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Standard hardback edition
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Unlimited paperback; isbn 978-0-9574492-7-5
4to (230 × 210 mm)
8 black and white photographic portraits
Reasonances is an anthology of selected essays, lectures and interviews by occultural pioneer Carl Abrahamsson. A subversive, creative, psychedelic collection of 23 essays spanning thirteen years at the forefront of occulture and magi, followed an interview with the author by Sylvie Walde. The unifying question of this diverse and stimulating collection can perhaps be stated thus: how does magic hack culture? Or perhaps even: what is the role and magic of the artist?
Abrahamsson proposes strategies of engagement that raw from TOPY, Thelema and Satanism, with which he is intimately acquainted. His magic is that of the interzone, the hinterland, of the unseen forces that drive culture forward. Reasonances is therefore a nexus of heretical possibilities investigated with alm reflection that goes beyond his native Scandinavian cool. It is with great generosity of spirit, a candour and lack of dogma that he outlines his understanding of magic as art. For Abrahamsson, boundless creativity is a necessary expression of Will. He suggests that we should be actively producing culture, artifacts, music, artworks, happenings. And that these ‘acts on the ground’ could be understood as a Gesamtkunstwerk, the Mega Golem, that will leak into popular and unpopular consciousness. He wants us to reason, to act, to live with meaning. To do our Will.
With an understanding of Magician as Artist, in a process of moving from what is hidden to what becomes seen, he employs a methodology that has become apparent in the thirteen years of work that this collection represents. Essays on the history of occult art, the formula of Babalon s supra-sexual transformatio, the mechanics of magic, and more, provide a complete vision of a magician who is engaged with ounterculture, ccultur and incursions into the wider culture. Furthermore, he provides a constellation of tars by which to navigate these evolving realms. Japanese masochist and master writer Yukio Mishima and German novelist Ernst Jüger are considered, as are Bulwer Lytton of Vril fame and Australian artist Rosaleen Norton. He wice nterviews artist of light Kenneth Anger, and is found in conversation with Beat avant-garde filmmaker Conrad Rooks. He recites his death rune for mentor Anton LaVey, and eulogises his friend Lady Jaye. These ‘stars’ are carefully observed with his astrolabe, enabling us to see into the past, comprehend where we are n the present, and project ourselves forward into a magical future.
Twentieth century occultism
Hounded by the dogs of reason
Someone is messing with the big picture
An art of high intent
Everything must go … ON!
State of the art
Go forth and let your brain halves procreate
A mega golem official
Thelema and politics
The deconstruction of a map …
The sorcery of fiction
‘Le vieux sorcier’ still enchants
Mishima and the noble art of suicide
Approaching the approaching
Into the abyss and back again
‘I think the explosion of creative force …’
‘I always overcome …’
An extra human being
Anton LaVey: Respect to master magician
An interview with Carl Abrahamsson by Sylvie Walder
An interview with Carl Abrahamsson by Sylvie Walder
When you type in your name on Google, you find an entry from the Swedish Wikipedia site. There it says that you are a 'subcultural entrepreneur.' Is that a title you agree with?
Yes, sure. It’s a description especially valid when it comes to my past, but to some extent it’s true even now. I have been involved in fanzines, record companies, making music alone and together with others, promoting concerts, festivals, arranging film screenings, issuing video cassettes and DVDs, writing, publishing, taking photos, making films, arranging exhibitions, etc. More and more I’ve drifted on from the 'sub' to the merely cultural. That, I guess, has to do with age and seeking out new levels and new networks.
This is interesting. Where does subculture end and culture begin?
If we allow ourselves to generalize a bit, one could definitely say that there’s a dividing line between an expression wholly on one’s own terms and, on the other side, a conscious adaptation to the rules of the game, current trends, social/political norms, etc. The subculture tends to contain considerably more integrity and an attitude of independence. But the dividing line has to do with perspective also. It’s not only the sub-cultural agents looking up in disdain and frustration, caring a lot but with an attitude of not caring at all. It’s also the established culture looking down and saying, 'Sorry, you’re not good enough…,' which may, more often than not, be very true. If we want to philosophize a bit, we could say that the water always finds its own level. But no definition is ever crystal clear. There are, for instance, a lot of artists within established culture who are totally free to do what they want, who have a lot integrity and who don’t give a damn. So perhaps it is a question of quality and maturity, after all? Perhaps even age? I feel I’ve drifted into a higher sphere during the past five years or so, but I can’t pinpoint one distinct reason for this.
Isn’t that actually the thematics of an Art Brut/'Outsider art,' as introduced by Jean Dubuffet in 1945, that can be seen here? The creative expression of the outsider art seems much more true (at least more vital) than many other so called artistic creations having their origin in (public or private) art schools. Are there still autodidacts? Is improvisation still alive?
Oh, I absolutely think so. I think that’s one of the exciting things about life today. The mutation potential is stronger today than ever before, which is a result of need. In terms of art and culture, there’s still a hegemonial traditionalism: the art market, the art scene, the art experts, etc. But DIY culture in general is also clearly reflected in art. Those who are vital and who produce something that has energy will attract the attention of the established. The way into the established is less rigid today. Hence the talk of an artist as a trademark rather than a craftsman/woman, etc. In other disciplines, it’s equally open. You can’t really go to a school to become a writer of literature – it’s more of a vocation. And if someone blocks your way, you can always self-publish, now more than ever before. This is good, because eventually what’s good and valid will surface, but only if it’s in a manifested form. The rigidity is maintained in the spheres of expertise and ownership usually, but not at all when it comes to actual creation. Again, I think this has to do with an overall need: we are in need of new and radical ideas and alternatives. Bypassing structures that are too slow or too self-indulgent is increasingly relevant. That’s healthy.
At the same time this has been made possible because of the many technological inventions…and their democratization. I find it particularly obvious when it comes to music… for good and for bad. According to me, this excessive liberation (in itself “good”) leads to what the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut mentions as the 'cultural whole' (he spoke about this in 1989, long before the Internet wave). Personally, I am inclined to share this statement. The label “cultural” doesn’t mean anything anymore. What do you think about these reflections?
It depends on the definition. A culture is something growing, inherently meaning there is something, somewhere developing a life experience slightly more than just living mechanically. In that wide sense, culture means what everybody creates, consciously or not. Traditionally, the privilege of definition and evaluation of what’s regarded as 'good' or 'relevant' culture, has belonged to the privileged in general. Taste and morals have been inherited and that’s the way it continues. However, that is only in the dominant, visible sphere. But mutations occur regularly, and seems to be a part of the dynamic – the new replaces the old, or some kind of revolution of expression occurs that describes what’s going on around us in a completely new way. I think that today, there’s also a 'third mind'-aspect of this, that is neither an isolated strong artist nor a too generalized movement. I think intelligent, conscious people aware of both the mechanics of transformation and how to apply their own will are stepping up and offering quite a challenge on this arena. Culture will be shaped consciously in a much more decisive way but from unexpected sources.
What about the role of the State in this? Isn’t it the case that the State’s employees in a sense decide from an office in a ministry what does and what does not belong to culture?
No, I don’t think so. The State and its departments is usually at the bottom of the barrel, although their status may seem high. They can very rarely understand anything without having it explained to them first by experts. And the experts have ulterior motives in the cultural sphere, all having to do with money and other power issues.
Books, records, films, photos; you are very creative. It seems to me as if your focus is now rather on writing and editing. This book puts together quite a few articles, some published in The Fenris Wolf. Could you tell me a little bit more about the story behind The Fenris Wolf, which was, if I’m not mistaken, born out of an occult magazine in 1989?
Between 1986 and 1988 I produced a fanzine called Lollipop, mainly about rock’n’roll and sleazy films. Before that, around 1982, I had worked on a fanzine about comics called Splasch. I was hooked on printed matter very early on. So when I felt temporarily fed up with garage rock and B-movies, I started The Fenris Wolf in 1989. It was also a fanzine, but one that dealt with occulture. On a magical level, I was involved in Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth (TOPY), the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) and the Church of Satan, and within these networks were amazing worlds of new and old occultural material. The Fenris Wolf reflected these interests and networks. Two more issues came out in book form up until 1993, and then other ventures took over. In 2009 I started thinking about it again. My own generation nostalgically remembered The Fenris Wolf, and there were also new generations who’d only heard about it. In 2011, issue no 4 came out and in 2012, no 5. I intend to do one each year now. It’s more or less focused on magico-anthropology – how human beings relate to ritual, magical thinking, synchronicities and the various cultural effects of this.
Your approach seems to be quite far from just a simple intellectual or literary experience. Could you tell us a little bit more about these different groups (TOPY, COS, OTO)?
My initial interests lay in occulture and in networking, and I oriented myself according to my own resonance with individuals and groups. The 60s were of great interest to me then (we’re talking early to mid-80s), as they contained a lot of streams and currents from many directions. This created an explosion of truly open-minded art and literature and I liked that impact. But of course there was also the challenge to be involved in real magical training. That in itself opened up new worlds. I realized that the art and literature I enjoyed came from a place within man that was experimental and in constant flux. That place was something I wanted to know more about, and working with these three structures/groups/orders taught me a lot of things. It was nice to suddenly be inside a context that I had previously only watched from the outside. And also nice to be presented with inspiration, methods, techniques, tools of transformation.
Seen from the outside, these structures / orders / groups are usually quite confidential. How did you do to get in contact with them in Stockholm?
There was a lot of networking then too, but in a more traditional sense: ordering information via mail, keeping in touch via letters, etc. I was curious and hungry as a youngster and as my cultural interests merged with the occult ones, I was suddenly within environments that encouraged a development of will within cultural manifestations. The different groups provided different pieces in my puzzle and a lot of information, inspiration, friendships and other things that have been invaluable. As for Stockholm, I think there’s always been a very healthy scene when it comes to alternative solutions and different ways of thinking. It’s a very tolerant environment and people respect other people’s views for the most part. I think this has been a result of a fading Protestantism that has turned into an enlightened secularism. A very good environment for thinking and philosophizing. I think natural mysticism and a sense of belonging to nature is very ingrained in the Swedish psyche. That is another important factor in explaining why Swedes have a tradition of being open-minded and 'occult,' parallel to the rational, industrious side. I think that generally there’s a healthy balance between the brain halves here.
Why the choice of the name The Fenris Wolf, this wolf from the Nordic mythology which is supposed to swallow the sun at the end of time, 'Ragnarök'…
Interpreted from a traditional perspective, the Fenris Wolf is a character or an archetype of the dark side, helping out at Ragnarök, the end of the world as we know it. The traditional perspective of many things – if not all things – became defunct or non-valid after two mid-century paradigm shifts (to say the least): the discovery of LSD and the dropping of Hiroshima bomb. I’m not saying everything has to be turned upside down to make sense. However, a much more holistic and pragmatic attitude is definitely needed these days. Hence the re-appropriation of 'Satan' and many other interesting symbols and archetypes that are important and relevant today as balancing factors in the human psyche. I believe there needs to be a bit of 'Sturm und Drang' before we can move on in more holistic directions. Monotheistic fascism and its negation of human potential needs to be thoroughly dismantled before human progress is possible. Mind you, I’m not against monotheism per se. I mean, to each his own etc. But the power structures that still enslave so many people must be dealt with. Ancient and more intelligent symbols need to be dusted off and put to use. For me, the Fenris Wolf is a beautiful creature that ferociously devours the old sun, yet it’s totally aware of its own function in regard to the ushering in of a new sun/cosmology/time/era. A very appropriate symbol for a magico-anthropological project. When it howls, it howls a poetry of optimism.
Why make a book, which is now almost an 'anachronistic' medium?
Well, from my perspective the book is a solid given, whereas the contemporary times are what’s truly anachronistic. I have never experienced such a gullible culture before. People really seem to believe in anything that’s new and technological. I don’t. In terms of transmitting human thoughts, ideas and emotions in tangible form, books have yet to be surpassed. I doubt they ever will be.
With an education like yours, touching on so many disciplines, you could choose so many ways to go… So I would like to ask you how come you 'chose' occultism ? What brought the Son of Abraham to 'The Beast 666,' so to speak?
It’s a vast area of research that contains the history of ideas, pre-scientific research, psychology, applied philosophy, transformative methods, colorful individuals, brave heretics and fine psychonautical minds. On the whole, occultism has contained the quintessential human wisdom that idiotic power structures have tried very hard to eradicate – and failed to. Many elements in occultism contain Promethean and pro-human energy that was once integrated in healthier cultures. Occultism contains both a romantic lore/history and a real transformative potential. I found my place in this quite early on, and I was welcomed by individuals larger than life, who taught me things that really opened my mind. It’s been an exciting trip ever since then and one that’s still filled with creative challenges. When it comes to your suggested dichotomy, I hope I have transcended that. I’m not interested in adhering to one side or to one energy. I’m interested merely in researching methods that have a genuine transformative potential, and to take in, filter/process, and give back. That is essentially what culture is to me: a breathing process and a procreative motion.
Could you tell me a bit more about this notion of transformation? Julius Evola talks of something that is 'larger than life'…
I wouldn’t go so far, although I do think that human potential is possibly infinite. In the best of all worlds, we could strive for 'more than life.' But now, the challenge is more about to simply get to life itself. Meaning developing from a robotic subhuman life to one where decisions are based in ideals and active choices, in turn based on appreciation, discrimination, evaluation... From childhood and on, optimistic ideals and visions are emasculated by supposed needs to adapt to… Well, who knows what? The transformation I’m interested in is the movement from realization or epiphany to active manifestation of that vision. Of course, that’s never a static process. Nor is it one that ever ends. That kind of energy, development and experimentation is a vital ingredient in any intelligent life form. Evola, being the romantic he was and also, let’s not forget, confined to a wheelchair, perhaps dreamt of some kind of transcendence into a divine state. I think the challenge today more has to do with realizing how much fecal programming is inside our behaviour systems. Our entire culture needs a severe bowel movement.
That’s a serious statement. Where does this fecal programming come from? Could you develop a bit? Modern society often takes a critical stand, but it rarely goes into detail. To criticize is easy…
Oh, I know. But there is no one answer that covers all aspects. There are no prefab solutions. It’s a situation that’s predominant, a culture, a way of life. It’d be simplifying to say that it’s all Christianity’s fault, because it isn’t. But monotheistic power structures are a basic continuation of feudal serf structures, there’s no denying that. However, commercial interests have added to the mind-frame by making people complacent and passive. When status doesn’t come from what one really is or does (meritocracy) but from what one appears to be (self-negation through illusion), the first victim is always individual will. I’m not saying that someone is actively stopping us from making beneficial choices, because that’s not the case. But the entire culture certainly doesn’t encourage advancement unless it’s within an already existing structure. Hence the analogy... Life should be lived preparing nutritious ingredients, making well-tasting food and enjoying eating it. I look at people and culture in general and I see a wallowing in the final excretion phase. There’s no nutrition left, it smells bad and everything (and everyone) desperately wants out somehow.
What’s next? The wolf has to swallow the sun for a new age to come… Cyclic theories with a return to a golden age?
It is my firm belief that the human individual seeks authority on all levels, to feel safe and comfortable. One of these authorities is the potential explanation of the big, cosmic perspectives and, as we know, these have been handled by religious authorities but are now in competition with science. As for movements and cycles, it’s all speculation and a vague drifting into mythologies and fantasies. I’ve been very interested in studying this and giving it a lot of thought, but my point of view now is that: What really happened in the past can be learnt from and myth can be very helpful in that sense. But a romantic longing for a future golden age similar to one that may have existed in the past is just a complete waste of energy. We are living in exciting times right now and there’s so much to do on so many levels. I mean 'do' as in actively applying transformation according to will. I don’t think a religious definition will be the most relevant one (neo-, post-, pre-whatever) but rather a pretty sober evaluation of what needs to be fixed and how. The need for problem-solving beyond the religious is of course why the big monotheistic power structures are going bananas today and why we see so much religious violence. The authority that used to provide people with their safety and comfort is gone, so the lost sheep seek more extreme versions. I think religion and spirituality should only exist within the private sphere. But that’s the problem: very few people want to develop themselves as their own authority. They’re simply not equipped to. I doubt that there will be some kind of mass illumination that sets things right over night – that sounds too much like a fantasy. Perhaps the best way to handle the situation is then to replace the monotheistic authority of fear and violence as well as the technology-worshiping rationality of the current atheists with a focus on 'responsibility.' People should have more responsibility, to a varying degree of course. If their own contribution to the whole becomes their main authority, then their own psychological comfort and some practical good will come out of it. It’s interesting to see that all the big power structures have this common denominator: they remove the responsibility aspect from the individual. Yet that is how a child becomes a mature adult: by assuming more responsibility, not less.
What about politics? Everything is political!
I would like to reverse that, actually, or at least shift it a bit, and claim that everything is individual. Any collective or communal decision is based on a consensus formed by individuals. Hence, politics may seem to be rooted in ideas and ideals, but in actual fact the driving force is always individual will that may or may not be joined by others of similar persuasion. Politics is a sphere of application of ideas and systems. The reason why one becomes filled or inspired by political ideas and ideals always has to do with individual reasons, compensations, ego-enforcement, etc. Usually, politics is about applying and implementing variants of already existing ideas and plans. If done successfully, this generates that kind of authority that I was referring to earlier, the one that people in general can feel safe by 'adhering' to, or joining. An integral part of a safety a comfort zone is to not have to worry, make decisions or assume responsibility. If a power structure can deal with all that with confidence so that its 'believers' won’t have to, it will become very successful.
An important point to mention … In Sweden, there’s a Ministry of the Church, as well as in other Scandinavian and European countries. In France, there’s a 1905 regulation which separates State affairs and Church affairs so to speak. We clearly separate the public sphere, which is secular and the private sphere, where religious and spiritual matters belong. Any comments?
I think this is as it should be. I think it was one of the reasons – perhaps the ultimate reason – why Western societies could prosper so much during the 20th century. I don’t mean prosper necessarily in a financial sense, but rather in terms of an implementation of individual liberties. Rigid power structures stemming from the 19th and earlier centuries suffered a lot, and for that we should be grateful. Religious and personal spiritual pursuits should be confined to the private sphere. Any kind of missionary activity should be made illegal as an infringement of the private sphere. You have to keep in mind that most of the monotheistic missionary activities were not established by a gentle message of love and brotherhood, but by brute force, extortion, blackmail and the murder of millions. That’s what always happens when power structures – religious or political – become too greedy for resources but express it through some kind of faith or taxation.
'Désinvoltures' was the original working title of this book. That’s French actually! Could you tell us more about how you interpret this word?
I feel that I have always watched people and life rather than been a passionate part of it. This has created a perspective that is discerning, critical, analyzing etc, rather than a loving and uncritical immersion. Keeping that distance to whatever is going on has been vital for me. Perhaps I avoid being in the middle of things because I fear to be evaluated and criticized myself? I have no idea, but a sense of désinvolture feels wholly integrated in my life: I watch things and people and I draw conclusions. If there’s something I find interesting, I may criticize or even get involved – but never passionately and never without intellectual moderation.