the holographic universe that looks kindly upon us, at the magick squares of their methods and the delirious madness they supply us with, we are offered a unique perspective and afforded respite, balance and the possibility of retrieving new and valuable information for a future.
We are not talking about a matter of faith here; faith is something that has a low quotient in these experiments.
View From My Window In Paris At Night, detail of watercolor and collage on paper by Brion Gysin 1974. A good example of Gysin’s use of small photographic images into his “grid” and/or “roller” paintings. You can see Gysin in his apartment window in the bottom right corner. From the collection of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Rather we are looking at prophetic predictions based upon a magical vision of the universe and the resulting, practical applications of alchemical theories and exercises. In fact we are looking at an early, workable model of the future, in which a positive, compassionate unfolding of our latent qualities as a species is defined and described in the vainglorious hope that we “abandon all rational thought” and immerse ourselves in an ecstatic series of creative possibilities.
In a way, it is a bit like learning a martial art. We develop our media reflexes and accelerate our improvisational responses in order to maximize our individual potentialities and the interests of our chosen people or our private dream agenda. In his various essential commentaries on media divulgence, Douglas Rushkoff, astutely, directs us to a re-examination of the original source of an inherited narrative of culture and life. His conclusions are very similar to my assertions in relation to Burroughs and Gysin, that the very history that began this examination, the social narrative imposed upon us as a child, that so easily programs us to maintain every possible status quo without criticism; and that compounds the notion of linearity and a serial phenomenological universe seems more clearly to be an illusion and a deliberately inert construction. A picture of “reality” that is designed by those with a vested interest in stasis to maintain our surrender to cultural impotence and all forms of addictive consumption. The past controls through people and their surrender to a closed system, where the laws of physics remain constant, and predictability is a desirable state in an ever more rigid global world order. Yet, in fact, we are entering a digital future, a holographic universe, where at least theoretically, every sentient being on earth will be interconnected, international and interfaced. Entirely new navigational tools are required. The possibilities are endless. It is my contention that as the authorship of our own private narrative becomes increasingly autonomous, malleable and optional, that a new future, a future that is inclusive, rooted in the idea of an open source that we can affect by logical and alchemical means, becomes critical to our species’ survival, comprehension, and evolutionary change. A future
where Burroughs and Gysin, and their modern occultural brethren, have supplied prophetic, functional skills and nonlocal points of observation which can train us to be fittingly alert and prepared for the unpredictable aesthetic and social spasms to come.
I strongly advise any reader who has been inspired to reconsider their picture of both the Beats and their world picture to look for an essay by William S. Burroughs titled “The Discipline of Do Easy” or “The Discipline of DE” which is part of the book Exterminator! In my own private, alchemical life, a rigorous and continual application of this idea has been as central to my uncanny achievement of countless goals as the Austin Osman Spare system of sigilization.
- See “Even Further The Metaphysics of The Sigil” by Paul Cecil in Painful But Fabulous, bibliog.
- Another magician from a different school might call them “Egregores.”
I suggest that anyone whose interest has been stimulated at all by this more unorthodox point of observation and interpretation of two classic Beat figures seek out, and actually read, the books listed below, and/or re-read them with a different perspective in mind. Needless to say, there is no end in sight, even within the realms of time or mortality as to how we recreate our subjective means of perception. I really believe that listed below is a functional, inspirational and thorough library of ideas and techniques for seeing this mystery of biological and neuro-illogical life in its intended and intrinsic holographic form. As you might suspect from my text, seeking out and finding, with dogged determination and a deeply hungry appetite for soul and wisdom, for purposes of self determination is necessary in a world built of feedback loops of surrender and submission to consuming, to addiction to the products of an ever more banal culture that can NEVER supply satiation, aesthetic nutrition, sensual self-creation, or freedom of
Minutes To Go, William S. Burroughs; Gregory Corso; Sinclair Beiles; Brion Gysin, Beach Books, Paris, 1968.
The Process, Brion Gysin, Doubleday, 1969.
Future Ritual, Philip H. Farber, Eschaton, 1995.
Brion Gysin Let The Mice In, Brion Gysin; William S. Burroughs; Ian Sommerville 1973.
Exterminator! William S. Burroughs, Viking, New York, 1973.
Here To Go: Planet R-10: Brion Gysin interviewed by Terry Wilson, Terry Wilson, Brion Gysin, RE/Search, 1982.
Beat Hotel, Barry Miles, Grove Press, New York, 2000.
Thee Psychick Bible, Genesis P-Orridge, Alecto Enterprises, 1994.
The Job, Interviews With William S. Burrough, Daniel Odier, Grove, New York, 1974.
Painful But Fabulous: The Lives And Art Of Genesis P-Orridge, Julie A. Wilson; Douglas Rushkoff; Richard Metzger; Paul Cecil; Bengala; Carol Tessitore, Carl Abrahamsson, Soft Skull, New York, 2003.
Chapel Of Extreme Experience, John Geiger, Gutter Press, 2002.
Radium 226.05 magazine, Ulrich Hillebrand; Cm Von Hausswolff; Spring 1986.
Back In No Time: The Brion Gysin Reader, Jason Weiss, editor, Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
Cyberia, Douglas Rushkoff, HarperSanFrancisco, 1994.
Media Virus, Douglas Rushkoff, Ballantine, 1994.
The Holographic Universe, Michael Talbot, HarperPerennial, New York, 1991.
The Third Mind, William S. Burroughs; Brion Gysin, Viking 1978. The Best Of Olympia, Maurice Girodias, Olympia Press, Paris, 1961. The Last Museum, Brion Gysin, Grove, 1986.
Wreckers Of Civilization, Simon Ford, Black Dog, London, 1999.
RE/Search #5/6: W.S. Burroughs/Brion Gysin/Throbbing Gristle. Vale, editor, 1982.
Flickers of The Dream Machine, Paul Cecil, editor, Codex Books, 1996.
Disinformation: The Interviews, Richard Metzger, et al, The Disinformation Company, 2002.
Sex And Rockets, The Occult World Of Jack Parsons, John Carter, Feral House, Los Angeles, 1999.
Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication With The Dead, Konstantin Raudive, Colin Smythe Books, London, 1971.
The Final Academy: Statements Of A Kind, G. P-Orridge and Roger Ely, editors, with texts by Antony Balch; Felicity Mason; William S. Burroughs; Brion Gysin; John Giorno; Dave Darby; Jeff Nuttall; Ian Sommerville; Victor Bockris; Jon Savage; Eric Mottram; Barry Miles; 23 Skidoo; Cabaret Voltaire; Psychic TV; Ian Hinchcliffe; Last Few Days; Paul Burwell; Anne Bean, 1982.
This Is The Salivation Army, Scott Treleaven, Genesis P-Orridge, foreword; 2003.
Portable Darkness: An Aleister Crowley Reader, Scott Michaelsen, editor, with forewords by Robert Anton Wilson and Genesis P-Orridge, Harmony Books, 1989.
The Soul’s Code: In Search Of Character And Calling, James Hillman, Warner, 1996.
Naked Lens: Beat Cinema, Jack Sergeant, Creation, 2002.
Apocalypse Culture and Apocalypse Culture 2, Adam Parfrey, editor, 1987, revised edition. Feral House, 1990; 2000.
Rapid Eye #2, Simon Dwyer, editor, Creation, 1992.
Rebels And Devils: The Psychology Of Liberation, Christopher S. Hyatt, editor, with contributions by William S. Burroughs; Timothy Leary; Robert Anton Wilson; Austin Osman Spare; Lon Milo Duquette; Genesis P-Orridge; Aleister Crowley; Israel Regardie; Peter J. Carroll; Osho
Rajneesh; Jack Parsons and others, New Falcon, Tempe, AZ, 1996.
Global Brain: The Evolution Of Mass Mind From The Big Bang To The
21st Century, Howard Bloom, John Wiley and Sons Inc., New York, 2000.
The Lucifer Principle, Howard Bloom, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 1995.
Spare self-portrait, 1907
Austin Spare (1886-1956) provides us with a fascinating example of an artist who was both a magician and a trance-visionary. While the formal structures of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn were fragmenting amid schisms and dissent just prior to the onset of World War One, Spare was developing a unique system of practical magic through his exploration of ecstatic trance states. Spare was probably the first modern occultist to evolve a self- contained working hypothesis about the nature of psychic energy which could be applied without all the paraphernalia of traditional rituals, grimoires and magical implements. His system of magical sigils showed how an effort of will, when focused on the subconscious mind, could unleash the most extraordinary psychic material.
One of five children, Spare was born in Snow Hill, London, on December 30th, 1886, the son of a policeman. The family later moved to south London and Spare attended St Agnes’ School in Kennington Park; he would live in this area of the city, in modest circumstances, for most of his life.
Spare showed artistic talent early on, and at the age of twelve began studying at Lambeth Evening Art School. In 1902, when he was sixteen, he won a scholarship enabling him to attend the Royal College of Art, South Kensington, and in 1905 examples of his work were exhibited at the Royal Academy. The President of the Academy, John Singer Sargent, proclaimed Spare to be a genius and he was soon commissioned to illustrate a handful of books, including Ethel Wheeler’s Behind the Veil (1906) and a book of aphorisms titled The Starlit Mire (1911).
Spare postulated the existence of a primal, cosmic life-force which he termed Kia, and he believed that the spiritual and occult energies inherent in Kia could be channeled into the human organism, which he called Zos.
In 1917 Spare enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and in 1919 visited France as a special war artist documenting the aftermath of the Great War— several works based on sketches from this period are included in the collection of the Imperial War Museum. In 1919 Spare also co-founded an excellent illustrated literary magazine called The Golden Hind, which included the work of such writers as Aldous Huxley, Alec Waugh and Havelock Ellis.1
However, while he received a degree of acclaim and recognition during his lifetime—Augustus John proclaimed Spare to be one of the leading graphic artists of his era and he was also praised by George Bernard Shaw—Spare has remained largely unacknowledged in the major art histories. This may be because he was very much an occultist as well as an accomplished artist: Spare’s art teems with magical imagery and he was briefly a member of both the Argenteum Astrum and the Ordo Templi Orientis. When he began to self- publish his illustrated magical books from 1905 onwards it became evident that his was an eccentric rather than a mainstream artistic talent, and there is little doubt that his unconventionality has pushed him to the sidelines of cultural history. He nevertheless remains a legendary figure in the 20th century western esoteric tradition and is one of its truly original thinkers, his approach to trance states and his technique of atavistic resurgence representing a unique contribution to the study of magical consciousness.
Spare postulated the existence of a primal, cosmic life-force which he termed Kia, and he believed that the spiritual and occult energies inherent in Kia could be channeled into the human organism, which he called Zos. As we will see, his technique of arousing these primal energies—an approach he termed atavistic resurgence–involved focusing the will on magical sigils, or potent individualized symbols, which in effect represented instructions to the subconscious. When the mind was in a “void” or open state—achieved, for example, through meditation, exhaustion or at the peak of sexual ecstasy— this was an ideal condition in which to direct magical sigils to the subconscious. Here they could “grow” in the seedbed of the mind until they became “ripe” and reached back down into the conscious mind. In such a way one could learn to manipulate one’s own “psychic reality.”
How did Austin Spare stumble upon his special approach to magical states of consciousness? Clearly it was no accident. His magic draws on a variety of inspirational sources, encompassing the mythic images of ancient Egypt, a fascination with the sexual energies of the subconscious mind,2 and his close personal relationship with an unusual psychic mentor whom he always referred to simply as Mrs. Paterson.
Spare visited Egypt during World War One and was impressed by the magnetic presence of the classical gods depicted in monumental sculpture.
He believed the ancient Egyptians understood very thoroughly the complex mythology of the subconscious mind:
“They symbolized this knowledge in one great symbol, the Sphinx, which is pictorially man evolving from animal existence. Their numerous Gods, all partly Animal, Bird, Fish… prove the completeness of that knowledge… The cosmogony of their Gods is proof of their knowledge of the order of evolution, its complex processes from the one simple organism.”
For Spare, impressions from earlier human incarnations and potentially all mythic impulses could be reawakened from the subconscious mind. The gods themselves could be regarded as a form of internal impetus. “All gods have lived (being ourselves) on earth,” he wrote, “and when dead, their experience of Karma governs our actions in degree.”
However, while the classical gods of ancient Egypt made a marked impression on him, Spare learnt his actual technique of trance activation from an elderly woman called Mrs. Paterson, who was a friend of his parents and used to tell his fortune when he was quite young. Mrs. Paterson claimed a psychic link with the witches of the Salem cult and also appeared to have an extrasensory ability to project thought-forms. According to Spare, she was able to transform herself in his vision from being a “wizened old crone” to appearing quite suddenly as a ravishing siren, “creating a vision of profound sexual intensity and revelation that shook him to the very core.”3
Spare employed a technique of ecstasy which frequently combined active imagination and will with the climax of sexual orgasm.
The archetypal female image recurs in all phases of Spare’s artistic work—he was a master at depicting the sensuous naked female form—and the Universal Woman would become a central image in his mythology of the subconscious. In his definitive magical credo, The Book of Pleasure, he writes:
“Nor is she to be limited as any particular ‘goddess’ such as Astarte, Isis, Cybele, Kali, Nuit, for to limit her is to turn away from the path and to idealize a concept which, as such, is false because incomplete, unreal because temporal.”
Spare employed a technique of ecstasy which frequently combined active imagination and will with the climax of sexual orgasm. Spare believed that his magical sigils—representing symbols of the personal will—could be directed to the subconscious mind during the peak of sexual ecstasy since, at this special moment, the personal ego and the universal Spirit, or Kia, were united in a state of blissful, transcendent openness. “At this moment, which is the moment of generation of the Great Wish,” writes Spare, “inspiration flows from the source of sex, from the primordial Goddess who exists at the heart of Mater… inspiration is always at a void moment.”
Mrs. Paterson claimed a psychic link with the witches of the Salem cult and also appeared to have an extrasensory ability to project thought-forms.
Several of Spare’s drawings depict the Divine Maiden leading the artist into the labyrinthine magical world. One of his most central works, The Ascension of the Ego from Ecstasy to Ecstasy, shows the Goddess welcoming Spare himself, who on this occasion appropriately has wings issuing forth from his head. Spare’s “ego,” or persona, is shown merging with an earlier animal incarnation and two forms transcend each other in the form of a primal skull. Spare clearly believed that he could retrace his earlier incarnations to the universal “Oneness of Creation,” or Kia. According to Kenneth Grant, who knew the artist personally, Spare derived his formula of atavistic resurgence from Mrs. Paterson: