Interview by Sotiris Drakos in May issue of Zazen magazine which is already sold out. It was reprinted here with kind permission of Zazen. Part II of the interview will be available in the next issue available from
No – sorry, but no – not *that* kind of coming out. 🙂
Lend us your ear, and eyes, and read on below after gallery of photos..
We’ve both always held the conviction that the public is not owed anything from artists, musicians, authors and other public figures other than their work. Even in this age of social media oversharing, we don’t publicly discuss our private lives in great detail. However, due to several recent, obtrusive misunderstandings, it‘s necessary to share that in 2015, after having been separated since 2007, we agreed to amicably divorce.
Since then, we’ve remained on friendly terms and spiritual allies. But because most exes display hostility toward each other as a primitive, dualistic way to signal renewed availability to others, we realize our non-antagonism and continued friendship necessitates this more public clarification.
When we first married, in 1988, we considered it a purely a private matter, just between us; a creative and spiritual union which was not bound by conventional standards of matrimony. The actual marriage only became publicly known gradually, months after our private ceremony. So it should come as no surprise that, similarly, we dealt with its dissolution privately, with dignity, rather than making a public spectacle.
In recent years, our closest friends knew of our changed marital status (and, yes, despite those who’ve attempted to reduce our relationship to mere “dates” or “boyfriend/girlfriend” status, in fact we were *legally* married for 27 years). We should have made this clear sooner but we are only human and needed time to work through everything in the most compassionate way.
So, kids, there is no drama or soap opera involved, nor any need for boo-hooing. We appreciate your respecting that this will be our only public comment of clarification on what remains private transitions into new phases of two separate lives.
Omnia Vincit Amor
Om Mani Padme Hum
– Zeena & Nikolas Schreck
MANSONTHON AT ZEBULON Lethal Amounts and Records Ad Nauseam present Nikolas Schreck All the Way Alive in Los Angeles at a special event commemorating the 30th anniversary of his 1989 film Charles Manson Superstar.
After the screening, Nikolas will deliver a lecture on what Hollywood doesn’t want you to know about the Tate-LaBianca murders, play a never heard recorded conversation between him and Manson concerning the hidden motives of the LaBianca slaying, and conduct a panel discussion with a rarely seen member of the Manson Family.
The event will conclude with a record release of Nikolas’s new album The Illusionist on Records Ad Nauseam featuring the premiere of the new Summer of 1969-themed song ”This Hideous Thing”.
This is an unprecedented event, therefore tickets and seating is limited, pre order your ticket now to ensure attendance. Advance tickets $15 at
Screening at 6:00 pm
Panel Discussion to follow
This screening will be in conjunction with the Charles Manson Exhibit at Lethal Amounts Gallery the week of Aug 8-11th, 2019, an unprecedented display of Manson memorabilia co-curated by Nikolas, who will be present at the opening ceremony on the 8th.
This edition of Parallax Views presents the first of an epic three-part interview with the controversial ex-Satanist-turned-Buddhist-practioner Nikolas Schreck. In this first segment we take a deep dive into Schreck’s book The Satanic Screen: An Illustrated Guide to the Devil in Cinema, which has recently been republished in a German edition entitled Luzifers Leinwand with brand new, updated material including a fresh introduction.
We begin by discussing how Nikolas first became interested in the devil and all his works. Nikolas recommend reading Satan Superstar, recently published by the UK’s Reprobate Press, due to it’s lengthy biographical interview with him entitled “The Nikolas Schreck Files”. From there we delve into the definition of Satanism and Nikolas’ critique of atheistic brand of Satanism popularized by Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan.
Then we delve into The Satanic Screen: An Illustrated Guide to the Devil in Cinema. Nikolas discusses how The Satanic Screen was never intended as a simple “Satanists’ Guide to Movies”, but rather as a philosophical, religious, and sociopolitical reflection on old scratch through the lens of film. This leads us into a discussion of the new introduction for Luzifers Leinwand which details the many misconception of the Devil, made by both Christians and Satanists alike, in the Bible’s Old Testament. We discuss issues like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, the real meaning of Lucifer in the Bible, what “Satan” actually means, the “Divine Council” of Gods known as the “Elohim”, and much more.
After digging into these theological matters we transition to a discussion of the devil in pop culture starting with the “magic lantern”. We then discuss the devil’s many appearances in cinema from the silent era (The Magician) to the 1930’s (The Black Cat) and beyond. We take special notice of Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (and to a lesser extent The Fearless Vampire Killers) and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Through these two films we examine the sociopolitical undercurrents that helped fuel the Satanic Panic. In addition we discuss the adult film The Devil in Miss Jones to understand the role of eroticism in Satanic cinema. We then wrap up discussing how the devil’s portrayal in cinema over the years acts as a cultural barometer for what we, as a society, consider evil during any given period.
On June 2, 2017, Wave Gotik Treffen will feature the entheogenic sounds of Nikolas & his band resonating in the majestic domed hall of the Volkspalast, Leipzig .
Originally Printed in Beatdom magazine’s Religion Issue, 2011
Dear Uncle Bill,
Well, Doc, it’s like this. I got hooked on your stuff back in ’75. That monkey leapt on my back with hideous Venusian centipede tenacity. Oh, sure, I kicked the habit. But not before it softened me up for the hard stuff. You know the score, Doc. Starts off with Burroughs. Next thing you know you’re mainlining Celine, Artaud, Mishima, Borges, even Beckett and Pound.
Anyway, Bill, if you’ve got a moment to spare in what I’m sure must be a busy afterlife, there’s a few things I wanted to run by you. A little late I know, but I just never got around to it when you were alive.
It all started during a slumbering Seventies summer. I’d popped out too late in the Baby Boom to make the most of the last decade’s high magical bacchanalia. And now that my adolescent hormones raged at full blast, the psychedelic orgy I’d been waiting to join was already a burnt-out ghost of itself. I’d been weaned on the witchy weirdness of the 60s seeping into every aspect of pop culture for a few years. Now I was stranded in the pre-Disco era’s bland new world, a budding sorcerer’s apprentice without a master.
Lately I’d added meditation to my ceremonial magic routine. I never had to look for the supernatural; it came looking for me. Magic’s reality was self-evident to me. But making sense of the visions, spontaneous astral projections and trances I’d been dealing with since childhood? Not easy without a reliable guide. It’s like you wrote in The Conspiracy back in 1960: “Since early youth I had been searching for some secret, some key to which I could gain access to basic knowledge, answer some of the fundamental questions. I found it difficult to define.”
I hungered for answers. Sure, the sex and drugs part of the peace and love program was still going strong, even six years after flower power wilted in Altamont’s bloody mud. So at least the Love Generation’s lewd and Quaaluded younger sisters were just as easy as their older Aquarian siblings. (Bill, I know this next part won’t grab you, considering your “Girls are Icky” theory but hang in there, okay?)
One of those fey latter-day hippie maidens turned me on to acid and telepathic sex magic on the same memorable afternoon. Despite her whimsical act, this worldly-wise femme fatale was a few years older than me. Turned out she was already hip to you. I didn’t find that out until it was too late.
So, yeah, I grooved on plenty of what was left of free love and mind-expansion, no complaints there. But something was missing. Where was the promised Revolution? How’d the transgressive urgency of recent memory fizzle into the mellowed out torpor of ’75? I’d missed the manic height of the last decade’s party. But I set out on a scavenger hunt for left-over party favors. I dug up psychedelic relics as if excavating lost Lemuria’s ancient treasures.
In a dusty used record store, I hit mind-manifesting pay dirt: Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka. You heard it at its source, Bill, so I don’t have to tell you. The music’s mystic drone alone conjured up more than a thousand and one nights, even without the chemical flying carpets my girlfriend stole· for us from her wasted dad, an underground cartoonist fallen on hard times. Still, I had no context for the sounds I spun again and again on the turntable.
Not until I stumbled onto the hippie chick’s old man’s newly delivered June issue of Crawdaddy, one of the last counterculture rags still around. And in those fated pages, I zeroed in on these revelatory words:
The music of Joujouka evokes the God Pan, Pan God of Panic, representing the real magical forces that sweep away the spurious. It is to be remembered that the origin of all the arts – music, painting, and writing – is magical and evocative; and that magic is always used to obtain some definite result … the result aimed at would seem to be the creation of energy in the performers and in the audience. For such magic to succeed, it must tap the sources of magical energy, and this can be dangerous.
No sooner did I dig that spell than I’m gone, Daddy-o, I’ve flipped the most. The photos made you look more like a Mid-Western town mortician than a devotee of Pan. But in that one paragraph, you gave voice to the inarticulate stirrings of my own awakening to music’s magical potential. (Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, Bill; teenage boy just discovering your work, yum yum. Well, try to keep your mind out of the gutter for a minute, I’m trying to be serious here.)
Enraptured, I read on:
Music, like all the arts, is magical and ceremonial in origin. Can rock music return to these ceremonial roots and take it’s fans with it? Can rock music use older forms like Moroccan trance music? There is at present a wide interest among young people in the occult and all means of expanding consciousness. Can rock music appeal directly to this interest? In short, there are a number of disparate tendencies waiting to be synthesized. Can rock music serve as a vehicle for this synthesis?
I owe you for that Eureka moment’s inspiration. It provoked my later field experimentation with sound’s spiritual properties. You taught me that the written word, the camera and the tape recorder are more potent magical tools than the quaint chalices, wands and pentacles I’d been toying with on a makeshift altar piled high with reprinted grimoires. “Art”, you wrote in The Adding Machine, “has become literal and returned to its magical function of making it happen … Now suddenly art makes its lethal eruption in the so-called real world”. That call to action became my manifesto.
The hippie chick reacted to my enthusiasm with all the blase sophistication of her fifteen years by showing me her dad’s cluttered bookcase. It’s stuffed with well-thumbed Burroughs first editions that look like a million joints were rolled on them. My initial impression’s confirmed: This crazy old coot makes the musty fusty likes of Eliphas Levi, MacGregor Mathers, A.E. Waite, Francis Barrett and all the other ye olde hoary wizards of yore seem strictly squaresville, yesterday’s papers, out.
My initiatrix fills me in on the inside scoop that Diamond Dogs,a recent dystopian David Bowie album, was composed according to some method of yours called the Cut-Up. According to Bowie, Cut-Ups are a modern Tarot. Our own scissor and fold oracular operations reveal prophetic synchronicities. Thanks to your example, we mine our dream journals for magical significance. We memorize this credo from one of your texts as a cardinal rule for our deprogramming efforts: “New concepts can only arise when one achieves a measure of disengagement from enemy conditions.” Inspired by this edict, the hippie chick and I resolve to drop out of school as soon as possible.
Soon, between your books and a bong, we’ve got our own Beat Hotel going on her water bed. A conspiracy disrupted only when my accomplice takes off with a coke dealer who’s already got his own car.
Post-Hippiedom’s last patchouli whiff fades into the Pre-Punkdom’s glue-sniffing stench. I’m armed for battle against Control with secret knowledge from my own used copies of paperbacks like The Wild Boys, The Job, and The Ticket that Exploded.I score the last Beat coffeehouse bookstore on the Venice Beach boardwalk’s crumbling ruin. I even paid for some of them.
I take up my education in the magical universe explicated by you, sarcastic Seer of St. Louis. I glean malediction tips unheard of in orthodox occult primers: “I have frequently observed that this simple operation – making recordings and taking pictures of some location you wish to discommode or destroy, then playing the recording back and taking more pictures – will result in accident, fires, removals, especially the last. The target moves.”
My photographic black magic ops ensue, often with swifter success than the old-fashioned methods. I try out your suggestion of implanting subliminal seeds of desired magical change in the minds of strangers by playing tape recordings into crowds. This, as you promised, is a “technique for producing events and directing thought on a mass scale.” These early efforts spur my later utilization of performed and recorded sound as magical conditioning agent. (Funny, for a guy with no particular interest in music, you ended up influencing more music than writing per se.)
Now that you’re dead, Bill, I hope you won’t take this personally. I was bit bad by the Burroughs bug alright. But I skipped over your endless riffs on smack addiction. And the repetitive descriptions of boys getting hanged- or is it hung?- bored me as much as that jailbird De Sade’s tedious passages where the lonely Marquis jerks off over his fetishes. Your lack of female characters also struck me as seriously unbalanced. But I wasn’t looking for literature. Like an obsessed Miskatonic scholar scouring Abdul Alhazred for spells to contact the Old Ones, I delved into your texts to recover gems of magical insight. One of your pragmatic everyday magic pointers always stuck with me:
If you start the day by missing a train, this could be a day of missed trains and missed appointments. You need not just say “Mektoub, it is written.“” The first incident is a warning. Beware of similar incidents. Tighten your schedule. Synchronize your watch. And consider the symbolic meaning of missing train. Watch particularly for what might be a lost opportunity.
What impressed me was that your insights were based on empirical observation of the way reality works rather than reference to systematic dogma.
1983. I jump from the boiling pot of Reagan’s America into the fire of Thatcher’s London just as an occult revival rivaling those of the Sixties and 1890s rears its pierced and tattooed head. Much of this arcane activity’s triggered by the shallow Chaos Magic fad. But that’s only one flavor in the heady if confused brew of Tibetan Tantra, Austin Osman’s Spare’s sigil technique, neo-Odinism, and more sex magic (or magick, as the case may be) than you can shake a stick at.
To my surprise, bickering factions in the British magical subculture (or “occulture” as the trendy buzzword had it) agreed that you’d paved new ground. To be sure, this Burroughsian current mostly consisted of a superfluous use of the number 23, ceaseless parroting of “Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted”, stoned contemplation of flickering home-made Dream Machines, over-reliance on the Cut-Up method by the under-talented, and indiscriminate injection of every high and low available, all in imitation of the Master.
Observing the genesis of this Burroughs cult made me wonder: didn’t the lack of specific practice in your magical method encourage a dangerous vagueness of procedure? Didn’t the eclecticism of your approach give license to anything goes dilettantism?
In London, I took up left-hand Tantra under a guru’s supervision. I embarked on a study of ancient Egyptian magic. This grounding in tradition revealed some drawbacks in your free-wheeling strategy. Misgivings strengthened when I read one of your latest, The Cities of the Red Night. On one hand, that novel’s inclusion of the same kind of Sethian sex rites I performed at the time was an auspicious synchronicity. But these three sentences troubled me: “According to psychic dogma, sex itself is incidental and should be subordinated to the intent of the ritual. But I don’t believe in rules. What happens, happens.”
My Tantric teacher insisted that sublimating worldly sexual desire into spiritual energy was the key to liberation. So I couldn’t agree with your laissez-faire attitude. And as for letting “what happens, happen”, well, is there a more sure-fire recipe for magical disaster?
As I learned more of your biography, as opposed to that iconic persona you were burdened with, sobering disillusion set in. How to reconcile your nearly pathological misogyny with the veneration of the feminine integral to the left-hand path? And your crippling depressions struck me as odd. If your magical theories couldn’t alleviate your misery, how effective were they in praxis?
Oh, and remember what you wrote about “the underlying assumption of magic is the assertion of will as the primary moving force in the universe”? Or this: “From the viewpoint of magic, no death, no illness, no misfortune, accident, war, or riot is accidental. There are no accidents in the world of magic. And will is another word for animate energy.”
Then how come you couldn’t direct your animate energy to sever your craving for heroin? I mean, if sorcery can’t even stop compulsive behavior rooted in our own nervous systems, how can we hope to change phenomena beyond our bodies? Reminded me of that earlier opiated magician, Aleister Crowley, whose grandiose claims of superhuman Will didn’t impress me in light of his helpless addiction to heroin, cocaine and ether. Your old pal James Grauerholz says you scoffed at the Great Beast. But along with his habit, didn’t you share the same fatal discrepancy between theory and practice?
And, hey, how’s a smart guy like you fall for such mercantile quackery as Hubbard’s Scientology, Castaneda’s discredited make-believe Yaqui yakkety yak and Reich’s orgone therapy? Mind you, I’ve wasted my time in plenty of spiritual wrong turns too. But you continued to find value in these bogus systems well into your old age.
And here’s the kicker, Bill. What about all this Hassan ibn Sabbah business? Considering your disdain for the way of the Prophet, it’s strange that you, of all people, introduced that pious Muslim Imam’s name into popular culture. After all, when you lived under a hashish cloud in Morocco, you had no more respect for Islam than you did for the Methodist Christian faith of your fathers, writing that the “prayer-mewling Allah freaks is molded from the same crock of shit.”
Frankly, you could’ve learned more about real sorcery from the North African Sufi folk tradition all around you than you ever did from that Castaneda charlatan. But I digress. What I was getting at, Bill, is this: I don’t care if you repeated it until you were blue in the face. Hassan ibn Sabbah never said any such thing as “Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted.”
Yeah, yeah, I know. Brion Gysin told you some French novelist, Betty Bouthoul, had her fictional Hassan say that line in the death bed scene in her The Master of the Assassins. So what? Look, I hate to be a party pooper. But fifteen minutes of research proves that the real Hassan ibn Sabbah was as traditional a moralistic Ismaili Imam as ever bowed down to Mecca. And those fanciful stories about his Assassins glimpsing artificial hashish-induced paradise to encourage them to carry out their holy hits? Scholarship’s shown that was all propaganda spread by the sect’s Arab and Western enemies.
Everything is permitted? You’ve got to be kidding. Hassan enforced Shariah law so strictly, he executed one of his own sons for drinking alcohol! And this is your dissident role model for your anti-authoritarian crusade against Control and conformity? Poor Hassan’s turban’s spinning around in his grave at the thought of some Western junkie infidel so grievously misrepresenting him.
Call me an old fuddy-duddy literalist, if you must, Bill. But effective magic must be based on rigorously researched data, not half-baked speculation. Post-modernism or not, sloppy intelligence equals sloppy results. In other words: Some things are true. Not everything is permitted.
I see now that my youthful wishful thinking projected an ideal on to you no real human being could live up to. Besides, you’d never claimed to be anyone’s guru. But in light of how much damage a faulty spiritual role model can wreak, aren’t we obliged to get our facts straight?
I don’t want to be a downer, Bill. But remember that spiritual retreat in Vermont you went on in August of ’75 at the Tantric Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa’s invitation? Well, your diary of that event exposed your spiritual approach’s fundamental problem. Or was it spiritual at all? In an admirably objective 1999 speech your collaborator James Grauerholz gave at Trungpa’s Naropa Institute, he observed that you weren’t “a purely spiritual seeker.”
Grauerholz defined your journey as “a lifelong quest for spiritual techniques by which to master his unruly thoughts and feelings, to gain a feeling of safety from oppression and assault from without, and from within.” And I think he hit the nail on the head here.
See, Inspector Lee, this fickle shopping around for “techniques” is what separates the occult tourist’s recreational escapism from the genuine path to liberation. All too apparent in your Retreat Diaries. Here you’ve had the karmic good fortune to take a retreat under the supervision of Chogyam Trungpa, one of the great modern Tantric masters. But instead of meditating in silence, you indulge in the discursive thought process such a recess from worldly activity’s meant to combat. You wrote:
I am more concerned with writing than I am with any sort of enlightenment … I use meditation to get material for writing. I am not concerned with some abstract nirvana. It is exactly the visions and fireworks that are useful for me, exactly what all the masters tell us we should pay as little attention to as possible. Telepathy, journeys out of the body – manifestations, according to Trungpa, are mere distractions. Exactly. Distraction: fun, like hang-gliding or surfboarding or skin diving. So why not have fun? I sense an underlying dogma here to which I am not willing to submit … The purposes of a Bodhisattva and an artist are different and perhaps not reconcilable…
As Grauerholz mentioned, Trungpa coined a phrase for this entertaining but unenlightening grab-bag approach common to Western esoteric dabblers. As Trungpa wrote:
Walking the spiritual path properly is a very subtle process; It is not something to jump into naively. There are numerous sidetracks which lead to a distorted, ego-centered version of spirituality; we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques. This fundamental distortion may be referred to as spiritual materialism.
Sorry, but you know that part in the retreat diaries where you explain why you think the fantasy teaching of Castaneda’s fictional Don Juan character is superior to “the closed, predictable karma universe of the Buddhists”? Spiritual materialism at its worst. So you wasted your retreat playing around with astral protection and dream analysis instead of using the authentic Buddhist methods to defeat the cause of your suffering.
In all fairness, maybe you had different fish to fry. Could be all you sought was relief from the pain of your particular spiritual plight. Because when all’s said and done, Bill, seems to me your big hang-up was the stumbling block of demonic possession.
“Why,” you once asked, “do these demons have such necessity to possess, and why are they so reluctant to leave? The answer is, that’s the only way they can get out of hell – it’s sort of like junk. They possess somebody and they want to hang onto it because that’s their ticket out of hell.”
Know what I think your problem was? Oldest story in the book. Some poor sap gets zapped by the gods to take up the tribal shaman gig. When he’s not looking, some sneaky spirit or other slips in. Bang, the shamanic sickness hits him hard. It’s like witch doctor rehab. If the shaman-to-be doesn’t hang in there for the whole treatment, he’s up the Amazon without a paddle. If that freeloader inside him isn’t 86’d chop chop, the blocked energies drive the failed shaman kookoo. Stay stuck in that state and the come-down makes junk sickness seem like a breeze.
Now, if we’re talking some tribal yokel in a tropical rain forest or Outer Mongolian cave, no sweat; everyone knows what’s what right off the bat. But what if the gods decide some big city slicker boho dope addict doing the exile bit in Mexico City’s their man? Guy like that comes down with the sickness in 1951, only place he’ll be doing his shamanizing is the friendly neighborhood funny farm. If you’re lucky, you end up pushing around a shopping cart, mumbling about secret messages from Uranus.
Hell, Hombre Invisible, you said it yourself:
I am forced to the appalling conclusion, that I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death, and to a realization of the extent to which this event has motivated and formulated my writing. I live with the constant threat of possession, and a constant need to escape from the possession, from Control. So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a life-long struggle, in which I had no choice except to write my way out.
Every Burroughs buff from the Bowery to Bizerte’s read that rap so often, it’s like quoting scripture in church. But just like the parishioners snoozing in the pews, I don’t think anyone bothers to take it seriously. We all know how you shot your old lady in the head during a drunken dare, so no need to rehash old news. Some pesos cross a crooked policia’s palm and presto, you walked without facing a trial, got away with murder. You skipped Mexico City a free man. But were you really free?
Years later, you wrote, “I’ve always felt myself to be controlled at some times by this completely malevolent force.” A few hours before your William Tell act bombed big, you had a premonition that “something awful was going to happen. I remember I was walking down the street, and tears started just streaming down my face. Well, if that happens to you, watch · out, baby.”
Seven years after the grim shoot’em up in Mexico went down, Brion Gysin named that entity. Playing around in Paris with the Cut-Up method he cooked up to decode “what words are really saying”, he came up with this fortune cookie: “For ugly spirit shot Joan because …”. Way you read it, the message came through loud and clear: “‘Ugly spirit shot Joan to be cause’- that is, to maintain a hateful parasitic occupation.”
The academic lit crit crowd who deconstruct your work wouldn’t know a demon if it bit them on their collective ass. And your detractors dismiss your “I was possessed” plea bargain as a fancy way of copping out. Me, I take you at your word, Bill. I think you spent years hunting down a cure for a metaphysical malady even Freud, L. Ron Hubbard, Castaneda and the best smack in town couldn’t swing. Who’s to say your life’s work of rubbing out the “word virus” wasn’t some mixed-up displaced shamanic desire to heal? Isn’t one of the shaman’s job duties reporting back to the tribe about the underworld? Well, didn’t you do that in spades?
But you know what really sells me on this failed shaman angle? It’s how only two years after the Ugly Spirit showed up, you’re off to Peru to search for ayahuasca, or yage. All you were thinking was maybe that miracle drug brewed from the vine of souls could finally cure your junk habit. But local lore has it that the plant’s indwelling spirits send out a telepathic signal to cats who’ve got what it takes to be a shaman.
If you really were following the shamanic calling, boy, what a dud it turned out to be. You went all that way to slurp up the noxious concoction. All you got for your trouble was nausea and some inner home movies of infernal cities you converted into material for your books. Not even close to a cure.
Wasn’t the last time a potent soul-cleansing substance didn’t make a dent in that stubborn demon of yours. Same thing happened when that that smiling snake-oil salesman Leary recruited you and your Beat brethren Kerouac and Ginsberg for his Harvard psilocybin project.
After one dose, you told Leary, “My work and understanding benefits from Hallucinogens MEASURABLY”. But soon you derided his chemical mysticism crusade as “a terminal sewer,” mocking him for his pitch hawking “the garden of delights immortality cosmic consciousness the best ever in drug kicks.”
But did you throw the LSD baby out with the Leary bath water?
“I don’t like any of the stronger psychedelics,” you said later. “I would never take LSD… I hate it…. I’ve tried it. I just hate it. I don’t like the feeling…. It makes me nervous. My coordination isn’t good and there’s a metallic taste in my mouth and there’s nothing I like about it. I’ve taken mescaline, psilocybin. The only one I’ve been able to use with any consistency is cannabis.”
You ask me, bad trips mirror bad states of mind. Show me a guy’s drug of choice, and I’ll show you where that cat’s at initiation-wise. Resistance to the psychedelic experience can be the sign of metaphysical trauma the reluctant psychonaut’s trying to avoid. Combine that with a taste for numbing one’s pain with your faves booze, smack and weed and the prospects aren’t good.
Don’t get me wrong. Even the holiest high can’t induce true enlightenment. But entheogens can make for a useful sneak preview before setting out on the long hard road to serious initiation. Your visions, prophetic dreams, out of body states, your innate knack for magic – they all suggest a mind ripe for spiritual training. But the real deal, the genuine mystical experience, eluded you. As did the states of bliss and equipoise marking progress on the path. Sadly, you stayed stuck in a phase of awakening which the Dalai Lama’s termed “revulsion with samsara”, never emerging from that necessary dark night of the soul.
I was glad you finally underwent an exorcism in 1992. I heard the medicine man supervising the sweat lodge ceremony saw a winged white-skulled being flee from your body. Most malevolent spirit he’d ever tangled with. You confirmed that you’d seen that deathshead demon many times before.
So what exactly got into you? The Ugly Spirit matches the I.D’s of a few Aztec and Mayan supernatural suspects. Mexico City, the scene of the crime, was built over Aztec temples. Some local elder god lurking around could’ve slipped into your stoned psyche with the ease of a cat burglar climbing into an open window.
Maybe, as some of your less charitable critics claim, you were the proverbial monkey (or junky) with a typewriter, accidentally hitting on some brilliant passages in an otherwise uneven body of work. Comes down to it, though, I think your opus rests on a deeper religious foundation than your possession obsession alone. Yeah, I know you always advised to “never trust a religious son of a bitch.” But beneath the blasphemy act, were you a closet religious SOB yourself?
Sure, you bashed organized religion aplenty, denouncing Christianity as “the most virulent spiritual poison ever administered to a disaster prone planet.” That kind of talk’s led some to assume that your critique of established faith was just another hipster’s knee-jerk irreverence. I think it was a disappointed seeker’s disdain for religious hypocrisy.
“I’ve always believed in God and the possibility of life after death,” you said, “but as something that must be fought for, like everything else. I can relate much more to a dedicated cassock than to an atheist. Atheists bore me.”
Your druggie rebel image distracts from the fact that your books are crowded with more deities than The Odyssey. And your characters interact with them as if divine power over the mortal realm goes without saying. Cities of the Red Night kicks off with an invocation that makes your theurgic agenda plain. Your final trilogy can be seen as a series of spells calling on the gods.
The Place of Dead Roads reveals your theology’s Gnostic cast: “the present God or gods were not the creators. They took over something already created and are using it for their own purposes, which is not at all to our advantage … To put it country simple: the Christian God exists. He is not the Creator. He stole someone else’s work after the manner of his parasitic species.”
Gnostic, too, was your pervasive sense of ontological wrongness at reality’s heart. A haunted suspicion that we’ve been tricked by a lying Demiurge you symbolized in your malignant corporations, syndicates and intelligence agencies. Despite your novels’ semen-soaked hypersexuality, your disgust at being trapped in the body’s lusts suggests a Gnostic dualist’s hatred of matter.
Failed shaman, Gnostic, or apocalyptic prophet? Whatever you were, Bill, we’d have to go back to pagan antiquity and your main man Shakespeare to find a major wordsmith who so consistently weaves divine intervention, magic in everyday life, psychic phenomena, demonic possession, curses, fate, and life after death into his fiction. Not as harmless Tolkienseque fantasy but as determining factors of the human condition. And what other modern novelist of note wrestled so earnestly with the fundamentally religious mystery of evil? Least beatific of the Beats, your nightmare vision depicts an infernal cartography only Dante and Bosch can rival.
In The Place of Dead Roads, your alter ego Kim Carsons says he “never doubted the possibility of an afterlife or the existence of gods. In fact, he intends to become a god, to shoot his way to immortality, to invent his way, to write his way.”
Getting to the god realm takes some doing, but here’s hoping you made it. Frankly, a karmic load like you lugged around makes divinity a long shot. With a murdered wife on your hands and your affinity for Pazuzu, Lord of Fevers and Plagues, and Humwawa, whose face is a mass of entrails, I’d hate to think you’re waiting for the Man to show up in the Hell realms for a few billion aeons.
Well, enough of my speculation. What do you have to say? Can the tried and true Cut-Up be applied to necromancy? Where are you now, Bill? What were you reborn as? Let’s splice an old Robert E. Howard short story to a little Dale Carnegie to see if you can slip a posthumous message through the cracks:
The shape he become the first president he had visioned dimly in States Steel Company the wings of sleep.
Hmm. Sounds ominous. But a tad inconclusive. Still, that’s got to be you, Bill, I’d recognize your style anywhere. Maybe you’ll come through clearer if we mix a Sax Rohmer Fu Manchu novel with a fragment of a pulp magazine’s detective story:
This quest the door of 4B with the yield no result. He could be moving in sinister electric lights.
Now that’s more like it! Anyway, whatever lights you’re moving through these days, I just wanted to get these musings off to you and say thanks for everything. If the spirit moves you, drop me a line, even if it’s only a coded Cut-Up on my ouija board some rainy night.
Photo by Luke Fraser puttygen download , Berlin, August 2015
Personal Message From Nikolas:
“If anyone has ever lived a rich, adventurous, daring and fulfilling life it was certainly the late Sir Christopher Lee. Possessed of a dark sense of humor, he often joked about his own impending mortality as he aged, so I am sure he would rather see his friends and admirers celebrate his life rather than mourn his passing. I will compose a proper obituary for my blog soon, but for now, I wish to express my condolences to his beloved wife Gitte. And to Christopher, as you approach the clear light of the next bardo, a private joke: ‘Only you could have done that!’ To remember him by, here’s Christopher singing “Epiphany” from our 1996 album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oclUkI-wx20
Om Amideva Hrih!”