Thursday, 29 October 2015

There Are Many Roads To Space

i.m. William S. Burroughs 1914-1997

Now we are left with the career
novelists. – J G Ballard

Burroughs began writing much later than Kerouac and Ginsberg.
“I had no choice except to write my way out...”, he said. It is necessary to travel, it is not necessary to live. Two interlocked projectors turn out ‘flat’ copy, side-by-side, anamorphic.
“However there are many roads to space.”
So, tell me about it? I looked at the man in the grey suit, but before he could speak we were transported to a pizza joint on the other side of town. There was a pile of books on the dirty table:
Cities of the Red Night, The Place of Dead Roads, My Education, Ghost of Chance... he was a ‘map-maker’, an explorer of psychic areas, a ‘cosmo­naut of inner space’. The message was resistance:
“Our troops operate in the area of dream and myth under guerrilla conditions... the enemy is a noncreative. parasite.”
If we are to have a future we must catch up with the past even though headlight design occupies the brightest minds – the colour is almost identical – gleaming leather ‘wild boy’ sex appeal, pure velvet, born in St Louis, Missouri. And I was not alone. Boring rituals. Record-breaking results. Many roads. Many spaces. Fluent conversation.
Interviewer: Wright Morris called Naked Lunch a hemorrhage of the imagination. Would you take that as a compliment?
Burroughs: I frankly wouldn’t know how to take it.
Edit. Delete. Rearrange. Rumours circulate endlessly – but most of these leads result in dead ends — left and right images overprinted – filters are not necessary, to live is not necessary. We entered the 1951 Telekinema, it’s bloody and gross and shot in 3D. The screenplay squirts green, hallucinatory gunk at its victims. He was one of the strangest monsters of filmdom with an extensive archive and a diversity of activities. A unique talent, hot property – have they put rat poison in the pasta? The man from El Dorado shuddered as an alien waif stumbled in through the door.
By this time Burroughs had moved further out… The trail had gone cold.
Not for him the dark sadness of amour fou.
Look at what is in front of you in silence – in hieroglyphic silence – the key is beauty and deliriously intense flashbacks. This is how an exponent of English Dada can capture the news. You don’t need subvocal speech to write about it (“I could look at the end of my shoe for eight hours”). I looked out of the window: beyond the village green were angels and devils from Sicily in the 1860s. Yesterday becomes tomorrow. Easy lessons in hieroglyphic silence rendered by excellent pre-computer animation techniques and a lock of Lolita’s hair. He works with the precision of a master chess player.
Interviewer: Therefore, you’re not upset by the fact that a chimpanzee can do an abstract painting?
Burroughs: If he does a good one, no.
Now, the seedy manservant gains the upper hand in the updated film version discussing montage with Kathy Acker. It was an ascesis, a withdrawal.
Sometime Burroughs character, Academy 23 graduate Yen Lee, materialised and said “All dead poets and writers can be reincarnate in different hosts. Vivare no es necesse… Lee made a victory V sign hovering three or four feet from the table-top. I looked at his cold, hard eyes. According to ‘Pages from Chaos’ he had been carefully selected ‘for a high level of intuitive adjustment’. Training was carried out in the context of reality. Known as El Hombre Invisible he had had several addresses in various cities: Duke Street, St James’s, London, 1972; Rue Delacroix, Tangier, l964; 210, Center Street, New York, 1965; Villa Muniria, Tangier, 1961; rue Git le Coeur, Paris, 1960. He had The Look, The Big Break, The Star Quality…even the wind can’t resist it. Distant recording of Peggy Lee singing Fly me to the Moon (In Other Words)... I just love it here in London where less is always more. Humorous neon years of exposure.
Interviewer: Do you work while you’re travelling on trains or boats?
Burroughs: There is one example of a train trip in which I tried typing, incorporating what I saw in the passing stations...
The expedition to see Celine was organised in 1958 by Allen Ginsberg – walked for half a mile in this rundown neighbourhood… what’s new? A small but significant detail was missing. Celine, a qualified doctor you know, nailed Edith Sitwell’s nose to the lavatory door. Personally I prefer Chanel No 5. Like many artistic revolutionaries Yen Lee became a cultural icon late in life, mixing science fiction, the western, the travel book, the dream journal and other genres. But to travel you have to leave all the verbal gar­bage behind. “God talk, country talk, mother talk, love talk, party talk.” You have to make a distinction between the sea in summer and the sea in winter – a blessed relief and a good hangover cure – cut-ups have been used in films for years. That tired and heavy feeling is eliminated.
The man in the neat, grey suit was sitting at a cafe table next to a sign that read ‘Beautify your legs’. By now his glamorous and exotic life had descended into literary madness – a gaunt figure in sneakers and sunglasses, a dank world of privilege and tragedy. It was 10:23am and, after an antiwar march in Rome, 1969, five hundred guests swept down the world-famous red carpet, a battleground of plastic weaponry. Next morning we check out. According to J G Ballard “when Burroughs talked about Time Magazine’s conspiracy to take over the world he meant it literally”.
The first full-length feature had distinctive architectural design, it opened up fresh corners of an idiosyncratic visual style, a language of old service newsreels, popular documentary films and extreme experimentation – fantasy and cinema verite in equal measure. Dead home movies roll on. Old red stars fade over Hollywood.
Dream and myth, sir, dream and myth.
Interviewer: Your books are rarely obscure or hard to understand.
Burroughs: We think of the past as being there unchangeable. There’s nothing between them and the image. A lot of old junkies used to do this.
Edit. Delete. Rearrange.
I looked up and saw a face I thought I knew – it was – er...
Count Alfred Korzybski, author of Science and Sanity.
Count Alfred said, “Anyone who prays in space is not there.”
Then he vanished. Rats might take over the Earth.
The man from El Dorado came home to write like a master chess-player, mapmaker and explorer. Bleeding bodies swept up in a sense of satire. Trendsetter burns out over Colorado. Conspiracy within the industry. What we call ‘love’ is a fraud perpetrated by the female sex.
There had been an exorcism ceremony to evict The Ugly Spirit, not too late. To achieve complete freedom from past conditioning is “to be in space.” Take trip, a step, into regions literally unthinkable in verbal terms… addiction is a disease of exposure, and an algebra of need. Don’t believe anything they say, people feel they have already seen it on TV.
I look at my watch. It’s still 10:23am and I think of a passage from The Necronomicon translated by Herr Doktor Kurt Unruh von Steinplatz, Benway Publications (1961):
‘Knowing we know not. Techniques exist. The message is resistance...’
Explain the subtle details.
The Herr Doktor crumples into dust. There is a cold shriek on a distant wind, old folded photos exert a morbid fascination, a hemorrhage of the imagination. But the extreme edge of art, as of life, was the only place to be. The texts record ancient nightmare parasites and plagues. Human combustion becomes an everyday reality. Pure anamorphic velvet, two interlocked projectors and Boom! Rumours circulate endlessly – no call – no answer. Always the Third walks beside you – always.
City fellas demand train comes on time and with a fully stocked licensed bar. The biggest avalanche in history just missed us by inches. Stay in or opt out, it’s all the same.
Edit. Delete. Rearrange.
His roommate expectorated for about 40mins. I never take a camera.
Dream and myth, travel and money.
Accelerated history, side-by-side, a psycho-fold-in, no scissors used – I quote James Grauerholz:
“He surely had travels to tell, and yet the five-hour ride back to the City was mostly silent, as together we concentrated on the darkening highway and our own thoughts.”
I observed that, for Rilke, Death was “a bluish distillate/in a cup without a saucer...”
The man in the grey suit, in the pizza joint on the other side of town, flashed me a telepathic message:
There are many roads to space –
There are many –
There are –
Now we are left with the career novelists.
The rats take over the Earth. Recall those seismic shocks in 1921...?
Navigare necesse es. Vivare no es necesse. (Plutarch)

© A C Evans, Mortlake, 10th August, 1997


There Are Many Roads To Space is a psycho fold-in/cut-up – no scissors used.

 With thanks to:

J. G. Ballard. ‘The CIA are watching me,’ he confided. Guardian, August 4th, 1997.
James Campbell. ‘Struggles with the Ugly Spirit’. Guardian, August 4th, 1997
William Burroughs. The Burroughs File. City Lights, 1984
William Burroughs. Ah Pook is Here and Other Texts. John Calder, 1979
William Burroughs & Brion Gysin. The Third Mind.John Calder, 1979.
William Burroughs & Daniel Odier. The Job. John Calder, 1984
Barry Miles. William Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible. Virgin, 1992
The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. Translated by Stephen Mitchell. Picador, 1982

This text first published in: My Kind of Angel: i.m. William Burroughs, Stride Publications, 1998
Subsequently published in:Text Book: Writing Through Literature, Third Edition, by Robert Scholes, Nancy R. Comley, and Gregory L. Ulmer. Bedford/St Martin's, 2001

Illus: No World Is Safe, 1995

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Visionary (Or Nothing)

I reach the real through the dream. I invent you reality
- Clarice Lispector

Writing poetry is not about language any more than taking a bath is about plumbing….
So, galvanised, I write, splintering certain words across blank pages of empty space: why?
Academic and other definitions of poetry as ‘literature’ displace the act of poetic creation from the interior psycho-biological universe to an epiphenomenal world of cultural-linguistic constructs where ‘communication’ is all.
Do I write poetry to communicate? No.
Is my poetry a spiritual exercise? No.
Metaphysics has been consigned to oblivion. What has this to do with me? Everything.
Does this mean that only language remains? No.
God died with metaphysics (but his shadow lives on). What has this to do with me? Nothing. I couldn’t care less about your God.
I will never concede that my poetry is literature. The cultural-linguistic paradigm presupposes that everything depends on language and linguistics to the extent that Being is literally indefinable in extra-linguistic terms: very convenient – if you are a linguist, a post-modernist or a plumber. Very inconvenient if you are a theologian, even a ‘radical theologian’.
I know my creativity is an innate psycho-active phenomenon. The raison d’etre of my paradigm is transformation, the ‘circumstantial-magical’ convulsion caused by that particular Beauty, ‘the only beauty that should concern us’ (the enigmatic sphinx, the marvellous precipitate of the ancient alchemists) invoked by the transformation of despised prime matter into pure aesthetic gold. Fantastic? Romantic? Symbolist? Surreal? Pop? But, of course!
The raw material of creation, rather like a chance encounter in the street, is not so much language but myself: and the essence of my poetic practice is active imagination. It is inevitable that  poets, in pursuit of inspiration, will engage, in some way or other, with all those innate processes of inner integration, those ‘inner workings’ that surely exist. From this perspective the poem itself may appear a by-product of the procedure.
For me, as a psychonaut, traversing the archetypal Forest of Symbols, it is the psycho-activity of inspiration arising from the process of self-discovery that is the prime factor: it is this that dissolves those artificial barriers between fact and fiction, between sleep and waking, between dream and reality, between consciousness and the unconscious, between inner space and outer space. Thus, the poem is quasi-autonomous, it partakes of the de-familiarising power of symbolic Otherness.
Grounding poetic practice in the ontological matrix dissociates ‘pure poetry’ from the cultural-linguistic, epiphenomenal foreground of ‘literary’ discourse, from the dreary, enervating world of career-writers and fake self-referential experimentalists obsessed with brownie-points and prizes.
I know that unilateral engagement on an aesthetic basis with the principium individuationis does not accord with traditional models of pegfectibility or divine purpose; perhaps it can be seen as a Promethean affront to the established order, or as a way of repossessing everything that has been expropriated (that is to say, stolen, from us) by agents of the Mysterium. This is not some kind of spiritual exercise but a way of accessing the mythopoeic domain, the Enchanter’s Domain: a neo-shamanistic anti-quest that is certainly the very antithesis of enlightenment and salvation. Yes, I know I am a damned poet and a ‘lost’ soul. Find your own reality.

To be damned is to be modern, absolutely modern; and to be modern is to be utterly damned once and for all. The human condition evolves too fast or not fast enough, yet the horizon of change is Fear, and the closer we are to the horizon the less we care about rhyme or reason: blank verse for a blank generation. And that is why the rest is literature.

Revised version of an article from Stride Magazine, 2002

Illus: Visions Of The Space Age, 2002

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Non-Fiction 2000-2015

Essays And Reviews*

Against The Finite Poem, Stride Magazine Nov 2000 [online], Stride Publications, 2000
A Selection From the Works of Thomas Swan, Cold Print Aug 2001, , 2001
Hotel Faust, Cold Print Aug 2001, , 2001
Inventions Of The Unknown, Stride Magazine [online], Stride Publications, 2002
The Other Side Of The Darkside (Manifesto Unique Zero) , The Void Gallery [online], The Void, 2002
Visionary (Or Nothing), Stride Magazine [online], Stride Publications, 2002
A Muse In Museum Street, Monomyth Supplement Issue 12 2004, Atlantean Publishing, 2004
A New Strangeness, Stride Magazine [online], Stride Publications, 2005
Don't Shoot The Pianist , Stride Magazine [online], Stride Publications, 2005
Essentially Ersatz, The Supplement Issue 24 2005, Atlantean Publishing, 2005
Fascist Thinking, The Supplement Issue 22 2005, Atlantean Publishing, 2005
Geste Surrealiste, Monomyth Supplement Issue 18 2005, Atlantean Publishing, 2005
Poetic Neo-Puritanism,  Monomyth Supplement Issue 20 2005, Atlantean Publishing, 2005
The Fear Of The New, The Supplement Issue 25 2005, Atlantean Publishing, 2005
The Shadow Of The Uncanny, The Supplement Issue 22 2005, Atlantean Publishing, 2005
When The Lights Go Out, Monomyth Supplement Issue 20 2005, Atlantean Publishing, 2005
Zero Gravitas, The Supplement Issue 21 2005, Atlantean Publishing, 2005
A Visitor's Guide To Late Victorian Babylon, The Supplement Issue 31 Dec 2006, Atlantean Publishing, 2006
Against The Cosmos, The Supplement Issue 31 Dec 2006, Atlantean Publishing, 2006
Basingstoke's Very Own, The Supplement Issue 29 July 2006, Atlantean Publishing, 2006
Musical Greatness, The Supplement Issue 30 Oct 2006, Atlantean Publishing, 2006
Only To Slowly Fade, The Supplement Issue 26 Jan 2006, Atlantean Publishing, 2006
The Dark Nucleus, The Supplement Issue 29 July 2006, Atlantean Publishing, 2006
The Post-Modern Sell-Out, The Supplement Issue 28 May 2006, Atlantean Publishing, 2006
They Need An Enemy, The Supplement Issue 26 Jan 2006, Atlantean Publishing, 2006
What Is Truth?, The Supplement Issue 28 May 2006, Atlantean Publishing, 2006
A Progressive Disease, The Supplement Issue 36 Sept 2007, Atlantean Publishing, 2007
From Decadence To Modernity, The Supplement Issue 37 Nov 2007, Atlantean Publishing, 2007
Into The Heart Of Dada Stride Magazine [online], Stride Publications, 2007
Nightmare Scenarios , Stride Magazine [online], Stride Publications, 2007
The Secret Agent (Radical Grotesques)  , The Supplement Issue 37 Nov 2007, Atlantean Publishing, 2007
A Hymn To Contorted Beauty, Stride Magazine [online], Stride Publications, 2008
Nightmare Scenarios [abridged], Midnight Street 10, Immediate Direction, 2008
Arcanum Paradoxa , The Supplement Issue 44 Jan 2009, Atlantean Publishing, 2009
Delusions Of Cosmic Destiny, Stride Magazine [online], Stride Publications, 2009
Genre Music Extra, Data Dump No 141 Nov 2009, Hilltop Press, 2009
The Unique Zero Manifesto, Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh , Salt Publishing, 2009
Flying Saucers Over London, Data Dump No 150 Aug 2010, Hilltop Press, 2010
Watch This Space Close Encounters Of The Third Mind , Stride Magazine [online], Stride Publications, 2010
When The Lights Go Out, The Supplement Issue 50 May 2010, Atlantean Publishing, 2010
Astro Black Morphologies, Data Dump No 162 Aug 2011, Hilltop Press, 2011
Dada Pop Art & Normality Malfunction, The Supplement Issue 58 Nov 2011, Atlantean Publishing, 2011
H P Lovebox Exposed, Data Dump No 156 Feb 2011, Hilltop Press, 2011
Hermetic Art Gnostic Alchemy Of The Imagination , The Alchemy Website [online], , 2011
Messiaen And Surrealism, The Oliver Messiaen Page [online], , 2011
Watch This Space Close Encounters Of The Third Mind (Without # 1-10} , The Supplement Issue 55 May 2011, Atlantean Publishing, 2011
Look With Your Inner Eye, The Supplement Issue 62 July 2012, Atlantean Publishing, 2012
Too Much Like Real Life (From Outside), Neon Highway Issue 22 Spring 2012, , 2012
Too Much Like Real Life (From Outside), The Supplement Issue 62 July 2012, Atlantean Publishing, 2012
Up For Fun! Random Impressions Of A Summer Like No Other, Garbaj Issue 50 Feb 2012, Atlantean Publishing, 2012
Fear The Moral Nebulae, Stride Magazine 2013 [online], Stride Publications, 2013
Nothing In Particular (Nothing A Very Short Introduction), The Supplement Issue 67 July 2013, Atlantean Publishing, 2013
Poets Must Be Vigilant, The Supplement Issue 65 March 2013, Atlantean Publishing, 2013
Memoir Of Subtopia, The Supplement Issue 70 2014, Atlantean Publishing, 2014
No More Whores In Babylon, Stride Magazine Mar 2014 [online], Stride Publications, 2014
Into Dangerous Territory, Stride Magazine Sept 2015 [online], Stride Publications, 2015

* in chronological order

Illus: Subtopia Anything XV, 1995

Monday, 19 October 2015

In The Soft State Zone

Meanwhile, Cornfield came upon a tattered figure, shuffling ahead of him down the hollow corridor, illuminated so vividly in the glare of the overhead strip-lights.
He slowed his pace so that he was following this curious old woman who, though stooped with arthritis, was moving with an air of urgency. She led him to a door inlaid with panels of whorled glass, decorated with undulating metal tendrils; iron blossoms creeping across pearl grey-pink panes engraved with angelic, ethereal faces Drugged eyes, drooping lips.
               He listened but could hear nothing.
               Ahead and behind, just a deserted corridor with gleaming white tiles and veined, marble pillars.
               Knowing the old crone had gone inside he was compelled to follow and – for his audacity – was greeted by the most fascinating vision.
               He was standing high on a gallery fashioned out of iron, its balustrade extending around the perimeter of the entire room. Across the other side, exactly opposite, was another door of the same design as the one now swinging gently shut behind him.
               Between was an abyss.
               Blue air.
               Streaks and eddies of  violet light.
Trailing streamers of purple tinged with black. In the centre a shaft, rising to the empyrean, falling to infinite depths.
This was the Soft State Zone.
               Soundlessly, gracefully, continuously, slabs of golden metal drifted past, sailing upwards with a turning motion, slowed down images of jet aircraft at high altitude, where all sense of speed and direction has been eliminated in favour of a feeling of weightless progression. Busy machines scuttled across on wires that led nowhere. Boxes, bristling with metal arms and tubes, latticed with ostensibly decorative holes in arabesque patterns, floated static for a second or two before dropping away into some abyssal realm beyond all perception.
               Neon lights flickered. Black holes in the fabric of the almost tactile atmosphere opened and closed with obscene noises. Wires and electrodes gleamed in the suffused light.
               Cornfield noticed a vague, female figure suspended in space. It was slowly revolving, feet together, arms outstretched, fingers hooked convulsively, head thrown back in ecstasy or pain. Whole metal plates encased her limbs like sculpted armour. Cylindrical objects revolved in a circle about her. Above her head billowed a black thunder cloud where lightning flickered with subdued ferocity. White plates the colour of asbestos floated on the surface of this cloud and letters of the Greek alphabet appeared and disappeared on their surfaces in random patterns.
To the left of the cloud, above the radiant face of the female entity, was suspended a curious contraption. Its main component was a square cuboid apparatus with a curved horn-like feature projecting from one of its corners. Clipped to its side was a complex of pipes and wires from which was suspended a tube with a bulbous swelling at one end supporting a metal plate. A cluster of delicate, pronged instruments reminiscent of dental equipment was in contact with the figure, constantly probing, tapping and massaging the figure’s back with wide sweeps as she floated this way and that, suspended in viscous luminosity.
               Below the figure and to its right three shapes glowed silver. The first was a diagrammatic representation of an exploding star, a sort of giant asterisk. The second took the form of three concentric rings. The third consisted of twelve oblong blocks of silver laid together in such a way that their inner edges formed a circle.
 Lights flashed on and off beneath the glass floor as, suddenly, a brilliant flare lit up seven gold cones, luminous forms materialising for an instant before vanishing amid drifting rainbows.
               His attention was again drawn to the suspended figure. He noted the wide open eyes and fine black wires trailing from her russet coloured nipples, so swollen and inviting, twin crowns for her hypertrophic breasts. He saw, blossoming in the air below her feet, three grinding cylinders surmounted by an inverted crucifix drifting among sonographic echoes of extinct birdcalls, among a galaxy of component parts arranged in six zones. There were ascending, coiling Soft State paths of black and silver.
               Gripped by vertigo Cornfield clung to the rails of the balustrade. The whole area seemed to tilt and roll like the deck of a ship caught in a storm. The central figure opened and closed her legs thrusting her body in a contortion, moving her arms in slow circles – a blind swimmer in an acid bath. The near zone was drenched in a sticky, oozing cloud of white, milky light that dripped over the quietly whirring machinery, sending impulse needles spinning behind glass plates.
               A cage materialised. A vicious portcullis above her head which descended around her body, moulding itself to her throbbing, armoured, plastic flesh. There was a spasm of mechanistic carnality and a spurt of crimson was ejected into the shimmering haze.

               As Cornfield turned to leave the centre of this vast hollow space became brilliant white, glowing with the intensity of lava in the bowels of a volcano or metal in a furnace. Bolts of red shivered across the scene illuminating the inferno in a hellish glare. He heard a long, breathless sigh, an eerie sound on a descending chromatic scale of soft, warmly textured notes, melting into cascades of snowflakes, congealing into the faces of Netherlandish angels – wide eyes, cheeks formed from the wings of hummingbirds – blue, turquoise, violet – all the colours of unattainable dreams.

A FRAGMENT from ‘DEBRIS’, 1970

Illus: Bridal Viscosity, 1972 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Life Into Shape

The burnt out trees will leave you cold…
 – Beth Orton

At that moment, when I thought I was about to die, I saw my entire life unravel. It was an indistinct vision, a split second in time. Can I describe the shape of my life as I saw it then, at that moment?
The starting point, the point of departure, as it were, was a Point – I saw a microscopic, metallic point lost in a black void.
Is it possible to call a point a shape?
Should I think of this point as a complex entity, like a trefoil icosahedron or a Medusa-like tangle of helical forms unwinding through time? Undoubtedly the split-second itself was The Point, the horizon of infinity enclosed in time by perception.
Within the temporality of that second, as it split asunder, the point unfolded, unfurling with agonising slowness. It would be very tempting to describe this monadic point as a tessellated surface of Celtic spirals. Perhaps it was a multifaceted crystal, its flat walls conforming to the laws of low energy directions, or even a gold crystal with a pitted surface like that of Saturn’s moon Iapetus. Yet, in close up, this entity (my life) appeared more like a donut of magnetic fluid.
However, I knew that this was an illusion and, being the extrapolation of mathematical co-ordinates derived from my imagination, it would mutate into a web-like form, a network, each node a scintilla generated by the primal departure point itself. The majority of these secondary points represented co-ordinates outside the narrow parameters of the linear time-line of my ‘life’ as understood on a mundane, day-to-day basis. This web extended beyond the antechamber of memory, encompassing ancestral events and unconscious experiences, producing patterns very different from the past-present-future trajectory of the arrow of time.
If the synchronic shape of my life is a light-cone of consciousness, then the diachronic shape of my life is the broad-leafed arrow of time, emerging from womb-darkness, vanishing into darkness beyond the grave. But the multidimensional shape of my life is this network of co-ordinates.
Looking more closely at the filamentous matrix, it was clear that some scintilla had a reddish hue while others were ice-blue. The red points signified moments of pain or negative emotion such as – for example – crises during critical illnesses, times of bereavement, early nightmares and several road accidents (including this one). The few ice-blue points represented instances of clarity. The vast majority of nodes were of neutral, indeterminate, off-white complexion.
I looked in vain for lights indicating moments of passion, for the centre of desire is a Black Hole from which, as we all know, light cannot escape.
At this moment my perception of the multiform shape of my ‘life’ registered another change and the fascinating web mutated yet again.

The resolution of the image degraded. Black turned to white and the interlaced network changed into a vision of bare branches: burnt out trees, stark against a greying sky.

First published in Headstorms Short Fiction Magazine Vol 1, Inclement Publishing, 2004

Illus: The Macro-Nova, 1975

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Hidden Beauty Of The World

'I am all that hath been, and is, and shall be; and my veil no mortal has hitherto raised.' - Plutarch: inscription at the shrine at Sais.

'Poetry lifts the Veil from the hidden beauty of the world...'
- Shelley

Illus: The Lifting of the Veil, 2014

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Strange Journey, Strange Travellers

It is with some misgivings that I present to a sceptical audience this unlikely report obtained by dubious methods from an undisclosed source. It must be said at once that no independent evidence can be found to confirm the existence of the EOU and exhaustive research has failed to disclose any trace of a similar organisation operating at that time. Furthermore, as the substance of the report is so far-fetched, if not reprehensible, the likelihood that the cautious reader may feel it to be an example of a literary hoax must be very high. Alternatively, the less charitable will simply dismiss the entire farrago as crazy delusion masquerading as outrageous fact. Even so, it may be admitted that our anonymous redactor has deployed a not inconsiderable accumulation of telling details to bolster an otherwise flimsy survey, imparting an air of plausibility if not verisimilitude to the proceedings. Finally, I might mention the inclusion of an article ‘Gnostic Alchemy of the Imagination’ in Nox: A Magazine of the Abyss No 1 (1986) – but this, of course, proves nothing.

Dedicated to the ‘exorcism of illusion’ the Esoteric Order of the Ultrasphere (EOU) provides an intriguing footnote to the occult history of Britain in the late nineteen seventies.
Founded around 1979 by Comus Klingsor and Astrodamus Niger, the Order of the Ultrasphere appears to have been based upon an ideology of anti-mystical aesthetic nihilism. Although sharing some features with modern occultism of the Crowley-Spare-Typhonian variety, a close inspection of the ‘Ultrasphere Manuscripts’ leads to the conclusion that the philosophy of the organisation represented a return to the dark-side of the Enlightenment era.
A fixation with Sturm und Drang, anti-clericalism, libertinism and with the noir Gothic themes of the late eighteenth century ensured that the artistic practices and aesthetic ideas of Klingsor and Niger were rooted in the world of Goya and Sade. They sought to continue the dark, pessimistic tradition that links those artists, via Baudelaire and Lautreamont, with the incendiary actor-poet Antonin Artaud and some other Surrealists. Rimbaud’s Lettres du Voyant are a recurring point of reference in the manuscripts.
One must accept that the origins of the OU will remain forever shrouded in the deepest mystery. The earliest document that has survived is the first letter of a small collection of correspondence known as The Colchester Papers. Addressed to a recipient known simply as ‘NQNQ’, the letter proposes a future grimoire of ‘new demons’ with mildly ludicrous names based on typing errors (‘Ogdogon’, ‘Dawneophyte’, ‘Occultor’ and ‘Desiravle’ among others). Also, the writer (Klingsor) claims affinity with the Black Brothers (‘defectors/challengers of all belief systems – of belief systems as such’) and calls for the Grand Oeuvre (Great Work) to be aligned with the notion of self-initiation, claiming there are ‘no true gurus, teachers or spirit guides’.
In the second letter (Third Thoughts) a system of seven degrees of attainment is outlined but takes the form of an anti-image or mirror image of the traditional cabalistic scheme derived from the Golden Dawn and other mainstream societies. This mirror image of occult attainment arises from the application of the Formula of Reversion – a key concept of the Ultrasphere, just as the mirror was a key symbol. The author says: ‘Mirrors and reflections, images of the anti-verse, anti-matter, black holes…’ The term ‘anti-verse’ may refer to a literary as well as to a cosmological theme.
In another letter with the title Notes Written on Trains, Klingsor demands the construction of ‘new system of magic’ to oppose ‘the black magic of the world theocratic power elite’ who use faith as ‘a mechanism for draining the energy of the masses.’ The new magic of the Ultrasphere will be ‘materialistic, anti-abstractionist, non-mystical…the magic of the shamans v the magic of the priests.’ In this text (under the formula Reality = 0) Klingsor summarises the OU worldview thus: ‘in politics – Anarchism, in morality – Nihilism, in science Relativity, in art – Dadaism, in space – Black Holes.’ 
These documents date from 1979 (the year of The Postmodern Condition and the year the Voyager probes reached Jupiter), but in the archives of the Ultrasphere are numerous other artefacts and images, many of them of obscure date, many dated earlier than the Colchester correspondence. Colchester was often referred to by its Roman name Camulodunum and ‘NQNQ’ may be the same person listed on the membership register as Frater Camulodunumensis.
Illustration VII from a set of images titled Codex Archon (1976) carries the title ‘Ultrasphere (Apocalypse)’ there are two other images from the same year, one called ‘Archon Of The Ultrasphere (The Sacrament)’, and another called ‘Life For Art’s Sake (Initiates of the Ultrasphere)’. The first picture is a pencil drawing; the others are photomontages (collages) in the style of the Surrealists or earlier Dada artists like Hanna Hoech and John Heartfield.
The earliest reference to the mythos of the Ultrasphere in the collection is a different image, this time dating from 1975 and called The ‘Archon of Goth’, another photo-montage showing a volcanic seascape and a demonic figure identified by the artist as the ancient god Set. This quasi-mythology of Archons is clearly derived from certain interpretations of Gnosticism, while the appearance of the god Set may reflect a Typhonian influence. Elsewhere Klingsor and Niger refer to a ‘Gnostic alchemy of the imagination’.
The Ultrasphere Manuscripts comprise four sub-collections. Three collections of holograph manuscripts and a small set of typescripts (photocopied) comprising the Colchester Papers, the letters to NQNQ already mentioned. There are replies from NQNQ, but not collected here.
The three collections of hand-written holographs are numbered and titled Primary Papers of the Ultrasphere (15 documents), Supplementary Papers of the Ultrasphere (10 documents) and a final group of 8 documents called Rearguard Aesthetic. This final collection seems to comprise a set of notes for some kind of artistic manifesto – an unrealised programme for ‘Ultraspheric Art’ in conflict with both the traditional canons of high culture and the official avant-garde..
The bulk of these documents consist of hastily scrawled notes and tabulations, a very few are fragments of continuous text. Separate from the documents are a number of occult illustrations or diagrams intended to visualise various tenets and themes of the system or in some cases to operate as Liberation Symbols or pictorial fetishes. These illustrations may have been intended to form part of a larger, synthesised text or grimoire.
In the papers there is reference to another text or project, Codex Sardonicus: Existence in Theory and Practice (1976-1979), predating the Order, but which Klingsor and Niger used as a point of reference, the basis of their anti-method of ‘attainment’. This was the core of the system, usually referred to as the Axis Mundi (or ‘Axis of the Ultrasphere’) – kind of ‘world-tree’ or central, axial structure that functioned, like the well-known cabalistic diagram, as an ontological framework. But, as described, the Axis was a reversion, or inversion, of usual expectations: it was a katabasis or descent, not an ‘ascension’ model of ‘higher’ attainment. The initiate of the Ultrasphere was expected to navigate downwards, to plumb the depths of his/her own personal hell, or unconscious. The ironical collage ‘Life For Art’s Sake’ shows a group of dandified initiates in the guise of eighteenth century dilettantes in a kind of submarine art gallery full of curious works – above them, on the surface, is the Sadean universe of Terra (terror); the ‘world’ as we know it.
Considerations of space preclude detailed exposition of the theoretical occultism of the OU. A summary of the various topics covered in the Primary and Supplementary papers will, however, provide a glimpse of the range and scope of the collection.
The first three Primary Papers deal with the Paths and Keys of the Axis Mundi. The fourth paper sets out a version of the Grades of attainment. The fifth paper is a list of projects and recommended authors (Auctores Damnati) whose works form the Books of Vital Doctrine or Diamond Dogmas. All these documents date from 1979.
The titles of the rest of this set are as follows: Infinite Initiation, Psychoanalysis, Anxiety, Nihilism, Initiatory Cycle, Fiat Lurks, Magia Innaturalis, Bardo Cartography, Beyond Rebirth and Initiation: The Ultimate Myth.  Paper XI (Fiat Lurks) deals with the macro-history of initiation including such topics as the ‘collapse of tradition’, infinite self-creation and the ‘rupture of the normal’. Magia Innaturalis (Paper XII) talks of ‘radical disengagement’ and introduces various art-historical concerns because ‘cultural evolution reflects the initiatory process’, although, according to Third Thoughts, the ‘object of the exercise’ remains ‘the infinite transfiguration of the self’.
The Supplementary Papers of the Ultrasphere recapitulate similar themes and ideas. The First two Supplements return to the topic of self-initiation. Initiation I is called ‘Unio Mentalis’, Initiation II is called ‘The Sanctum of the Art’. There follow three items of continuous text dealing with blood symbolism (with reference to some quotations from Artaud), death doctrines and the theme of Atavistic Resurgence (this item blatantly assimilated from the New Sexuality of Austin Osman Spare). Another paper Bestial Atavisms attempts to interpret various Symbolist paintings as images of the atavistic phenomenon. The last four papers in this group are titled as follows: Invasion/Obsession, Great Year of Renovation (rough notes on occult macro-history), Springboard to the Aethyrs and Transmutation of the Real. The term ‘aethyrs’ implies a familiarity with Crowley’s The Vision and The Voice and, therefore the ‘angelic’ scryings or workings of Dee and Kelly.
Separate from these manuscripts is another document in a different hand headed Known Members of the Order 1979-1981. There are nine names listed, all of which are ‘magical’ pseudonyms. It should be borne in mind that the nomenclature is deliberately ‘absurd’ in the ‘pataphysical’ spirit of Alfred Jarry. These include NQNQ; Nyktikorax, the Night Raven; Chryse Planitia, Mistress of the Cathedrals; Rodrigo Terra; Imbroglio Korgasmus; Sarchasmus Caesaromagus; Citrus Zest the Whore of Babylon; Comus Klingsor (707z); Frater Retrogradior and Ponerologicus Astrodamus Niger.
It appears that these alleged members of the EOU assigned extravagant titles to each other. For instance one was known as the Purple Legate of the Third Degree Below Zero (zero is the symbol of psychic death or nirvana), another, the Supreme Pontiff d’Estrudo and yet another, Cardinal of the Oversoul (the ‘Autarch’, the ultimate level of self-transfiguration, or initiation, in the Ultrasphere).
There is also an enigmatic note referring to ‘inner plane adepts’ of special interest or importance to the Order. One, a semi-legendary figure named Curion Orphee le Deranger, was thought of as a kind of wandering ‘Cagliostro’ figure and composer of wild musical works, and the other, the very sinister Archon of Othona, was also known as ‘Lord of the Dark Face’. Othona is the old Roman name for modern Bradwell, a fort on the Saxon Shore. The Essex towns of Colchester (Camulodonum) and Chelmsford (Caesaromagus) are linked with Bradwell in a kind of psycho-geographic affinity. Unfortunately, no further explanations are given.
One is left with the notion that the OU was an attempt to formulate a kind of nihilistic counterpart to the psychedelia of the preceding decade, an eclectic ‘counter mythology of inner space’ using the Axis grade system as a framework. Primary Paper IV is a fragmentary list of the grades, ranging from Grade Double Zero (Student) through Grade Zero (Mendicant) to Supreme Pontiff (Beyond the Abyss) and Magus Maximus or Autarch. These grades or levels are restated in the fourth letter of the Colchester Papers: Kinx Om Pox (1980) where each level is associated with a key attribution. For example the Mendicant is associated with the key of Fear/Hate, The Retreatant with Disgust, the Preceptor (Purple Legate) with Cynicism and the Magus Maximus with Autarchy, the infinite transfiguration of the self. Each grade key of the Axis was represented by its own particular Sigil or Liberation Symbol and every key was linked by one of the twenty-two paths mapping out the ‘Strange Journey’ of the initiate.
Here is a quotation from Primary Paper VI Infinite Initiation (Unio Innaturalis):

‘No one has time for politics. Nothing is psychotic. Initiation is total – infinite, the infinite totality of the cosmos in microcosm. The infinite totality of the microcosm writ large in the macrocosm. Each grade creates his own universe, his/her own myth, each grade is creator of his/her own dream…’

There is a lost poem by Comus Klingsor and an illustrative collage picture (still extant in the archive) with the title ‘Strange Journey, Strange Travellers’ – a very strange journey indeed.

Illus: Ultima II, 1979
Illus: Strange Journey, Strange Travellers, 1976