I spent some time yesterday going through
your site and having my eyes widened.
Thanks for the experience. If you are familiar with my work,
then you'll know
that I'm always on the look out for works that play with symbols
ways. Or, to be more precise, I'm looking for those artists who
have managed to
tap into 'the ancient image language' which underlies our myth,
dreams, and art.
I could see this in your work. You have the poet's touch for
arranging images in
such a way that they resonate deeply with one another.
The area of your site that interested
me the most (we all have our
preferences...) was your digital rendering of the Tarot Arcana.
This was GOOD.
As a matter of fact, it was great, grand, deep and mind-sweeping.
I'll have to
return again to examine the works more closely.
Your Dark Moon series also requires
another look. At first glance, it doesn't
come together in a way that makes sense to me immediately. But,
there to invite a second viewing in the attempt to penetrate
deeper into the
imagery. The net is great for exposing work to the world. But,
our tv habits
keep encouraging us to click the mouse (change channels), to
rove and scan with
our eyes onto something new. Meanwhile, the works of art which
you and I produce
require meditation and prolonged concentration. So, difficult
underlying those works will require more effort on my part, the
they may be extricated. Each painting is a mirror to experiences
that lie deep
in the viewer. Not all these may rise to the surface immediately.
Like you, I've had the strange experience
of finding myself, unexpectedly, in
some very dark areas in my soul. To be honest, I don't want to
go back there.
Producing art from those experiences is also quite a task. It
took me years of
emotional distance before I decided to go back (maybe that's
just me). The work
that shows this on my site is the underworld of The Pearl painting
still being painted - adding more smoke and atmosphere to the
underworld). So, I
understand that what you've done is no easy task.
And I have more respect for Giger everyday...
I also found the Childhood series interesting
(not to mention hilarious), the
Holocaust images moving (I've read quite a few accounts by survivors
Auschwitz), and your paintings very accomplished. But, sorry,
work is far superior to anything you or I could produce...
Thanks again for opening my eyes to
Hi Laurence. Thank you so much for your
letter. It was wonderful to hear from someone who really understands
what my work is all about and who can articulate their understanding
so well. Would it be alright to quote parts of the letter in
the future? I enjoyed your work quite a bit also. I see that
you studied with Ernst Fuchs. That must have been incredible--he
is one of my artistic heroes. When I first discovered his work
about 15 years ago, it was a revelation and really opened some
doors for me. Thanks again for your letter--it really made my
If you want to quote parts of my letter
- go ahead. (I didn't know my words were
Of course, nothing comes without a price.
I need something from you -
Here's the story. At present, I'm writing
a series of articles on the painter
Johfra for the next issue of the Visionary Revue. You may know
his work - he's
the Dutch painter who did the twelve images of the Zodiac that
everywhere as postcard, posters, and can be found on the web.
In fact, he did
much more than that. He died in 1998, and since then some people
in Holland have
been publishing and promoting his lesser known works. I know
them and, through
me and the Visionary Revue, a lot of this will get onto the web
for the first
After the Zodiac Series, Johfra started
pursuing darker themes - portraits of
witches, large canvases of witches' sabbaths, and a huge triptych
of figures swirling around the god Pan. In the sabbath pictures
and the Pan
triptych, he has used the iconography of Baphomet. Now, I want
to write about
all these pictures, but I am not well-informed about Magick,
sabbaths, and the
occult. I think I know the background to all these traditions,
as I'm very
familiar with the Corpus Hermeticum, ancient Mystery and Fertility
the European paganism and occult stuff - magick, wicca - has
not, until now,
been on my reading list.
So, can you direct me to some good,
intelligent, informative areas on the web
where I can do my research? And can you yourself suggest what
display, in a deeper, philosophical sense? Sorry I haven't gotten
scanning the images, otherwise I'd send them. But, basically,
painting shows the Sabbath as naked women kneeling round a cauldron
on the fire,
hands raised in worship. Above them is an older bearded male,
also naked, with a
red cape and Bishop's hat with the cross inverted. And from there,
naked figures are taking flight from the earth and swirling through
heavens, in a kind of walpurgisnacht. At the centre of these
is Baphomet - cross-legged, arms out-stretched and pointing downwards,
head and horns, woman's breasts and a phallus-caduceus. Between
his horns blazes
a torch that offers the only light in this cloudy dark landscape.
Necronomicon, I have Eliphas Levi's interpretation of the iconography
What I'm looking for really is a deeper
understanding of the witches sabbath,
walpurgisnacht, and the sources and function of Baphomet. Was
this an orgiastic
'union' to promote fertility? Something more? What can you tell
me? I know
that Johfra abandoned Hermeticism at this time (resolving duality
transcendent unity) in favour of Pantheism (all is here). But
implications of that movement elude me.
As thanks, I put a small surprise in
the mail this morning. Hopefully you'll get
Whenever I scan the Johfra images, I'll
send them. In the meantime, if you could
help me, I'd be most grateful.
Oh, by the way - the year I spent with
Fuchs was difficult (he's a slavedriver)
but amazing. We spent a lot of time together and had many enriching
conversations. Over the last year, I've had to distance myself
somewhat, to concentrate on my own vision as an artist. But,
I saw him again
last week in Holland - the same old magic is there between us.
As fate would
have it, we were brought together by Johfra's widow, Ellen Lorien.
Follow where your heart leads you...
Hi Laurence. Wow! There has been so
much written on what you want to know about, I
don't know where to start. I'll try to put what I know in a nutshell
and answer all your
questions. Witchcraft in Christian Europe is generally believed
to have been a
continuation or the surviving remnants of the pre-christian,
pre-historic, pagan religions
of Europe. This idea is based on the work of anthropologist Dr.
Margaret Murray. These
religions were nature-based and saw divinity inherent in nature
and symbolized as male
and female, the God and Goddess. Being matriarchal, the emphasis
was placed on the
Goddess. Her consort was the dying and resurrected God. This
god was often a horned
god and was connected with animals and hunting. A very good book
on the pre-christian
matriarchal religions that I reccomend is "When God Was
a Woman" by Merlin Stone.
The witches' sabbaths or "sabbats" were celebrations
which coincided with the solstices
and equinoxes. They marked transitions in the natural and agricultural
cycle of the year.
Walpurgisnacht was the German name for Beltaine, the spring equinox
usually included fertility rituals. These rituals often included
group sex magick, both real
and symbolic. The maypole is a remnant of this. The word witch
comes from the old
anglo-saxon "wicca" which means "wise" or
"to bend." Witchcraft involves the practice
of magick, defined by Aleister Crowley as "the art and science
of causing change in
conformity with will." In witchcraft, one generally tries
to align oneself with natural
forces. When Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe,
it sought to destroy
the earlier pagan religions. The horned god became the devil
and the sabbats became
orgies of murder and sex with demons. If you're interested in
the witch-hunts of the
middle ages as I am, much has been written on that. Black masses
(which are an
inversion of the catholic mass) and satanism are purely christian
inventions. The figure
in the painting you described with the bishop's hat and inverted
cross belongs to this
christian subversion of paganism, which leads me to wonder just
Johfra was viewing witchcraft from. Pan was a Greek horned god
instinctual nature, specifically lust and fear. Baphomet is a
deity (or a demon depending
on your point of view) that was worshipped by the Knights Templar.
I don't know much
about baphomet but you can get some information on him at
www.templarhistory.com/baphomet.html and www.templarhistory.com/levi.html
Modern Wicca or neo-paganism is basically a 20th century reconstruction.
You can read
a brief essay about the history of Wicca at
www.religioustolerance.org/wic_hist.htm A good site about the
of the horned god is Shrine of the Horned Gods at
www.lugodoc.demon.co.uk/welcome.htm You can read about the different
their meanings at www.quillandunicorn.org/issues/3/sabbats.html
www.antipope.org/feorag/wheel.html I don't know if these are
the best links on the web,
but they were the best ones I could find. As far as the deeper
meanings of the witches'
sabbath, I am not really a scholar of the occult and I'm sure
you can find much written on
this. I can tell you what my own take on it is. If you're looking
at it from a pagan
perspective, the sabbat is a celebration of man's oneness with
nature. Physical sexuality
is seen as a manifestation of an energetic and spiritual sexuality
that pervades all of
creation. All created things exist in duality, and these dualities
are all in a continual state
of dancing/lovemaking. Thus sex is sacred to the Goddess and
a sacrament. The ancient
pagans also used the energy of sex to help the crops to grow,
based on the "like attracts
like" or "as above, so below" idea. This has actually
been scientifically proven to be
more than "primitive superstition." Plants are affected
by human energy. To my way of thinking, there is really no contradiction
between "transcendent unity" and "all is here."
It all depends on what perspective you're looking at it from.
Magicians and mystics eventually reach the same place coming
from different directions. The "truth" that the one
is in many and the many in one is something that can't be grasped
with the intellect. In fact, all of existence is a dichotomy
when you start to examine it on different levels, but the rational
mind is not designed to perceive in ways other than dualistically.
If you look at the witches' sabbath from a christian perspective,
what you see is a projection of the collective "shadow."
All the dark, repressed aspects of the European mind were denied
and placed onto "the witches," just as later they were
placed onto the Jews during the Holocaust. The Burning Times,
as the period of the witch-hunts is known, was a multi-faceted
psychological and political phenomenon. A good site with info
on this is
members.aol.com/runes3/burn.htm An artistic site covering this
Hope you find this helpful. I'd love to see the Johfra paintings
when you get them
Thanks for your most intelligent answer,
which gave me all the clues I was
looking for, and the paths to follow. This whole area, thanks
to Johfra and to
you, is becoming a new area of research for me, with lots of
images and ideas to
intrigue me further.
I checked out all the sites you mentioned,
and copied the info for more indepth
reading later on. Alas, since unusual books in English are hard
to come by in
Paris (and I can't afford them anyway), the net is increasingly
source of info. Of course, it doesn't go in depth, but the immediate
presentation of basic ideas is irresistible and mind-boggling.
I'm wondering if you wouldn't mind clarifying
one point in your answer,
regarding multiplicity, duality, and unity. In my own experience
thus far, I've
had the undeniable experience of 'awakening to unity'. This came
an intense concentration on the sacred imagery in my own paintings,
(primarily, though also through Fuchs' work and more traditional
In part, I was aided by entheogens (hashish), but I now find
I can get there
without it. This 'unity' is very much like the 'the One' described
Neo-Platonism, Hermeticism, and even Gnosticism. The sacred images
transparent to their source, and I feel myself once more in a
timeless state of
belonging and unity with the Sacred One from whence I came and
to which, one
day, I will return. Images are memory-clues to remembering all
Now, the images themselves and the techniques
that bring me there may, in some
sense, influence the type of mystical experience I'm having.
My experience could
be labeled 'Deity mysticism', whereas there also exists 'Nature
even 'formless mysticism'. I'm thinking that if I went further
into the imagery
and practices of wicca, magick, and so on, it would lead me more
experience of 'Nature mysticism'. The impetus to follow that
path is purely
personal. I made a painting called The Sacrifice not long ago
which uses imagery
from my Maltese roots, imagery that centers the sacred experience
fertility, and the Goddess. I'm now in the process of deciphering
(which means, I meditate, contemplate, and even 'enter through'
the image to the
sacred experience 'on the other side' of the painting's doorway).
The stuff I'm
reading and researching now about pagan fertility rites gives
me some of the
keys I need to open the doorways of those more ancient images.
And then, Johfra comes into all of this.
Now that his life's work as an artist
has been published, it becomes clear that he went from Hermeticism
Or, if you wish, from Deity mysticism to Nature mysticism. He
canvases with sacred and esoteric imagery (the Zodiac, Unio Mystica),
started painting portraits of witches, witches' sabbats, and
large paintings of
Pan, Cernnunos, and Pluto. In conversation with his widow, Ellen
told me that he became fed up with the dualism in Hermeticism
above/below - and found the solution to their unity in Pantheism.
But, she never
really elaborated on that statement.
So, now the big question I have to ask
you (sorry for so much preamble...). In
your letter you said "All created things exist in duality,
and these dualities
are all in a continual state of dancing/lovemaking." Meanwhile,
"the sabbat is
a celebration of man's oneness with nature. Physical sexuality
is seen as a
manifestation of an energetic and spiritual sexuality that pervades
creation." The duality that exists in paganism - is it the
duality of male /
female - and the orgiastic union is manifesting their unity?
Or is it 'the many
and the One'? And the many find themselves to be manifestations
of growth, all
entwined and interlaced in the creeping vine or ever-spreading
web of life? All
of this is something that, thus far, I've grasped intuitively
experienced with full-blown awareness.
I don't expect absolute answers. But
your own experiences in this regard would
interest me. As well (if you have the time), I'd be interested
in knowing how
you use the images you've created. Have you stared at them for
a long period of
time (as a kind of contemplation, with or without drugs). I'm
wondering if other
artists have experienced some of the things I have.
Once again, thanks for your last letter,
which spoke both to my intelligence and
Hi Laurence. I'm glad you found my information
useful. I'll jump right into trying to
answer your question. The dichotomies of unity/duality and "many/one"
are based on
perception. When incarnated in physical bodies we perceive the
universe as consisting of
separate things and tend to classify them in terms of duality.
This is normal and what our
brains were designed to do. We could not survive in the physical
(Have you ever read "The Doors of perception" by Aldous
Huxley?) When we perceive
things from a soul perspective (the mystical experience) then
we see the unity of all
things and how the unity expresses itself in diversity. A good
analogy is drops of water
in an ocean. Each drop is individual and unique yet is part of
the larger whole. When
you step back, you don't see each individual drop, just the ocean.
Also, from a soul
perspective, one can accept paradoxes and contradictions, because
one sees that existence
is full of them and that all positions and points of view are
valid. People tend to get
confused because they confuse these two states of mind. Have
you ever read any of the
"Don Juan" books by Carlos Castaneda? A good example
of this confusion is in the very
first book "The Teachings of Don Juan" when Don Juan
gives Castaneda a
hallucinogenic drug and Castaneda experiences himself as a crow
flying around and
seeing everything through a crow's eyes. When he returns to "normal"
he is confused and
wants Don Juan to tell him if he "really" became a
crow. Don Juan replies that of course
he did. Castaneda wants to know what someone else would have
seen if they were
watching him while under the influence of the drug. After much
misunderstanding, Don Juan sees what castaneda's problem is and
tells him that if
someone else had taken the drug, they would have seen him become
a crow. If they had
not taken the drug, they would see his human body sitting there.
To Don Juan, the
experience of becoming a crow was just as real as the experience
of being human. Only
the point of view, of perception, had shifted.
I can relate to Johfra's being fed up with the soul/body duality.
That is one of the
reasons I was drawn to paganism myself. All Western religions
(barring their mystical
sects) contain this soul/body split and usually the body is denigrated--made
"dirty" or at
best, less important. In paganism, you take your body with you.
God is right here and
now in your body, in other's bodies, in the grass, trees, wind,
water, etc. Each woman is
the Goddess and each man the God. Sex is a joyful sacrament--a
reminder of the unity of
all things and a way to experience divinity. All things have
their own intelligence which
can be communicated with. We are an integral part of our environment,
alienated conquerors of nature as we have become in the modern
western world. In
paganism, one personifies the intangible forces of nature, of
the human mind and spirit,
and of the universe as deities. Thus you have gods, goddesses
and spirits that personify
just about every force and natural phenomenon known to man and
all can be called upon
and worked with.
My own mystical experiences have come from many sources. Psychedelic
surely, but they are not the main source. I've had many experiences
through the practice
of yoga, some from magick ritual, and many were simply spontaneous.
Hope you find this helpful.
I had a deeper look into your website
last night, and enjoyed much of what I
saw. In particular, I read a sampling of poems related to the
Holocaust (in all
its forms), and went a bit deeper into the Holocaust images.
Then, I chanced
upon the Dialogue on the Holocaust and read it through with much
The whole subject is, at one and the
same time, fascinating and dangerous.
Fascinating, because the threat to life, and even to the life
of an entire
people or culture, makes us want to pay attention, be on our
guard, be prepared.
But it is also dangerous, because the evil manifest in those
events emerges from
a bottomless abyss. Our fascination can easily draw us down,
ever further, into
that dark and infinite expanse. Imagining the pain and suffering,
and survival. Navigating the way through those regions in our
mind and soul is
no easy task.
I can only say that, in my case, I was
more fascinated by the tales of survival
than the accounts of brutality and suffering. Most meaningless
of all, in a way,
are the statistics. What numbers could possibly account for infinite
humiliation suffered by even one individual?
I better stop here. But I'll add, as
perhaps something of interest to you, a
couple of short poems that came to me during my visit to Auschwitz
Have you received the Manifesto yet?
If so, I hope it offers you at least one
person's view onto Visionary art, sustained with quotations from
You mentioned yoga in your last e-mail,
saying that it, along with psychedelics,
magick, etc brought you to certain mystical experiences. I pick
up on that
because I've been having my own experiences and doing my own
research in those
areas. In sources like Heinrich Zimmer (Artistic Form and Yoga
in the Sacred
Images of India) and Eliade (Yoga: Immortality and Freedom),
I am learning more
about ekagrata - concentration on a fixed point - both in our
seeing and our
meditation. This helps describe the experiences I've had while
images. My gaze remains fixed on one point, and gradually my
focus expands to
include all the images on the periphery. A new way of focusing
the eyes is
achieved. At first, a white haze intervenes. But then, things
dimensional, acquire great presence, and the symbols become transparent
source. The painting becomes a doorway and I enter through it.
Not only new ways
of seeing, but of understanding are then experienced. The images
bring us there.
It's strange to find confirmation of
these experiences in my reading of Zimmer,
but not with any other Visionary artist I've met. We've all experienced
things, but not necessarily 'the same' amazing things. How many
perception are there? Have you had the above experience? And,
if not, what
meaningful visionary experiences have you had - that you can
like to think dialogue is possible in this realm (aside from
the dialogue of
By the way, I've read a few of the Castaneda
books. I'm immensely intrigued, but
not a devotee. My feeling is that much of his presentation is
a hoax (Castaneda
the stumbling anthropologist apprenticing himself to don Juan).
BUT, beyond the
'surface' presentation are a series of really fascinating insights
couldn't be presented in any other way. He's using this means
of presentation to
express alternative insight and experiences he's had - some 'real',
'imaginary'. It's like alchemy in way, when the adept may think
that the goal is
to really produce gold. Once 'the hoax' is overcome, the real
task begins. Same
with Castaneda and his version of shamanism. But, he sometimes
goes too far for
me. Doubt creeps back in, and 'the hoax' emerges once more. Well,
the shaman was
always the trickster - half fakery, half real magick...
OK, enough for today. By the way, I
updated my website and mentioned your site
on my opening page, as well as adding a link. I'd be happy to
people to your work.
I'll append the poems at the end....
Keep your fingers busy,
His wounded feet fall upon painful stones
As the tattered figures traverse the path
Dug between dark buildings.
In his solitude,
He screams silently from throbs of pain.
His is a private pain
Which, with his thoughts
Of torment, cruelty, and past joy
Are among his few possessions.
Worn, gaping, torn,
Lined with rags and stitched with wire,
Shoes are the temporary shelter
Wherein he hopes to dwell,
The brief reprieve from painful rock.
As the blood red sun rolls
Under distant, darkened skies,
A corpse hangs, gently,
From the gallows.
The piece of bread carefully torn
And dipped in thin soup.
The bowl, holding merely his sustenance,
In dreams that night
He searches foreign languages for words
To give these atrocities
Burning bright, furious and red
Through a haze of smoke and human ash.
The sunset of Mankind.
Hi Laurence. Yes, I did get your manifesto
and have read most of it. It is really
wonderful. It is the first intelligent and articulate treatise
on visionary art that I've read
that doesn't degenerate into psuedo-mystical gobbledy-gook. It
is very comprehensive.
Also, thanks for the wonderful inscription and for including
my name in future drafts.
That was quite flattering. (Please send me a copy when you do
the next draft). The
manifesto really pulled everything together for me. It connected
experiences and artists (all of which I've studied or which interest
me) which I would not
have thought of as falling under the heading "visionary
art." I thought only people who
made pictures of "dolphins and pyramids" called themselves
"visionary." As a result, I
have added the word visionary to my website description. All
the artists you mention in
the book are ones that I love and that have influenced me tremendously.
It's really great--
thanks for sending it to me.
(Laurence's Manifesto of Visionary Art
can be seen at http://VisionaryRevue.tripod.com)
I agree with you that it may be psychologically
dangerous to become fascinated
with pain and suffering and get drawn into dark spaces. This
has not been a problem for
me because my intention has always been to heal. I moved through
the Holocaust project
and released whatever needed to be released in myself. I hardly
ever think about it now.
The first major mystical experience I had was in my early 20s.
I was working at a
summer camp as a counselor and arts and crafts teacher. I had
been doing yoga regularly
for a while. One day after I got done my routine, I suddenly
felt as if I had taken some
powerful lsd. I had the experience of feeling as one with all
people and all of life. This
profound, blissful state of mind lasted for several hours. After
this, I started to
experience "information" coming into my mind from a
seeming outside source. I realized
that I had created all the situations I found myself in and that
I had the power to change
them and create whatever I wanted. Shortly after this, I was
laying in bed reading Zen
and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I had a sudden flash of
illumination in which I
"understood," in a non-linear, non-verbal way, the
"meaning" of life, the universe and
everything. This illumination lasted about a minute or two and
then faded. I anxiously
tried to find the passage in the book that had triggered it but
I am including below a "poem" about my role as an artist
which I found echoed in
your manifesto and an essay about an lsd experience I had.
Feel free to introduce my work to anyone you wish...
Art has chosen me.
I have not chosen it.
It has chosen me
in order to make the invisible visible
To make the intangible tangible.
The role an artist plays
emerges from the human experience
as naturally as plants emerge
from the earth,
independent of any notions of
It's value can not and need not
be grasped by the intellect.
I have not chosen art.
It has chosen me.
As my cousin Joe and I walked along
the luminous, green-dappled forest path, the
sunlight's warmth on my skin rejuvenated me and imbued me with
a feeling of peace and
Thirty minutes had passed since I swallowed the tiny piece of
soaked in LSD. Joe, in order to be my guide, had not dropped
Joe had been my unofficial mentor in metaphysics ever since we
ran into each
other in an occult bookstore. We hadn't seen each other since
art school, five years
earlier, and we discovered that we shared a mutual interest in
Magick-the art and science
of causing change (in consciousness and the environment) to occur
in conformity with
will. Joe belonged to a secret lodge which practiced high ritual
Magick in the Western
tradition and I eagerly absorbed all the information he was willing
Recently, I had been given some acid and Joe had agreed to be
my guide-to stay
straight and facilitate the trip. My intentions were to break
through old psychological
barriers of pain and trauma and reach healthier, more enlightened
levels of awareness.
Now, striding buoyantly down the dirt
path, everything around me, the trees,
grass, rocks, even the very air, shimmered and vibrated as if
revealing previously hidden
animation. The environment took on a hyper-clarity-every detail
was sharp and precise.
Solid objects became fluid and shifted and swirled. I sensed
an immense, swelling
presence-an omnipresent intelligence-behind the thin facade of
my physical surroundings.
Joy and exhilaration accompanied these perceptions, yet, at the
same time, I felt
anxiety creeping into my psyche. Walking rigidly, I tried to
ignore my escalating panic.
Joe made conversation, but I found it difficult to respond. I
would have to deal with my
fear if I wanted to have a good trip.
"Joe...I'm afraid," I said.
"I know," he said.
"What should I do?"
"Just be with the fear."
I immediately began to relax. Joe had given me permission to
whatever I happened to be experiencing in the moment. In the
past, when I tripped with
other people, I never allowed myself to just go with whatever
was happening to me
internally for fear of my companions ridiculing or abandoning
me. On the few occasions
when I tripped alone, the anxiety and self-hatred that manifested
were overwhelming and
I resisted them, thus, never moving through them into the states
of bliss and ecstatic
oneness with the universe which I had read about but never experienced.
determined that this time would be different.
I picked up a tiny, green, translucent inchworm and balanced
it on the tip of my
finger. Marveling at it's fragility, I remarked, "You know...I
could squash this inchworm
right now...or...I could let it live; it's all up to me."
"Yes...it is," said Joe. He understood the profundity
of my seemingly inane
statement. In that moment, I recognized that possessing free
will was an immense and
Articulating the thoughts and perceptions I experienced during
the acid trip is
difficult; the nonlinear modes of consciousness I found myself
in are very different from
everyday states of mind and don't lend themselves well to being
strung out in linear
sentences. While under the influence of LSD, information flowed
into my brain in big
chunks of holistic, all-at-once knowing. Some of it is now lost
forever because, not being
in the state of mind I was in when I received the information,
I can't access it.
The illumination triggered by the inchworm had facets and nuances
to it that just
can not be put into words. It was as if the entire phenomenon
of free will with all it's
meaning and implications was contained within a single non-verbal
After we had discussed free will for a while, Joe and I continued
along the sunlit
forest trail. To one side of us, a wire fence revealed beautiful,
grassy, gently sloping
meadows which rolled away towards a farm in the distance. I could
make out the tiny
figure of a farmer riding his tractor. This idyllic scene was
in sharp contrast with my still
At some point, I decided that I needed to stop walking and we
sat down on the
edge of the path. A nun came walking down the path towards us.
I couldn't tell how much
of my inner turmoil was visible on my face and was afraid that
the nun would react
unfavorably towards me, so I lowered my head.
"Hi," she said and smiled at us as she passed by. I
managed a feeble "Hi" of my
own. I must not have looked as fucked-up as I felt.
Insights about the crucifixion of Jesus, which, unfortunately,
are now forgotten,
suddenly flooded my mind and words came spewing out of my mouth.
I didn't have to
think; the information was just there and I was a conduit for
"That's the true, inner, esoteric meaning of the crucifixion,"
Joe said, "Of which,
that nun probably doesn't have a clue."
He then went into a diatribe about the sterility of organized
religion and the
ignorance and shallowness of the clergy.
Although normally I tended to agree with Joe, I was now seeing
things from a
different perspective. I said, "You don't know what that
nun is like. Maybe she's really
spiritual; maybe she has mystical experiences."
"You're right," he said after a pause. "I'm sorry."
Joe had been pretty malicious and I had criticized him for it,
yet I was guilty of
the same thing.
"You know what, Joe? I don't say shit about people like
you do, but I think it-all
Being honest felt good. I was no longer hiding from my own reality.
through my fear was to tell the truth.
A bizarre state of mind then ensued. It was as if I had been
hypnotized and age-
regressed to various points in my childhood, but the points were
simultaneously. I was twelve, seven, and three years old, an
infant, and my present self,
all at the same time. Each of these child-selves alternately
spoke of their pain, anger, and
confusion in an age-appropriate voice, except for the infant,
whose pre-verbal thought
processes I experienced as inchoate, primitive ebbs and flows
of emotion, desire, and
I, or rather, my youthful selves, screamed and cried and rambled
on for what
seemed like hours. Each child's pain had a distinctive quality.
The twelve-year-old was
resigned to his suffering; apathetic and despairing, he had already
begun to numb
himself. The seven-year-old was still in touch with the immediacy
of his emotions, but
was overwhelmed by them. He felt powerless and crushed by the
forces that oppressed
him and caused him pain. The three-year-old was angry and threw
a tantrum. He wanted
to know why. Why do mommy and daddy yell at each other all the
time? Why does he
feel like it's his fault-like he's bad? The infant contributed
a pervasive survival anxiety.
Eventually, the whirlpool of grief and anguish subsided and my
My hands were radiating a palpable energy. I tried to bring them
found that I could not; it was like trying to bring together
two powerful magnets whose
poles were aligned to resist each other.
"Oh my god, Joe," I gasped, "this is incredible."
"You're lit up like a Christmas tree," said Joe, who
was adept at seeing auras.
I played with the energy in amazement for awhile, then I wanted
to walk some
more. When I stood up, I suddenly had the sensation of falling
and had to sit down again.
"You're in the abyss," said Joe. "It's the space
between paradigms. You might
have to stay in it for a while."
As I sat on the ground, waiting for the dizziness to pass, another
illumination came to me.
"Joe, we're all mirrors for each other; everything in the
universe is a mirror for
Again, words cannot adequately describe the enormity or complexity
realization. It was as if it actually took up space; as if the
very air around us was filled
with this knowledge.
Everything is everything; all parts contain the whole; as above,
so below; I am he
as you are he as you are me and we are all together. I was quite
familiar with this concept
from my reading, but this was more than a surface intellectual
understanding; it was a
deep knowing in the very core of my psyche.
After this peak, I started to gradually come down. Joe and I
sat in a field and I
shifted into another interesting state of consciousness which,
again, was akin to
something I had read about: the Zen concept of "no-mind."
I wasn't thinking about
anything and I wasn't dwelling on the past or the future; I was
just being-totally in the
moment. I was completely at peace-more so than I had ever been
in my entire life. Yet I
wasn't drowsy or lethargic. I was dynamically and exquisitely
awake and aware. I was
simply existing and it was alright. Everything was alright. I,
the world, the universe, was
perfect and just as it should be.
I heard there was a secret chord that
David played and it pleased the Lord (but
you don't really care for music, do ya?) Well, it goes like this
- the fourth,
the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift - the baffled king
Those lines are from a Leonard Cohen
song, Halleluja, which I hope you're
familiar with. Jeff Buckley does an amazing version on one of
his albums. The
lyrics move into a sexual mysticism which is just incredible...
Thanks for the commentary on my Manifesto.
I'm glad it brought things together
for you - which is pretty much why I wrote it for myself. I needed
together various sources that, I knew deep down, constituted
a whole. The
'invisible landscape' is something which, I'm convinced, exists.
Your account of
your acid trip confirms that. Through psychedelics and other
states of consciousness are revealing structures of world and
mind which, until
now, have not been understood or expressed in language. The role
of the artist,
as I see it, is not only to lead his life in such a way as to
experiences, but to be able to articulate them, through words,
music or images -
the more eloquently, the better. Representing these states is
creating images that can evoke them is another.
I read through your account of your
trip a number of times, appreciating it in
different ways. The struggle to describe the experience through
language - that struggle I understand deeply, and is there, in
your account. Two
events in particular struck me as familiar. One, the sudden awareness
choice. In my case, I became acutely aware how, each day, we
'intend' a thousand
different tasks. And yet, we could also turn our will toward
a higher spiritual
purpose, and 'intend' something much more sacred and holy. The
paths of the
saints and great spiritual healers show us the way through life
when we begin to
'will' in this manner. In your case, willing not to thoughtlessly
(the inchworm), brings us along a spiritual path that recognizes
animal and plant
life - all life - as sacred.
The second event was your sudden ability
to experience yourself from different
ages simultaneously. I don't know if I had that quite as intensely
as you did,
but I was amazed at how clearly I could remember and 'speak in'
ego-formations. They could even speak to each other. This aspect
is quite amazing. Eliade described the stages of the alchemical
opus, with their
repeated imagery of death and rebirth, as 'a regression to the
That's why the alchemical child appears in the vas at the end
of the opus. I read
that when I was trying to figure out the imagery of my painting
which came to me in a dream. Reading that blew my mind, because
together the dream, the painting, and certain hashish-assisted
meditations on the
painting, where I experienced just such a regression.
Stanislav Grof writes about that - the
healing that can be felt through life
regression. I can't say I've gone that far myself - complete
culminating in an experience of death and rebirth. But, enough
related those experiences to me that I regard it as a part of
landscape' which I could journey into one day. Overcoming fear
- that's another
big one. The fear of losing it, and going insane. I don't underestimate
danger of these experiments, as well as the possible rewards.
Ah, the hero's
If you've read other material, or come
across other artists, whose insights or
works you think should be in the manifesto, please tell me. I'm
looking to go 'broader' - into whole areas of art that parallel
it (eg - a lot of
the West Coast stuff I see in Juxtapoz). I want to go 'deeper'
- into those
territories of the mind that I may have only touched on the surface.
the mind's topography is infinite, but you have to start laying
out your map
It's been good talkin' to ya...
Center yourself in joy.