Experiments in Magic – Subverting Control
While reading aloud the manuscript of one of Burroughs's earlier works, Allen Ginsberg misread the phrase 'naked lust', and Kerouac pointed out that it would make a good title for a novel. Check out the trailer below. Burroughs was married twice but knew he was gay by the time he hit puberty. As a teenager he kept a diary of a crush he had on one of his schoolmates; he was later so humiliated by the diary that he gave up writing altogether for several years. Looking back on his adolescence, he said that he 'just didn't know how to do it [attract other boys] I was scared of everything, practically, and no wonder'.
But while at Harvard he got involved in the gay scene in New York, and he went on to have numerous affairs with men; even so, it was not until the publication of Naked Lunch that his sexuality became common knowledge. The Beats took their name from jazz slang of the s, and played a huge part in shaping the musical counterculture of the s. You can see Burroughs on the cover of Sgt. He was also more directly involved in music-making, recording and performing with artists including Frank Zappa, Laurie Anderson and Philip Glass. In the s, Burroughs collaborated with Kurt Cobain and R.
The result of the latter collaboration appears on the X-Files soundtrack. In the early s Burroughs joined a private detective agency, hoping to enter the noirish world of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. He was disappointed. It looked like if the Revolution was going to be televised after all, then Psychic TV were going to be first in line to put in their bid for the franchise…. But all too soon cracks began to show, and P-Orridge and Christopherson parted company: Sleazy with partner John Balance to create a whole new world of magick and music as Coil, Genesis to develop PTV increasingly in the direction of Rave music.
Each would continue finding ways to apply the cut-up methods of sampling, cut-and-paste and appropriation to the development of new music.
See a Problem?
Eventually he would come to perhaps the most radical application of his interpretation of the ideas of Burroughs and Gysin of all: Pandrogeny, in which P-Orridge and his spouse Lady Jaye would literally try and cut-up gender. When I first met William S. Burroughs in London at the time of The Final Academy series of events in , I asked him about magic, and whether he would care to recommend any books on the subject.
Even towards the end of his life, William S. His adoption of the ancient Egyptian model of the Seven Souls, continuing development of a very personalised myth of Hasan-i Sabbah and the Assassins of Alamut, made him of increasing interest and relevance to the new occultists who were emerging from successive generations of counter-culture that Burroughs had helped to shape through the example of his Life and Work.
There was also still the loss, the pain, and — perhaps more than ever — the Ugly Spirit. After settling in Lawrence, Kansas — a small university town, far from the distractions and temptation of New York, and very much a reminder of his mid-Western background in St. A full sweat-lodge purification ceremony was arranged in an attempt to evict the Ugly Spirit, which was described by the shaman as:. A spirit with a white skull face, but no eyes, and sort of… wings. If you see it, you gain control of it. In the early s, the elderly Burroughs was initiated into the Illuminates of Thanateros, the leading Chaos Magic group.
Perhaps this was not such a surprising development. Chaos Magic clearly felt a debt to Burroughs and his peers, sharing many of the same concerns as Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth: demystifying magic, yet at the same time distilling the best from Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare, while taking advantage of the latest ideas emerging in computers, maths, physics and psychology.
Burroughs is available from Mandrake of Oxford. To order go here: mandrake.
For our reproduction notice, click here. Search for:. He was aware that an integral part of that universe was that there were inimical — even hostile — forces that threaten us, that may need to be bargained with and from time-to-time appeased, and that one of the dangers posed is that of possession: My concept of possession is closer to the medieval model than to modern psychological explanations, with their dogmatic insistence that such manifestations must come from within and never, never, never from without as if there were some clear-cut difference between inner and outer.
The simple truth is that William Burroughs had always been a scribbler: in numerous articles and interviews he describes at length his literary efforts from childhood on, and the somewhat precocious sense that the bookish, physically awkward, shy young Billy had of himself as an aspirant writer — an image that was as hopelessly Romantic as it was coloured by a flouting of moral convention: As a young child I wanted to be a writer because writers were rich and famous.
As William Burroughs put it again and again throughout his career: As soon as you walk down the street… or look out the window, turn a page, turn on the TV — your awareness is being cut: that sign in the shop window, that car passing by, the sound of the radio… Life IS a cut-up. This was like the seemingly arbitrary content of dreams, which lead Burroughs to speculate: Perhaps events are pre-written and pre-recorded and when you cut word lines the future leaks out. In Here to Go: Planet R , Brion Gysin described how Burroughs would work with the material — and I think his choice of words is instructive: On the wall hangs a nest of three wire-trays for correspondence which I gave him to sort out his cut-up pages.
William S. Burroughs was a writer – not a painter, prophet, philosopher | The Spectator
It is in fact informative to compare this with a statement Burroughs made himself, in which his comparison of cut-ups with mediumship is explicit: Cut ups often come through as code messages with special meaning for the cutter. He felt his own travels in exotic parts had opened his eyes to a Bigger Picture: Now anyone who has lived for any time in countries like Morocco where magic is widely practiced has probably seen a curse work.
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