Deeper Into The Magick Grant Morrison Interview Part 2

“You wind back into your mother’s womb, she winds back into hers, like branches retreating into buds on a tree and it all goes back in billions of unbroken lines to the first mitochondrial cell dividing in the pre-Cambrian ocean 3 and a half billion years ago.

Interview by Robert Anton Wilson biographer Prop Anon, and Laura Kang, February 2017 in Brooklyn NY

You’ve told us that your take on magick is a little different than RAW’s. Can you explain how it is different? 

GM: Maybe I’m wrong. I think he saw magic  in the Crowleyan, ritual, alien contact sense — as some collision of psychology and quantum weirdness. For me, it’s much more literal and it’s all about emphasizing the transcendent, psychedelic aspects of the ordinary by following logic to its conclusion. Magick for me is all about maintaining a fluid and creative relationship with things as they are.

Simple things, like adding time, or the 4th dimension to the picture can eliminate a lot of apparent psychic phenomena, like clairvoyance, action at a distance, ESP, reincarnation etc. When you add time, you realize fairly quickly that all living things are intrinsically connected as one singular organism. You wind back into your mother’s womb, she winds back into hers, like branches retreating into buds on a tree and it all goes back in billions of unbroken lines to the first mitochondrial cell dividing in the pre-Cambrian ocean 3 and a half billion years ago. It’s no surprise that sometimes people get a sense of other parts of the structure they belong to, or experience “past lives” — those lives are all still happening, all simultaneously.

That same original, immortal cell is still at it, separating inside all of us. Maybe mitochondrial DNA might be what humans have been calling “soul” for centuries. The fact is, we actually do have an immortal indwelling presence living deep inside the perishable structure of our bodies. Maybe mitochondrial DNA has consciousness and when we narrow down on that waveband, we experience the feelings of timelessness and divinity people refer to as a religious experience…

Right after Disinfo, I read Howard Bloom’s amazing book The Lucifer Principle. That really changed the way I thought about the world at a time when things were getting a little more fraught internationally. The Invisibles came out of indie via rave culture – the dancing, the sex, the happy drugs, psychedelic consumer future, the alien imagery – but that approach didn’t seem relevant to the darker turn the world was taking around the turn of the century – the turn toward surveillance culture, the erosion of privacy with reality TV and the internet, a kind of exhaustion and capitulation to global satanic corporate forces… 

Reading The Lucifer Principle forced me into a harsher and more honest confrontation with mortality, aging, fear, loss, the fragility of things. I wanted my ideas about magic to be more grounded and pragmatic too, so that I could also talk to scientists and strict materialists about what to me were undeniably real experiences but without using vague and meaningless language about spirits, essences, energies, angels, psychic powers or anything that was supernatural or New Age or faith-based. I knew magic worked. I’d had encounters with apparent gods and devils and even made real art and even money from those encounters. I’d also manifested entities I knew were fictional, so I wasn’t looking for proof of religion. I didn’t believe in survival of individual consciousness after death. I didn’t believe in Heavens or Hells or ghosts. I just wanted to get to the root of what was happening when we performed magic rituals and communicated with seemingly-discarnate entities, or made things appear to happen. Behind all the robes and chants and systems… what was actually going on?

And it all sort of came down to magick being this powerful, proven method for stimulating a range of very specific and directed states of consciousness. Using the techniques of magick, we can cure neuroses, increase creativity and imagination, expand our personal limits, you know, we can add more fun, purpose and fulfillment to Life. Firstly, magicians learn to pay really close attention to everything around them; they like to see how things fit together and work so that they can make things of their own, or make things work better. They get more information and inspiration out of every moment.

Basically, the work of the Magician involves the skilled, meticulous application of Meaning or Significance to Life Experience. The more Meaning the Magician can add to Life, the more Magical and enchanted the world becomes.

Over centuries, to make their lives easier, practitioners of magic have developed and refined actual repeatable, dependable formulae called spells or rituals that produce specific material effects on human consciousness. A ritual designed to summon Hermes, for instance, is unlikely to result in a visit from Kali or Erzulie, so these methods have proven themselves to be pretty reliable. Rituals are constructed with one aim — to harmonize or tune your consciousness to a single frequency, using smells, images, sounds and clothing appropriate to your chosen state of consciousness in its chosen personification – for the duration of a successful contact with Ares, God of War, you might wear combat fatigues, burn tobacco, and punch the air, to summon righteous rage and power. Tune into Aphrodite, with pink champagne, rose petals and Botticelli, you’ll be consumed by love, for as long as your nervous system can handle it. Think of gods, angels or demons as specific states of human consciousness which have been identified and given names.

Love never disappears from the human experience. Someone, somewhere is in love right now, embodying that state of consciousness. Jealousy, Anger, Bliss. They’re all qualities which are always expressing themselves somewhere at some time. That persistent ever-present quality of Love or Anger that outlasts individual humans, outlasts generations, that immanent “field” aspect of Love or Jealousy, is what people used to call a “god” or “demon”. The magician chooses to deliberately induce these powerful focused states of Love, or Joy, or Creativity, and interact with them as if they were living individuals, as a way of engaging with the world in a heightened manner which tends to produce heightened, seemingly uncanny results.

In my view of magick, there’s no supernatural element at all. Other than the higher dimensional spaces proven to exist inside our skulls. Like Dr. Who’s TARDIS we all know for a fact that we’re much bigger on inside than we are on the outside. There are no ghostly immaterial realms to worry about. Nothing you need to take on trust. The magic is self-evident.

I know Wilson was suspicious of New Age fuzziness, faith and lack of precise terminology. He was skeptical of every fixed viewpoint, so I may have misinterpreted his views and it may well be we’re not so different at all!

It’s interesting to think of magic in terms of acting as well because it’s all about relaxed concentration and imagination which you’re filtering through your physical body. That takes care of the material aspect of ritual. iI seems most people think magick is something that can’t be seen.

Using the techniques of magick, we can cure neuroses, increase creativity and imagination, expand our personal limits

As I often say, we can’t see, touch, boil or fry the Meaning of Hamlet either but we know it exists.

GM: Once we’ve grasped what magic is and how it works, the goal of the magician is to condense insubstantial thoughts into the substance of the material world, in the form of things other people can interact with. An intangible thought can become a very real atom bomb, or a thought can become a poem. You have an idea; an idea can be baby and a magic ritual to create a baby might involve having sex until a baby appears in accordance with your desire. It still has to start with somebody’s idea of a baby. The conception. An idea can turn into a bridge, or a novel, or a war, and change lives, you know. You have to be careful with ideas. Magic teaches us respect for ideas and their volatile power.

Maybe you simply want to meet someone. As a magician, your job is to wrangle that phantom notion into materiality using all the skills and sleight of mind at your disposal. If you act in certain ways, the universe will react. You can dress up as the lead singer in a band, and if you start to live and behave like the lead singer in a band, people will soon interact with you as if you’re the lead singer in a band, a role which brings with it certain expectations, possibilities and responsibilities. You can dress up and go out and become anything you wish to be and the universe will respond to your act by applauding or booing. During the ‘80’s and ‘90s, I performed all my rituals cross-dressed because I got really into the idea as the magician as this sort of Mercurius hermaphrodite androgynous figure.

Like Lord Fanny’s character from The Invisibles.

GM: Yeah, and I’d been reading about the Native American tradition of the Berdache sorcerer, who is neither woman nor man and there was the same notion from Tarot and Alchemy that the magician’s “soul”, or sense of Self, should be a fusion of complementary qualities. Jung went into this at length as well. So I chose to bring a trashy ‘90s fetish update of that and I did all my most powerful ritual work in this kind of dominatrix gear. I found that this female anima persona was utterly fearless. She took absolutely no shit from demons. She could smoke cigarettes, and do things I couldn’t, or wouldn’t ordinarily do. This type of exo-persona or memeplex thing can be seen metaphorically as a kind of app, a plug-in, that allows us to expand our functionality, you could say. So, it was absolutely an immersive acting job as well. As I said, if you behave in a certain way and the universe will react in its own particular way. Dance the tango, it will tango right back at you. There will be results and consequences.

I had my own ritual outfit and I would just improvise my own versions of summoning’s, banishing’s and magic circles. Instead of a traditional wand, I had a little wand from a magic set my parents gave me when I was a kid, just one of those little black and white conjuror ones. The dagger was one a friend had brought me from Istanbul. The Lamp an old railway man’s lamp found at the side of the tracks. I made my own tarot pack with Polaroid pictures of places and things that were meaningful to me – the Key, the Fountain, the Bridge. It was all about this kind of homemade, D.I.Y. Chaos punk magic. I had this kitchen-sink shaman approach and I liked translating magical practice into the everyday and ordinary. That’s how I developed my own system with things that meant something personal to me as well as working with more traditional gods or ideas. I was doing magic a lot. Regular full-scale formal rituals. I would dress in my magical armor. It would take an hour. I would play certain types of music, put on makeup. I would just assume this persona in a slow, super-ritualistic way and the effects were always amazing. I spoke to and interacted with a lot of interesting entities and intelligences. Magic in the ‘90s was very pyrotechnic and intense with immediate and obvious effects.

The hyper-sigil that you write about in The Invisibles.

GM: Yeah, and the idea behind the hyper-sigil was to add duration to the traditionally-static compressed sigil. If there is intent behind it, anything can be a hyper sigil, anything that has focused, intended extension through the time dimension is a hyper-sigil. A play or a ballet performance, anything. A marriage or relationship can be a hyper sigil.

You wrote a play about Crowley.  What was your approach for that play?

GM: It was all about Crowley’s acolyte Victor Neuberg, who was arguably Crowley’s most prominent disciple. Crowley really fucked with him. He screwed quite cruelly with the poor guy’s head and Neuberg was pretty much insane for a while. Eventually he ended up in this artist community and kind of dragged himself back to semi-normality, then just ended his life writing poetry, living a quiet life. Crowley took him to hell quite literally. Together they used the Enochian keys to explore the so-called “Aethyrs” and it was during the opening of ZAX the Abyss, that Neuberg lost his shit. Crowley sat unprotected in the triangle of manifestation and summoned Choronzon, the arch demon 333, the Guardian of the Abyss, into himself — and what happened next was a wee bit too much for Neuberg’s nerves.

The play was about Neuberg’s life basically from his point of view, trying to rationalize what had happened to him with a psychiatrist. And every now and then, Crowley drifts into the scene and takes control of the story, so it was just a three-hander and it kind of shifted between the psychiatrist’s office and scenes from Neuberg’s life story, all told as this Egyptian Book of the Dead trial and judgment scenario. Thinking about it now, it’s very much in the tradition of something like The Masks of the Illuminati, so there’s Wilson’s influence again. 

I’ve always wondered how did you hook up with Richard Metzger, the man behind, for the Disinfo event? Did he reach out to you?

GM: Yeah, he’d been reading The Invisibles and he got in touch, I think probably through DC Comics, and asked me to come on the radio show he used to do back then. So, I went on the show and we really got on and just became friends. Back in the late ‘90s, he took me to his place on Christopher Street and insisted I take DMT. That was the one and only time I ever had DMT – and it was an amazing experience. At first I got nervous and didn’t want to do it. It seemed like a heavy commitment and I was probably scared I was gonna shit myself or do something otherwise wildly inappropriate on his couch. I said I’ll take this home with me and I’ll do it back at the hotel. Richard was like “No, you’re doing it right now and I’m going to tape record you.” He wouldn’t let me leave until I’d done it. I’m glad he peer-pressured me and it was this fantastic experience, complete immersion in a super-real plastic hi-def universe for five minutes. It wasn’t any of that kind of shifting, morphing Stargate phosgene activity vision you have on LSD or psilocybin. It was an actual space, that stayed the same as I travelled through it. Then, in 5 minutes, the trip’s over and you’re back to baseline. Like being shot through a kaleidoscope. I’ll always remember opening my eyes just as I was coming back to reality and Richard had a big poster of Dean Martin on the wall and there was Dino’s head was looming right out of the wall above me like whooooooa. And I saw Richard’s black cat at the time with sparks and streamers crackling off its ears and whiskers like some mad Dr. Seuss thing.

One character I really liked from The Invisibles was Jim Crow, the Voodoo practicing rapper. Crow who first appears investigating a new form of crack that turns its users into lifeless zombies. That’s real relevant today with these new synthetic drugs like K2, Flakka, Spice, and other nasty drugs. Jim Crow also works with Papa Ghede, the god of death, and he manifests in the story as a giant scorpion named ‘Baron Zaraguin.’ That whole character and arc was ill. Where did all of that come from?  

I went through a phase of working with several of the Voudon loa and I felt I’d made a good connection with Papa Ghede so I created the Jim Crow character to talk about those experiments. I loved the idea of a voudon rapper/magician but I didn’t actually hear anything that sounded like Jim’s music until Octagynacologist by Kool Keith came out in 1997.

I found Ghede a very appealing and funny and relatable god of Death. He radiated this amazing sexiness and humor, and was utterly non-judgmental. You’d definitely hang out with him. The thing is, Ghede has quite an entourage of graveyard creatures and somehow I wound up getting sidetracked one night into a very odd and threatening space inhabited by the insect-loa which swarm around him. I found myself face-to-mandibles with the patriarch of the scorpion-loa family — this whole experience went directly into The Invisibles. I was lying on my bed and it all got really kind of nasty. I was presented with this immense scorpion thing, this multi-faceted creature with a sort of semi-human face. It just said “We’re going to teach you how to destroy souls. You’re going to be an assassin for us. You’re going to be a psychic assassin.”

That was when you were in the hospital?

GM: No, this was before that but it kind of led to that. Basically, I got stung, that’s why I ended up in the hospital as far as I’m concerned. I regard my illness as the physical manifestation of a psychic event. The loa was really creepy, doing this weird monumental flamenco with its many legs. And it just said you’re going to be an assassin, you’ll be killing for us. And I just said “I won’t do it. I don’t want to do this.” They were showing me psychic death techniques. Ways of irreparably wounding “souls,” destroying people by stripping away their auras and leaving them naked, to be fed on by vampiric psychic parasites. It was really fucked up.

That was during a ritual?

GM: Yeah, and they said, “You’re going to have to get a scorpion tattoo at the base of your spine,” and I was just like ”no, I’m not doing any of this – I’m a pacifist,” and they were angry with me. I came out of this experience quite freaked out so I tried to chill out and do a banishing ritual, I turned on the TV and the Howard the Duck movie is on, of all things and at the end of the Howard the Duck movie, this stupid dumb movie, these scorpion sorcerers attack our world through some dimensional tunnel gateway and I’m watching it, and those are the fucking things I just dealt with, showing themselves as bad special effects. I thought the experience was over and now here they are using the TV. In The Invisibles I turned my King Mob character into the killer they wanted me to become and gave him the tattoo at the base of the spine and the whole burden of Zaraguin’s knowledge.

The next year, in spring 1994, I was in New Zealand to launch The Invisibles with a bungee-jump and a sigil and I found The Voudon Gnostic Workbook (by Michael Bertiaux) which I’d been looking for. I’m reading up on that and I discover that part of Ghede’s family, you know, there’s the insect loa, and it talked specifically about scorpion gods. And that’s where I learn the name of Zaraguin, his wife, Mystere Araignee, and their two scorpion children… and I find out “Zaraguin governs the base of the spine.” The experience freaked me out so I didn’t spend too much time with Voudon after that.  I sort of kept a vague connection with Ghede but the kind of dedication and bloody commitment this path required got to feel like something beyond my pay scale.

I remember I did a ritual after that… like I said I would do these crossdressing rituals and I always wore this dominatrix thing, this vinyl mistress leotard. The fetish outfit that Robin wears in Book 2 of The Invisibles, basically that was the look. I just remember the end of this ritual, crawling through a window to vomit it all out. I felt poisoned. And I was tearing off this latex thing… tearing it off like snakeskin, or a bug’s exo-skeleton,…peeling it off, throwing it out the window like something I’d outgrown. And then I was sick for the next 6 months or something before they finally got me into hospital and saved my life.

Was your practice of Magick something you got better at the longer you did it?

GM: Yeah,I got really good at it, but right after 9-11, as I say, it changed. The crazy dress-up ecstasy rituals were over for me. Being in a steady relationship and ramping up my comics career with New X-Men was taking up all of my time and energy. I felt I had to change tack again and be more together and responsible. I was facing the illness and death of my dad. Rather than offshoots or side-effects of the rituals, the comic books became the rituals. The Filth was the start of an extended, exhaustive meditation on the Abyss that ran through Batman, Final Crisis, Annihilator and Nameless too. All-Star Superman was a hymn to the sun and success.

I just don’t do much in the way of big old-school performance rituals with all the trimmings. I did one last year but that was probably the first in more than ten years.

How did that turn out?

GM: It worked shockingly well. These things done properly tend to have impressive results.

Tune into Aphrodite, with pink champagne, rose petals and Botticelli, you’ll be consumed by love, for as long as your nervous system can handle it.

What was some of the music you were listening to when you were writing The Invisibles?

GM: I was listening to music constantly, every day while writing. The list is too long. Highlights? The Shamen, Future Sound of London, The Orb, Zuvuya, Suede, Nirvana, Sheila Chandra, Underworld, Doctor Octagon, Creation records, Britpop stuff, Momus, Pizzicato 5, Dmitri from Paris. The KLF. They’re supposed to be coming back this year.

The KLF are great. I’ve been listening to them a lot while writing this RAW biography.

GM: Remember when they destroyed their back catalogue and said they’d be back in 23 years? They’ve got the whole 23 years’ thing going on, the Burroughs/Wilson thing, so now 23 years is up in September and everyone’s waiting for The KLF to return.

Nice! I saw that one of the pair, Jimmy Cauty, is presently doing the Riot Tour, which is basically a shipping container poked with holes and placed on a street. When the viewer looks through any of these holes that see a whole mini world of a society in total collapse. A full on traveling apocalypse tour. He is calling it ‘The Aftermath Dislocation Principle.’ 

GM: That sounds great. I love things with miniature worlds. He did a Lord Of the Rings poster back in the ‘70s and I had it on my wall long before I ever heard of Cauty, or Bill Drummond or the KLF and I suddenly realized oh it’s that guy, I used to have his poster on the wall. Bilbo Baggins, Golem. That lot.

I heard he drew that when he was still a teenager. That’s talent. The KLF must have been huge out in the UK. They made a dent here but not like in the UK I’m sure.

GM: The KLF was gigantic back home and then they burnt that million pounds and did all this crazy stuff and people seemed to lose interest a bit. Like the moon landings. They were more of an art project. The music brought them cash but it was only part of what they were up to.

In Brooklyn, I’ve started listening to a bunch of West Coast girl bands who sound to me like the Pastels and the super-DIY garage music I was listening to and making back in the early ‘80s — Aquadolls, LA Witch, Cherry Glazer. They all have very different sensibilities but they share a lo-fi aesthetic that fits my mood right now.

How do we turn Trump invisible?

GM: Literally. I think the best thing to do would be to ignore him. Don’t tweet about him. Don’t respond to his attention-seeking outbursts. Just ignore him. It’s the cruelest most painful thing you can do to a narcissist. If you must refer to him in passing, call him Thomas Trump, or Donald Dump, like you haven’t been paying attention at all. He’ll go mad if he thinks no one’s listening anymore.

Of course, then he’ll just try harder to get your attention and suddenly its World War Three – and it’s all your fault!

Philip K Dick said To fight the Empire is to become infected by its derangement.” And he was paranoid and off his head on amphetamines so he ought to know!

Yeah that was one of the saddest things… seeing how much Trump was embraced, just to see that so many people paid so much attention to him was crazy.

GM: Outrage works. We live in a culture of outrage so it’s very successful tactic and Trump used outrage to galvanize the voting population. He polarized opinions and made people want to talk about him all the time. It was quite tactically done even though he doesn’t come across as a particularly brilliant guy so we have to assume he’s been well-groomed. I think he talks to people who have taught him some tactical tricks. I don’t know if you saw Adam Curtis’s documentary, HyperNormalisation

GK: I’ve seen some of his documentaries, The Century of Self and The Power of Nightmares I think are well done.

GM: HyperNormalisation came out the end of 2016 and it’s about Trump, and about Putin particularly and their relationship and the situation in Syria. Curtis follows these trails back, making incredible connections. I feel he’s provided us with the master key of where we are right now. And he basically talks about Putin’s strategies and how one of Putin’s main advisors is a former theater director, Vladislav Surkov. So he’s bringing these radical ideas from the post-Marxist counterculture of the ‘60s and they’re using this cognitive dissonance technique where you just tell blatant lies and defy the objective facts of reality. You can contradict yourself and then contradict yourself again and if you just keep doing it. If you just keep your face blank you can deny you just shit on the floor, even when everybody just watched you hunker down and take a very deliberate shite on the carpet.

Trump is clearly using this shite-on-the-carpet technique. There’s every possibility he learned it from Russia, which is obviously part of why everyone is seeing this connection between Trump and Putin. Whatever the political connections are, he’s learned his stage technique from Russia and from Surkov and he’s applying the rules of the cognitive dissonance playbook where you can get away with anything if you just do it on front of millions, then say no, I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it. You’re all mistaken.

As I said in one of my editorials for Heavy Metal magazine, we vow to add to the confusion wherever possible.

I was reading about Operation Mindfuck earlier and I thought “Jesus this is what’s happening now and it’s been perfected by the other side.

To invoke a title of a Robert Anton Wilson book, Reality is what you get away with.

GM: I’m watching him (Trump) on TV yesterday and he’s talking about the so-called Muslim ban, which isn’t, or is, and he’s saying “yeah this is all going very well, just look at the airports, you’ll see how everyone supports this”… then we’re cutting to chaotic scenes where people are screaming and waving banners that contradict everything he just said. And then it’s back to him, and it’s “yes, as you’ve seen, it’s all going very well, everyone supports these measures.” Cut back to screaming protesting crowds, tear gas, baton charges. And he’s got the press guy, the Spicer guy that’ll just come on the screen, flat dead, and just say No what you’ve just seen is not actually happening, it’s fake.” It’s such a weird technique, it’s impenetrable. It’s hard for rational people to deal with that, so perhaps irrationality might be of use.

It’s like they took the Discordian Operation Mindfuck and started using it as a political strategy.

GM: Yeah. I was reading about Operation Mindfuck earlier and I thought “Jesus this is what’s happening now and it’s been perfected by the other side.It’s on a scale, with a reach, that’s beyond anything beyond the Discordian originators ever have imagined.

Indeed, we all need to get our magick and critical thinking skills up for these current times. I’ll wrap it up here. You seem to have maintained a low key and approachable personal style in your career, all without a cult of personality around you. Do you think reading Robert Anton Wilson helped you maintain a more grounded perspective around the notion of fame?

GM: He was always grounded and that’s what I loved about him. What remains for me is the humor. When a philosopher loses his or her sense of humor, they’re in danger of becoming one of those cult-leader-magus ideologue assholes. Laughter can banish any and all demons. Wilson always laughed at the world and himself. He laughed at everything.  He was a very serious man, a very well-read and intellectual man, but he found it all FUNNY and I think the ability to find humor in any situation is one of our greatest survival skills.

Praise Bob!

PROP ANON is the author of the upcoming Chapel Perilous: The Life and Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson, the first official biography of the late counterculture philosopher. Prop Anon started his career as a Hip-Hop artist whose 2010 album Squat the Condos presaged the Occupy movement. In 2014, Prop switched musical gears and released a Stoner Rock album called HAIL ERIS! with his band, HAIL ERIS!  

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