Ultraculture Ep. 47: Genesis P-Orridge. You can see the rest of the podcast episodes here, and subscribe to the show on iTunes here.
Where do I start with Gen? Cultural engineer, wrecker of civilization, general thorn in the side for the powers that be for decades—Gen is without question one of the most important artists and public philosophers of the past hundred years.
Without Genesis, Magick.Me would not exist. She is my primary teacher—Genesis trained me in magick from the ages of 21 to 27, in the same manner and method that William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin trained her in magick in the 1970s. That is my primary lineage. Other important lineages were added later, as I trained in more systems, but this is where it all began. Because of Gen's investment of time and love in training me, Magick.Me now exists in the world.
More broadly, it is very likely that without Genesis, occulture and the widespread interest in magick simply wouldn't exist. Gen's decades-spanning work in liberating consciousness is why occulture exists as a social movement, rather than the activity of a few isolated individuals. That includes everything from creating industrial music in the early 1970s and championing acid house in the 1980s, to popularizing Austin Spare's sigil method, advancing Burroughs and Gysin's occult methods for breaking social control, and forming Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth to liberate magick from the British establishment and bring it to working class people around the world. These are all activities for which Gen already paid a high price, culminating with being forced into exile from Britain in 1991.
As you likely know, Genesis P-Orridge has been battling leukemia for the last year. About a month ago, she was admitted to the hospital, as she was unable to breathe without oxygen. Gen's lungs have become blocked with fluid, which her doctors had previously attempted to remove with a suction needle. This failed, as the fluid has become too viscous and thick. Gen now needs to undergo full surgery to clean out her lungs—a serious and potentially life-threatening procedure.
A few days ago, I visited Gen in the hospital. She's recovering from an unbelievably painful operation where her back was opened up so that a biopsy could be taken of lung and heart tissue. This operation, which unfortunately was done without proper anesthetic, is one of the most extreme forms of pain a human being can experience, and Gen told me that she not only woke up screaming from the operation, and had to be restrained by orderlies, but that it was the most severe pain that she has ever endured. This includes the pain from jumping out of the second story of Rick Rubin's burning Hollywood mansion in the mid 1990s and shattering her arm in dozens of places.
Gen has been slowly recuperating since, and should hopefully be back home by the time this airs. But in the meantime, I went at spent as much spend time with her, keep her company, and make sure she was being looking after properly in whatever small way I could contribute. We spent hours every day catching up and talking about everything from the cultural legacy of the 1960s to the future of the human species and lots, lots more. After a few days, we decided to record an impromptu podcast to capture part of that conversation. Since I was of course without any kind of studio gear, I just did the "Do Easy" thing and set my iPhone to just record the conversation in the room. Gen wanted to make sure that I let you know that during the recording she was on heavy pain medication, including a Fentanyl patch and high doses of Dilaudid, so she felt that she was less clear than usual, although I personally think she came across crystal clear.
The recording itself is obviously less than perfect. I've done a lot of cleanup on it, but you're going to hear a lot of background noise, from the noise of the TV going from the next bed over to the nurses and orderlies coming in and out. I decided to leave a lot of this in the recording, because I think that this, in its own way, is a bit of a revolutionary act. In our society, we expend tremendous energy trying not to think about old age, sickness or death. We sweep human frailty under the carpet. We don't want to think about it. When our elders get old, we tuck them away in nursing homes or hospitals and have other people look after them rather than think about it.
It's hard to imagine a more destructive attitude. Not only is this attitude unbelievably cruel to our elders—treating them as liabilities rather than human beings who are intimately connected to us, often down to our very genetics—but it is cruel to the young, as well. Our society almost seems to encourage divisions between age groups almost as severe as class lines. We bizarrely fetishize youth, the time in which human beings are at peak idiocy, rather than respecting those who have had more time to gain wisdom. In the sixties, of course, Jerry Rubin famously stated "don't trust anybody over thirty," which is one of the stupider fucking things people have said in the last several decades. Everything you're facing now, everything that seems insurmountable in your life, somebody older than you has very likely already dealt with, and could probably tell you the answer if you just took the time to ask rather than just, I don't know, trying to Google the answer while spinning over and over in your own stew of frustration.
Elders lay down patterns for life that the young can follow; they've just had more time to learn by trial and error—trial and error that YOU could avoid if you just took the time to build those relationships. This is how life is supposed to work. The generations work together—elders pass on wisdom and oversee the preservation of the culture, adults build that culture with the sweat of their brow while they still have energy, and raise children who will one day inherit it all—preferably in the patterns not only set down by elders, but by elders over many, many generations. Of course, most cultures in the world take it even farther, not only maintaining connections to living elders but to millennia of ancestors going back into the mists of time, sources of wisdom and strength they can call on when life seems impossible, for wherever you are, surely someone, somewhere, has been there before.
Our elders, and our ancestors, guide and guard our souls. They remind us who we are. And it's no mistake that all over the world, wherever you go, those lines of connection have been degraded or even severed. From West Africa to South America and even to Europe and America, regardless of background, most world cultures have been displaced and cut off from their roots, leading to them withering just as much as a tree would. Rather than drawing nourishment from roots that have grown into the earth over untold thousands of years, most of us have instead been snipped and then placed in vases or tiny pots, nourished instead on artificial chemicals, modern culture, television, the Internet.
Name me, for instance, at least three Disney characters, and you'll be able to without a second thought. Now immediately tell me the names of three of your great-grandparents. Tell me what they did, how they lived their lives, what they cared about. And do you even know any of the names of your great-great-grandparents? This, then, is where we are. Adrift. Consumer units.
But I digress. Genesis, who is frankly the closest thing to a real spiritual leader we have, our very own anti-Pope, is very much alive and getting stronger every day. About a month ago, you probably remember, I ran an online fundraising campaign to help Gen in her moment of need, and raised almost $40,000 at last check, more than enough to get her out of dire straits—she was down to her last few hundred dollars—and providing a safety cushion during this moment of extreme medical distress. Following on from earlier fundraising campaigns done by Douglas Rushkoff and Chandra Shukla, this is at this point the only source of income Gen has, as she is currently too sick to perform. Gen has a lot to say about that fundraising campaign in this episode, so if you've already donated, make sure to listen for her message to you. The campaign is still going of course, so definitely check out the fundraiser for your chance to help support a true living legend, who truly does need your help.
OK. Please enjoy this excellent, rare conversation with somebody I truly love. And definitely check out the Gofundme if you feel the urge to help.
Oh and just to let you know, there is a TON of new content up at Magick.Me. If you check out the Office Hours section, you'll see that we've added almost thirty hours of new content over the last several months, recorded in excellent video and audio quality. This is some of the best content I've got—seriously in depth sessions in which I go back-and-forth with individual students on some truly intense and central questions about magic, philosophy, brain change and walking the spiritual path. It is, perhaps, my very own multimedia edition of "Magick Without Tears." Check it out now!
(Photo by Edward O'Dowd)