Happy Birthday Billy B!

William Seward Burroughs was born on this date 103 years ago (where does the time go!) in St. Louis, MO. To call him one of the most notorious literary figures of the 20th century is a major understatement.  His impact on literary technique, popular culture and concept and functioning of counter-culture per se are incalculable. Here’s a nice piece from The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/02/03/the-outlaw-2

He appears to have had an interesting relationship with the theory and practice of theurgy and thaumaturgy, not really identifying himself as a practicioner and yet creating work that are unmistakably informed by these arts and sciences. Here’s a few discussions of Burroughs’ active involvement in occult practice:



This one’s especially telling:

“When [Genesis] P-Orridge first visited Burroughs on Duke Street in 1973, he asked him, ‘Tell me about magick?’ and whether or not he still used cut-ups in writing. Burroughs replied, ‘No, I don’t really have to anymore, because my brain has been rewired so it does them automatically.’ He cracked open a bottle of Jack Daniels, poured them both a stiff drink, then put on the TV to watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E., explaining, ‘Reality is not really all it’s cracked up to be, you know…’ He then began hopping through the channels on the TV with the remote – at the same time mixing in pre-recorded cut-ups from the Sony tape-recorder – until P-Orridge was experiencing a demonstration of cut-ups and playback in real-time – right there where he was sitting:

“‘I was already being taught. What Bill explained to me then was pivotal to the unfolding of my life and art: Everything is recorded. If it is recorded, it can be edited. If it can be edited then the order, sense, meaning and direction are as arbitrary and personal as the agenda and/or person editing. This is magick.'”

“As part of his explanation, Burroughs showed P-Orridge one of his journal scrapbooks in which he had posted two photos: a simple black and white street scene, with the relevant building clearly visible, and then another beneath it from which he had carefully sliced out the ‘target’ with a razor blade, gluing the two halves of the photo back together so as to create an image of the street with the offending institution removed. The same principle could clearly be applied to photos of people that you wanted to ‘excise’ from your life, he said. These principles would have a profound effect on P-Orridge and Christopherson, as well as many of the ‘anti-musicians’ and sound-artists that they would collaborate with or inspire in their turn. It wasn’t just the sonic application of the cut-ups with tape-recorders, but rather the whole approach to challenging conventional wisdom, deprogramming the self from the imposed beliefs and values of mainstream society.”



Frater Lux Ad Mundi

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