REV ROSZ: I’ve read a phenomenal essay of yours where you talked of the lack of “Spiritism” in the modern occult paradigm, something to the effect of “the dead are missing in modern occultism” which really struck a chord with me. It’s as if there is too much pragmatism and psychological explaining concerning that of ritual magick. I call it “Pragmagick” or the idea that each practice is simply to recondition the subconscious. Yet, I feel a large portion of occult roots lie in those of communing with the dead, evoking familiars from alternate worlds, or other paranormal aspects. Is this what you mean?
MATTHEW LEVI STEVENS: Thank You once again for your kind words – but if I am guessing correctly then the article you are referring to is a write-up on our blog, WhollyBooks, in respect of The Visible College seminar in Glastonbury back at the start of October 2014. In which case I certainly cannot take all the credit – in the first place, the review was co-authored with my partner, Artist, Occult Researcher & Writer Emma Doeve. The section discussing the confusion between Nigromancy and Necromancy, as well as changing attitudes to Spirits, Ancestral and OtherWise, I know was close to her heart.
Secondly, much of it was written in reaction to the brilliant Speakers who took part in the event – including Geraldine Beskin, Mogg Morgan, Jake Stratton-Kent & Kim Huggens, Paul Weston, Gordon White, and Julian Vayne – so I have to give due credit to them for giving us such inspiring material to comment on!
That comment about the “absence of the dead” was in reaction to something of a theme that emerged at the seminar, following on from something that Jake said, about how certain Occultists – from approximately the Victorian era onwards – in their haste to distance themselves from what they saw as ‘primitive superstition’ and be thought of as somehow ‘more scientific’ rather threw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater as far as any notion of the gods and the spirits were concerned.
As for “psychological explaining . . . of ritual magick” – somewhere along the line, I think back in the 1970s-1980s, a rather simplified, watered-down reading of Jung started to inform a lot of people’s understanding of magic/k – or at least the paradigm they used to “explain” it to themselves – until you got the rise of the oh-so-popular “psychological model” – that Spirits and Gods and Demons were archetypes, part of the Collective Unconscious, etc. In other words, they were all “just in your head” . . .
Well, here is a statement from C. G. Jung which I believe is worth quoting in full:
“I once discussed the proof of identity [i.e. of Spirits] for a long time with a friend of William James, Professor Hyslop in New York.
He admitted that, all things considered, all these meta-psychic phenomena could be explained better by the hypothesis of spirits than by the qualities and peculiarities of the unconscious. And here, on the basis of my own experience, I am bound to concede he is right.
In each individual case I must of necessity be skeptical, but in the long run I have to admit that the spirit hypothesis yields better results in practice than any other.”
That’s from a letter Jung wrote 10th July 1946 to one Dr. Fritz Kunkel, and what’s also interesting is that he is mainly writing the letter to discuss a book called The Unobstructed Universe by Stewart Edward White. White was mostly a pretty prolific writer of Adventure novels of the American ‘Great Outdoors’ – but he was also a Spiritualist, and The Unobstructed Universe, which is mainly an account of attempts to contact his wife after her death via a medium, has been called “an undisputed classic in the field of psychic exploration.”
I think it’s pretty clear if you read enough by-or-about Jung that not only did he accept the existence of Spirits, but he also believed in – and had experience of – a fair amount of what would usually be considered the Occult. It’s like Emma says: people may like to think that Jungian archetypes are “all just in your head” but Jung himself certainly didn’t!
How has your knowledge impacted your music? Do you find ritual and practice in that medium of creativity? Are you still active?
I have to say, I haven’t really been that involved with music for a while now – but when I am, I still find myself working intuitively from that kind-of ‘Third Mind’ zone that was first discovered and explored through improvisation and ritual, all those years ago. It becomes a kind of practise all of its own, I don’t know how else to describe it! But there hasn’t been any ‘serious’ engagement with music recently . . .
A couple of years ago, I used to perform with a guy locally, just Poetry and Spoken Word stuff, really, just for fun, I guess. He played beatbox and didgeridoo, I provided a few loops and prepared tapes, that sort of thing, and then vocals. One-or-two little things came out of that which were interesting, the main one being that Emma & I were asked to contributed a Spoken Word vocal, ‘From the Journal of the Apprentice’, to the Testing Vault album, The Smile Of A Chain, by Italian maverick-genius, Daniele Santagiuliana:
From the Journal of the Apprentice:
. . . the definite sense of an actual physical sensation of magnetism, magnetic fields – pulling in different directions, shifting in my head – like ‘something’ had changed position (or like some charge – or field – had inverted, reversed.) From Here to Here, a double-headed secret: visiting the Brothers and I find myself floating just below the ceiling of what turned out to be the new library-in-progress, having tipped backwards (as if on a see-saw) and slipped out of my body . . .
And finally, after all the exercises, all the meditation, all the practice and training, this is IT : all of a sudden at the height of the Ceremony, the Teacher grabs me from behind, crushing the surprised breath out of my body and lifting me off the ground and backwards and I am UP and OUT – soaring away from my body like a bird in flight, taken wing from the Eagle’s Nest . . .
Apart from that I occasionally still put together ambient soundtracks for meditation, or private, ritual explorations – and even for the odd presentation, such as Emma’s recent Talk on Babalon and the Resurgence of the Goddess at The Occult Conference, Glastonbury. At her request I put together a short intro-piece, just to help set the mood. Found sounds, prepared tapes – treated, sampled, looped and then combined, just using Audacity on the PC.
Are there any modern artists, writers/musicians/painters, you see in the purview of modern occultism and are you connected with any?
I consider myself very fortunate that, starting at really quite a young age, and going into adulthood – which is when you are most alive to these things, receptive – I met a wide range of fascinating and talented Artists, Film-makers, Musicians, Occultists, Poets, and Writers (the different categories by no means being mutually exclusive!) Much of it, as I have said, was down to the serendipitous magic of just “being in the right pace at the right time” . . .
Of course I’m delighted to be able to say that a number of significant figures, who were well-established and already active when I was first coming up as a young ‘un, are still with us, still out there and doing their thing, one way or another: Genesis P-Orridge, of course, Boyd Rice, and Z’EV. As far as the legacy of Coil is concerned, Stephen Thrower & Ossian Brown continue to produce an otherworldly ambience of sonic alchemies as Cyclobe, and I’m always glad to hear new material from Danny Hyde. I don’t know if you would call their work ‘magical’ or not, but Robin Aspel – who records as Scanner – and Leslie Winer are still producing work that draws on a certain experimental ‘Third Mind’ attitude, as do Sheffield’s original ‘Intelligent Techno’ collective, The Black Dog. As for just letting your hair down and having a good time, a couple of highlights that we’ve come across on the Pagan Festival scene are Damh the Bard, a Druid Folk-singer that we’ve met a few times at The Occult Conference in Glastonbury, and Lou Hotchkiss, who was a contributor to Women of Babalon also, and has a band, Husbands ‘N’ Knives, who describe themselves as a “West Country Riot Grrrl” band, and are definitely high-octane Pagan Punk!
There are various friends who continue to amuse and delight and inspire with the energy and enthusiasm of their work: the writers Nina Antonia, Paul A. Green, David Keenan, and John Power are all kind enough to keep me up-to-date with their latest ventures, as is my former collaborator, Mr. C. J. Bradbury Robinson (who was, incidentally, a good friend to William S. Burroughs back in the late Sixties, when he was still living in London.) As for writers on magic, I was delighted recently to see that David Conway has a new edition of his Magic: An Occult Primer out, as it was one of the first books that I read as a lad, and it had a huge impact on me. Lon Milo DuQuette, Michael Kelly, Stephen Skinner, and Don Webb never fail to produce inspiring, intelligent, and thought-provoking work. Demons of the Flesh by Zeena and Nikolas Schreck is a book I wish somebody would reprint, as it deserves a wider audience (and I’d like to be able to replace my missing copy, which somebody ‘borrowed’ and never returned!) Peter Levenda’s The Dark Lord was surprisingly good. And lastly, for now, Gordon White’s Star.Ships, A Prehistory of the Spirits is proving to be serious food-for-thought indeed about our origins and Deep History.
As for the Visual Arts, those contemporary practitioners whose work features an occult or at least esoteric inspiration that I find myself enjoying include John Coulthart, Emma Doeve, Roberto Ferri, Joan Lansberry, Patrick John Larabee, Yuri Leitch, Eric Lerner, Mishlen Linden, Stuart Littlejohn, Richard Moult, and Lupe Vasconcelos, to name just a few!
When can we expect that Coil biography?
Firstly, I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a biography as such. I suppose what I am aiming for is more of a memoir, inasmuch as it is based on my memories, first and foremost (and drawing on surviving letters, journals, and other surviving documents) – but nevertheless a memoir that will focus quite specifically on my friendship with Geff & Peter, and what I learned and observed about and from them during the ten-or-so years that I was intimate with the weird and wonderful world of Coil.
As for timeframe – well, as you might expect I’ve been chipping away at it in the background for a while now . . . Writing the article ‘Uncle Bill and the “Wreckers of Civilization”’ and the material that went into The Magical Universe of William S. Burroughs certainly helped to kick-start something – but then it was writing the two articles for Furfur, the supplement to the revised-and-expanded new edition of David Keenan’s England’s Hidden Reverse which really got me focusing on that timeframe and material.
It’s still early days yet, but I’m hoping to have it ready to bring out by the end of the year. If I look back, 1986 was both a big year for Coil and also for my friendship with them and the influence it had over the trajectory of my life – so the 30th anniversary seems like a good target to have it completed by!
Finally, as a practitioner/researcher in the occult, I guess I am terribly fascinated with your leanings now, as experienced and sage-like you seem, with the practices you use today. What are some you found to be old-fashioned and moot, and what are some new findings? Simply, which ones you are relevant in your daily life?
Well, these may all sound disappointingly basic or obvious, but: I keep a Journal, write down my Dreams – and still get a lot of inspiration and material from them! We have a Daily Practise, just some basic asana and pranayama – also some simple Devotional Observances. Ritual is still important, of course, but on the whole it has evolved into something more intuitive and organic. The exception is if we are working with a particular system for research purposes, such as Enochian, or the Graeco-Egyptian Magical Papyri. We also belong to a local gym, exercise at home, and try to eat a healthy balanced diet. Perhaps I’m showing my age here, but I feel it is important to take care of the body – it is, after all, the greatest instrument and vehicle at your disposal! And never stop exploring and learning!
-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:
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