ASLV: I’m not naive enough to believe that everyone’s going to suddenly find culture, or become instantly intelligent, like these people may imagine they’ve accomplished who go back to school when they’re 40 years old. These CEO hopefuls—I’ve spoken to so many of them, Lord Satan give me a break! They’re no smarter and no more motivated than they were before someone gave them the ludicrous idea they could improve their minds. And they feel they’re being liberated, shaking off the chains that bind them! The stupes’ll always be stupes.
At this period, physical fitness is taking a back seat to mental prowess; computer technology has provided a vehicle that leads people to think they can think. All manner of “smart drugs,” books on cassettes, online information, speed learning methods, give the stupes who pounded their joints jogging a chance to purchase instant IQs.
MM: And don’t the exceptional people sometimes emerge from the most unlikely places?
ASLV: How can you explain the ones that do strive to be productive? What separates them from the rest? Did they have a unique chromosome of some sort? How did someone like Nat King Cole come out the way he did? What the hell has he got in his brain that makes him do that? Certain people rise above. Leni Riefenstahl dallied with Hitler and Paul Robeson with Moscow. Robeson was an accomplished Shakespearean actor and in college at Rutgers he made fullback. He excelled in everything—singer, sports figure, superman. They even named a mountain after him! But why doesn’t anyone want to talk about the man? It’s just like the case with Riefenstahl. There’s a whole secret history of these people who just don’t fit in, but are undeniably exceptional.
I’ve known people who can spread out pictures of trains and streetcars and get sexually excited!
MM: You’ve mentioned the possibility of a “Satanic ethnic” which is actually genetic.
ASLV: Like Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man you can sit alone for years and learn about all these experiences, but sooner or later you’re going to start talking and you’ll have a whole different audience and a whole new reaction. It’s not going to fall on deaf ears. There are very few true underground people anymore, but it’s a whole new breed, the ones who are out there. A new lost tribe. A chromosomal ethnic developing out of all these unpopular, shunned belief systems of the past. Like that hunter of hunters, the guy in the Midwest who was stalking and killing hunters because he loved animals. The liberals couldn’t support him, and the anti-gun people couldn’t because he was obviously an expert marksman. The ecology people would shun him. This is someone in that special class. What’s sort of frightening is that we get application after application from these kinds of people! So many of them are gun owners and enthusiasts, they love animals and they all talk the same way. Man is the most dangerous game. I’m not a vegetarian either. If I had to kill I suppose I would. It boils down to necessity being the supreme law.
Anton LaVey and friend. 1996. (Courtesy the Church of Satan)
I’ll save a spider from going down a drain; I’ll work overtime to save a bug. If I see a snail trying to cross a parking lot I’ll help it along. What kind of a nut am I? How come humans get special dispensation?
MM: Is Satanism a revolutionary or extremist creed?
ASLV: Revolutionary, yes. “Extremist” would imply it’s taking something already codified and established, and amplifying it. It’s a totally different ethic—and ethnic. It’s not adopting the tenets of something existing. There’s a revisionist element in Satanism, but saying it’s just that, or just Humanism, is too conservative.
MM: Would you consider allying the Church of Satan with any existing radical or extremist groups?
ASLV: It depends on how all-encompassing they are. In certain areas, I would answer yes. But a lot of parts of Satanism would be of no interest to
them, i.e., the music, art, and aesthetics that we want to see. If that’s the case then I’d say we have a common denominator only on one level. You might have a common ground on one thing, but they couldn’t find much to talk to you about. That’s why I find some of them limiting. If by nature they were interested in most of the same things as we are, they would be Satanists. They’d be Satanic.
Barton: They would be eclectic, pragmatic, iconoclastic, anachronistic— that’s what Satanism is. A lot of people don’t ally themselves with these extremist groups because there’ll be one element they can’t endorse. That’s not the case in Satanism, however, where there’s no limited platform.
MM: Ever since the ’60s, many people seem to have been imbued with an instant fear of anything that smacks of order, and this is especially true of the occultniks.
ASLV: People confuse anarchy and chaos. They think the world began in chaos—I agree. But in chaos and confusion it’s an accident when something worthwhile occurs. What happens after that? The cells divide and start going off in different directions—and order forms.
Chaos here and now, is not chaos like these Chaos Magicians would like to believe. It’s not the Timothy Leary “Come one, come all, it’s a magical blend.” It sounds utopian but it ain’t the way it really is. Maybe something developed out of chaos, but there has to be order. There has got to be a direction there—it’s not going to happen out of chaos, out of nothing, not from these disparate things that will be reconcilable in a new and terrifying way. Those with direction, plan, purpose, self-discipline—that’s what leads to a conclusion. A mind held by no head is only as effective as the destination of the mind. That’s why millions in the Sportpalast or the Coliseum can affect something. But people going somewhere and handfasting—they don’t have the passion. I see no claps of thunder or lightning bolts in the sunshine in the park. These meal-worms getting all together in the blinding glare just produce more glare. Wilhelm Reich was right—they just suck the energy out of the atmosphere.
People are so demoralized, desensitized, and catatonic that there can be no triumph of the will because there’s no will. How can they have a will when they’re sucking their life out of a cathode tube? Ten of these people out ritualizing in the woods maybe add up to one owl sitting on a branch. It’s not
feasible to have ten to twenty people, there are too many different agendas. But a rally with a will, a single idea—then you can manage something.
This article was originally published in MOJO magazine in “The Dark Side Issue” (Number 70, September 1999). It formed the basis of Gary Lachman’s definitive book Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius (The Disinformation Company, New York, 2003)
Only a few days after the Manson murders, on the other side of America something happened that the proponents of the ’60s “counterculture” had been expecting for a long time. On the weekend of August 15-17, 1969, some half-a-million people gathered at Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York for the mother of all rock festivals, Woodstock. I was 13, stranded in New Jersey, my only link the news coming over FM radio stations. Reports of traffic jams, hordes of people, groovy vibes and scheduled performers helped create the impression—the myth—that something historic, even cosmic was happening. Earlier that year the mellow pop sound of The Fifth Dimension— whose name suggested the mystical tweak everything took on then— announced that, “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” an anthem lifted from the tribal rock musical, Hair. Not long after, Donovan, whose trippy, almost mantric Hurdy Gurdy Man created a sonic approximation to eternity, scored a massive hit with Atlantis, about “the continent that lay before the great flood in the area we now call the Atlantic Ocean.”
The Tate-LaBianca killings had yet to be traced to an ex- Scientologist, maniacal hippy guru with a grudge against blacks, women and several LA pop entrepreneurs.
Things cosmic, spacey and mystical were in. The UFOs were on their way, and the hippies who endured the mud and brown acid at Woodstock were the flesh and blood proof. The Tate-LaBianca killings had yet to be traced to an ex-Scientologist, maniacal hippy guru with a grudge against blacks, women and several LA pop entrepreneurs.
But if Woodstock—following 1967’s San Francisco Human Be-In, the Summer of Love and the 14-Hour Technicolor Dream held at Alexandra Palace in London—was the sign that the Age of Aquarius was on its way, it was a short-lived morn. By the end of 1969, the flower generation’s faith in the power of love had shrunk to a collective “What happened?” The vibes had gone nasty. The Haight soured, and so did other countercultural enclaves like New York’s East Village. But the clincher came from the West Coast, where most weirdness originates in the States.
The location was American, but the main players were Brits—the event had international significance. The Rolling Stones would cap off their tour of North America with a free concert in the San Francisco Bay Area, having done one in Hyde Park that July. Peace and love were the order of the day, and the Stones uncharacteristically wanted to be part of it.
The free concert, eventually held at the disused Altamont speedway track, was a scene of intimidation, violence and murder. Hundreds of love children come to “set their soul free” were terrorized by a band of Hells Angels; at least one person was killed, and several were beaten, including Marty Balin from Jefferson Airplane. The barbarians even seemed poised to turn on the Stones themselves, the royalty who had invited them to the feast. When an annoyed Keith Richards asked the Angels to “cool it,” one grabbed the mike and answered, “Fuck you!” Suddenly, it was not looking good for the Age of Aquarius.
But what’s the Age of Aquarius anyway? Astronomically, an effect of a wobble in the earth’s rotation; mystically, the “new age” on its way for the last century or so. The idea goes back to Plato, but it got its current meaning in the occult craze of the late 19th century, and gained pop dissemination through Haight-Ashbury astrologer Gavin Arthur in the pages of the San Francisco Oracle. Musically, it means those few years in the mid-to late 1960s (and into the early ’70s) when “all things occultly marvelous” (as Theodore Roszak, historian of the counterculture, called it) descended on popular culture—especially music.
The 1960s witnessed an “occult revival”, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in the west since the fin-de-siecle days of Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society, and Aleister Crowley’s Golden Dawn. In fact Crowley’s face appears among the heroes The Beatles included on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely
Hearts Club Band along with C. G. Jung, Edgar Allan Poe and Aldous Huxley, veteran explorers of “other worlds,” and Eastern gurus like Sri Mahavatara Babaji and Paramhansa Yogananda. Three years earlier, talk of astral travel, past lives and third eyes would have met with Mod, amphetamine scorn. By 1967, they were the height of fashion.
Lysergic acid diethylamide-25 had something to do with it, likewise the shadow of the Vietnam War. But one factor has to be the publication in Paris in 1960 (published in English in 1963) of one of the decade’s most influential books, Le Matin Des Magiciens by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier. A bestseller, The Morning of the Magicians sparked the mass interest in “all things occultly marvellous” that characterized the time and influenced some of the leading figures in pop music. It was an influence both for the light, and for the dark.
If you go back to its roots in blues, then Robert Johnson’s mythic meeting with the Devil at the crossroads is the archetype of the rock’s pact with “dark forces.” But some time in the mid-60s the influence of the supernatural on pop music grew beyond the occasional nod to its patron saint. Old Nick was still around—Mick Jagger would make him more fashionable than ever—but he was only part of the general fascination with the otherworldly that had taken command of the collective consciousness. UFOs, Tibet, ESP and a hundred other “occult” items were shaken together with a modish dose of hallucinogens and served up as an esoteric cocktail.
Marianne Faithfull, commenting on fellow traveler Brian Jones, recalled, “Like a lot of people at the time, myself included, he was convinced there was a mystic link between druidic monuments and flying saucers. Extra- terrestrials were going to read these signs from their spaceships and get the message. It was the local credo: Glastonbury, ley lines and intelligent life in outer space. I’ve forgotten exactly what it was we believed, but we believed it fiercely.”
When an annoyed Keith Richards asked the Angels to “cool it,” one grabbed the mike and answered, “Fuck you!” Suddenly, it was not looking good for the Age of Aquarius.
Weird ideas and exotic practices were the norm, and the most conspicuous form of this was the craze for all things from the mystic East.
In August 1967, The Beatles left Paddington Station for Bangor, Wales, and their short-lived romance with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Transcendental Meditation (leaving a huffing Cynthia Lennon behind on the platform). To their fans, the press and themselves, the giggling little man with the long beard and flowers was the newest show in town. When the Moptops memorized their mantras, and later camped out in Rishikesh, “eastern wisdom” got a huge publicity boost. The presence of other notables like Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Mia Farrow (made famous by Polanski’s 1968 satanic masterpiece, Rosemary’s Baby) and Donovan clinched it. Western mystic forms like Tarot and Qabala were on the scene. But that year India was in.
A Western convert leading the charge was ex-Harvard Doctor of Psychology, Timothy Leary. Armed with a winning smile, some Hermann Hesse novels, The Tibetan Book Of The Dead and a lot of LSD—as well as the cachet of a major drug bust—Leary proselytized with a wearying monotony the virtues of turning on, tuning in and dropping out. This boiled down to taking lots of acid and letting the straight world fade away in the clear light of the void, a highly attractive plan to quite a few folk—like John Lennon.
Lennon first came across Leary’s LSD mysticism in March 1966 at London’s legendary Indica Bookshop and Gallery, founded by Barry Miles, John Dunbar (then husband of pop chanteuse Marianne Faithfull) and Peter Asher (of Peter & Gordon). The Indica provided the avant-garde literature and esoterica that filled the bookshelves of pop cognoscenti. According to Barry Miles, Lennon turned up with McCartney, in search of a book by an unknown author, “Nitz Ga.” It took Miles and Paul a few minutes to realize Lennon was interested in Nietzsche. But what really caught Lennon’s eye was a copy of The Psychedelic Experience, Leary’s tripped-out version of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Lennon sank into the sofa and read “Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.” Lennon would spend the next three years attempting to do just that, mostly by taking lots of LSD and repeating the message in Tomorrow Never Knows, The Beatles’ first psychedelic song. The ego was bad, Doctor Leary had declared, and his prescription for recovery was to blast it out of existence through repeated confrontations with the Clear Light or Void of Tibetan mysticism.