Interview by Prop Anon
For those familiar with Mondo2000.com, Grant Morrison needs no introduction. Over the course of his long career, Morrison, and his generation of punk rock warlords, busted through the doors of the lagging comics industry — sorely in need of some power chord clarity and imaginative story lines — and proceeded to take readers on new paths of literary discovery. Morrison’s genius use of tropes, his subversions and inversion of same, are so much fun to read. It’s all there, the light and the dark.
Times are dark. Since the last time I interviewed Morrison, in 2017, Trump and his idiotic minions have rolled out the red carpet for the angel of death. Morrison knows what’s at stake. However, don’t ask him for specific details about the daily plays of politricks. There is little need. The ebullient Scotsman continues to trek the antipodes of the mind, dropping gems and jewels like Chester Copperpot (from The Goonies), educating readers how to vibe right and live like rock stars during a possible apocalypse.
In this interview we discuss his newest television show Brave New World which features an Artificial Intelligence, named Indra, that feeds on human brains to survive. Morrison also provides an update on the progress on his The Invisibles tv show, as well as his insights into Robert Anton Wilson, magick, the Aeon of Ma’at.
Brave New World recently aired this past July on Peacock. The project involved you, Brian Taylor — your partner on Happy! and then David Weiner, correct?
GM: Yes, David came in at a time when the project had stalled a little and he was able to turn it around. Me and Brian started it with the original pitch. The network liked Happy! so they asked if we wanted to pitch for Brave New World, which they were trying to develop with Amblin. We won the gig out of a bunch of other potential writers, mainly because we insisted on treating the World State as a decent working model of utopia, rather than a classic dystopia in the mold of Elysium or Metropolis or 1984. We worked on a few iterations of the script, and then Brian got really busy on Happy! season 2. So, I kind of stayed with it when David Weiner came aboard as the showrunner on Brave New World. He totally revamped and overhauled it. He’s a very smart guy and came from a theatre background and he focused on the emotional stuff, the quirky relationships between the lead characters. My contributions are especially apparent in the high-concepts and the world-building — you know: how does the naming system work? How does the society run? Why isn’t it mechanized? Why isn’t it industrialized? Why are there no private cars and only public transport?
I worked out every detail of that, and then I worked with David on a new version of the pilot script. And he brought together a bunch of amazing writers to flesh the whole thing out. Of the eleven writers in the writer’s room, eight of them were women.
Lenina Crowne has a really hard time in the book, as she is always being slapped around by a sociopathic, Shakespeare-quoting, sex-negative John the Savage. So, the notion was — let’s do something more modern and radical. In terms of my magical practice, this ties Brave New World to my thoughts about the Aeon of Ma’at, the Goddess of Truth, Balance and Harmony.
In the book, Lenina is treated quiet badly and comes to a grim end, so I thought let’s make her the central character of this new version. The Savage Lands depicts a childlike level of society; John is tied to his mother and has very little agency. The World State has progressed to teenage; with its non-stop music and parties and strict social demarcation into easily-identifiable ‘tribes’. The idea was to have Lenina begin to work with the Indra to build a truly ‘adult’ utopia… which would lead us into season 2…
I’ve seen critics complain about the Brave New World sex scenes not being sexy but that was the point we were making! There’s even a major scene of intimacy between John and Lenina that deliberately exists in contrast to the shallow hedonism of the orgies. In this world, sex is more like a social duty, or it’s like sport. It doesn’t involve the guilt and the excitement, the transgression and the passion that we associate with sex at all.
So, I think all of that stuff that I really like in it is asking how does this world work? How and why? And what do they get from it and how different does it feel from our world. At the same time, David was asking how to do human beings as we understand them as they live and interact in a world with these limitations or parameters and how do we show that in a way that Huxley didn’t. So, I think the combination of everyone who worked on it made the project really rich and interesting. It’s not like the comics where it’s just me and an artist, or a letterer and colorist as the equivalent of a pop group. This was like being on a football team. It was a big team. A lot of the writing that reaches the screen is not what you put on the page necessarily. It’s what passes through the team filter and the show runner’s re-drafts that makes it onto the screen. So, it’s much more like you are on a team, which I really enjoyed.
That’s cool man. I just watched the pilot and noticed a running image of your work: The human centipede.
GM: (laughing) You know I haven’t seen Human Centipede. I can’t watch horror movies.
LOL. Well my guess is that those forms of one long continuous being, which looks like a centipede, is your visual description of a self, moving through time, which you said you learned in Kathmandu in 1994 as how things actually are. How does this experience still interact with your life?
GM: We can’t see any direction in time. We can’t see back, and we can’t see forward. We can remember back and imagine forward, but that’s it. We’re trained to feel like ‘individuals’ so we don’t actually see ourselves as the extended processes that we are, shapeshifters who transform through decades from small, plump baby things to large and horny muscular teenagers, to hard-working, middle age adults, and finally desiccated seniors dying on beds. If we sped that up and showed one human life over ten minutes, it would be a body horror werewolf transformation more outrageous and horrifying than any seen onscreen.
But to me it’s like the color of the sky, it’s so self-evident that to see a bird fly past the window is to imagine its skipping solid trail through the medium of time. In time we are all connected, there’s just no denying that. There’s nothing mystical about any of this. I’m talking about stuff that is simply real.
Imagination can give you the ability to look backwards and forward. So, when you run it backwards, think how your grown-up mature body was once smaller, less massive, less capable of interacting with the environment – that’s real. Run it back to the beginnings of life on earth ad it’s clear that we all are one thing. A singular organism made of many parts, just like a human body with its billions of individual skin cells – which die and fall from the body every day.
So, what does that mean? If people learned this in school, if we understood and accepted, we were all the same fucking thing(!) it might help prevent the collapse into mad division that’s occurring, just now. It’s just a matter of perspective that could change everything.
But the organism we’re part of might be sick, who knows? When cells in a body turn against one another and the system that supports them starts breaking down, it’s cancer…
You had the gnostic experience. To just hear it or read it is one thing but when you have the experience that seems to be the most convincing thing.
GM: Well, it seems to become self-evident. It’s really like someone turns your head around in Plato’s cave and you realize that there’s a light and someone’s doing shadow figures with their fingers. Once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. And it’s ‘Oh, of course’! Of course! There’s no denying it. But I guess to have that experience is its own confirmation. It’s like living by the sea all your life, then having to explain that to someone living inland who’s never seen the ocean and doesn’t believe an ocean could exist because they’ve never seen one.
To me it can be confirmed intellectually by just thinking about time and how you are embedded in time. You know you had to be six years old to be here. So, where the hell is ‘being six’? Well, being six exists in a time direction that you can’t see or point to, but it’s still there. To misunderstand that is equivalent to flying from Los Angeles to London then, after touching down at Heathrow, insisting that Los Angeles no longer exists!
And once you’re truly aware of time as the medium through which we transmit our physical signal, then there is no denying that your personal track winds its way back into your mum and she goes back to her mum and it all goes back to that single dividing cell 3 and a half billion years ago. To me, that’s just basic mechanical shit. That’s not mysticism. I’m not interested in ghosts and spirit worlds. If I’m going to have transcendence, I want to be able to touch it.
Swervin’ back to Brave New World. One other thing I liked about that show was the AI system called Indra which must be a reference to the concept of Indra’s Net.
GM: And as you know the drug in the show is Soma, which is Huxley’s creation. I just figured if Huxley named the drug Soma… if he had predicted AI, which is one thing he didn’t predict, I think he would have stuck with the Sanskrit and called it Indra.
Indra was my notion for explaining a lot of stuff that didn’t make sense in Huxley’s book. Why are there Epsilons? Why does the World State need a labor force? The book is about the consequences of capitalist mass production, mass consumption, mass destruction, because Huxley had moved to Hollywood and he’d seen the consumer society in full flood and witnessed the world of glamorous unreality — the talkies — which was happening. The whole thing is his attempt to deal with the impact of Ford and Hollywood. As I said, the one thing he didn’t think of was AI. So, the question became how could you make sense of a lot of the things he didn’t make sense of?
And the idea came up of having a computer network that ran on human brains. We have all those neurons and all that capacity there. So instead of having a central server, the computer is a distributed network that runs on the brains of everyone in the World State. That was designed to solve the problem created by Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking who were both terrified that AI was going to rise up and take over, steal our jobs, and occupy our homes in a kind of immigration nightmare gone sci-fi.
So, I thought, what if you made a computer network that required human brains to run on? It wouldn’t make sense to kill us. It wouldn’t want to kill us. But what it might do is organize us more efficiently. So that might explain a lot of the stuff Huxley didn’t bother to deal with.
The network starts to self-organize and it creates this homeostatic caste system, like a hive. It stratifies people and what it gives them in return is happiness. In Brave New World, the ultimate commodity is happiness. There’s no love, no money, but if you could make everyone happy even if they’re up to their necks in shit, then you’ve won. That was the idea. To create a computer network that doesn’t want to kill people. So, the reason why there are Epsilons — the reason people do jobs and manual labor, is because the computer needs its components to be fit and healthy. Rather than mechanize them, with everyone just slobbing out, it needs citizens to be super fit. So, they are always having sex, they are always playing sport, they are always working. They have pointless jobs that encourage them to be fit and healthy. That was the idea. The Indra network solved a lot of problems and I think it was one of the elegant additions to Huxley’s original.
Then who created the network in the story? Who gave birth to the AI?
GM: Well, that was the original ten Controllers who started the World State. In Huxley’s book, there’s an anthrax pandemic that kills 2/3 of the world population and there’s only a couple of billion or whatever left. And everyone else gets together and forms a world scientific, anti-religious state because the killer plague was largely caused by political and religious conflict. So suddenly the World State arises to ensure that people won’t screw up so badly ever again. In our version, America is the only country that secedes from the World State. In Huxley, the Savage lands is just a Santa Fe reservation, a pueblo culture. In this version, the Savage Lands is all of North America. The idea was to imagine America 300 hundred years after the fall. People are sick, and the environment is fucked and there’s been six presidents in the last five months, and it costs three thousand dollars to buy a Mars Bar! America’s decision not to join the World State has brought the country to the brink of ecological, economical, and societal collapse. In this version, I think we got a richer background than even the original.
Let’s talk about The Invisibles tv show. Do you want to be the show runner? How much of a say are you going to have over the final product of The Invisibles?
GM: Honestly, as much as I can, but I would never want to be a showrunner. I just don’t want to do that job. You have to dedicate your entire life to the show. I’m kind of too old and I do too many other things to want to concentrate on one idea for the years it can take to make a TV show. So, I’m always going to have to work with someone. It worked so far with Happy! where Patrick MacManus and Brian Taylor did the heavy-lifting production-wise, and with Brave New World, David Weiner was a great collaborator.
With The Invisibles, it’s closer to home for me and I’m trying to keep as much of a grip on the material until that moment of having to hand it over to someone else and accepting that it will change. I think because it’s so unique to me and some of the ideas in it haven’t appeared anywhere else, there is a little bit more control. But yeah man, I’m three drafts in on the script and I like to think it’s getting better all the time. I still can’t talk about who it’s with now. It’s not with UCP, which it was at one point. Beyond that, it’s going well. It’s been fun. I’ve just been enjoying learning how to write in a different way. I love doing this now. Imagining an actor saying the lines and what it might look like. It’s giving me a completely different buzz from the comic stuff.
Would you ever consider directing?
GM: Nah, again. I don’t want to. Although having said that, I do have one short film to my name – I was asked to write and direct a short film as part of the 42 One Dream Rush project in 2010. The brief was that it had to be just 42 seconds long and based on a dream. David Lynch did one; Kenneth Anger, Asia Argento, and a bunch of other genuine directors and alternative artists, so I was in decent company. My film is an end-of-the-world epic called ‘The 42-Second Minute’ which is just a close-up on a clock! That’s my entire directorial resume right there. That’s enough for me on IMDB.
In December 2019, Deadline announced that your partner on Happy! Brian Taylor was going to be the showrunner for Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’ Illuminatus! as a TV show.
There seem to all these great stories of my youth now being made into television shows
GM: I think there’s a bunch of challenging stuff coming out and these shows add to that. I think people are looking for new myths to help us make sense of the curious times we’re in. I think you need those kinds of stories and works that are coming at our problems from all angles. Think of the opening of Illuminatus! and it’s though the eyes of a squirrel and through George Dorn and a bunch of other characters. There’s a multi-prismatic viewpoint of the world. And I think the minute they can start capturing that sort of thing in TV, showing it through the eyes of all kinds of different characters with different viewpoints and different world view and reality tunnels, it will be pretty interesting.
It’s the fractalization of the media — that’s what made it all possible. There was a time you just couldn’t get away with any of this. I remember a time I was pitching Doom Patrol to Warner’s and their response was that this is ‘wackadoodle’ and now it’s one of their best and most successful shows. And it’s totally based off the stuff that me and Richard Case did with that comic 30 years ago. Stuff people told me would never be adapted, could never be adapted. I think that the success of things like Doom Patrol, or Umbrella Academy or The Boys shows the way that people’s imaginations have been expanded by more fantastic or quirky shows, opening the doors to wilder and more personal stuff.
Speaking of this new myth and ethos, for a few years now you have been speaking about the Aeon of Ma’at. Is this the strongest current you see in humanity these days?
GM: It’s still a subcurrent at the moment, as the patriarchal Aeon of Osiris bows out kicking and screaming but I think it’s the only one that gives us any chance of survival right now. It’s not like this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. For me these ideas are interesting metaphors; they’re filters, and I find that if I apply this particular filter suggested by Kenneth Grant and Crowley it allows me to see things in a different relationship, which is very creatively rewarding if nothing else. Viewing the world through the filter of these Thelemic notions, what’s happening right now all around us suddenly becomes not only obvious but almost predictable.
It’s important to emphasize that this is not something to ‘believe’ in. This is a metaphor and not a belief system. But new metaphors can change whole cultures as we know from our history.
Crowley said that the general tenor of the last six thousand years of human civilization could be summed up by the personalities of a family of Egyptian gods. And the first two thousand years up to the birth of Christ, this was the Age of Isis, the Mother Goddess, where people were hunter/gatherers or early agrarians living off the land, relying on ‘Mother Earth’, the seasons and the tides. So, the next Aeon from Christ onward is the Aeon of Osiris, the dying and resurrected god. Osiris is also the law giver and he brings with him the written word, so now ideas can be enshrined in books and books can outlast generations and they take on the aura of gods themselves.
God himself is present in the works of the Bible. God himself is present in the Quran. So certainly, there’s this programming code language, the instructional Dad language, which can take people over just from reading a book and turn them into agents of the Dad god’s expansionist, controlling agenda. This is when Nature goes from provider to something that exists to be tamed and exploited. That’s the Aeon of Osiris.
Following Osiris, comes this fiery breakdown, the child Horus is the son of Osiris and he’s every jihadi, every warrior, every rock star reformer, every young man who sees as his sacred mission the tearing down of structures, the questioning of rules. It’s punk rock, “I gotta tear it all down.” But running in tandem with that, according to Kenneth Grant, is the shadow Aeon of Ma’at, Horus’ sister and she’s the goddess of truth and balance and harmony and all that Wonder Woman stuff.
For me, having gone through the Abyss of Daath in the Thelema structure of initiation — having undergone that in a really experiential and exhausting way, I found myself in the Qabbalistic sphere of Binah, and the entire world suddenly looked very different and made sense in different configurations which re-energized the work I’d been doing.
So, I decided to accept that the Aeon of Ma’at was coming down fast and I tried to align all my thinking with that, which provided me with a new bunch of metaphors and ways of framing the world. Imagine all this division and deconstruction was just a corridor we’re passing through. All the fractioning and separation —that’s typical of Horus. We can see the hand of Horus in the modern-day tearing down of monuments and statues. He’s kicking the fuck out of formerly stable systems all around the world. That’s exactly what you would expect of this spirit that Crowley said manifested first in 1913. But for me, I think he made his presence felt quite clearly on 9/11.
You can easily organize the evidence to suggest that there is an Aeon of Horus occurring now. Where systems are being taken down, where everything’s being questioned and audited, and the past is subject to major revision. So, there’s also some fun to be had in thinking “Ok, if this is actually playing out in some symbolic fashion, then what might the Aeon of Ma’at look like, artistically?’
And to me it looks like the rise of marginalized voices, it looks like more women coming into the discourse. It looks like trans people coming into the discourse. It looks like all the opportunities for groups who were disempowered by the Patriarchy, who couldn’t speak before to have their say.
Ma’at – what would her signature disease be? Well it might be a distributed network, a viral malady that could attack all of humanity. What would happen if she emptied the houses of the old gods as a show of possibility? You remember at the height of the first lockdown, all the churches were empty, all the sports stadiums were empty, all the mosques were empty, all the temples were empty. So, the Dad god had nowhere to go.
In Britain, I know, and I’m sure in America, there was a strange uprising of praise for care workers. People would go out every Thursday here and bang on pots and pans and basically thank the nurturing spirt, this caring spirit, for its very existence. It was a very religious, ritualistic thing that we were all doing. That’s Ma’at right there. Then there’s mother nature with hurricanes tearing down borders, storms ravaging everyone’s homes. It all suddenly makes sense in a new context if you use the filter of Ma’at to look at the world. For me, I’ve found some creative applications for it, like in Brave New World and the Wonder Woman comic that I’ve done.
Let’s talk about Magick. How does one get better at it?
GM: By doing it on a regular basis! It’s like a martial art or a musical talent. If you dedicate yourself to learning and practice, if you read other magician’s accounts, if you pay attention, then you start to notice details that the less engaged will miss and this allows you to do things that other people may regard as magical or even supernatural. Just like a stage conjurer, or a great guitarist, or a gifted actor or artist can do. It’s just about really paying attention and doing the work to see what happens. It’s just a way of looking at things in a fresh light and then working with this augmented version of reality in ways that can appear supernatural. One of magic’s main attractions involves bringing things into being, from the conception or thought all the way to solid materiality. Making the insubstantial tangible.
But there’s also a whole other thing. Magic is about deliberately inducing unusual states of consciousness. Some of these states of consciousness have been called gods because they feel super organized and positive, and some of them can be called demons because they feel chaotic, violent, hateful and perverted or whatever. That’s part of magic. It’s as simple as how can you create different states of consciousness? Magic uses spells or rituals, some developed over many centuries, to stimulate specific focused states of consciousness, whether demonic or angelic or god like. Psychedelics and hallucinogens have been used by shamans for the same purpose.
And the written word along with the expression of it are all magic. In the sense that words themselves hold such tremendous power.
GM: If you can limit the language you can reduce the scope of a conjuror. George Orwell warns us about that in the appendices to 1984. If you restrict the language, if you make it impossible to express abstract ideas, then you put boundaries on people’s ability to think creatively or communicate certain concepts. It does work. Words shouldn’t have the kind of power and meaning that we attribute to them but most of us grew up in the Aeon of Osiris, where words have been really important and fundamental to human progress. Words mean the law, words mean the Bible, or the Constitution, words define the divine rules by which we abide. The 10 Commandments.
As any writer can tell you; words are just things that dance around when you play with them. They can mean all kinds of different things. They bring with them the distortions of interpretation where the words of Christ – ‘love your enemies’ – can be twisted to motivate bloody genocidal Crusades. I think Wilson was trying to undermine people’s fear of the perceived authority and power of words as things in themselves.
For sure. There are some big words that have been added to the dictionary over the last 20 years, specifically Beyonce’s ‘bootylicious.’
GM: Well exactly, there you go man. But still I don’t exactly know what it’s describing, but I can almost taste it!
Adding on the to the notion of words and symbols being charged with magic, they have also been charged through the increasing amounts of propaganda over the course of the 20th Century and into today. Isn’t that something that RAW is constantly reminding readers, that propaganda is real, and lots of it feeds off your base emotions, like anger and fear. Most people don’t recognize that cuz they haven’t seen the FNORDS!
GM: It’s more like people’s sense of the immense energy compressed into certain words. It’s not the word itself – as Wilson reminds us ‘fuck’ is a ‘bad’ word but it doesn’t sound much different from ‘folk’, a ‘good’ word, and it means the same as ‘coitus’, another ‘good’ word. So where exactly does the wickedness and dirtiness of ‘fuck’ reside?
Words become fetishized for reasons good or bad and the more fetishized they are, the more taboo they become, which confers an aura of outlaw sexiness that attracts some people to them.
Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Bob Wilson himself, all made a point of saying that words should not be given this kind of power because once they have this power, they can become fetishized and weaponized. If you de-power a word then it can’t be used to trigger other people in the same reliable way, but we’re just not in that phase, with the dislocated politics of culture right now. I think people got it right to take down some of these structures right now and perhaps it’s okay to retire certain radioactive, abusive terms as long as we make sure we’re creating new words in other areas.
As a for instance, when I was a kid there were no words to describe certain aspects of my own experience. I’ve been non-binary, cross-dressing, ‘gender queer’ since I was 10 years old, but the available terms for what I was doing and how I felt were few and far between. We had ‘transsexual’ and ‘transvestite’ both of which sounded like DSM classifications rather than lifestyle choices! I didn’t want to be labelled as medical aberration because that’s not how it felt, nor was it something cut-and-dried and done. I didn’t want to ‘transition’ or embody my ‘female’ side exclusively, so I had no idea where I fit in.
Terms like ‘genderqueer’ and ‘non-binary’ only came into vogue in the mid-90s. So kids like me had very limited ways of describing our attraction to drag and sexual ambiguity. Nowadays there’s this whole new vocabulary, allowing kids to figure out exactly where they sit on the ‘color wheel’ of gender and sexuality, so I think it’s OK to lose a few contentious words when you are creating new ones that offer a more finely-grained approach to experience.
When we make the jump to a non-Roman-alphabet-based emoji language for purposes of radio telepathic communication, things will change once more.
This conversation of neutralizing the charge from taboo words is also a premise of RAW’s Ishtar Rising, which you wrote the introduction of the newest reprinting of the book by Hilaritas Press. Also, in that book, Wilson explores the mythical trope of the underground journey, something explored and unpacked in nearly all his books.
Joseph Campbell has some cool stuff to say about the Underground Journey, mainly that in all his studies of world myths he had observed two types of underground journey stories. One type was when the underground swallows up a poor soul like the whale did to Jonah. When this happens, the sole purpose of the seeker is to just survive the ordeal and return to the surface in one piece. The second type of journey through the underground occurs when the hero or heroine must descend into the depths and kill a monster. Campbell mentions one myth where the hero must slay a dragon then drink its blood to gain its power and move on and continue their quest. Campbell associates this killing of the dragon and drinking its blood as an integration of our shadows into our psyches. By integrating these elements of ourselves we then gain the sort of personal power needed to live a joyful and energetically engaged life.
GM: Yeah, and the story of the underground journey in Britain often involves someone finding a cave where he sees all of King Arthur’s knights asleep just waiting for the time of England’s greatest need when they will have to rise up and fight the final battle against evil. So that’s a more passive version of the story. Someone goes in and finds these sleeping warriors. That’s the personal power, that’s the higher self that will arise when you need it most.
Wilson has a dark side version of this exact legend at the end of Illuminatus with the undead Nazi battalions awaiting their orders to rise from Lake Totenkopf and reclaim the world!
What advice do you have for the magicians out there who have a story to tell and want to storm the reality studio?
GM: Tell a different story. Tell a fresh story that speaks to its times and the people around you. A story that offers possibilities, exit strategies, rather than apocalypse and ruin. I can’t see that there’s anything else…
In the Wonder Woman book I’m doing, for instance, I’ve actively avoided writing the boy hero story that’s so ubiquitous as to seem inescapable — the familiar story of the One, the champion, the Joseph Campbell monomyth thing that drives so many Hollywood movies and YA stories. We’ve seen it. The Lion King. The callow youth loses mom or dad, or his comfortable place in the tribe, and he has to fight his way back to save the kingdom from its corrupt old leader, before claiming the captive princess and becoming the new king and… ad infinitum. The Circle of Life if it only applied to boys. I thought, where is the mythic heroine’s story? In Ishtar Rising, Wilson talks about the myth of Inanna, and how she goes down into Hell and has to give up everything of herself to gain the wisdom and experience she can bring back to her tribe. Privileging the network rather than the sovereign individual.
And so, as I thought about the differences between the hero’s and the heroine’s journey, it gave me a bunch of different modes to work in. Finding ways to avoid telling the boy hero story again was quite liberating. It just gave me a bunch of new ideas, an interesting new way of telling stories that didn’t rely on the framework of the hero’s journey that Campbell talks about.
Playing the devil’s advocate here. Today there is a lot of fervor around identity, and there is one strong of thought that people can never truly understand what it is like walking in the shoes of others. Some may ask why a white man would seek to tell the story of a woman, from her perspective, instead of just sticking to what he knows, being a man.
How authentically real is that character or story, etc.?
GM: It’s important to air these feelings for debate. I must admit, with all respect, that I completely disagree with the idea that we cannot understand one another.
Firstly, there’s a major obvious problem about coming at things from this perspective — if fundamentally, we cannot truly know or have any meaningful opinion on what it feels like to be X, then we may as well stop listening to anything anyone else has to say about their personal experience, on the basis that it can only be irrelevant to our specific lives!
If I can never truly understand you without walking in your shoes and vice versa, what’s the point of listening or talking to anyone about our experience? What’s the point of writing stories, or protesting, or making art if experience cannot by its nature be communicated and understood by anyone who has not shared the experience of the artist, or the writer?
I think we all know it doesn’t really work that way in the real world. We don’t need to be a thing to have some understanding of how it operates. People can be great veterinarians without personally experiencing the day-to-day inner lives of dogs and cats. I can read Solzhenitsyn and shed empathic tears for the inmates of the Gulag without having to reprise their exact experience.
To think otherwise might be, I suspect, a symptom of narcissism painted into its inevitable corner, its private echo chamber – destructive, divided, atomized, individualistic to the point of self-abnegation – and indicative of late stage Osiris pathology.
And you know, we actually do understand one another in so many ways. We can imagine what it’s like to live someone else’s life –— or we can have our imaginations enflamed by well-told tales of other people’s lives and thrill to the ways they resonate exactly with our own lived experience. As a writer, I know this to be true.
We’ve been observing one another’s behavior and drawing conclusions since the dawn of humanity. People aren’t so complicated or new that the basic functions remain a mystery. All our plays, poems, songs and stories are a record of our attempts to understand ourselves and one another. The fact that Greek drama or Shakespeare still speaks to us is evidence that basic human nature has remained fairly consistent for thousands of years.
We figured one another out a long, long time ago.
And ultimately, I’ll say again, we are all the same organism. What we’re seeing is ring fingers fighting with thumbs, eyelashes screaming that eyebrows can never understand them! To point that out is probably an anathema in this current time of narcissistic inflation but it will be understood as a fact of nature in the end.
Maybe I’m wrong and we’re all fucked because humans are a kind of cancer-creature and our only purpose is to destroy each other and all other lifeforms on our planet… there’s still time for Agent Smith to be proved right!
I think everyone should have to imagine what it’s like to be someone else. We can all learn from one other but that means communicating; that means starting with the assumption we do have a common basis for genuine understanding even if our specific circumstances can never be repeated or totally understood by anyone other than ourselves. We all hurt, we all feel joy, we all get turned on, or scared. We all experience loss, and lack of self-worth and feel badly treated by the world at times.
And I understand why everyone should talk and tell stories from their own position you know but it’s also very useful – and a major human talent – to imagine how other people feel and consider how the world might look through their eyes.
And you do that by staying informed, listening to voices even when you disagree with them –—and by employing empathy and imagination to put yourself in their place as best as you’re able.
These are difficult times. I’m not a guru. I don’t know what to say to make it all better. There’s seven in a half billion people and it often seems they all fucking hate each other! Yet they all want everyone else to agree with their tiny, restricted, localized points of view. And they’ve all got a piece of ground to defend against perceived foes. I get it, but ultimately, we’re all one thing, one massive organism that’s going through difficult growing pains at the moment, so maybe we need to start thinking about what makes us alike, rather than different.
I hope so
GM: Well, this is part of the boiling process. Capitalist consumer culture has clearly reached its limits and we either advance to a more efficient, stable, less suicidal and aggressive engagement with other people and our environment or we go extinct as a species, taking all the whales and tigers and gorillas with us, before we even figured out how to talk to them and hear their stories! There are few options remaining.
The current questioning, the judgmental audit of where we are and how we got here, is a Horus thing. We can only hope we sublimate from here via Ma’at into something more nurturing and sustainable.
It is a hot moment. Temperatures are rising, Artic ice caps are melting at an alarming rate, and people may be unconsciously registering all that, and doing a horrible job at it. Instead of dealing with one’s own sense of panic, constriction, and fear it looks like many people are just running hot.
GM: I feel like every word we say is now a potential indictment, you know. The last malignant thrashing of the passing Aeon of Osiris. The echoes of the Inquisition, accusations of ‘wrongthink’, the return of Original Sin, the demonic glee taken in any stumble or falter from the approved path seems almost mediaeval. It’s terrifying. The potential for misunderstanding is almost infinite and its almost fated that we will struggle to abide by rules that grow ever more authoritarian and specific every day. Again, all that feels to me like the last ferocious attempts at asserting its fading power by the Osiris energy of the last 2000 years, now gone rotten and unsustainable but trying harder to keep everything and everybody under increasingly deranged levels of control in every area of our lives.
Writers and artists can find more reasons to stop their expression than ever before it seems. The voice of criticism and judgement is easier to find these days, just doom scroll through various social media sites and it’s all over the place.
GM: I regard it all as new input. As tough as it is, there’s an excitement. It’s making me think, it’s making me question myself and my assumptions, it’s making me write different things. I love ideas that challenge my thinking — even if I don’t agree with them in the end.
What are your thoughts on Simulation Theory these days?
GM: I was reading New Scientist recently and one of the correspondents on the letters page threw out this random idea that really resonated with me. The writer was saying that if we live in a simulation then perhaps the world in the past was not as detailed or as high fidelity as it we experience it now! There have been upgrades, developments. In computer game terms, think of the difference between Space Invaders and Red Dead Redemption 2!
And I thought, wow, wouldn’t that be funny if, you know, those medieval painters with the flat landscapes and no perspective, what if they were accurately representing an earlier, more simplistic iteration of our simulated reality? What if they were simply portraying what the world actually looked like in the early stages of the simulation! What if these artists were recording what they saw and that’s how it looked?
Suddenly I saw the history of art in a whole new light! I thought how cool it would be if the cave paintings at Lascaux represented caveman reality perfectly – that’s how the simulated world really looked in an early development of the simulation when we were all just stick figures with antlers and the animals were sketchy semi-abstracts…
I love that idea; that the simulation is becoming more complex and well-rendered as it goes along – and we can see where it’s been.
It almost seems like it will become harder to break the Matrix as it becomes more refined, nuanced and easier to mistake for reality. It is interesting looking at the Simulation theory with the idea of calling it a metaphor for the same thing that the Gnostics came up with.
GM: Yeah, the idea that the universe is a counterfeit created not by god but by some sort of underling of god… that was the gnostic idea. It’s not so much about breaking the Matrix, I feel it’s more about learning to work with it. In the movie, once Neo figures out how it works, he becomes a magician, a superhero. The counterfeit world in the movie seems much more fun than the real one.
Can magic be a useful tool for navigating VR and AR in IRL?
GM: Yeah, because magic is just about adding meaning or enchantment to the environment and to your life. Magic spices up everything; it’s like hot sauce! Once you add magic, the universe comes to life and starts to dance with you. If you choose to be an exploiter, a black magician, it’s more like a lap dance but otherwise it’s a tango! As I’ve said before, it’s easy to add magic to things. If you decide a certain stone could use some magic power, then carry it with you long enough and it will become first a good luck talisman and will finally accrue the significance and meaning of a Holy Grail if it’s given enough time and attention. So, the more meaning you can add to experience, the more magical it will seem. It’s not difficult or ‘occult’ at all. Magic makes everything more exciting, rich and alive and that’s its job. The more magic you can create around something the more special your interaction with it will feel.