- MUSIC, MAGIC, & MEDIA MISCHIEF -
THE GNOSIS INTERVIEW WITH GENESIS P-ORRIDGE
by Jay Kinney
Genesis P-Orridge occupies the curious position of being both a
household name and virtually unknown at the same time. While he
has been prominent in performance art, so-called Industrial
Culture, the tattoo and body modification rites of Modern
Primitives, and the underground rave scene, Genesis (or Gen, as
he is called) and the groups he collaborated in, Throbbing
Gristle and Psychic TV, have remained largely hidden from
>From 1969 to 1976, Genesis collaborated with Cosey Fanni Tutti as
the performance art group Coum Transmissions in the U.K. Their
performances were visceral attacks on powerful taboos, including
explorations of pain, sexuality, disgust, and outrage. An Easter
performance in Amsterdam late in Coum's career included, in Gen's
own words, his being "crucified on a wooden cross, whipped with
two bullwhips, covered in human vomit and chicken wings and
chicken legs, while I had to hold burning torches; people in the
audience could hear the skin burning on my hands."
Coum Transmissions was replaced in 1976 by Throbbing Gristle
(TG), now a four- person project and one of the trailblazers of
Industrial Music, whose work has been described as "a mottled
sheet of experimental sound." As Genesis says in the following
interview, TG dealt with issues of power, control, image, and
propaganda, through an unending series of mind games, surprises,
seeming contradictions, and a conscious flirtation with
In 1981 TG split in two, with Genesis and Peter Christopherson
forming Psychic TV, which combined occult and paramilitary themes
that had begun to crop up in TG's work. Genesis soon founded a
magical order, the Temple ov Psychick Youth [sic], or TOPY, which
spread word of its existence through Psychic TV gigs and
Influenced by the early twentieth-century occult painter Austin
Osman Spare, TOPY disseminated information on constructing
"sigils," magical objects intended to focus psychic energy toward
a conscious goal. TOPY's version of sigils entailed adult members
writing down a favorite sexual fantasy, anointing the paper with
various bodily fluids and hair at the 23rd hour of the 23rd day
of the month. Sigils were then mailed off to TOPY headquarters,
where they were held in strict confidentiality and supposedly
served to build a reservoir of psychic energy for TOPY members'
In the late '80s, Genesis and crew became active in the
burgeoning rave scene in England, jousting with authorities over
holding unlicensed all-night dance parties in unlikely locations.
Their notoriety culminated in early 1992 when, in the midst of
public hysteria over Satanism, 23 Scotland Yard detectives
descended upon Genesis' home/TOPY headquarters in Brighton,
England, looking for evidence of satanic ritual abuse. Much of
Genesis' art and video archives were seized, and the tabloids had
a field day. At the time of the raid, however, Genesis, his (now
ex-)wife Alaura, and their two children, Carresse and Genesse,
were off in Nepal, organizing soup kitchens and encountering
Hindu and Buddhist holy men. Faced with likely public castigation
if they returned home, Genesis and family continued a nomadic
life, ending up in the world's designated parking lot for the
eccentric and aberrant - Northern California.
The following interview was conducted in San Francisco in late
March 1994. Despite his reputation as a sordid amalgam of Peter
Pan and Captain Hook, Genesis turned out to be a good deal more
complex - and charming, even gentle - than his image had prepared
me for. It also became apparent that although his motivations are
often mischievous and he has an anarchist's instincts for
stirring up trouble, Gen is also following a unique path of
public self-discovery that is surprisingly idealistic. Few
individuals better typify the questions raised by the
intersection of popular culture, art, fashion, the occult, and
Those wishing news and catalogues of Gen's current projects can
send a large SASE to: Transmedia Foundation, P.O. Box 1034,
Occidnetal, CA 95465-1034.
Jay Kinney: The Temple ov Psychick Youth is the first instance
I'm aware of where a public figure involved in art and music
created a public magical group and made it a integral part of
their work. Why did you found TOPY?
Genesis P-Orridge: Well, when I started doing public events and
provocations and happenings in the '60s, I was already reading
books by Crowley. And my grandmother was actually a medium. She
used to have a good reputation for what was called ectoplasmic
phenomena. When she was in a trance, people would claim to have
seen almost corporeal manifestations of relatives or people they
didn't know. From then on I had an interest in inexplicable
The first time I met a person who was in a magical order was in
1969 in Liverpool. This guy came round to this apartment that I
was crashing and he was in what turned out to be [Kenneth Grant's]
Typhonian O.T.O. He was a total heroin addict. As he was
explaining to me all about how he was in the O.T.O., he was a
magician, and so on, he was tying off and shooting up in the
kitchen. And then he was doing the classic squirting a syringe of
blood all over the kitchen walls in somebody else's place. And I
thought, "If that's what happens when you join a magical order, I
don't think I want to do it" (laughs). That was my first
introduction to someone who was prepared to say in public that
they were involved in magical practice.
Not long after that, I became involved in performance art. At
first it was involved with body movement, but very quickly it
went into sexual taboos. The performances went from being street
theater to having more and more to do with art galleries because
those were places where it was safe to experiment. During that
time, I got intensely concerned with ritualizing the event and
making it have to do with states of consciousness and the
assembly of different objects and symbols that seemed to focus
something i n my own neurology. And I started to notice other
things happening every so often.
In Antwerp in 1977, I was speaking in tongues really fast, which
has never happened to me before or since. During that particular
performance I drank a whole bottle of whiskey, and I also ate
branches of this tree that I had found outside, which turned out
to be poisonous. And in this trance state I was actually carving
designs with rusty metal into my chest. It wasn't planned; it was
more as if I was taken over. And then I started vomiting, of
course, which was the combination of the tree bark and the
whiskey. And because I have to take steroids all the time, if I
can't keep the steroid pills down, then I start going into a coma
Kinney: Why do you take steroids?
Genesis: They used to give me steroids for asthma when I was a
young boy, and it destroyed half my adrenal glands. And now I
have to take them to replace what my glands used to do.
So I ended up in the Antwerp hospital lying in the emergency room
with this doctor. And he was saying, "I can't find a pulse or a
heartbeat." (Laughter.) And my then partner Cosey was getting all
upset and saying, "What are we going to do? What are we going to
I remember I was lying there and listening and thinking, "But I'm
OK!" (Laughs.) I was in my own body, but I was aware of this
conversation going on and I was in some suspended state. My brain
was functioning normally but I couldn't speak, I couldn't
actually move. A transient kind of zombie state was triggered.
That was when I decided that whatever it was I was dealing with
in these performance pieces, it was getting so peculiar that I
didn't want to do it in a public situation anymore, because there
were obviously risks involved. I was getting to the point where
sometimes I nearly physically died, and I could put that
responsibility on an art gallery or on other people. And I should
start doing some research quick to find out what I was really
I'd been going that way anyway, realizing that I wanted to do it
privately and with a lot more rigor and thought and actually sit
down and plan it, fast, concentrate, and work out a schedule. And
always have somebody who was just there to guide or to be able to
call me back out if things started to get strange. And also to
document what happened.
Kinney: Who did you look to as a guide?
Genesis: I met a woman called Roberta Graham, who was also doing
very intense private performance pieces, building strange
contraptions that took the body to really deep thresholds of pain
that would push people out of their bodies. But she was very
methodical and very scientific. She would spend months planning a
new machine and experimenting and testing it slowly to find out
exactly what it did. So I collaborated with her to some extent.
I also began doing a lot more reading and thinking and sifting,
going back and recalling a lot of these events. And it seemed
that certain techniques were utilized all over the planet. Maybe
if the technique itself was looked at minus names and
incantations - or if the incantations were just a series of
sounds and the words were unimportant - maybe I should just try
and strip it down and see what was really there. What were the
key dynamics that made these things happen, minus all the
It was a refining of the very simplest elements. One thing was
the orgasm, and another was various bodily fluids and certain
times and astrological conjunctions and the repetitions of
certain types of deep or high sounds.
Not long after that, I began working with Alaura and we began as
partners exploring rituals privately in this area. We were
friends from '78 to '81 and we got married in early 1981, and
then things really intensified.
The basic premise in all my work has always been, if I think
about something and it seems to make sense, to project it into
the public arena of popular culture. To see whether it survives
or not in its own right, to see what happens and what is
confirmed and denied and what creates interesting interactions
and confrontations. To use popular culture as the alchemical jar
to see what happens. Why I have to do that, I don't know. It's
just been a drive for so long.
Monte Cazzaza came over to visit during 1979 and 1981 and stayed
for over six months with me. And I told him that I was thinking
more in terms of a paramilitary occult order that was secreted
within something that seemed enough a part of popular culture for
it not to appear to be a threat immediately. And for reasons of
mischief and fascination, this turned me on! (Laughs.) I liked
the idea of the mystery and the mischief both.
And of course Monte always encourages anything that looks like it
might create some short circuits in the status quo. Monte went
back to America, and I just sat down and designed the Psychick
Cross on graph paper. I wanted a symbol that seems really
familiar, that is almost the same as lots of things but not quite
the same, so that people could find it easy to adopt into their
Kinney: I was wondering about both the TOPY cross and Throbbing
Gristle's thunderbolt logo. The thunderbolt has a slight flavor
of a neofascist group, and the TOPY cross had a feeling of being
both an upside-down cross and a Russian Orthodox cross. So you've
chosen symbols that are right on this edge where people can
project nefarious intents onto them. It's an interesting device
on your part.
Genesis: I think that symbols are critically important. And
that's why with TG it was the same: I sat down with graph paper,
and we spent a long time deciding how it was going to look and
what the proportions would be. Because in Britain and Spain red
and black are the colors of the anarchists. But red and black are
also traditionally seen to be neofascist colors. The lightning
bolt has the SS connotation, but it also has the idea of
shortcircuiting control. And if you look at the lighning bolt as
a break, it's actually the anarchist circle and flag snapping in
two. So it was, as you say, right on the edge.
Previously with Throbbing Gristle we had started wearing
camouflage and paramilitary stuff and walking that tightrope
between the acceptable and the provocative - pretty skillfully
most of the time. Because of our sense of humor, we managed to
keep it going, because people soon began to realize that we were
actually commenting and pointing things out.
We found that people began coming to the gigs dressing like us.
They'd come in army surplus and caps and put TG patches on. We
triggered something and observed it and then encouraged it. We
thought, "Let's see what happens when it's not the Bay City
Rollers or the New Kids on the Block." Here we are playing with
this dark shadow side, but it's the same pop phenomena, with
people wanting to feel that they belong and state their
allegiance in terms of popular culture and ideas by how they
look. Let's not be afraid of that and let's not be aloof from it,
let's explore it and push it even more.
The response was much more powerful than we expected. So we would
play with that and do a lot of talking about what we could do
that completely contradicts the expectation. Of course eventually
we did a gig all dressed in white with white light, and
everything was beautiful. And everyone else in the audience was
in black and camouflage and "uuuurrrr!" (grimaces), and we smiled
all the time and we really annoyed them. And it gives you all
these extra cultural weapons. You can do the simplest, stupidest
thing and it seems really loud and large and potent again.
Wearing white suits shouldn't make any difference, and yet it
blew the fanatics' minds and it was recorded in the papers:
"What's happened to TG? They're all wearing white! They've sold
out! What' s going on?" (Laughter.)
So that was very much a satirical exploration of what happens in
popular culture. And what is this dynamic, where people want to
gather and feel connected with the band? We were mirroring them
back and they'd mirror us and we'd mirror them more, until we had
designer camouflage made in Paris, which was to me the ultimate
incongruity, to have handprinted camouflage.
That stopped because it had got so there were no games left. With
the best will in the world of trying to confound it, we'd become
a rock band. The one thing we didn't want to be, that we
despised, was the rock band, and we'd become one. We could go on
stage and be as atonal and confrontational and dismissive as we
chose, and the more we were, the more it was OK. Because people
had worked out that that was what we did. So it was all right now
and we'd been called on it and it was going to be accepted.
Before that whole process ended, I was already beginning to put
on leaflets "from the Psychick Youth Headquarters." I was
beginning to build the next project into TG. With the TG single
"Discipline," it said on the back, "marching Music for Psychick
So I'd already got the name and the concept of doing it in a much
more ascetic, considered way, instead of it just being thrashing
around because it's fun and pisses off Mom and Dad and the old
teenage rebellion syndrome. What can we do that takes us further
It seemed to me that we were in this position where we had to
stop or take responsibility for our actions. TG was kind of
gratuitous, and that wasn't the idea either. It wasn't meant to
become really popular or be gratuitous just because we could get
away with it. I had serious intent behind all the mind games and
the double bluffs and the satires.
I decided to design something that was more about my own serious
interests, so that I could go deeper and deeper into it and pull
people across. So they might have a different perspective on how
to do their lives and consider alternative ways of seeing the
universe and the potential of their brain and their body and
their ability to have control over themselves.
Kinney: Did it ever occur to you that you might be opening up a
giant hole that the unaware might fall into?
Genesis: I was warned about that all the time by the people in
the Museum of Magic in England. Through my own interests I got to
know the people at the Atlantis Bookshop. I used to go there
regularly and fritter away my money on first editions of Crowley
and Austin Spare paintings. And I got to know people who were
seriously involved in Wicca and were friends of Alex Sanders. I
was doing research and I talked to everybody. I told them I felt
there was room for magic to come back out of its closet and see
how much relevance it still had. There was a whole generation of
people who hadn't seen the '60s occult revival and weren't
necessarily interested in learning things by rote but could get a
lot from knowing about the possibilities and then could make
Some people did say, "Oh you've got to have twenty years'
training first, and you've got to do this and do that, and people
go mad if they don't know all the right formulas." And I said,
"Well, I know what you're saying, but then there's the whole
voodoo self-hypnosis syndrome as well, that sometimes people go
mad because they've convinced themselves that that's what is
going to happen if they don't do things the correct way."
I personally feel that it was a responsible thing to do. I was
assuming that there would be people who were prepared to
investigate these areas and see what would happen when it was
done with other people. A lot of people did the same ritual at
the same time with the same basic parameters.
Kinney: In the Grey Book the intention stated for TOPY is in
terms of "moral freedom, spiritual freedom, sexual freedom' and
Genesis: And guilt and fear.
Kinney: But at the same time the components of the sigils were
these three different bodily fluids and two different portions of
your hair, plus this very intimate sexual fantasy, ritually
combining these on the 23rd day of the month at the 23rd hour and
sending these off to you! It seems like an enormous act of faith
on the part of the person.
Genesis: I think more of an enormous act of trust. One of the
first posters we did said, "Abolish fear, establish trust." My
personal theory is that if your intention is clear and
non-malevolent, then nothing can be done to harm you with those
elements of your body. Once or twice people challenged me and
said, "I'm sending you my things. How do I know you're not going
to do some curse?" And I said, "Fine, I'll send you some of
mine!" And I always did (laughs). I don't remember doing anything
to harm you, so I don't see why you should do anything to harm
me. So have what you want.
I wanted to contradict the tradition that those things were
innately dangerous for other people to have possession of.
Because I thought that was something people had hypnotized
themselves into being vulnerable to. It's the skill of the person
attacking it isn't the things that they have. Those are just
tools for visualizing and focusing as far as I'm concerned.
That whole area of thought had become too entrenched and paranoid
and was based on "I can hurt you if I want." Well, I'm sorry, I
got bullied at school and I found it a completely intolerable
and despicable activity. I thought it was actually very freeing
for people to be told, "You can let go of this fear. It doesn't
matter. What mattered was what you got from your ritual for you.
And afterwards you don't need this stuff. You don't need to keep
it." And sometimes they said, "I really want to keep the one I
did this month because I feel really connected with it and it
still seems to be working for me." And I said, "Sure."
I hate to set up a new dogma. We said, here's a sketch. If
something starts working for you and you adapt it or find it's
uncomfortable, that's OK. We're not here to tell you what to get.
We're just saying, have you tried this? Because we've noted that
certain of these elements have worked for us in really
interesting ways that we can't fully explain according to the
consensus reality. We're glad that we get these extra things. At
the very least it's fascinating and makes life better, and maybe
it's also useful and significant. And all the sigils that came in
while I was running TOPY are still absolutely and utterly safe
and not one's been lost or destroyed.
Kinney: Those weren't seized by Scotland Yard?
Genesis: No. What's really amazing is that they didn't take any
of them! Isn't that odd? We wrote an essay called "Magic Defends
Itself," and I'd say I rest my case!
They went up to my office where all the filing cabinets were and
they were locked and the key was hidden. They crowbarred them
open. And they left them all! [A TOPY friend at the house said
they just glazed over, they couldn't look. Their arms did this
(flips through folders) and their eyes did this (looks blankly).
They left everything!
Kinney: But ostensibly it was because of TOPY that this raid was
Genesis: Yes! Because they were convinced that TOPY was the proof
that evil satanic rituals were really taking place. That we were
importing teenagers from Brazil and killing them in rituals.
Keeping women prisoners and forcing them to have babies and
eating the babies and all that stuff.
Kinney: Let's back up a bit. For a few years leading up to that
raid, you had also been involved in the rave scene, correct?
Genesis: Correct. Since about '86.
Kinney: So maybe there was a confluence of reasons that they were
coming down on you.
Genesis: Oh. I think so. We were involved in the
anti-Dolphinarium campaign in Brighton. And we were involved in
anti-apartheid; we used to go to Trafalgar Square to the
Anti-Apartheid Society and give speeches. And we've been involved
in squatters' rights, and I've been into gay street theater, so
we were involved at least to some extent in supporting radical
gay rights. And raves; pro-psychedelic, semilegal gatherings of
happy young people twisting their minds, propagandizing their own
view of life. So if they have a computer that says, "These are
the kinds of groups that we don't like," we appeared on each
Basically I had decided to come out of my own closet and go,
"Look! I've actually been doing all this stuff for several years
using me as the guinea pig, and the bottom line is I feel that my
life has been incredibly enhanced and invigorated. And I feel I
have to share that."
Kinney: What's the underlying cosmology that you work with at
Genesis: (laughs) To tell you the honest truth, I'm reassessing
everything again. It seems like I got given an opportunity to sit
back and reassess to what extent more traditional methods might
still be really valuable for people. And not just dismiss them
out of hand for the sake of breaking a few holes in a wall. So I
guess each time we reincarnate, it's a little bit more serious
and a little bit more considered and a little bit further along
in terms of assimilating and respecting tradition. That's partly,
I suppose, the fact that I'm educating myself in public, which is
a stange and vulnerable thing to do.
Kinney: I was wondering because in the Grey Book the definition
you had of TOPY had to do with developing magical work free of
gods and deities. Do you still see the universe as not populated
with gods and goddesses or a God?
Genesis: Yeah. To be really honest I'm still pretty much an
existentialist. But I don't deny that certain energies and
resonances definitely seem to work.
Things do get manifested when you focus on them and truly desire
and need them to manifest. That happens. And I don't really care
why. My suspicion is that it's an innate gift that comes from so
far ago and is so primal that it's pointless putting names on it
and trying to humanize it. I think it is always an error to
I think that if you substitue the word "Time" in any spiritual or
religious text for the word "God" or the name of a god or deity,
it makes equal sense. Time is infinite and omnipresent and
omniscient and everything comes from Time and returns to Time.
And physical manifestations are the exception, not the rule. So
if you want me to give a name to the greater power there is, I'd
say it's Time.
Kinney: Have you disengaged yourself from TOPY?
Genesis: Well, officially we announced we disengaged ourselves
because it was appropriate in terms of Scotland Yard. And I also
had this urge to become nomadic. I had started getting this sense
that a nomadic way of not being fixed in one place was really
essential. I wrote some essays on it in England before the raid.
So it was again a mixture of "which comes first?" Was it that my
guts were telling me that that was what had to happen, or did I
somehow just have enough of an inner vision that I knew that that
was the next step? I don't know. I know that we made the right
moves at the right time and we weren't there [when Scotland Yard
raided the TOPY house].
When I was in Nepal I was fascinated with the devotion and the
sadhus and the Aghori Babas. Especially the Aghori Babas. Just
the simple statement of "the path of no distinction," which is
what they follow, made so much sense to me.
When I was in Nepal with both the more Bonpa-oriented Tibetans
who were basically sorcerers, and then the Shiva and the Aghori
and the Naga, I felt the really deep sensation of, "Wow! All the
stuff we were doing based on impulse and instinct and intuition
and observation, here it makes sense! We were right! That line of
inquiry was right. These techniques are being used as a daily
thing over here. We are Mr. and Mrs. Normal. We don't have to
explain our practices. We don't have to explain scars and tattoos
and piercings because the people here do it too. It's a symbol of
devotion and a quest for holiness. And that's wild!" I just felt,
"Ahhh, at last, a homeland!" I could wander around here naked and
everybody would be quite happy about it, and just say, "Oh,
Baba," and bless you and leave you to it.
And that's something I think we're all moving back towards. I
think part of the piercing phenomena and the resurgence of an
interest in early Pagan perceptions is actually a gradual
remembering of another way of life, a way of life that's
devotional, disciplined, integrated. That's something that has
been missing. That's why I even started to respect people like
Kinney: But a central component of that devotional way of life
generally is the conception of something larger than the
Genesis: I know, I like devotion for its own sake! (Laughs.) And
it gets me into strange conflicts with people. I haven't been
able to align myself with an orthodoxy. Sometimes I wish I could,
but I just can't. I start to blaspheme and I start to make jokes
all the time or change the sentence around to see if it's more
fun reversed. I always have to check and doublecheck things. And
not feel that I am subservient to the dogma so much as that it's
working for me.
Kinney: Dogmas and orthodoxies and belief systems aside,
experientially, amidst all this working with forces or energies,
haven't you had some sort of experience that made you think, "My
sense of self in this body is only a convenient fiction"?
Genesis: Oh yeah, ever since I was young. But I just take that as
written. This is just a useful vehicle, transient, mortal,
insignificant. I've always had a very strong sense of that. It's
existentialism. I think I should never have read Jean-Paul Sartre
when I was a kid. Because I don't feel the need to feel contact
with greater beings. I've had really powerful spiritual
experiences at times, mystical experiences and visionary
experiences, but none of them makes me feel that there is a
specific one I should align myself with. These phenomena are
fabulous and I'm really fortunate when I experience them, but I
shouldn't make it into a way of life, because I can't repeat them
ad hoc. They just come upon me.
One of the most fascinating experiences I had like that was in
Nepal. Some friends of ours took us to this tiny village with
lepers and incredibly poor people. In this small village square
there was this tree in a shrine where supposedly Shiva had had
sex with this other deity. And it was padlocked up, and there
were hardly any people around it except the lepers and the
beggars, and we were wandering around taking photos of some of
the statues. All of a sudden, out of my peripheral vision I saw
our friend, Treelotion, who was a Shaivite, waving and at that
moment I immediately went into this trance state where everything
seemed unreal and I was no longer controlling what was happening.
As I saw him waving out of the corner of my eye, I knew, that I
had to go straight to him. So did Alaura.
We both went straight to him without speaking. He was with a
village priest who had unlocked the shrine and was waving us in.
So we took our shoes off quickly and Treelotion's going, "Hurry
up, hurry up!" So we went inside and he closed the door. Then the
priest anointed us with this tilak [paint marks of the deity],
and I got this really fast freeze frame of the shrine. And there
were the remains of this tree in there, strewn with animal
intestines and mummified human heads and incredibly powerful,
very darkedged materials. Pools of blood. We had to throw some
money on a plate. Around the edges were cast-iron creatures with
heads that come off, and they were all filled with blood too. And
it was really dark and he started chanting.
As soon as he started chanting it was like Terence McKenna
describes DMT. I just went "whhhoooo" instantly into this
completely altered vortex. There was this sense of shooting like
a particle accelerator and becoming a particle and no longer
being in a body. Shooting into this deeper and deeper blackness.
Until suddenly there was a sense of floating in this liquid
blackness. The only way we have to describe it in our language
was it was the ultimate blackness, black beyond black. And then I
became really aware that somewhere within this ultimate black
were these two shiny, slightly pointed, almost insectoid eyes. I
couldn't see them; I just knew they were somewhere; the distance
could be light years or feet. And I knew that those two insectoid
eyes were what was referred to as Shiva. And that Shiva watched.
That's what Shiva did; from such a power place of darkness that's
all that Shiva had to do - just be in that place and having eyes
to observe, that was enough. That was about as powerful as it
got, mate! I wasn't afraid, it was just totally mindboggling.
And all of a sudden it was like "whhhhhoooo" - a real
science-fiction sound effect - and suddenly there we were again
in this shrine. "Wow, that was really strange!" And Treelotion
was going, "Quick, quick!" We had to get outside again. All the
villagers had found out that we were in there, and they were
going nutty because nobody outside their sect was allowed in, and
certainly never any Europeans. To this day I have no idea why the
priest chose to unlock that place. And when we left, the
villagers were still screaming and swearing at him and shouting
at us. "It's blasphemy, you shouldn't have let that happen! What
were you thinking of?" From what I gathered he was equally
puzzled as to why he did it.
That was a really deep, religious experience, and it was
unexpected. I hadn't visualized anything like that at all. I
hadn't read it up in advance. It wasn't coming from anywhere I
knew of in me.
I don't know how long it lasted. It was probably only three or
four minutes, the whole thing. But I came away with an amazing
repect for the Shiva tradition and those sadhus. And then I went
back and talked with the Aghori Baba and he asked me for my solid
gold Psychick Cross, which I had on a leather thong, so I
obviously couldn't refuse. So I gave him my Psychick Cross and he
gave me his ring and bracelet. And he gave both of the children
gifts off his altar, and he gave us ash from his fire which burns
in his chamber. They have records saying that that fire has not
been extinguished for over a thousand years. And he told us to
bring it to America. We didn't know we were coming here then.
Kinney: The Aghori Baba is from Hinduism, then?
Genesis: There are reputed to be only nine practicing Aghori
Babas. It's an offshoot of the Shiva sadhus and the Naths. There
are the Nagas, who are pretty extreme and the most revered. He
stayed in this chamber most of the time, but primarily they live
in graveyards because they have to copulate with dead bodies.
Also some of their initiations are in the jungles with the
tigers. They have to sit naked in the place known to be
frequented by the most ferocious tigers for days and days, and
people bring them the minimum amount of food and water. And they
just sit their until they have no fear of any kind, of tigers or
The Aghori Babas' basic discipline is one of the most ascetic.
They would have their followers bring them the absolutely most
expensive, exquisite feast of chicken and food, and then they
would have to eat human shit or flesh off one of the bodies
burning outside. His chamber actually has the ghat in front of
the door, so the entire time you have the smell of burning human
flesh in there as well as the incense.
The point is they both are the same. They taste the same to the
Aghori Baba. Everything is the same. There is no judgment, there
is no moral standpoint or perspective in terms of the implicit
nature of things. That's not saying behavior, because obviously
there's a morality of behavior, but in terms of the implicit
nature of things, they're all the same.
Kinney: I was wondering also about your interaction with pop
culture and music. You successfully avoided being too caught up
in the corporate control of culture. But at the same time
Throbbing Gristle or Psychic TV were cult figures and a lot of
the things that you were in the forefront or exploring - piercing
or tattoos or industrial music - have ended up becoming
popularized. And that becomes a trap in itself.
Genesis: Sometimes things do get diluted and homogenized for a
period of time. My personal feeling is that oil rises to the top,
that if you cast your net wide enough you'll pull in a higher
ratio of serious fanatics. It's something I was discussing with
William Burroughs back in 1971. He said he preferred to be the
quiet, reclusive, seminal thinker. He liked to wear suits and
appear superficially to fit in with the status quo, whereas I
liked to be the bull in the china shop. It's just a different
strategy. I don't think either one is right or wrong. I'm happy
to have a lot of strategies happening simultaneously.
We're dealing with a planet that has ever increasing editorial
control over its own mass media, which it uses as an equivalent
to an imperial army. You know television is, without any doubt,
the cultural neutron bomb. Once you send television in by
satellite anywhere in the world, the language dies, the culture
dies, and people aspire to consumerism. If you really travel in
the Far East, you just know that that's what's going on. It's no
accident that the Peace Corps give out Xeroxed plans of how to
make satellite dishes in Nepal. They do it because it's the
quickest way to control the culture.
My choice has always been to disseminate alternative propaganda,
alternative information, to be more accurate. If I have anything
that's an act of faith, I believe that if you throw out as many
possibilities as possible, you get a higher return in terms of
people into change. Or in terms of behaving in a more
constructive, less damaging and dangerous way. And who knows why
I've still clung to that idealism, but I have.
I am serious about magic and sorcery. I want to aspire to a point
where whatever is possible is so incredible that bodies and
manifestations and thoughts are irrelevant, that it's outside
anything that any of us can conceive. That's what I aspire to, to
explode into that. Or to be part of something or someone
exploding into that at some point. Whatever is the most infinite
aspiration and go for that.
Kinney: I wonder if there's a certain danger. It's the same with
energy coalescing around places where rituals have happened. The
cultural forms, say, of fascist ideology are deeply cut grooves,
and if you click into them, you might find yourself speeding
Genesis: In my experience, archetypes are unquestionably
powerful. In that sense I would agree with you about things being
dangerous. We did a ritual at Stonehenge, the Audio X, which is
basically a Thelemic ritual from the Book of the Law. We got
permission from English Heritage to do that, letting people
inside Stonehenge for the whole night on the right astrological
day and everything. Now I didn't know the woman who was the
priestess very well. There were more TOPY people than there were
traditional Thelemic people, but it was a good balance. But in
this ritual there's a section where it says "Unto. . ." and the
Priestess is going, ". . . me." And then she goes, "Unto me." She
went insane afterwards, quite classically insane, lost her head
and had a nervous breakdown and never really recovered.
What we all felt had happened was that she felt that she was the
Goddess, not a channel or a symbol of the Goddess. And I think
that can happen. Instead of investigating the archetype or even
allowing an archetype to manifest in ritual and ceremony, people
identify with it. They think, "I'm dealing with power, I am
People have to be really honest about how they perceive
themselves, about their own weaknesses and traumas and
temptations. In ritual I always work with someone who is
completely straight and who is there as an observer. The Eye, I
call them. The Eye is there to police the ritual and watch
everyone and make notes and also has the right to intervene. I
think it's really important if you're dealing with something that
you conceive of as very potent and archetypal. We are susceptible
to the tiniest event in childhood or to emotional cruelty or
brutality later on. These things leap back and come back like a
hammer. To me, it should all be about being freed from those
hammers, not becoming the hammer.
Kinney: I also wonder about TG's camouflage clothes or armbands.
Can that be flipped to the point where other people take it up
and it slowly becomes what it was originally mocking?
Genesis: The irony was that didn't really happen. I decided to do
Psychic TV and TOPY and make it overtly paramilitary and encourage
people to wear uniforms and have the same haircuts. And
interestingly enough, I never saw any abuse of that. I can only
assign that to the fact that the underlying philosophy was not
one that would appeal to the person who would want to be that
Kinney: So in a sense that was playing out an impulse in a
Genesis: Look, TOPY was saying, "It's not the uniform, it's not
the armband, it's not the haircut." All the people in TOPY were
trying to look as much like each other as we can, and guess what?
None of us look the same. With the best will in the world, we all
end up slightly individualizing what we have. One of us just
wears a different ring, that ring just shouts out as being
enough to define somebody as different. It's what's going on in
the mind that matters; it's not any of the trappings at all. And
our mindset is definitely contrary to people wanting to sublimate
other people to their will. We're not doing that and it's not
manifesting as that. We're showing you don't have to be afraid of
What can I say? It worked. No one I ever knew became a neo-Nazi.
With TOPY I pushed the envelope to its limit and the message I
got back was, "These are good people." People who are drawn to
this are being filtered effectively because they're all right.
They're very supportive of each other.
We couldn't have toured America without TOPY people who'd give us
their houses. They'd bring us food, they'd run the merchandise
stall, they'd stick posters up. They were really positive. It was
a tribe. The Cherokee weren't neofascist even though they all had
the same basic tribal look. There's a difference between
tribalism and the mob mind. Our tribe was based on individual
strength, while the mob is based on individual weakness and