Monday, November 23, 2009

Hollywood Tulpas

Some responses to Peter Levenda's passage in Sinister Forces, vol. 3, The Manson Secret (taken from a post at the Stormy Weather Inner Forum):

Some key ideas from the passage:

"artists are the first point of contact for upcoming events of a global nature."

the question this raises in my mind is: can artists and art-forms then be used to actually shape and direct - to summon in the sorcerous sense - events? Artists are attuned to growing memes, and by expressing their own impressions of these thought-forms or mind-viruses, they inevitably make the memes stronger. So - what if memes are created from whole cloth by the corporate control system of HW (apparently for commercial agendas, but actually with subtler intent), using artists-for-hire (former artists, now "hacks") to give substance and Imaginal resonance to these memes, as in (e.g.) when Spielberg was (possibly) recruited by US intelligence to make E.T.? (And, to address a somewhat stickier area of false narrative creation, Schindler's List.)

"Hollywood is the new religion of America and, to a certain extent, of the rest of the world as well. Hollywood brings the gods ... down to earth, where they can be seen and heard and touched by the masses."

Once again the idea of magikal evocation is suggested here. What if stars are actually tulpas, thought forms created via sorcery using the fantasies of the sleeping masses - and not human at all? Just an idea!

To bring it a little closer to Earth, what if the humans who are chosen to become stars - having been primed or initiated to this end - then become vessels or "hosts" for archetypal/demonic energies to work through? Could this relate to why Scientology is so prevalent in HW - because stars need to be handled at a metaphysical level? They are literally "high" (magik) maintenance!

The energy stars draw off the masses - via their charisma and sexual magnetism - would then be directed towards these entities or forces for their own sustenance. This would enable the creation and maintenance of a subtle power system by which - as of old - the gods devour the awareness of their worshippers - and by the traditional method no less: that of "idols."

So, every time someone gazes lovingly, or admiringly, or desirously, at an image - moving or otherwise - of a "star" - just as through supplication and prayer - their psychic energy, prana, orgone, whathaveyou, is being directed, into and through that image, to a hidden recipient. Energy follows thought.

This would be why the sexual element is so key to HW movies and to star-appeal.

In the same book, another passage (pg. 346, quoting Wolfgang Pauli), Levenda addresses this idea of "a ‘magical’ connection between sexuality and eroticism on the one hand, and political or historical events on the other.” Levenda then posits “the political ramifications of a consciousness that can be manipulated as much as subatomic particles can be manipulated, but using as the ‘energy source’ … ‘sexuality’ and… ‘eros,’ resulting in the phenomenon of induced synchronicity.”

What a can of worms indeed.

Moving on:

"Americans emulate movie characters more than they do the saints of their religions: they dress like them, drive the same cars, have the same attitudes, talk like them, and eventually adopt the same cultural mores."

This relates directly to the idea I posited in the last podcast, that tulpa creation is a way to direct the species into specific modes and mores of behavior, via imitation. Stars would be particularly affective because of course one single star (tulpa) can reach millions via a movie, and what’s more, they are not just imitated but admired and emulated at a far deeper level, that of worship, i.e., complete subjugation. People would "give anything" to meet such and such a star (or to be a star, which of course they know can never happen - hence proximity is the best they can hope for). As in the myths of Vampires, humans are mesmerized and willingly submit to the devouring supernatural presence, if only for the chance of a taste of immortality!

Tulpa creation could be achieved via a combination of stars and specific narratives/characters, such as, for example, Clint Eastwood and Dirty Harry, or Bruce Willis and the Die Hard persona, or Stallone and Rambo - all of which are maverick heroes who represent the lone wolf, "rebel" figure, and yet actually serve (and discreetly represent) the State, the US as a Nation.

Whenever we read a book, we essentially create a thought-form for the events and (especially) the characters within that narrative. The more emotionally invested we are (the stronger our attention/identification), the more energy will be directed into the creation of that thought form. So imagine millions of people watching a movie and adoring/identifying with the character: can this process create an actual “living” (somewhat conscious and "autonomous”) thought-form in the astral/Imaginal realms? If so, wouldn't it then become more powerful and autonomous, exponentially? The bigger it gets, the more it can enter our subconscious, the more energy it draws off us, and so on, ad infinitum. (Freddy Krueger and the Nightmare films would then be a sort of B-movie "revelation of the method" of this phenomenon!?).

There is also a subtler process at work here, witnessed by the ways in which male audience members (especially teenage) embrace dubious role models who, tho apparently rebellious, actually serve and represent the controlling elite. This form of misguided hero worship strips males of their true heroic (solar) potential, by giving them a false model, and a false narrative to follow, that of “resistance”, defiance, and brutality, which completely subverts and undermines the true heroism of surrendering the personal self to Spirit, that of service to what is greater. Such ideas are seen as wimpy, unmanly, in the context of the HW narrative (and especially the revenge fantasy of the "heroes" mentioned above).

HW heroes rarely actually serve the community in a true way – they aren’t nurturers or providers, and they certainly aren't healers. Their heroics comes down to one thing: killing and destruction—exactly in imitation (embodiment) of the military industrial complex that covertly directs the making of these movies.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Friday, November 06, 2009

Did this interview last night with Nightstalkers radio, talking about Homo Serpiens, galactic consciousness, and retards!

Night Stalker (1972)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

OK, here's some journal bits from recent SWEDA posts:

It is passivity. It is like giving up. But in a way that's warm and soft, not cold and hard.

I am a dead man. If I stay in the knowing that I am already dead, I experience being a ghost among the living, and the whole world becomes a ghostly hologram. I have found what is real within.

What is real, what has meaning and value, is there at the center of knowing within me.

Silence is an awesome possibility.


Feeling a pleasant sense of detachment and neutrality, and faintest curiosity. I wonder if this is, or would be, the predominant mood of consciousness, once it is freed from our patterns: faintest curiosity?

The way the shaman glances at the clouds and passing cars, for signs or indications, but uninvested in the story, like a child reading a comic book on a lazy sunny afternoon? Not wanting to miss anything, yet unconcerned by the outcome.


Was thinking yesterday about how, for most of my life, I have been imagining and willing myself into some future state, of happiness and completeness and joy and perfection, while becoming increasingly doubtful I will ever make it to this imagined state. I have clung to this belief that some day, I would be "there," but inevitably combined with the fear, the nagging voice: "What if I never am?" What if this is as good as it gets?

What struck me yesterday (while swimming) was that I don't feel or think like this anymore; I have become, without really noticing it, "warmly OK" with being less than happy and less than perfect as a human being. But the real surprise was that this being warmly OK was what I had always been yearning for, without knowing it. The idea of needing to be something I was not (happy, carefree, funny, loving, whatever) was the only thing keeping me from being OK with myself as I am. And yet this is all we really want anyway!

Not expressing it very clearly, its a sort of living paradox. The moment we are OK with never being OK, we are OK! Really, really OK.

Give it a try some time. It is so much easier than you think.
(Even so, it took me til my 40s to get it! )


Living for others as a way for us to feel good about ourselves: it never works. Taking other peoples' "needs" seriously when we can no longer take our own seriously is just habit. It's even a kind of hypocrisy, don't you think?

I used to say it was about giving in without giving up. But now I think that, for us as persons, there really isn't much difference. If anything besides warm OK-ness is what gets us out of bed in the morning, maybe its better if we stay in bed? Maybe we need to be warmly OK with being useless before we can even begin to be useful to anyone?
Secret Life of Movies, the book is out, after ten years sitting on my hard drives, as well as Homo Serpiens, about 8 years in the pipeline. Both books came out the same month, which is an old ambition of mine finally fulfilled: to have two books coming out the same time and double my chances of Being a Somebody. As you all know, by now I am more than a little ambivalent about the whole business of writing books. Maybe for children.

Wish I could encourage you all to buy the book but at $40, I can't blame anyone for giving it a miss. Still, I am pretty sure you'd enjoy it. It's easily the most thorough work I've written on movies. There's an e-book due out soon, and if I can get enough people interested, I will probably make an audio book.

So raise your hands anyone who'd like to buy an audio book, via the Net, for maybe $10? I'd say about 20 buyers would be enough to justify my time in doing it.

My, how the mighty have fallen.

All my time goes into SWEDA now, but maybe I'll start posting some of my personal journal stuff from there, here, just to keep this blog alive.

It's sort of confusing, not knowing who, or even where, my audience is anymore! Since I started doing SWEDA, it feels like my audience is getting smaller, not bigger. But also much closer! So that is probably the right way to be going.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

God's Channel

from Secret Life of Movies

Richard Kelly‘s Donnie Darko (2001) is about as rare an experience at the movies as finding a genuine psychic at a fun fair. It’s a celluloid vision. Donnie is a schizo with the power to see the future and thereby create it. As in Don’t Look Now, Donnie’s visions are self-fulfilling: it’s his terrible fear of what is going to happen (on October 30, 1988, at a precise minute and hour) that causes Donnie to act in just such a way as to ensure that it does. And yet, paradoxically (and Donnie Darko is not merely about paradoxes, it is a paradox unto itself), the knowledge he gains into the mysterious workings of time through his experience permits Donnie to rewrite his destiny, by turning the clock back. This he can only do at the cost of his own life.

Initially, Donnie is spared death due to his tendency to sleepwalk, which is one symptom of his schizo-visionary state and which causes Donnie to be out on the golf course when a passenger plane jet engine falls from the sky and crashes through his bedroom. Donnie was already strange before this, but the inexplicable event (no airline claims the severed engine) only serves to cement his dementia, his sense of strangeness. At the same time, it alerts the audience to the fact that we have entered into a world every bit as weird and incomprehensible as Donnie’s world must seem to him. We have entered the Twilight Zone.

Donnie Darko is the first of its type—the surrealist teen schizo angst comedy (Static, Repo Man, Heathers, Parents, etc)—to successfully pull all the elements together and forge them into a genuine work of art. It’s a bit slack in places (Gretchen’s death, for example), and it’s occasionally self-indulgent, or perhaps just self-conscious, but it’s all of a piece. Unlike the films mentioned above (Static excepted), it has depth both of meaning and of feeling; it comes from the heart and not just the head. Donnie Darko is teen comedy romance spliced with hallucinatory horror movie, and yet the splicing is seamless, invisible and impeccable. Except in the early high school scenes (which the director seems to be deliberately undermining by speeding up the images and drowning out the sound), there’s never a sense of watching a cross genre movie. In fact Donnie Darko doesn’t seem like a genre movie at all, principally because it isn’t. It’s closer to Blue Velvet than The Faculty: It’s a rite of passage, a mythological journey. Donnie Darko is a schizo movie about adolescence in which objective reality (so far as there is one, which is debatable) is even weirder than the subjective reality of the schizo himself. It’s not that Donnie is too weird and crazy to understand what’s happening to him, it’s that he’s just weird and crazy enough.

Richard Kelly, the writer-director, has an intuitive grasp of his material that marks him as a genuine visionary, which may be just what he is. What’s more, he has sufficient grasp of his ideas and a basic movie sense (and the technical know how) to do almost full justice to his vision. In the current, post-9/11 climate, this movie is practically a revelation: a work that takes place entirely “inside” the character’s (i.e., the filmmaker’s) head, and yet connects to the universal experience. I certainly know a few young folk, adolescents or post-adolescents, who see the world a lot like Donnie does. They may not see tubes of liquid light coming out of people’s chests, and they may not literally converse with giant rabbits or travel through time; but they have the same basic, shifting sense of reality, the feeling that neither time nor space—or anything at all—is what it seems to be. These kids intuit that something, maybe not “the end of the world,” but something equally awesome and indescribable, is just around the next corner, and even that all of this has something to do with “God,” or with whatever it is we have chosen to call God, in our all-too-human reaching after the intangible.

Donnie doesn’t believe in God until he sees It. I say “It,” because Donnie doesn’t have a religious experience of a Deity, as such; what he experiences is both more subtle and more profound. He perceives a force coming out of people’s bodies, looking like a sort of tentacle that extends forward through space. The opposite of the trail left by a snail, this tentacle doesn’t follow people but leads them; it seems to anticipate their movements, and so gives Donnie a glimpse into the future. At first it seems that these tubes or tentacles are simply that: Donnie’s fourth-dimensional view of reality, i.e., when time is also a perceivable dimension, people become like tubes that twist and turn throughout the spaces they inhabit as they come and go from one point to the next and back again. But when Donnie witnesses this force emerging from his own chest, he sees something else, as the liquid light—clearly a conscious “thing” unto itself—stops and turns and beckons Donnie to follow it. He does so, and it leads him into his parents’ bedroom and to the closet, where he finds the gun with which he will shoot the boy who runs over his lover Gretchen (Lena Malone), all at the designated hour. This same boy, dressed as a giant toothy rabbit, is “Frank,” the other-dimensional entity who has been leading Donnie through his visions to the inevitable apocalypse, or revelation: that Donnie is just a play thing in the hands of Fate. Yet in Donnie Darko, “Fate,” less oppressively but even more mysteriously, is a living Force that exists inside Donnie and within every other living creature.

Donnie admits to his shrink (Katherine Ross) that he has thought about the question of God, or more precisely whether or not he is “alone,” until it has lost all meaning. To Donnie, “the quest for God is absurd.” Yet despite this, or maybe because of it, Donnie finds God. When he witnesses this inexplicable phenomenon, he doesn’t have to think about it; there’s no two and two to put together here, he just knows. And when Donnie speaks with his science teacher, the latter can’t grok Donnie’s discovery as anything but a paradox. If you can see your future, he insists, then surely you have the option of altering it? Donnie has the privileged knowledge of the prophet: he hasn’t just heard about this “God,” he has seen it. “Not if you stay in God’s channel!” he says, or words to this effect. He’s speaking about Destiny vs. Fate.

What Donnie Darko is saying is that there is only one destiny for each of us (or rather, one destiny per person per universe), that this is our path, and that the only “free will” we have (the only way to escape from mere predestination) is to live out this destiny, to find and then stay within “God’s Channel.” The third alternative (never voiced) is to reject our destiny, to rebel, as Lucifer did, and sever our connection to the Universe, the Divine, and so fall out of the sacred groove, out of God’s Channel. Apparently Donnie’s experience, from his narrowly escaping death to his boldly embracing it by entering the time vortex (expressly in order to save Gretchen from the fate that should have been his), is solely for Donnie (and us) to learn this vital truth. The movie gives us the philosopher’s stone and holy grail of human endeavour, the truth that will reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable conundrum of destiny (God) and free will. Donnie didn’t fall out of God’s Channel by surviving, however; what he did (so far as I understand the movie) was to enter into a parallel universe, an alternate time stream in which he survived, and thereby got to see what would happen if he did live, and so understand the meaning of his death, the reason behind it. At the risk of being pat, the movie might be seen as Donnie’s dark and troubling dream, in the final moments before that jet engine lands on him and death takes him forever.

Like Run Lola Run, Donnie Darko adheres to a very old religious tradition, that of blood sacrifice. It suggests that when God, or Death, decides to take someone, He cannot be denied. If His intended prey somehow evades Him, by some unexpected miracle, He will simply take someone else, usually someone close to the original choice of victim. This is not just religious belief, however; it’s also something like physics. It’s as if Donnie’s unwritten escape creates the opposite of a vortex, a sort of excess of particles in the universe, and that this imbalance has to be corrected by the removal of someone else, preferably someone as similar to the intended “target” as possible. For this reason Gretchen is taken. Having seen all this, Donnie is given a choice. Like John Baxter in Don’t Look Now, Donnie has the all-too-rare gift of seeing God’s plan in action, His method, His modus operandi. Unlike Baxter, however, Donnie is smart (or crazy/open/adolescent) enough to understand what he sees and act upon it, to seize the opportunity of intervening and become co-designer of his destiny. He does indeed, as Gretchen has intuited, become a Super Hero. (Super Heroes have always been schizos; Donnie Darko gives us the first schizo to become a Super Hero.)

Recognizing that he only survived due to a glitch in space-time, Donnie uses the same glitch to repair the damage, and in the act sacrifices himself. The glitch, however, will always remain: there’s still that mysterious jet engine to contend with. Maybe the glitch is Donnie himself? Being on the verge of developing the power to see through the illusion of time and space, to see God Itself in action, Donnie is one of those freaks of nature (like the white-faced dynamo of Powder) who simply has to be removed (translated to a higher dimension) before his existence causes the whole universe to collapse. Donnie’s gift of magic allows him to escape his death, but then it forces him to see why his dearth was necessary, and so compels him (if he wants to stay in God’s Channel) to go back to meet it at the designated time. As a result, the world does not end. This time. But if people (and movies) like Donnie Darko are becoming more and more frequent phenomena, in a world where neither science nor religion is equipped to reconcile the awesome paradox of a magical reality run by God, then it’s only a matter of time. Like all good prophets, Donnie Darko warns us, in the most entertaining fashion, to get ready. The sky’s about to open.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

All Good Things...

...come to an end

Today I posted the last episode of the Shooting the Ghost series, in which I subjected Chris to the God Game treatment, and got him to expostulate on his philosophical beliefs and his knowing about life, death, devil and christ, whether God = intelligent Universe, how to follow the signs, and what, exactly we are doing here.

Chris also talks for the first time about the rush of power he experienced while terrorizing others through acts of violence, his remorse for the people he has hurt in the past, how he has wrestled to keep his inner devil from consuming him, and what he really thinks about Jesus!

So - it's been fun, hope you;ve enjoyed the ride, till we meet again. Let me know what you thought of these Podcasts, and whether you'd like to hear more of them, if and when I meet up with Chris again.


On a side-note: I was just informed by my publishers that THE SECRET LIFE OF MOVIES is going to be available as an audio book. This is good news for those of you (like me) who'd balk at throwing down $40 for a book. I'll provide a link as soon as it's available.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A girl locked in a room, the prisoner of love.

An ex-stripper. She was desperate to take her child away from “the life.”

A Sicilian mobster. He would do anything to prevent his son from being taken from him.

The son: an innocent pawn caught in a tug of war between the forces of Light and Darkness!

(How dysfunctional can one family get?!)

The driver: he brought her food; he tried to mind his own business.

Just leave the food and go. Don’t talk to her. Don’t listen to her. Don’t look into her eyes.

“Help me,” she said. Two words were all it took.

He was a sociopath. A man without a conscience. When she turned to him for help, he couldn’t turn away.

He risked everything to help her.

He’s been on the run ever since.

This is the culminating true-life tale from nomad and ex-mob driver, Chris, in which we at last see his heroic side come fully to the fore. Is that you, John Wayne? The answer is yes.

It’s a tale out of a movie, hence the copy and title (taken from Chris’ favorite John Wayne film) for the latest episode of Shooting the Ghost.

Chris describes how he put his life on the line to try to help an ex-stripper and mobster’s wife get her child away from her husband and start a new life. It didn’t work, but he did what he could to make it happen. Why? Only Chris knows for sure. Some quality deep inside him, that cannot turn away from someone who needs his help; in this case, the archetypal “damsel in distress.”

In this particular scenario, few people could argue that Chris acted heroically. Based on this isolated incident, most of us would assume Chris to be a virtuous, even heroic character. Certainly anything but a “bad man.”

Yet we have already heard other, conflicting stories about Chris from his own mouth. We know he has been diagnosed as a sociopath devoid of human feeling or conscience, a man capable of torturing and maiming total strangers because of their debts to the mob. When asked how he felt about cutting people’s fingers off with garden shears, Chris replied, “It’s nothing personal.”

Most of us have a fairly standard view of what makes for virtue or depravity in a human being. We think we know what makes one man good, another bad. But such a perspective cannot encompass the mass of contradictions that Chris embodies. “By their fruit shall ye know them”? But how are we to know, or judge, a man who is as capable of acts of courage and selfless nobility as he is of savagery and base cruelty?

There doesn’t seem to be any way. It is probably futile to try. But suspending judgment is something that, as human beings, we have never learnt to do. Remaining neutral on such questions as good and evil, right and wrong, is as unthinkable to us as being impartial about what we eat, or our own pleasure and pain. The mere idea seems inhuman to us.

What if the reverse is the case? What if, in our rigid, socially imposed ideas about “good and evil,” humanity and inhumanity, we are forcing ourselves and others into a limited expression of the full spectrum of human possibilities? What if these very “moral” restrictions are what give rise to the distorted expressions of behavior we then label as “evil” and “sociopathic”?

It’s been a while since I quoted Nietzsche, but writing about Chris has led me into some old, dark waters that apparently I am not fully done with—perhaps because they are not done with us!

Here's the syphillitic one on his favorite subject, good and evil:
“One cannot be one without being the other . . . with every growth of man, his other side must grow too . . . That man must grow better and more evil is my formula for this inevitability. . . . With every increase of greatness and height in man, there is also an increase in depth and terribleness: one ought not to desire the one without the other—or, rather: the more radically one desires the one, the more radically one achieves precisely the other. . . Terribleness is part of greatness: let us not deceive ourselves.”

This piece is continued at our sister blog, the A.R.G.O.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I was hoping to start up some occult text work on Chris' story here, provide some pointers on the archetypal narrative at play here; unfortunately life on the road (and another secret life) isn't giving me a moment to breathe. Meanwhile, here's an impromptu podcast for you all, part of a chat Chris and I had last night, about Brothers and stuff.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


(excerpt from chapter 3 of The Secret Life of Movies, on John Ford's The Searchers)

It’s not easy to like something you know nothing about.

—The Man with No Name, on “peace,” A Fistful of Dollars

The Western movie hero has generally been the American male’s idealized view of himself, and even to some extent the female’s idealized view of maleness. John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) was a rude reminder for terminally adolescent males of the implications of this fantasy ideal. Commonly viewed as the most influential—if not the greatest—Western ever made, the film exposes the Western hero as at best deeply troubled, at worst plain psychotic. Forty years before Unforgiven, John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards revealed the gunslinger as a lonely, embittered man, driven to do “what a man’s got to do” not by duty but by compulsion—by private the demons of rage, jealousy, and regret. Ethan Edwards is your classic split personality (even his name suggests this: the two Es implying twin egos). He is a man of the plains, a hunter, a warrior, a wanderer, a loner isolated by his chosen lifestyle and by his predilection for violence, who nonetheless yearns (against his better judgment) to belong.

Ethan has rejected the solace and companionship of family, while his brother Aaron has married and reared several children. At the start of the movie, Ethan arrives at Aaron’s ranch after three years of wandering. Ethan, we soon realize, is in love with Aaron’s wife, Martha, and we are given to understand (through Ford’s delicate and assured directorial touches) that Martha loves and desires Ethan. We can only presume that it is Ethan’s commitment to solitude, his refusal to be “reigned in,” that made Ethan and Martha (or Ethan and any woman) an impossible match, and that consequently drove Martha into the arms of Aaron, the family man. As a result of this, perhaps, Ethan secretly smolders with jealousy and resentment for his brother Aaron, possibly even harboring an unconscious desire to see him dead so that he might claim Martha for his own. If so, Aaron (Abel to Ethan’s Cain) is the first suggestion of Ethan’s dual-personality, the split in his psyche.

Aaron embodies (both symbolically and literally) the conflict between Ethan’s desire and (what he presumably sees as) his duty, a duty not only to his brother, but also to his true nature, that of solitary man. His jealousy reveals that Ethan is divided against himself, having denied his sexual (procreative) instincts. Perhaps he believes he does this out of loyalty to his brother, from a desire not to come between Aaron and Martha, but it seems doubtful if family duty alone would be enough to repress Ethan’s powerful desire for Martha. Aaron represents all that Ethan has denied in himself, and as such is a threat to his peace of mind as much as a comfort for his soul (by being with him he can experience Martha vicariously, as her brother-in-law). At the same time, by refusing to admit his jealousy and hostility for Aaron, even to himself, and by doing the decent thing and repressing his desire for Martha (remaining passive), his soul is oppressed by longing. Just being around the happy family is a source of anguish to him, as evidenced by what follows.

If Wayne himself claimed the role of Ethan to be his personal favorite, presumably this was above all because it afforded him with a rare opportunity to act. But, besides being a fair bit more brooding, moody, and obsessive than his other roles, Ethan is to all intents and appearances the same Wayne persona that audiences had come to know so well. For years, The Searchersis possible (or at least once was) to watch the film with only a cursory, peripheral awareness of the lead character’s psychotic tendencies, and to see Ethan as merely a more ruthless and unsympathetic version of the standard John Wayne figure. For this what he is. But The Searchers reveals the isolation, fragmentation, and self-loathing at the heart of the Western hero as created (primarily) by Wayne and Ford (though also Wayne and Hawks, Stewart and Mann, and so forth). In short, it reveals the schizophrenic nature of the whole American experience, of the national character. “How the West was won” might be rephrased “How the Other was kept at bay”—both being achieved by the same means, the systematic destruction of the Native American peoples. was taken by the majority of viewers as little more than a particularly dark entry in the ever-growing Wayne-Ford Western canon. It

As Ethan’s shadow, his doppelganger, Scar acts out his repressed nature. This is overtly suggested in the movie by details such as both men speaking the other’s language, and by matching shots of Ethan and Scar (at different times) standing over a submissive Debbie. Both men wish to “take her in,” both wish to possess her physically, even though Scar acts where Ethan forbears. It is significant that, unlike what the standard revenge format would normally demand, it is not Ethan himself who kills Scar, but Debbie’s half brother (and half-Indian at that), Marty. In fact, Ethan is not even present to witness it. There is no suggestion that Ethan is denied the pleasure of revenge, either. He seems primarily preoccupied with Debbie, and apparently it is enough that Scar die. Ethan does not need the satisfaction of killing him.

Ethan’s hatred of Scar is leavened by an awareness of their essential affinity, their sameness. Ethan does not hate Scar so much as what he stands for and, above all, what he has done. It is his acts that he reviles, above all because they reflect Ethan’s own secret desires. Ethan’s hatred of Scar for destroying what he held most sacred is mixed up with envy for not having done it himself, for not having had the freedom to do so. If Scar is wanton sexuality and unbridled savagery (absence of repression), Ethan is restrained desire. He is self-disciplined, but the fetters of civilization weigh heavy upon him. As such, neither man can exist without the other: without repression there can be no civilization, and without savagery (pure instinct), there is nothing to civilize, nothing to repress. As complementary forces, Ethan and Scar are equals on equal ground, and recognize one another as essentially complicit. They are both warriors, hunters, men of proud individuality. The key difference between them, besides the manner in which they treat dogs (Ethan is seen patting a dog and Scar throwing a stone at one), is that Scar (like Aaron) is a family man, ironically enough the one thing Ethan can never be. And what a bitter irony it is for Ethan to see that, for all the savagery of his soul, Scar has attained what he can only dream of: a sense of belonging.

There can be little doubt with all this in mind that Ethan feels a deep and tormenting (because inadmissible to his conscience) envy for Scar and his lifestyle, especially since he can never knuckle down to being a house-husband himself (like his brother Aaron). The polygamous arrangements of Scar, in which the husband has many (non-clinging) wives who raise his many kids while he gets to hunt and fight the white man, must be painfully appealing to Ethan. Such an arrangement could only seem like the perfect solution, if only he were not blinded by social conditioning and crippled by repression. This is the essence of the schizophrenic experience: the battle between reason and atavism, between repression and instinct, civilization and savagery. What is remarkable about The Searchers is that it parallels the external, dramatic conflict (that of cowboys and Indians) with an internal, psychological conflict at the heart of its protagonist: Ethan’s tormented psyche is seen to reflect, not just vaguely but precisely, the genocidal chaos taking place in the nation.

The final, famous shot of the film has Ethan framed in the doorway of the family home, seen from the inside, the open desert behind him. He pauses for a moment, as if deliberating, then turns and slopes off into the desert; the door closes and he is swallowed up in darkness. The image is one of the most poignant and eloquent in the history of movies, and sums up all the loneliness and longing of the Western hero. A man of violence cannot opt for peace, any more than a wild cat can live on daisies—without denying his very nature. He can respect it, admire it even, and fight to defend and uphold it. But he can never enjoy it.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Notes on Brando and Nicholson (from The Secret Life of Movies)

During the period of his prime, from 1969 to 1976, Nicholson represented the outsider, the rebel outlaw/existential man, in revolt at the most mundane, restricted level. Bobby Dupea in Five Easy Pieces, Buddusky in The Last Detail, David Locke of The Passenger, and finally MacMurphy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, are all ordinary men with extraordinary levels of energy and passion (albeit of the negative variety) who lack the insight or the imagination to express themselves in anything but petty, occasionally poetic but finally impotent acts of revolt. Above all their frustration takes the form of an absurd kind of posturing, what Pauline Kael called “a satirical approach to macho.”Kael was referring to Nicholson’s persona rather than that of his characters, and yet (as she also pointed out), the two often seem inseparable. It is the knowing manner in which Nicholson inhabits his roles, while at the same time staying outside of them, as if winking at the audience, that make so much of what he does a kind of “turn.” Nicholson mocks his characters’ frustration, their impotence, but he also gives them enough self-awareness to appear to be mocking themselves. The machismo of his characters is the machismo of a male too sophisticated not to know how hollow and childish such posturing really is. At the same time, they are too contemptuous of their own sophistication and awareness to do anything but mock and degrade it with empty acts of machismo.

Nicholson—whose “specialty is divided characters”—was the necessary counterculture hero who mixed the sensitivity and vulnerability of James Dean with the uncouthness, roughness, and virility of Brando, while adding something entirely his own to the mix—irony and satire. It is there in the devilish leer of his grin and the mischievous tilt of his eyebrows. At times, this deviltry was indistinguishable from mere clowning, the wild, unpredictable, possibly psychotic (definitely dangerous), but undeniably seductive mystique that made Nicholson the biggest star in the world (perhaps not in box office terms, but in terms of status as a movie actor). Of course, “mystique,” so far as any actor has such (and it’s what makes a mere star into a kind of legend, along the lines of Brando, Dean, and few others), is entirely particular to the method of the actor in question; above all, I think, it depends on the feeling that we are seeing only and exactly what the actor intends us to see. On the one hand, it’s the undisclosed depths—and early Nicholson suggested this as much as early Brando—on the other hand, it relates to the superficiality of what the actor is actually doing, the awareness that he is greater than the role, that the role is but a single facet of the actor’s total personality.

When we think of Brando we think of Terry Malloy and Stanley Kowalski, or we think of Don Vito, Paul from Last Tango in Paris, and of other, more peripheral performances that added body and texture to these personas (young and old Brando, respectively). Nicholson never really succeeded in creating a second, more mature persona after his ’70s peak, but during the seven years between Easy Rider and Cuckoo’s Nest, he attained a consistency and integrity of performance that perhaps no other movie star ever has before or since. All these portrayals—George Hanson, Bobby Dupea in Five Easy Pieces, his less successful but still noteworthy turns in The King of Marvin Gardens and Carnal Knowledge, Buddusky from The Last Detail, David Locke in The Passenger, Jake Gittes in Chinatown, and finally MacMurphy of Cuckoo’s Nest—fuse into a single persona. Nicholson, in a sense, completed the work of Brando and Dean in bringing the once-untouchable male movie god into the everyday milieu of our lives. Via the “method performances,” and the sordid anti-romantic nature of the movies themselves (at least compared to old Hollywood product), Nicholson ensured that the aloof, superior perfection of Cooper, Gable, and Grant became forever a thing of the past. Those actors who upheld the more mythical or idealized image of the male—Newman, Eastwood, Redford, Beatty—may have had more commercial clout, but they lacked the authenticity and credibility of the new, post-Brando breed—Hoffman, De Niro, Pacino, Hackman, Duvall, et al.—none of whom were really “leading men” in the old Hollywood sense. Of this new breed of anti-heroes, it was Nicholson who was the closest to being conventionally handsome, and beyond doubt he was the most sheerly charismatic. One felt with Nicholson that, although he was certainly capable of the same depth and subtlety as these other performers, he tended to opt instead for the more theatrical “turn,” partly, one suspected, to draw attention to the illusory process of acting in which he was involved. To this extent, Nicholson, by both portraying and embodying a rejection of hypocrisy (lies and facades), spoke directly to his audience. He was the male in revolt, and what Nicholson communicated, once the excitement of revolt had died down and the sober reality of impotence had sunk in, was fatality, resignation, and despair.


Marlon Brando—for different reasons than Jack Nicholson—is a quintessentially schizoid actor. Nicholson reconciled himself to the absurd, unmanly posturing of his profession by taking a satirical approach to it: however brilliant he is, he almost never lets us forget that he is acting. In the end, he got so outside his performance—and filled it so full with knowing winks and conspiratorial leers—that he had become a clown, Hamlet playing the court jester. Brando spent a large chunk of his career playing the clown also, but in a very different fashion. Brando was the first movie star to bring the “method” to the general public, to make it fashionable, hip. When he exploded onto the screen with The Men, A Streetcar Named Desire, and On the Waterfront, there could be little doubt even among untutored viewers that they were seeing something unprecedented. If you’d have asked these viewers at the time what made Brando different, they might have said he was more “real,” that he represented them, the common man, in a way previous generations of movie actors had not (not Cagney or Tracy, and certainly not Gable or Wayne). All this came from Brando’s “method”—he dug into himself and found the living equivalent (the embodiment) of the character, he merged with the role. Yet he was not a character actor, his presence was too strong for that; Brando didn’t disappear into the role, he transformed it.

Following his heady peak, unable to sustain either his focus and commitment or the audience’s good will towards him, Brando began to take on ever more inappropriate roles, to get sucked into misguided projects until he became, not just the shadow of his former self, but a parody—a buffoon. Brando was the active agent in his own debasement, however, and at root was a basic insecurity, not as an actor but as a man making a living as an actor, by pretending. Not only was it “womanly,” it was (perhaps synonymous to Brando) duplicitous, deceitful, phony. It was fake: a pose. This doubt seems to have eaten away at Brando’s core of self-respect until the only way he could cover his embarrassment was by making a deliberate ass of himself, showing that he was above it all, that he was only in it for the money. A string of flops (Mutiny on the Bounty, The Ugly American, Bedtime Story, A Countess from Honk Kong, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Chase) ensured that by the time of The Godfather, Brando was all but washed up in his own profession.


Nicholson’s final and best role in this seven-year excursion into schizophrenia was the full expression of the actor’s preoccupation and the most complete realization of his talents to date. It has been thirty-five years since One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and, with the exceptions of The Crossing Guard and The Pledge, the actor has never even come close to the degree of intensity, commitment, and depth which he showed in his earliest roles. In fact Nicholson’s career has been something of a travesty from this time onwards, almost as if the passivity of the schizophrenic roles which he embodied so superbly left him at the mercy of greater forces, helplessly swept away on a tide of mediocrity.

With Cuckoo’s Nest, Nicholson became for a brief moment more than a mere actor, he became an archetype, a symbol (specifically, the Nicholson seen on the movie poster, straining upward as he attempts to lift the marble shower unit). What this archetype symbolized was freedom, revolt, the undying will to prevail no matter the obstacles, and no matter how impotent the revolt may initially appear to be. (“At least I tried, goddamn it!”) Despite his grandstanding and rebelliousness, however, MacMurphy was also in a sense a passive character. He enters the lunatic asylum not on a mission but simply taking refuge from the hardships of prison life, expecting an “easy ride.” Once there, something takes over and he becomes, against his own better instincts (and certainly against his interests), a sort of schizophrenic crusader. Finally (as Kesey’s novel has it), he becomes a martyr. Nicholson/MacMurphy was the schizo trickster who unwittingly sacrificed himself for a cause he never believed in. It was something that Bobby Dupea had to head for Alaska to find, something that Buddusky and Gittes in their world-weariness lost sight of altogether. This “cause,” most simply encapsulated under the banner of “Freedom,” relates to the liberating allure of non-conformity, which finds its apotheosis in madness. It is more subtly and obliquely signified by the emblem of silence—the unconscious. In Cuckoo’s Nest this alternative, the possibility of freedom, is represented by the Chief, the Indian, the Other, who is for most of the movie passing himself off as a deaf-mute. The Chief abides in silence partially because he has nothing to say, but mostly because he knows whatever he says would be wasted on the world. He has taken refuge in the appearance of imbecility, and this is his greater wisdom. Knowing that in an insane world any sane man will be thought mad, he feigns insanity instead. But of course he gets locked up anyway, and this also is his refuge, the madhouse offering a more organized, peaceful kind of insanity than that of society at large. The Chief (read: unconscious) abides in silence until MacMurphy (the ego) comes along to stir his inner fire into life again, to reawaken his will to live, to partake in the madness rather than simply observe it passively from a safe distance. The chief, by biding his time, is also (as the film has it) gathering the power to act, while MacMurphy, for all his conscious striving, is impotent. But it is MacMurphy’s (the ego’s) powerlessness—or more precisely his struggling in spite of it (“At least I tried!”)—that serves as an example to the Chief and an inspiration, an incentive, to the unconscious to move. It’s MacMurphy’s insane bid to accomplish the impossible that inspires the Chief to act, and so (with the strength of silence behind him) make the impossible possible. This in turn stirs up the fires of revolt in the other inmates (though in the movie they stay safe in their incarceration, they at least cheer the Chief on his way), and, potentially at least, it starts a chain reaction by which (ego overrun by Id) the lunatics take over the asylum.

MacMurphy’s example is an unstoppable motion. What makes him an authentic martyr, and Cuckoo’s Nest a genuine parable of its time, is how he uses the (growingly collective) schizophrenic experience as a cover for his messianic (apocalyptic) pretensions. Society is a madhouse. The sane man is called mad, and crucified—or lobotomized—by such a society. This is ostensibly to suppress his message, but it also allows the other inmates to see for themselves the truth (that society is a madhouse), so that, potentially, this truth may set them free. When the Chief breaks out and returns to the wilderness, swallowed up by darkness, it’s the unconscious taking over again, the stirring of the Other, the awakening of the Id, by which the ego is inevitably and fatally smothered, and so finds release. Now the trickster’s mission has been accomplished, he is no longer of any use and must return whence he came: to non-existence.

It’s no wonder, perhaps, if Nicholson’s career seemed to be smothered in its cradle after this. As spokesman for the schizophrenic experience and avatar of impotent revolt, his work was done.

Perhaps this is the price that Nicholson paid for his earlier, phenomenal success, and for his at least partially realized Brechtian aspirations? After Cuckoo’s Nest, Nicholson moved steadily further into a kind of self-parodic style of acting which—much like Brando before him—helped to distance him from the paucity of his material but also consigned him to the reluctant, if not entirely unintentional, role of clown. Nicholson’s clowning was up there with most other actors’ sincerest efforts, however, and somehow he survived with his legend—if not integrity—more or less intact. It seems a given, however, that he will never again regain the kind of power, or artistic relevance, which he enjoyed in his heyday.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I finally get to be a Western Hero, the day before on Clint Eastwood's birthday, no less.

Part Two of this exploration of male-bonding as it relates to Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch, with Phil Snyder, Bill and John Morrison. Part one includes a brief discussion of Bill and John’s father, his brutality and his wound, then of Jason’s father and the family business, and Jason’s inevitable rebellion. In part two, Jason and Phil discuss why “the boys want to be with the boys”—but only so far, how being among men allows our emasculation wounds to show; fear of obligation, performance anxiety, and Phil’s catastrophic family trip. In part three, Bill talks of Robert Bly’s description of mentors, the ritual of the sword, and how Bill never received his father’s blessing. In part four, Phil and Jason discuss the archetypal longing of The Wild Bunch, Sam’s “dog brothers” (James Coburn, L.Q. Jones, Warren Oates, Lee Marvin, et al.), “misfit culture” and how individuals are united in their common refusal to join society; Blue Velvet and Phil’s father’s cronies; men on a mission: the real purpose of bonding being the fusion of wills towards a single intent; the bunch’s integration through death, Angel as the higher conscience of the bunch, the soldier’s code, men out of time. In part five, Jason discusses with Bill and John the slaying of the king, how he disinherited his father’s fortune and rejected the legacy, the blood money of corporate business, and “the bad king.” In part six, Phil and Jason return to The Wild Bunch, speaking of death as destiny, the unconscious nobility of the killer, how the primal urges that make the bunch warriors finally make them heroes, and of the bloody wound that runs through Peckinpah’s films.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Although we impact each other throughout our lives, real, meaningful change very rarely happens (after 20 years of "self-work," I speak from experience, alas!). Most of us die with the same patterns we developed in our first 7 years still firmly in place.

I'd say change never comes about through the willed intervention of another save in a negative fashion, by causing trauma. Of course there are overt ways that people change us - by saving our lives or giving us STD, or whatever; but even then these people are only agents of change who happen to cross our paths and so impact our lives. If it wasn't them, it would have been someone else.

Our idea of having some sort of say about the way our lives unfold is largely illusory. Think of it this way: the Universe is a larger organism that is operating intelligently according to its own "agenda," and we are microbes within that organism and so, inevitably, part of that unfolding agenda. Do we consider the cells in our bodies to have free will? Maybe when they develop cancer! Otherwise we consider them merely a part of the greater working, with no autonomy outside of mutiny, ie, "disease."

What I mean, maybe, is that - accepting that we can't help but influence those we interact with - we should never try to change another person, because to do so would be to impose our belief/value system upon them. We are invariably been driven by our own "patterns". Our motives are never clean.How many of us even know what's best for ourselves? If we did, would we be so tangled up in addiction, frustration, sexual obsession (aka "romantic love"), self-hatred, and all the rest? So then, where on Earth do we get the idea we know what's good for others?

It's a socially endorsed form of egomania, and it's very evident in the APC (alt. perc. comm) in the way people platform with their ideas under the assumption that it's "important" people know about them, when really, they are simply trying to get attention to validate their own beliefs. Myself included with this post!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Versions of Reality

I: Kings of Reality

Everyone has their personal version of reality and everyone believes theirs is not only the best version, but the only one that really counts.

These versions of reality are cobbled together (usually in early adulthood) from what we see, hear, and read. The data gathered does not determine our version of reality, however; rather it’s our still-forming version of reality that dictates which items of data we choose to retain, to patch together our version of reality. The reason is that our version of reality is actually dependent on our physical, emotional, psychological imprinting as infants, and has little or nothing to do with conscious processes.

It never seems to occur to us, for example, that our version of reality is built up from material that comes directly from other people’s versions of reality (the books we read, people we respect, and so forth). Another way of saying this: our idea of objective reality arises from our agreement to agree that, if enough different subjective realities are patched together, this somehow constitutes “objective” reality. But logically, the reverse is the case: the more external points of view our version of reality draws upon, the more subjective it becomes.

We cling to our version of reality as if our life depends upon it. Maybe it does. Yet we know that any version of reality is incomplete, and never can be complete. Our insistence that it is “truth” is like the “suspension of disbelief” we perform while watching a movie—we trick ourselves in order to forget what we know, so that we can believe what we want to believe.

The way we view the world defines who we think we are, our constructed identity. We cannot see ourselves from the outside, except through the eyes of another.

We agree the sky is blue without ever wondering if we are seeing the same color, knowing only that we have agreed to give it the name “blue.” We cannot ever know what color the other is seeing, so it’s irrelevant to us. And yet, we still insist that others agree with us on the blueness of the sky.

We all desperately need others to agree with our version of reality, even while we insist that we are special and unique. Really, we want to uphold a version of reality in which we are King and everyone else will slavishly agree with us: a world of Yes-people. Boring and hellish as this would be, it’s the only version of reality in which we’d have complete control and therefore feel totally safe.

II: Reality as Defense System

We like people who see things the way we do. At the same time, we want the people we already like to see things that way too. We experience disturbance, anxiety, if we encounter people whom we admire who don’t agree with our view of things. Either we have to ignore the dissonance this creates or decide we don’t admire these people after all (or at least, not that particular aspect of them). A third option is to rethink our version of reality. This is the hardest path. Does anyone ever really upturn their version of reality in a way that is meaningful? It is akin to identity-suicide.

Our versions of reality are our defense systems, our armor, against an incomprehensible, and probably hostile, Universe. It began as a necessary survival response to those first childhood experiences, the ones which presented the original threat to our well-being, so shaping the identity-armor that was later fully consolidated as a version of reality.

Parents are the first to override our sense of reality by telling us that monsters do not exist and that our invisible friends are imaginary, that we are not hungry when we say we are, and so forth. Parents use their children as the supreme opportunity to strengthen and fortify their own versions of reality: by “recruiting” others to uphold it. Imposition of beliefs on others is the most effective way to assert and build up our identities. Since it is done to us from day one, we quickly learn to do it ourselves.

As children, we have two choices if we wish to maintain our well-being: either we must create a version of reality opposed to the one being imposed upon us; or, we create one that is compatible with it, in imitation of it. Either way, the result is the same: we have created a version of reality—a structured identity—as a direct reaction to, and against, the versions of reality that oppress and imprint us as infants.

III: : Worldview Warfare (weltanschauungskrieg)

Back to the central question: why do we care what anyone else believes?

We are looking for allies, most of all in our illusions. Complicity in denial. The rejection of conspiracy “theory” (a telling term, since it is often as fact-based as anything in the consensus realm) perhaps stems from our unconscious awareness that we are all conspiring, all of the time, to keep ourselves in the dark about this one, all-consuming fact: that we are the authors of our own beliefs.

“We are greater artists than we know.” Nietzsche.

Friendship is opposition. When worldviews, versions of reality, go to war, the potential for breakthrough is great.

When something or someone confronts our belief systems head-on, and we cannot simply dismiss or ignore it, we either have to let go of those beliefs, or watch them collapse, taking our precious identity-armor with them. A very real kind of death ensues.

Every version of reality is equally essential, equally “real,” to us; yet at the same time, it is equally constricting and oppressive, like heavy armor that protects us from events that have already happened, and that prevents us from being able to move freely through our present environment. All belief that is invested in personally, which includes disbelief, is a form of slavery, because we are obliged to constantly distort our perceptions and actions in order to stay within the comfortable confines of that belief.

What we believe to be real becomes real. We forget that we chose to believe a version of reality because we had to. It was a necessary illusion.

To challenge another’s version of reality should not be done lightly or for the wrong reasons. At the very least, it is extremely bad manners. At worst, it is offensive action.

On the other hand, if we question or deny the assertion of another, we validate it and make it stronger. We confirm that it is sufficiently threatening to our version of reality to need refuting. The moment we do so, we betray our own uncertainty.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How can a creature be both a bat and a bird at the same time? How can something that appears ugly, dirty and threatening actually be something that is delicate, beautiful, and harmless?

The answer may be found in what follows.

As is well known, shamans are also diviners who use a seemingly random arrangement of elements (tea leaves, goat entrails, raw egg in water, etc) to find a hidden narrative that will inform them as to the secret workings of Spirit, the design of power working through everything.

On this week’s “Shooting the Ghost,” I have attempted the same. Selecting fragments from roughly eight hours of conversation between myself, Balloon Man Bill Morrison, Phil Snyder, and Bill’s brother John, more or less at random, I have woven them together into an hour-long podcast. This was done based largely on the quality and “charge” of the clips, and with almost no eye, or ear, to how I might eventually tie them together. It was only once the show was completed, in fact, while listening back to it, that I was able to discern some sort of coherent narrative. It is many layered, so it would not be apparent to most listeners; hence my decision to provide these notes.

Listeners may prefer to discover the hidden narrative for themselves; but if not, here are some clues. Be warned, however: this is a point by point description of the show, and so is rife with “spoilers.”

Firstly: due to the ostensible cause that brought us together, the four players are here unconsciously acting out, embodying, different aspects of Sam Peckinpah’s psyche. Among these aspects are:

creative expression;
victimization of women;
disillusionment (with America);
the artistry and wisdom of storytelling

The podcast begins with Bill’s description of caring for a neighbor’s rabbits and all the “shit” (literally) he has to deal with to keep their cages clean. One basic function of the shaman is the handling of “unclean” psychic matter and waste. Connection to Nature (the animals) is essential to any shaman’s power. (Rabbits, however, are notoriously timid animals, and suggest powerlessness.)

Next up, Phil tells the story of how his rage manifested a weird bat creature in the basement of his parents’ house (read: ancestral unconscious), which he then killed with a pellet gun, afraid that it might be carrying rabies. Once it was dead, Phil realized it was “actually” a dust-covered baby bird, even though he had been sure it was a bat. He also suspected he had somehow materialized the being through his own anger—a living tulpa or thought form, made up of Phil’s disowned psychic energy.

The key to this story—which is a small mythic blueprint for the show’s theme of “shamans in denial”—is that Phil mistook the creature for a rabies-infected bat, when in fact it was a bird(?). Phil disowns his primal self (rage) and simultaneously projects onto what is delicate and new, something ugly and threatening, thereby turning a baby bird into a diseased bat.

Phil and John then discuss their anger-management problems, with an aside from myself on the subject of tulpas, and a dubious musical interlude.

Bill talks of his admiration for “crazy, ugly people,” with their stories of violence, as being “the stuff heroes are made of.” He talks of his work as a (relatively) honest car salesman, and of a 72-year-old reformed killer and rapist in his neighborhood (Hollywood). He asks the question: “When do we get rehabilitated?” and speaks of the predatory structure of society, as well as his own, more balanced upbringing.

We then move into a brief discussion of Sam Peckinpah, his relationship with his father and his choice to go into theater and television rather than law. Of Sam being a man out of time, struggling unconsciously to reconnect to the ancestors, while consciously making movies to express his alienation and despair. How his movies testify to that inner struggle, and as such are secondary artifacts: the real story is hidden behind the seemingly random elements of his various movies.

I then tell a story of having my guitar stolen on my birthday, of getting it back the following day, turning the situation around so that the thieves became allies. This story relates to a shaman owning his power (self-expression and music) through a mixture of surrender and will, and getting that disowned tulpa energy to work for him (rather than simply killing it!).

Bill and John then share their night-dreams of being successful performers, revealing a desire for power and influence, and how their dreams are possibly compensating for a lack of worldly recognition. This is the very inverse of shamanic use of dreaming, which finds otherworldly power through dreams, and relinquishes all desire for other forms of “success.” (This was also the trap Peckinpah fell into.) Phil describes how, in similar dreams, he is always watching on the sidelines, aware he is supposed to learn something. The same appears true here on this podcast—after his initial story which sets the ball rolling and provides the theme for the show, Phil stays mostly on the sidelines, observing.

There follows a discussion on the macrocosmic narrative, that of America and the realization in the late ‘60s (through movies such as Easy Rider and Wild Bunch and events such as the Manson murders and Altamont) that the American dream was, and always had been, a Lie, being founded on the murder of the Native peoples. The Native American represents the Other, the disowned Shadow of the White Man, his primal side, and also the denied shaman within. To the Whiteman, the Native American is like Phil’s bat-bird: it is perceived as a threat, when actually it is something else entirely.

Bill then gives a short speech on the need for America to be exposed and to confess, “right back to the Indians.” I describe the US Nation as “Dorian Gray,” corrupt beyond all possibility of redemption, Bill speaks of the ugliness of Americans. The bat-bird again, having become what it beheld, America (like Phil) perceives its inner self as ugly and diseased. Bill speaks of his own comfort and complacency, and the pressure that builds within us all, the feeling we could simply explode one day and go on a mad killing spree. The disowned primal speaks. Psychopaths are acting out shamanic urges for transformation, unconsciously.

We then discuss politics as an extension of religion and the modern-day “serfdom” that has surrendered its responsibility to the elite; the Magna Carta and the Masonic sorcerers. The development of comfort and convenience of the modern world, is it detrimental to spiritual growth? Do we have a richer inner life now than 500 years ago?

John and Phil talk of their home entertainment systems, Phil describes his basement theater as both a shrine and a tomb, hinting at a desire to hide away in the unconscious realms, to return to infantilism. John’s cites his three marriages and his HUD apartment, then describes how the homeless (mostly from California) are getting violent in his neighborhood and mugging people who won’t give them money. He mentions how many of them have pit pulls— these “dog brothers” are also distorted shamans, demanding payment. They represent John’s disowned primal—his “tulpas”—and as such, they are a necessary compensation for the denied shadow side of his middle-class white neighborhood: the archetypal “return of the repressed.” John’s increased desire to watch TV and stay off the streets is the “normal” (i.e., non-shamanic) response to this pressure.

We discuss entertainment as being increasingly inadequate as a distraction: as life’s challenges become ever greater, more and more energy is needed for our denial to be effective. As we reach a turning point for the species, recycling ancient myths until all the variations are used up, there arises a need for new myths. But there are no longer any shaman-storytellers to create them.

I then describe myth and reality as being interconnected, the story of Christ, the ultimate shaman, who’s person embodied cosmic forces, and so became a living myth.

We discuss the function of myth, both for survival and for gnosis, the mutation of the species through sharing of knowledge and experience, “around the fire.” John cites early myths of hunting an killing, a la Phil’s story of the bird—a distorted myth-story for this mini-tribe of shamans, caught in varying levels of denial.

After a brief reference to the vitality of mystery, as something to be explored, John points out how Bill’s squeaky chair is causing John’s bird to talk—joking that there is a “relationship” between the two. John’s bird echo’s Phil’s “bat-bird” (representing Phil’s hidden soul nature). It is interfacing with Bill’s un-oiled chair (throne), i.e., Bill’s unconscious power? Is Phil’s inner poetic nature trying to reach out to Bill, and finding only a squeaky chair?

Bill then talks of his alcoholism and addiction to marijuana, as his best means to access “the other world,” thereby fully completing the reflected image of Sam Peckinpah’s fractured psyche: a man who smoke and drank himself to death rather than allow himself to open to the ancestors, and to his own grief and wounding, thereby tapping his hidden shamanic potential.

Are you still with me?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rediscovering Fire

Is there anything in this world more beautiful than male wisdom in action?

Is there anything rarer?

When was the last time you saw it?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Ghost of a Life

Balloon Man Bill Morrison’s Perfect World

  “It’s a marvelously gloriously great ghost of a life.” Bill Morrison

Somewhere in some recondite and under-explored wavelength of your television transmission (free cable), there’s a show with Promethean potential and diabolic disregard for the rules of entertainment that verges on Nietzschean hubris in aspiring to a new plateau of aesthetics, one that is verily “beyond good and mediocrity.” Is Bill “Balloonman” Morrison good at what he does? Resoundingly, and beyond any question, yes. He is a master at what he does. But what is it that he does? This is a question I would venture that even Mr. Morrison could not, or at least would not, answer (at least not intelligibly).

When Mr. Morrison faces the camera, his eyes do not seek refuge in self-justifying internal reassurance. He is a man beyond shame, and whatever it is he is doing, like Mitchum acting, he makes damn sure never to get caught doing it. Often inspired by his own free-associative virtuosity, but just as often not, he seems to care not a wit either way, and remains unflinching in his incoherence. But Mr. Morrison is also inspiring, most of all in his willingness to play the Ape of Thoth so consummately, and with so little regard for his own apishness. By such brazen nonchalance, Mr. Morrison at times transcends the self-imposed role of monkey and dimly, dimly, begins to resemble a god. A TV god, for sure, the deity of a petty domain, which is free cable after all, and not even a national network; but his confinement to so lowly a circle of US media hell reflects less upon Mr. Morrison’s talents—which appear to be prodigious beyond even his own (or especially his own) capacity to comprehend or fully harness—than it does upon a paltriness intrinsic to the medium itself. Mr. Morrison has opted to remain a very large fish, possibly even a shark, in a tiny pond.

Put bluntly, Mr. Morrison is the David Letterman for a brave new world that will never (we pray) come into being. For in such a world, one that Mr. Morrison’s demented armchair ravings obscurely and extremely indirectly herald—a world perfect in its total embracing of all imperfections—there would be no talk show hosts, no TV dinners, no TV at all, and so no Bill Morrison persona. Life would be far too interesting and bizarre to require such dubious means for killing time.

To be fair to him, Mr. Morrison’s solipsism is at times wearisome, to the viewer as much as it is (evidently) to Mr. Morrison himself. The “show,” if he’ll allow me to refer to it as such, would certainly benefit from a little structure, some kind of framework in which the host’s freewheeling poetry of molecular irrelevance and impotent grandeur would be able to come more fully into its own. Perhaps he should invite guests to inflict with his almost superhuman poise and irrationalism, the occasional straight man for him to loose his tongue upon? In a word, this man’s talents—it may even be a kind of genius, though it’s hard to say for sure—may never come fully to bloom (as both the man and the medium so sorely deserve) until they find the right soil—necessary context—in which to do so.

It’s too bad that Mr. Morrison’s giftedness is inseparable—even maybe contingent on—his obscurity. Neither Letterman nor Leno, nor any self-respecting high priest of the television airwaves, is ever going to have Mr. Morrison on their show. For obvious reasons. The moment Dave or Jay lets Bill on their show, it will be painfully plain to everyone watching that their ilk have been superseded, by a new and unstoppable mutant strain. Mr. Morrison may never be the talk show host he deserves to be, but if so that’s because, at heart, he is no host but a virus. The moment mainstream TV allowed him through its doors of perception and into the sleeping mind of the masses, it would spell the end of mainstream TV.

Until that time, Bill Morrison will remain perhaps what he most aspires to be: a marvelously, gloriously great ghost of a guy. 

Jason Horsley, 2006.

Monday, May 04, 2009

For anyone wondering about and where it is, truth is I am behind on server payments and can't be bothered to get the site back up right now - feels like ancient history, and who needs a website these daze anyway?

But here's a direct link to the archives here (older version of the main page but most of the rest of the material hasn't been updated for years anyway)

Friday, April 24, 2009

What's It All About?

OK, another God Game (Nobody's Army) is up so it's about time I reintroduced anyone out there to the concepts behind it - what exactly IS this God Game thing anyway?

What follows is the original God Game Treatment. This was back when I intended to make a feature film, with 24 different "subjects" all woven together. That didn't happen, because the project took an unexpected turn (more on which anon), and instead I wound up with 6 separate episodes, featuring 6 of the chosen individuals, each one 24 minutes long (except Nobody's, which is 32 mins). So here's how I initially concieved it.

“God doesn’t play dice with the universe. He just plays hide and seek.” 
—Woody Allen, Husbands and Wives

The God Game is a sui generis work, that is, a genre unto itself. I call it “surrealist documentary,” a documentary on the fantasy we call life. The objective is to assemble a fantasy feature film from documentary footage, to get the actors to write the script, as it were, and then to assemble the plot in the editing room. Of course the themes will take precedence over the narrative, as in any documentary, but the form and flow of the film will be closer in feel to Buñuel than Mike Leigh. Imagine a cross between The Thin Blue Line and The Matrix, a work of cinema verité about the illusory nature of reality.

Twenty-four humans of all ages and backgrounds have been recruited. Each one will be interviewed intensively for a single day, and talk about his or her beliefs, philosophy, life experiences, dreams, goals, and views on society and religion and “the greater picture.” They will undergo imaginative exercises by which they can recreate themselves in specific ways, i.e., as a religious leader, a terrorist, an animal, and so forth. They will have the opportunity to imagine themselves as a different person altogether, living a different life. And they will each contribute to their own personal recreation of the Afterlife, depicting their view of existence beyond the body and the self, and their thoughts on how life looks to them from this new, transpersonal perspective. The film will set out to portray each of these very distinct, charismatic humans as but masks or windows onto the gestalt Human: a single, unified and collective consciousness, of which we all are but fleeting manifestations. The idea of death, then, is used not as a morbid dampener on the life experience but, on the contrary, as what drives us and inspires us to attain ever higher states of consciousness in our brief time as individual beings. It is what finally unites all these separate entities into a single, continuous energy or Life Force. 

To clarify this point: the acceptance of the movie is that in death, the illusion of selfness is shed, along with the body or “skin,” and consciousness “returns” to the primordial, formless energy from which it emerged. Whether this once individual consciousness is then dispersed into the Universe, recycled into a new form, or something else altogether, is entirely up to the individual, and depends on just how far s/he has developed his/her awareness, knowledge, and imagination, while alive. 

The God Game will consider the possibility that in death we are hurled into Eternity and there left to create our own reality. It will posit the notion that, if so, this is also the case in life: that we are each one of us creating our own reality through the acts of perception and interpretation, but that we have gotten lost in details. When death comes to tap us, the curtains close, the angels and demons and unborn and dead souls applaud, and we realize that this world was but a stage, our life but a performance, of such verisimilitude that we were wholly lost therein. At that point the Grand Director says, “OK, lovely, let’s try it one more time,” or, “Perfect! That’s a wrap!” or any number of alternatives we can imagine (including that there is no Director besides ourself). 

The question the film will ask is, If in death we find that our world and reality is but an extension of ourselves, and the creation of our own consciousness, might it not be possible to realize this in life?

The God Game is about perception. It’s about illusion, identity, and the masks we wear to hide from the terrible, wonderful truth of ourselves: that we are the sole creators of our reality. Imagine, then, twenty-four players, twenty-four lives, interwoven into a single Tapestry. Imagine razor-fine editing that will create a musical cadence to the images, until each life/personality merges with the next and all are revealed as sharing a common Identity, an Identity which is accessed by us all through death, but might equally be accessed in life, through sex, madness, or other methods. This Identity is what we have called, in our confusion and our isolation, “God.” It is Who were really are.

The film will be an intricately woven quilt, a magik carpet, a collage or montage of moments, scenes, images, ideas, descriptions, words. The twenty-four players (plus assorted supporting players) will come and go throughout the film. They will not be showcased in separate segments, nor will they be named until the final moments. They will stand out only through their physical attributes and individual characteristics, their charisma, their ability to shine. If there is to be a structure to the film, it will be based not on individual persons but rather on specific themes or subjects. For example, there will be titles throughout, say, “Sex,” in large white letters on black screen, followed by ten or fifteen minutes of images, thoughts, and impressions upon the subject, all woven into one another. Depending on the footage we get, I expect that most spoken word sequences will not continue for longer than 20 or 30 seconds, and some for no more than 2 or 3 seconds. The players’ thoughts will be woven together thus as part of some strange, telepathic template. For example, one player begins a sentence, another continues it, a third finishes it. Or one player begins a story, another takes over telling a different but similar story, and so on, finally back to the first player. This way, various stories are being told simultaneously, and all are connected by the final “realization” shared by all. (For example, a paranormal experience which convinces us that there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamed of in our philosophy.)

The film will take the form of a Map of the Hologrammatic Universe, the “Body of God,” and present the argument that Reality is made of Language. Each Player or Soul will be a path or doorway on this Map, a character within the Myth, or Game. The humans and objects and symbols presented within this context will be as it were the thread of pearls by which we navigate the Labyrinth. The interview questions will be designed to help the Player define him or herself in such archetypal, mythical (not quite personal) terms, for example, asking them to imagine themselves as an animal, a color, a body part, a planet, a natural disaster, and so forth, and juxtaposing the various responses. The God Game will proceed like so, as a partially obscure, largely surreal, wholly mysterious and absorbing stream of consciousness movie. Moving from one subject to another, returning to the same faces again and again, we will gradually come to know the players, even as they become more and more mysterious and enigmatic to us. Towards the end of the movie, perhaps in the last third, we will begin to segue into the death sequences. These will be visually distinguishable from the life stuff, either by being in black and white or else via digital effects, to create the sense of being in another world. In this world, the death world, Eternity, all is energy, all is perception. Each monad soul creates its own reality. The only limits are those of the Imagination. Everything is intensified here to a maddening degree. A grain of dust is infinite, a moment lasts forever.  

 To recapitulate, The God Game will consist of the following basic ingredients:

1) Players talking in their home environment, in close-ups, medium shots, long shots, from a varying assortment of angles. This will be intercut with (often using voice over):

2) Players in motion, on the street, their place of work or at play, in the pub, public transport, dancing, and so forth, basically out and about, living their lives. Some of these images will be overlaid with the actors talking; on other occasions, the player will be talking to the camera while in the scene, in the style of certain movies (Alfie, for example).

3) Abstract shots of articles, objects, and things from the player’s home and life environment, shot in extreme close ups so as to be unrecognizable, at least initially. These objects represent extensions of the Player’s personality, the things they cannot take with them. “I surround myself with things that look like me,” as the Michael Gira song goes. As such they will form part of the individual tapestry of each player’s persona/soul/universe.

4) Shots of things, objects, animals, events, relevant to a given monologue. E.g., shot of a bird flying for “I felt as free as a bird.” Beyond such rather obvious inserts (which will be used in the fast, almost subliminal editing style which Oliver Stone employed for Natural Born Killers), there will be more subtle, free-associative images, the meaning of which will be more obscure (e.g., person talking about frustration, shot of a hamster on a wheel or a man trying to get a chair up some stairs; for these shots we will go to stock footage from TV, anything in the public domain) 

5) Digital effects. Impressionistic images and scenes from the Afterlife.

6) Titles. Since The God Game is to be an extremely impressionistic, free-flowing, non-liner, “right-brain” work, in order not to overly confuse or alienate the viewer there will be sporadically placed title cards, white letters on black screen, stating subjects to be covered; we will also be inserting relevant quotes, from the Bible, philosophers, and so forth (rather as in Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog). These may even be read aloud by the players, who will be asked to come up with some of their favorite quotes. This technique will provide relief whenever the viewer is starting to feel swept away in the rising tide of images, ideas, and associations.

7) Graphic images depicting specific symbols, such as the Arcana Mayor from the Tarot, the sephiroth of the Tree of Life (Kabbalah), astrological signs, sacred geometry, chakras, and other occult and/or religious iconography by which we give structure to the formless.

The desired effect of The God Game will be to create a sense of vertigo at the overwhelming nature of the human experience, the myriad, mutating points of view that make up the collective human experience and our multi-faceted, only partially consensus perception of “reality.” This reality, we will show, is by no means as fixed and final as we are inclined (and programmed) to believe. The film will strive to create an affinity between the audience and the Players, since we are all sharing a common experience, that of “the ship-wrecked,” hopelessly (if happily) lost in this sea of free associations. It will illustrate the manner in which each of us assembles and holds fast to his own meanings, her own truths, and that these truths are always relative, never absolute. They are like stepping stones that shift whenever we tread upon them. Finally, it will be seen that the personal search for “identity” is impossible until one accepts that there is no identity outside of this search. The fool rode his ox in search of oxen. The means for seeking and the thing that is sought are one and the same. Who, at last, is seeking this elusive “self”? God hides, and God seeks.

The Quest is all.