The following is excerpted from Terry Wilson's Perilous Passage: the Nervous System and the Universe in Other Words, published by Synergetic Press, Santa Fe, NM, with an appended introduction by Ian MacFadyen and Phil Wood.
fifty years ago in Paris that Brion Gysin and William Burroughs, along with
their collaborators Ian Sommerville and Antony Balch, developed the techniques
known as "The Third Mind." Drawing upon esoteric and scientific sources, this
"project for disastrous success" deconstructed sound and image and computer
technology, sabotaging systems of ideological transmission and reproduction,
dismantling and erasing the human image
repertoire in the process. Gysin and Burroughs asserted the absolute
validity of their own psychic and mystical experiences, treating cybernetic
information technologies as magical instruments for the shamanic invocation of
spirits, challenging the "known laws" of space and time.
Terry Wilson and Ian MacFayden with the Dream Machine at October Gallery Brion Gysin Calligraffiti of fire show, London 2009. Photo by Jonathan Greet (www.dumdum.co.uk).
The Third Mind project
was aimed at the radical opening of consciousness — evisceration with real
knives, scissors and razor blades. Not only cutting up the Word, but pursuing
the Tibetan practise of CHÖD — the extreme cutting up of self, identity and
"true memory", and the immolation of "immutable" belief systems. Gysin appears
to have invented the cut-up technique at the exact moment that reporters from LIFE magazine were visiting the Beat
Hotel in Paris. In fact, he already knew that versions of the technique had
been used in antiquity by Ausonius and Vergilius Maro, primarily for comic and
entertaining effect. Gysin and Burroughs would go much further, eviscerating
the sacred texts and launching a blitzkrieg on the discourses of media.
The Third Mind was not "art" or even "anti-art" —
it was a sustained attack upon reactive conformity and political exploitation,
and an exploration of psychic potential beyond the confines of all humanistic,
The essence of The Third Mind survives and its
continuance and development are nowhere more in evidence than in Terry Wilson's
writing. Perilous Passage develops
its own versions of key Third Mind techniques:
- Out of the Body Experiences
- The Hallucinatory
- Alternative Memory
These techniques are not described in the book,
rather the effects of the exploration of the psyche are embodied through
transcribed audio hallucinations, notes apparently made in situ, found texts, parodic quotations, the interview format,
spoof and supposedly real footnotes, cut-ups, permutations, photographs,
calligraphy, collaged material.
Passage is a vertiginous palimpsest; a memoir in the guise
of fiction, and a fiction which exposes and explodes its own literary sources.
It is a manual of Third Mind techniques in action, a psychic guide and a
strategic polemical attack upon conventional, received wisdom. In this splenetic
exposure of intelligence agencies and cultural entrepreneurs and the creators
of viral disease, the world is shamanically stood on its head and its images
are beautiful and loaded with menace, creating an intense, kaleidoscopic
a book about the transmission of esoteric learning. It is the perilous soul passage of the initiate seeking
transcendence. It is writing as the casting of spells, the conjuring of
spirits, the exorcism of a painful past in order to recruit a "real" existence.
And, finally, it is a moving meditation on mortality, loss and mourning.
Terry Wilson rescues The Third Mind from cultural
and aesthetic recuperation, challenging what we believe we know, or think we believe we know, and what we really
know we believe we know to be "TRUE." Validating instead the dangers and delights of thinking and
writing otherwise, Wilson invites us
to consider another way of being in the
* * *
Perilous Passage: The Nervous System and the Universe in Other Words by
Terry Wilson (Synergetic Press):
The Man from Nowhere: THE STAR
A distant time, young man typing.
In his room he remembers the perilous passage.
candles are lighting the room one creating a bridge to the other, many persons
are crossing it their own way from the bed to the chair, the only chair of the
room, a kind of seventies plastic chair . . . We were both waiting for it to be
more strong we like that very much it's not too expensive for the price to pay
even though you always pay it very much , honestly you could make it more
precious if you like delicate spirit, wild as it can be . . .
to the story we don't exactly remember what it was, knowing that it can be
everything we decide to wait for it to be a little stronger – and a thing
suddenly happened – the window breaks and the wind is creating a bridge to the
other. There it was a bridge from the bed to the chair. A door open. We were
waiting for the candles. We entered the room . . . A bare empty room with
skylight, irradiated . . . a single star, hovering . . .
courage when you want to stay even though you always disappear trying to find
what we have . . .
He sits back from the typewriter.
In a corner of the room I am claiming "I am
speechless . . . you better write my book for me. I can arrange a contract for
I looked into the mirror. A misty scene.
A policeman typing our answers.
"When did you see that star?"
"What time was it?"
"What did it look like?"
world burning in the sky."
The world imagination, the torrent of worlds about
him, the great gallery of power, a moral sting fluttering in the night . . .
Lost do we know when? Each time you are you feel it
now. Fraternity. Personally it doesn't help the spiritual double . . . delicate
spirits wild as they come, both waiting for it to be more strong. And many are
crossing it the land of this perilous passage two candles are lighting the way.
Knowing that it can be everything we decide to do what you want. I hate to wait
for it to be stronger, a supermarket in my nerves returning to the story we
don't remember exactly. Through the Land of the Dead that long long way we have
known and known so well . . . pay for it very much . . .
Our lesson will be to arrive where we started this
magic melts slowly in us again.
I am speechless. You better write. In the sky . . .
Are you sleeping? No. I am kind of floating . . .
Spin out my distant story, out to a distant star .
. . There is no time . . .
NERVOUS SYSTEM: CHANGING THE CUT-OUTS
Hugely-drunken theatrical-type lunatic lurches
through the door profusely sweating braying Olivier-like: "Beware my follower!"
He reels over to the bar – "Sweet burning enfer! – a drink!" -and turns back to
his dim audience. The last all drink.
"The Shadow tracks thy flight of fire – night is coming! – all smothered up in
shade does sit Glamorous Granny, macabre proliferating species to creep forth
Jesus, I mumbled, this just about is the limit, and
got up to go.
He glares at me or who or whatever he is seeing,
"For this, I'll never follow thy pallid fortunes
more. Who seeks and will not take, when once tis offered, shall never find it more!"
"Smoked transcendence is accessible to all" I said,
echoing Brion. Or so one might like to think.
So maybe I better stop trying to sell you another
novel and finally tell you what the whole scene really is . . .
Well, I was leafing through some old press
clippings just sent from Paris, and there he was, Bedaya, Massa Brahim in full
flow: "Poor Brion" lamenting his lack of success, beyond disappointment! "I
guess I'm just hopeless!" Hah! The last time I heard from him he said – I think
for the second or who knows how many times, us donkeys are so dumb – that he
could be heard but is too drunk to come out and be seen, at least as I can
understand it. We can talk. And then a real old familiar shuddering as Massa
Brahim John C.B.L. Gysin, von Liestal, in full flow, swept my body . . .
some old clippings from Paris and there I talk . . .
And all I can think – it's catching – is what the
sweet burning hell of a Massa Brahim von Liestal et cetera-etc situation have I
got into and how, on earth, can I get out of it? as I remember from years back:
"You don't know what it is you are trying to get
Who does? Into or out of, really? That's how
Masters get around and stay around. Or so one might hope. I guess I'm just
He laughed, as only he could, genuine, kind
amusement, really himself.
("Yes . . . but the scene, really is . . . ?)
Yes . . . coming!
– More! Brion. Access! Stay around, shudder one night through the shadow tracks
Massa Bedaya Brahim Gysin von-You-don't-know-who.
"Night is hopeless" he said.
Okay, so I guess I'm just a situation he seeks and
will get out of Smoked burning enfer!
– I understand it!
(Duck everyone, this could go anywhere.)
Call from AB 9.30 AM discarnate. Says he is
speaking through a voice distorter and cannot say where he is. He seems to
think my memoirs, which he is filming. "A deep-cover operation to infiltrate an
ancient revolutionary movement." Advises me to alternate drinking hot and cold
water. And "Stay away from the Kennedys."
("He couldn't put the life on the right rivers . .
. and he was through." BG )
And all, life and death, is all mysteriously left.
After Brion's death some eyebrows were raised when, invited to
contribute to Gladys Fabre's catalogue which would accompany a retrospective at
the Galerie de France in Paris, I quoted Brion as saying that "People are shit"
and asserted that despite all his relentless protestations to the contrary,
Brion was neither neglected nor unsuccessful. "He simply had extremely powerful
He had made his mark, passed on his "strong black" to Burroughs – (he had
said that he could see that Burroughs was possessed by such a corrosive spirit
that only such a radical method could possibly accommodate it) – and whipped up
a cosmic storm. With meagre financial recompense, naturally. They stood back, finally, let him become
a Chevalier of arts and letters, get photographed with successful showbiz
personalities and generally be befriended by assholes of the universe. As he
said, they are shit.
He of course never achieved either the recognition
or wealth accumulated by a Warhol, if that was what he wanted, needed, desired
and I suppose it was. Presumably he died richer than Rimbaud, if that makes up
When I would ask Brion about the "actual techniques
taught or used there" (Alamut) or broached other suchlike slippery area, he
would clam up. He didn't know. He was just a sorcerer's apprentice. Now, I feel
much the same. In Dublin, at the Here To Go show, 1992, there was a public
session called "Remembering Brion" where some of the usual suspects were
assembled to drag out the usual stuff – ("Brion,
who invented the Dreamachine, Brion,
who turned to me in the bus after the light flickering between the trees had
spaced him out and said: Wow! Man,
like you're the Prophet of the Beat! I swear to Allah that if this thing gets
off the ground I'll cut you in for half the bucks!' but being a man of
integrity I -" CUT!) –
I for my part answered that, for me, this was
extremely difficult because – (where is everybody?) – I simply did not remember Brion in the usual sense. To do
so – to really remember him –
requires an enormous effort of recapitulation because what he taught was not
accessible to ordinary consciousness. The only way to reach him is to follow
him there. What on earth really happened to me? What techniques? Where is
everybody? Don't know.
pals of dust, I ride with you, though I walk through the mess, into the grave
softly carefully for his name's sake . . ."
Whelme was an experienced agent, known as Lazare as
required in the trade –
offer Space and one of the hundred sellers, even though seen before, comes
strolling in, old on the principle myself. Attributable to one or two things,
the pickup not so fast as it would be with the kind of person you think is
correct . . ." – an enormous effort.
As far as KJ was concerned, he came in late, and with a vengeance. And we
followed him there into a dangerous, hilarious, coked-up vulgarian existence
reeling from one nonsensically scandalous scam after another, forever on the
road – This is Lazare from here, there, nowhere, essentially –
One man's mania. That was in several other
countries and the deal is dead.
Gone, with the missing library and the Space
Account. Once thought no longer –
all the roaring camps are gone, the thought waves towns, highways, countryside,
mountain and desert . . . A few hours later, cities, lonely under the sky . . .
Lowered asbestos suspenders looked over our
shoulders and there, finished, faded, never stop . . . Appointment.
UNIVERSE IN OTHER WORDS (Ayahuasca)
"There is a beginning – There is a not yet
fixed and definable – enigmatic cascades a guided beginning to be a beginning.
There is being – There is a not yet beginning to be what I have already said
has really said something or tour of a power station described as realities
into which it can be made. Cosmic helix permutation power . . ."
" . . . in a universe where the being here' is
exposed to the risk of not being here, one may, in actual fact, not be here [ . . . ] When a particular
tangible horizon enters a critical stage, the danger lies in the possibility
that every limit will disappear; everything may become anything, or a state of
nothingness looms ahead . . ." (Ernest de Martino)
"But to be
non being . . . (Brion Gysin's request) . . . There is no basis in solid
reality' for our experience when it comes to nonbeing, which is really
compulsive walking away – (illegible)
– and the only Way – surprising,
seizing the actual Process of reality
formation-organization – (How to make a shaman') – the key in the process
itself, not its fleeting product. How to be
the Process –
"There is non being. There is a not yet beginning –
Suddenly there is nonbeing -"
are no further notes.)
But I don't
know. I pant for a living confidant I have sought twisted language not yet
beginning to be a beginning alone and deserted and holding out a brief flash of
Oriental being which is nonbeing. Now I have seen infinity flashing "donde termina el mundo" in molecular
imagery as the spirits of the jungle night light up spectrally where stands
magic Loyda and Estefania, Fernando, Don Alfredo, and Don Roberto, stupendously
awesome, prowls forward, hydraulic movement always at the same speed and we are
flying through the clouds, spirits of the world, shipwrecked and alone –
Trees, ornaments, pyramids, an egg – a bird, bears
him away –
The Great Itself, the Only No One Forever
travelling through its own emanations: the live universe (in other words).
© 2012 by Terry Wilson.
* * *
Passage: The Nervous System and the Universe in Other Words,
by Terry Wilson, is published by Synergetic Press, Santa Fe, NM (www.synergeticpress.com). Paperback,
$24.95. Available directly from the publisher, your local bookstore, or on
Amazon.com. In the UK and Europe from Deep Books, Ltd www.deep-books.co.uk or Amazon.co.uk.
Writer Ian MacFadyen, based in London, and visual
artist Phil Wood, based in Amsterdam, are currently collaborating on a book on
William Burroughs, Brion Gysin and The Third Mind.
Teaser image by Abode of Chaos, courtesy of Creative Commons license.