For Grant Morrison and Alan Moore
Thus far, this codex has centered, in large part, on exploring and unraveling the complex psyche of Cliff Huxtable. The suggestions have been proffered in previous selections from this study that Cliff Huxtable is analogous, at least in terms of the operations of his psyche and his varying roles within the Huxtable narrative and the Huxtable hegemony itself, to Shakespeare’s tragic trio: King Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet. It has been argued, also, that Cliff is, to some measure, probably an active user of opiates and various psychedelic narcotics, a Vietnam War veteran suffering from acute shellshock and post-traumatic stress, a man in possession of an advanced state of consciousness, and a psychic product of a sort of Pynchonian and even Burroughsian postmodern paranoia. While the following argument will not dispute or call into question the veracity or reasonability of these claims, it will nevertheless present yet another way of conceptualizing the complex and rather weird psyche of Cliff Hittable as well as his function(s) within the Huxtable narrative, a conceptualization that might serve to begin to reconcile those seemingly disparate readings and understandings of Cliff and in turn more fully realize his role within (and, indeed, perhaps against) the Huxtable hegemony and narrative itself. The central claim is this: Cliff Huxtable—rather like his father and youngest daughter—is, ultimately, a practitioner of the art of psychonautics and, by effect, something of a chaos magician, if a rather unwilling and often unconscious one.
As discussed in the first column from this series, many members of the Huxtable family seem to possess what was termed then, quite cleverly, “hetero-ontological superconciousness,” for they are able to recognize ontological shifts that occur within their universe, reality or ontology. Rudy Huxtable, it was argued, possessed a particular hetero-ontological power to, in effect, manipulate, bend and even rupture the ontology of the Huxtable narrative by effectively willing her older sister Sandra into existence as a thoughtform (see David Cunningham’s Creating Magical Entities and John Perkins’s The Word is as You Dream It for further insight into the nature and function of thoughtforms) and creating embedded and overtly fictional realities within the ontology of the Huxtable narrative (see episode 4.19, “Once Upon a Time,” for a supreme example of Rudy’s world-making abilities), suggesting that she possesses a “magical” ability beyond that of anyone else in her rather “magical” family. Even the eldest member of the Huxtable clan, Russell Huxtable, Cliff’s jazz musician father, seems to possess a sort of extra-sensory awareness and understanding of the metaphysical structures of reality, as evidenced in his constant sense of seeming bemusement toward the world and operations as well as his easy control over events which transpire within the Huxtable narrative (though Russell is either unable to unwilling to control or attempt to control reality to the same practical extent—or in the same overt manner—that Rudy does). Cliff is a more particular and unusual case than either his youngest daughter or father in terms of his psychonautic and chaos magical abilities. In fact, Cliff seems, of all the Huxtables, to be the least able to consciously recognize ontological shifts within the Huxtable narrative, suggesting that he subconsciously—and perhaps even consciously—often ignores his own psychonautic awareness and abilities. However, on some occasions Cliff’s extra-sensory awareness of the tangible state of his reality, as demonstrated in such hallucinatory dream episodes as “The Day the Spores Landed” (6.8) and “Cliff’s Nightmare” (6.14) and his ability to cross the proverbial fourth wall and effectively exit the ontology of the Huxtable narrative in the series finale (see episodes 8.25 and 8.25, “And So We Commence Part 1 and 2”), as well as his willful embracement—much like his father—of the art of discordianism (discordianism is the “chaotic” art of using humor and jokes to spread philosophy and knowledge; see, for more information, Malaclypse the Younger’s Principia Discordia), suggests that his hetero-ontological superconciousness, while often decidedly subconscious, is indeed superior to that of any other Huxtables, save for Rudy’s.
The question, of course, is where does this unique form of consciousness come from within the logic of the Huxtable narrative itself? That is to ask: from whom or from where—and, indeed, why—does this form of consciousness arise within the narrative itself? It was hinted in the previous selection from this codex that the character of Jeffrey Engles might be, in fact, the author, in a sense, of the Huxtable narrative, something which Cliff might be becoming aware of in “Cliff’s Nightmare” (which was narrated by Jeffrey Engles). However, this suggestion implies a level of singular authorial intention and control over the narrative that does not seem to exist—or at least be returned to—or transpire outside the realm of “Cliff’s Nightmare.” The suggestion here is that the Huxtables are chaos magicians and, perhaps, even members—along with Timothy Leary and William S. Burroughs—of The Illuminates of Thanateros (within the organization Rudy, clearly, would hold the rank of Magus; Russell that of Neophyte, and Cliff would be cast as a Neophyte at the beginning of the show and an Adept by the end of the series; these points—and the Huxtables positions with the Illumantes of Thanateros—will be expanded upon in future selections from the Cosby Codex). In the most basic respect, chaos magic can be understood as an individualistic belief system that borrows liberally from a variety of different psychological theories both classical and postmodern, as well as various and contradictory magical practices, religions and philosophies in order to engage in a sort of pragmatic magical practice that allows practitioners to enact a form of “magical paradigm shifting” that allows them to remain flexible in terms of their beliefs in and conceptions of reality. According to the “principles”—of which there are, in fact, barely any—of chaos magic, reality is by its nature malleable. The practice of retro-chronal magic involves the shifting of the past by maintaining and embracing a sense of memory that is flexible and fluid and in turn allows for the recognition of reality as being constantly in a state of flux beyond immediate awareness. The goal of many chaos magicians is to embrace what chaos magic theorist Peter Carroll terms “the gnostic state” in which one’s mind is focused, entirely, upon a singular goal, a goal which is realized in this state and can effectively by-pass immediate consciousness and enter directly into the subconscious from which it can be accessed via a variety of methods, including intense meditation, sexual excitement, the enactment of pain or pleasure, parenthetical observation and thought, or hallucinatory drugs.
Russell Huxtable enters into something of a protracted gnostic state through the playing of jazz music, the enactment of absurd humor to pass along knowledge (i.e. discordianism), recitation of Shakespearian dialogues and ritualistic game-playing. Rudy Huxtable is able to practice a form of retro-chronal magic through the practices of storytelling, game-playing, offering of seemingly simplistic points which are in fact of profound insight (i.e., again, discordianism) and the willed hallucination and creation of thoughtforms and, in effect, the rewriting of reality and history. Russell and Rudy, then, can be understood as chaos magicians of radically different abilities and sensibilities. Russell uses chaos magic to rather limited ends: to transfix his listeners, to bring ease to his troubled consciousness, and to calm excited children when no one else can (which he does in one episode by bribing a group of Rudy’s over-excited friend with cash, which in turn reveals how aware Russell is of controlling reality through an understanding of the roles and functions of the symbolic systems upon which it is composed and maintained). Rudy, on the other hand, practices chaos magic rather arrogantly and without discipline to bring thoughtforms into existence—thoughtforms which, in the case of Sandra, bring temporal and even spatial discord, pronounced discontinuity, and recognized incommensurabilities—and create pocket realities within the Huxtable narrative. Cliff, however, seems sometimes not to recognize nor readily embrace his abilities as a chaos magician. Rather than disciplining his use of chaos magic to render reality more palatable to himself and those around him like his father does, or relishing in his abilities and creating new realities in accordance with his whims and desires, he often resists using his powers unless he has to (and when he does, he usually does so in order to control the behavior of children and nervous, expectant fathers) and instead uses psychedelic drugs—coded in the Huxtable narrative as “hoagies” and “orange soda”—to enter into rather violent and discordant gnostic states through which he comes to realizations that enter into his subconscious without becoming fully conscious within his psyche at a later point, which in turn tends to lead to greater anxiety and discord within his psyche (hence the reason Cliff becomes so dark, miserable, anxiety-ridden and borderline violent in the episodes which follow the dream episodes; the realizations reached through those dreams have not be retrieved fully from his subconscious). In fact, the “story” or “moral” of the Huxtable narrative might be understood in terms of Cliff’s attempts, subconsciously and ultimately consciously, to come to terms with his abilities as a psychonaut and chaos magician. He is, after all, on the psychic surface at least, a man who celebrates and practices science and logic and rejects any belief or practice that rests outside of the paradigm of science and logic (and, by extension the Huxtable hegemony itself). At the same time he is, in effect, like his father and youngest daughter, something of a born—and perhaps even bred—psychonaut, someone in possession of tremendous psychic and intellectual power to gain deep and substantial insights into spiritual and intellectual experiences. It can be argued that over the course of the Huxtable narrative that we witness not, as has been suggested before in other selections from this codex, Cliff’s descent into paranoia and madness, but, instead, Cliff’s heavily fraught, challenging and ultimately successful attempt to come to terms with himself as a psychonaut and chaos magician, one who is able, finally, to succeed at what his most immediate literary forbearers—namely, Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet—failed to do (or, even, recognize their true desire for): to harness the ability to bend and remake reality in accordance with his will.