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The 13th-century ‘thinking machine’ of Ramón Llull

Ramón Llull, via Alchetron. The ribbon in his mouth says Lux mea est ipse dominus, “My light is the Lord himself”
There’s an exhibition at Barcelona’s CCCB called “The Thinking Machine: Ramon Llull and the ars combinatoria,” up through December 11. Including work by Arnold Schönberg, Athanasius Kircher, Giordano Bruno, Leibniz, Italo Calvino, John Cage, and Salvador Dalí, the show makes its case for the influence of the Catalan philosopher Ramón Llull (1232-1316, sometimes anglicized “Raymond Lully”), who might be credited with inventing the first computer, or its primitive ancestor.

I first became aware of Llull and his contraption in Jorge Luis Borges’ Selected Non-Fictions, which reprints “Ramón Llull’s Thinking Machine,” an article Borges wrote for El Hogar Magazine in 1937. Borges gives the most lucid description of the machine I’m aware of, starting with its simplest, two-dimensional form, a circle divided nine times:


It is a schema or diagram of the attributes of God. The letter A, at the center, signifies the Lord. Along the circumference, the letter B stands for goodness, C for greatness, D for eternity, E for power, F for wisdom, G for volition, H for virtue, I for truth, and K for glory. The nine letters are equidistant from the center, and each is joined to all the others by chords or diagonal lines. The first of these features means that all of these attributes are inherent; the second, that they are systematically interrelated in such a way as to affirm, with impeccable orthodoxy, that glory is eternal or that eternity is glorious; that power is true, glorious, good, great, eternal, powerful, wise, free and virtuous, or benevolently great, greatly eternal, eternally powerful, powerfully wise, wisely free, freely virtuous, virtuously truthful, etc., etc.

I want my readers to grasp the full magnitude of this etcetera. Suffice it to say that it embraces a number of combinations far greater than this page can record. The fact that they are all entirely futile—the fact that, for us, to say that glory is eternal is as rigorously null and void as to say that eternity is glorious—is of only secondary interest. This motionless diagram, with its nine capital letters distributed among nine compartments and linked by a star and some polygons, is already a thinking machine. It was natural for its inventor—a man, we must not forget, of the thirteenth century—to feed it with a subject matter that now strikes us as unrewarding. We now know that the concepts of goodness, greatness, wisdom, power, and glory are incapable of engendering an appreciable revelation. We (who are basically no less naive than Llull) would load the machine differently, no doubt with the words Entropy, Time, Electrons, Potential Energy, Fourth Dimension, Relativity, Protons, Einstein. Or with Surplus Value, Proletariat, Capitalism, Class Struggle, Dialectical Materialism, Engels.

Then, Borges moves on to the more elaborate version of Llull’s thinking machine—the one with three revolving disks, illustrated below: 


If a mere circle subdivided into nine compartments can give rise to so many combinations, what wonders may we expect from three concentric, manually revolving disks made of wood or metal, each with fifteen or twenty compartments? This thought occurred to the remote Ramón Llull on his red and zenithal island of Mallorca, and he designed his guileless machine. The circumstances and objectives of this machine no longer interest us, but its guiding principle—the methodical application of chance to the resolution of a problem—still does.


Let us select a problem at random: the elucidation of the “true” color of a tiger. I give each of Llull’s letters the value of a color, I spin the disks, and I decipher that the capricious tiger is blue, yellow, black, white, green, purple, orange, and grey, or yellowishly blue, blackly blue, whitely blue, greenly blue, purplishly blue, bluely blue, etc. Adherents of [Llull’s] Ars magna remained undaunted in the face of this torrential ambiguity; they recommended the simultaneous deployment of many combinatory machines, which (according to them) would gradually orient and rectify themselves through “multiplications” and “eliminations.” For a long while, many people believed that the certain revelation of all the world’s enigmas lay in the patient manipulation of these disks.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
That ‘Star Trek’ episode where Jack the Ripper takes over the Enterprise so everyone gets super high
09:08 am


Star Trek
Jack the Ripper

I didn’t want to write this post, but the burden of TV history weighs heavy on my shoulders. The 50th anniversary of Star Trek came and went, and in all the fanfare, I saw no mention of the original series’ single most bizarre episode. Forget the one where they’re back in the 1920s, or the one where they’re at the O.K. Corral with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, or the one where Kirk and Spock fight Genghis Khan alongside Abraham Lincoln; this right here is the goods.

Before last night, I hadn’t seen “Wolf in the Fold” for about 30 years. I watched it again to make sure my memory was accurate, and I can confirm that this is without a doubt the most insane episode of Star Trek that ever made it to the screen. It is actually even weirder than I remembered. A space séance is involved.

I don’t want to give away much more of the plot, but you’ll see what I mean if I set it up briefly. Kirk, Bones, and Scotty go whoring on the “hedonistic” planet Argelius II, which looks just like foggy London town. Next thing you know, Scotty’s standing over a dead belly dancer with a bloody knife in his hand. Kirk asks what kind of legal process they have in this jerkwater, when the Prefect, making a grand entrance, declares: 

The law of Argelius is love.

Then comes the Jack the Ripper business and the whole crew getting messy on tranks. And there is so much more I’m deliberately leaving out.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Entire print run of crucial post-industrial/apocalyptic folk magazine ‘The Fifth Path’ is now online

The Fifth Path was a short-lived fanzine, produced sporadically between 1991 and 1994, that covered the post-industrial scene as well as the genre that later came to be known as “neofolk,” which was commonly referred to at the time as “apocalyptic folk” or “World Serpent” (after World Serpent Distribution who distributed most of the bands associated with this genre).

The magazine covered England’s Hidden Reverse type artists such as Death In June, Sol Invictus, Current 93, and Coil, as well as iconoclasts such as Boyd Rice, Feral House‘s Adam Parfrey, and former Church of Satan high-priestess, Zeena LaVey.

Lords of Chaos author, Michael Moynihan was a contributing writer to issue three and was an associate editor on issues four and five. The magazine’s founder and editor-in-chief, Robert Ward, died in 2004.

Web developer and collector Kenn Wilson has graciously uploaded all five issues of The Fifth Path to his personal website. Fred Berger, founder and editor of Propaganda Magazine, apparently donated the issues from his personal collection. Some of them are marked with his personal notes.

If you are a fan of this era and genre, these five issues are crucial reading.

You can download all five issues from Wilson’s website or follow these direct links here:

The Fifth Path: Issue One
Foetus Inc, Death in June, Robert Anton Wilson, Zeena LaVey, Jack Chick, Throbbing Gristle bootleg reviews, An Introduction to Urban and Wilderness Survival

The Fifth Path: Issue Two
Rozz Williams, Kodo, Skinheads in East Germany, live show reviews of Death in June, Current 93, Sol Invictus, Survival: Shelters and Tools

The Fifth Path: Issue Three
Boyd Rice, Sol Invictus, Freya Aswynn, Blood Axis, Yukio Mishima, Carl Orff, Skinheads in East Germany part II, Survival: Fire Starting Tools

The Fifth Path: Issue Four
Swans, Sol Invictus part II, Adam Parfrey, Crash Worship, The Electric Hellfire Club, Thomas Lyttle, Odinism in Heavy Metal

The Fifth Path: Issue Five
Fire + Ice, In the Nursery, Ordo Equitum Solis, Somewhere in Europe, David E. Williams, Will, Bathory, Odinism in Heavy Metal part II, Third World Black Magic Dictators

Via: Kenn Wilson

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Prankster plants hilarious fake occult spell book at a metaphysical shop
10:19 am



Jeff Wysaski is an artist working in the medium of putting fake signs, flyers, and products into spaces to create a transformative or, usually, comedic effect. Working under the project name Obvious Plant, he has hilariously put fake art into museums, fake self-help books into bookstores, and fake wine recommendations into liquor stores.

You can read more about Wysaski’s work HERE.

The latest “installation” by Obvious Plant involves the placement of a fake occult spell book in a metaphysical shop. The book generically-entitled Ancient Magick Spells of the Occult, contains several “spells” with completely ludicrous casting instructions (though maybe not any more or less ludicrous than many “legitimate” wiccan spell books).

Check these pages out here. I pretty much lost it at “Spell of the Gemini’s Clone.”

As funny as the spells are, it’s even more hilarious to imagine someone picking this book up in the shop and taking it seriously.


More magick after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
The unauthorized Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ amusement park ride is a REAL thing!
09:48 am


Michael Jackson
amusement parks

Le train Fantôme Thriller
Michael Jackson fans living in France can experience Le train Fantôme Thriller, a traveling ghost train ride that pays homage to the King of Pop’s multi-platinum selling album and iconic music video. Totally not authorized by the Jackson family estate, this three-story attraction is chock-full of hungry zombies that are ready to devour you alongside a very familiar soundtrack from 1982.
The ride was created by Stéphane Camors, the descendant of a family of funfair attraction developers dating back a century and a half. Stéphane had previously created two popular ghost train attractions: “Fantom Manor” and “King Kong.” While searching for an idea of a more contemporary and innovative ride, inspiration struck when he came across his children watching the John Landis-directed “Thriller” music video on the internet. Stéphane immediately began consulting with manufacturers, set decorators, and visual artists. After fourteen months and 18,000 hours of construction, his dream became a reality.
You can track the location of Le train Fantôme Thriller via its official Facebook page. Alternatively, you can rent it during the off-season and assemble it yourself in your own backyard (mounting the ride takes just three days, only two days to disassemble).
Le train Fantôme Thriller at night
Le train Fantôme Thriller
See Le train Fantôme Thriller in action after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
When Tiny Tim met Current 93, Nurse With Wound, and ‘the Antichrist’
09:24 am


Tiny Tim
Current 93
Nurse With Wound

Cover art for Tiny Tim’s Songs of an Impotent Troubadour by Steven Stapleton of Nurse With Wound

Another one of those things they don’t teach you in school: Current 93 and Nurse With Wound collaborated with Tiny Tim on a song called “Just What Do You Mean by ‘Antichrist’?”

David Tibet’s Durtro label released a few Tiny Tim albums. The first of these was Songs of an Impotent Troubadour, a career-spanning collection of solid gold Tiny Tim hits like “I Used To Love Jessica Hahn, But Now I Love Stephanie Bohn,” “Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS This Year,” and “She Left Me with the Herpes.” “Just What Do You Mean by ‘Antichrist’?” ended the album; it consisted mostly of those TG-style glissandi that make your intestines cramp a bit, laid over a tape collage of Tibet and Tiny’s phone conversations about the latter’s bizarre eschatological views.

Cover for the Durtro release of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Album
The definitive book about the Coil, Current 93, and Nurse With Wound gang, England’s Hidden Reverse, reports that Tiny Tim’s crackpot opinions about gay people provided the occasion for a break between Tibet and his close friend, Douglas P. of Death in June:

Not everyone in the Current circle swooned before Tiny Tim’s bigheartedness. Douglas Pearce took his views on homosexuality as an excuse to irrevocably cut all ties with Tibet, on the grounds that friendship with both Tiny Tim and himself was incompatible.

Tibet had become obsessed with Tiny Tim in the mid-90s after listening to his work on the recommendation of Boyd Rice. And it was Rice who suggested Tibet call Tiny up:

On Rice’s suggestion, Tibet made contact through Big Bucks Burnett, who ran Tiny Tim’s fan club. To his surprise, Burnett suggested that Tibet call Tiny right away, as he loved to talk on the phone. It was the start of a beautiful long distance telephone relationship. ‘I rang up his hotel, where he had checked in under the name Peter Poker,’ Tibet recalls. ‘Straight away he was like ‘Hi, Mr. Tibet, nice to speak to you, have you got a girlfriend? What does she look like?’ His phone calls always lasted at least an hour.’ Tibet and Tiny Tim only met once, when he flew over to play at London’s Union Chapel in 1995, in a mismatched lineup that featured Red Dwarf‘s Norman Lovett and Al Murray, ‘the comedy landlord’. As a result, Time Out listed the concert in their comedy section.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Tarot,’ a Krautrock tour of the Major Arcana
09:47 am


Ash Ra Tempel
Walter Wegmüller

Walter Wegmüller is a 79-year-old artist and tarotist from Switzerland. Though you can still find copies of his New Age Tarot and Gipsy Tarot decks, you might start with his Krautrock Tarot.

Released by the Cosmic Couriers in 1973, Wegmüller’s lone solo album, Tarot, is the document of a Krautrock supergroup that cooks food. Joining him are Ash Ra Tempel’s leader, Manuel Göttsching, and bassist, Hartmut Enke; Jürgen Dollase, Jerry Berkers, and Harald Grosskopf of Wallenstein; plus electronic composer Klaus Schulze and multi-instrumentalist Walter Westrupp.

The cutout Tarot cards that came with the album
You got 22 songs, one for each of the Major Arcana. The record came in a silver box containing two discs and a color print of cutout Tarot trumps. A dozen more cards bore credits, pictures of the musicians, and liner notes narrating The Fool’s metamorphosis into The World. In the abominable English of the CD booklet:

Hear, see, discover and travel
of Walter Wegmüller

The travel starts with the madman. He is the beginning and the end at the same time. So you can hear, how he goes through his own world. He stumbles over earthly things and material obstacles and doesn’t know, that it can give. The wizard open the door himself. In triumph, he appears on the scene. There, he lets himself play during an endless eternity. In his scenic railway, he plays his own life into a brand new eternal one.(1) He opens the door which leads to all the secrets. The high priestess gives him the keys of the metamorphosis.(2) The he meets the princess (3). She shows and rules the infinite spaces of his all. Now he comes by the Prince (4). He rules the laws of the world. Now, the trip goes on with the high priest (5). He shows him the way to reach wisdom. And as he goes so through his travel, he stands up suddenly in front of the decision. Which way is the right way for him? Then he chooses the law of senses. The great travel. He gets into the car (7). He lives with good as he lives with evil in all the rides of his spirituality and sensuality. So he discovers the rules of harmony (8). Justice. He separates black from white and he is glimmering when he is seeing for wisdom (9). He leads the ship of chance (10). Field of energy (11); The complete inner world of the subconscious. The exercise (12). The sense and the brink of death (13). He sets up the new birth in a reasonable measure of moderation (14) of the big Pan, the devil, in front of the magic instinct (15). There, the game of female and male oscillates through him. Fight for power. Fight for wealth. The tower (16) grows. Love at first sight. Everything is destroyed. Fell again into spaces of eternity. The stars (17) play the play of plays. The moon (18) plays with them and lets it discover the ways to open dreams. And so the sun (19) shines on the center of life. So, the ancient life comes again. Justice (20); And you live your new space and time dancing world (21).

Thanks for clearing that up, Walt.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Live Evil: Psychic TV at the Berlin Atonal Festival, 1983
03:10 pm


Psychic TV
Genesis P-Orridge

When Throbbing Gristle’s mission was terminated in 1981, the band split into Chris & Cosey and Psychic TV, which, for a while, included both Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson and Genesis P-Orridge. Other members of the group’s initial incarnation were Paula P-Orridge, Alex Fergusson (formerly of Alternative TV), John “Zos Kia” Gosling and Geff Rushton, a.k.a. John Balance. At this time the group’s sound was a unique mix of exotic instruments, Velvet Undergroundy guitar drone, TG and elements we think of as defining the music of Coil, which, of course, Christopherson and Balance soon went on to form.

This group’s initial live shows were among the most mesmerizing, insane and just plain hair-raisingly scary concerts I’ve ever attended. I vividly remember seeing Psychic TV at the Hammersmith Town Hall in 1984 and deciding to step back from the front of the stage just in case a demon materialized. I didn’t want to be too close to that action.

This show, taped at the annual Berlin Atonal Festival in 1983, captures that same intimidating sense of menace and dark energy.

After the jump, bonus footage of Einstürzende Neubauten’s Alexander Hacke performing live with tapes at the 1982 Atonal Festival…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Sex, Satan and the single girl: Bewitching vintage occult-themed ‘men’s interest’ magazines

Black Magic magazine, Volume three, Number two.
The rise of interest in New Age and occult practices in the 60s and 70s (with a heavy nod of thanks to satanic merchant Kenneth Anger for picking up where Aleister Crowley left off) helped pave the way for a new crop of niche “men’s interest” magazines that focused on hot girls getting down with the devil as well as witches and other kinds of sexy pagan-flavored pursuits. Nice.

Bitchcraft magazine, Volume three, Number one.
Inside the covers of such magazines as the wickedly titled BDSM-themed magazine Bitchcraft (which was actually pretty nuts by all accounts) you might find erotic fictional depictions of satanic rituals (such the faux fiends on the cover of Bitchcraft) and others, such as Satan magazine were more like devilish Playboy doppelgangers purporting to be flirting with the dark side when in fact it was just another way to sell pictures of pretty girls and perhaps celebrities (such as gorgeous fireball, actress Tina Louise who played Ginger on Gilligan’s Island who appeared the publication in 1957) in various stages of undress with devil horns on their heads. During the course of researching this very sexy post, I came across this composed yet completely depraved letter that was written by a reader of girl-loving magazine Nymphet back in the March 1976 issue in response to an illustrated image of Anton LaVey and a nude woman. Although it’s a fairly terrifying read it does help support the fact that there was indeed a market for publications to help satiate the sexually deprived Satan worshipers of the world:

I’ve been a fan of skin mags for a long time, now and one of the things that bugs me in particular, is the absence of the occult from sexually oriented material. For a brief spurt about three or four years ago, voodoo, Satanism and the occult were getting a fair amount of play in magazines similar to your own. Now, however, there’s little––if anything, appearing on this shadier side of human sexuality. I find extremely arousing, the rituals and ceremonies involving the symbols of witchcraft and devil worship––especially the idea of sacrificing a virgin and the actual deflowering of the virgin by the Evil One himself. One of the most exciting aspects of that brief period was the popularity of Anton La Vea [sic], occult leader of the 5000-member Satanic Church in San Francisco, California. I thought he was very colorful and the sensual practice of nudity among his worshippers, stimulating indeed! Other than this, I really have no complaints about your magazine. But I would like to see more kinky types of sex handled visually, as well as in the articles––subjects like necrophilia and bestiality.”
J. L. Jackson, Atlanta, Georgia.

Well said, J.L. Jackson of Atlanta—you sir or madam clearly know how to party. Images from the covers and pages of magazines such as Pagan, Satan’s Scrapbook, Black Magic and of course Satan (because, Satan) follow. Some are NSFW.

The cover of a vintage Satan magazine.

Actress Tina Louise in the February, 1957 issue of Satan magazine.

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
David Tibet of Current 93 and Killing Joke’s Youth debut their new duo, Hypnopazūzu
09:56 am


Killing Joke
David Tibet
Current 93

This is a welcome development: Hypnopazūzu, a duo comprising Current 93’s David Tibet and Killing Joke bassist Youth, will be releasing an album and playing a show in London this year. (Youth’s other duo is the Fireman, with Paul McCartney of Wings fame.) The date of the show has not been announced, but the record, Create Christ, Sailor Boy, is coming out on the House of Mythology label in August; it will be a three-sided LP (with side four devoted to “a laser etching of a Youth/David Tibet Hallucinatory Cartoon”) and a single CD.

It figures these guys are old pals. Youth, along with Annie Anxiety and Steven Stapleton of Nurse with Wound, joined Tibet on Current 93’s first album, 1984’s Nature Unveiled. As for Pazuzu, whose name I will forever hear as intoned by Richard Burton in Exorcist II, he is among the evil deities William S. Burroughs invokes at the beginning of Cities of the Red Night:

Pazuzu, Lord of Fevers and Plagues, Dark Angel of the Four Winds with rotting genitals from which he howls through sharpened teeth over stricken cities…


Pazuzu is also the subject of a number of Tibet’s recent paintings. Tibet explained (sort of) his interest in the Mesopotamian demon king in a very condensed memoir published by Dazed three years ago:

I started painting Hallucinatory Prayers, which consisted of biblical verses written thousands of times in white ink on black paper. Revisiting my pubescence, I did an MA in Coptic and started translating mainly Sahidic texts. Then I began to learn Akkadian after dreaming of metal doors covered with cuneiform, which meant I had also to paint Pazuzu. Anaku pazuzu, as the Akkadians wrote.

While you search for your copy of Huehnergard’s Akkadian grammar, hallucinate with “Magog At The MayPole,” from Create Christ, Sailor Boy.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
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