By Barry Kavanagh, 17 October 2000
Austin Osman Spare. I once wrote an article about what I called “trance artists”, like Rosaleen Norton and him. I don’t think it was a great article. One of the reasons is I didn’t mention drugs. He was in Crowley’s Argentum Astrum. They were using mescaline, weren’t they, to trigger – ?
– Yeah. Was it ana luini mescaline or peyote, that was what they always called that ana lu – I could never remember the medical name for it that they were always using but yeah, they were using drugs. Magic, as far as I can understand, since the dawn of time has been largely been predicated upon drug use.
Yeah, that is how to trigger the visions and so on.
Well, the shamans were using –
– You could starve yourself, that’s another way of doing it.
Anything that is going to – I mean, I presume that certain acts of violence, certain sexual acts, starving yourself, scourging yourself, there are a lot of ways that you can get into a funny state. Drums, dancing, but drugs, drugs are probably pretty reliable if they don’t actually kill you and they’ve certainly been around for an awful long time. The earliest form of magic would probably have been shamanism and would probably have been based around some kind of psychedelic mushroom. And you can see a connection between magic and drugs running throughout history from that point and certainly with Spare and Crowley. Crowley, at least, was famous for his drug use.
In a way, it’s irrelevant what [drugs] I mentioned or not [in that article] because the interesting thing about looking at different people seeing different things in trance states is some of the recurring archetypes. Winged creatures and serpent-like beings and so on.
Well, I’ve done some bits of artwork purely for my own consumption of some of the things that I’ve seen during magical rituals. Interesting. I’ve got a picture of a demon that I saw and that I drew, which actually, yeah, it’s kind of interesting because I was reading a book about the fourth dimension, this mathematical book about the fourth dimension, where the mathematician concerned gets a bit frisky at one point and decides to be a bit playful and describe what a fourth dimensional being might actually look like and he says that his best guess is that it’d look like a shimmering lattice-work of multiple copies of itself at different scales, which is pretty well an exact description of this demon picture that I put together out of multiple photocopies of an original drawing at different scales and arranged them into this lattice-work, to suggest the creature that I’d seen, which also has a lot of other connections with the fourth dimension. Now, this is mad complex stuff that probably wouldn’t mean anything to anybody unless they’d seen the picture, encountered the demon.
The tape counter just went “666” when you said that.
Did it? In fact I had somebody – [Laughs] – Well, I was in Sainsbury’s the other day and there was this young, spotty youth on the counter and I went up to buy a couple of packets of cigarettes or something like that and he rang up 666 and then just sort of went “Oah!” and looked at me when the numbers 666 came up.
Easily scared, you know.
Would you agree with Jung, then, that the archetypes are the basis of religion and mysticism, regardless of the culture or society?
I think that the archetypes are in some ways what I’m talking about when I say “living ideas”.
You don’t think they’re socio-cultural, or – ?
Um, well, I think they could be a bit of both. There’s the initial living idea form that can suddenly emerge unannounced in any human mind but how that is dressed might well be socio-cultural. You can get very similar ideas that are dressed up in a huge variety of different cultural forms. I think that to some degree, these entities, which I do believe are kind of independent of us at least in some ways, although yeah, they could also be part of us. I think they’re kind of inside us and outside us at the same time, that yes they’re part of us, yes they’re something separate to us. In a way they are reflective. They gather their form or their specific attributes, they somehow – they’re what we make them, they’re what we dress them as, to a degree. I don’t know, there is something very reflective about these creatures. For example, this demon that I at least believed I’d encountered. When I first encountered it, I was scared shitless and it was scary, very scary. Then later, after I’d got it to a kind of safe enough distance so that I could talk to it without being threatened by it, we had a conversation and it was charming. It was not scary at all. If it had been a human being, I’d have wanted to go for a drink with it. It was sardonic, funny, intelligent. And I kind of thing that it depends upon what you expect to see. I think that if you greet these thing s with fear, then they’ll be fearsome.
Yeah, I mean a “demon” implies some kind of morality…
I started to realize, talking to it, that – [Laughs] – that in a way, a demon is that which has been demonized. On a spiritual level you’re talking about blacks, or gays, or the working class, or any group that has been demonized. Demons have had it too. They’re some sort of spiritual entity. I don’t think they’re good or bad, any more than we are.
It’s funny you should say that, because The Devil Rides Out was on [TV] the other night and the demon is this black guy and the only other black character in the whole film is a background Satanist.
Well, Dennis Wheatley was a bit funny about that sort of stuff… anybody with a colour other than white in the Dennis Wheatley books, they’re generally dead by the end of the book and they’re generally villains.
The film remained true to that, anyway.
Absolutely. I mean, I still remember it as being a lot of fun, when I saw it when I was twelve or whenever.
Yeah, it’s great, with Christopher Lee grabbing the guy who’s becoming a Satanist, saying “You damn fool!”
[Laughs] Yeah, and Charles Gray as the evil Satanist, I mean, he looked like he was having fun, you know?