Transcendent Literature from an Unlikely Source

ESO_Book_REVIEWS: 

ANARCHIC HARMONY (The Spirituality of Social Disobedience)

by William J. Murray

This past April saw the release of Netflix's Melissa Leo led-biopic on Madalyn Murray O'Hair, entitled The Most Hated Woman in America.  That title is without hyperbole, for Madalyn, as with most civil revolutionaries, earned the ire and unrest of many Americans during the '60s as she was one of the most important progressive figures in modern religious liberty.  She was an outspoken and combative atheist, far before the term was lauded as an accepted belief, or before Bill Maher relished in the controversy - about as revolutionary as one could be in 1963.  She famously spear-headed the campaign against the common practice of bible study within American public schools with her landmark case, Murray V. Curlett.  The case single-handedly outed the societal norms of the domineering religious right by overturning the unconstitutional practice (i.e. The Separation of Church and State.)  She famously began her mission because of her son, William J. Murray's subjection to strict Christian teachings when he, nor any of the Murrays, identified as Christian or religious in any way.

Madeline Murray O'Hare, Atheist Icon and Real Shit Kicker

Madeline Murray O'Hare, Atheist Icon and Real Shit Kicker

Her radical decrees of anti-religious authority and vitriolic behavior towards the societal norms of the day cast her as the religious right's arch-villain. She was thought to be a proponent of the dissolution of American values, therefore she was subsequently harassed with death threats and violent attacks.  But these did nothing to deter her message, as a matter of fact, these proved to fuel her contempt so much so that she basked in the villainy bestowed upon her by the dogmatic public.  Her son that helped usher her stance, William J. Murray,  became antithetical to her mission, becoming a “born-again” Christian in 1980, causing his mother to publicly denounce and estrange her son.

Her story does not end well, and would ultimately prove tragic as she eventually was kidnapped and murdered along with her other son and granddaughter by a convicted felon whom she had previously employed. And what became of the living, born-again son, this William J. Murray?  He grew to write a best-selling novel about his eventual turn against his mother's atheism and subsequently became a god-fearing, socially conservative politician.  So imagine my surprise that I learned this William J. Murray, the republican politician and baptist minister, wrote one of the most transcendent books about the shackles of societal conformity and the sickness of guilt and drive for material wealth that plagues our society. Sounds contradictory to the common republican oeuvre that riddles the current administration, doesn't it?

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“Mr. Murray illuminates how this system of alienation is passed on from one generation to the next and he eloquently depicts how it cripples all of us.” - Robert Anton Wilson

Mentally abandoning preconceived lists or agendas and succumbing to the psychic gifts abound in Powell's Bookstore in my current home of Portland, OR, I discovered a book titled “Anarchic Harmony” by one William J. Murray (not to be confused with John Cage's piece of the same name.)  It barked for my attention because I noticed a familiar and trusted name had penned the forward, a hero by the name of Robert Anton Wilson, a figure about as progressive as humanly (or spiritually) possible.  A quick read of RAW's forward concludes with naming Murray a true revolutionary in the vein of Max Streiner, Aleister Crowley and Neitzsche.  “Mr. Murray illuminates how this system of alienation is passed on from one generation to the next and he eloquently depicts how it cripples all of us,” I immediately accepted this literary sign considering the current political climate, especially considering it was written in 1992.  Now remember, due to the forward and its author, Murray as a writer couldn't be further from what I would discover after having read the book. 

One could surmise that the left-wing “anarchism” this year with the confluence of radical right wingers is proving to be a dynamic, violent cultural zeitgeist (especially rampant here in Portland).  Anarchic, yes, and admittedly somewhat misguided with their acts of random violence - but the "leftest anarchists" have, at their heart, an impassioned desire for social harmony.   I know this to be true. Murray's “manifesto” proves relevant to this modern thread, but instead of dwelling in the reformation of a pragmatic political structure, it delves into the more corporeal and ethereal inner-philosophies - or the macrocosmic politics composed of our individual purposes as it relates within the epistemic societal construct.

A common metaphor, and an effective one at that, equates the unique and perfect purpose of a human organ as it relates to the human body - it is, by design, allowed to function with its inherent purpose in order to promote and sustain the health of the entire unified body.  So why then are we - individual organisms with our own unique functions and purposes, discouraged the freedoms to discover our seemingly anarchic individual purposes?  Especially when the harmony of society is dependent on the individual components' ability to flourish within their unique designs?


Murray writes in an assurance gifted to those emboldened with higher directives. Each chapter systematically introduces a new tenet of its overarching thesis whilst reiterating and relating to every chapter before it.  This building-block style of writing can seem repetitive and somewhat condescending at first, but even still, it is hard to recall the plethora of intellectual cogs it unites - so as a reader,  I found the summation and reiteration of each chapter's conclusion to be imperative for digestion.  But the big ideas are simple: 

“The distinction between ourselves and the “outside world” is another inaccurate piece of mythic information that does not allow to have a proper mental model of reality.”  

For the better of the whole, we must find our individual purpose…obvious, right?  But when is the last time that you truly investigated the machinations needed to achieve such a clichéd objective?

This book is so bitingly obvious in its resolve, that shame is a natural reaction by the reader, shame for succumbing to the rules and regulations of governmental bodies - but Murray tackles this too:  “Careers, family, obligations, social pressure, guilt, responsibilities - these are modern-day dragons that mankind faces on his heroic path to transcendence… Who has the courage to stand against the Kraken of guilt?” 

The ironies of Murray as a practicing minister and cog in the political industry are befitting, however, as they reiterate the purpose of the book's philosophies as bipartisan, humanist and beyond intellectualism:

“We classify ourselves above other animals because of our so-called intelligence.  Why?  If we instead chose to classify species according to the the effectiveness on the planet, mankind would be at the bottom of the totem pole… The fact is that our intelligence, as we now use it, makes us a cancer in the world organism, thereby condemning us to the bottom of the ladder of life forms.”

That’s what makes this text all the more stunning - Murray, raised in the radical godlessness of political pariah, rebelled - his freedom to subscribe was just that, his freedom and purpose.   So there is no folly of intent, or philosophical misstep, he was able to look beyond the aesthetics of his individuality for the greater purpose of the work.  This is fortified when he expresses contrarian ideas to his religion, such as the definition of the soul:  “Does [the soul] inhabit every cell, every strand of hair…self-sustaining microbes, bacteria and viruses... those born with no brain activity… aliens?“ 

RAW summed it up best as you conclude his forward:  “Fear and mental laziness, we have long known, are the major causes of conformity and slavery.  Less recognized and even more pernicious, however, are the conditioned guilt and shame that keep us locked up in the same “mind-forged manacles” as all the other workers, drones and soldiers in our human ant hill.”

So today (7/25/17), the day our “administration” shockingly pushed a bill further that will take healthcare away from millions of Americans, I wonder if any appointed conservative in Washington is able to look beyond their conformed definitions, beyond their singular need for bounties of unnecessary wealth, especially at the cost of radical harm to millions of their constituents.   I urge all to read this text, as I deem it an important addition in the required reading for anyone searching for the greater good, or reminder that we deserve freedoms to flourish.  I wish conservatives to take note of Murray's seemingly paradoxical stance and submit to the overarching humanism that we must heed as a species, no matter our disparate purposes, in order to keep our societal organisms on the harmonic trajectory.

Also, don't watch "The Most Hated Woman in America."  Not only is it factually bankrupt, but the dialogue is horrid.

 

PURCHASE "ANARCHIC HARMONY" THROUGH AMAZON
 

The Temple of Oculus Anubis Mystery Solved

"The Temple Oculus Anubis"

"The Temple Oculus Anubis"

My article on Oregon's "Temple Oculus Anubis" has gained a lot of traction over the last year, from my research being referenced by many websites to being interviewed for a podcast concerning my findings.  Unfortunately, some of the websites, such as Article Cats’, have completely misrepresented the purpose of the piece. The article was about collecting the variety of folklore and mythology the secretive compound has garnered. Many forget that the byline even states that the place "KEEPS OREGON MYTH-MAKERS REELING."

The purpose of the piece was purely paranthropological (anthropological approaches to the paranormal) and was not meant to further any nefarious speculation, but to celebrate local urban legends.  The article even resolves to the more logical assumptions being the case: 

“Now, we here at Esotericana realize that the SUBREDDIT /NOSLEEP is continually overwrought with what could be considered "CREEPY PASTA" or internet scary stories, so embellishments would have been warranted.  That being said, if the family of Egyptian Optometrists were exceedingly private, we don't find anything odd about the residents wanting people to vacate their premises.  That said, this whole take is life-giving to the mythos at large…"

And concludes with: 

“Whatever the case may be, it is private property and most certainly a residence, so we refuse to publish the address or condone any trespassing on any private property.  Please, leave the speculation to the internet and leave the residents be!”

About six months ago I had the pleasure of being interviewed for an audio segment by two Portland grad students, Joe Kuffner and Phoenix Jiang, to discuss the article’s intention and the fun of it’s curious conspiracies. 

The thing is, they went one further, something I didn’t even consider doing in my piece, they solved the mystery.  Listen below and put all these conspiracy theorists such as podcaster Brett Mansor who claims the residents of “killing bunny rabbits” (A claim I never came across) to rest.

They got a hold of the owner's widow and it turns out that the family of well-traveled, Egyptian art collectors have had the residence since 1971.  

But the widow, named Sharon Neil, revealed some very interesting plans in store for the residence.  I won't spoil it here, but am very excited about the home's future...

It was an honor to represent Esotericana and help logic win-out, but bittersweet to lay these internet myths to rest.  As Phoenix states at the end, “It’s like your parents telling you there are no Santas in the world.”  

VISITATIONS 01: MATTHEW LEVI STEVENS

VISITATIONS is a new feature on Esotericana that pits a spellbound Revel Rosz opposite modern, influential luminaries and counter-culture conjurers for an in-depth analysis and discussion with plenty of revelations.

On Matthew Levi Stevens:

Author, Matthew Levi Stevens

Author, Matthew Levi Stevens

 

I have an overtly referential mind, bursting at the seams in hyper regurgitations of eccentric facts and esoteric quotes.  It's a problem, in many ways, sure.  My alienating imdb-page-of-a-brain really helps people sort out their conversational priorities, quickly...  It's also helped to push through the awkward conversation and/or hollow discussion. Though, a much more significant use of it, albeit more personal than academic (as if any of my citations were worth college credit), has really pulled me through some bogus bouts with the beast:  The ability to store influences (especially persons of) and conjure their will to push on creating, no matter the cost.

That part of my brain, where all my influences convene (both gone and still thriving) is not unlike the Joshua Tree Inn of an inter-dimensional ghost-town, hidden in the vast deserts of theta-state purgatory, nestled on the edge of space and time (mind palace, anyone?)... artists mostly come to stay, but evictions have also occurred (looking at you, Vincent Gallo).  More so than the ability to cite these ghosts, the daily purpose of this mental-mentor-reserve is to never cease the investigation of why I am so affected by their individual manifestations of truth.  There is the occasional dark-out when they are summoned as a "Spare Spell" for guidance to help exorcise a difficult time; often just by revisiting their work I can invoke the drive to transcend, and that... that is magick.  

Some of the great godheads (meant to be pluralized) in my "mind palace" are (in no order) Robert Anton Wilson, Austin Osman Spare, Tom Wolfe, Thomas Pynchon, Sir Richard Bishop, Henry Miller, Richard Hell, Terrance McKenna, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Bowie - Byron - and Genesis P.  Orridge.  The last two, by no coincidence, are extremely prominent in my interviewee's alchemy as well, with some of the others influential and probably kept in his reserve as well!

Though, he, Matthew Levi Stevens, got a room at that inter-dimensional brain hotel o' mine rather quickly.  I was introduced to his work a half year ago, and we began corresponding over the last two months!  

I stumbled on Stevens' Reality Sandwich article (one fateful night) that examined William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin's inter-dimensional communions and psionic experiments into ad hoc artistic techniques (the "cut/up", invention of the "dream machine", etc); eschewing traditional practices of creation and those mired in banal methods for those of the more supernatural.  Stevens' articles reinvigorated my life-long zest for weird Burroughs myths, and he composed these meditation with such wit and charm -  I was a fan.  I was not alone - these literary slivers led to Stevens scribing, what I deem to be, the definitive analysis of Burroughs' occult investigations: THE MAGICAL UNIVERSE OF WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS (Mandrake Books).  Definitive by means of wonderfully thorough, a feat for a work of non-fiction that hues, earnestly, of a subjective resolve.   Though that resolve wasn't wholly imaginative: He and Burroughs specifically chatted about Magick. I will say, Stevens' reveal of the writer's childhood and familial relationship to the paranormal is worth the price of the book, alone!

Ol' Bull Lee's connection to the occult was not new to me;  Genesis P. Orridge had solidified my young suspicion of Burroughs' behind-the scenes-otherworldly-conjurations with an essay entitled "MAGICK SQUARES AND FUTURE BEATS" in the omnibus BOOK OF LIES (Disinformation) - a formative book for me, especially considering that most of the "godheads" I mentioned earlier either contribute to or were written about in BOOK OF LIES.  The weave here is no subtle one, Stevens' was at the inception of the artistic chaos-magick revolution Gen, Peter J. Carroll and other "touched" Londoners ignited in the late 70s.   The "industrial" (to simplify) act Throbbing Gristle, Gen's prominent art group at the time, was Stevens' master introduction to what would become a major occultural zeitgeist.  A precocious young Londoner, Stevens tuned in to Gristle's evocations of Burroughs throughout their performances and records.  Ever the correspondent, he probed and prodded these punk rock witches, eventually solidifying an invaluable companionship.

Yes, Stevens was reared by the strange and orgasmic yips and howls bellowed by the British occult artists who would become touchstones for generations of young seekers to come.  And the Great Web owes much to Burroughs' dalliances with the weird: his experiments became ordained as scripture to that movement, and what followed was an onslaught of charged sigils and psionic karate that would culminate into Gen's masterwork: PSYCHIC TV and Thee Temple of Psychick Youth. Though, the significant tie that bound the web the "Industrial Records" era wove was Carroll and Ray Sherwin's amalgamation of artistic and archaic occult teachings into Chaos Magick, a heavily utilized and primary practice of modern magicians.  What a fascinating plane of an alien-reality to exist in, and Stevens was in the muck and the mire with the best of them.
    
It's Stevens' beginnings as well as his extensive career that conjured my curiosity and respect - that's what I chose to focus on in my correspondences with him, and the interview that follows.  I'm thrilled to carry on climbing the cosmic tendrils of magickal thinking, now with a mainline to one of those "paragons"- As I stated earlier, Stevens has recently joined that sacred cabal of invaluable influences.  That said, studying Stevens has made me realize that, although disjointed and scattered in various places, these instrumental beings that still thrive are not disconnected from us, nor confined into a cosmic hotel of the mind- sometimes, all it takes is an e-mail requesting an interview.

You can reach, read, and write to Stevens through his and partner (fellow occultist - artist - writer) Emma Doeve's blog:  http://whollybooks.wordpress.com/

 

Oh, and please buy his book, it's so much fucking fun. 

 

MLS INTERVIEW PT. 1

(E-mail correspondences compiled through March of 2016)

Matthew Levi Steven reading at the 2016 Glastonbury Occult Conference

Matthew Levi Steven reading at the 2016 Glastonbury Occult Conference

 

REVEL ROSZ : Since being led to the occult and esoteric by supernatural fiction, comics, and horror films, have you ever composed fictional pieces in that regard?  Do you plan to, after your next non-fiction work on the band Coil (which I’m terribly excited for)? 

MATTHEW LEVI STEVENS:  Of course there were some fictional things, when I was younger – like most bookish, would-be writers, you start off trying to see if you can do the thing you enjoy so much, i.e. tell stories, and somewhere along the line you also start to develop your own voice, hopefully. A lot of my early creativity with words was in the form of poetry, which then went into the lyrics when I started doing music and became a songwriter.
Later on, in the 1980s-early 90s, there were also some short pieces – very few of them outright fiction, usually thinly veiled accounts of some semi-autobiographical incident – and some of these saw the dark of print in small magazines of the time, especially once I’d moved to London and become part of that whole ‘scene.’ I particularly remember having a couple of pieces published in Joel Biroco’s KAOS magazine, Stephen Sennitt’s NOX, which I was pretty pleased with at the time. Mr. Burroughs was very encouraging about a couple of things that I showed him, which meant a lot to me at the time. There was also some American ‘zine, put out by a guy who called himself ‘Feral Faun’ – the main claim-to-fame of which was that it included some early ‘Unkle Setnakt’ texts by Don Webb of Temple of Set fame.
These days there are some short-stories – more like ‘episodes’ that I plan to weave together – that I’ve been writing on-and-off, most of which draw from my experiences growing up, London in the 80s and 90s, overlapping circles of the Occult, Underground Music, and so on. Tentative working-title Ghost Town London. I’m hoping Beatdom will print an introductory excerpt in their next issue – the blurb I gave them to go with it reads:
‘Last Rites’ is a first instalment from the novel-in-progress by Matthew Levi Stevens, GHOST TOWN LONDON – a nightside narrative of travel in both this and other worlds, in search of the sacred and the profane – a dreamtime initiation against a backdrop of the annihilating reality and apocalyptic countercultures of the End of the Twentieth Century.
I’ll let you know if they go ahead with it!

I’m a huge fan of J.G. Ballard, who you corresponded with over the phone (as a teenager!) Can you expand on those conversations?  I’m dying to know what he would share with such a young fan!

 It was only the one conversation. I had gotten hold of his telephone number from somewhere – possibly just looked him up, it was surprising who you could still find in the regular phone directory in those days! – and called, made an arrangement to call back at a time that would be convenient. I think he said he would give me quarter of an hour, maybe half an hour, something like that. It was just after Hello America had come out – 1981? – and that was kind of the excuse for calling for an interview. I’m not sure if he had started on Empire of the Sun yet, which would, of course, turn out to be quite a departure from everything that had gone before. He was polite enough, although not really that responsive – although I was just excited to be talking to him, I could tell his answers were a little bit ‘autopilot’ – and then, towards the end of the conversation, I happened to mention something about Surrealism and suddenly he seemed to come alive! I had come across a copy of Herbert Read’s novel, The Green Child [which would later inspire Coil’s ‘I Am The Green Childe’ – but that’s another story], which I had picked up just because it had a detail from ‘The Eye of Silence’ by Max Ernst on the cover. Ballard started to talk enthusiastically about Surrealism, the impact it had on him as a young man, and how surprised he was upon arriving in England after the War to find it was generally disregarded. He also told me how he had commissioned reproductions of a couple of Paul Delvaux paintings that he particularly loved, that had been lost in the War. We talked about that almost as long as the ‘proper interview’ he had agreed to, and he was thoroughly charming. Like most people, when they are talking about something they really care about or enjoy, especially if they are intelligent and well-informed. It was a pleasure and an honour to talk to him.

Throbbing Gristle seems to be your gateway into that original occult revival, was it apparent how important their foundation would become?

It’s difficult to say. I guess at that age, everything interesting is fraught with meaning, and discovering TG opened up this – whole other world – it was like an initiation all of its own, just tracking down the records, poring over whatever interviews you could find – teasing out all the details, references to check up on, books to find and read – a “progressive education” indeed! 
And then, of course, the fact that I actually got to meet Gen, and then Sleazy, took it to a whole other level. Once it became personal, about actually meeting people, knowing them, interacting with them – and then there were all the other people, and experiences, which that led on to – the most significant of which I would say were meeting William Burroughs, Derek Jarman, and, in particular, Geff Rushton (who would become ‘Jhonn Balance’ and form Coil with Sleazy . . .)

 

You had mentioned that Gen had followers that were practically inseparable, were you ever a part of their personal rituals or exercises in Chaos Magick, not relating to their performances?  How would you describe their original practices, as the original Temple ov Psychick Youth?

To be honest, my involvement in early TOPY circles – apart from the usual helping to answer the mail, manning T-shirt & Merchandise Stalls at PTV gigs, etc. – was mostly social and what you might call discursive, i.e. looong conversations and brainstorming, often late into the small hours of the night – which might then, perhaps, result in something being written down that would go into a bulletin or newsletter . . .
My involvement in more intimate activities and actual ritual did not really begin until I became part of Coil’s ‘inner circle’ – after we had all broken with or drifted away from TOPY.  We all had a particular shared love of Austin Osman Spare, so of course we experimented with his ‘sigil magic’ method (a key part of the early TOPY toolkit, before we’d even heard of Chaos Magic!) – often for surprisingly mundane things, like attracting people for sex, obviously – but also for tracking down and getting hold of rare objects. Then there were fairly ‘intuitive’ approaches to what might be considered Sex Magick – not actual Tantra, but using sustained arousal to achieve altered states of consciousness – what Crowley wrote about as ‘Eroto-Comatose Lucidity’ I suppose. Also Spare’s Death Posture. I think Patti Smith can be heard talking about something along these lines on the LP of The Nova Convention that Giorno Poetry Systems put out, if you’ve not heard it, it’s worth checking out!
I suppose the most ‘Thelemic’ Crowley-inspired thing Balance and I ever did together was for a while try to explore Enochian magic – something that starts with Queen Elizabeth I’s astrologer-advisor, Dr John Dee, and his medium, Edward Kelley, who were supposed to have been in contact with these angels via crystal balls and mirror-gazing, and received all sorts of strange, apocalyptic visions and a whole previously-unknown language called ‘Enochian’ . . . This was, broadly speaking, also the inspiration for Derek Jarman’s film, The Angelic Conversation, which Coil recorded the soundtrack for. We would try and scry, using convex, concave, and black mirrors. Geff would also use disco mirror-balls, and a small strobe unit, which we were forever trying to get to approximate the proper frequency for alpha rhythms, like the Dreamachine of Brion Gysin & Ian Sommerville. Gysin’s accounts of marathon mirror-gazing sessions in Here To Go: Planet R101 were also an inspiration – or a challenge, even! What might we see? And where might we end up? 
I think for Balance and Sleazy, magic was always ‘magick’ really because it almost always had that sexual connotation. Having said that, there were occasions when Sleazy took part in ritual actions, but they were largely of a more intuitive kind – what would probably be called ‘freestyle shamanism’ (although if he were still alive I’m sure he’d scowl at me for saying that!) – involving the taking of some psychedelic or entheogenic substance, and nearly always some kind of sexual activity – even if that was sometimes more a kind of ‘intensive meditation’ in a borderline sensory deprivation/BDSM scenario. 
Around this time I was also experimenting with sensory deprivation, via a flotation tank that I had access to thanks to some student friends in the Psychology Department of a University, who were having trouble finding test-subjects. They would let me go in pretty much for as long as I wanted, after hours. It was a fine resource, while it lasted.

You have mentioned Brion Gysin’s belief in the “predatory nature of magical thinkers” insinuating Crowley, and scoffing at the spelling of Magic “with a K” – can you elaborate on this dismissal?  Magic or Magick?

I think some of this may have originated from the enmity that Gysin felt towards Kenneth Anger when they met in the Sixties. At one point, Gysin and their film-maker fiend, Antony Balch, were trying to court Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, hoping to get him interested in a film-adaption of Naked Lunch they were working on. Gysin felt – rightly or wrongly – that Anger had poisoned The Stones against them, thereby sabotaging any hope of Jagger’s involvement.
Besides, as I say in my book, Gysin preferred an older, wilder magic – such as he had encountered among the Ecstatic Brotherhoods and Master Musicians of Morocco . . .

Speaking of demystifying Crowley, has he stayed in your purview as prominently as he had in your beginnings?  It seems that early practitioners need Crowley’s work and then rebel against him only to finally accept bits and parts…

Aleister Crowley was certainly one of the most notorious characters of his day, and is very likely one of the most influential – though still controversial – figures in the world of Ritual Magic, a veritable Picasso of the Modern Occult Revival. I have never particularly found the need either to embrace him uncritically, or ‘rebel’ against him, as you put it – although I am all-too-aware how many people seem to like to set their idols up just to try and knock them down. Maybe this sort of thing is more likely to occur if one has made too much of an unquestioning emotional investment in or identification with a ‘guru’ or ‘hero’ and then felt in some way disappointed?
I still find Crowley a figure of interest – although obviously I do not still read him with the same perspective as I had, say, 30-35 years ago, when I was first trying to find out whatever I could about him, read whatever I could by him. I think by now I have read pretty much all the Crowley I am likely to need, and to be honest can’t really imagine another biography or study coming out that would top Richard Kazcinsky’s superlative Perdurabo. 
Having said that, I think there is still room for careful exploration of perhaps under-examined aspects of his Life & Work, and would hope that my recent effort, Lesser Oracles of The Great Beast: Aleister Crowley, the Ouija Board & the Yi-King, would count as such!

Back to Gysin, such a formidable figure in modern occultism – do you believe his work was, and still is, understated - especially amongst the inner circle of the '70s occult revival?

I think those that were ‘in the know’ were always aware of Brion’s influence, but his role and its significance may have taken a while to filter through to a larger audience. Certainly Gen’s superb essay that you mention, ‘Magick Squares and Future Beats’ – as well as an earlier piece he wrote, ‘His Name Was Master’ – both do a lot to help, as does the tireless effort of Gysin’s “apprentice to an apprentice” Terry Wilson, from his collaboration on Here To Go: Planet R-101 all the way to his most recent book, Perilous Passage, a kind of autobiographical cut-up memoir of Terry’s personal experience with Brion and ‘The Third Mind.’
I would like to think my own humble efforts, with The Magical Universe of William S. Burroughs, and, more recently, the piece about Brion that I wrote on the Centenary of his birth for Beatdom online and New Dawn magazine, go some small way to add to that awareness. I have also tried to pay tribute to Terry’s role in all this, and our friendship ‘back in the day.’ 
My account of meeting Terry, his involvement with Burroughs & Gysin, and the evolution of his own work, “Apprentice to an Apprentice” – The Perilous Passage of Terry Wilson, can be read online.

 

Do you believe Gysin to be the biggest proponent of Burroughs’ budding interest in magick?

If you mean influence, then probably the three biggest influences that got him started where magic and the occult were concerned where his Mother, the Cook, and the Nanny! Burroughs always claimed that his Mother was “extremely psychic, and interested in magic” – and it’s pretty obvious that the Mother of Kim Carsons in The Place of Dead Roads, who “adored crystal balls, séances, wallowing in ectoplasm” was at least in part based on his own Mother, Laura Lee Burroughs. Then, of course, there were the Cook and the Nanny, both of whom filled his head with all manner of curious folklore, supernatural tales and superstitions at a young and impressionable age – much of which he would later reference in his writing as an adult author, such as The Lost Art of Calling the Toads, and The Curse of the Blinding Worm . . .

But I think that Brion Gysin was probably the person who most encouraged William’s belief and engagement in the “Magical Universe” as an adult, yes.

There’s an amazing essay written by Gen, "The Splinter Test", (BOOK OF LIES) about Burroughs’ tape experiments, and how they relate to memory.  How the manipulation of your base memory is in fact magick; reconfiguring and constructing your own customized mental landscape, so to speak.  Do you believe these were his intentions, or was it merely an exercise to shake up the foundations of traditional writing?

I have no doubt that WSB’s intentions were his tape-recorder experiments were concerned were primarily magical – and when it came to street-recording-and-playback almost exclusively so. Any ‘literary inspiration’ that may have come from it was secondary, and an unexpected bonus. When I met him for the very first time, at The Final Academy in London in 1982, I asked him about the infamous tape-recorder experiments – because, of course, so many of the bands involved made use of found sound, loops & cut-ups (23 Skidoo, Cabaret Voltaire, Last Few Days, and Psychic TV) – and without missing a beat, Burroughs described them to me, with a chuckle, as “Sorcery!”

Burroughs’ work in the occult has been written about, albeit seldom, and not to the extent of your research…What finally motivated you to compile your knowledge and findings into THE seminal work on his occult leanings?
 

Quite simply the fact that, despite, as you say, all the mentions, there just wasn’t a single, definitive work on the subject. It was a classic case of “writing-the-book-you-want-to-read” – the kind of advice that I remember Gen and Sleazy giving right from the word go: if there’s some kind of art, or literature, or music, that you really want to see or read or hear, and you can’t find it out there anywhere or nobody else is doing it already – go and do it yourself! Sound advice.
And Thank You for the kind words about my book. I’m not sure that The Magical Universe of William S. Burroughs can quite claim to be ‘definitive’ but at least it has made a start, and will, hopefully, encourage others to dig deeper and go further.

COVER ART for "The Magical Universe of WIlliam S. Burroughs" by Matthew Levi Stevens

COVER ART for "The Magical Universe of WIlliam S. Burroughs" by Matthew Levi Stevens

You spoke of, what I surmise, is an experience in “Remote Viewing” or could even be “Astral-Projection.”  Fascinating stuff.  You mentioned, if I remember correctly, that this was the biggest psychical experience you had ever had.  Is this true?  Any paranormal experiences or otherworldly encounters?

I imagine this refers to accounts I have given concerning a couple of experiences I had with Geff from Coil, around the time of the sensory deprivation, scrying, and Dreamachine-style experiments I have mentioned. We were always looking for ways to access altered states, and enhance our perceptions – one such experiment involved attempts at hypnosis: Geff said that he had been taught some basic methods for inducing light hypnotic states (I think by a school-teacher, of all people?) – which we thought would be useful for our ongoing ‘occult researches’ – so one time he offered to teach the basics to my friend Raoul and myself. The premise was that you concentrated your gaze on something that would hold your attention while the hypnotist (in this case Geff) spoke in a rhythmic, repetitive fashion, gradually getting slower, heavier, and more insistent – sort of bypassing your conscious attention and going in more-or-less subliminally, I suppose.
With Raoul, we used a shiny coin blue-tacked to the plain white, inward-sloping attic room wall, with an angle-poise lamp pointed at it – and just ‘put him under’ and then after a few minutes of relaxation brought him out again. What was strange was at first he just could not speak, started laughing – then crying – all mixed up together, and then started to get a bit panicky, like someone who can’t catch their breath . . . but then after a few soothing words and some fresh air, leaning out of the window onto the garden at the back of the house, he came back to himself and was OK again. Apart from that, he just said he’d felt a nice state of warm relaxation, floating . . .
When it came to my turn, because Geff had said you could use anything as the focus, really, as long as it was something you could stare at, not take your gaze from, I asked to use an Austin Osman Spare painting that they had just purchased [the one of trees which I think not long after they sold to David Tibet – it certainly ended up on the cover of Current 93’s ‘Tamlin’ 12” anyway] It was quite literally just sitting there, leaning against the wall of the spare bedroom. So we put it on a chair, propped up against the wall, again with the rest of the lights out and just the angle-poise. Geff did his stuff and the last I remember was like going under at the dentist, when they count you down . . . and then just coming back out of it. Other than a warm, pleasant, relaxed feeling, there was nothing more to it. At least not at the time . . . But later that night, staying the night in that same spare room, trying to get to sleep I just couldn’t seem to settle. I was half-sitting, propped up against pillows, andfacing the same window out onto the garden I mentioned earlier. It was a fairly stormy, blustery old night, and my attention was drawn to a tree at the bottom of their garden almost magnetically. After a while it was like my attention was being drawn in to the tree, with an almost ‘G-force’ acceleration – quite disconcerting at first – and then, all-of-a-sudden, I was IN THE TREE. I don’t know how else to describe it – I had literally swapped places with the tree, and could feel my roots reaching down into the soil and my branches swaying in the wind – but almost as soon as I registered the sensations, the shock or surprise was such that I snapped back into my body, propped upright in the bed. One of the strangest sensations I have ever experienced in my life.
One of the other bizarre ‘out-of-body’ type experiences – also the strangest and strongest of this type I have ever experienced, under any conditions – was also staying with Coil. At one point the had got to know a chap called Tony Bassett, a sort of ‘mad professor’ type, who made all sorts of weird and wonderful gadgets – a lot of them ‘mind toys’ involving strobe-lights, flicker, and binaural beats, that sort of thing – but also some more serious alternative therapy gadgets, like the infamous ‘black box’ [the subcutaneous neuro-electric stimulation device which was meant to encourage the body’s production of endorphins, supposedly making it useful for relaxation, meditation, and also as a home detox device – the prototype had apparently been used to help treat the likes of Keith Richards and Pete Townshend for drug addiction, and was meant to be based on similar principles to acupuncture.] This Tony also made things like the ‘wishing machine’ that Burroughs wrote about (and that Geff cites in the Introduction he wrote to the Dutch edition of WSB’s Electronic Revolution) and various devices relating to an alternative energies therapy called radionics (don’t ask me!) The main one was something called the Lhakovsky Multi-Wave Oscillator, which apparently as well as being good for whatever ailed you was also alleged to induce out-of-body-experiences! The idea was you started off by giving yourself brief exposure to certain milder frequencies to begin with, then built up both your length of exposure and intensity gradually over a period of time . . . but typically, Geff wanted to take the thing for a joyride, and – also typically at that time! – I was happy enough to be along for the ride.
So, you lay down in front of the LMWO, head near the big grey box, between a couple of aerials (like something from an old portable TV) – and mad-professor Geff started twiddling the big dial and flicking switches like nobody’s business . . . I started to feel some very strange hairs-prickling-at-the-back-of-the-neck stuff, also something that I can only describe as being like a magnetic current sweeping across the inside of my head – then accompanied by a see-sawing sensation, which was actually slightly disconcerting – and then before you know it I literally felt myself tip UP and slip OUT of my body . . . Next thing, I appear to be floating – rather awkwardly – just below the ceiling of a room I don’t recognise – I just about manage to turn on my side a little, and see that the wall opposite is lined floor-to-ceiling with book-cases, and that there are piles of books and boxes still to be unpacked, a big table in the middle of the room with like a heavy red tablecloth or some-such slung loosely over it, and a large bay window in the adjacent wall – and then the sound of a large heavy door slamming shut jolts me back into my body, and I am once again lying on the first-floor living-room floor with Geff leaning over me, a look of some concern on his face, saying:
“Fucking hell, are you alright? You went right out for a minute there!”
As I look up, I see that Sleazy has just come in an is standing framed in the living-room door (the ‘slam’ I heard and felt must have been him getting home and coming in the heavy front door downstairs) with a what’s-going-on look on his face, and as soon as I am able I tell Geff he’s not far wrong, and explain what I think I have just seen. I have barely finished (sitting upright now) and see that they exchange meaningful glances – Geff bursts out laughing, and Sleaz beckons me to come with him, without a word. Getting up I follow him, we go downstairs and out the front door. He then takes me down the side alley to the door for the downstairs flat, which he has just bought. I know that they have begun to have it done up, so that they can now live in the whole house, but have not seen it yet – and as the internal door in the hall is still closed off from when they were separate flats and the only entrance for now is still the outside door, this will be my first time entering the ground floor. He ushers me in, along the hall to the room that is directly below their living-room upstairs. It is in the process of being converted into what will be quite a handsome library, with floor-to-ceiling bookcases along opposite walls, either side of the bay window. In the middle of the room sits a large antique wooden table, partly covered by what looks like a curtain or drape of a crushed-velvet texture in a deep red colour.

CLICK HERE FOR THE CONCLUSION / PART 2

-Revelator Keats Rosz is a writer, musician, and paranormal detective residing in Portland, Oregon. For more, follow him on twitter @dakota_slim and check out his latest project: WE, THE HALLOWED  and his music: DAKOTA SLIM and SPARE  SPELLS

MATTHEW LEVI STEVENS LINKS:

WEBSITE:
https://whollybooks.wordpress.com/

PURCHASE "THE MAGICAL UNIVERSE OF WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS"
http://mandrake.uk.net/the-magical-universe-of-william-s-burroughs/

REALITY SANDWICH ARTICLE:
http://realitysandwich.com/172802/magical_universe_william_s_burroughs/

TERRY WILSON “APPRENTICE TO AN APPRENTICE” :
http://www.beatdom.com/apprentice-to-an-apprentice-the-perilous-passage-of-terry-wilson/

UNCLE BILL & THE WRECKERS OF CIVILIZATION :
http://realitystudio.org/biography/nothing-here-now-but-the-recordings/

THE FINAL ACADEMY REVIEW :
http://genesisporridgearchive.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/a-report-on-final-academy-by-matthew.html?zx=87455eecc3622abf

The Cyborg Chromesthesiac

Kandinsky's 1923 composition Black and Violet. The pioneering abstractionist, a professor of law by trade, was inspired to pursue art after seeing Monet's "Haystacks" in a museum and hearing music akin to Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin.

Kandinsky's 1923 composition Black and Violet. The pioneering abstractionist, a professor of law by trade, was inspired to pursue art after seeing Monet's "Haystacks" in a museum and hearing music akin to Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin.

Chromesthesia, a specific type of the neurological condition Synesthesia, is when an individual automatically, or involuntary, associates heard sounds with color.  It has been a documented condition among many musicians, reportedly affecting Richard D. James of Aphex Twin and producer Pharell Williams. Famous Russian abstractionist Wassily Kandinsky drew inspiration from sounds he heard from colors, painting his own perceived music compositions.

 It's a condition 1% of the world has, and a condition often documented as a disability because of the unintentional ability to "hear colors." But for 33 year old Neil Harbisson, who invented something with an ability to translate colors -into sound  - that perseveres the complete color-blindness that has plagued him since birth.

Born with the condition Achromatopsia, or the absolute absence of color vision, lead Harbisson through a grayscale life; only able to perceive the muted and shadowy tones of the gray color spectrum; only able to dream in black and white.  Yet, with the contributions of a plethora of scientists, Harbisson crafted a device so beautifully conceptual, that he now can perceive colors with correlating tones and frequencies.  

Referred to as "The Electronic Eye", the device is an antennae that drapes over his forehead, connected to chip in the back of his skull.  It emits vibrations while registering colors, causing unique software to translate these "light vibrations" into sonic frequencies.  "Each color has its own vibration, so each color vibrates differently in my head - then corresponds to a different note or sound."  Through relentless conditioning of his memory, he has since been able to automatically correlate these tones with colors.  

The media has dubbed him "The Human Cyborg" (a title he has adopted wholeheartedly) for specifically mending soft and hardware biologically with successful results.  In one of his many TED Talks, he describes hearing a symphony at an art gallery, or how fun the cleaning supply aisle of a grocery store is because of the cacophony of colors.  He describes dressing himself in attire that sounds good, and considering funeral dress to correlate with the note B minor.  

One philosophical quandary he supposes, is the social standards by which colors are attributed to feelings, yet he has a completely different assertion of each color's psychological affect..."Red, socially, is considered violent or passionate when, actually, it's the color with the lowest frequency...so it's a very peaceful color... Red, for me, is very innocent."

We're happy to report that his grayscale dreams are now vibrant..."I, now, dream in color."

-Keats Ross is a writer, musician, and paranormal detective from Portland, Oregon. For more, follow him on twitter @dakota_slim and check out his latest project wethehallowed.xyz