Here to Go: Planet R-101, Brion Gysin interviewed by Terry WilsonHere to Go: Planet R-101 Brion Gysin interviewed by Terry Wilson

Brion Gysin is a pretty interesting guy. Along with his friend William S. Burroughs and a few others, he falls into a category that I don’t have a name for but his work is somewhere in the intersection of magic, art and science. Science, I guess, not in the sense of rigorous application of the scientific method, but rather the kind of screwing around that leads to scientific discovery. For now I’m going to call it ‘parascience’ which if you think about is what all magic and art are, aren’t they?

This book is a collection of interviews conducted by his friend Terry Wilson interpolated with relevant excerpts from various of Gysin’s writings including “Interzone”, a portion of his screenplay adapted from Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.

Burroughs and Gysin 1965

W.S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, NYC, 1965. Final still from Anthony Balch's The Cut-ups

Most of Gysin’s experimentation over the years seems to be concerned with transcendence of the mundane earthly plain through various more-or-less mechanical methods:

incantation-like ‘permutation poems’ that cycle through the combinations of a set of words or symbols;

the dreamachine (do-it-yourself flicker device that can induce visual hallucination and/or trigger seizures), inspired by Gysin but developed by Ian Sommerville;

magical slide and film projections;

(most famously) cut-ups of the printed word, of audio tape, of film;

paintings of repetitive fields of scribbled shapes that resemble glyphs or maybe those maps made of human eye movements.

Both Gysin and W.S. Burroughs give the impression of being secret agents in the employ of some kind of (alien?) homosexual occult secret society trans-global (interplanetary?) (counter-) conspiracy. I hope to have some more entries on the both of them at some stage. I thought I had a copy of The Third Mind around here somewhere which is a collaborative work they did. If it doesn’t turn up I’ll use blogging about it as an excuse to re-acquire it.

I must share this video of Gysin doing some of his work:

goodnight eileen
B Am I gonna have to shout?
T Yeh-
B I’m surprised that you’ve even heard of Eileen Garrett . . .
T Well, I know that she was a directvoice medium . . . she was supposed to be on the payroll, wasn’t she, of the . . . CIA?
B God knows—they all are . . .
T Do they have a lot of these types of people?

Brion Gysin 1935

Brion Gysin c. 1935

B They believed in it very much indeed, they went to a great deal of, uh, trouble . . . about which one hears only rumors, but both the Russians and the Americans have been interested in telepathy, mind control, for purposes of control, yes.
T Yes. And she’s no longer alive?
B No, she died a few years ago (1970) in the South of France.
T Nice?
B Yeah, believe . . .
T Yeah . . . I remember William saying something there, that there was nothing in the papers, it was completely—
B Yes, one found that rather curious, because she had at one time been very much of a publicity star and had been talked about and written about in the 1920s, 1930s . . . was a publisher in New York in the 1940s . . . was obviously very much in contact with the sort of people who later became the CIA, I suppose . . .
T And I phoned, I believe, the Spiritualist Association in London to try and find out something about her . . . and, uh, blank, they didn’t want to know . . . to speak about her at all . . . they said that they thought she’d passed over.
B That’s all? . . . Well, there’s obviously some strange conspiracy of silence about Eileen, I don’t know . . . I met her in insane circumstances . . . I was in the Canadian Army attached to some Scots regiment at that time; I arrived in New York for a furlough of two weeks, wearing my uniform, and collapsed at a friend’s house . . . John LaTouche . . . a songwriter who wrote, oh, “Ballad For America” which Paul Robeson sang in the late 1930s, and then Touche worked on Broadway, he wrote the songs for Cabin in the Sky, “Taking A Chance On Love,” and lots of other things too, and was a marvelously funny, generous friend with whom I was very intimate indeed . . . and l just crashed at his pad which was in Washington Square on the top storey of a building in which Eleanor Roosevelt lived downstairs . . . and, uh, Roosevelt was President at that time . . . rather unusual to have a President’s wife with a flat of her own in the Greenwich Village area . . . and, uh, Touche said “Oh well, that is nothing . . . I’m gonna have all the weird ladies here this evening, and I hope that Eleanor will come too.” And I said, “Oh no, man, I just wanna relax and you’re gonna give a great big party, I’ll go away someplace.” He said, “No no no you must stay, I’ve invited all of the weird ladies who’re into the fourth dimension, and there’s going to be, uh . . . Evangeline Adams (who was the most famous astrologer at that time), there’s going to be Doctor Mamlock (who was a lady who read palms, a German refugee about which a movie was made, called Doctor Mamlock, about her husband’s death under the Nazis and whatnot, she was a sort of celebrity around New York) . . . and, uh, there was going to be . . . oh can’t remember his name now, Bob Somebody who’d been a wrestler in England in the 1930s when I went to school, had married Princess Baba of Sarawak who was the daughter of the Brooke family who owned the island of Sarawak and called themselves White Rajahs, and their children were called Princess Baba and Princess Pearl . . . Maybe it was Pearl who married this . . . wrestler . . . and I had heard nothing more of him until Touche said Oh! that he was going to be there too, and I said, “What’s he doing in this (laughing) galaxy of stars . . .?” And Touche said, “Oh, he’s doing hypnoanalysis for the American Air Force . . . and, uh, he’s great friends with all these people . . .

Eileen Garrett, medium

Eileen Garrett

And, there’s going to be Eileen Garrett, who’s going to be the Star of the Evening. And I said, “Who’s Eileen Garrett?” and he said, “What? You never heard of her? She was the woman who was arrested in England in 1920, whatever it was, under the Official Secrets Act because at a seance at Lady Londonderry’s—Lady Londonderry had a great salon of that period—she had gone into trance and contacted the captain of the British dirigible R-101, and he said, “The dirigible is on fire, we are going down,” so forth—“And it’s all the fault of these contractors at the Air Ministry who put in faulty material and swiped all the money” and so on—ah, there was a scandal . . . And indeed the R-101 did crash; the next day the news came that it had crashed: in Flanders, someplace between Belgium and France, something like that, and Eileen Garrett had given the name of the place that it was falling down to, and it turned out that the name of the place denoted a crossroads where there were only three houses on four sides of the crossroads; it had a name but it had a name only on the most secret military maps, it was not a name known to any except the peasants who lived there, or to the military authorities, and it was a hill a very short distance from this crossroads where the R-101 crashed and burned and everybody on board burned up with it—it was a hydrogen-filled balloon.* [* Actually there were six survivors. For the full story of the R-101 seances see John G. Fuller, The Airmen Who Would Not Die, 1979.]  And so Eileen was arrested because—how could she have known this; they didn’t believe in her fourth dimensional capacities, they believed there was another dimension . . . A-n-d . . . books had been written about this, and she had cleared her name, and she’d gone to Vienna where her extrapersonalities had been studied . . . not by Freud but by Adler, who was the nuttiest of all that group; in fact, he was a big coke head . . . and, uh, then books had been written about her and that she had these spirit guides, one of whom was a, I dunno, 16th century Persian at the court of Shah Jehan or something or other like that, on and on, all this kinda stuff, and uh, just while he was telling me all this the phone rang and, uh . . . I wish I could remember this, maybe I’ll remember the cat’s name . . . the one who was now, this Englishman who was now in American uniform doing hypnoanalysis for some secret US Air Force plan or plot, I don’t know, had phoned up to say that he couldn’t make it, and, uh, Touche said, “Oh, that’s terrible, because you had promised to come and cook the meal!” And he said, “Well, I just can’t come.” Touche then turned to his secretary, whom he was always bullying terribly, and said, “Philip, you must stay and make the food!” And “OOOhhh nnnoooo donwanna” . . . “No no, you must stay, that’s all there is to it—all these people are coming,” like that, there’s going to be Bessy Laski, who’s Jesse Laski’s wife . . ..y’know, Famous Players, founders of movies, going to be there; she’s bringing a young man who’s unfortunately losing his hair but he plays the Chinese lute so well and he’s a Mongolian gypsy and we hope that maybe his hair will grow again and maybe he can go back on the stage or something, and this was the first appearance of Yul Brynner in our lives . . . who never did get his hair back and got along very well without it (laughter). . . And, uh, so all have started to arrive, Bessy Laski, and Yul, and Evangeline Adams, and uh . . . Old Mama Mamlock and, uh, whole bunch of them like that—and no Eileen Garrett . . . So Touche said, “Oh, that’s just typical of her, she always tries to make an entrance; you’ll see, she’ll arrive, but she’ll arrive last” . . . she wasn’t gonna get there before any of the rest of these at all . . . daily twenty-four-hour-a-day game, naturally, being one up on your psychic opponent . . . So, uh, she did arrive, and she looked around and she said: “WHERE IS BOB? I’ve had a terrible fight with him, we’ve had this most intense psychic battle that’s been going on,” like that. “I have decided to do something absolutely terrible to him!” At that moment there was a BAAAAAAAAHH a great noise in the kitchen like that, and the secretary came out staggering with blood streaming from his hands and his face — he’d opened the oven and a glass pyrex dish had exploded and shot him full of glass splinters . . . Eileen said, “Oh dear!” she said, “I meant that for Bob! . . . Poor Philippe has been the victim and I shall never forgive myself!” And she swept away again; she wasn’t gonna sit there for some dumb dinner like that. She’d done her whole trick and made her effect and—she was like that, she was on the psychic jump all the time, on the psychic make . . . Uh, she immediately took one sweeping glance at my bare knees and my kilt, and asked the usual questions, which I showed her, that indeed one didn’t . . . umm wear anything underneath them . . . and the next evening she phoned up: (falsetto) “Who’s that charming young man in skirts? . . . Couldn’t you both come around to dinner?” . . . So that’s how I first got to know Eileen.

3 Responses to ““the future is with Control””

  1. Fantastic site!

    I knew nothing about Burroughs and Gysin but this stuff is great. I like the way you handle the site, too.
    Personable and informative.

    Thanks for providing so much information.

    Eno

    • Thanks Eno! They are interesting cats, I’ll say that for them. They are both so anachronistic – and not in any well-defined way. They both seem like they are from the past and the future, somehow. A retro-future now though I guess. Interesting how expensive some second-hand books have gotten (you mentioned The Third Mind in a separate communication), I read somewhere recently that different sellers are using algorithms to set their prices, and sometimes the algorithms go a bit out of control and wind up with books being wildly overpriced, having nothing to do with actual supply/demand. Not sure how this works though, unless there are only a few copies out there to be found. Anyhow, stay tuned. I’ll probably be blogging more about Burroughs and/or Gysin at some point in the not-too-distant future.

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