Before I was interviewing Outsider Artists and Occultists about their personal folklores on PRAGMAGICK, I drafted written interviews with some major luminaries.
Here’s my wonderfully in-depth interview with Author and Occultist MATTHEW LEVI STEVENS who had written the book THE MAGICAL UNIVERSE OF WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS around the time of this interview (Spring 2016).
We discuss everything from his time in TOPY (Temple of Psychick Youth) and the influence of Genesis P. Orridge (Psychic TV, Throbbing Gristle), Austin Osman Spare & Aleister Crowley, COIL and, of course, the magick of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin…
FROM THE INTRODUCTION:
“I have an overtly referential mind, bursting at the seams in hyper regurgitations of eccentric facts and esoteric quotes. It’s a problem, in many ways, sure. My alienating imdb-page-of-a-brain really helps people sort out their conversational priorities, quickly… It’s also helped to push through the awkward conversation and/or hollow discussion. Though, a much more significant use of it, albeit more personal than academic (as if any of my citations were worth college credit), has really pulled me through some bogus bouts with the beast: The ability to store influences (especially persons of) and conjure their will to push on creating, no matter the cost.
That part of my brain, where all my influences convene (both gone and still thriving) is not unlike the Joshua Tree Inn of an inter-dimensional ghost-town, hidden in the vast deserts of theta-state purgatory, nestled on the edge of space and time (mind palace, anyone?)… artists mostly come to stay, but evictions have also occurred (looking at you, Vincent Gallo). More so than the ability to cite these ghosts, the daily purpose of this mental-mentor-reserve is to never cease the investigation of why I am so affected by their individual manifestations of truth. There is the occasional dark-out when they are summoned as a “Spare Spell” for guidance to help exorcise a difficult time; often just by revisiting their work I can invoke the drive to transcend, and that… that is magick.
Some of the great godheads (meant to be pluralized) in my “mind palace” are (in no order) Robert Anton Wilson, Austin Osman Spare, Tom Wolfe, Thomas Pynchon, Sir Richard Bishop, Henry Miller, Richard Hell, Terrance McKenna, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Bowie – Byron – and Genesis P. Orridge. The last two, by no coincidence, are extremely prominent in my interviewee’s alchemy as well, with some of the others influential and probably kept in his reserve as well!
Though, he, Matthew Levi Stevens, got a room at that inter-dimensional brain hotel o’ mine rather quickly. I was introduced to his work a half year ago, and we began corresponding over the last two months!
I stumbled on Stevens’ Reality Sandwich article (one fateful night) that examined William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s inter-dimensional communions and psionic experiments into ad hoc artistic techniques (the “cut/up”, invention of the “dream machine”, etc); eschewing traditional practices of creation and those mired in banal methods for those of the more supernatural. Stevens’ articles reinvigorated my life-long zest for weird Burroughs myths, and he composed these meditation with such wit and charm – I was a fan. I was not alone – these literary slivers led to Stevens scribing, what I deem to be, the definitive analysis of Burroughs’ occult investigations: THE MAGICAL UNIVERSE OF WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS (Mandrake Books). Definitive by means of wonderfully thorough, a feat for a work of non-fiction that hues, earnestly, of a subjective resolve. Though that resolve wasn’t wholly imaginative: He and Burroughs specifically chatted about Magick. I will say, Stevens’ reveal of the writer’s childhood and familial relationship to the paranormal is worth the price of the book, alone!”
Keats Ross (2016)