It shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers of this website to see me admit that my infrequently updated Monday Magick columns are often a laboratory for my own personal brand of high weirdness in one way or another. Weird music. Weird musicians. Weird musings on unquestionably weird subject matter. But for all of that weirdness one of the weirdest things I’ve written in this space was a piece about possible references to what can only be described as “occult sexuality” in the music of Rap artist Kanye West.
I mean, Kanye is a weird dude. He has been ever since he broke out as a solo artist with a self-funded video for a song called “Through the Wire” that he recorded while his jaw was wired shut after an automobile accident in 2002. Shortly after that the “George Bush does not care about Black people” incident popped off where Kanye delivered the controversial off-the-cuff remarks during a live broadcast to benefit folks affected by Hurricane Katrina and cemented himself as a volatile figure worth paying attention to outside of his often outstanding musical output. Later he bumrushed Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards to deliver a pro-Beyoncé rant to a shocked audience that included a slack-jawed Queen Bey herself. And he even married and has fathered a pair of children with reality TV starlet Kim Kardashian, who happens to be the daughter of former O.J. Simpson media circus side-man Robert Kardashian! That shit is all pretty weird, right?
Weirder still was his behavior leading up to the release of his recent album, his eighth solo record titled ‘ye’. He was photographed—standing next to former Def Jam executive Lyor Cohen of all people…I guess 3rd Bass and Zevlove X were right about him deserving the “Gas Face” after all—wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, an item originally released to promote the presidential campaign of Donald Trump which has since become a symbol of hatred as repugnant as a red arm band emblazoned with a swastika for many Americans. He publicly “shouted out”, if not outright praised, not only Trump—who he referred to as his “brother” and lauded for having “dragon energy”—but several other conservative pundits of questionable moral and intellectual fortitude. And finally he gave a rambling interview to Trump-aligned media outlet TMZ where he made some decidedly contentious comments on the nature and legacy of slavery in America that a lot of people found far from nuanced.
This all left a lot of us asking a question I had asked myself hundreds of times during his career; “Is Kanye crazy?” I don’t mean to be flippant, especially when discussing the subject of mental illness. But I have been wondering about this for years! And his most recent shenanigans made me even more curious as to whether Kanye legitimately suffers from a mental illness or if…something…else…is going on with him. What is his deal? Is he really struggling with mental health issues? Is he in “the sunken place” as has frequently been suggested by media pundits? Does he just court controversy as a form of self-promotion? Or is he, perhaps, really just a flaming garbage person? I just wasn’t fucking sure. But I remained, and remain, curious.
Then he dropped ‘ye’, an album bearing cover art scrawled with the words “I hate being Bi-Polar its awesome” and began giving interviews openly discussing what he called his “super powers”, which as it turns out happen to be recently diagnosed “emotional difficulties”. While certainly a step in the general direction of explaining what’s going on in his headspace, these revelations didn’t exactly resolve the previous questions I had regarding his mind-state and motivations. Which is why I actually decided to listen to ‘ye’. But instead of providing answers to these tricky questions listening to the record actually made the mystery regarding where exactly Kanye was coming from seem so much deeper and far weirder.
Originally I had no intention of listening to the album. I had been unimpressed with his previous effort, ‘The Life of Pablo’, finding it far too Gospel-y for my tastes, and had openly disliked the pair of songs—”Lift Yourself”, a.k.a. “Scoop-Diddy-Whoop”, and “Ye vs. The People” featuring rapper T.I.—that had been leaked from ‘ye’. But I also heard that after the backlash over his behavior and the lukewarm response to the leaks Kanye apparently re-tooled ‘ye’ in its entirety during the weeks leading up to its release and I was at least willing to listen to a song to see if maybe the rest of the record might be worth listening to. So the weekend of the album’s release I opened up YouTube and picked one album cut at random to peep. That song happened to be “Ghost Town”.
When I hit “play” on “Ghost Town” the first thing I heard was the sampled voice of Gospel artist Shirley Ann Lee opining “Someday…Someday…Some day I…I wanna wear…A starry crown”. These words alone were a revelation! They jumped out of my speakers and hit me like a bolt of lightning from on high. And before the track’s loping beat, powered by the Garage and Psychedelic Rock vibes emanating from the soaring organs and crashing cymbals in a slowed down sample of “Take Me for a Little While” by Texas bred Chicano Soul group The Royal Jesters, even dropped I thought to myself “Oh, I guess he IS crazy…” But as the track began to churn and my head nodded in rhythm with the infectious beat my brain added “…because he’s channeling something and doesn’t fucking know it.” Wait…what? We’ll come back to that later. But first, what did I think about the song itself?
After the beat drop guest vocalist PARTYNEXTDOOR immediately begins slurring and mumbling his way through the song’s seemingly intoxicated first verse which finds him wishing he could escape the drudgery of existence and just “lay down” like “God did” on the Sabbath before making an almost Thelemic declaration that when he’s “high” he’ll do “whatever” he “wanna”. Then, on the song’s chorus, Kid CuDi, quoting The Royal Jesters, bemoans the struggle to make himself someone’s beloved only to have his overtures drive the object of his affections away. This obviously hints at my suspicion that Kanye’s seemingly “crazy” public antics may in fact be nothing more than the desperate publicity stunts of a narcissist seeking the attention and approval of others through the most misguided of means. But it also has the taste of something else; the yearning of the magickal initiate, the Black Brother who dares the Abyss or the Black Lodge seeking the loving embrace of oblivion that is the complete annihilation of the self. In fact, I was immediately reminded of the words uttered by Phillip Gerard or “Mike” in the television program ‘Twin Peaks’, “Through the darkness of future’s past… The magician longs to see… One chants out between two worlds… Fire… walk with me.” Additionally, the simplest interpretation of the lyrics—that of yearning after love, either the romantic love of a partner or the platonic or familial love of a friend or a parent—has obvious analogues in religious devotion that can’t be ignored either. This interpretation has deeper personal ramifications for Kanye himself, which I will discuss in time. After the chorus the second verse then finds Kanye himself rapping about suicide by drug overdose before admitting he sometimes “talks like” he “drank all the wine” while alluding to feeling “trapped between space and time” (“One chants out between two worlds…” again) and imagining an aeon where “naked minds”—an interesting turn of phrase which places a unique importance on nakedness, brazenness, and, when taken with the previous line about drinking “all the wine”, debauchery in opposition to the sober, fully-clothed “half truths” we’re given by “straight” society in a manner that recalls the portions of Jack Parsons’ ‘Liber 49’ which envisaged the rise of a libertine witch cult whose rituals would involve much public nudity and intoxication—with the same ease it currently accepts the simplest of mathematics. And finally, 070 Shake, perhaps taking a cue from Ye’s allusions to being trapped between “space and time”, closes the song with an epic final verse that begins with the shocked exclamation “Woah, once again I am a child”—a subject she returns to a few lines later as she insists “we’re still the kids we used to be”—before going on to describe letting go of everything she knows (ego death?) in order to feel “free” and live an unfettered existence unafraid and without pain. Her focus on a return to childhood or a childlike state is interesting to me since it implies a cycle of death and rebirth that is even further illuminated by the introduction of the concept of “motherly kindness” implied in the remainder of her verse. Interestingly she equates her revelations with acts of self harm or mutilation, the ritual shedding of blood, not just in an effort to feel something in a society that stifles feelings from the youngest age until most of us are nothing but empty shells, but also to reprogram herself and attain freedom from that social conditioning. Again, I find this especially telling contextually since she specifically mentions putting her “hand on a stove” which happens to be one of the first things a loving mother might teach her young children not to do as the key to attaining her freedom.
I was floored by the track from the very first listen and still find myself singing along and getting more than a little verklempt whenever I hear it. It speaks to me on the deepest level. A level that I think transcends the song, or even music itself, and maybe comes from something older, and somewhere deeper, than most listeners are likely to imagine. Again, I promise I’ll come back to that later. But before we move on to that particular rabbit hole, there’s at least one other song on the album that I feel reveals a lot about where some of Kanye’s seeming madness might be originating, and that song is “I Thought About Killing You”.
“I Thought About Killing You” begins with a spoken word intro that some might think is a sure sign that Kanye has “lost it” and is completely unhinged. I’ve even seen articles suggesting it be interpreted as a direct threat of physical violence against Kim Kardashian West for some reason. But, to me, this bit of seemingly incoherent rambling speaks volumes about where Ye is coming from, even if he himself doesn’t actually know or isn’t capable of verbalizing the messages being transmitted through him in another, less hyperbolic manner. Because whether he is aware of it or not, the first few moments of “I Thought About Killing You” are a succinct thesis statement on the most basic philosophies of Tantra, and correspondingly Alchemy, Hermeticism, and Magick in general.
“The most beautiful thoughts are always besides the darkest.”
He could have just said that. It would have been enough. But he builds from there, describing how he thinks about killing you. Yes, you! But wait, he also thinks about killing himself, and he loves himself! Because you’d “only care enough to kill somebody you love”, right? “The most beautiful thoughts are always inside the darkest” he reiterates. He knows you’re scared. But he insists you do something most of us are too fucking scared to do; “say it out loud to see how it feels”. The “it” could be anything. Anything you’re not supposed to think or say. He knows where the fear comes from. It comes from social conditioning. It comes from other people. The people who say “Don’t say this, don’t say that.” But he demands you “say it out loud, just to see how it feels”. This is true Tantra. This is real Magick. The blackest of Magick.
“The most beautiful thoughts are always besides the darkest.”
He acknowledges that he’s “supposed to say somethin’ good” so he “doesn’t come off…bad” before admitting that “sometimes” he thinks “really, really, really bad things”. But he loves himself, “way more” than he loves you. He’s not “struggling” to love himself. This isn’t an attempt to get people to relate to him. It’s not even a cry for help. It’s a message. A lesson. He loves himself. Way more than he loves you. And he still thinks about killing himself. He thinks about not existing. Because…
“The most beautiful thoughts are always inside the darkest.”
When he finally starts rapping Kanye’s verses seem like the standard stream of consciousness braggadocio one might expect from a Rap artist of this era; a lot of meaningless tough talk, chest-pounding, and grandstanding. But my ear caught a phrase here and there that stood out for their possible connection to the realms of magick and the occult and the concept of personal freedom as it relates to initiation and magickal practice. Early in his verse he mentions that he “called up the Muslims” before he went off the proverbial deep end. In the world of Hip-Hop and the larger African American community “The Muslims” doesn’t normally connote orthodox Islam but The Nation of Islam or one of the other groups, like the 5% Nation of Gods & Earths or the Ansaaru Allah community, with a shared lineage reaching back to The Prophet Noble Drew Ali and his Moorish Science Temple. The Moorish Science Temple gained some cache outside of the African American community during the beatnik era, inspiring a splinter group known as The Moorish Orthodox Church which drew in Theosophists, Anarchists, Discordians and other counter culture types including, most notably perhaps, Peter Lamborn Wilson, preferably known as Hakim Bey, proponent of the “temporary autonomous zone”. The Moors were easily recognizable by their iconic fez caps, an accessory that has had something of a renaissance in popular culture recently, appearing in several videos by notable Hip-Hop and R&B stars where it serves as a connection to the spiritual lineage of “the Muslims” in the Black community. Not only was Moorish Science influential in the Black community at large (notably in Midwestern cities like Detroit and Kanye’s hometown Chicago) and its teachings informative to the organization that would become The Nation of Islam, but the N.O.I.’s founder Elijah Muhammad and the near mythical figure who is believed by the group to have been “Allah in person”, the mysterious W. D. Fard, were both supposed to have been disciples of Drew Ali. Additionally there have been unsubstantiated allegations floating around the internet that Ali—and consequently Fard and the subsequent organizations the two inspired—was an initiate of the same alleged “Asiatic Hermetic Brotherhood” as one Paschal Beverly Randolph, a 19th century American occultist and self-proclaimed Roscicrucian of mixed racial heritage who was supposedly a friend of Abraham Lincoln. While Randolph’s writings seem tame and sort of Christian-flavored to the modern reader they were ultimately translated and expanded upon by the Russian sex magician and self-professed Satanist Maria de Naglowska and were highly influential on the development of European ceremonial magic, particularly the formation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, from whence rose “The Great Beast” Aleister Crowley who went on to lead and reform the Ordo Templi Orientis, a pseudo-Masonic occult order, under the aegis of his own religious ideology Thelema. So as unlikely an occult reference as it seems to the naked ear there may in fact be a twisted legacy shared between Crowley (and by extension his disciples Jack Parsons and Kenneth Grant) and Kanye’s “Muslims”. Shortly after this cryptic name-check Kanye returns to the idea that experiencing worldly pain and suffering results in a mental and spiritual numbness which was touched on in “Ghost Town”. This is a common theme for folks who embark on magickal paths. The constraints of our society, and sometimes our material world itself, become too much. We become numb to the world that seems so inhospitable to us. Or at least we tell ourselves we have. We look for something more. We seek a way out. Many of us long for the lascivious but nurturing embrace of annihilation. This was a frequent subject not only in Jack Parson’s writings on the occult, but in his private correspondence, as well as in discussions about Parsons among people who knew him. It also brings to mind the garmonbozia, or “pain and suffering”, that the young Tremond boy (who, it should be noted, was “studying magic” according to his grandmother) holds in his hands during a scene in the second episode of the second season of ‘Twin Peaks’, and which is apparently a food source for the entities who populate The Black Lodge in the show’s mythology. A couple of lines later Kanye threatens to “set the nuke off on ’em”, another reference that evokes ‘Twin Peaks’, particularly the 8th episode of the third season which implied the testing of atomic weapons in New Mexico during the ’40s was connected with a “negative entity”, alternatively known as Judy or “the mother” who, according to Mark Frost’s 2017 book ‘Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier’, is an ancient Sumerian demon whose in-universe mythology sounds a helluva lot like the Kabalistic legends surrounding Lilith and Samael or Leviathan and Behemoth. This connection to Lilith links this entity to Babalon, and in our own “real” world much speculation has been made regarding the Babalon Working performed in 1946 by Jack Parsons in the Mojave Desert and not only the bomb tests at nearby Alamogordo, New Mexico, but the sudden rise of UFO sightings with the Maury Island incident in the Pacific Northwest and the crash at Roswell, New Mexico both occurring just months later in 1947. And though it may seem like a non sequitur I feel compelled to mention that one of the standout tracks from Kanye’s debut album, 2004’s ‘The College Dropout’, happened to be called “Spaceship” and featured him wishing he had a “spaceship” and could “fly past the sky”. Digression aside, it’s worth touching on the fact that upon witnessing the first atomic weapons test scientist Robert Oppenheimer remarked “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”, a quote from the ‘Bhagavad Gita’, the essential text of Hinduism, which connects that event to the religious traditions of the Indian subcontinent if not directly to Tantra itself. Coincidentally one of the first places I ever read an in-depth article about Jack Parsons was in Adam Parfrey’s counterculture classic ‘Apocalypse Culture’ which also happens to contain an article by Hakim Bey about visiting a temple dedicated to the goddess in India, as well as a series of essays dealing with the esoteric significance of the splitting of the atom and a geographical link between the location of the first atomic explosion and that of the assassination of president John F. Kennedy. Quite the chaotic bundle of references, no? The “nuke” line also pairs up with something Kanye says a few seconds earlier about how he shines “so bright, it’s no sun”, which seems like a decent enough metaphor for a nuclear explosion that flashes brightly but releases a cloud of darkness and death, and also recollects the image of the “Black Sun” which has several arcane connotations including links to “the pit” (or Abyss) of Enochian magick, inter-dimensional portals, and the summoning of Babalon whose name (in the more familiar form Babylon) quite literally means “gate of the Gods” in the old Akkadian language but when written in the cuneiform script of ancient Sumer includes the symbol “Din.Gir” or “An” which is quite literally a black star shaped glyph. Later he claims that he “obeys” a “different type of rules” than anyone else, perhaps even society at large. This is a credo common to shaman, witches, and magicians throughout history and perhaps took it’s boldest form via the Thelemic motto “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” and the accompanying text ‘Liber OZ sub figura LXXVII’. He then returns to the idea of life being cyclical, tying it to the Tantric notion that both the “good” in the “bad” and the “bad” in the “good” are necessary and need to be recognized if not celebrated when he states emphatically “We was all born to die, n***a DOA” before denying that there is such a thing as a “hero” in our reality full of beautiful garbage people where there are in fact “no capes” to be seen around any of our necks. Interestingly there is also a line on this section of the song that was apparently edited out of the explicit version and is only on the censored edit where he adds “Sorry, but I chose not to be no slave”. And while I can understand Kanye wanting to avoid further controversy after his dumb-as-bricks TMZ interview I can’t help but note how this missing line connects to the writings of Jack Parsons, which were often about breaking free of mental, spiritual, and societal bondage, and obviously Thelema and the aforementioned ‘Liber OZ’. The text in question is in fact a revolutionary declaration of personal freedoms that ends with a quote from ‘Liber AL vel Legis’ chapter two, verse 58, which reads in full “Yea! deem not of change: ye shall be as ye are, & not other. Therefore the kings of the earth shall be Kings for ever: the slaves shall serve. There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was. Yet there are masked ones my servants: it may be that yonder beggar is a King. A King may choose his garment as he will: there is no certain test: but a beggar cannot hide his poverty.” This idea that a King may be a mental or spiritual slave while a beggar may conversely be a King in disguise is clearly another, perhaps more measured, way of presenting the same sort of idea Kanye attempted to convey so unsuccessfully via his slavery comments in that disastrous interview.
But what the fuck does any of this mean?
Well, it means a lot.
For us, and for Kanye.
It means that yes, Kanye is “crazy”. Probably in all the very mundane ways we’ve suspected for years. But also in a more complicated spiritual sense that is sometimes described as “shaman sickness”. This often manifests as a disconnect from what I refer to as “consensus reality” and can include hallucinations or visions, disassociation, personality disorders, and even physical illnesses that is usually the result of breaking the programming forced on most humans by the pressures and coercions of societal conditioning and can be sparked by psychedelic drug use, trauma, occult initiation, sexual experimentation, meditation, sleep deprivation, mental illness, or other brain-breaking activity. It’s my personal contention that Kanye West broke through the veil of his mental programming somehow (probably a combination of several of the triggers listed above…just look at his disassociating ass face during the now infamous Katrina benefit…then think about the trauma of losing a beloved parent…and then there’s those allusions to sex magick that started this whole thing) and has tapped into some magickal current. The same magickal current that people like the Gnostic authors of ‘The Thunder, Perfect Mind’, John Dee, Aleister Crowley, Gothic horror author H. P. Lovecraft, rocket scientist Jack Parsons, Marjorie Cameron, Kenneth Grant, Robert Anton Wilson, Peter Levenda, and many others, including this blogger, were or currently are. Or rather, I think that current is tapped into Kanye! I don’t suppose he is channeling the current but that, like Madimi with Dee, Aiwass with Crowley, or “the Great Old Ones” through Lovecraft and the characters in his stories, the current is channeling itself to the public at large through him. I also think he’s a less than perfect, some might go so far as to say shitty, medium for these messages. I have no evidence—in fact I have evidence to the contrary—that he’s ever read any magickal texts or even books about magick. But he is clearly thinking magickally, at least part of the time. And he keeps making attempts at delivering magickal proclamations to the hordes of people who follow his every move. The problem is that he makes these statements in ham-fisted ways that, while appealing to a wide audience as tasty sound bites to get infuriated at or confused by, are not actually conveying the intended message in a way that will effectively open minds and effect a widespread change in humanity.
Imagine, for example, if instead of describing “slavery” as “a choice” Kanye had said “There is no governor anywhere; you are all absolutely free. There is no restraint that cannot be escaped”? The same message of shrugging off mental bondage would have been conveyed without bringing one of the worst acts of genocide ever committed on the planet into the discussion. Imagine if he’d asked the rhetorical question “Who is the master who makes the grass green?” Again, the same notion of complete freedom from any constraints and mastery over self and individual reality would be implied while avoiding the sort of controversy that distorts all of his attempts at good natured “mindfuckery”. Of course, both of the phrases I suggested as alternatives to Kanye’s ham-handed slavery comments were favorites of author and psychonaut Robert Anton Wilson who wrote several philosophical tomes based on his studies of various esoteric traditions and dabblings in the ’60s counterculture. And while I personally found Wilson’s prose and musings Earth-shaking—and they’ve proven influential on culturally important works of art as varied as the Wachowski siblings’ ‘The Matrix’, Alan Moore’s ‘Watchmen’, Grant Morrison’s ‘The Invisibles’, and even the classic comedy ‘Ghostbusters’, among many more—they haven’t necessarily had the same reach among the hoi polloi that Kanye’s shenanigans have. Which is why Kanye could be an amazing conduit for this current. He’s a rapper. He doesn’t speak in wanna-be Zen koans like some burnt out pseudo-mystic from the Hippie era. He talks like a normal schmuck. But that schmuckiness, which makes him so watchable, also makes him ineffective at conveying this information. I mean, his message is essentially identical to Wilson’s, but not nearly as elegant. It’s also a retread of a philosophy elucidated quite effectively by Pop divas En Vogue and Funk band Parliament/Funkadelic before them as “Free your mind, and your ass will follow”. If they could encapsulate it so easily why can’t Kanye? I know I sound like a broken record, but trust me, we’ll come back to that.
“My cosmic schmuck principle holds that if you occasionally notice that you’ve been thinking or acting like a cosmic schmuck you will become less of a cosmic schmuck and the more often you notice that you’re thinking and acting like a cosmic schmuck the less of a cosmic schmuck you become. On the other hand if you never never never never suspect that you’ve been thinking or acting like a cosmic schmuck then you will remain a cosmic schmuck for the rest of your life.” — Robert Anton Wilson
Make no mistake, I didn’t bring Robert Anton Wilson into this discussion just so I could use the word schmuck (RAW being a proponent of something called the “Cosmic Schmuck Principle”) a few times. He’s also relevant when it comes to Kanye wearing a MAGA hat and seemingly endorsing Trump. I mean, sure, it’s possible that deep down Kanye’s just a conservative douchebag who also happens to be a rapper. In fact, there’s a bit of evidence (like the nauseatingly paternalistic “Violent Crimes” for example) buried in the lyrics on ‘ye’ to suggest such a thing just may be the case. And even I can admit that though it may be little discussed there is a decidedly conservative undercurrent within the Hip-Hop community, which is an outgrowth of a similar conservative core within the Black community itself, particularly among those with deep ties to traditional Christian theology or Afrocentric cultural leanings connected to various brands of “woke” pseudo-science and metaphysics. But I think it just as plausible, especially when examined in conjunction with other things he’s said, that he’s employing a version of one of Robert Anton Wilson’s “mind hacks“; namely the suggestion to immerse oneself in belief systems that may be antithetical to your own conditioned beliefs in an attempt to view the world through multiple alternative “reality tunnels”. Unfortunately Kanye is doing this as a very public act rather than in the privacy of his bedroom as a form of introspection, meditation and mental reprogramming. And undergoing an initiatic reprogramming experience, even if undertaken inadvertently, in a public forum is liable to have a whole host of negative repercussions. Especially for someone like Kanye. Because…well…Kanye is a schmuck.
I don’t mean to make it sound like I’m judging Kanye harshly here. But this is a dude who has publicly stated “I am not a fan of books” and described himself as “a proud non-reader of books”. He has made it clear he has a commitment to a certain brand of anti-intellectualism and that he prefers to learn “from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life”. These are statements that could betray West as an unrepentant ignoramus. But they also belie a certain Gnostic sensibility. Salvation through works rather than faith, connecting to the divine through personal experience rather than intermediaries such as priests and teachers, and all that good stuff. That leads me to believe he is probably having conversations about things, being exposed to things, and experiencing things, that are rocking his world. He might be watching kooky YouTube videos all day for all I know! But his ability to analyze, understand, and most importantly wax, either poetic or philosophical, about the status-quo challenging material he’s encountering is stymied by the self-imposed limits of his intellectual resources. He is the cosmic schmuck. The perfect fool. Which, admittedly, makes him prone to do and say things that appear outright foolish to the observer, but also makes him especially susceptible to “signals” from other intelligences that originate outside his consciousness. Signals that I believe originate from a very peculiar and identifiable source, not to mention a source which we will see has some amount of personal resonance in his personal life; an ancient goddess archetype associated with love, beauty, filth, debauchery, sex, motherhood, life, birth, death, creation, destruction, time, matter, and ultimately chaos.
The goddess in question is none other than Babalon, the Thelemic deity synonymous with “The Whore of Babylon” of the Biblical Book of Revelation; “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH”. A syncretic goddess known to some as “The Great Liberating Mother”, Babalon is an archetypal avatar who wears the masks of countless other deities and metaphorical personas including Isis, Ishtar, Astarte, Asherah, Cybele, Lilith, the Shekinah, and Sophia among others. She has been associated with Nuit by Aleister Crowley, and Kali, Isis, and Tlazolteotl by Jack Parsons. She is recognizable as Madimi, or The Daughter of Fortitude, a playful spirit who appeared as both an innocent child and a lascivious woman to John Dee and Edward Kelley, describing herself, seemingly paradoxically, as both a virgin and a whore who employs the power to “sanctify” but is “unsanctified” herself. The contradictory nature of the revelations made during Dee and Kelley’s scrying sessions mirrors nearly word-for-word the text of ‘The Thunder, Perfect Mind’, a Gnostic poem written early in the common era and found among the cache of texts discovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945 whose unidentified author declared “I am the honored one and the scorned one…I am the whore and the holy one…I am the wife and the virgin.” These exhortations link the divine whore with the divine virgin as a singular “Queen of Heaven” who embodies the transcendent principles—the coincidentia or coniuntio oppositorum—of Hermeticism, Alchemy, and Tantra encapsulated so succinctly in the maxim “solve et coagula” and Kanye’s own proclamation that “the most beautiful things are always inside the darkest.”
It was in this form of virgin/whore and all begetter/all destroyer that I recognized Babalon as a possible source for Kanye’s “crazy wisdom” via the Gospel sample that opens “Ghost Town”. As soon as I heard the words “starry crown” I knew who was at work. The image of “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars”, like “the mother of abominations”, comes to us from the Biblical Book of Revelation. The text juxtaposes a woman “drunken with the blood of the saints” whose “cup” is “full of abominations and filthiness” against another “travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered”. One is instrumental in the rise of “the antichrist”. While the other gives birth to the reincarnation of the Christian Messiah, who is “caught up unto God” only to return as a blood-soaked world-ender by Revelation’s end. One is found in “the wilderness” sitting “upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.” The other flees “into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God.” One is the Whore of Babylon, identified with the goddess Babalon. The other is the Woman of the Apocalypse, often identified with the Virgin Mary. The whore and the virgin. But I contend they are quite literally the same figure; the Queen of Heaven who is “the honored one and the scorned one…the whore and the holy one…the wife and the virgin”, a living Tantric metaphor, who, like the devis Kali and Tara, is both sacred and profane, creator and destroyer.
Okay…But why Kanye? Why Babalon?
The answer is shockingly simple; Donda West.
Yes, I’m talking about Kanye’s mother, who passed away in November of 2007 after a botched cosmetic surgery. It’s no secret that up until the day she died Kanye and Donda enjoyed a special bond. An especially close relationship. She was his manager. His best friend. And maybe the only woman he ever really loved. Though he undoubtedly behaved unpredictably and exhibited traits of mental instability long before her untimely death, Donda’s loss was clearly a turning point for Kanye. His music took a marked turn towards the melancholy, suddenly espousing grief, regret, and deep feelings of loss and lack. He was still a braggart and an egotist but he could be introspective and self-deprecating. This became obvious to me with the release of ‘808’s and Heartbreak’, an album that caused me upon my first complete listen to lean over to my friend and ask with no amount of sarcasm but a good deal of incredulity “Yo, was Kanye in love with his mom?” I’m pretty sure he was. And while I’m just as sure this will sound crazy to some people, I do think that the root cause of many of his problems—including his bromance with an abusive and highly toxic father figure in Donald Trump and the possibility that he might be channeling the magickal current of an ancient goddess of motherhood, whoredom, intoxication, and death—can be chalked up to unresolved oedipal issues. For evidence seek no further than “The Coldest Winter”, the closing track on ‘808’s and Heartbreak’, a song widely acknowledged as being about his mother, which features the lines “Her love’s a thousand miles away”, “Her love is all that I can see”, and finally “I won’t ever love again”. As weird as it may sound, Kanye was in love with his mom. He’s probably still in love with her. Losing her at the precise moment when he was becoming so successful in the entertainment industry that he probably started to feel like a God among men capable of doing anything his heart desired—with the glaring exception of keep her alive—likely left a hole in his heart which he may never be able to fill. And that fact tears him apart. He was likely already fragile. Already a “mama’s boy”. But the trauma of losing her, a loss he has publicly admitted he blames himself for, sent him careening towards a precipice over which he easily tipped and he’s been falling ever since. That lack of grounding, the unfulfilled spiraling through grief and loss and blame has resulted in a psyche that a great liberating goddess who is simultaneously the most loving mother and the most wanton whore might find especially welcoming. One particularly susceptible to the idea that what most human beings accept as “reality” is ultimately illusory. One that would brazenly use its dangerously public platform to spread the word that, despite what we are conditioned to believe, there are no “opposites” in our universe and beauty can be found inside even the darkest of thoughts and actions.
But wait a minute…If Kanye was in love with his mom isn’t that kinda gross?
Well, yeah, But that’s Tantra buddy.
It’s also elementary psychology, But let’s focus on the magical qualities of breaking taboos rather than going full on psychoanalyst, shall we? To that end I am compelled to point out that the ritual breaking of taboos is intrinsic to the so-called Left-Hand traditions of Tantra where things considered impure or sinful by mainstream Hinduism—such as meat, alcohol, sex, human remains, and refuse, among other things—might instead be viewed as sacred and the indulgence in or contact with them considered a path towards breaking the unnatural grip of cultural conditioning and attaining to a primordial oneness with the ultimate reality of the universe in all its extremes. A similar will to break all boundaries, even the very fabric of reality itself, can be seen in the Left-Hand magickal practices that have arisen in the West, and arguably lay at the very root of all magickal thinking that informs every school of occult initiation dating back to the earliest of shamanism; from cannibalistic Aghori Sorcerers…to abortion administering Crones…Elizabethan Alchemists transmuting shit into gold…to auto erotic obsessed Chaos Magicians. These are paths that are uncomfortable and not just a little bit “squicky”. But being able to recognize the worth, the divinity, the magick, in testing boundaries, both ones own and those imposed by society, is the beginning of the journey towards attaining illumination. It’s certainly an important theme in both Crowley’s Thelema and The Witchcraft envisioned by Jack Parsons in the ‘Book of Babalon’, both of which are of particular relevance to any discussion of the occult current I believe is actively attempting to influence Kanye.
Which brings me to another sphere of influence, and important person, in Kanye’s life; his wife and the mother of his children, Kim Kardashian West. We all know her as the star of ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’, one of the programs that helped popularize the sensationalist “reality television” genre. But why is Kim really famous? I know this is often asked as a rhetorical question intended to downplay the importance of her celebrity or smear her, but that’s not my intent. My intention is to illustrate the importance of a certain archetype to Kanye, the archetype of The Scarlet Woman. And Kim Kardashian West is unquestionably a prototypical Scarlet Woman in my estimation. How? Well, to be blunt, she and her family would likely never have attained the fame or fortune they have, instead remaining unremarkable but semi-wealthy southern Californian’s with a loose connection to the entertainment and sports industries, if it weren’t for their father’s role in the carnival of grotesquerie that was the aftermath of the brutal murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, allegedly at the hands of football star and actor Orenthal James Simpson. The second remarkable event that drove her star to new heights and made her a household name was the release of a homemade pornographic video starring herself and her then-lover, R&B singer Ray-J. Yes, she is a beautiful woman, which in and of itself may have been something she could have parlayed into an entertainment career of some sort, but the roots of her fame and fortune were really nourished, like all the goddesses of old, by blood and sex. Realistically these are cornerstones of all religion, even Christianity, and all magick, especially the Left-Hand magick associated with Babalon.
It probably bears mentioning that prior to his and Kim’s marriage Kanye was romantically linked with former adult entertainer, dancer, model, and actress Amber Rose. Such relationships are not exactly uncommon in the community made up of musicans, actors, models, and their hangers-on, but I find it an especially telling detail that one of Kanye’s former lovers is notably a self styled “slut”. By employing the word “slut” here I make no judgement regarding anyone’s character or line of work. It is simply a fact of her personality, how she has chosen to market herself, and the nature of her community activism. She’s been instrumental in organizing so-called “SlutWalks” intended to combat rape culture & victim blaming, and destigmatize the word “slut” by seeking to move public perception regarding behaviors and modes of appearance that society has often levied harsh judgments on women for engaging in or adopting towards a more open place of acceptance. I find it to be admirable work myself, even if some of her public statements—most notably a derisive Twitter comment about Kanye enjoying digital rectal stimulation that crept into kink-shaming territory and reinforced tired stereotypes about masculinity—haven’t always been as enlightened. None the less, Amber Rose certainly qualifies as a sort of Scarlet Woman as well, and her promotion of the SlutWalk movement once again connects the commandments received by Jack Parsons during his Babalon Working to “Gather together in the covens as of old, whose number is eleven, that is also my number. Gather together in public, in song and dance and festival. Gather together in secret, be naked and shameless and rejoice in my name…” to Kanye West.
Now you might be asking—or at least I hope you are, because it means you’re smart—what about that “Meme Magic” shit the so-called Alt-Right used to get their own reality television star elected dictato…err…I mean President? Wasn’t that all supposed to be about “primordial chaos” just like Babalon, Nuit, Kali and these goddess archetypes I’m talking about? And doesn’t it stand to reason that Kanye’s just been “red-pilled” by those douchebags rather than being a conduit for some ancient force of dark divine femininity? Well, if you can believe it, that is where things become even weirder and more complicated. The inhuman force behind the “Meme Magic” movement was after all supposed to be an ancient Egyptian “frog god” of “primordial darkness” named Kek, who some Alt-Right affiliated Chaos Magic bros re-imagined in the image of their meme mascot Pepe the Frog. The only problem is that in its most basic incarnation Kek was reportedly most likely genderless or androgynous and only took on the dualistic personification of separate masculine and feminine counterparts (Kekui and Kekuit) as Egyptian religious ideas developed over time. According to E.A. Wallis Budge’s seminal ‘The Gods of the Egyptians: Or, Studies in Egyptian Mythology, Volume 1‘, the earliest depictions of Kekui were actually serpent-headed and it wasn’t until Kekui and Kekuit were syncretically merged with the gods Ka and Kait that Kek became frog-headed and Kekuit serpent-headed. In my view that places Kek not only firmly in the tradition of the divine hermaphrodite but that of the Typhonian current along with a whole host of deities affiliated with serpent, fish, dragon, and sea-monster imagery, like, for example, the crocodile-riding Hindu goddess Akhilandeshvari, and the Hebraic/Mesopotamian “demon” Lilith who Kabbalistic myths identify as synonymous with the world-ending sea-monster Leviathan, itself thought by some to be a Hebraic reworking of the Sumerian goddess of watery primordial chaos Tiamat. Budge’s ‘The Gods of Egypt…’ seems to support this by suggesting that “the crocodile-god Sebek, one of whose chief seats of worship was at Kom Ombo, was a personification of the old primeval god Kekui.” And if you didn’t know already, many Biblical scholars assume the reference to the aforementioned “Leviathan” in the book of Job to be a description of nothing less than a Nile crocodile. So, the powers we’re discussing here are in their essences fundamentally the same even though the intentions of the sorcerers attempting to manifest them or acting as a conduit for them or their power may be at complete odds. But I think Kanye’s openness to accepting the disastrous end result of the working of Meme Magic, via the concept of a force he refers to as “dragon energy”, betrays just how susceptible he is to signals emanating from the abyss of dark primordial chaotic water that, contrary to his association of dragon symbolism with “daddy” Trump, actually emanates from the dark mother.
Sadly Kanye seems about as confused as I’m sure a lot of readers, not to mention the uninitiated masses, are at this point. Because instead of embracing the divine feminine, the spirit of some of his own early work like the matriarchal anthem “Hey Mama”, and the legacy of his own deceased mother figure, he’s continued to hold fast to the misogynistic tropes so common in the hip-hop community, regurgitated tired patriarchal bullshit like “Violent Crimes”, and sought the approval of the dark father in the form of Donald Trump. That he’s done so while showing sparks of freethinking and libertine tendencies has given me hope that, perhaps with a little bit of self-education and a lot of introspection and meditation, he might fully break the grip of cultural programming that, for all his furious attempts at woke profundity, keep him locked in a prison of egotism and toxic hyper-masculinity, and become the kind of example that the throngs of onlookers watching him really need to see.
The handful of public appearances he’s made during the months since he released ‘ye’, like his visits to Jimmy Kimmel’s late night television program, an interview on Chicago’s 107.5 WGCI morning show, and a spot as musical guest on the season opener of ‘Saturday Night Live’, haven’t really given me much faith in his understanding of the forces working through him or his ability to explicate his feelings to the public though. I didn’t watch his ‘SNL’ appearance because frankly I work for a living and was pulling an overnight shift at the time of its airing, but I understand they played the MAGA hat as a gag in promotional clips, he delivered a rambling monologue referencing the hat and instructing his audience to “try love” and break their “programming” during a post-credits performance of “Ghost Town”, and he has since doubled down on that MAGA imagery with another Twitter photo, all of which is more than a little frustrating. I can admit to finding some amount of hope in Russell Brand’s analysis of the Kimmel interview which approaches Kanye’s mental state from a New Age, technognostic, “red pill” perspective and arrives at some similar conclusions to my own though. I found it particularly humorous that Kimmel and Brand both honed in on the metaphor of telling a child not to jump off a table, even though doing so is stifling the exercise of their individual freedom, because jumping off a table could result in injury which loops back quite neatly to the closing refrain from “Ghost Town” about gaining freedom by putting your “hand on a stove”. But the decidedly more emotional radio interview was actually pretty concerning to me. I found it particularly noteworthy that Kanye used it as an opportunity to reach out to old friend Don C and kinda pointed to not having him around to ground him to his past for his erratic, unpredictable, and often problematic behavior. I take that as proof that he is aware of the void left by the loss of his mother as a grounding presence and the disconnect it’s caused in his life. But I don’t know if simply reuniting with an “old friend” is addressing his problem at its root or whether it’s going to be enough to fill the emptiness at the core of his being, much less the gaping maw at the heart of our society which so readily eats up his wacky soundbites and cringey publicity stunts.
Then there’s the recent release of “I Love It”, his newest single, which suggests that he may be groping for a way to synthesize the seemingly opposing forces at work in his life and coming up empty handed. The song, which begins with a sample of comedian Adele Givens discussing how modern “liberated” women are afforded a certain amount of sexual agency—the right to ask for, if not expect, sexual gratification from their partners—often denied their forbears, finds him and teenage Mumble Rap sensation Lil Pump declaring their unapologetic appreciation for women who exhibit wanton behavior in the crassest of terms. “You’re such a fuckin’ hoe…I love it” they intone through a robotic autotune filter over the track’s warmly buzzing electronic bassline and canned handclaps as they caper around in their comically oversized costumes in the song’s accompanying video. On his extremely brief verse Kanye describes himself as “a sick fuck” who is open to the exchange of sexual favors for luxury items, including cars and, perhaps more interestingly, cosmetic surgery. “I Love It” is certainly not the first time he’s referenced paying for a paramour’s plastic surgery in a song, but I find it incredibly telling that he does so here on a song whose chorus is a literal celebration of the whore archetype which boasts a video depicting him proudly adorned with a cartoonishly massive pendant bearing the name of none other than his deceased mother Donda while being chided in a decidedly motherly manner by a naughty lady comedian. If you aren’t convinced by seeing it literally writ large across his chest just who the whore he loves so much really is make note of how Kanye expresses his desire for these “hoes”; by offering to buy them automobiles and plastic surgery. Not only was a portion of “Hey Mama” concerned with how he was going to prove his dedication to his mother in a similar way—by purchasing her a “Benzo” with tinted windows, a “Jag”, or an “S-Type”—but she literally died while getting fucking plastic surgery! Could it be any more obvious what is motivating Kanye at the deepest level? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Kanye is insinuating Donda was necessarily a woman of “loose morals”—though I could definitely make the case for a few lines from “Hey Mama” betraying a certain amount of oedipal jealousy on Kanye’s part—but he is clearly drawing an analogue between the concepts of motherhood and whoreishness. And I just do not believe it mere coincidence that he, even subconsciously, charted such an obvious and easy to read connection between his mother, the medical procedure that killed her, and abject whoredom. Nor do I think that such a connection is meaningless. This is our clue as to where the inspiration behind his unpredictable actions originates, and in true Fruedian fashion it all goes back to ZE MOTHER! In this case The Mother of Abominations. Unfortunately, rather than being a celebration of the powerful sexuality of The Great Liberating Mother, “I Love It” comes off as sophomoric and immature, like an impotent attempt at being “shocking” made by a petulant child who just learned a “dirty” word. This is depicted, quite literally by the previously mentioned shots of Adele Givens—who is portrayed throughout the clip as larger than, and arguably in a position of authority over, Ye and Flip—looming above and looking down her nose disapprovingly at Yeezy who pulls a series of comically childlike faces feigning embarrassment, apology, and mildly defiant deference to her almost god-like figure. It’s all right there, as plain as day, even if Kanye himself still has no idea what the fuck is going on.
If I were afforded an opportunity to communicate with Kanye directly I’d have more than a few things to say. First I’d tell him to read some fucking books! I’d suggest he set aside his infatuation with the masculine energy of the patriarchy—crystallized around his infatuation with Donald Trump and his authoritarian “Make America Great Again” campaign—and seek to embrace and emulate the energy of the legitimate love of his life, the divine Mother, instead. I’d urge him to expend some effort trying to get in touch with his own feminine side in an attempt to get to know the wrathful and rapturous mother goddess within rather than looking for her in the arms, bosoms, and crotches of his various Scarlet Women. I’d propose he allow his natural predilections—like his love for flamboyant fashion such as pink polo shirts & kilts, and being, as Amber Rose so indelicately put it, a “finger in the booty ass bitch”, for example—to run wild and free because it is in the breaking of cultural, social, and personal taboos where true initiation, illumination, and ultimately freedom resides. I’d remind him of how enlightened he sounded in 2005 when he admitted that the latent homophobia in the hip-hop community had affected and stifled him and suggested the hip-hop community needed to stop perpetuating this casual but devastating form of discrimination. I’d submit that maybe the machismo and misogyny he sometimes promotes, rather than being celebrations of libertine notions of sexuality, might be contributing to the continuing cycle of unhealthy masculinity present in the hip-hop community and society at large the same way the homophobia he once decried does. I’d ask whether publicly supporting a politician—even in jest or as a mental exercise in freethought or freedom of choice—who has removed all references to LGBTQ citizens and the issues that effect them from official government communications, attempted to ban Transgender soldiers from serving in the military, attempted to ban Muslims from immigrating to our shores, and has locked up immigrant children in veritable concentration camps seemed in keeping with that enlightened spirit? I’d inquire whether that jives with the suggestion he just made during that impassioned post-broadcast speech captured by comedian Chris Rock on the set of ‘SNL’ this weekend that we “try love”? I’d demand to know if that was his idea of “love”? And finally I’d attempt to instill in him that playing the troll isn’t the act of subversiveness he thinks it is, and is far less powerful a statement of either love or revolution than reflecting the characteristics—which could include a litany of seemingly contradictory but truly disruptive, inflammatory, and rebellious qualities ranging from nurturingly virtuous to fiercely depraved—of not only his own beloved mother Donda but the ineffable divine mother at the center of our universe who, I think, has been so desperately attempting to speak through him.
If you’re listening, take your own advice Kanye.
You know where to find it.
And it ain’t at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or 725 5th Avenue.
In case you’ve read this entire fucking article and have no concept of who he is, Kanye West, despite having committed countless social faux-pas and publicly struggling with recently diagnosed bi-polar disorder, remains a successful rapper and producer. His most recent album ‘ye’, which inspired this far too lengthy analysis, was released on June 1st. He recently announced via Twitter that “the being formerly known as Kanye West” now refers to itself as “Ye”. Ye is rumored to be preparing the release of another album, allegedly titled ‘Yandhi’, some time in the very near future.
Music is magick.