Never Whistle Whilst Your Pissing (Robert Anton Wilson)

Illuminatus! Trilogy;
APPENDIX TETH: HAGBARD’S BOOKLET
Prelude:  After prolonged pleading and vehement prayers of entreaty, the authors finally prevailed upon Hagbard Celine to allow us to quote some further illuminating passages from his booklet ‘Never Whistle While You’re Pissing’.*
* (Before we made these frantic efforts, he wanted us to publish the whole thing.)
 The title, he informs us, is taken from R. H. Blythe’s ‘Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics’. The story is instructive:  Blythe, studying za-zen (sitting zen, or dhyana meditation) in a monastery at Kyoto, asked the roshi (Zen Master) if there was any further discipline he should adopt to accelerate his progress. The roshi replied, concisely, “Never whistle while you’re pissing.”
Cf. Gurdjieff’s endless diatribes about “concentration”, and the rajah in Huxley’s Island – who unleashed talking mynah birds to remind his citizens constantly “Here and now, boys, here and now!” and Jesus, “Whatever thy hand findest to do, do it with all thy heart.”
Here, then, are some of the keys to the strange head of Hagbard Celine:
I once overheard two botanists arguing over a Damned Thing that had blasphemously sprouted in a college yard.  One claimed that the Damned Thing was a tree and the other claimed that it was a shrub.  They each had good scholarly arguments, and they were still debating when I left them.
The world is forever spawning Damned Things — things that are neither tree nor shrub, fish nor fowl, black nor white — and the categorical thinker can only regard the spiky and buzzing world of sensory fact as a profound insult to his card-index system of classifications.  Worst of all are the facts which violate “common sense,” that dreary bog of sullen prejudice and muddy inertia.
The whole history of science is the odyssey of a pixilated card-indexer perpetually sailing between such Damned Things and desperately juggling his classifications to fit them in, just as the history of politics is the futile epic of a long series of attempts to line up the Damned Things and cajole them to march in regiment.
Every ideology is a mental murder, a reduction of dynamic living processes to static classifications, and every classification is a Damnation, just as every inclusion is an exclusion.  In a busy, buzzing universe where no two snow-flakes are identical, and no two trees are identical, and no two people are identical — and, indeed, the smallest subatomic particle, we are assured, is not even identical with itself from one microsecond to the next-every card-index system is a self-delusion.  “Or, to put it more charitably,” as Nietzsche says, “we are all better artists than we realize.”
It is easy to see that the label “Jew” was a Damnation in Nazi Germany, but actually the label “Jew” is a Damnation anywhere, even where anti-Semitism does not exist.  “He is a Jew,” “He is a doctor,” and “He is a poet” mean, to the card-indexing center of the cortex, that my experience with him will be like my experience with other Jews, other doctors, and other poets.  Thus, individuality is ignored when identity is asserted.
At a party or any place where strangers meet, watch this mechanism in action. Behind the friendly overtures there is wariness as each person fishes for the label that will identify and Damn the other.  Finally, it is revealed: “Oh, he’s an advertising copywriter,” “Oh, he’s an engine-lathe operator.” Both parties relax, for now they know how to behave, what roles to play in the game.  Ninety-nine percent of each has been Damned; the other is reacting to the 1 percent that has been labeled by the card-index machine.
Certain Damnations are socially and intellectually necessary, of course. A custard pie thrown in a comedian’s face is Damned by the physicist who analyzes it according to the Newtonian laws of motion. These equations tell us all we want to know about the impact of the pie on the face, but nothing about the human meaning of the pie-throwing.  A cultural anthropologist, analyzing the social function of the comedian as shaman, court jester, and king’s surrogate, explains the pie-throwing as a survival of the Feast of Fools and the killing of the king’s double.  This Damns the subject in another way.
A psychoanalyst, finding an Oedipal castration ritual here, has performed a third Damnation, and the Marxist, seeing an outlet for the worker’s repressed rage against the bosses, performs a fourth.  Each Damnation has its values and its uses, but it is nonetheless a Damnation unless its partial and arbitrary nature is recognized.  The poet, who compares the pie in the comedian’s face with the Decline of the West or his own lost love, commits a fifth Damnation, but in this case the game element and whimsicality of the symbolism are safely obvious.  At least, one would hope so; reading the New Critics occasionally raises doubts on this point.
Human society can be structured either according to the principle of authority or according to the principle of liberty. Authority is a static social configuration in which people act as superiors and inferiors: a sadomasochistic relationship. Liberty is a dynamic social configuration in which people act as equals: an erotic relationship.  In every interaction between people, either Authority or Liberty is the dominant factor.  Families, churches, lodges, clubs, and corporations are either more authoritarian than libertarian or more libertarian than authoritarian.
It becomes obvious as we proceed that the most pugnacious and intolerant form of authority is the State, which even today dares to assume an absolutism which the Church itself has long ago surrendered and to enforce obedience with the techniques of the Church’s old and shameful Inquisition.  Every form of authoritarianism is, however, a small “State,” even if it has a membership of only two.  Freud’s remark to the effect that the delusion of one man is neurosis and the delusion of many men is religion can be generalized: The authoritarianism of one man is crime and the authoritarianism of many men is the State.
Benjamin Tucker wrote quite accurately:  Aggression is simply another name for government. Aggression, invasion, government are interchangeable terms.  The essence of government is control, or the attempt to control. He who attempts to control another is a governor, an aggressor, an invader; and the nature of such invasion is not changed, whether it be made by one man upon another man, after the manner of the ordinary criminal, or by one man upon all other men, after the manner of an absolute monarch, or by all other men upon one man, after the manner of a modern democracy.
Tucker’s use of the word “invasion” is remarkably precise, considering that he wrote more than fifty years before the basic discoveries of ethology.  Every act of authority is, in fact, an invasion of the psychic and physical territory of another.  Every fact of science was once Damned.  Every invention was considered impossible. Every discovery was a nervous shock to some orthodoxy.  Every artistic innovation was denounced as fraud and folly.  The entire web of culture and “progress,” everything on earth that is manmade and not given to us by nature, is the concrete manifestation of some man’s refusal to bow to Authority.  We would own no more, know no more, and be no more than the first apelike hominids if it were not for the rebellious, the recalcitrant, and the intransigent.  As Oscar Wilde truly said, “Disobedience was man’s Original Virtue.”
The human brain, which loves to read descriptions of itself as the universe’s most marvelous organ of perception, is an even more marvelous organ of rejection. The naked facts of our economic game, are easily discoverable and undeniable once stated, but conservatives — who are usually individuals who profit every day of their lives from these facts — manage to remain oblivious to them, or to see them through a very rosy-tinted and distorting lens. (Similarly, the revolutionary ignores the total testimony of history about the natural course of revolution, through violence, to chaos, back to the starting point) We must remember that thought is abstraction.
In Einstein’s metaphor, the relationship between a physical fact and our mental reception of that fact is not like the relationship between beef and beef-broth, a simple matter of extraction and condensation; rather, as Einstein goes on, it is like the relationship between our overcoat and the ticket given us when we check our overcoat.  In other words, human perception involves coding even more than crude sensing. The mesh of language, or of mathematics, or of a school of art, or of any system of human abstracting, gives to our mental constructs the structure, not of the original fact, but of the symbol system into which it is coded, just as a map-maker colors a nation purple not because it is purple but because his code demands it.
But every code excludes certain things, blurs other things, and overemphasizes still other things.  Nijinski’s celebrated leap through the window at the climax of Le Spectre d’une Rose is best coded in the ballet notation system used by choreographers; verbal language falters badly in attempting to convey it; painting or sculpture could capture totally the magic of one instant, but one instant only, of it; the physicist’s equation, Force = Mass X Acceleration, highlights one aspect of it missed by all these other codes, but loses everything else about it.
Every perception – is influenced, formed, and structured by the habitual coding habits — mental game habits — of the perceiver.  All authority is a function of coding, of game rules.  Men have arisen again and again armed with pitchforks to fight armies with cannon; men have also submitted docilely to the weakest and most tottery oppressors.  It all depends on the extent to which coding distorts perception and conditions the physical (and mental) reflexes.
It seems at first glance that authority could not exist at all if all men were cowards or if no men were cowards, but flourishes as it does only because most men are cowards and some men are thieves.   Actually, the inner dynamics of cowardice and submission on the one hand and of heroism and rebellion on the other are seldom consciously realized either by the ruling class or the servile class.   
Submission is identified not with cowardice but with virtue, rebellion not with heroism but with evil.  To the Roman slave-owners, Spartacus was not a hero and the obedient slaves were not cowards; Spartacus was a villain and the obedient slaves were virtuous.  The obedient slaves believed this also.  The obedient always think of themselves as virtuous rather than cowardly.
If authority implies submission, liberation implies equality; authority exists when one man obeys another, and liberty exists when men do not obey other men.  Thus, to say that authority exists is to say that class and caste exist, that submission and inequality exist. To say that liberty exists is to say that classlessness exists, to say that brotherhood and equality exist. Authority, by dividing men into classes, creates dichotomy, disruption, hostility, fear, disunion.
Liberty, by placing men on an equal footing, creates assocation, amalgamation, union, security.   When the relationships between men are based on authority and coercion, they are driven apart; when based on liberty and nonaggression, they are drawn together.  There facts are self-evident and axiomatic.  If authoritarianism did not possess the in-built, preprogrammed double-bind structure of a Game Without End, men would long ago have rejected it and embraced libertarianism.
The usual pacifist complaint about war, that young men are led to death by old men who sit at home manning bureaucrat’s desks and taking no risks themselves, misses the point entirely.  Demands that the old should be drafted to fight their own wars, or that the leaders of the waning nations should be sent to the front lines on the first day of battle, etc., are aimed at an assumed “sense of justice” that simply does not exist.  To the typical submissive citizen of authoritarian society, it is normal, obvious, and “natural” that he should obey older and more dominant males, even at the risk of his life, even against his own kindred, and even in causes that are unjust or absurd.
“The Charge of the Light Brigade” — the story of a group of young males led to their death in a palpably idiotic situation and only because they obeyed a senseless order without stopping to think — has been, and remains, a popular poem, because unthinking obedience by young males to older males is the most highly prized of all conditioned reflexes within human, and hominid, societies. The mechanism by which authority and submission are implanted in the human mind is coding of perception.  That which fits into the code is accepted; all else is Damned. It is Damned to being ignored, brushed aside, unnoticed, and — if these fail — it is Damned to being forgotten.
A worse form of Damnation is reserved for those things which cannot be ignored.  These are daubed with the brain’s projected prejudices until, encrusted beyond recognition, they are capable of being fitted into the system, classified, card-indexed, buried.  This is what happens to every Damned Thing which is too prickly and sticky to be excommunicated entirely.  As Josiah Warren remarked, “It is dangerous to understand new things too quickly.”  Almost always, we have not understood them.  We have murdered them and mummified their corpses.
A monopoly on the means of communication may define a ruling elite more precisely man the celebrated Marxian formula of “monopoly on the means of production.”  Since man extends his nervous system through channels of communication like the written word, the telephone, radio, etc., he who controls these media controls part of the nervous system of every member of society. The contents of these media become part of the contents of every individual’s brain.
Thus, in pre-literate societies taboos on the spoken word are more numerous and more Draconic than at any more complex level of social organization. With the invention of written speech — hieroglyphic, ideographic, or alphabetical — the taboos are shifted to this medium; there is less concern with what people say and more concern with what they write. (Some of the first societies to achieve literacy, such as Egypt and the Mayan culture of ancient Mexico, evidently kept a knowledge of their hieroglyphs a religious secret which only the higher orders of the priestly and royal families were allowed to share.)
The same process repeats endlessly: Each step forward in the technology of communication is more heavily tabooed than the earlier steps. Thus, in America today (post-Lenny Bruce), one seldom hears of convictions for spoken blasphemy or obscenity; prosecution of books still continues, but higher courts increasingly interpret the laws in a liberal fashion, and most writers feel fairly confident that they can publish virtually anything; movies are growing almost as desacralized as books, although the fight is still heated in this area; television, the newest medium, remains encased in neolithic taboo.
When the TV pundits committed lese majeste after an address by the then Dominant Male, a certain Richard Nixon, one of his lieutenants quickly informed them they had overstepped, and the whole tribe — except for the dissident minority — cheered for the reasertion of tradition.  When a more efficient medium arrives, the taboos on television will decrease.

About the author

AsherC

Occasional coder, dabbler in computers' networking and internet systems architecture, and once-upon-a-time graphic designer. Also makes games.

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