Babalon & Other Plays reviewed by Matthew Levi Stevens

August 1, 2016

Like William S. Burroughs’ Subliminal Kid channelling a Scribe of Thoth, for nigh on the last half a century novelist, playwright & poet Paul A. Green has been endlessly cut-shift-tangling the image-glut of the Post-Modern datasphere, looking for clues and reading the runes. His works are comment, distillation, and interpretation of the Post-War Cold War world and On, surfing and sifting the intersections and interference patterns as he scans the late-night shortwave and ham-radio for Broadcasts From Another World as they collide with the Akashic Record, the whole spilling out in a mixture of Comic Books, Saturday Morning matinee picture-shows – newspaper headlines Cut-Up with their own cartoons, spliced with Horror Noir Pulp Sci-Fi and Weird Tales – the whole given a Beat Jazz bongo party Gonzo journalism remix. High Art & Low Art meets Occulture & Under-the-Counter-Culture as Pre-Millennial Tension collides headlong with Post-Millennial Terrorism. The Pan-Daemon-Aeon is HERE & NOW, and whatcha gonna do about it? (Never mind the Ghostbusters, better call Brother Paul . . .)

‘A most valuable addition to the present anthology is the closing AFTERWORDS, in which we get the Author’s own account of his formative years and the origins of the Work here collected. Green’s formative input was suitably esoteric and erudite : educated by Jesuits, but with a timely, under-the-cassock introduction to the Beats, his already nominal Catholicism was permanently derailed by an encounter with existentialism, via Colin Wilson – and, with the image-and-idea-hungry instincts of a born poet, the discovery of Surrealism, the aforementioned Burroughs, and J. G. Ballard. To a large extent, Green’s writing in general and these plays in particular can be seen as an outgrowth or distillation of his own esoteric researches: back in the 1970s interviewing Richard Calder – editor of seminal part-work, Man, Myth & Magic, among other things, prolific popular occult writer Francis X. King, Golden Dawn historian Ellic Howe, EVP expert Peter Banda, and ‘The Outsider’ himself, Colin Wilson. Lurking behind all this, however – like the establishing premise of an H. P. Lovecraft story – was his father’s somewhat unconventional and doubtless unintentional influence : he collected straaange books, including A. E. Waite, Grillot de Givry’s Picture Museum of Sorcery Magic and Alchemy, John Symonds’ biography of Aleister Crowley, The Great Beast, and the works of Montague Summers – with whom Green Senior had actually corresponded as a young man, discussing with that most irregular of clerics contemporary witchcraft and J. K. Huysmans, and commiserating about the rise of Satanism in the modern world . . .

Green’s ‘Greatest Hit’ – and centrepiece of this varied and vivid collection of his plays, most of which were originally written for radio – is undoubtedly BABALON, his imaginative examination of the Life & Work of pioneering rocket-scientist and ardent Thelemite, Jack Parsons (dubbed by one wit “The James Dean of the Occult”) – more specifically his ties to ageing Magus Aleister Crowley, in his heroin-fuelled decline in a Hastings boarding-house, and magickal experiemnts with none other than future founder of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, the so-called ‘Babalon Working.’ Although the play was passed on by the BBC, it was discovered by Alison Rockbrand and adapted for a successful live performance by her Travesty Theatre group in 2003.

Although there is certainly much else here besides, the works most likely to be of interest to those of an occult or magic(k)al inclination, apart from the aforementioned BABALON, must surely include :

THE RITUAL OF THE STIFLING AIR takes as its starting point the hints in Pauwels & Bergier’s bestselling Morning of the Magicians that Himmler’s SS conducted necromantic ceremonies in the ‘Hall of the Dead’ beneath the North Tower of their Black Camelot, Wewelsberg Castle – a modern myth that has grown to form part of the psychodrama of both Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan and its Left Hand Path successor, the Temple of Set. Taking this as his starting point, Green imagines the ceremony of a neo-Nazi magus, acolyte and clairvoyant, attempting to make contact with the spirit of Der Führer, with predictably appalling consequences.

THE MAGUS OF KLOOK’S KLEEK is a reconstruction of the terminal decline of Sixties R&B legend, Graham Bond, “a big exuberant warlock of a man with a Fu Manchu moustache who played manic Hammond organ and alto sax (sometimes simultaneously) and snag with a voice like burning anthracite.” The music – and era – both of which Green clearly lived through and knew well (in part through his intimate friendship with Bond’s equally tragic keyboard peer, Vincent Crane, whose presence hovers over this and other works by Green like some sort of doomed spirit-guide) are vividly brought to life. Unfortunately, his initial fascination with magic(k) – which had originally led to ground-breaking albums such as Holy Magic and We Put Our Magic On You – mutated into an increasingly unhealthy Crowley fixation [Bond was convinced he was the Beast’s long-lost son] and chronic heroin addiction, which spiralled out of control leading to his tragic death under a tube train, like something out of Night of the Demon.

TELL ME STRANGE THINGS – again, an imaginary reconstruction : this time of the twilight of self-appointed expert on matters supernatural and very irregular self-styled ‘Reverend’ Montague Summers, all based around the tantalising tease that among the papers written during his last days of boarding-house obscurity (ironically so like Crowley, in his way), there might at last have been a ‘tell all’ memoir, a confessional of most probably paederastic pleasures, heretical hoo-hah, and sorcerous shenanigans.

I have written elsewhere that it is among the power of Words to weave Worlds, summon Ghosts, and make them live again. To my mind, Paul A. Green certainly succeeds in conjuring worlds both real and imaginary, and animating their inhabitants so that his Ghosts walk once more upon the stage and have their say. As such, he is undoubtedly a Master of Words, and deserves to be read for it.

Matthew Levi Stevens, July 2016.

 

The book may be purchased here. The book comes with a digital edition and with a high quality MP3 download of Travesty Theatre’s performance of BABALON.