old and fragile, made of rope variety, which were rarely crossed out of fear of the bridge collapsing and you falling into the abyss below. Because of this the game at this point in time was very polarised – us vs them, hippies vs police, East vs West, and so on.

In these lectures Ram Dass attempted to share the Indian’s non-dualistic outlook on life, called Advaita Vedanta, to an audience very much attached to the separation of all living things. Ram Dass eloquently shared what he had learnt in India, and what he had given up in Harvard, by comparing the comparatively new Western psychology to the 10,000 year old Eastern method of yoga and meditation. For example, he discusses in detail the Hindu chakra system, and how it closely resembles psychological systems for understanding human motivation – an area that Ram Dass happened to specialise in when he was a psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Richard Alpert.

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Be Here Now: Book Review

Be Here Now Ram Dass

“Embrace the 10,000 Beautiful Visions”

Be Here Now (1971) is a classic text on Hindu spirituality that bloomed open like a lotus flower in the wake of the hippie movement. The seed for this book was planted in the mind of Harvard psychiatrist turned Indian mystic, Ram Dass, and was written – with the blessings of his guru Neem Karoli Baba – for a Western audience who were, for the most part, materially rich but spiritually poor

Be Here Now offered it’s readers and followers a drug free alternative for attaining higher states of consciousness, while its simple message to live in the present encouraged the pursuit and cultivation of inner peace. Since it’s original publication the book has sold more than 2 million copies and has had an enormous influence on the Western world’s adoption of Eastern philosophy and spirituality. I can’t speak for everybody, but my copy of Be Here Now is one of my most treasured possessions, it opened the door of spiritual discovery and casually pointed towards the way. To this day, Be Here Now’s teachings shine like the sun and penetrate even the darkest spaces. I recommend it with all my heart to those with an open mind, and a thirst for self discovery.

be here now

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It’s Here Now (Are You?): Book Review

its here nowToo often we underestimate the power of thought. Thoughts manifest. Your life is what you think it is. That’s why meditating and disengaging from the thought process helps free the self’ – It’s Here Now p. 63.

It’s Here Now (Are You?) is one of the best books I have ever read. It was surprisingly very well written, and kept me engaged from start to finish. Even though the book is not a work of fiction, it is definitely out of this world:  `I didn’t know it that night, but we would become close friends for the next six years… our conversation would become telepathic, thought to thought. It was easy to connect with him that way’.

I found out about this book through reading Be Here Now by Ram Dass, which told the story of how Dr Richard Alpert (Harvard psychologist turned LSD guru) had a chance encounter with a 20 year old white kid in India who spoke fluent Hindi and was accepted by all of the Buddhist monks, lamas and travelling yogis, much to Richard’s surprise. Richard ended up following this kid throughout India, and it is through him that he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. This resulted in his being sucked into a spiritual transformation and spat out a completely new being, freed from the chains of his ego. The young white kid was called Bhagavan Das and he ended up writing a very honest account of his experiences in India, which is this autobiography that I am reviewing, right now. Bhagavan Das never goes out of his way to make himself look good and actually writes into existence a lot of scenarios that put him in bad light, which is admirable. Bhagavan Das (Michael Riggs) also shares all of his spiritual insights and divine experiences, and doesn’t seem to mind if you believe them or not.

The book is flowing with great advice on how to pursue and embrace a spiritual lifestyle as well: `I think many Westerners are frustrated with meditation because they don’t realize that you can’t just sit down and meditate. First comes the need to learn to concentrate. One must practice being completely absorbed in something without thinking of anything else. You can’t skip this first basic step’. The book is difficult to put down, it’s soaking with Hindu spirituality, but even if you’re not into that sort of thing it’s still interesting to read the story of how some white kid from California escapes to India and becomes a saint pretty much over night, and to top it off there’s a lot of drug use and sex on the side.

Bhagavan Das does it all, and you can’t help but think of him as a spiritual materialist, snatching from every religion and ritual to find the sweet nectar of enlightenment. But this makes for a really interesting read as he allows you a peek at how spirituality is treated in India through all of its diverse religious practices. Throughout his journey Bhagavan tastes from every fruit of every tree, even forbidden fruits as he happens upon witches and demon worshipers and becomes fascinated with their `dark energy’. At one point he witnesses an Indian man meditating in a pit of fire, without so much as a scratch on his body. He also shows that at the end of the day he is still human: `Major Rikki also had a big stack of Playboy magazines, which I eventually gave into reading. I couldn’t resist the temptation. As soon as I was given the opportunity, I gave in to all of it. I was masturbating to pornographic magazines, smoking State Express No. 555, and listening to Major Rikki boast about his Military career’.

It’s Here Now (Are You) is a great companion piece to Ram Dass’ Be Here Now, and is an excellent book on its own as well. It is about a single person’s journey, and this is something we can all relate to. If you are into Indian spirituality, travel books or just need a good escape then this book might just be what you’re searching for!

Below is an interesting two part interview with Bhagavan Das about the writing of his book, for those of you that are curious.