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Reverend Ivan Stang

David Jay Brown and Sherry Hall
Reverend Ivan Stang

Are we controlled by secret alien forces? When will the world end? How can we become more sexually attractive and make more money? These are some of the questions that Reverend Ivan Stang likes to consider. Stang Is one of the principal founders of the Church of the SubGenius, a brilliant and hilarious parody of the world’s organized religions and kooky cults. Actually, defining the church as simply a parody doesn’t quite do It justice, because It Is much more. It’s also a mind-bending art project–involving many extremely talented and creative individuals- and a genuine spiritual movement.

The Church’s doctrine centers around the notion that there are two types of

people- “normals” and superior “SubGenii”– and that everyone on this planet has been duped by a huge conspiracy that Is denying us our true birthright to “Slack”. But all Is not so bleak. On X-Day the world will end, and all dues-paying SubGenii will be carried off into escape vessels, piloted by the sex goddesses from Planet X., who will whisk them away to paradise. This has all been prophetized by J.R. “Bob” Dobbs– a smiling salesman with a pipe in his mouth, that was lifted from old Fifties magazine ads– who Is the divine messenger of the church. This fast-talking, sales-pitching hooligan promises “eternal salvation or triple your money back.”

But, hidden amongst all the bizarre ideology and satirical humor, there Is some truly valuable wisdom to be gained from the Church of the SubGenius: don’t take the world too seriously, don’t let the culture-at-large tell you how to feet, think for yourself, question authority, and have fun. The Church attracts many creative artists, and has been very successful. They have been having regular events for almost twenty years, and currently have over 5000 dues-paying members. They have also had a considerable Influence on popular culture. Many MTV-style music videos, as well as radio and television commercials, currently utilize the fleshing collage style pioneered by Stang and his cohorts. The smiling face of “Bob” has appeared everywhere from record album covers (such as Sublime’s 40 oz to Freedom) to blotter acid to graffiti on the Wailing Wall In Jerusalem.

Stang Is also the author and co-author of a number of popular books, Including High Weirdness By Mail, The Book of the SubGenius, Revelation X, and Three-Fisted Tales of “Bob”. He also produces the official SubGenius magazine The Stark Fist of Removal, a weekly radio show The Hour of Slack, many night club acts, and numerous “religious pamphlets”. Stang Is also an accomplished filmmaker, whose credits include the award-winning SubGenius video Arlsel, music videos for DEVO, a feature documentary China Run, and a series of PBS specials about Sioux art forms.

Ivan Stang currently lives In Cleveland, Ohio. I met the delightfully Irreverent Reverend at the Starwood Festival In upstate New York, where he gives annual midnight rants. My partner, Sherry Hall, and I Interviewed him a few weeks later on August 18, 1999. We spoke for over two hours on the telephone. Ivan is an extremely funny guy. He kept us laughing the entire time.

David: What was your religious environment like as a child?

Ivan: Mostly rational secular humanist– I guess you would say– with a touch of Methodist.

David: Did you ever go to church?

Ivan: Let me put It this way, when my mom and dad first got married, they went to the Methodist church my dad had grown up with. But as soon as they left,,South Carolina, where my grandparents lived, and moved to Texas, they quit going to church. Actually, they told me that they quit attending church after the preacher told them that they should stop drinking.

(laughter) In their case, the preacher may have been right.

But, at any rate, In answer to your real question– no, there weren’t any particular religions that burned my brain. I didn’t get my knuckles slapped repeatedly by nuns, and I have no real bone to pick with any particular religion at all. In fact, my general approach to religion has always been one of extreme Interest. I’m very Interested In the way these humans think about their gods.

David: What were you actually taught as a child about where the world came f rom?

Ivan: It was all left generally somewhat vague. I had a grasp of what evolution was supposed to be about when I was pretty young. My dad had a layman’s scientific grasp of things, and tried to do a little bit of educating when he could here and there. I did a lot of reading myself, as soon as I could read. Ha– I remember one time I asked my mom If there was really a God, and she said, “Yes! Of Course!”, as If It was a terrible thing to even ask such a question. Then another time I asked her, and she said, “No.” (laughter)

The Interesting thing Is my Dad now Is a part-time lay preacher. Even though he doesn’t believe all of that stuff, he knows a lot more about the Bible than most preachers do. He loves to go Into the church, or the Sunday school, In the little town where they live now, and he’ll bring up the most absurd, frightening sections of the Bible— the parts they usually don’t like to talk about. He’s kind of planting seeds of, If not doubt, at least thoughtfulness.

For Instance, he tells the Bible story about the children that teased the prophet Ezekiel over his bald pate, so God sent a She-bear to rend and tear the children. (laughter) Stuff like that; the really fun stuff. I really was not raised with very much religious input at all. I did think about It sometimes. I was surrounded by little Caucasian Southern Baptists In Fort Worth, Texas. So, very early, I did learn to feel like I was surrounded by religious nuts.

Sherry: Do your parents approve of the Church of the SubGenius? Are they members of the church?

Ivan: Oh yeah. My parents are both dues-paying SubGenius members, although you have to remember they were a little bit more open minded twenty years ago when I first started working for Bob. Since then, they’ve been a little bit dismayed at the curse words that pepper a lot of the SubGenius material. That really bothers them. But the basic philosophy– I think they understand where we’re coming from pretty well.

I wouldn’t say that they get all the jokes, but, on the other hand, my dad’s a lawyer by trade; we’ve discovered that doctors and lawyers see” be particularly attracted to the church. I think that’s because, like the church, It’s a priesthood based entirely on bullshit in both cases. They respect others who can come up with this Impenetrable, but yet, somehow slick-sounding, crap. There are a lot of doctors and lawyers who have our Divine Excuse on their wall. I mean, who forgives the lawyer?

Sherry: What’s your divine excuse?

Ivan: When you join the church and send in your thirty dollars, you’re ordained. You become an ordained minister, with all the rights that go with an ordained ministership-similar to the Universal Life Church. You also get a lot of fancy documents, such as the Divine, All-inclusive Excuse. Which Is, If you think about It, really what people need rather than forgiveness. And “Bob” Dobbs Is not highly placed enough to dole out forgiveness. He doesn’t really care about anybody’s sins anyway. (laughter) He’s here to rationalize and justify, and to excuse sins. Although there Is a list of 365 sins In Revelation X, personally I think there Is only one sin. I tend to agree with Ken Kesey, who said that the only true sin Is fretting. A little known Kesey quote.

Sherry: Can you describe yourself for us In a few carefully chosen words?

Ivan: (laughter) You’ll have to call me back on that one In about a hundred years. No, I am a bipedal primate of the planet earth, living on the northern American continent In the later twentieth century. All of those things as measured by people of that time and place.

David: How did you get Interested In unusual belief systems and fringe philosophies?

Ivan: Well, everything else was so boring. I’ve always been Interested In unusual things as far back as I can remember. People love to list their Influences and so forth, and they’re often very highfaluting. But I’d have to admit that, In honest truth, my main Influences In childhood were Warner Brothers cartoons and the Three Stooges– stuff that I saw on television when I was a kid. The surreal moments In those, and In monster movies, always held a tremendous fascination for me. I can remember the first two monster movies that I saw as a child on television when I was about three or four.

David: What were they?

Ivan: Mighty Joe Young was one, and The Ghost of Frankenstein was the other. It’s Ironic because I ended up later meeting the animator of Mighty Joe Young several times, Ray Harryhausen.

David: Oh, I remember loving Mighty Joe Young as a child.

Ivan: Yeah. Early In my career I was a stop-motion animator at first. Then I drifted Into film writing and editing. But I originally started off wanting to be one of those guys that animated the stop-motion monsters, which was the height of special effects technology In the middle-Sixtles. But I just was not mechanically Inclined enough for that.

David: It takes a lot of patience, I know, from making short animated films In college.

Ivan: Yeah, and also drugs came along. (laughter) I think, In the year 1969, when I was sixteen, somewhere along the line I suddenly lost my Interest In monster movies for several years. It did come back though.

David: The Interest In monster movies?

Ivan: Yeah, and some of the brain cells. (laughter)

David: What Inspired the creation of the Church of the SubGenius?

Ivan: The church, of course, Is based on the word of J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, who started throwing all this stuff together In the early fifties. My personal exposure to It was a direct result of my collecting crackpot and kook pamphlets. And my sister-in-law told me about a friend of hers, who had just moved to Dallas, who also collected crackpot and kook pamphlets, and was a comic book fan, and was -a Captain Beefheart fan.

Nowadays, that sounds like just the average SubGenius, doesn’t It? But, at the time, I was staggered that there was another being somewhere on the planet earth that had such a seemingly eclectic combination of Interests. That was Dr. Philo Drummond, the guy who really Is the co-subfounder of the church with me. Although he’s not very Involved now, he was Instrumental In getting the whole thing going. Heck, he Introduced me to “Bob”, and told me about the Conspiracy. I already knew there wasn’t enough slack.

David: Is there really a person named J.R. “Bob” Dobbs?

Ivan: (sharp Intake of breath) Wha? What? David! What , kind of a question Is that?l (laughter) That’s like asking a Christian, what? You mean there really was a Jesus?” Let me put It this way, would you go up to Hulk Hogan and say, “Hey, that wrestling stuff’s all fake, Isn’t It? You guys don’t really hurt anybody or get hurt do you? Ha ha ha 0 (laughter) Why don’t you do that, David? Go up and ask Hulk Hogan that question.

David: Gosh, I apologize. Are you surprised by the Church’s popularity?

Ivan: No, I’m terribly surprised that the world didn’t end like “Bob” predicted a year and a half ago. But, actually, I would not have been surprised either way. If It had become another Scientology, I would not be surprised. If we had simply petered out after a couple xeroxed ‘zines, that wouldn’t have been a surprise either. You just can’t predict what’s going to happen. In the prediction business, you just can’t predict things.


David: How many members does the Church currently have?

Ivan: I’d say roughly, over the almost twenty years that we’ve been around, we’ve had probably around 10,000 or more people sign up. The current mailing list Is, I think, around 5,000. At any given time we’ve lost half of them. We don’t know where they are. Some of them just join up on a whim. Others come and go over the years. And there are some that have been right In there from 1980 on.

Sherry: You had said that when you send In your thirty dollars, and get the ordination, that It’s a legitimate ordination. Are you then able to perform legally recognized marriage ceremonies?

Ivan: Well, we haven’t found any states where they’re not legally recognized… yet. If I’m not a real ordained minister then I guess that means all those couples are living In sin. (laughter)

Sherry: When they decide to breakup, do they have to really go through a divorce?

Ivan: They sure as hell do. I wish that we could offer short-duration divorces, since we offer the marriages. (laughter) No, seriously, all It takes In most states Is for the bride, or somebody, to go In and get the papers from the city, and then hand them to a preacher who signs them. They never even ask what denomination or what religion It Is In Texas, Louisiana or Illinois to my knowledge. People are always asking that question, “Can I really marry people?” And It’s like, hell yeah. Now If you’re worried about It, and you really want to be very sure, then you send a postcard to the Universal Life Church In Modesto, California and ask them for an ordination. They’re considerably more established as a religion than we are.

We’ve made deals with them. We tried to market our membership ordainments In a more mainstream way, and we checked with the Universal Life Church and said, “Hey, can we evoke your name and tell people to send for stuff from you, and still sell our membership for thirty bucks?” And they said, “Hell yeah. That’s the whole reason we’re here.”

I don’t know If you’re familiar with the Universal Life Church. It’s a group that was started probably thirty years ago by a guy named Hensley, I believe, In Modesto California, who basically felt (like “Bob” Dobbs does) that If all these other ridiculous yo-yos could write off their taxes with their silly superstitions, then why couldn’t everybody? And he has. They’ve steadfastly been ordaining people for the express purpose of writing It off on your taxes. You call yourself a minister, your house Is your church, and so forth. Sometimes It works. Ha.

The I.R.S. has been cracking down on that kind of thing for years now, but what Is It that makes a person a holy man? Let’s ask that question. Maybe the Wizard of Oz had It right– all that all you really need Is already there. I guess the Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow, and the Lion— none of them were preachers. But If one of them had been, the wizard surely would have said, “What does Billy Graham have that you don’t have?” (laughter) Why, he’s got a doctorate of divinity from Billy Graham College (in a vacant lot next door to his house). So here’s your doctor of divinity. Now you’re as Holy as the next guy. (laughter)

We also do Short Duration Marriages, which are a joke. They’re kind of a riff on Sun Myung Moon’s mass marriages. I’ve been doing those for so long that I don’t even need my notes to perform the ceremony. But those are different from a real marriage.

Sherry: How long do the Short Duration Marriages last?

Ivan: Oh, however long you want them to. Usually twenty-four hours Is all anybody really wants. They’re handy In bars. (laughter) They’re a great Ice breaker.

David: What role do you see the Church of the SubGenius playing In the larger social sphere?

Ivan: “Bob” said that the real role of the church was to completely destroy the Conspiracy of the Normals, which would also Involve destroying the concept of money. Unfortunately, It’s going to take a hell of a lot of money to do that. So, In the big picture, we’re supposed to take over and control, or else destroy, the world. Simple. Like any other religion.

But, looking at the more Immediate prospects, I’m very proud that we seem to be one of those things that fills the same need for certain people that Frank Zappa, the Firesign Theater, and underground comics did for me when I was at the end of my rope as a young man, and thought I was completely Insane, or else everybody else was. I mean, I didn’t think there was anybody In the world who would even begin to think the kind of things that were going through my head.

When a person In the late Sixties, early Seventies, felt that way, hopefully they would stumble upon some of these eclectic artists, philosophers, writers, and so forth, and feel a little bit less alone. I’ve had quite a few people write to me, and come up to me, and It makes me feel a whole lot better about the hardship’s we’ve undergone when people say, “I probably would have killed myself If It hadn’t been for you guys. You guys happened to be there at just the right time to remind me that I was taking the wrong things too seriously.”

David: Do you think It gives misfits a sense of community?

Ivan: Not misfits necessarily, although that’s certainly, obviously, where we start. When you say misfits, that Includes everybody from brilliant wonderful, constructive geniuses, down to serial killers. And we tend to consider the serial killers not to be the kind of misfit that SubGenius defines.

David: What do you think It Is about the face of “Bob” Dobbs that gives him such a powerful allure and mystique?

Ivan: Simply because It’s a representation of “Bob”. There’s not just that one particular portrait of him. There’s a million pictures of “Bob”. Open up any old Better Homes and Gardens, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, or whatever, from the Forties, Fifties, and early Sixties, and there’s these ubiquitous smiling pinks– Caucasian handsome guys, with short haircuts and these pipes. (laughter) Now, they’re not all the same person, but a lot of them must be– and that’s “Bob”. The classic portrait of “Bob” has an undeniable hypnotic hold over those who gaze upon It. I’ve been trying for twenty years to understand It, and I can’t quite put my finger on It. I know that his expression Is very difficult for even the very best artists to capture. He’s very difficult to model In three-dimensional graphics programs, although we’re getting close.

I think that grin, and the particular Insane gleam In Bob’s eye, Is a little bit like a skull. I mean, It’s a smiling man. It’s a happy man. Bottom line Is It’s a positive Image– a nice looking, healthy, happy guy. So what makes that any different from a smiley face? There’s something about that look In his eye by which you just know he knows something you don’t know. Or he just sold you a car. Or something (laughter) There’s some other thing… It’s not just an Innocent grin. So, of course, that causes people to ask what It Is In his pipe. They always assumed that he’s smoking some kind of high-grade marijuana. I think that’s as silly as assuming that UFO’s are from outer space.

Sherry: Isn’t It “frop” In his pipe?

Ivan: Well, “Bob” uses that under ceremonial conditions. We love the Tibetan herb habifropzipulop but even “Bob” has trouble getting hold of that. I think what “Bob” actually has In his pipe most of the time Is this cheap cherry blend stuff called Borkurn Riff that you get at drugstores.

David: What was that Tibetan herb you just mentioned?

Ivan: Habilropzipulops; Actually, the long name Is habifropzipulops mariphasa lupina. It’s a plant that grows in Tibet only In the moonlight. It blooms In moonlight. And It only gets you high If It’s the kind that’s grown on Yeti droppings, or the graves of Tibetan holy men, or both. To get the really good stuff you can get guys that were buried In Yeti droppings, and grow the frop on them– ho ho ho, ho… whoa! (laughter)

Yeah man, I mean, even toad licking doesn’t hold a candle to that.

(laughter) The problem Is the delivery mode; you have to pack It up In your exit wound to get off. That means you have to have an exit wound to begin with. It’s almost as difficult a way to get high as the use and abuse of face-fucking bat sperm antidote pudding-but I don’t think we want to go Into that. (laughter)

David: Have you ever received any threats from any religious fundamentalists?

Ivan: Oh no, not really. Not to speak of. When I was on the air live In Dallas over the ten year period that I was doing that, we only got two bomb threats. (laughter) We’d occasionally get a nasty e-mail from somebody. When I used to do radio talk shows occasionally there’ll be some misguided listener who calls In terribly upset that we’ve devoted our talents to mocking Jesus Instead of supporting Jesus. But my Idea of Jesus was that He probably didn’t really need our help, and could probably take a joke.

So, to tell the truth, I’ve been rather disappointed that we haven’t caused more of a stir. But they’re more concerned with real big evildoers– like Walt Disney and Proctor & Gamble. And on top of that, to them we’re just another cult. They don’t understand at all where we’re coming from. They take everything at face value. So, to them, we’re just like the Sclentologists, the Moonies, the Mormons, or any other bizarre tiny cult that they don’t understand.

Sherry: Have you suffered any other type of backlash from normals? Has anybody tried to squash your right to free speech, or tried to shut you down? Or anything like that?

Ivan: Well, needless to say, working In Dallas Texas, it Is a little tricky to find a printer at times. But luckily here In America there’s always somebody who’ll do anything for a buck. Our website has had to move from commercial server to commercial server. The excuse, or the reason they boot you off Is always, “Well, it’s not that we’re uptight about this stuff, It’s just that we’re afraid our other big customers will get upset.” So currently our website Is on a server that specializes In hardcore pornography. I figure we’re safe there. Same with banks. We have to use porno-friendly banks.

Sherry: Wasn’t there some performance that got shut down right after the Columbine shootings?

Ivan: Oh yeah, just recently we did have a peculiar problem. You know, of all things, we got shut down by some super liberal types on a politically correct basis– which Is kind of Ironic, because I’m more used to getting that kind of flak from ultraconservatives and religious fundamentalists types.

Sherry: What did they say? Why did they stop you?

Ivan: What happened was this rather earnest, well meaning, dumb-ass of a city councilman, who used to be the mayor of Cambridge, got some e-mail from some good citizen way down In Florida. Some friend of his who said, “I understand that there’s going to be a show In Cambridge by THIS GROUP! Look at this website!” And the url that he gave him wasn’t the official SubGenius website– It was for a website by one of our more, uh, mischievous and active preachers, who goes by the name of Papa Joe Mama.

Papa Joe Mama had created a splinter group off of the Church of the SubGenius, called the Holocaustals. He also had to Invent the more liberal arm, which was the Ivangelicals. It breaks down this way: the Ivangelicals are a bunch of sex fiends who really don’t want to kill anybody. They just want to make slaves of the normals after X-Day finally happens. And the Holocaustals, of course, as the name Implies, just want to kill everybody as soon as they get the power. So, this was all, of course, to be expected. You’re not a good SubGenius unless you schism and Rebel and so forth.

Sherry: What Is X-Day?

Ivan: Oh, X-Day Is the prophesied day that “Bob” had predicted for twenty years. He has said that on July 5th , 1998 at 7:00 In the morning, the men from Planet X- or we prefer to think of them as the sex goddesses from Planet X– will come down and rapture up the dues-paying SubGeniuses only, and take them away In the Escape Vessels to a never-ending paradise, while you’re still alive. Then you get more paradise after you’re dead, whenever that Is. Like any religion, we make a lot of big promises.

Now, the fact that the world didn’t end, and I’m not on my escape vessel since July 5th, 1998, Indicates either that: It’s not really the date that the Conspiracy has tricked us Into thinking It Is, and we’re In a false environment like that movie, “The Matrix” supposes or suggests. Or– and I know It’s hard to Imagine that a preacher, a religious man like “Bob” Dobbs, might lie or fuck up– but It’s possible that “Bob” fucked up. Or lied. I know that that’s a difficult thing for a religious person to swallow, that such a thing could ever even happen, (laughter)

But, apparently, that may be It. And hell, we were expecting It to happen In ’99. We had a great party out at that nudist campground again. But, damn! They still didn’t show up, so I guess now It’s going to be Triple X-Day 2000. (laughter) We’ll have to go back to Brushwood and do It all over again- with the the bodily fluid wrestling, the nude Bobtism, the crucifixions and tortures, and all the drugs and liquor.

David: Sounds like really tough work.

Ivan: Ah God, I mean, preparing for the end of the world– sure, It’s exciting, but It does take a lot out of you. Then I had to do the Starwood Festival too. Every year I have to do Starwood, two weeks after the X-Day drill.

David: Good God, how exhausting.

Ivan: So we really are one of the more experienced religions when It comes to dealing with the end of the world. I think the Jehovah’s Witnesses have predicted the end of the world five times, and have been kind of been embarrassed each time It didn’t happen. In our case, we’re not going to let the Jehovah’s Witnesses out-kook us. (laughter) We will happily sit there In total faith waiting every year. If it takes eight thousand years, we’ll be there at Brushwood waiting for those saucers. Or wherever.

You don’t have to be at Brushwood to get Ruptured, though. It’s a worldwide event. You know, it’s funny. There were actually two or three people who were disappointed when, for thirty dollars, In 1998, they didn’t get to destroy the planet. (laughter) And I just have to think It’s a damn good thing that we got to those people Instead of say, Heaven’s Gate. Because all we ever ask for Is thirty dollars, and Heaven’s Gate asks a lot more than that, especially from the men. (laughter)

David: What role have psychedelics played In the development of the Church of the SubGenius, and In your development?

Ivan: Well, I wish I could explain that. For some reason this whole thing seems to attract pot heads like crazy. Now, of course, I haven’t met everyone of these ten thousand people I’m talking about, but I’ve met a hell of a lot of them. And from what I can tell, about 85 percent of them are probably some kind of psychedelic drug users. Now, why that is, you got me. There’s nothing terribly overt about that In any of the books. In fact, It actually says that with “Bob”, you can throw away all your cheap conspiracy street drugs and never come down.

David: I picked up The Book of the SubGenius back In the mid-eighties, I think. I found It In a bookstore on 9th Street In Greenwich Village, and was Initially drawn to It because the book was crawling with psychedelic imagery. It just looked like a huge LSD trip to me. (laughter) When was It published?

Ivan: The first printing was In 1983. McGraw-Hill published It.

David: The book must have been, at least, partially Inspired by psychedelics. What role did psychedelics play In the Inspiration for the book and for the concept of the Church?

Ivan: It’s hard to put one’s finger on that exactly. I mean, somehow I can Imagine It all happening just fine without a lot of psychedelics Involved. Personally–speaking for myself– I actually did write a whole lot of that first book, and I was a very well behaved boy at that time. I wasn’t really touching anything except, well, about halfway through. (laughter)

I’d had a terrible freak-out on LSD when I was sixteen years old. It almost killed me. And when I was sixteen I had not even tried beer. I was very leery of alcohol, and I had not even been drunk. I had been stoned on pot I think a couple of times before I took my first hit of LSD In 1969. All my high school buddies were doing It. They could drop acid and go to football practice or take exams. Well, It didn’t really agree with me. I was a very Insecure kid, and It was a very close call.

If It hadn’t been for that nervous breakdown caused by LSD, and my own Insecurity, and a bunch of fucking Jack Webb anti-drug propaganda that helped fuel the panic of It all, I probably would just be a nameless special effects technician doing detailing on miniatures in Hollywood– which Is not bad. But when I had this terrible freak-out as a very young man, I didn’t want my parents to know this had happened, and I had to deal with It In my own way. My Interests changed quite a bit after that.

My entire approach to life completely changed. I was sort of schizoid and paranoid and terrified after that trip; for awhile, I thought that I would never be able to experience fun or slack or any kind of relaxation again. I thought I would always be on my guard against flashbacks for the rest of my life. I had two choices. I could either kill myself, or I could forget myself and remember that everybody else around me still had the capability of having fun and happiness and enjoying, and that I could help them do that.

As corny as this sounds, at the age of seventeen, thanks to a bad drug trip, I actually decided that maybe I better devote myself to serving others rather than myself. That all sounds real good, and I surely lapsed back Into normal self isness several months later when I discovered that alcohol was the perfect cure for LSD psychosis. Unfortunately, several years later, of course, I had to quit drinking alcohol, and by then I’d forgotten about being such a nice guy. But for awhile there I might as well have been like a wonderful little Catholic Jesuit monk, dedicated to service of others.

David: What do you think happens to consciousness after the death of the body?

Ivan: I’ll give you the most concrete answer you’ve perhaps ever gotten to that one: I don’t have the slightest Idea. And If I said that I did, I’d be, one lying motherfucker.

I saw your talk at the Starwood Festival David, and you discussed some of the responses that you’ve gotten to that question from the people that you’ve Interviewed. You mentioned Jerry Garcia’s believing that when you’re dead, you’re dead, which actually Is what the scientific literature would definitely lead one to believe for the most part. On the other hand, I noticed that Dr. Timothy Leary never would give you a straight answer to that one. I would have to throw my vote In with Dr. Tim.

That Is a very Interesting question. If we had a happy answer to It, about half of the world would probably commit suicide as soon as the bills came In. Except for there’s that one catch- If you kill yourself then you don’t go to heaven. But think about It evolutionarily. If we knew there was a life after death, that would not be a very handy thing. I would Imagine that the spirits, the angels, and the Gods would just as soon keep us guessing and paying lip service– which, obviously, most of them are.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the people who talk the most about heaven seem to me, behind It all, to be not at all that sure that that’s the way things are going to happen. They’re a lot more scared of death than I seem to be. I hate to see things wasted, but the last thing I’m scared of is death.

(laughter) In fact, I’ve already got my tombstone statement worked out. I’ve been telling this to people to years now.

David: What Is It going to say?

Ivan: It should say, Reverend Ivan Stang born 1953, died, blah blah. Quote: “I’ll get them for this.” (laughter) That’s about as wonderful a statement of futility as our war on God, which I now declare every time I do a sermon. I declare war on God– on the God that has to be defended from jerks like me by little Illiterate old ladles, the God you have to clap your hands to believe In, or he’ll dry up and blow away like Tinkerbell.

Sherry: What’s the strangest mystical experience you’ve had so far?

Ivan: They all had to do with failing In love with my sweetie. Those are the only real ones I can talk about. The other ones I’d rather not talk about because It would all just sound too– you wouldn’t even believe it. You wouldn’t believe It If I even started.

Sherry: Ah, now that’s not true.

Ivan: I’ll leave that one for some very far future autobiography. I’ve experienced synchronicity In vast waterfalls. But, on the other hand, I did discover very early in the Church of the SubGenlus that If you Ignore those coincidences, they stop happening. They only happen If you’re looking for them. When I first started working on the Church of the SubGenlus, for the first couple years, the level of sychronicities, apparent omens, and portents got so completely out of hand that I had to call a halt to It. I thought I was losing my mind. I thought, God damn It, I’m starting to make decisions based on superstitious omens and portents on something that I practically made up.

It got to where I realized, well hell, we’re starting to turn Into what we made fun of. Then It stopped. It starts up for every new SubGenlus though. It’s amazing when It happens. At some point In their lives they’ll spend time In a period where they’ll just be too many “Bobs'”, too many Instances of uncanny coincidences. They’ll turn on the radio and some ad will suddenly have five SubGenlus concepts thrown In all at once. And It somehow Is perfectly meaningful In the context of what had just happened an hour before with your boss. That kind of thing. It works just like any other self-validating philosophy.

Sherry: What are some of the most Interesting synchronicities that you’ve experienced?

Ivan. I’ll tell you the one that seems to be the most telling for me. This has to do with the fact that I seem to be unable to see UFO’s. When I was about twenty-one to twenty-three I lived on the Rosebud Sioux, or Lakota Indian reservation up In Mission, South Dakota. And, In those days, I actually was a kind of a believer In all kinds of stuff. It was before the Church of the SubGenius, and all my reading was about the paranormal, religion, UFO’s, and so forth. I was very Interested in all that.

I don’t know anything at all about UFO’s, but I actually know a whole lot about Urologists and Urology. Let me put It that way. But this one very cold night out In the middle of the prairie something happened. We lived In a trailer court In between two cities, or little tiny towns actually. We were about the only Anglos that lived there. Everybody else was Indian. I had been out getting firewood outside of my house. To make a long story short, there was this UFO, a blinding blue light hovering over the pond across the highway, and It was seen by damn near everybody else at the trailer court.

They said that It cast a BRIGHT blue light all over the whole trailer court. They watched It, and It suddenly vanished, or rather shot upwards so fast that It seemed to vanish without a sound. Classic UFO encounter of the First Kind. I had been outdoors when all this happened. I had gone out to get some firewood. Everybody saw me out there, too, while this saucer thing was going on. And they ran up to me as I brought my firewood In. I wasn’t thinking anything. There was a knock at the door, and there was Lorenz Black Lance and the other folks standing there going, “Whoa! Did you see that? God, what the hell was that?I11 I’m like, “Huh? What?” And then they kind of went, “uh … he … didn’t … see…It?” And then they didn’t even want to tell me. (laughter)

It could have been that I was just completely out of It, just absent minded-which Is possible. I’m the kind of person who could walk right by a dinosaur and not notice It If I’m thinking about something or worrying about bills. That was the beginning of when I started to think, well, maybe I’m the one who’s supposed to question these things. I’m personally horrified by the level of plain outright Dark Ages-like superstitions that I see around me. People will start lecturing me about ghosts, or how we never really landed on the moon, or how we’ve, got slave colonies on the moon, and whatnot. All kinds of things.

They’ll lecture with extreme knowledgeability about the most cosmic subjects-life after death, God, and so forth– and yet you find out they couldn’t tell you what the boiling point of water Is. They couldn’t tell you where China Is looking at a globe, and they wouldn’t know the difference between that country and Japan. As a practicing religious nut and mystic, I’ve told people for a long time, If the aliens had come In 1998 like “Bob” said, and given everybody everything they wanted for thirty bucks, then I would be standing on my escape vessel preaching the wonders of magic and religion. On the other hand, If I found myself still In nightclubs and bars after 1998, then you might find me singing the praises of rationalism and science.

So I’ve been fairly true to my word. I get a big kick out of speaking to pagan gatherings, New Agers and so forth, and basically working them up Into tears of concern and wonderment over the environment, and meanwhile sneaking In all this science and rationalist stuff. You might say we learned our lesson when those escape vessels didn’t show up. And although we still believe that everybody should send their thirty dollars to “Bob” to play It safe, also, maybe we should learn how to build our own ships.

And that’s actually been the thrust lately. It wasn’t really a planned thrust. It came along afterwards, and I’m glad It did. But It’s a great follow-up gimmick now. It’s like, yeah, well, for now we’ve learned all we can about the little grey men from outer space and so forth. For the time being UFOIogy does seem to be a dog chasing It’s own tall, and rife with buckets of self-delusion everywhere you look. Perhaps It might not be a bad Idea to maybe think about taking care of the spaceship that we’re on already, using something besides prayer. You know, It’s great for everybody to visualize world peace and pray and so forth, but when you talk about the hundredth monkey, you have to remember the hundredth Manson, or the hundredth Hitler. (laughter) All that other stuff.

Although all of that Is necessary and good for many people, I think that all too often these days we neglect the actual physical processes such as getting off your ass and doing things, that some of the other religions tend to leave out. They don’t stress knowledge very much, and we really are trying to encourage the dumb asses and the superstitious among our number to maybe stop listening to talk shows and read a book every now and then. But maybe read a book that they found In the library Instead of In the occult book store.

Sherry: That seems to be one of the most refreshing differences between your church and a lot of churches– that you encourage people to think for themselves and not just take the church’s dogma and obey.

Ivan: Are you kidding? We’ll chop their heads off If they take us seriously. (laughter) We’ve been deprogrammIng our own zombies for twenty years. Every now and then we’ll get somebody who really takes It all way too seriously, and does not understand In the slightest, “Bob’s” one law– the one law being, “Fuck them If they can’t take a joke.” Luckily, they usually don’t last very long, because If you really read our material, just when we got you believing, we pull the rug right out from under you. “God, can you believe we had you believing It? We almost had you there, didn’t we?” (laughter) Hell, we fooled you enough to get you to spend $16.00 on this book! Now, look how gullible you are. Maybe you better think twice next time.”

Sherry: Does the world seem like It’s getting noticeably weirder lately to you?

Ivan: No, not to me. But I’m forty-six years old.

Sherry: So, the world has always been weird?

Ivan: Yeah. It made a lot less sense when I was younger. I mean, it actually Is becoming dreadfully familiar. I feel like the more history I read, the more I’m seeing It repeat Itself. Seems like people never learn.

Sherry: What do you see as the biggest threats to life on the planet right now?

Ivan: “Bob”! (laughter) If we can get things our way It’ll be “BOB”! And If we can’t find “Bob” himself, we’ll make a 3-D computer graphic that looks and talks like him, and we’ll take over the world. Hey man, the antichrist Is due any minute now. The only thing that’s going to stop a One World Government Is going to be a One World Religion, or a One World Advertiser. So we’re trying to place ourselves. We’ve been trying to maneuver Into that position for the millennium for years now. We had twenty years to plan that 1998 party.

Sherry: Who are your heroes? Who helped you become who you are today?

Ivan: The Warner Brothers animators, and the Three Stooges. I was also very Influenced by the team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who did the bulk of Marvel comics In the Sixties when I was growing up. Jimi Hendrix Is a character that I’ve always been very fascinated by. He was evidently quite a SubGenlus, so to speak. He’s one of those people who could do one thing perfectly, or a couple of things perfectly– but that’s It. (laughter) Otherwise he was a complete space cadet.

I thought the writer Colin Wilson was a the most reasonable writer that I found In the field of paranormal, In that he didn’t seem to be particularly dogmatic. He had his own little theories about things but he wasn’t trying to explain everything exactly. I think that’s a real big mistake when you don’t have answers to pretend that you do. Federico Fellini did a couple of movies that really affected the way I worked. Oddly enough they were documentaries. Roma was one of them, and 8 112, which is autobiographical. I see that movie every year or so.

When I was a young man, my Ideal, what I really really wanted to be when I grew up was, well, I wanted to be Orson Welles. Early on I ‘had a pretty good dose of Hollywood. I was an award-winning teenage filmmaker, and I realized that I was not the kind of person that would be able to make Hollywood style feature films. I’m just not that kind of a person. I had a family then that was more Important to me, so that career move was out. But my big heroes, what I really would have been… I used to dream that someday I could do something as cool as the Firesign Theater had done with their albums, which I still consider to this day to be absolutely breakthrough In writing and media. And the underground cartoonists– Robert Crumb, Robert Williams, S. Clay Wilson, Justin Green, and several people who are not very famous. Bet the only one you recognized was Robert Crumb, right?

Sherry: And Robert Williams.

David: No, I know all of them. I’m very familiar with the underground cartoonists.

Ivan: Oh, really?

David: Yeah. I grew up with those guys. I started reading Zap comix when I was twelve, and collected them as a teenager. I used to have my mom buy them for me at the Postermat In Greenwich Village.

Ivan: They were pretty hard to find In Texas. Anyway, when I was twenty-five, I would have been absolutely flabbergasted If I’d known that two years later those guys would be calling me up and going, “Hey man, I got that pamphlet. It’s hilarious. Can we reprint It?” And so forth. So I actually got that particular dream fulfilled very very early on, as far as acceptance by the people that I wanted to be peers with. I felt real good about that.

David: I understand that feeling well– how Incredibly wonderful It Is to become friends with the heroes of your youth.

Ivan: The problem Is that there has never been any money or big mainstream kick to go along with all of this. It’s been a continuous struggle just to keep the post office box open.

Sherry: What about book and tape sales? Isn’t that sustaining you?

Ivan: No. I think the Book of the SubGenius has only sold about 50,000 copies, maybe 60,000 In all this time. Revelation X– pphh, they barely keep It In print. It sells just enough copies to stay In print. I think It’s probably only sold sixteen or seventeen thousand. It’s amazing how Influential we’ve been over the years, particularly with video and sound editing.

I started this radio show back In 1985– The Hour of Stock— and all I can say Is every damn radio commercial that I hear these days sounds like my editing. But not just me. It was me and a couple of other people who practiced this extremely choppy audio editing style that utilized a lot of clips from old movies. Like the way our books used to use a lot of clip art, we use clips from preachers, movies and other stuff. To tell the honest-to-God truth, we never heard anybody do that before we did. Now, every commercial on MTV looks that way. They look like our old video Arise! Have you ever seen It?

David: I have a copy of Arisel I’ve watched It a number of times tripping on acid. It’s wonderful.

Ivan: Well, that was done fifteen years ago, and think how many commercials you see now that look like that. Now, I’m not saying that we got ripped off In any way, shape, or form. But I do believe that we were very Influential to the kids who were exposed to Arlsel on that television show Night Flight, which used to show bits and pieces of It.

David: Night-Flight was a great show. Late night television designed specifically for stoners. I think It still airs In LA.

Sherry: Is Arisel available on video now?

Ivan: Yeah, It’s a Polygram video– although they pretty much sit on It, and pretend that It doesn’t exist. So it’s mostly just available from us through the website:

Sherry: Ivan, do you have enough slack In your life?

Ivan: No, I don’t have enough slack. If I had enough slack I would Instantly be able to radiate SO much slack to you two on the phone right now, that It would become a chain reaction. It would spread all over the entire world. It’d be the hundredth “Bob”. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I may be the 99th monkey In that respect. I’m still holding that dirty apple and scratching my head wondering, ‘Why are all those other monkeys washing that fruit?” (laughter)

Yeah, I guess I have enough slack. I’ve got two grown kids that are wonderful, and I don’t have to worry about them. So for a parent, believe me man, In this day and age, that’s a lot of slack.

David: How do your kids react to the church?

Ivan: Oh, somewhat bored.

David: How old are your kids?

Ivan: My son’s twenty, and my daughter’s eighteen. They’ve both moved away from home, are In college, and they’re out on their own. My daughter came to Xday In 1998 and I’m really glad. It was wonderful, up until then she was still able to tell herself that her parents were completely uncool and out of It, and didn’t know what was going on. After they saw the kind of parties that we threw, compared to the kind of parties that her friends threw, she realized that we actually were pretty cool. (laughter)

Sherry: What suggestions do you have for people on how they can get more slack In their lives?

Ivan: Number one: buy The Book of the SubGenius and Revelation X. Number

two: send $30.00 to Post Office Box 140306, Dallas, TX 75214. Praise “Bob”! But really, we don’t tell people how to get slack, and we do not sell them slack. That Is a big misconception. What we do Is explain to them that they are owed slack by the conspiracy, but only they know what It Is. We can’t tell anybody what slack Is for them. The conspiracy does that all the time. Generally the conspiracy, more or less, lets you know what slack Is supposed to be to the average American. They’re constantly telling you that slack Is having lots of money, and your team just won the game, and life looks like a Miller Beer commercial. Everybody’s good looking by a certain standard.

Or other branches of the conspiracy would have you believe that slack Is sitting around smoking dope all day man, like Beavis and Butthead dude And slack may be those things for many SubGeniuses, but really It’s completely different for each person. And the day that anybody can bottle and sell slack, on that day, the conspiracy has won. As long as slack Is free, and the conspiracy can not define It for everybody, then It can’t win. So, like any religion really does, what we’re really doing Is providing Is a pep talk. Most people already know what we’re saying through common sense. They just need to be reminded. And If you can couch It In a new and non-corny way, some people really do benefit from those reminders.

Every now and then even I have to re-read that shit just to get my sense of humor back on certain things. So we try really hard to appear to be the kind of excellent fascists that our friends In Scientology, the Unification Church, the Southern Baptists and so forth are. We try to be like them, but we’re just SubGeniuses. We’re just not very dependable. Our trains don’t run on time. We blow things off. Most of the SubGeniuses are what some people would call lazy. We don’t care about your soul. So there are quite a few things that distinguish us from pretty much every other New Age and old age religion.

David: What are you currently working on?

Ivan: This week I’m trying like hell to finish editing the documentary video of XXday 1999. We have a wonderful two hour documentary about the main X-day In 1998 that I’m really happy with. It’s been shown In a couple of film festivals, and we sell It to SubGeniuses. It’s on the web site too.

Sherry: I think I saw your picture. You were wrapped In bubble wrap.

Ivan: That was during a certain part of It. We had a mock battle of Armageddon. Remember I mentioned that our friend Papa Joe Mama had Invented this split between the Holocaustals and Ivangelicals? Well, the day before the world was supposed to end out at Brushwood campground, there were 400 people there for that. And they divided up Into teams– whether .they were blood thirsty Holocaustals or sex-crazed Ivangelical cowards.

Most of the tough guys joined the Holocaustals. I knew that was going to happen. I’m like a bespectacled little wimp compared to most of the Holocaustals, but I thought, “Ah! There’s one thing I can do. I can get the gals on my side, the women, because they know I respect them. I’m not one of those macho brutes.” So I created this new motto for the Ivangelicals. It was designed to recruit body guards. Big, soft, full-chested body guards. (laughter) And the motto was, “When In doubt, run or eat pussy.”

Keep In mind, we were up against Holocaustals which were largely composed of ex-bikers. SubGeniuses are not all little bespectacled Star Trek fans. Some of them are ex-convicts. I mean, there are all kinds of people, and the great thing about this Is the fact that this Isn’t just a book, a record, cd, or just stage shows-It really does bleed over Into people’s lives. The active SubGeniuses really are what I’ve been lately calling ‘Human Cartoons’. I think a lot of us love to stage these kinds of things. We didn’t really know that we were doing this, but what we’re really doing Is staging these– I don’t know– like, encounter group things almost.

The real life aspects of a person’s personality that distinguishes them– makes them weird or eccentric– that’ll come to the forefront In SubGenius land, when your surrounded by your fellow SubGeniuses. These cartoons of real life just spontaneously develop. Very little of this Is ever planned. I try to take advantage of It using my editing skills. I’ll edit the footage down and continue to help promote these depictions of real people, as If they were legendary figures, larger than life. You’re probably not real familiar with our little cast of characters, but for instance we’ve got the Hooker With a Heart of Gold character, Sister Suzie the Floozy.

But the big tough biker, “The Cross and the Switchblade” type Of guy, Dr. Legume, who Is this hulking tough tough guy, Is actually a very talented artist and writer. And we’ve got the let-setting playboy SubGenius. We have these self-created stereotypes that, I guess In some ways, you might say was an escape from reality, because a lot of these people have boring jobs and so forth. But, actually, for the ones I’m thinking of, It’s not an escape from reality. It’s more like, “Oh, finally I get to do reality up the way It should be.” (laughter) It’s like how cross-dressers somehow feel a whole lot better when they can dress as they like. He may be a big fat guy with a mustache, but he feels a whole lot better If he’s wearing a little dress, and he’s with a bunch of other big fat guys wearing dresses. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that, and this Is the church for people who are so damned weird that no other church really particularly wants them.

I was having a conversation with this In-law of mine, who shall we charitably say Is not really an urban sophisticate. He’s a small town boy. I was telling him about some of our Interesting members, such as Popess Lillith, who at the mutant prom last year won both King and Queen, because Popess Lillith Is a transgendered person. You never know whether to say he or she. I was describing some of these characters, and my Baptist In-law said, “You know, I don’t think I’d like to meet those people In your church.”

And I said, “Well, maybe that’s why they don’t come to your church and come to mine Instead.” From what I understand their guru, that Jesus guy, the original Jesus, wasn’t quite so squeamish as his fan club Is. I thought that he said that you were supposed to at least tolerate the damn weirdos, Republicans, drunkards and so forth. I find It very Ironic that It takes a goddamn joke church to even think about doing that any more. Isn’t that sad?

Sherry: Yeah, It Is.

Ivan: Yeah! (laughter) I find I very very Ironic that for so many of those people, literally, the only church that will take them In, the only place where they won’t be mocked, and laughed at, and put down just because of the way they look or they way they are, Is a goddamn comic book joke church. What the hell does that say about the Catholics, the Baptists, the Moonies, the Scientologists and everybody else?

David; The Catholics probably wouldn’t even take Into Jesus to their church If he were alive today.

Ivan: That’s why He’s working for me now. (laughter) Actually, He’s not exactly working for me; He’s my younger partner. (laughter)

David: Those are pretty much the questions we had for you Ivan. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Ivan: I hope you guys see that, although people tend to want to, you simply can’t peg the Church of the SubGenius down as one thing or another. “Well, it’s just a takeoff on religion.” Usually misinformed people Insist on pinpointing It as being a takeoff on evangelists or evangelism. Whereas, actually we really do try to Insult EVERYBODY’S religion. We make fun of every religion, most of all our own. Others think that it really Is a true cult. Cult– hell, It’s Infinitely larger than Heaven’s Gate. I mean, It’s rather beyond the cult stage now; you’ve got to call It a religion, because there are so many people Involved.

And some people think that It’s somehow New Age. Others think that It’s got this terrible anti-New Age, totally scientific agenda, that’s designed to destroy everybody’s faith. Others think It’s an art project. (Which It Is.) And that’s the thing: It Is ALL of those things. Why can’t It be all those things? Why can’t It be a cheap joke? A serious support group? A very sophistlcated joke? A crappy support group? I mean, It depends. Even though I’m in the position of ringleading any mass media that’s done with it, or any commercial publications, I can’t even begin to control It.

I can only control our trademark. And, hopefully, I can keep Disney or ABC from stealing It from us and ruining It, making It the cheap joke that It first appears to be. Or even worse– making It Into the cheap mind-controlling cult that It can also appear to be. We wouldn’t want either one of those things to happen. It should always be all of those contradictory things. I think it’s more realistic that way. It’s more like real life. You’ll notice that we’re terribly ambiguous. That’s because we don’t want to tell people what to think. We’re not that confident ourselves. We might tell them how to think, We might tell them what to spend money on. (laughter) But one of the big slogans Is, “Bob’ Is not the answer. And neither Is anything else.” You must learn to think for yourself, but only J.R. “Bob” Dobbs can show you how.

David: Right, hidden In all the jokes Is actually, I think, some very valuable wisdom.

Sherry: Are you a fan of Bill Hicks?

Ivan: I worship Bill Hicks. I am ashamed of how lame my own act Is every time I hear Bill Hicks. Ironically enough, I never even heard of the guy until about two months before he died. A friend of mine showed me the HBO special about Hicks, and I just fell flat on my face.

Sherry: Me tool

Ivan: I was flabbergasted. I thought, my God I I thought I was the only person since Lenny Bruce who was even trying to do this, and this son-of-a-bitch Is succeeding beautifully. Then I got his address, and sent him a membership packet. A week later, after I sent that off, I learned he that he had died of pancreatic cancer at the age of thirty-four or thirty-six, something like that. God damn It.

Sherry: Yeah, that’s how I felt. I saw his special and then kept waiting to hear more. A year went by and I didn’t hear anything else. I finally asked somebody from Texas who knew about him, and he said, “Oh he died last year.” And I’m like, “Oh man!”

Ivan: Yeah. There’s still a following. But the Bill Hicks newsgroup has only got a hundred posts on It most of the time, as opposed to alt.slack, which has two thousand most of the time. It’s sick, because I really admire Bill Hicks. To me he Is the first one since Lenny Bruce to have both the balls and the talent to do what he does. It’s not exactly what I try to do, but It’s very close. I think somehow he managed to pack It all Into that short time that he had.

Sherry: Have you got all four of his C.D.’s?

Ivan: Yeah.

Sherry: Oh, good. Part of my mission Is to spread Bill Hicks’ humor. I send copies of the C.D.s to people.

Ivan: I do that too. I’ve duplicated a lot of those myself. I’ve been shocked at how few people know about him.

David: I had never even heard of him before Sherry Introduced me.

Ivan: Man, Bill Hicks Is God. And, like I say, I feel sort of abashed because I do a similar kind of thing. I’ve never ever performed In a comedy club. We’ve never once called what we do comedy, but I do perform essentially a similar kind of thing– stand there and talk about really REALLY untouchable subjects, In a very blunt way. And boy, I mean, I just must not ever try to Imitate him. But It Is quite an Inspiration every now and then to listen to the guy.

David: How many hits does the SubGenius web site get?

Ivan: On good months, It’s probably a couple thousand people a day. Check out the front page. But I think that that has dropped off considerably. I think It’s more like a thousand a day now. We’re trying to sell ads on the thing. I mean, It’s a commercial web site. It costs us $225 bucks minimum a month to keep It open.

David: I would think that with that number of hits you could easily sell ads.

Ivan: No. It’s a rare company that really wants to be associated with somebody that does what we do. I’ve never been on any national television. Well, except once– Jon Stewart had me on his show for about five minutes, when he had a show. Needless to say he was canceled shortly thereafter.


David: I’m surprised you haven’t done more television. Why Is that?

Ivan: Because It’s religion we make fun of. It’s that simple. David Letterman has known about us since the very early Eighties. We had Simon & Schuster behind us for awhile there, and McGraw Hill. I’ve always had a lot of friends In media. I’ve been right next to Howard Stern’s radio studio, with his producers and stuff, but It was like, “Well, no, there are some things that really are going to far, and you guys are It.”

Sherry: You’re too far for Howard Stern?

Ivan: Yeah.

Sherry: Oh my God.

Ivan: Well, you can degrade women and you can be a racist. You can do all kinds of stuff, but If you start poking fun at other people’s religion, that’s where everybody cope out. I mean, every now and then you see something done that bashes religion, but actually It’s usually In poor taste and rather crude.

David: Are there any Church of SubGenius members In the Middle East?

Ivan: There are some. God, as far as I know, It’s like we have one each In almost every country. Actually there are a lot In Israel. In fact, somebody sent me this photograph of the walling wall, where somebody had spray-painted a damn “Bob” on it. (laughter) It was In an Israeli magazine about graffiti on sacred site$. My agent noticed It. Yeah, so we do have some In Israel, but I can’t think of a single Islamic country where we have anything but English teachers.

We had a couple of addresses In Saudi Arabia, but they were Americans. A Japanese publisher bought the rights to the Book of the SubGenius, but nothing ever came of it. Of course, what we tell people, Is “The eighth translator just committed suicide. They’ve gone through eight translators now, they’ve all killed themselves.” (laughter) We have It translated Into Portuguese, Spanish, and French already, but no publisher. There’s one [one

SubGenius– and he’s gay too, on top of that- In Lisbon. God, boy, talk about a brave son-of-a-bitch. That’s a rough country to be gay or SubGenius In.

Sherry: Do you receive royalties when “Bob”‘s face Is used by other people? Did you collect any money when Sublime used the face of “Bob” on their 40 oz to Freedom C D?

Ivan: Yeah. We contacted MCA, or whichever record company It was, and said, “Hey! That’s our trademark and you ripped us off.” And they went, “Yeah, that’s true, you’re right. Okay, well, the band will pay you, such and such percent of each one.” And we went, “The band?1” They went, “Hell yeah. We always rook everyone. We’re the record business. We shaft everybody. Of course the band has to pay for that.”

So we talked to the band, and the bass player said, “Our lead singer just died of an overdose man, we don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m sorry we didn’t pay you for that. How much would you have charged?” We said about two grand. And they said, “Can we just give you that? Because we’re actually kind of broke now.” So we let It go for two grand. I loved the album. I had never heard of that band, and I got to listening to It just because we were harassing them, and decided that they kicked ass! Just figures man. Every time I like a rock star, they O.D. on drugs, proving that they were SubGeniuses I guess. (laughter)

Now, one thing I should mention Is that a lot of times the focus Is on me, simply because “Bob” Is not available, and I’m the one running this office. But If you look at any of the SubGenius material, you’ll see that almost all of It has literally dozens of collaborators Involved. And that’s really been the key to the longevity of It. We’ve never had any kind of big mainstream success, but we’ve been around forever, and I think we probably will continue to be around forever just because of that collaborative aspect. Sure, some of the old-timers get bored with It and drift on to other things, or whatever. But there’s always new ones. So there’s this constant Influx of new Ideas. Occasionally somebody will describe It as a one joke Idea that just won’t stop, but that’ not true. It Is actually constantly full of a lot of new takes on life. I mean, because It takes the form of a religion, It can cover every aspect of life.

It’s a wonderful framework for people to jump Into If they suddenly have a wild hair. Say you work for the post off Ice, and most of the time you can barely lift your head. You get home, and you’re so tired you don’t want to do anything but watch T.V. But every now and then, you suddenly get this wild hair to do something creative. Well, If you do that one kick-ass thing a year, and It has “Bob” In It, then at least you know It’s going to get used somewhere. You may not get any pay for It. Or hardly any. I think when we did our role-playing game It had a hundred Illustrations In It, and each artist got thirteen dollars per Illustration. That’s the kind of pay scale we’re looking at. But, by the same token we’re a good place for people to get their first published thing. It’s like, I don’t know how many people can now say “Oh I’m a published graphic artist” because we used their stuff In our books, In our role-playing game or something.

David: Some of the most strangest, most bizarre Images I have ever seen In my life were In the SubGenius material. That’s what originally drew me to

It– the graphics. They were just quite astonishing. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at sometimes.

Ivan: Oh, they’ve only gotten even more astonishing now that everything’s on the Internet and we can use color. That was what was missing for the first fifteen years. My website has an art gallery that literally goes on forever, and It’s just gorgeous stuff. There are some Incredible artists. And some of them I don’t know personally. I don’t know how they can keep cranking this stuff out. There’s a newsgroup called alt.binarys.slack that’s just a repository for SubGenlus graphics and sound files. It’s one of the busiest graphics newsgroups, and It’s got some of the highest quality stuff.

I’ve looked at alt.computergraphics, and various other ones, and It’s generally less Imaginative, less technically accomplished, and less busy than the SubGenlus art newsgroup. On my website there’s a graphic section you can get right off the front page. Just click on the thing that says graphics, and It’ll go Into another subsection that covers both video clips and artwork. Paul Mavrides Is one of the key graphic artists whenever we do a big job. Revelation X Is designed by him. He really Is one of our most valuable artists. He’s also one of the best-known graphic artists that works with us. He’s a big part of the whole Church of the SubGenlus.

David: Didn’t Robert Williams contribute to the first book?

Ivan: He has mostly just thrown In one or two things when we were doing a book. That “Wings of Slack”– the emblem that we use a whole lot that’s got a winged clock with a dagger through It– was a detail from a Robert Williams comic book-Coochy Cootie. We asked him If we could use it and he said, “Yeah! Send me a bottle of Chivas Regal and fifteen bucks, and It’s yours.” (laughter) I really like that guy, because he talks sort of like me.

David: I did an Interview with him a couple years ago. It’s on my website. He’s a genius. His work has actually received a lot of serious attention over the past few years. He was part of a show at the L.A. County Museum.

Ivan: Well, It’s about time. He was bitching to me about how he still felt like he wasn’t getting anywhere near the money he should be getting.

David: When I Interviewed him, he told me that he was the only artist that completely sells out at every gallery opening In New York City.

Ivan: Wow. Well, I hope so. He’s another one of my heroes. I have a stop-motion film, kind of a claymation porno film, that’s dedicated to him.

Sherry: What’s that called?

Ivan: The short title Is “Reproduction Cycle-” The long title Is “Educational Series Number 17: Reproduction Cycle Among Lower Life Forms Underneath the Rocks of Mars.” It’s about the reproduction cycle of these microbes that live under the surface of the Martian rocks.

Sherry: Can that be ordered from your web site?

Ivan: Yeah, It’s in a collection called “Pre-Dobbs Stang Films”. I was an underground filmmaker before I was a pamphleteer. (laughter)

Sherry: So when’s the next Devival coming up?

Ivan: There’s something In Tampa Say, Florida In November, but I don’t think I’m going to be at that one. I don’t think they could afford me. That one’s going to have Papa Joe Mama and the Irreverend Friday Jones. The next

X-Day– Trlple-X Day– Is going to be the weekend just before July 5th, 2000 at Brushwood, a campground In rural far western New York, where the Starwood Festival Is held every year. Hell, I’m at that campground at least twice a year. I know about Brushwood because they Invited me to Starwood to speak at the festival In 1990. Whenever Leary or Wilson was too expensive or sick, then they’d call me. (laughter) Like I’m the poor man’s Robert Anton Wilson.

Anyway, Brushwood Is a wonderful place. I’m very good friends with the folks who own the land there, and I’ve been going to those Starwood things forever. I’m planning to move up there. I’ve had It with Texas. This place Is too hot. I’ve been here all these years mainly because my wife’s family was here. That’s honestly the main reason, for family purposes– my family and my wife’s family. I wasn’t especially ambitious to go off to Hollywood or New York, and that’s why I hung around.

David: I’d think that you would be Interested In moving out west, to join us here In California, where there are probably more SubGenii per capita than anywhere else In the world.

Ivan: Well, like I say, for twenty-five years I had family reasons to stick around. Those are no longer pertinent, and all I know Is I get treated great up north. I’m a “kook” here In Dallas, but In Cleveland I’m a respected satirist.

Sherry: Have you ever spent any time In Santa Cruz?

Ivan: Actually two years ago I did go to Santa Cruz and I desperately wanted to live there. There was some weird bunch of SubGeniuses throwing a party, some people I didn’t even know, something called “The Resort”. And a British television show wanted to do a report on the Church of the SubGenlus, and we weren’t doing anything. But these kids were throwing a party In Santa Cruz.

So they flew this British crew of absolute amateurs, and me, to that party. I rented a car and drove out to their party. Then I drove around the area and thought, “God! What a great place to live!” The trees, the ocean– I mean, I was just flabbergasted. I thought, this Is great. San Francisco’s cold and clammy and full of extremely pompous assholes. L.A. Is unthinkably nightmarish to me. But Santa Cruz seemed just wonderful. But It also struck me that It would be extremely expensive. (Sherry giggles)

David: I live In the Santa Cruz mountains, and I pay much less than I paid when I lived In L.A.

Sherry: It’s cheaper than L.A., but It’s more expensive than Colorado. That’s the one thing keeping me from living In Santa Cruz. I’d love to live there too. But the people out there are the real reason I’d want to move out there.

David; Santa Cruz is mutant city. We have the youngest population In the country. The average age here Is twenty-two. It’s just a whole town made up of misfits and outcasts, hippies and punks, artists and philosophers– the peak of Western alternative culture.

Sherry: But really cool misfits. Not the serial killer kind.

Ivan: Well, one of these days.

David: You certainly have a lot of fans here. You’d probably be respected as a deity by the kids If you moved out here.

Ivan: (sound of barfing, followed by laughter) Hey man, that’s what “Bob” Is there for. That’s the great thing about all of this, that you can always just point the finger at, “No, kiss his ass. Blame him.” No, actually on July 8th, at seven a.m. 1998, when the X-Ists (surprise, surprise) didn’t show up, and the prophesy failed, It wasn’t “Bob” that they wanted their money back from. It wasn’t “Bob” that got stripped down naked. It wasn’t “Bob” that had honey and pink feathers poured over him and thrown Into the pond. (laughter) It made for a wonderful ending to our video. It was like, how do you get out of this? How do we get out of this besides a few lame jokes? We’ve got to give this audience something to do. So we had a whole tarring and feathering- which I knew about. I even bought the pink feathers. (laughter) But I got to use all the comebacks that I had developed for a twenty year period.

Sherry: Comebacks?

Ivan: I mean, I knew what was going to happen. Or I had a fairly good Idea. And It was great. After the second or third countdown, and the aliens don’t arrive, there was a bunch of hemming and hawing. Then It’s, “String him up! He’s a charlatan!” I ended up, for about a half an hour, stark naked, covered with this honey and stuff, In this pond, with 400 people hollering basically funny shit at me. And me, getting to use all these comebacks, “what-ifs” and “here’s whys” and so forth-that we had come up with over a long period of time. And luckily the video cameras caught It all magnificently. So we had a wonderful ending for our little video. Plus now we get to throw a party for the end of the world every single year. You’ll have to come to one of our X-day things.

David: Cool. We will.

Ivan: That campground Is just a wonderful place anyway. I wouldn’t do It anywhere else.

Ivan: If I ever get out near Santa Cruz, I’ll give you a buzz.

David: Yeah, please do. I’d definitely love to show you around here and Introduce YOU to some Interesting people.

Ivan: I haven’t been to California really for a long visit, not since the church was cool.

David: Since the church was cool? What are you talking about? It’s still cool.

Ivan: Well, the church actually went through a super cool phase In San Francisco In the early Eighties. And then I think It became too old to be cool. And I think that we’re about to hit the twenty year nostalgia mark where we can then become cool again.

David: I think that the stamp of approval that you’re truly cool Is when you appear on blotter acid.

Ivan: That happened to “Bob” In 1982.

David: That’s an honor that “Bob” shares with Mr. Natural, Michael Gorbachev, and Bart Simpson.

Ivan: That’s why I say, we’ve already been there. It was shitty acid, unfortunately. (laughter) I did actually have In my hand, handed to me, blotter acid that was manufactured with “Bob’s” face. it wasn’t just stamped on after the fact.

David: Those are collector’s Items now.

Ivan: Unfortunately, the guy who handed It to me, the next time I heard from him he was In the federal penitentiary. Oh well. That’s what he gets for selling crappy acid. (laughter)

Penny Slinger

Mountain Ecstasy

“Unite the spirit and the flesh. Honor the spirit in all things, and reclaim your birthright, your authentic being.”

with Penny Slinger


Like her artwork, Penny Slinger is a juxtaposition of many things. Photographic collage, poetry, painting, drawing, and video production are some of the mediums that she uses and combines to express her erotic and mystical, poly-cultural visions. Penny is also an expert in the art of Tantra, and her work on the subject is known world-wide.

Penny illustrated and co-authored several extremely popular books about sacred sexuality with her previous partner Nik Douglas– Sexual Secrets: The Alchemy of Ecstasy, The Pillow Book, and The Path of the Mystic Lover. Penny and Nik did several other projects together as well, including Mountain Ecstasy, an extraordinary collection of luscious erotic psychedelic collages, and The Secret Dakini Oracle, a set of archetypal divination cards.

Penny also did 50%-The Visible Woman and An Exorcism, two collections of powerful, haunting, surreal collages, and she wrote, produced, and directed a mesmerizing Mystic Fire video on the Caribbean’s lost native culture– Visions of the Arawaks. Her artwork has been exhibited in galleries all over the world, and has appeared on numerous record album covers.

I met Penny at Kutira Decosterd and Raphael’s (who are also interviewed in this volume) tantric wedding in Maui several years prior to doing this interview. Penny is a very charming and elegant woman, with a sensuous aristocratic presence. She can be quite dramatic, laughs a lot, and still speaks with the British accent that she acquired in her homeland. This interview occurred on July 21, 1996 in Boulder Creek, California, at Christopher Hills’ beautiful mountain estate in the redwoods.


David: What were you like as a child?

Penny: Oh, I think I was quite a handful. (laughter) My parents said I was very bossy, and that I wanted to have things my way. I was also very small and delicate, so I guess I got quite pampered and spoiled because they were worried about me.

David: Did you have brothers or sisters?

Penny: I have two brothers, but the eldest of the two is ten years younger than me. He was actually conceived because of what happened when I was in the hospital when they thought I had TB of the skin. Actually it wasn’t anything serious, just some streptococci that I picked up in a bog from going in without my boots. But when I went into the hospital the nurses brought my parents in and said, this child is very precocious. She’s very spolied, and she’s also, quite frail, so we really recommend that you have another child to look after all this. Of course, when my brother came in, I wasn’t very fond of him because he was there to mess up my scene. Poor thing. He’s a very nice person. I’msurprised he hasn’t got a complex about women. (laughter)

David: What was your religious upbringing like?

Penny: I was brought up with the Church of England, and I used to go to services. But I found church to be rather boring. In my early teens I’d often be there with girlfriends, and we’d just sit telling each other stories. However, I did have a strong mystic inclination. At one one point I saw a friend of mine go into a convent school, and I became very enthralled by the idea of this– that it was this sisterhood, and they were all in this higher state. In fact, I got so convinced that that was where I wanted to go that I refused to go to school. I would make myself sick, and I would get off the bus at the stop following the one that my father put me on. (laughter)

I’d see him outside the bus in a panic. “No, don’t get off,” he would shout. I got myself so trained at simulating sickness that I actually would end up creating a temperature, and I wound up in the hospital with this mystery disease. I was very upset because I hated being in the hospital so much. I thought that it was much worse than school. (laughter) Of course I wanted to get out, but I had this temperature that I had created, so I used to have to take the thermometer out and hide it in order to cool it down. Eventually my parents got very concerned about this, and decided that I needed a psychiatrist. I liked the psychiatrist they found for me. She let me play around all the time with paints, and said to my parents, you haven’t let her get dirty enough. She’s very artistic, and you must let her do what she wants to do.

David: How did you get started as an artist?

Penny: I guess my original inclination was in that direction. I remember the first picture that I did of my parents. I drew both of them naked and fully endowed. It was a terrible dilemma for them, and I think a dilemma they probably faced the rest of their lives with my work. They were so proud of it, because it was such an incredible drawing, and(laughter) they wanted to show people, but they were afraid of other people’s reactions to the nudity.

David: They could have put little fig leafs over their privates. (laughter) How old were you?

Penny: I think about three or four. So the psychiatrist said that I should do what I wanted to do. Because she said that, my parents allowed me to go to the convent. When I went I was like nine or ten I guess, but even at that age I had this longing for a mystic world. I would go in the chapel on my own at lunch-time and light candles. I would spend time looking at the beautiful virgin, smelling all the incense, and getting into this elevated state.

However, at the same time I was also beginning to be interested in growing up into a woman. Although I was only around ten, there were other girls in my class who were a little older than me, and they had started growing breasts. I didn’t really have much of that yet, but me and the other girls were very fascinated, so we’d keep looking down eachother’s clothes. I stayed with one of the girls at her house one time, and her brother was looking through these glass walls that they had in their bathroom, and he was watching us while we had our bath. Later he and I were kissing, and we had a little romance.

While all this was going on I could see that there seemed to be some kind of conflict between the spirit and the flesh, and it was difficult for me to reconcile this at that time. This conflict ended up in a total catharsis, I guess you could say. It was a situation that actually happened, which I was so ashamed about for years afterwards, that I wouldn’t tell anyone about it, because of the heavy kind of trip that got laid upon me.

I remember we used to go to this swimming pool every week, and in the swimming pool ladies room there was a machine where you could purchase women’s sanitary napkins. None of us girls knew what they were for, but I was dared to get one. So, of course, being inquisitive I took on the challenge. Inquisitiveness was one of the other strong qualities that I had as a child. My mother couldn’t take me into shops without me going and touching everything.

So I bought the sanitary napkin, got the thing out, and I still didn’t know what it was. It was just this white pad, and I thought, this is pretty boring. What’s all the fuss about? Why were we told we’re not allowed to touch this? But whatever it really was, for me it was the trophy that I’d been dared to get. So while I was in the bus on the way back I waved it out of the window. Well, the nun in charge looked around and saw me, and– oh my God– this was the most terrible sin, and I didn’t even know what it meant to be sinful.

I was taken to the head mistress, and they had this punishment where they’d lock you in a room if you were bad to repent. If there was one thing I didn’t like, that was anyone imposing their will on me. Although at times I used to enjoy going to my room. In fact, my parents said they used to get so annoyed with me, because they could never punish me. If they’d send me to my room I’d come down later and say, oh I’m so pleased that you sent me to my room. Otherwise I would have never found out about, whatever I found out about, or done whatever I did in that time.

But in this case I really didn’t like the way that this was being imposed on me, and this thing with the room had happened to me before. I was not relaxed in this room, and I would go out on the roof and climb around. So when the Mother Superior said we’re going to put you in the room, and we’re going to call your parents, and they treated me likethis was really a bad thing, I became very angry. I bit and I kicked the Mother Superior, and I was dragged to the room, where I then got out onto the roof. So after that they said it was really better that I didn’t come back.

David: You didn’t use the time contemplate your sins?

Penny: No, because, for a start, I really didn’t know what it meant to be sinful. It was like this terrible thing, and I didn’t even know what I was supposed to have done. But it was obviously so bad that even later when I knew what these pads were for I still didn’t talk about it for some time. Part of my book An Exorcism is a kind of an allegory of myexperience with the withered and bitter nuns.

David: Where else did you get your inspiration from for your photographic collages?

Penny: I did three books of collages. My first– 50%-The Visible Woman– was inspired by my investigation of surrealism, wanting to approach it from a woman’s point-of-view, attempting to bring to light the half that has long remained hidden. This series of photographic collages, and overlaid poetry, presents the muse as her own subject (as opposed to object), and the pieces are paradoxical, enigmatic, and disquieting.

An Exorcism, as I was just saying, is an autobiographical allegory examining the skeletons in the cupboard of the psyche. At the beginning of the book one opens a door to a brick wall. This is one of the most frightening images imaginable to one dedicated to transformation, to the opening of doors! Why is it blocked? We embark on a detective story, told in collages as a photo romance, to discover what is going on. I found myself dealing with some pretty heavy stuff in this process of self-analysis through art, and in setting signposts for others in their own journeying through darkness. We need to disentangle ourselves from the projections of others, social conditioning, and shadows of the past. Our heroine emerges complete in herself at the end, a reborn child of the Universe, but she went through some pretty harrowing experiences.

With Mountain Ecstasy it was– free at last! In this series I got out of the dark chambers of the psyche– which I explored in An Exorcism, due to my Western upbringing– and into the wild and wonderful domain of Tantric erotic mysticism. Black and white drama became the full-on Technicolor dream. This book is really a celebration– a celebration of my ‘coming home’ to Tantra. A celebration of finding someone I could play with in the realm of exotic surrealism. It is a free form interpretation of the awe, the wonder, the sheer delight of letting the creative spirit dance in the light. It was about discovering the holistic ontology of eastern mysticism, and a sexuality that was in partnership with spirituality. This is what I had been looking for.

David: The divinational deck of cards that you did was also a collage series.

Penny: Yes, they’re collage as well. In fact, Mountain Ecstasy and The Secret Dakini Oracle were done at the same time. There’s sixty-four pieces in both Mountain Ecstasy and the Dakini Oracle. With the Dakini Oracle– because U.S. Games thought that the cards might go into Disneyworld and places like that– we had to take out a few images that were a little more sexual. Mountain Ecstasy was the one that we didn’t think we had to worry about. In fact, we didn’t even do it with the idea of the collection being made into a book.

Dragon’s Dream in Holland, who published Mountain Ecstasy, had wanted to do a book with me. We were originally going to do another version of An Exorcism, with a whole new text that I’d done, which was like a film script in a way, leading you through all the images. But then when our publisher saw we were working on these collages, whichcame together as Mountain Ecstasy, they said, oh let’s do this one. And we said, well, are you sure? I mean, (laughter) this is pretty strong. And they said yes, yes it’s fine. Let’s do it. It’s great. However, British customs did seize and burn tens of thousands of the books– so I guess they underestimated the puritanical backlash.

David: What other artists have influenced you?

Penny: Well, when I was young at art school I looked at the whole range of Western modern art. I didn’t really get taught much about oriental art. There were about two classes that covered the Far East– India, China, and Japan. So in my art school we were dealing with primarily Western art.

When I was trying to think of what I wanted to write my thesis on, somehow it boiled down to wanting to write about the human image in art, because to me the human image is the closest thing to what we are. This is our manifestation, and so it’s representation in art is a way that you can connect very directly with it. But at the same time I’m notinterested in a purely representational approach. I’m interested in it when it’s used in a more symbolic sense. When I looked through the history of art, and then I suddenly came to surrealism– Max Ernst in particular– I became very interested.

At first I didn’t even know that Max Ernst’s work was collage, but I was deeply inspired when I discovered this. In fact, my first book came out of looking at his collages and thinking, I want to do something along these lines as a woman, with the new media available for graphic collage. Collage wasn’t really much known in England at that point, and I thought his work represented a very interesting kind of crossroads for all those influences that I’d seen in western art. But most importantly, he was going into subconscious realms with his work, drawing out dream images, and then putting together surreal images of bird-headed women and things like that.

I did a study of his collage books, and actually made a little movie about his work as well– where I made my own visual, as well as verbal, interpretation. So Max Ernst was quite a big influence. I also liked people like Giacometti, who was a French artist. He became ill for a long time, and eventually died of cancer, but was still alive when I was younger. In fact, after I had been admiring his work, I saw him once in the London Gallery. He was speaking French, so I didn’t really understand what he was saying, but before I even knew who he was, I just saw this man who had this huge presence about him. He just had a really strong aura, and I said who is this man? It was Giacometti.

David: He was a surrealist as well?

Penny: No, he did these very elongated figures in his sculpture.

David: Like Goya?

Penny: Yeah, but he was a little closer to the surrealists’ time in France. There was so much intensity in his drawings. He built these things up over time. He’d work for months and months on a portrait of someone, and in the end he’d have something like a grey mass, out of which this person sort of emerged. But you could feel the depths of all these strokes that somehow had gone into making this very minimal thing in the end. You see, I never really liked abstract art that much, because I often could not see where it really came from.

Then, of course, when we were taught ancient art at school my first love was Egypt. When we can to Egypt, it was like– wow! I really connected with it. Then later, after I left art school, there were contemporaries who inspired me– people like Alan Jones, and various artists who were in the avant garde of the contemporary art scene in England at that time, and were teaching part time at Chelsea Art School, where I was. I socialized with, and learned quite a lot from these people, in trying to find out where they were at. And that was interesting.

But when I left art school I felt like what I saw going on in the modern art scene was a little bit bleak. I didn’t really feel particularly aligned with anything. I had a nostalgia for surrealism because I saw that with this there was a group of people coming together, and there was this energy. They were delving into unconscious realms, and bringing things up. Yet where had it gone from there? I didn’t really see anything that was developing from that. Then in the early seventies I went to a exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London, which was the first major exhibition on Tantra. I’d seen one or two things in books before, but this was the first time I got to see a body of work together.

David: Is this how you first became interested in sexual mysticism?

Penny: Yes, well, in Tantra specially. Prior to this I didn’t really know a spiritual form which the kind of inclinations that I had fitted into. I had always been very attracted to the Orient when I was a child. I had a Godmother who was living in the East, and everything she would send me– like Chinese dolls– became my favorite things. And there wasnothing in my upbringing in this life to warrant that, but I always felt the most connected to Oriental things.

So when I went to this exhibition on Tantra for the first time I understood abstraction. There I saw a piece of abstract art, and, hey, there was Kali with her triangle and the dot, and I said, yes, I get it. This Tantra or abstraction is based upon on this whole wealth and richness. It boils down to the essence of something, which when you see the simple form, resonates with a vastness. But I didn’t find any of the modern Western artists capturing this in their abstractions. When I’d question them they didn’t really seem to be coming from anywhere.

So when I saw this I said, ah, this is what abstraction is. But not only did I see the abstraction, I saw the abundant array. All the surrealism was there, and I suddenly realized that this was the evolution of surrealism. Because surrealism dealt with the subconscious levels, and this was dealing with the super-conscious levels. So you’re not getting stuck in this boring old conscious reality. You’re going into the depths, and then taking it up to the height. Tantra had the same animal or bird-headed beings, but these also had this whole resonance of divinity and idealized energy embodied in them. Here encompassed in Tantra was art, science, spirituality and sexuality.

So I said, hey, this where I feel at home. I felt like I recognized the language, and these beautiful Goddesses full of their whole beingness– not like the Holier Than Thou Virgin Mary, but rich and juicy. (laughter) So then I thought I’ve got to find out about this. Now who’s going to know about it? I started to go to lectures. Every time I’d go to a lecture, and they’d get to the end, I’d try to cross-question the lecturer to find out if he had any real first-hand experience, or whether this was all just book knowledge. I wanted to find someone who really knew it from the inside, who had a guru, and was connected. I got disappointed because when I actually went to the lectures of the various people who claimed to be authorities I knew they weren’t. (laughter)

Then there was this man that I’d heard about through a woman I was working with named Jane Arden, who had a woman’s theater group, which I was a part of for a couple of years. We did theater production, and a all-women movie, so that was a very interesting time. But Jane told me that she had met this person who was the most liberated man she’d ever met. Of course I was very interested, because this woman was someone who considered herself to be a liberated woman. So I heard about him for awhile, and was curious. But I wasn’t feeling well when he was staying at her house. She kept saying she was going to bring him around, but because I was ill they didn’t come.

David: Who was this liberated man?

Penny: Well, this turned out to be Nik Douglas. Eventually he came, and when we met it was a very magical thing for me. Suddenly I had a frame of reference for all the things that I’d been experiencing intuitively. He was someone who had spent ten years studying in India. He knew Sanskrit and Tibetan, had studied with a Yogi teacher, and also with the Karmapa. He was totally involved with the art of Tantra, and knew what all the symbols meant. So this was great.

But at first I didn’t really see him as any potential love interest. I saw him as the Mr. Tantra I was looking for. When I talked to him during our first meeting it was so wonderful. I described to him the time I’d seen Karmapa do the “Black Hat Ceremony” a few years previously. It was the first time Karmapa came to New York, and at that point I was there. I was in a very strange head-space, and it was a very confusing sort of time. I didn’t know where I was going to sleep that night, and I was taken to this thing (laughter) by a mutual friend, who turned out actually to be a patron of Nik’s Yogi teacher. He told me stories about this Yogi, and took me to the “Black Hat Ceremony”. At that time I didn’t know anything about Tibetan Lamas. I didn’t know what the “Black Hat Ceremony” was. He didn’t tell me anything. He just said come and see this.

So I went and this man did the ceremony. It was in the morning time, and I was completely straight. He put this hat on his head, and when he did this, it was like I was on this incredible acid trip. I saw his face transforming, and I saw all these different faces. At one point he was an old man with this long grey beard, and then suddenly his face would change again. Then I felt as if there was only him and me in the whole room, and there were all these lights surrounding us. When I came to my eyes were just streaming with tears.

All I knew afterwards is that it had felt like a real gift to me, something which touched me deeply in those times of uncertainty that I was in then, like meeting my guardian angel. When I described this experience to Nik he immediately said, he knew what I had been seeing, and he reeled off the names of the different Karmapas. The one with the grey beard was such and such, and he went down the line. Then he said at the end, you know if you have that experience, that’s meant to guarantee liberation in this lifetime. So I said great.

David: Really? I never knew there were guarantees for liberation.

Penny: Yeah, right, I wish. (laughter) Nicholas used to tease me about how when we first got together, he said I always wanted a pill for enlightenment, and another for immortality. (laughter)

David: What connection do you see between sexuality and spirituality?

Penny: Well, I don’t really make any separation between one’s physical and one’s spiritual being. We’ve created a huge problem by separating the spirit from the flesh. But if we embrace the spirit in everything that we are and do, then we can manifest the divine in the physical world. Of course there are a lot of veils in people that prevent them from seeing this, and there is work that we need to do to get us closer to this. But because I’ve always felt this way, for me there was never anything that wasn’t sacred about sexuality.

Of course, everything is how you view it, and where your consciousness is. I was happy and lucky when I found Tantra, because it gave me a context for these intuitions and experiences that I’d been having. Sexual activity brought me a sense of ecstasy and oneness, and this is a very spiritual kind of experience. Tantra provided a frame of reference for it. When I’d talked to Nik about experiences that I had had, or thoughts or feelings that I had about these things, he would direct me to the appropriate aspect of Tantra that I was talking about. This is why we ended up putting together Sexual Secrets.

So that was like a miracle. Here was a tradition where the things that I intuited had their place, and there wasn’t this guilt or separation. Sexual activity is on the temples as the food of the gods, and this is a creative wonderful sacred thing. How can it be anything but sacred really? So it was a great liberating thing for me to find out about Tantra, and that’s what Mountain Ecstasy came out of– the joy of being able to come out into the richness of all this, and feeling free to express it.

David: How did your personal relationship with Nik Douglas effect the projects that you’ve worked on together?

Penny: Well, at first I was just thrilled to bits because I’d found someone that I felt was totally open and liberated. I also felt that he was beyond ego problems, so I jumped into what I’d always wanted, which was a creative partnership. The creative process is so wonderful, but it was something that I used to always feel that I need not do alone.Sometimes you need to have parts of it alone, but it’s so wonderful when you can share it.

When I was working in the women’s theater group, and we were doing the film, at some points there was just these magic creative moments. We were all living together as a community, and there were a couple of really high moments where we were together in this vision that was bigger than any of us individually, so we gave ourselves over to it.There’s such beauty when people can just surrender themselves to something bigger. Then there’s a flow that happens, a magic, an energy, and being in that state is like– wow! Why do we live any other way? This has to be the way to live. So I’m still striving to get completely there. I haven’t gotten there all the way yet, but I haven’t given up hope.

David: Do you use some type of sex magick in your life?

Penny: I know sex magick is a term that’s going around a lot these days, but I’m not really sure what people mean by it.

David: They mean they’re using some type of sexual visualization technique to help manifest things in their lives. Annie Sprinkle used to talk about how if you focus on something that you want at the moment of orgasm, you can help to manifest it, and make it happen.

Penny: Right, like you need another hundred bucks. (laughter) Of course, you can use the energy for anything. I think that when sex is magical, it’s magical, (laughter) and with that magical energy anything’s possible. I don’t know that I deliberately go about saying, I think I’ll try and achieve this on this occasion, but I like to see what comes, and I’m open to all the bounty. You see, I don’t really separate things. I tend to think that what we need is to have magical lives, so that that magic is happening in everything. Then those things will manifest as they’re meant to once you’re in resonance with the greater whole.

David: In some of your collages you’ve juxtaposed erotic images with the macabre. Do you see a relationship between sex and death?

Penny: Well, people often talk of sex being like a little death, but seeing as I don’t remember my last death at this point, I can’t really say for sure. It is said that the initiation your mother gives you through her yoni is one that confers forgetfulness of your past deaths, and this opens the world for you for your new incarnation. So I don’t know if the experience is exactly similar. Other people have also said that psychedelics are again like a little death. So sex and drugs may have some connection to death, in the sense that they can create a portal into the world which is full of energy and magic, the intangible and the unknown. The biggest taboos in our society are around these things because people tend to fear the unknown.

David: What advice would you give to a long-term couple who have grown bored with thier sexual relationship?

Penny: Well, of course, I would suggest that they read Sexual Secrets, and books like that. But one of the main things is that I don’t think that sex can ever be boring if the two people making love invite divine energy to come play with them.

David: For a little menage a’ trois.

Penny: Absolutely. (laughter) There’s an expression that I always liked– Love isn’t two people standing looking into each other’s eyes. Love is two people standing side by side looking at the altar. That’s a good symbol for that energy that you’re inviting in. I like to call it the Goddess energy, because it’s that wonderful, juicy, luscious, (laughter) everything-goes kind of energy. My partner, Christopher Hills, and I came into our current relationship with an agreement of no limits. I think that that’s a very good agreement to have if you’re prepared to meet it. (laughter)

You have to really look into yourself to see if you’re prepared to take that on. But if you are, I think it’s the only game in town. Then every time you and your lover are together invite that energy in. You say, please Goddess, come and play through me. Come be here, enjoy this, fill it with your bliss, and take this offering. When you make your union an offering in that way I don’t think you can go wrong. Now it may not be that you get all the extra bells and whistles that you want, so there are other things that you need to bring in that would help.

I think this differs so much for different people, depending on the nature of the relationship, and what the knots are that need to be untied. If boredom or something is coming in it means that there is a restriction, and there isn’t a sense of freedom. Where there’s freedom I don’t think there can ever be boredom, because the energy is endless and there are infinite manifestations. So if you’re blocked on that, then there’s something that’s got to get unraveled or untied. That could be knots in your own chakras, and maybe you need to do some work releasing energy there.

Knots in the nature of the relationship can be karmic tangles that have evolved in a habitual pattern, and you may need to just drop some acid on them to dissolve them. (laughter) I mean this metaphorically, but you can take me literally too. (laughter) If you dissolve the center of the pattern, then sometimes everything else will just naturally fall into place, or it may be that you really need to work on something. You may even have to go back and look at past lives for it. There are different things involved, so it’s hard to say casually what the solution would be for any particular person.

But I definitely think that offering your union to a higher source would really help a lot. Then you’ll want to emulate the qualities of what you believe that divinity to be in yourself, and through your actions you’ll bring them out in your partner as well. When you have that as your goal, then I think you find that the limitations of the self can fall away, and you can let this other energy start to play through you. That’s actually what I would advise for everybody in their lives in general.

For a certain amount of time Christopher and I didn’t actually physically make love, but we were totally together. We would lie in each other’s arms and just be. In that time we explored this whole range of subtle and exquisite energies, which most people don’t usually experience, because they’re so focused on their genitals. We’d just come together, hold each other, and go off into the most amazing bliss. This is what more people could start to cultivate. But you can’t do this if you’ve got anything in the way, so this is where all the work comes in to dissolve the karmic knots. I think if a couple establishes this sacred ground between them, and leaves all their other psychological stuff outside, then there will be room for something totally new to grow.

David: What sort of techniques would you recommend to a couple who wanted to learn how to raise their consciousness through some form of sexual yoga?

Penny: Again, it depends on your inclination and what works best for you, but certainly visualization is really good place to start. Imagine seeing the form of the god and goddess, and give your energy to this radiant being. Then draw down that radiant being to you, and give it all your beauty, all the loveliness of the moment. How you bring yourconsciousness to bear is so important. If you can make the decision in your mind to remove the limits from a relationship, and you’re determined to do it, then you’ll be able to.

You might not be able to do it completely in that moment, but just having that motive, and surrounding yourself with that energy will eventually bring you there. I think it all has to do with surrender really. But you’re not surrendering to another person; you’re surrendering to a bigger force– one which you can just adore and honor. If you bring that energy in, and try to be that energy, you can adore yourself more, and put out all those adorable energies. Then if you try to see that in another, you can bring out their adorability as well.

There are also many other techniques which can be successfully employed to help channel the energies of the body and mind and bring them into harmony. The conscious control of the breath is probably one of the greatest of these tools. But, you know, at this point I’m a little down on anything that smacks of ‘control’– we’ve all suffered from too much control on the freedom of our spirit. I tend now to follow and flow with what comes naturally. And, believe me. when you truly perceive yourself as limitless you’ll be amazed what naturally flows! But to get to that place where you can really trust that energy, you often need to build to that with some conscious techniques along the way, to create the arena in which the miraculous can safely manifest and play.

David: Tell me about your experience living in the Caribbean, and working on the video about the Arawaks.

Penny: Living in the Caribbean gave me the wonderful gift of fully knowing how to be alone without being lonely, how to commune with nature, and practice patience! The video brought together a series of paintings of the Arawak Indians that I’d done over a decade living on the Caribbean islands.

When Sexual Secrets came out our publisher really wanted us to go on the lecture circuit and to be visible, but Nik didn’t want to do that. Since I had surrendered to the Shiva-Shakti-ness of our relationship, I said that if he feels that way, that’s fine by me, and we’ll just go to the islands. I would have been happy either way. I was ready to go and be out there, if that were the thing, but if he felt like he didn’t want to, that was equally fine. I saw him as my contact with this whole lineage, so I respected his decision.

So we went to the islands. But after I got there I was like– what the hell am I going do with the artwork I’m creating here? I couldn’t show the art that I was creating where I was, nor could I really show it in England or America, because even Americans weren’t ready for it. How could I possibly show people who were strict Christians my erotic art in a church atmosphere where they wouldn’t understand? It wouldn’t have been fair to expose them to things in a way which would have troubled them. I’ve learned this as I’ve matured.

At first I was out to hit people over the head with my art, and just shock them into reality. But later I realized that you have to temper things somewhat. Although I’m still quite a rebel, now I have a non-hurt philosophy. When you’re young you don’t really think of that so much. So I have a philosophy of being both committed to showing my truth, and also of trying to prevent hurting another when possible. Sometimes you have to truly see the Big Picture, because what may seem hurtful at the time, may just be a seed which will bear fruit later. Although it may seem painful now, later it will be for the greater good. It’s hard to always see things in that perspective, because sometimes you don’t quite know all of the things that make up a person’s personality, which could tip someone either way. You don’t really want to cause the person to be in conflict.

In the Caribbean I didn’t want to impose something on the people there, or jeopardize my position, because I was a guest in their country. So I thought, I can’t show it. What do I do? Do I create this kind of art that I’ve been doing, and then send it for shows in Europe or America? I’d already said that I didn’t think Americans were as ready as I’d hoped. In the early eighties I had the exhibition with Mountain Ecstasy, and a lot of work went into that. Unfortunately the main response I got, was that the majority of those who approached me were men who were interested from the perspective that I went along with the art!

They said things like, oh, this is really great, but I could only put it in my bathroom. So I thought it may be they’re not ready either. I couldn’t show that kind of art where I was, so what then could I do there in the islands? I thought about trying to build a bridge between myself and the people that I was living with through my work, so I decided at first to do a series of portraits of local personages, in my style of trying to show something, in the way I presented the portrait, of what they were like on the inside, as well as the outside.

In the mean-time, since Nicholas had always being interested in archeology, we were discovering all these Arawak Indian sites on the island. The island is low-lying, and we took advantage of what we call erosion archeology. This means that when you have a rain, more stuff shows up, because there’s no bush to cover it up. There had hardly beenany development there then. You could walk over sites, and it was as if the indians had just left. Their bits of pottery, tools, and artifacts were all over the ground. So we spent many years going around, and doing ‘motorbike archeology’ on these sites. We catalogued thirty-two new sites that had never been recorded before on the island, because theydidn’t even think that the indians had lived there. They said that there never were any indians there.

Then I started doing some historical murals for the airport to try and show them that there had been natives there, that the indians had been there first. I think that picures speak louder than words. I went to an exhibition opening in Dominica, and some of the Carib people were there. The Caribs had also been on the islands with the Arawaks. But there are no pure blood Arawaks left in the islands. They were all wiped out.

But because the Caribs were a lot more war-like a few of them survived, and there were a couple of islands, like Dominica, where they still are. So the Carib chief and his wife came to this exhibition opening where I had some of my pieces, and they came up to me afterwards and said, we’re relying on people like you to help remind us who we areagain, because we’ve forgotten our history. It was an incredibly moving moment, and I thought, I hope there are a lot more people like me.

The Arawak series of paintings, pastels, and collages– about a hundred in total– manifested over a ten year period. They evolved as a compliment to the painstaking and fastidious work I had undertaken to provide hundreds of detailed drawings of Arawak art and artifacts for a book on their culture Nik intended to write. As we visited the sites,and I studied the objects, visions of these people started coming to my mind. I ‘fleshed out’ these visions by drawing on any source I could– scattered accounts of the period, photographs of their South American relatives– anything I could get my hands on of their nearly forgotten history and being. As the paintings took form, they were the invitedguests, my friends with whom I shared my island home. My heart went out to these people who didn’t even have a word for war or thief, who lived close to nature, and included female chiefs and shamanesses in their culture.

With the Arawak film I’m not sure if it has done the work that it was meant to do, just because of the way it’s being distributed right now. It’s with Mystic Fire, which is great, but I really wanted it to get translated into Spanish, and to get out in South America. I wanted it to reach the larger Antilian islands where they speak Spanish, where there are populations living with indigenous people now. There are a lot of indians still in these places. Also I wanted for the indians to again embrace something of who they really are with pride. I hoped that the people who live with them could perhaps see them in another light, sense something of their heart vibration, and realize that these people should be treated with respect.

Can you imagine how history would read if only our past explorers who went and discovered new worlds didn’t crush the cultures they found? If they came to an island, and there was no one living, then, fine, go up and plant your flag, and say I claim this island. But if you go to these places, and people are living there who don’t even speak yourlanguage, then show some respect. Dont just stick that damn flag in, and still say, I claim this island, in a language they don’t understand. I mean, how dare they? What is this in human nature?

I think that there’s another way. If only when the cultures had met, they’d said how interesting. We have differences, and yet we’re both human beings. We can share what we have. We will learn from you, and you will learn from us. Instead of one group thinking that their superior to the other. What a wonderful culture we’d have now, because we’d have the best of the new technology, with that bond between nature and man, which we’ve so badly broken, and just betrayed the trust. We need to re-establish that sacred bond.

David: Tell me about your experience working with the Baul culture, and translating their sacred songs into English poetry.

Penny: I didn’t have any direct experience with the Baul culture. The person that we wrote that book The Path of the Mystic Lover with– Bhaskar Bhattacharyya– did. Nik and I gave him some money, and he went over from London and spent time living with the Bauls, and doing research on this. Some of the songs that he got from them are old, and some are new. I helped in the translation of the songs, and to just generally bring the thing together. I also did all the drawings.

Now the reason I wanted to do this was because of an experience that I had when I was around twenty-five or so in London. I was over at a friend’s house, and he said, sniff this and you’ll get a quick rush. I was sitting there with a girlfriend and him, and I was trying to do some drawings, and so I said, okay, fine, I’ll try it. It was in that time ofchecking out what was interesting. At one point I felt that my problem is that I’m too ambitious. When I was young and at art school I was extremely ambitious. I’m too sane, I thought, and I’m too focused on what I want. I should just hang out for awhile, and see what happens. So in that phase I was trying a lot of different things. So in any case, itwasn’t long after I sniffed this stuff that I suddenly started finding myself getting rather angry, because I couldn’t control my pencil at all.

David: What was this stuff that you sniffed?

Penny: I didn’t know. I still don’t know what it was exactly, but it was kind of grey. It smelled a little like talcum powder, and it was certainly pretty active on my psyche. It lasted for a long time– a good twenty-four fours, I think. But I did have some very major experiences in that, and the one that relates to the Bauls was this one. I started getting very impatient, partly because I felt as though I had been pushed into this without knowing that I was going to have such a big experience.

Under the circumstances I felt the right to be a little more demanding than maybe I normally would have been. There was some music playing on the stereo. I think it was Hawkwind, who I quite liked at that time, but when I heard their music in this altered state, it really impinged on my psyche, and I didn’t like it. It was overbearing, so I said, please take off this music, I can’t stand it, put on something else. This guy was a young hip journalist who he had a big record collection, and I think over the next few hours we went through just about all of his collection. Every time he’d put something on, I’d go– no! (laughter), take it off.

But what happened was in the end he put on this record, and this record was the most beautiful experience with music I’d ever had. It is difficult to put into words. The music seemed to go through me, with all these different combinations of Eastern and Western instruments. It went through all the different sentiments. I went on this journey, and I feltall these different emotions well up inside until I got to the last act, and finally it was just about being totally in awe before the Goddess. Every sound filled me. It was an incredibly beautiful experience. Afterwards I said to him, I’ve got to get this. What is this music? He told me Bauls of Bengal.

The Bauls do mystic folk music, and sing songs about enlightenment. It’s so wonderful because they put so much devotion into their music. When I actually found the album later it didn’t sound like what I’d heard, but it was the devotion in the music that opened the door for me to step through, so to speak, in my experience. Because of that when theopportunity came up to do something with the Baul book, I felt that because of that gift received, I really wanted to contribute something of my art as a homage to what they had given me. So that was why I did the drawings. At first they were to be full color collages, but the publisher didn’t want the expense, so I reinterpreted them as black and white drawings.

David: What inspired you to do “The Secret Dakini Oracle”?

Penny: When Nik and I came together there was this whole umph of creative energy, and during this time we went to India and Nepal together. While we were there I gathered quite a bit of visual material that I later used when we did the collage books. I had been buillding up a blood bank of collage material, and I had a large stockpile of images that I had been collecting over time. We worked on the Dakini Oracle and Mountain Ecstasy at the same time. Nik and I had been interested in Tarot for quite awhile, but I’d always felt that there were certain things about the Tarot that I wasn’t very keen on.

One of the things was this rather churchy kind of overlay that was in them, which tends to give a bit of a sense of doom sometimes. I had seen people get readings and reverse readings where they went off feeling like there was this shadow hanging over them. I thought there must be another way. It felt like a really good divination tool, and I thought there must be a way of getting to the purer energies in this. Then when I started talking to Nik about it, he said that the original systems came from the sixty-four Yoginis. The sixty-four Yoginis or Dakinis are a cycle of energies which go around a central zero or Shiva-point, and they represent the psychological energies. Dakinis are also like helpers.

Nik said the original systems came from the gypsies, who brought it over from India to the West. I thought it was interesting that the system was based on a cycle of sixty-four, as is The I-Ching. I also didn’t like the hierarchy and the suits in traditional tarot. So we decided that we’ll do a cycle of sixty-four instead of seventy-eight, and make the Minor Arcana just ten of each of the elements– we used water, air, earth, and fire, as the Minor Arcana. There’s no hierarchy, although the first ones are perhaps a little higher frequency than the ones at the end of the sequence. But basically they’re just energy. And we didn’t divide it into either the specific Major Arcana or anything like that. It just came through spontaneously in these images. So we started using the cards with the original collages on them, and they were working. It was amazing. It just happened like magic.

David What are some of the things that you learned from your travels, and studying different world cultures?

Penny: I think that one thing travel does is that it makes you see things afresh. When you go to a new place, your eyes and ears are wide open and receiving to glean as much as possible of the new environment. It helps us see with the eyes of a child again– full of curiosity and expectation. If one can bring that kind of ‘open looking’ to bear, even in one’s familiar environs, I think that you can see your surroundings in a fresh, new and exciting way, instead of imprisoned in the veils of mundanity and habitual glance. So, I like to keep a ‘traveling eye’ wherever I am.

I was thinking the other day, as I was bringing home my shopping from the Ben Lomond supermarket, and doing the same act repeated by millions of Americans daily– throwing away the carrier bags in the trash. These are beautiful bags, well made and at the sacrifice of living trees. And I thought, in a village in India, these bags would betreasured. So that’s another thing traveling has taught me. I think it helps in general for people to experience different ways in which others live different values. It helps to give some perspective to what we accept as the norm when we can understand that so much of our life is social conditioning, it’s what we are used to, and is not intrinsic to human behavior. It can shift people out of their ruts, and help them to stop being so complacent and close-minded.

Something else world travel has shown me is the awesome beauty and variety of the texture of this planet. Luckily today we can travel too in films and videos. I’ll never tire of Gaia’s gorgeous revelations. And what I bring back from my travels is not so much in terms of lessons, but more in terms of treasures which I keep in my storehouse ofexperience and can draw on, by design or accident. For example, if I smell a certain smell, like wood fires and incense, I’m immediately back in the timeless magic of dusk in India, Thailand, or Nepal, with their special moods and all the feelings they evoke.

David: What are some of the different attitudes toward sexuality that you’ve seen around the world?

Penny: One thing I noticed is that women in places like Thailand have much more natural Dakini energy and grace than women in the West. It’s in that culture, although it’s been somewhat corrupted and fitted to the needs of a modern society which tends to degrade the secret. But that energy comes naturally to them. It’s as natural for that kind of energy to just be in it’s own sexuality and sensuality– to know that grace, and the power of that loveliness– as it is for a mermaid to have a tail and be in water. They haven’t got all of that shame overlaid with it, which prevents it from just happening spontaneously in the West.

Actually this ties in with what couples can do to add more dimension to their sex life. I started writing another book while I was still living in the islands about four years ago, which would be a follow-up to Sexual Secrets, but from another point of view altogether. It primarily addresses women, although it would be, I think, fun for men to read. It is also for women to be sharing with the men in their lives. I titled it Sexual Scenarios, and it expands on the idea that you can be whatever you like, if you wish it to be. There are different sections with various exercises and visualizations that you can try.

One of them ties in with this multi-cultural approach to sexual energy. Sometimes you can just take off with your lover or spouse and go to Bali for a fresh experience, but other times that may not be possible. So I wanted to design a way to bring Bali back home. I suggested ways for the woman to become a Balinese dancer for an evening, to prepare this Balinese food, and to do this type of thing with all different cultures, like ancient Egypt. I created these whole scenarios for people to play out their own role in, but the idea was really that a woman would empower herself by being able to delve into the vastness which she truly is.

Christopher said something which I really like, which is that there’s no point in trying to repeat old cultures or past traditions– because we are now the sum total of all that. I’d like to have a clean slate, forget about the past, but at the same time be the essence of all of it. When we really tune in, we see that we’ve got all those vibrations in us. So instead of being threatened by or jealous of another kind of woman– say like a Thai woman from another culture, because she is so wonderful– try and understand what those energies are, become her, and live another life. I believe in immortality of the spirit. I don’t know if we’ve been incarnated many times, and I’ve been a princess in India, and here and there, or whether it is just the wonderful power of the spirit that it would be able to experience all those different domains. Which ever way it is, we can have that all at our fingertips.

So I thought this would be great fun, and it was a way of creating sacred time together too. You build up the energy around it with everything that you would do. As you prepared the food, you’d put all your erotic energy into it, so that all the mundane would become elevated with all this good juicy energy full of expectation. In delivering the event you would be giving your partner a wonderful new experience, and open him up to seeing a whole other aspect of you– which is not really you. It’s another being. Because, you know so many men have fantasies of harems, and why not? We want to partake in the multiplicity of experience, but you don’t necessarily have to go and be with a ton of different women. In this time of AIDS you think twice.

But you want to experience the richness of it all. So here’s a way of tapping into it. Both of you get this wonderful experience. It’s very empowering when you can just put yourself aside, and become more than yourself. I mean, it is really you– because you’re all of it– but it’s tuning into other dimensions of your big “self”. The idea was thathopefully this would help bring people into a better feeling of compatibility with others who are different from them. If we could see that we know this already, we know that we’ve been all this, and if we can “be” all this, we would have a different kind of sense of empathy and compassion for other people, rather than being threatened or frightened, which creates all this racism and ego-centeredness that we see around us.

We’re often frightened by what’s different, so this is a way of embracing it, by becoming it. Other scenarios included things like going off and making love in nature– like somewhere with waterfalls, by the sea, in a field, or a cave, or those achieved with visualization. One can turn a shower into a waterfall, and make it happen at home. By sharing that with your partner you can both be in the same fantasy. You know we all have sexual fantasies, and often people have fantasies at the time of making love, which may be nothing to do with the person they’re with. (laughter)

So wouldn’t it be nice to both get in the same fantasy together– especially if it’s a really good positive one? We need good positive fantasies to replace the ones that have been lurking around, and getting us into all kinds of muck for ages. But we need some good juicy ones to sink our teeth into, because that’s been the trouble with spirituality– it isn’t that attractive when you feel that you’re not going to get some real goods from it.

The nature scenarios help with this healing that we need so badly, the planet needs so badly, which involves remembering to honor the spirit in all things, and to resonate with the beautiful energy that’s all around us. Everything’s sexual in this world– the birds and bees, and the flowers and the trees– it all works with the same magic. And we can tune into that, and empower nature with our erotic vibrations, which is just basically our free-flowing energy. It’s this same energy, whether you call it erotic energy or just energy. It’s just one energy if you don’t separate it.

David: What’s the connection you see between sexual energy and creative energy?

Penny: Well, again, they’re not really separate either. It’s just what you’re doing with it at the time. With the sexual aspect you’re not necessarily using that energy to manifest something you can see (unless it’s a baby!), whereas with the application of creative energy you’re bringing form into manifestation. But I’ve always thought that the play of Shiva and Shakti is the great symbol for creative energy; because you have to be both active and passive. You have to surrender to receive, because you can’t give what you haven’t received. Then you need that energy of manifestation to put it out there. We’ve got this incredible wealth of different energies within own bodies and minds, but if you don’t separate the them, then you see it’s all one energy, just different notes from the same instrument.

David: What do you think are some of the dangers of sexual repression?

Penny: I think the main danger is that you start to separate body and spirit. When you separate the flesh from the sacred, all kinds of bad things happen in the wake of that– both to yourself, and in the way you treat others. Certainly, at this point, there’s been such an imbalance, because there’s been more than a repression of sexuality. The realdanger is the ethic that represses female energy, and somehow makes the female the harbinger of all this sin and disgrace. So it’s all of her energy that we’ve repressed. This is so disastrous for our whole planet, because it’s her energy that cares about everything. She is the love that goes through everything– the glue that holds it all together– andpeople have just been tearing it apart with no understanding.

David: Why do you think that is?

Penny: I don’t know. It’s hard to say what purpose it serves. It stems from the male domination that we’ve been experiencing, as part of the patriarchal trip that we’ve been on. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with men– I love men– but this oppressive male energy has gotten out of control. They won’t allow the truth about the spirit in nature to comethrough. It makes no sense to live on the planet like this, but they’ve been doing it for a long while now, and everything’s groaning under it. So it’s going get relief one way or another. The best shot we have is to try and bring in as much of that Goddess energy as we can.

David: Love that Goddess energy.

Penny: Just love it, and love everything that has that Goddess energy in it– starting with yourself.

David: What was your greatest sexual experience?

Penny: It was on that same trip that I got to hear the Baul music, at another phase in that long experience. I was just laying back on a massage table, and I just suddenly started having one incredible orgasm after another. I was just lying there, not in any way touching myself, and no one touching me. I felt as if I was the whole body of the world, and that every foot-fall on the earth gave me this ecstatic pleasure. (laughter) If we can just only remove the veils of illusion, then we see this incredible eroticism in everything that is.

David: Are there basic messages that you’re trying to get across in your work?

Penny: Well, so many things are woven together in the fabric of expression, but yes, there are certain things that I’m trying to express. Embrace the fullness of who you really are. Confront the things you fear, so that you may pass through them for the illusions that they really are. Take off the limits on your consciousness and your imagination, and allow pure creativity to express itself– in whatever form is best suited to your own uniqueness, and explore the realm of infinite possibility. Unite the spirit and the flesh. Honor the spirit in all things, and reclaim your birthright, your authentic being. Honor the Goddess (and God and all that is) with all your sacred sensual being, and don’t be afraid to put it out there. Experience the excitement of sensuous eroticism and loveliness throughout life– especially in nature and human nature. Connect with it’s divine source. Let love lead the way.

Timothy Leary – 2

Why not indeed?!

“Beautiful… Beautiful… Why? Why? Why? Why not?!”

with Timothy Leary

(Photo by Dean Chamberlain – Click on photo for 1024/768 version)

It is extremely rare to find a photograph of Timothy Leary in which he isn’t smiling broadly. From the moment that Timothy first turned on to psychedelics– and there was a camera, a microphone, or an audience pointed his way– he consistently and charismatically radiated cheerful messages of hope, optimism, and courage. His beaming intelligence, hyper-insightful mind, and quick wit held the power to make people think, laugh, and feel good. But his most recent performance, I think, beats them all. His brave and upbeat approach to dying was every bit as instructive, inspiring, and entertaining as his approach to life had always been. He will certainly be remembered as one of the most original and enigmatic philosophers of the Twentieth century.

On a recent visit to Los Angeles, Robert Anton Wilson remarked to Timothy, “I’ve met Buckminster Fuller, and I still think you’re the most intelligent man that I’ve ever met. And I’ve met George Carlin, and I still think you’re the funniest man that I’ve ever met.”

To which Timothy replied, “You’re a good judge of character Bob. I’ve always thought I’m pretty wonderful too.” Self-effacing humor was never quite his style.

When Timothy announced to the world that he was dying of cancer a flurry of media attention flocked his way. Ever the Zen prankster, he told reporters that he was “ecstatic” and “thrilled” to be dying. Hearing these words in the context of death simply delighted me. I wanted to see Timothy again before he crossed over the threshold into the promised land, and ask him a few final questions. So I put everything that I was doing aside, and headed south for Los Angeles.

There was a beautiful rainbow arching across the sky when Rebecca Novick and I arrived at Timothy’s home off Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills on February 26, 1996. We took the rainbow to be a good omen, and the three of us stood in the backyard admiring it for several minutes. Timothy remarked that this was “the clearest day” that he had ever seen since he had lived in the house. The rain had washed some of the smog from the air, and indeed it was a very clear day for Los Angeles, but I suspect that Timothy’s sense of clarity was due to other factors. He said that he could make out even the tiniest details of every tree on the neighboring hills, which was more than I could do. “How beautiful… Look how wonderful it is,” he said with his youthful eyes widening, leaning forward on his cane, as though every millimeter counted.

Timothy was using a cane due to that fact that the prostate cancer had spread throughout his pelvic region. As he struggled towards the bedroom, where he was about to get a massage, he leaned onto Rebecca’s shoulder for support. Unsure of which direction the bedroom was, Rebecca asked him which way to go.

“Haven’t you ever been here before?” he asked.

“I’ve been here,” she replied, “just not in the bedroom.”

“Can you prove it?” Timothy laughed with flirtatious twinkling eyes. He continued to joke around and laugh the whole time that we were there.

There was a Lilly isolation tank in Timothy’s bedroom, colorful abstract paintings hung on the walls, and a large tank of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) stood by the closet. Throughout the interview, and for hours afterwards, we passed around large balloons filled with the giggly gas, which added a relaxed sense of expansiveness to the atmosphere.

Although Timothy looked very skinny, and his body seemed to be wasting away, his mind was as quick, sharp, and clear as ever. His eyes were bright, he was unceasingly animated, and his spirit was as alive as could be. His sense of humor hadn’t diminished one bit, and he was as sweet and playful as a child. The exterior shell of his personality seemed to have softened, and he was the most open that I’d ever seen him. He seemed to be deeply appreciating every moment of his existence, especially the massage that our friend Robin Rae was giving him, while I conducted the interview at his bedside.

Being the philosopher that he was, I had imagined that Timothy spent a good deal of his time pondering what his afterlife might be like. When Rebecca and I interviewed Timothy for our first book Mavericks of the Mind several years ago, one of the questions that I asked him was what he thought happened to consciousness after the death of the body. He never really answered the question, and went off on this whole rap about cryonic suspension. Now that Timothy was actually dying, I thought that he would be more apt to speak about his views on the post-death experience. But, you’ll see as you read this interview, that Timothy continues to evade the question. However this time I was much more persistent with my questioning, and I did finally manage to get something out of him which revealed his views on the subject.

Timothy’s initial plans to have his head cryonically suspended fell through, so it now appears that he won’t be around for an encore re-animation performance next century. Apparently the folks over at Alcor– the cryonics facility he was signed up with– weren’t too keen on Timothy’s well-publicized plans to commit suicide (on LSD) when the pain from the cancer became too much, and broadcast the death-trip live over the Internet on the World Wide Web. They feared legal repercussions, but according to Timothy, the cryonics facility just “didn’t have a sense of humor.”

However, in the end, Timothy died naturally on the morning of May 31st, not long after midnight. His reputed last words were “Beautiful… Beautiful… Why? Why? Why? Why not?!” A showman to the very end, Timothy’s body will be cremated, and his remains are to be packed aboard a rocket ship (along with Gene Rodenbery’s, creator of the Star Trek series), blasted into the heavens, and sprinkled into space amongst the stars. A fitting ending for a man who was truly out-of-this-world. Why not, indeed?!


David: What have you gained from your illness, and how has the dying process affected you?

Timothy: When I discovered that I was terminally ill I was thrilled, because I thought, “Now the real game of life begins. Oh boy! It’s the Super Bowl!” I entered into the real challenge of how to live an empowered life, a life of dignity. How you die is the most important thing you ever do. It’s the exit, the final scene of the glorious epic of your life. Death is loaded with paradox and taboo, so it’s hard for me to be thinking this through, even though I’m involved in the process of dying full-time. Do you follow my confusion? I can not exaggerate the power of this taboo about dying. It’s spooky, it’s something we’re supposed to be frightened of. Death is something symbolized by Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

David: Have you learned anything in particular from this illness?

Timothy: You don’t learn, you re-discover. We’re all going to die. I’m seventy-five years old, but you’re dying too. It’s just a matter of scheduling. Of course it’s all paradoxical. I think that you shouldn’t be a victim, but you have to be one now and then. Maybe once an hour you can complain, and be a victim all you want, but for no more than five minutes! (Laughter) So then once you have that attitude, and you set the domino chips going, then it becomes a force. Death should be good, but it’s like setting off a domino tree– all your prejudices, and all your fears and taboos come up.

David: When you first heard that you had cancer, did you accept that you were going to die, or did you say I’m going to fight this?

Timothy: One thing that we’re so fanatic about is this metaphor of fighting. It’s unbelievable how in this society we stress fighting and combating a disease. We’re fighting everything! The presidential candidates are supposedly trying to figure out what’s good for America, but all they do is lie and fight, fight, fight! It’s an amazing way to select a president, isn’t it?

David: So you think using that metaphor in a medical sense is dangerous?

Timothy: It’s even worse. It’s so inbred into us, implanted during our childhood.

David: Cryonic suspension aside, what do you personally think happens to consciousness after the death of the body?

Timothy: Well, this is the most important question, right?

David: It’s the greatest mystery of all time.

Timothy: What do you think?

David: I have several dozen competing theories and ideas that I entertain regularly. Maybe death, like life, is influenced by what we believe it to be. Maybe only some of us continue, and others don’t. Maybe at death one splits apart into many beings, or maybe we unify into some kind of greater Self. Maybe you just transcend this world completely, and journey to another unimaginable level. Maybe you cease to exist altogether. C’mon Timothy, you must have given it some thought. What do you think happens when you die?

Timothy: Well, I always try to be scientific.

David: It’s pretty difficult to be scientific about something that’s pure mystery, that we can’t even measure yet.

Timothy: Why? That’s what science is all about. Science deals with the mystery. Science loves being proved wrong. We know that when the heart stops– flatline– the brain continues to go on…

David: For another fifteen minutes or so.

Timothy: Yeah, which makes this a very interesting and fascinating notion, doesn’t it? Particularly when most of the Eastern religions have stressed something very different from that, right?

David: The Eastern religions– like Buddhism or Hinduism– stress a continuity of self, that every self is eternal, and connected to a larger Self. It’s pretty difficult being really scientific about what happens to consciousness after death.

Timothy: How dare you? Throw out all of science… because of what?

David: I’m not throwing out science, it’s just that there’s presently no way to measure consciousness. There’s no evidence to go on.

Timothy: Of course there’s evidence. I’m going to have my dying room set up weeks, months in advance, so that there will be at least twenty or thirty ways that I’m going to be communicating. Even in the worst case where I can’t speak, or make use of any motor ability, there will be some way I can communicate my experience.

David: That’s for while you’re dying, not after you’re dead. After that we’ll have to have a seance in order to talk to you. Don’t you have some kind of theory, some kind of intuition or idea that you play with about what happens to consciousness after you cross over the threshold?

Timothy: Theory and intuition– is that the same thing?

David: No, but intuitions can help us to form theories.

Timothy: Based on intuitions. Is intuition like a scale or a truck?

David: It’s more elusive, it’s a hunch or a feeling.

Timothy: Feeling inside you of what?

David: That something is right, or wrong, or that a pattern will continue a certain way, and it’s not based upon just a logical analysis of the situation, but upon an emotional response that’s difficult to articulate.

Timothy: But then where did it come from? It must be based on something.

David: I don’t know where intuitions come from. But I really want to know what you think happens after you die? (laughter)

Timothy: Well, I’m a very special case. The average person doesn’t spend a lot of time…

David: …preparing…

Timothy: …all of these years in arranging for their death. By hitting, dialing, arranging for injections, changing the screen, and through all these other options I’ll be able to communicate in a language which we’re making up for the experience. And see there again, it points out the need for practice and for rehearsal.

David: Kind of like the “metaphase typewriter” that you designed in the sixties, to encode a large amount of meaning into simple commands during a psychedelic experience?

Timothy: Yeah.

David: Do you see the psychedelic experience as being preparation for dying?

Timothy: Well, obviously, that’s the oldest metaphor.

Rebecca: I was going to ask what would you like your funeral to be like?

Timothy: Well, you’re assuming there’s going to be a funeral. Yeah, you’re talking about the ceremonies or the activities.

Rebecca: Yeah, what would you like that to be like after you die?

Timothy: Well, just what we’re doing right now. Everything that I do, everything that goes on in this house is centrally connected with our work, our philosophy, our religion. It’s all woven together.

David: You used the word religion.

Timothy: I consider that to be one of the most dangerous words in the English language– Croatians, Catholics, Moslems…

David: What did you mean by it then when you said it?

Timothy: Well, I didn’t say it, I repeated it.

David: Where do you think that you go after you die Timothy?

Timothy: Well, obviously your body is going to go where you instruct people to bring it. It can be cremation, it can be worms…

David: Timothy, do you think that your consciousness can exist independently of your body?

Timothy: Sure. Oh absolutely. Of course.

David: Oh you do?! You’ve had experiences of being out of your body?

Timothy: Well, I’ve taken a lot of LSD.

David: Well, so have I, but I’m not sure that I’ve had any out-of-body experiences on LSD though. But you have?

Timothy: Oh yeah. Many times I’d feel my leather hands (laughter), and there’s no warm blood inside them. Flesh has become simulated skin. Yeah, I’ve been there.

David: Have you ever had feelings like you’ve lived before? When you’re tripping you must have had that?

Timothy: Oh absolutely, yes. Jesus, yeah. In that state the reality scenarios are amazing.

David: Looking back over your life, what would you say were the most important things that you learned?

Timothy: Over and over again, you say “learned”, as though this were some kind of manual we were doing.

David: You say re-discover?

Timothy: Oh, it depends upon the context.

David: What are the most important things that you’ve re-discovered or learned throughout your life?

Timothy: One of the most important things that I’ve learned is that when you meet an irresistible force, move on! Keep moving. Don’t hang around Bosnia or wherever. Can you believe they’re killing each other over there over a tiny piece of land? Always put yourself in the best place you can, the best place to be. The selection of your location-shot– where you make this movie of your life– is tremendously important. Go to a place where the people share your interests, your aspirations, and your optimistic point of view. A place, of course, that is secure and safe. You don’t want to go into the middle of Bosnia or someplace like that. You have a lot to do with the selection of the place you live, your own goals, and the uniform you wear.

David: Do you have any regrets, or would you change anything in your life?

Timothy: Boy, I have tremendous regrets of letting people down, mainly friends and relatives. It’s interesting though, that the things that I regret not doing, I had already begun doing more than full-time, like seeing more of my grandchildren. I just regret that I couldn’t do more. It’s the same helplessness of any friend or parent when you see someone who you love that you can’t help.

David: You wish that you could have done more, or that you could have been more there for them?

Timothy: I’m just sad about it. You’re trying to rationalize it. I just fucking feel sad. I don’t have to have a reason. (laughter) Right? Funny isn’t it.

David: What kind of world do you envision when you’re re-animated from cryonic suspension?

Timothy: Why throw that in? Why not just say, what do you think will happen in the future? It might be a place with a bunch of middle-class white men standing around with clipboards. (laughter) If that’s the case, then send me back. (laughter)

David: So do you have a particular fantasy?

Timothy: You know, I don’t. I’m so involved in living all this. Does that make any sense?

David: Yeah, you’re very much in the moment.

Timothy: No, I’m doing it. What does that mean– I’m doing it? I’m planning it, and trying things out. All this is a rehearsal. I’m rehearsing.

David: For?

Timothy: My death. You know how when people get married they have a wedding rehearsal, with bridesmaids and all that? This is similar. There’s going to be a big party.

(To Rebecca) Thank you for your radiance and warmth. I think you like me.

Rebecca: I do like you very much. You’ve had a very big influence on my life.

David: Yeah, you’ve had a really big influence on my life too. One of the things I really wanted to do was to thank you for coming to this planet and doing what you’ve done. You’ve been an amazing inspiration– for me, and for a lot of people.

Timothy: Not that I’m making a big victim-problem out of it, but it’s possible that I’ve influenced an enormous number of people. It’s possible that I’m one of the most important people of the Twentieth Century. Not that I am, but that this wave going on which I’ve been a part of is. It was happening and I was there. I saw it happening, and I predicted it, but I didn’t cause it.

David: Well, you did more than simply predict it, you surfed it. Your courage and vision inspired a lot of people. You helped to create a lot of what went on.

Timothy: The metaphors, the rituals, the style, and the attitude. There is a definite attitude– the way I see life– that I think got incorporated into the culture. It is a very thrilling and wonderful opportunity that we are now lucky enough to be in this position in America. It’s staggering how lucky we are. You could be in prison or stuck in Bosnia– Wow!

David: How are you feeling Timothy?

Timothy: I am absolutely in heaven. This is the best I’ve felt in many many days. I must tell you I feel emotionally just very very happy, blissed out as a matter of fact, and I’m having a lot of fun. The pain can be terrible, but if I don’t move, God, I just feel great. And, also you see, the longer we keep talking, the longer I can get her (Robin– our friend, the massage therapist) to hang around. (laughter)

When she (Robin) starts getting up under the knees, it’s almost like a genital thrill– ooohhh woooww! (Laughter) Once she gets over the kneecap… oh boy! Just that little squeeze there… I’m having a good time. I hope I’m not playing around too much. I’m feeling mellow, and I’m enjoying it, and I like you guys. So I’m just babbling away here. (To David) You have a very healing face. You radiate a kind of quiet joy. It’s amazing. It’s very nice. I like you. (To Robin and Rebecca) He’s a very nice guy isn’t he? Friendly, sincere, good teeth too, boy.

Rebecca: What is important to you right now?

Timothy: Well, right now, this massage. (laughter) Anytime you’re being massaged, it’s a wonderful world.

David: Is there anything that you haven’t done, that you’d still like to do?

Timothy: Well, that’s something I’ve thought about, and the answer is basically, no. I have no desire to expand into adventures or quaint explorations. When you’re younger you want to see Athens and the Vatican, to travel around the world. That just doesn’t attract me at this stage.

David: How would you like to be remembered?

Timothy: Everybody gets the Timothy Leary that they deserve.

David: What has been the secret, all these years, to your undying sense of courage and optimism?

Timothy: It’s common sense. It’s all common sense and fair play. See, because fair play is common sense. It’s a very obvious approach to life.

Fakir Musafar

Skin Deep

“Your body belongs to you. Play with it.”

with Fakir Musafar


By the age of four; Poland Laomis was regularly dreaming about his past lives; by six he was experiencing psychedelic visions while riding his bicycle; by twelve he was poking his mother’s sewing needles through his skin. By the age of thirteen he had pierced his foreskin in the coal cellar, by fourteen he was experimenting with his newly found psychokinetic powers; and by seventeen he had a full-blown mystical shake-up of the kind recounted by saints, sages, and madmen.

Gradually, the puzzling elements of Roland’s childhood began to slip into place, like the ribs beneath a whalebone corset. This odd and awkward boy from a strict Lutheran family in whitest South Dakota had been born again in the regal personage of Fakir Musafar: Fakir Musafar was a misunderstood shaman in thirteenth-century Persia who entered mystical states through manipulating his body and died of a broken heart after a lifetime of ridicule.

This could also have been the fate of Roland had he remained within the walls of his family cellar; where his experiments began. Instead, Fakir came out, and now, at sixty-three, he has not only been accepted by the tribe but has been granted something of the status of an elder statesman. He is undoubtedly America ‘s master guru of body ritual, offering wisdom and experience in a movement with more than its share of neophytes searching for identity.

Fakir’s role models are Hindu sadhus who sleep on beds of nails, African women with necks elongated by metal rings, and New Guinea tribesmen with belts that reduce their waists to a whisper. It was he who coined the terms “modern primitive, ” and “body play, ” terms that now, thanks to the information revolution, have become almost as familiar as “cyberpunk” or “generation X. ” The modern primitive movement is a tribal concoction of neopagans, lesbians, gays, artists, punks-creative misfits who have taken the term “queer” from the exclusive domain of homosexuality and applied it to all who find themselves trying to squeeze their round pegs into the square nipples of society.

His twenty-seven years as an advertising executive allowed Fakir piercing insight into the power of symbolism, a knowledge he exploits beautifully in his quarterly magazine, BodyPlay. He is also the founder and director of the School for Professional Body Piercing, the first in America.

I interviewed Fakir on October 17, 1992. Sitting in the garden of his suburban bungalow in Menlo Park, California, bespectacled with a button-down haircut, in sports shirt and slacks, Fakir could still be that executive. There is little to suggest what lies beneath, except that poking through his nose is a five-inch porcupine quill. Fakir is a misfit who, unable to find a mold to fit into, simply fashioned one for himself


Rebecca:. What first inspired you to start changing your body state?

Fakir: I always seemed to have that inclination. When I was growing up all the people around me lived under Judeo-Christian principles and rules, and the whole thing was operating under a very hard, patriarchal society. My biggest problem as a child was spacing out and I would literally go into trance states at the drop of a hat. It was very difficult for me because I thought I was going nuts. I would try and stay there but I couldn’t help it, I’d fade away. Bells would ring, I’d have audio and visual hallucinations. I remember riding a tricycle and having wonderful hallucinations like on acid.

I had a particular problem in social situations which still bothers me today. I guess it’s an escape, a coping mechanism. This family was so repressive and dysfunctional that it was natural for me to use this ability to space out, to cope with the boredom and abandonment.

Rebecca: What were you like as a child – apart from spacy? (laughter)

Fakir: I was very much alone, I was very thin, I didn’t do too well with other kids, I didn’t do too well in sports. I couldn’t catch a baseball because I was blind as a bat. But I was also very bright. I devoured books because that was my only escape from this very limited society. I started on Volume A of the best looking encyclopedia. I read the whole thing from cover to cover and then I started on Volume B and so on. When I got through that set of encyclopedias I went to another set and read that one. And I found out that I was really interested in how other cultures lived.

Rebecca: And when you first saw pictures of people with scarification, tattoos and piercings, did you suddenly go, aha! this is it?

Fakir: Oh yeah – instantly the light went on. Very often I could recognize that whatever they said about these people in the photo caption was not what was going on. I could look at them and feel how that person felt at the moment the photograph was taken. It was a mixture of fear, pain, intense sensation, awe, and I thought my God! they’ve got something! And I would secretly try to do these things, the Ibitoe of New Guinea which is the waist reducing belt.

One of the abilities I had when I was young was psychometry. We lived in an area that was heartland for Indians’ last stands and the last survival of Indian culture, so there was a lot of Indian atmosphere. The towny’s would just plow over Indian graves, but I would go out on my bicycle and find Indian campgrounds, burial spaces, places that were blessed and had a charge in them. At a very early age I could touch a tree and get a whole vision of what had happened there. I could take a stone from an Indian burial ground and it would speak to me. I still do this.

Rebecca: And you used to visit the Indians and hang out with them.

Fakir: Yes. They were treated very badly, worse than dogs. I found a kinship because I was a loner. I always felt I was on the edge, on the fringes of society. My search through life has always been to find the disenfranchised, I always had more in common with them. I had a very hard time with the establishment.

Rebecca: What kind of reactions do you get from Native American people to the things you do?

Fakir: I have a lot of friends who are Native Americans. I did some rituals at a place called Rancho Cicada and Hawk (could you describe briefly who Hawk is?) was one of them. He was quite taken with it, we exchanged presents and energies and he participated in some of the ceremony. In general I’ve had nothing but respect and awe from Indians.

Rebecca: You don’t ever come across people who think it’s just another example of the white man encroaching on Indian terrain?

Fakir: In Boston I was on a television program and they had Native Americans on there who were very un-native compared to the ones I grew up with on the Lakota reservations. They had always lived in cities and they were very Catholic or Lutheran. They didn’t seem to have much connection with Indian culture, but I had objections from them that I was ripping off Indian culture and exploiting it.

Rebecca: Going back to your childhood….

Fakir: I was the head of the class in the Lutheran confirmation. I knew all the dogma and all the theories and the doctrine of transubstantiation. We had a very aristocratic pastor who came from New York. He was quite a maverick because he didn’t preach hell and brimstone as much as he did love. He used to think the world of me.

One of my favorite meditation spots was church. I was in the choir and we sat in this separate space in front of the organ which had all of these beautiful vibrations coming out of it. And I had some of the most beautiful fantasies including erotic fantasies in that choir loft.

Rebecca: Was there anyone you could share your true urges and visions with?

Fakir: I couldn’t share what I was doing with anybody at all. It was so way out and bizarre compared to how everything was. In school I was an avid lucid daydreamer. I was near-sighted so I couldn’t see the board, it was so boring and the way they did everything was so rigid. They’d explain something and I’d jump twenty-eight steps before they’d even got to step three with the rest of the kids.

So I’d look out of the window, I’d look at a tree and I’d become sunlight falling on a leaf – I learned how to have visions. Some of them were alarming.

Rebecca: If your environment had been more interesting perhaps you wouldn’t have been encouraged to develop your inner world so much.

Fakir: Yes, that’s true. At home on Sunday afternoons you had to wear your Sunday best which was always very uncomfortable and you had to sit in an upright chair for hours while the family droned on and on about the crops and Aunt Tilly’s tumor – all this neat stuff. (laughter) I would sit in this room and stare at my Uncle Milton and all of a sudden I would start going into a trance state.

All the voices would go vzzzzzzzzz, like turning down the volume control, and everything would start to get dark except for Uncle Milton who’s head would get brighter and brighter. Then it would start to recede until it was a pinhead and then it would come back, but instead of Uncle Milton it would be an old Chinese man and he would be speaking Chinese! I was totally fascinated by this.

Up until I reached puberty I had some

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John Allen

Music of the Biospheres

“…it is in our capacity to be ther brain and the conscience of the biosphere, to be its self-reflective point.””

with John Allen


John Polk Allen was a driving force behind the development of the Biosphere 2 project in the Oracle, Arizona desert. Biosphere 2 is the largest self-sustaining ecosystem ever built, a masterpiece of human engineering that has been praised and condemned by a media that, for the most part, misinterpreted what it was all about. Both confusing it with a controlled scientific experiment or an entertainment spectacle missed the point. Inside the sealed 3. 15 acre biosphere are miniature replicas of all the earth ‘s environments, designed to function together as a single system.

Biosphere 2 was more than just a reductionistic scientific experiment. It was also bold visionary adventure, like going to the moon. As when the Wright brothers were building the first airplane, the biospherians were basically concerned with getting the thing to fly. Biosphere 2 has been a tremendous success; it broke and set many records. The relevance ofBiosphere 2 lies in the light it sheds an our understanding of the earth ‘s biosphere and its value as a prototype for permanent life-habitats on suitable locations in space.

John thinks in terms of whole systems, and he is an expert on ecological interrelatedness. Former vice-president of biospheric development for Space Biospheres Ventures, John wrote a classic article on closed life systems, which was published by NASA in Biological Life Support Technologies: Commercial Applications. He participated in the Jirst manned biosphere rest module experiment in September 1988, residing for three clays in the first fully closed ecological system that recycled all its wastes, setting a world record at the time. John is currently the chairman of CyberspheresTM, Inc., a private research and development firm that designs and builds advanced biospheric systems and semiclosed biomic systems.

In addition, he is cofounder and director of Eco Frontiers, Inc., which owns and manages several ecological research projects around the world, and Planetary Coral Reef Foundation, a nonprofit corporation devoted to studying the health and vitality of coral reefs. He has traveled extensively-very extensively–and this has contributed to his multicultural, whole-systems perspective. John has led expeditions studying ecology (particularly the ecology of early civilizations) to Nigeria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Ilzbekistan, Tibet, India, Belize, and the Altip Eano. As part of the researchfor Biosphere 2, John traveled in the ship Heraclitus to the Amazon and many other areas around the world to collect biological samples.

John is also an actor poet, film producer; and playwright. He has been a major force in the Theater of All Possibilities acting troupe far many years. He is a true global citizen who seems to he at home everywhere on the planet. He is also an accomplished author with more than two dozen publications to his credit, over half of which are scientific, while the rest comprise poetry, drama, prose, and film. John holds a degree in metallurgical-mining engineering from the Colorado School of Mines, an MBA from the Harvard Business School, from which he graduated with distinction as a Baker Scholar and a certificate in engineering physiology from the University of Michigan.

John is a swashbuckling frontiersman, an eccentric mix of scientist, artist, entrepreneur find adventurer He is warm and charismatic, filled with vision, and often appears larger than life. When he hugs you, he lifts you up off the ground. We interviewed John on April 16, 1994 in the living room of our mutual friend OscarJaniger (interviewed in our previous volume) in Santa Monica, California. Several weeks prior; trouble had been brewing at the biosphere, when its major financial investor Ed Bass, in his attempt to gain control of the biosphere, accused John and his associates of “mismanagement. ” Subsequently, Bass took over the experiment. The story of the corporate takeover of Biosphere 2 is the subject of a forthcoming book by Abigail Ailing and myself entitled Storming Eden. Even with all the uncertainty hovering about him at the time of the interview, John was radiantly cheerful and contagiously optimistic.


David: John, how have your travels around the planet influenced your desire to create a self-contained ecosystem?

John: The unity that is around the planet earth, that is the biosphere, has only very recently been recognized as a self-organizing entity. That was a hypothesis put forward in 1926 by Vladimir Vernadsky. Before that there was a `great nature’, a hypothesized `great being’, creation of God or a fortuitous collation of atoms which accidentally produced life.

But as soon as you have the idea of the biosphere and you really begin to travel around the planet earth, looking at things from that point of view, you see that the oceans, the winds, the mountain ranges, the deserts, the tropical forests are not occurring at random at all. You see that they are organized, that they have a tremendous resilience and that they’re evolutionary.

In science, the question becomes an experiment to test an hypothesis, so the idea of Biosphere 2 was to see whether a system modeled on Biosphere 1, self-organized or not. Many people in the press and many scientists predicted that the ocean in Biosphere 2 would die and that it would all turn to slime. In other words, they fundamentally followed the fortuitous collocation of atoms idea that life just happens on a planet the right distance from the sun. The wording in that kind of science, is that something is merely.

Rebecca So they didn’t think you could consciously design a system that wouldn’t just collapse into entropy.

John: Well, actually it’s modeling a system more than designing it. The thing about Biosphere 2 that very few people got was that what we did was create conditions that emulated the conditions of Biosphere 1: there is something to produce tides, something to produce water flows, pipes taking the place of rivers, things like that. But the live systems were very much modeled on Biosphere 1, that is the earth, although naturally on a highly reduced scale.

For example, the Biosphere 2 ocean is actually portions that came out of certain coral reefs, water from the Pacific and water from the Bahamas. The rainforest is designed by people who spent a lot of time there. The basic way I formulated that for them was to say, let’s create the quintessence of the rainforest, so that when you’re standing in the middle of it, you feel that you are in the Amazon.

These were not just ordinary people. They spent decades in the Amazon studied it intimately. So that’s how these terrestrial biomes went into making Biosphere 2.

Rebecca What culture that you came across in your travels had the greatest influence on you and your ideas?

John: There were a number of them. Ethnology was the first science I studied, so when I traveled around I used the idea of Ruth Benedict and Franz Boaz that there is an arc of human potential and that each culture is a part of that arc. So I didn’t go around looking for the specific culture, but rather cultures that had a bigger arc of human potential or a more incisive tranche than usual.

The Berber culture, the Sioux indian culture, Huichols, the Bora of the Amazon, the Polynesian culture, were all examples of this. The Hindu culture is exceedingly interesting because of the division of humans into castes in an old linear breeding and function program.

There is also what I call Globaltech which is the culture of the technicians of the West. It’s not officially recognized by anthropology, but I think it’s one of the most powerful cultures in the world today with probably about five million members. It includes people who can move from Moscow to Tokyo to Santa Monica to Biosphere 2, and never miss a beat; people who are basically inventing, innovating, maintaining and envisioning the next steps in the global technosphere.

David: Was there a particular culture that you encountered that forced you to reevaluate your entire belief system?

John: Yes. Actually it was a coming together of three cultures in Tangiers. There was the avant garde art culture with William Burroughs and the people around him, and then the Berber culture which is maybe 6,000 years old and has its roots in the ancient magical traditions, and also the imperial culture of the Spanish, French and British empires.

So the combination of the Western imperial culture, the native Berber culture and the Western avant garde forced a personal transformation of all values, not just on a mental and emotional level, but on a physiological and social level as well.

David: Physiological? How do you mean that?

John: Well, because the people from the avant garde were into all sorts

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Annie Sprinkle

The Pleasure Principle

“Let there be pleasure on earth and let it begin with me.”

with Annie Sprinkle

Annie Sprinkle is mostly known as the porn star/prostitute who became a performance artist/sex guru. She spent many years exploring a multitude of. sexual possibilities in Manhattan’s kinky sex clubs and through her roles in hundreds of hard-core XXX films, where she achieved legendary status and such earned titles as “the queen of Kink, ” “the Mother Teresa of Sex, ” “the Shirley MacLaine of Smut, ” and “the Renaissance Woman of Porn. ” As an exhibitionist who liked to do it all, she posed for every major, minor sex and fetish magazine there is, and she was a “Photo Funny Girl “for National Lampoon for two years. All along Annie has been a very creative individual, but recently she has emerged as what she describes as a “post-porn modernist, ” creating her own eclectic brand of feminist, sexually explicit media. Her latest one-woman show is part autobiography, part parody of the porn industry, part sex education, and part sex-magic ecstasy ritual. It is controversial, powerful, and popular

After twenty-two years of devoting her life to learning and experiencing all she could about sex and doing sex work, Annie has become a unique kind of expert. She has authored three hundred articles on the topic, as well as an autobiographical book entitled Annie Sprinkle: Post-Porn Modernist. She produced and directed several videos, including the lesbian classic The Sluts and Goddesses Video Workshop, or How To Be a Sex Goddess in 101 Easy Steps. She has been invited to teach and lecture at many museums, universities, and holistic: healing centers, including such prestigious institutions as Columbia University, the Museum of Modern Art, the Wise Woman ‘s Center New York University, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Some of the topics she ‘s presented are the “Pleasures, Profits, and Politics of Women’s- Sexualities in the ’90s, ” “Sacred Sex Technologies, ” “Cosmic Orgasm Awareness, ” and the “Secrets of Sacred Slutism. ” HBO ran two specials on her work. She ‘s such a “character” that someone has even created a comic-book series about her:

Midway through Annie’s career her views about sexuality changed radically when the AIDS crisis hit and Anni ‘s lover was infected (although Annie never was). Through having to practice totally safe sex, she learned that sex is not just about bodies coming together and the electric embrace of genitalia, but also about the exchange of energy. Consequently, her work merged with the long tradition of achieving health, well-being, and spiritual growth through meditative sexual union. Annie metamorphosed into the more multidimensional incarnation Anya, whose goal is to get a handle on the source of orgasmic energy, and who is inspired by the archetypes of the sacred prostitute and the Goddess.

At present, Annie is half-finished with a feature documentary about orgasm, Orgasm Scrapbook. She is also making a deck of “Pleasure Activist Playing Cards” from photographs of women she has taken over the years, and marketing her own designer dildo, the Sacred Sex Tool. She is experimenting with monogamy, “Zen sex, ” gender play, and training her girlfriend’s dog, Hillary, to give her cunnilingus.

Annie has a big, warm heart and a very sweet spirit. She seems to completely lack any inhibition or guilt regarding sexuality, yet she is actually kind of shy. She ‘s optimistic, funny, sensuous, and she appears to be a genuinely happy person, often hovering, it seems, on the verge of orgasm. Rebecca and / interviewed Annie on November 1, 1992 at her parent’s house in Granada Hills, the Southern California home in which she grew up and where she was visiting at the time. The house was quite ordinary, rather conservative, and nothing gave the slightest hint that this place would have produced an Annie Sprinkle. We conducted the interview in the back yard by the pool. When her mom walked by, Annie whispered “Sh … I don ‘t want her to hear us talking about my sex life. It makes me nervous, ” We interviewed her again in Maul, Hawaii, on July 26, 1993. Just as we began the interview, Annie said that she had to stop because she needed to orgasm. So I switched off the tape recorder; and she went into the other room and turned on her vibrator. She returned five minutes later with a smile on he rface. “Okay, ” she said, “now we can begin. “


David: Annie, how did you become interested you in sex and how did your early development influence your later career choices?

Annie: You’re at Granada Hills, the place where I grew up. This place is very white bred and straight and I wasn’t aware of any sexuality when I was young. The only thing that really turned me on was the swimming pool, but I wasn’t a sensual, sexual child because it was such a great mystery. I feel kind of sad that all that time was wasted. I could really have being enjoying myself. (laughter)

David: Can you see what it was that inspired your interest?

Annie: What clearly inspired my interest was the ignorance and fear. I used to wake up in the morning having to pee. I was having orgasms, I think. The full bladder pressed against my clitoris, or something, so I’ve connected peeing with eroticism a lot. (You know, the clitoris is much bigger now. According to the feminist view, the clitoris is a hugestructure – it’s almost as big as a penis) And then there was a big nothing period in my life. What I was more focused on was menstruation. That was the big, scary thing. All my questions were about that and I didn’t even know about sex. I heard a little bit in the playground at school, but that was it.

Rebecca: So there wasn’t any sex education to speak of?

Annie: There wasn’t, no. There was the egg and the ovum – the biology of sex, but nothing practical at all! When I discovered how great sex was that made me mad. I lost my virginity at seventeen and I thought, “this is great, everyone should know about this. How come nothing is being done about this?” (laughter)

I think that losing my virginity was one of the happiest days of my life up to that point.(laughter) A year later I moved into prostitution and that was another really happy transition for me. When I discovered sex, I thought, “I’ve got to learn more about this, this is the greatest thing.” And that’s really been my focus in life.

Rebecca: Why do you think sex has become so distorted? Do you think it’s just the effect of Christianity or are there other factors?

Annie: I think that had a lot to do with it. And also the idea that sex was dangerous for women and also a source of power. I think when women express their sexual power, it freaks men out a lot. So I think it was suppressed partly because of that. Also there’s disease – it’s a very dangerous thing. (laughter) It’s dangerous on the one hand, and it’s total liberation and freedom and joy and ecstasy on the other.

Rebecca: What do you think are some of the worst social consequences of a culture which denies the body and sexual freedom?

Annie: War, drug abuse, suicide, loneliness, skin diseases, cancers, violence, rape.

Rebecca: Zits.(laughter) So you regard sex as fundamental to a healthy life?

Annie: Yes. And suppressing it makes people crazy. All the fear and ignorance around it is amazing. But then, that’s part of the fun.

Rebecca: Part of the fun? (laughter)

Annie: It’s such a huge subject, you know. It’s really enormous.

Rebecca: It seems that sex was beginning to be viewed with more openness in the sixties. Then AIDS came along and alarm bells went off again with this whole fundamentalist exclusiveness against homosexuality. Do you think AIDS has polarized the issue of sexual freedom so much that there is little hope for constructive understanding between the two sides?

Annie: I think it’s normal. There’s this pendulum of freedom and repression that goes back and forth in relation to sex as well as to many other things. And now, because of AIDS, sex is considered dangerous again. But it’s not going away. Sex cannot be repressed. On the whole it’s spurring everyone on. I always look on the positive side of everything. Of course there are many sides, but there is a lot of great stuff happening in terms of sex. You have more freedom to be gay and lesbian than there ever were before. You go to high school and there are all these little baby dykes.

David: You see that in California quite a bit, but this doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s going on in the rest of the country.

Annie: Well, I have no idea.

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Allen Ginsberg

Politics, Poetry and Inspiration

“Language joiins heaven and earth and joins the mind and the body.”

with Allen Ginsberg


Alien Ginsberg’s poem “Howl, ” published in 1956, caused such a controversy that it was the subject of an obscenity trial. Having received the court ‘s “approval, ” it went on to become one of the most widely read and translated poems of the century. He is an extraordinarily prolific artist, having had over forty books published and eleven albums produced.

Alien’s friendship and literary experimentation with Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs began in 1945, and a decade later as this core group expanded to include other poets and writers, it came to be known as the “Beat Generation. ” He has received numerous honors, including the National Book Award for Poetry, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, National Arts Club Medal, 1986 Struga Festival Golden Wreath, and the Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins Medal of Honor for Literary Excellence 1 989.

A potent figure in the cultural revolution of the sixties, he has been arrested with Dr. Benjamin Spock for blocking the Whitehall Draft Board steps, has testified at the U.S. Senate hearings for the legalization of psychedelics and been teargassed for chanting “Om” at the Lincoln Park Yippie Life Festival at the 1968 Presidential convention in Chicago.

His Collected Poems 1947-1980, were published in 1984 with White Shroud and the 30th Anniversary Howl annotated issue in 1 986. Several books of his photographs and a recordlCD of his poetry-jazz album, The Lion for Real, appeared in 1989. He is a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and is a Distinguished Professor at Brooklyn College and a member of the Executive Board of PEN American Center. A practicing Buddhist, Alien cofounded Naropa Institute’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado.

We talked with Allen at the house of his cousin, Oscar Janiger, in Santa Monica. He presents a very dignified and unassuming figure, his non-conforming and wildly creative persona loosely disguised in a professorial suit and tie. We asked Allen about his relationship with Burroughs and Kerouac, his thoughts on madness and creativity, and the nature of politics and revolution. This interview took place on April 23, 1992, six days before the Los Angeles uprising.



DJB: What was is that originally inspired you to start writing poetry?

Allen: It’s a family business. My father was a poet, his Collected Poems were posthumously published – they just came out recently, in fact, from the Northern Lights Press in Maine. My father was in the 1930-50 Untermeyer anthologies, a standard poet of that genre, lyric poetry, that included Eleanor Wiley and Lisette Woodsworth Reece.

DJB: Was it something that you always knew you were going to do?

Allen: No, but I always wrote poetry; since I was a kid I knew poetry. My father taught high school and college, so I knew a lot of Milton, Poe, Shelley and Blake when I was five, six, seven years old. And I memorized it, or it just sort of stuck in my head. I started writing when I was maybe fifteen, or younger, but I never thought of myself as a poet. I just thought that it was something you did on the side, like my father had done. But then, when I met Jack Kerouac at the age of seventeen, I realized that he was the first person I had met who saw being a writer as a sacramental vocation. Rather than being a sailor who wrote, he was a writer who also went out on ships. That changed my attitude towards writing, because now I saw it as a sacred vocation.

DJB: How did you mother’s struggle with mental illness affect your development?

Allen: I’ve written a great deal about that in the poem “Kaddish,”

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Carolyn Mary Kleefeld

Singing Songs of Ecstasy

“…when artists are working directly from their emerging consciousness, their art is their most honest mirror.”

with Carolyn Mary Kleefeld

Few people have devoted their lives to the creative arts as passionately as Carolyn Mary Kleefeld. For over thirty years, Ms. Kleefeld’s inspiring books and mesmerizing art exhibits have helped to guide us out of our mental and emotional cul-de-sacs into sublime states of mystical transcendence. Ms. Kleefeld is the author of ten books, which showcase her award-winning poetry, prose, paintings, and drawings in various complementary combinations.

Fueled by a need for creative expression and a lifelong fascination with psychological and spiritual transformation, Carolyn is the author of five poetry books that explore these archetypal themes. Carolyn’s first poetry collection, Climates of the Mind, received the rare honor of being translated into Braille by the Library of Congress, a dream realized for Carolyn. Climates, as well as a number of Carolyn’s other books, have been used worldwide as inspirational texts in universities and healing centers, commencing in the Fall of 2010, will be featured, along with the writings of seven other acclaimed women writers, in a permanent course, “The Other Half of the Sky: Eight Women Writers,” to be taught at Swansea University in Wales. Carolyn’s poetry has been translated into Romanian and Korean.

The Alchemy of Possibility: Reinventing Your Personal Mythology, which combines Carolyn’s visual art, philosophical prose, and poetry, and Soul Seeds: Revelations and Drawings, a collection of Carolyn’s philosophical aphorisms, including thirteen pen and black ink drawings, from which a chapter was nominated for the 2008 Pushcart Prize, both serve as oracular tools, much like the I Ching or the Tarot.

Carolyn’s most recent poetry collection, Vagabond Dawns, from which a poem was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize, includes a CD of Carolyn reading selected poems, with musical accompaniment by Barry and Shelley Phillips, who have also played for Coleman Barks in his readings of Rumi. Carolyn has also created an extensive and diverse body of paintings and drawings, ranging in style from romantic figurative to abstract expressionism. Featured in books, magazines, and a line of fine art cards, her art can also be found in collections at the United Nations, as well as numerous museums, galleries, and hospitals throughout the world, and in the collections of Ted Turner and many others, including the estates of Laura Archer Huxley and Timothy Leary. In 2008, the Frederick R. Weisman

Museum of Art at Pepperdine University exhibited a twenty-five year retrospective of Carolyn’s paintings and drawings, and published an exhibition catalog, Carolyn Mary Kleefeld: Visions from Big Sur, with art from the exhibit and a commentary by museum curator and director, Michael Zakian, Ph.D. They also selected a number of Carolyn’s paintings for their permanent collection. Carolyn’s painting “Neuro-Erotic Blast-Off” appeared on the cover of my first book, Brainchild, and we have worked together on many creative projects over the years. I wrote supporting material for two of Carolyn’s books–The Alchemy of Possibility and Soul Seeds–and her painting “Dionysian Splendor” was featured on the cover of the MAPS Bulletin that I edited in 2008 about psychedelics and technology. Her sublimely beautiful artwork also appears on the cover of the second edition of Mavericks of the Mind.

On September 14, 1989, in her candlelit living room at around midnight, we interviewed Carolyn at her home in Big Sur, California, which is perched on the crest of a mountain cliff (or on the tip of the “dragon’s crown,” as she refers to it), high above the Pacific Ocean. Carolyn spoke to us about the relationship between art and nature, expanded awareness and creative expression, and personal and universal transformation. Musing with us about the living secrets of nature, she looks as though she danced right out of one of her own paintings. Her eyes and smile have a luminous mystery that is also present in much of her work. She has a graceful and elegant manner about her, and one is easily enchanted by her poetic style of expression.


DJB: What was it that originally inspired your interest in creative expression?

CAROLYN: It is the discovery of my relationship with the universe, the unknown, that propels my translation. The spheres explored radiate a spectrum of seed-images. The wilderness of the unconscious is lush with the gems of infinity. The ancient codes lie in the seams between worlds. They only await the radiance of our conscious light to be illumined, recognized.

For example, at seven years old, I wrote and illustrated my first book entitled, The Nanose. Many years later I found out that my experience then, which was triggered by dust particles dancing in a sunbeam flooding my bedroom window, actually had its inherent meaning in my poetic translation of it, rather than in the external event itself.

Through my impression of the dancing dust particles I had my first recorded interaction with atomic life. My art was the bridge, translating localized conception (dust particles) into atomic theory. I thus experienced intimate dialogue with the vaster universe.

Today my reading of science tells me that the Nanose in my childhood book were monads, or cellular/atomic entities that underlie our contemporary concepts of biology and physics. Even the title Nanose essentially is the Greek word “nano,” meaning very small, as in the contemporary innovation called “nanotechnology.”

So art acts as a prescient translation from the unconscious mind, revealing the codes–the consciousness of the underlying forces of nature.

DJB: So, it was basically a need to express powerful experiences?

CAROLYN: Well, it was my interaction with inner experience, rather than the exterior event itself, that propelled the creative expression.


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Robert Anton Wilson

Firing the Cosmic Trigger

“…information is the source of all wealth”

with Robert Anton Wilson

RobertAnton Wilson earned his doctorate in psychology from Hawthorn University. From 1966-1971 he was Associate Editor of Playboy, and since then he has written over 26 popular books. He is perhaps best known for Illuminatus! a classic science fiction

Robert Anton Wilson

RAW at Esalen Institute

trilogy which he co-authored with Robert Shea. His Schroedinger’s Cat trilogy was called “the most scientific of all science-fiction novels ” by New Scientist, and has been reprinted in many languages. In the area of social philosophy Bob wrote such books as Cosmic Trigger, Prometheus Rising, and The New Inquisition He also wrote the introduction to my first book Brainchild. Bob has appeared as a stand-up comic at many clubs around the world, and regularly teaches seminars at New Age centers such as the Esalen Institute. Bob ‘s poetry has been widely published and in 1 986 he was a guest of the Norwegian government at the Oslo International Poetry Festival.

Bob has also starred in collaboration with the Golden Horde on a Punk Rock record entitled The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy, and a comedy record called Secrets of Power. Bob’s play Wilhelm Reich in Hell was performed at the Edmund Burke Theatre in Dublin in 1986, and many other theatres. H epresently lives in Santa Cruz, where he continues to write, and co-edit the futurist journal Trajectories

 with his wife Arlen. We interviewed Bob on the evening of June 18th, 1989, at his previous home in West Los Angeles. A sharp-witted imp with a Brooklyn accent and a twinkle in his eye, Bob never fails to have a joke up his sleeve. He is a jolly prankster with an alchemical talent for blending cultural mythos. Bob spoke with us about the Illuminati conspiracy, brain machines, synchronicity, mysticism and science, nanotechnology, ecology, extraterrestrials, and the mysterious mythic connection between Satan and Santa Claus.



RMN: What was it that first sparked your interest in consciousness enhancement?

ROBERT: Korzybski’s Science and Sanity. I was in engineering school and I picked up the book in the Brooklyn Public Library. He talked about different levels of organization in the brain-animal circuits, human circuits and so on. And he talked a lot about getting back to the non-verbal level and being able to perceive without talking to yourself while you’re perceiving.

It was 1957. I was very interested in jazz at that time, and I told a black friend about some of Korzybski’s exercises to get to the non-verbal level, and he said, “Oh, I do that every time I smoke pot.” I got interested. I said, “Could I buy one of these marijuana cigarettes from you?” He said, “Oh hell, I’11 give it to you free.” And so I smoked it.

I found myself looking at a quarter I found in my pocket and realizing I hadn’t looked at a quarter in twenty years or so, the way a child looks at a quarter. So I decided marijuana was doing pretty much the same thing Korzybski was trying to do with his training devices. Then shortly after that I heard a lecture by Alan Watts, and I realized that Zen, marijuana and Korzybski were all relating the same transformations of consciousness. That was the beginning.

DJB: Many of your books deal with a secret society called the Illuminati. How did your fascination with this organization begin?

ROBERT: It was Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley who founded the Discordian Society, which is based on the worship of Eris, the Goddess of Chaos, discord, confusion, bureaucracy and international relations. They have no dogmas, but one catma. The catma is that everything in the universe relates to the number 5, one way or another, given enough ingenuity on the part of the interpreter. I found the Discordian Society to be the most satisfactory religion I had ever encountered up until that point, so I became a Discordian Pope. This is done by excommunicating all the Discordian Popes you can find and setting up your own Discordian Church. This is based on Greg’s teaching that we Discordians must stick apart.

Anyway, in 1968 Jim Garrison, the D.A. of New Orleans–the jolly green Frankenstein monster, as Kerry later called him–accused Kerry at a press conference of being one of the conspirators in the Kennedy

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