Summer 2005

Black Pyramid / Manifesto

Hallucinogenic snuff

Peter Lamborn Wilson

“Black Pyramid” is a column by Peter Lamborn Wilson on the poetics of esoterica.

Some years ago in the Wisconsin p­ine barrens—actually the huge depression formed by long-ago disappearance of “Glacial Lake Wisconsin”—­somewhere around Necedah (hometown of excommunicated-visionary-Catholic-cult theme park, and of the book Wisconsin Death Trip)— strange sunken humid basin like a ghost lake thick with unbreathable air

looking for some lost Indian effigy mounds­, ourselves lost, car trouble, weird local people, suffocating heat. Along County Highway “ZZ” or something, flat & straight thru deserted pines & scrub, occasional ruin of a mobile home, then tracts of bottomland & miles of dry bog

suddenly way off to the left, back amongst dwarfish pines, we catch a glimpse of something—a black pyramid—maybe twenty or twenty-five feet high—dead black & featureless—out in the middle of nowhere—alone—no sign—no explanation—nothing.

Stop & park the car by weedy roadside—get out & walk­ back thru trees­—no path—sweat—thorns & bugs—smell of baked putrescent vegetable matter & sweet pines, sense of increased & immeasurable gravity.

The pyramid turns out to be a flimsy structure covered with black tarpaper, revealing cheap plywood where paper has already begun to scale away in moist heat. The pyramid is surrounded by uncut weeds. No sign of life or occupancy. A door also covered with tarpaper is set flush into one face of the pyramid & locked with a rusty padlock. A breathless silence prevails—no cars are passing along the road—no birds—not even a sigh of breeze in the pines.

John Toland, The Knights of Jubilation (Amsterdam 1708; facs. ed., Dublin, 1981)
Thos. Devyr, The Odd B­ook of the Nineteenth Century, or “Chivalry” in Modern Days (Brooklyn, NY, 1882)
Charles Fourier, Sur la maçonnerie androgynique (1824) (photocopy from Oeuvres complètes; Paris 1967)
R. Vaneighem, The Heresy of the Free Spirit
Thos. Paine, The Druidic Order of Masonry (pamphlet reprint, Berlin, 1979)
M. Bakunin, Über die Heilige Vehmgericht (pamphlet reprint, Berlin, 1979)
Gustav Landauer, On Socialism (Telos, 1978)
G. Bruno, De magia (photocopy of Latin text)
James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian (Edinburgh, 1926)
Ali Shariati, Javanmardi Shi’i (pamphlet in Farsi, Tehran, 1960)
J. V. Andrae, Fama fraternitatis (reprint, Philadelphia, Rosycross Press, 1990)
Delia O. Kelley, The Patrons of Husbandry (the Grange) and the Eleusinian Mysteries (Fredonia, NY, 1891)
The Unabomber Manifesto
Malory, Morte d’Arthur (facs. of the Kelmscott Press ed. by Wm. Morris)
Wm. Blake, Marriage of Heaven & Hell
Susan Chen, The City of Willows: the Tongs & the Anarchists in 1911 (Berkeley, University of California, 1964)
Tacitus, Germania (facs. of the John Aikin trans., London, 1777)
Seamus Moran, Wolfe Tone & the Whiteboys (Belfast, 1921)
Novalis, The Disciples at Saïs (London, 1913)
Julian Baldick, Imaginary Muslims: The Ovayssi Order
The Bonnot Gang

Page torn out of an old book of adventures, yellowing flaky acidic late-nineteenth-century paper: an engraving imitating Gustave Doré showing a hidden cove on some eighteenth-century rocky coast, an inlet too small for any but the skinniest sloop to slip inside on moonless murky nights

a snake of men costumed as freebooters winding up the beach behind hunchback parson with black lantern beneath the cavemouth frowning in the rain

each with a small oval cask on his shoulder

chiaroscuro stalagmitic grotto lit with lurid torches flickering with pitch—stacks of brandy barrels & chests of china tea

winding stairs cut in the rock lead up to the cliff above & open secretly into the crypt of a lonely deconsecrated church which (according to a fragment of text on the engraving’s verso) serves as HDQ for the crew

& the graveyard said to be haunted by a specter that walks on foggy nights & moans & lugs a child’s coffin on its shoulder.


Rent a billboard & paint on it the emblem “Festina Lente” (dolphin & anchor) from the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

old-fashioned crop duster biplane skywriting the hieroglyph Eye of Horus

blow up cellphone tower in forest, leave behind Tarot card of the Falling Tower (XVI)

demand admission to Fort Knox dressed in mystic robes, etc. When refused, seek publicity (e.g., supermarket tabloids). Claim you want to carry out alchemical rite to cast spell of glamour over gold hoard so USA will go back on gold standard & thus undo work of evil magician Nixon in 1973 during WWII, English witches supposedly held sabbat on cliffs of Dover to repel Nazi magic & invasion. Modern witches could perform rituals against corporate demons—use black magic—seek publicity—try to goad the companies into open retaliation

perform exorcisms in Malls & other grotesque public spaces. If possible, use real priests.

a group dressed as medieval Catholic penitenti (in black pointy cone masks & black robes) meets to eat in fast food restaurants. When asked, they claim to be “doing penance for our sins by eating shit like this.” When evicted, start flagellating each other, etc.

series of large banners of various shapes, sizes & materials, embroidered with hieroglyphs & emblems to protect certain places & things from subtle evil influences such as commercialization & trivialization, including

the green banner of Khezr

An illustration of the green banner of Khezr

a banner against electromagnetic pollution (Indra’s Thunderbolt)

a banner promoting silence (hieroglyph of Harpocrates) banners to protect bodies of water (even small ones like puddles)—

flying from poles stuck in middle of river or pond, etc. air-banners (against, e.g. pollution by noise, airplanes, etc.) carried by helium balloons (or fire balloons at night with luminescent banners).

The Fatimid Order

Founded in New York City in 1911 as a fraternal organization by various Rosicrucians and Grand Orient Masons according to a charter provided by Justus Mathew Riley (1865–1926), a journalist and oriental travel writer (author of Yemen and its Saints, NY: Linemann Publications, 1898). Riley claimed that in Sanaa in 1895 he was initiated into the sect of the Ismaili Hafezi Shi’ah, the Legitimate Pretenders to the Fatimid caliphal dynastic throne of Egypt.

The Ismaili Caliphate (or “Anti-Caliphate”) was devoted to the esoteric and heretical doctrines of the “Seveners” or Ismailis; it was centered in Cairo, and was famous for its tolerance, culture, and wealth. The dynasty was overthrown in 1171 AD by the great Sultan Saladin, who established the Ayyubid Dynasty.

According to the Charter, the last living Fatimid Pretender, one Dawud ebn Suleiman, vanished after an abortive uprising in Yemen sometime in the early thirteenth century and was “translated to the Invisible World,” like so many other Shi’ite Imams. Subsequently the sect flourished in Yemen and was headed by a succession of Chief Propagandists (al-Da’i al-Mutlaq) known under the title Shaykh al-Hafeziyya. The sect’s esoteric teachings, including much cosmic neoplatonic and occult speculation in the style of the Brethren of Purity (q.v.) clearly owed much to the doctrines of other more dominant rival Ismaili groups such as the Tayebis or Bohras of Yemen and India, and the Nizaris or so-called “Assassins” of Alamut. Spiritual knowledge was transmitted through traditions and visions of the “Vanished Caliph” to the shaykhs and adepts of the order. A structure of seven levels of initiation was propounded, although the two highest levels were kept “empty,” representing the Imam and his Bab or “Gate.” Riley organized his own Fatimid Order with three degrees, “Knight,” ”Shaykh,” and “Caliph.”

The F.O. founded several lodges, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Poughkeepsie, and Rochester, and met regularly till around the time of the First World War, when all branches seems to have “gone inactive.” It appears that Riley attempted to persuade the Grand Orient Rosicrucian Masons to adopt the F.O. as a degree in its own system (like the Shriners within American Grand Lodge Masonry) but apparently nothing came of this. It is not known whether Riley appointed a successor.

—from Encyclopedia of American Fraternal Organizations (New York: 1932; reprinted by AMS Press, 1968)­

Aleister Crowley around 1913 staged the “Rites of Eleusis” in a magickal chamber in London with the audience all dosed on mescaline & morphine. He judged it a failure because stupid people on drugs are still stupid. Like Artaud, or Bruno signaling desperately through the flames—but now it’s all a made-for-TV movie & no one understands them. The key is to get rid of the audience.

Cornelius Agrippa hints at a kind of occult lunar telegraph whereby messages are sent somehow via the moon. Perhaps by dreams. The antenna could be an obelisk shaped to the mathematical dimensions of a single moonbeam, tipped with a large moonstone or opal, mounted on the back of a sphinx, inscribed with hieroglyphs for transmission, & left alone in forest or desert or mountain after appropriate ritual in the style of Marsilio Ficino with lunar correspondences—perfumes, tints, liquors, sigils, chants, etc.

An amusing & instructive incident put an end to Acèphale, the “headless” secret society founded by Bataille & Caillois. In order to transcend the trivial, they demanded that one member volunteer to be a human sacrifice. When no one stepped forward, the Order had to be disbanded.

a rosicrucian gesture
a sign of distress
Count Cagliostro in a half-mask
has lost his address

locked up in our monads
like Nemo’s bathysphere
je n’est un autre
with nothing to fear

hallucinogenic snuff
drips like green snot
the mask that nature wears
is everything we’re not

Peter Lamborn Wilson is the author of many books, including “Shower of Stars” Dream & Book: The Initiatic Dream in Sufism and Taoism (Autonomedia, 1996), Escape from the Nineteenth Century (Autonomedia, 1998), and Ploughing the Clouds: The Search for Irish Soma (City Lights, 1999).

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