Looking for the last links of thought to complete a chain and find release


I've been trying to remember back to how I used to write, the enclosed atmosphere of a long project. My serious interest in writing emerged 20 years ago out of a fascination with cut-up, the technique described by William S Burroughs and Brion Gysin in The Third Mind. I wrote a very peculiar novel that came out of this deliberate fragmentation process, around 1982 to 1984. I called it Ape Calypso, an anagram of Apocalypse. It no longer exists, I burnt it at some point in the late 80s. This novel was about alien encounter and was autobiographical, except that the events I was writing about usually happened a few months after I described them.

I was growing Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms in my bedroom at the time, cutting up Revelation, Finnegans Wake, Edgar Allen Poe stories, and others. I was living on a weird edge, in that what I was writing about, even though it was bizarre, was actually happening. Though cut-up is a bit of a deadend for a sustained work, its power to bring through obsessional fascination (Crowley said fascination was the key to magick, remember), and also act as an oracle, not to mention the odd stunningly beautiful sentence that dropped out, made cut-up a great learning ground. Fragmentation of narrative has been a long-term interest for me, and later it proved its worth when I managed to piece together the hidden narrative in the Book of Changes that lead to The Mandate of Heaven. One phrase that dropped into my lap during my early cut-up experiments seemed to describe the process itself: 'Sucking secrets out of sentences like venom from a snakebite.'

Perhaps I should have kept Ape Calypso, it was like the fragmented memories of a man who suddenly comes to consciousness with a gash on his head and blood dribbling down his face and he attempts to reconstruct what has led up to this moment, memories swirling around a bright light in the sky and a sensation of being lifted up in the air, yet all around him is the evidence to rationalise what must have happened and make it something far less extraordinary than his memories appear to be telling him.

Yeah, maybe I should have kept it, but I was just starting out writing, it was the work I learned to write on, and I needed to move on. This work laid out on the page for me to read some taste of that madness, the extreme fragmentation of the narrative being a true reflection of my own state of mind at the time. Keeping the work around me kept me in that fragmentation. When I was playing around with demons in my occult experimentation phase, this fragmentation was useful to me. (This was what I regarded as 'chaos magick' but which most people attempt these days – and then as well – without factoring in absolute chaos, in fact, let's face it, these days there aren't very many real occultists at all, people have lost their daring, or never had it in the first place.) When I wanted to move on, however, I felt I needed to discard the fragmentation physically, to integrate through destruction. The burning of the novel I had laboured on was just a part of a wholesale burning of a life that I no longer wanted. But everything we discard leaves a residue, perhaps as an ability, so I have never regretted vandalism of my own creative output. In a way, Ape Calypso was published in my own life as an experiential mind-fuck. And that led on to other things.

These days, I can access that level of fragmentation quite easily without making myself an apocalyptic acid wreak. And disperse it when it's served me. The fragmentation of which I speak you could indeed regard as C[h]oronzon. The Demon C[h]oronzon was one of the main subjects of KAOS 14. Part of me dreads taking on board again any facet of C[h]oronzon, this demon is not to be messed with. But, on the other hand, he doesn't exist, he is just a figment. The hard part is bringing that back to recollection once engulfed within him. In many ways, I've spent the past couple of decades learning that hard part, but it's still a risk. On the other hand, what is fiction if it cannot evoke a real experience?

There are very few novels I can be bothered to read. I have let this put me off writing one. But tucked away in this genre are novels by people who are doing something else than starting a story with a line such as: 'The telephone rang. It was the president…' Like who gives a shit? Yet it's easy to fool yourself that this is what a novel is, some hopelessly constructed charade of cardboard characters moved around a board by someone with little imagination attempting to tell a story based on years of TV watching, never having read anything remotely literary. I was looking around the library this afternoon. I overheard a man who apparently couldn't have his novel renewed because someone had reserved it. He said:

'That's alright, there's thousands of others here for me.'

I thought to myself, after spending 20 minutes flicking through novels, I just see thousands of dead names, authors I don't want to read. I picked up another one, splashed on the cover: 'Book 1 of the Virex Trilogy.' Or some such crap. Just a lot of books I have no interest in at all. I do not see the library as containing thousands of books for me to read, on the contrary I see it containing one or two books, now and again, that I might want to read.

But though initially depressed by this ocean of crap novels, walking home I thought: 'Is this further encouragement to again attempt the goal that thus far has eluded me?' To write a novel. Unlike many of those who want to write a novel I at least do not underestimate the difficulty of the task. Mainly because I have high standards and have no interest in writing the kind of novel that apparently is popular. Oh, I've tried to write that kind of novel ('The test-tube fell to the floor. A green pungent gas crawled silently across the…' Oh puhleeze give me a break). It just doesn't interest me. The question now is: what does interest me?

Well, Schopenhauer said something interesting, I was reminded of it reading Houellebecq last night, he said that we remember our own lives only a little better than a novel we have read. I certainly find that. Many would deny that of course, only to spout some incident or other from their remembered past in the same kind of practiced sentences they have used to describe that thing before, not realising they have passed way beyond the time when they could actually engage with the memory as something that really happened to them.

To underscore this, I nearly went over the side of a mountain in an 'autoferro' train crash in Ecuador in 1982, I remember the fireflies vividly as I stumbled dazed out of the train, yet can I in all honesty say that I remember them any more vividly than the fireflies at the end of Yasunari Kawabata's novel The Lake? What is happening to us when real experiences of nearly going off mountains in trains wipe out their traces to that extent? So the thing is to realise that our notion of individuality and of having personal and unique lives is a tenuous thing, and often a dream can be experienced with more vividness than actual waking life. I am rarely 'me' in a dream, I am just a point of experience, and on waking just another one, the reality of it being 'more real' and yet duller at the same time. Usually I just try to go back to sleep, to rejoin the dream if it's possible, preferring its landscape and characters and sharp scene changes to just another bedroom awakening with daily chores ahead acting the role of a person who no longer really knows who he is or where he is going. Does that make for good television?

But this loss of personal meaning certainly interests me, the only difficulty is finding it meaningful enough to persevere in exploring it. So in beginning to gear myself up to take a crack at this long-term desire, I find myself not plotting out a beginning, a middle, and an end (though that may come later), and a cast of characters, but rather listing themes that I want to say something about through the medium of storytelling: love, disappointment, loneliness, loss of desire, our lost previous selves, the nature of memory, where our real depth is hidden and why, the fading away of the past till it dwindles so much it no longer exists even as a memory and what this could be a prelude to. You can write a treatise on those things, or you can evoke them and explore them through storytelling. This is where C[h]oronzon can come in useful to a creative writer, this demon can destroy your life and replace it, for as long as you allow it. This can be useful in examining the nature of one's personal reality. But C[h]oronzon embedded in a piece of writing can do this to the reader. Although I have no desire to write anything overtly demonic, a hackneyed approach is probably much better for that and that's beyond me. I doubt the occult will form a theme, it's merely a tool of trade to me.

Anyway, some thoughts on a bracing afternoon with the windows wide open and a chill breeze though the house in short sleeves pondering a change I am slowly shifting myself into, an opening I am creating for me to do something else. Writing in a journal about a process one is engaging with, though, is not to be mistaken for the process itself. That will require hermetic isolation. You need a long run up to do anything decent in writing, it is an evocation. I may not write further about it once it has begun in earnest, but suffice it to say that writing for me is not so much a matter of sitting at a word processor as crawling around the kitchen floor shouting why oh why at the linoleum, drawing the curtains and reverting to a bestial state, anything to shake off the mundaneness of routine, the plain surface of unengaged life, the erosion of meaning seemingly willingly accepted to take back an older way of living, that of expecting disaster at any moment, of not underestimating the fragility of our current state, to usher in the things that want me to tell them, the story I cannot as yet have a clear grasp of but that will, in opening wide my willingness to accept it, rush upon me like a ferocious animal out of peripheral vision all too real to brush away lightly. Why live my life as a damp fuse when I possess the power to turn it all about, well, there is only one reason why I, or anyone else, would do that: fear of the risk. Ah well, bite it off, spit it out, and brace yourself for jungle territory.

No more talk of intention, knuckle down and do it.

Ah, the voice speaks… has spoken all along.


Later, drinking warm Hakutsuru sake at 2 in the morning, a thousand words written elsewhere towards some storytelling idea, all I think is I may have discovered something I don't want to write about. And do I really want to write a novel anyway. I always feel like this. Many times I have wondered whether I really want to write at all. Yet to write fills a void, temporarily. I am half of the mind that if you have something to write you'll be unable to prevent yourself from writing it anyway, so what the hell does all the agonizing about it in between times really amount to. Hassle you could do without. Perhaps there is something about 'throw-away' writing, like this in this journal, that appeals to me more naturally. On the other hand, as a medium for reading, I'm not sure a website is too great. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that people more and more use the web just to look things up, and that they don't have the patience for sustained reading. You come across something by some route or other, you read it, it may even be interesting and well-written, but that's it. I rarely delve back into a blog-writer's archives, even if I like their current entry, and I must doubt that people bother to do that with mine.

I don't know, I lose track of the things I suppose are important to me. It's all very well whittering away about something and nothing here, but does it really ever get to grips with the underlying emptiness? The sense of going nowhere. I've done a few things in my life that I'm proud of, but you can't rest on your laurels. Sometimes I watch a film and think about how wonderfully written it is, or directed, or acted, and I feel pangs of wanting to create. Yet so soon after I've watched the film it is as nothing to me. It was just one and a half hours of entertainment. Books have touched me more deeply than films, you spend more time with a book, books have even touched me more deeply than actual real experience, yet books I find increasingly difficult to read. It's a real effort to crack open a book, seems like a great commitment of time. Films are easier, you know how long it's going to take.

I thankfully don't have a TV to distract me and waste my time, yet where is my time going? Sauntering around, making pots of tea, seeing people. Where is the grand theme that there used to be? Even the moments of poignancy, the profound sadnesses and joys by which I used to think I could measure the worth of my life, they seem almost manufactured, to taste some lost taste again. I am starting to feel incapable of really living, most of the things that have ever meant anything to me now feel much of a muchness. I am peering into the eye of the needle but all at once turning it round and poking it in my eye. To an extent I no longer trust myself not to make what is known in rock climbing as 'a dynamic move'. A climbing friend years ago showed me what this is. He was showing me how to scale a wall one night. He skillfully placed his toetips in crevices and cracks, curling his strong fingers round tiny gaps. He seemed to have a great knack for finding these in what to most eyes would appear to be a plain and uniform wall. Then he stopped, sprawled out on the surface, high above me. He called down:

'This is the point where a dynamic move will need to be made. I've run out of handholds and footholds. I can see a position, but to get there I need to make a dynamic move.'

'What's a dynamic move?'


He just jumped to the position, for a moment no part of his body touching the wall.

So that was a dynamic move. Similarly, although I didn't particularly intend to bring up this analogy (I never know what I'm going to write), I guess I'm saying that I too have run out of handholds and footholds. I'm stuck. So I guess I've got to scan the wall for an advancement of my position and forget how I'm going to get there for now. Yeah, okay, that's enough to be going on with. I'll work out my problems in situ, like always.

And anyway, perhaps this 'desire' to write a novel is just another of those long-forgotten sigils coming back to stake its claim. Some people are 'baby boomers', others are victims of the craze for casting sigils during the popularity of Austin Osman Spare's magical system in the 80s, condemned to fulfil years later all those desires of their youth they have long since lost interest in. It's easy to see why most occultists are fucked up, their wishes eventually came true but they never took account of losing interest along the way. In the end you start to feel how much better it would have been if you had never wanted anything. Strangely enough, I don't feel that far off from a cessation of desire right now, but it hasn't come from a desire to get there but more a desire to exhaust the possibilities first. We forget, however, that the physical deterioration of the brain may be our only fate, and death has never been anything other than a certainty. I am none the wiser, and I am probably wiser than most. Perhaps we need to talk more about life being shit, I get the feeling this is being brushed under the carpet, don't you?

On the other hand, it'll change, it always does. Strange I spend the nights staving off going to sleep, reluctant to descend into dreams, rather hang around delving in the dross for gold, and then in the mornings I stave off waking, preferring to remain in dreams and not face another day. Those who yearn for death, and those who see this life as merely a prelude to the glorious afterlife, have a point, although if they can't hack life they're fools to think they can hack an afterlife. Probably oblivion is best. Yes, I have reached a deadend, it has all led to a deadend. It's time the aliens arrived, it's got too boring for anything else. And even the aliens, two weeks of that and we'll lose interest. What on earth is going to perk us up? I've learnt to fear such times, that's when you're given something to think about, someone close to you dies and you feel once again, you razor-blade yourself out of the bodybag your life has become and feel, possibly even descend to hell. Yeah, that's what happens when you can't feel any more, when the meaning has gone from your life, God fucks you over and tells you you had it coming. That's the truth ain't it?

(smiles, exits stage left)