Join My Cult! - The Truth Behind the Story

Join My Cult! - The Truth Behind the Story
by James Curcio on 2006-08-28 10:00:36
tags: james curcio, join my cult

Since Join My Cult! was released (10-23-04) I’ve been approached by countless people that were interested in the story behind the story, so-to-speak, since it is indeed more reality than fiction. Indeed, reality is stranger than fiction. So. Which characters are ‘real’? What really happened? How did it all begin? How does a person go about creating a living mythology?

This chronology, and the conversations, interviews, and essays that I’ve been posting on key23.net are an attempt to answer these questions, but in a broader context, it is for those interested in creative production in any medium.

I’m presenting this to you because I strongly believe that personal history is important. It’s the part you rarely get, when reading a story, or looking at a painting. But without that context, you can’t really receive that piece on its own ground. We’re often so caught up in some ways with the end product that we lose sight of the humanity of the transmission itself-it’s particularity, uniqueness, and identity, which is borrowed wholly from the creator, and where they came from.Certain actions have different results within different contexts; success calls for adaptation over an extended period of time, not the ability to follow a set list of steps.

This history is a quick parable in how one person transformed personal history into myth, and at times, back again. I don’t want to approach this project as a step by step “how to” because that really isn’t how this work is done. Maybe it is personal preference, but the only teachers I have ever learned from have taught by example, and from their own direct experience, even if it is peppered with the anecdotes of long dead legends. So I will attempt to do the same.

So let’s begin with one of the most common first questions of would-be authors: what brought you to write a novel, and where did it begin?

Usually when asked I say Join My Cult! began in a mental asylum. That’s mostly true- the idea, ‘hey I’m going to write a novel,’ began there. Writing a novel was a decent alternative to the medicine they were trying to put me on. Depakote made it impossible to see straight. Lithium made me terminally bored. Prozac was the reason I was there in the first place, it made me hold full conversations with flashlights.

Still, I can’t in good conscience say the book began there, even if the writing did. Nor can I begin like David Copperfield, I was born, and so on.

Really, the story began with a pack of Vivarin, and a carton of Camel wides.

I was sixteen, spending a night with a bunch of friends in the carriage house behind my girlfriend Samantha’s house.

Eventually, it might have been acid, DMT, or morning glory seeds, but when you’re sixteen, all you really need is caffeine and hormones to get ‘there.’ Nowadays, in a way, I’ve come full circle. I don’t recommend being dependant on chemicals outside of yourself to create, though I cannot deny that there is a period of time when it may be the most effective method of opening those doors. However, most heroin junkies don’t play the way many of the jazz greats did. Most acid heads are not Timothy Leary. Please keep this in mind when you use entheogens for introspective or shamanic purposes. Like anything else, you get out of it what you put in. If you look like a pot head and talk like a pot head, you might just be a pothead.

As I sat in that smoke filled room, the chittering of conversation fading in and out of my awareness, I found my hand drawing spirals over and over again, as if by its own volition. When I closed my eyes, that pattern continued on, spirals within spirals, all swirling, individually and yet at the same time in perfect counterpoint, like Bach.

I actually found this very journal entry recently by chance in a box full of earmarked, coffee-stained papers. It was like a time capsule to the past, written with a frenzied hand and would be almost impossible for anyone else to decipher.

Yet I still remember the train of thought that was operative, as it has been a very crucial one in the eleven years that separates me from when I first penned it. (Some fragments that I can decipher: ”…fractals are functions of scale; the same patterns likely exist within time. Does time itself cluster like data points on a graph towards invisible attractors?…” ”…the only difference between point A and point B are the internal and external changes in our character; different people, different places – the same struggles until they are processed…”)

I think out of the people there that night, my friend Ken (Jesus/Mysterylodge) was the only one who was on the frequency. This connection grew over the following months. Of course, this is then how the story really begins, in chapter one, with the two of us stumbling into these sort of ideas more or less unaware of the repercussions.

This is also the point at which most of our collective myths germinate – when ideas take on a collective resonance that reach outside of us and connect us to other people with a sense of wonder, mystery, and dread. Maybe these ideas actually originate outside ourselves, it’s really a chicken-and-egg kind of thing.

As I said in my chapter in Generation Hex, the artist tries to re-create this connection with an audience. While it is important to be aware of the tools of marketing and advertising, it is easy to lose your work in an attempt to pander to a pre-calculated market. If the kernel that your project germinates around is genuine to you, and you are in part a product of your environment, chances are – if your craftsmanship is sufficient – the end product will have a market to share it with. Be true to yourself, and you will be true to them.

One of the things that has surprised me, aside from the relatively positive reception such an unusual book has received, is that so many people seem to have experienced similar things themselves, only to push those things aside as they struggle to doggy paddle along with a world that seems to have no trouble with a powerful, casual breast stroke. Of course the truth is everyone is doggy paddling, but I suppose some people are better at hiding their humanity than others.

This scrap of paper was my “kernel.” These scribbled diagrams dealt primarily with how the events in our lives mirror each other. There is an idea, now cliche, that if you don’t learn something it’ll return to you time and again until you manage to process it. This is a theme that I introduce in the story through the letter Alexi writes to his mentor Gabrael from the mental hospital, in the beginning of the book, and the reply that his mentor provides him towards the end. I will provide them here, one after the other:

Gabrael;

I’m in the hospital now, writing down the closing chapter of this story. While I do this, I look back upon the project you asked me to undertake, exploring what led me to you, but I feel that I’ve only provided a veneer.

You asked for a concise record of my probation and instead I give you a jigsaw puzzle of my parts which, if put in the proper order, like the permutations of the name of God in the Sefer Yetzirah, will make me whole again.

I feel an overwhelming compulsion to schematize my experience. I digest and regurgitate these events countless times. They are jumbled and rearranged, reinterpreted recontextualized by events running both directions in the timeline. In the process, these disperate events become me, my alpha and my omega.

We cannot understand a thing until we make it in our own image. For my own part, I can’t seem to avoid putting myself in a hall of mirrors…and, it is only through our own darkened mirror that we can see each other. Those events, those mirror reflections that do not resemble us disappear. They hide, unnoticed, as a part of our shadow.

When we see our reflected opposite in that mirror, we are pulled up to its surface, maybe through a fascination with what stands on the other side, if we could only break through. So far in my experience, the result of this action, this attempt at reconciling opposites, is either frustration or assimilation. If we do manage to appear through the looking glass, we merge with our opposite there on the other side. They become us, we become them. Our union and dissolution is at first bliss, but afterwards there is nothing to be done. And, if you are like most other Americans, you are still here, alone no matter how many thighs or oceans you have parted, existing in spiritual exile from the world out there.

Thus I see this account in many ways as an attempt at valid communication, where the hall of mirrors of my ego will not interfere. If I cannot understand, relate to and experience another as they are in themselves, without the intrusion of my perception, then perhaps we can relate through what I create. This is in essence what this record is an attempt at. It’s a scrap book, maybe a road map, of my youth.

It is slow, gradual pressure that is the formula for both genius and earthquakes. Life tells us our secrets in these cracks, the way events conspire with each other in hidden grottos. This movement is at times very subtle, over a long time, like plate techtonics. If you don’t have the right eyes, you might miss these patterns altogether. Though our lives do not occur in geological scales of time, it is still the gradual pressure and our minute reactions, our habits, that actually speak of our true natures. Our will and intent is contained in potential within each of us, though in many it is buried very, very deep.

I was young at the time the story begins, still half asleep in the dream of my childhood. We were all too young, but who amongst us can predict precisely when the pot is finally going to boil over? There is a time, for some of us, when we are able to step outside the events that formed us, the environment that shaped us, and in that moment, we look back upon the sum of our experience and ask “where was I in that?” Where in the equation do you express yourself, not as a reaction but as a whole person? And, should we be unable to find ourselves in that equation, do we then become, as the sleeper awakening, indifferent to the events that composed the whole of that dream or memory? Do we turn a blind eye upon our past when we step forward?

Love is the law;

Alexi.

Alexi;

Solitude is the cost of our free will. This distance, this fresh air, is what gives us our self reflection, but it also risks cutting us off the real flavor and meaning of life… which as you know is a mutual experience, a shared now. I know this is little consolation, when you realize with dreadful finality what you must sacrifice to break out of the habitual patterns that define and cage you.

Further, this isn’t a singular test. You will be tried by these same forms time and again. You will be forced to give up your closest companions, and all of your ideals, so that you can find still deeper truths. Not all such truths are pretty, or pleasant.

The only solace I can provide is that to us, other people really are archetypal – they are Gods and Goddesses – and those you have loved and lost will return to you time and again with new faces, and new lessons to teach you. From this vantage point, our lives are a process of synthesizing the same energies again and again in new guises. Each time you are given the chance to make new choices. Maybe you can find a way out of your own labyrinth, into a new story.

This is what it means to be one of our Order: not to claim mastery, but to strive for it, no matter how larval your present state; not to parrot another’s wisdom, but to find your own, hidden in your darkest grottos.

I say I am inviting you in, but this is a mere formality. If you are a member, then you have always been a member.

I know you will have a lot of time to think while you sit in the hospital. What I would like you to consider carefully is this: everything you have faced, and all the pain you have endured started and ended with you. You created your own tests. What a difficult thing it is to lose what you hold most dear, and at the same time say: I willed it thus. What joy and strength can be found in this… but also, what unspeakable sadness. Embrace it all, frater.

Aleonis

0=11

These two letters, in my mind anyway, bookend the story. The rest can be seen as a parable that further elaborates the content of this one interaction-the student seeking guidance in an attempt to understand himself and the world he has inherited; and the master holding up a mirror, pointing to it, and saying, you may look towards me when you seek answers, but this is where you will find it.

So Alexi receives this letter from Gabrael upon leaving the hospital, and then he’s killed in an explosion at a local Denny’s that results in Agent 139 and Jesus being locked up in a prison for the criminally insane. Because of the spiral nature of the time-line, their death actually occurs at the beginning of the book, as it sets up the cross-over point between Alexi and Ken, and themselves years later. This death is symbolic. Our past has to die for our future to grow. Hopefully we can give ourselves fertile soil to grow in.

The first task of any creator is to bring these legends to life in your work. Ideally, we embody them in our lives as well, since it is in our experience that genuine myths originate – but either way, if it is a strong enough series of memes, it is the myth that lives on, not the flesh and blood.

I think this idea of mirroring and re-occuring themes has a lot to do with the symbol of the spiral. The same thing is true with all of the cycles we experience in our lives, but the fact that a spiral is an outward expansion is key. Our growth is a function of both past and present.

So I started developing a short-hand through which I could “tag” events, so as to relate them to each other the next time around. I used this “short-hand” both to keep track of the events in my life, to categorize them, but also to write them into a story in a way that had a hidden internal consistency.

Without understanding the symbolic idea of the spiral, the real swastika, I don’t think you can really “get” Join My Cult!. The actual literary structure is based on philosophical ideas about the nature of reality, and pretty much ignore most literary expectations. But if you have read it, and found an inexplicable hypnotic pull there, the underlying form at work is spiral. The neurolinguistic patterns I played with later may have something to do with it as well, but I don’t think that is nearly as important.

In effect every word or concept within the story became a symbol that I could then bring up again and again, in different guises, which again brings us back to this idea of the spiral. It was my premise that, much as words themselves are meaningless without other words to relate them to, these buried correlations are given meaning through association. In other words, if you manage to attach the feeling of deep spiritual reverence with the feel, smell and appearance of a ripe Chinese eggplant, then the re-emergence of the mighty eggplant in a new context connotes these associations again, at least subliminally. The only pre-requisite that must be satisfied is that the reader is open enough to imprint those associations in the first place. You can use this technique to great effect within any of the media you create.

To create this internal framework, I used the Qabbalistic tree of life. If you are unfamiliar it is enough here to say that it is a system that uses our ten digits, and the 22 letters of Hebrew alphabet to allow us to categorize and relate otherwise very abstract ideas with each other in an a-rational and yet completely systematic manner. This intense scrutiny was part of the reason that it took me nine years to write this book. (It may also have something to do with why it appears like the diary of a madman, at least until you get to the end, begin again at the beginning… and it dawns on you.)

I continued to puzzle with “mirroring” in various contexts. I later discovered in Hindu cosmology this idea expressed as “The Net of Indra,” and various pop quantum physics texts as “simultaneous arising.” This thinking went into my multi-narrative approach in Join My Cult!, and it’s based on the following thought experiment:

Suppose you have two people, engaged in the act of perceiving or communicating with each other. We presuppose that person A’s perception of B is based upon and limited upon their own perspective, and the same is true of person B. Thus they see inverted mirror images of each other. The same is true of their own inner perspectives.

It’s as if each person is the sole dreamer creating the universe, wherein all the other dreamers are dreaming up the universe, too. What’s the level of dependency between one person and another? How does belief infect itself from one carrier to the next? Are mass movements able to be effected through the application of resonant beliefs? These were all ideas and thoughts I can remember wrestling with when very young; at the time I thought I was both alone and unique in these things, because of the kind of isolation living in modern society can provide. I was, of course, neither alone nor unique.

I thought it would be a good idea then to take this to heart when working on a story, so that whether in first or third person, there is always a cast of ongoing narrators “editing” reality, and thus the text as the reader perceives it. At the same time the story they are writing themselves into changes as the world around them changes.

I thought this would just be an interesting creative exercise but it became something a great deal more than that. If you are blessed enough to have a group you trust enough to perform this sort of experiment with, I highly recommend it. At first it may seem to be doing nothing, then suddenly you open your eyes and realize you’re in a totally different reality. Later, as you read conversations with some of my co-authors who were present during these times, you will see what I mean.

These intuitions led to countless magical nights in the woods, where somehow the woods or beings within them told us what to do – I don’t know how else to explain it. It was as if the voices were always there, but we suddenly learned how to attune ourselves so as to hear those frequencies. There was almost a Pied Piper-ish quality to the whole affair, though I don’t think any of us every figured out who was leading the troupe. Ostensibly it was me, but I can say otherwise.

We weren’t reading books on shamanism or the occult so much as playing it by ear. It was completely spontaneous, and thus, rather terrifying as well. Since then I have studied various systems of magick, trance, energy manipulation, had conversations with seasoned practitioners of just about every stripe, and experienced a whole world I never even dreamed of back then; yet when it comes to straight out other-worldly weirdness, nothing I’ve practiced since has rivaled some of the effects we managed in those days. (Whether it was self hypnosis or something else, who can say?)

The mirroring between characters and events in the book and those in real life’ became a very interesting process, if also a confusing one. You start to find that what you write has almost as much effect on what happens in your life as the other way around… this is one of the ways I came to recognize art as my primary form of practicing magick. In that way it is invocation but it was also a banishment, a means of processing, digesting and excreting the past so you can move on to something new.

I can’t write off all of what I experienced as a shared hallucination. The spontaneous ceremonies, beings and visions we encountered together in the woods and elsewhere, which I paraphrased in the chapter The Lost Night and the Babalon song of the same name, dreams so vivid I recall minor details ten years later… I’ve yet to find a real answer to any of those things, though I have since gone from being a believer in anything and everything I could experience to a skeptic of the same scope.

The year after my release, we began dabbling with hallucinogens. I figured that if I had gone as far as I had without chemical assistance, I could get even further with them. I found this was true to an extent but at the same time, I was somehow much better at dealing with the “simulated” psychosis of LSD than the sheer horror of going there and not having an excuse to fall back on.

We would gather every weekend, drop, and start the night with conversations and group art projects. Sometimes it would be improvised music, other times group painting. We really weren’t into sex magick at this point, it was more like a bunch of kindergarteners that had read Nietzsche playing in a sandbox. I don’t mean kindergartner as a derogatory thing, it was just such a spontaneous, immediate thing. It was genuine exploration for its own sake, and of course a sort of growing discouragement that whatever we glimpsed always seemed to be just out of reach. You can keep stretching, and maybe eventually you reach the ground, but it’s still out there, always a step ahead.

It was discovered that we could actually tweak each others realities simply by speaking with each other. We pace ourselves with the things going around us, feel ourselves at relative consonance or dissonance with the tambre of the dynamic in our environment, and create our moods, even our identities in many ways based on the long view of that interaction. Our representation of the world around us is presented in these voices inside our heads, or pictures that we make. And these things, to a certain extent, we have control over – and can even project outwards, “encoding” them as creative projects.

In my mind this period ended when one of our party took a step in the kiddy pool and was suddenly completely submerged. It started with a ritual we were going to attempt.

Before the ritual began, the acid had him in its clutches and he was talking to himself in the mirror. Most of the night was spent with him rocking back and forth, only able to say “no,” repetitatively. For the following weeks, he became convinced he could control the movements of cars with his mind, and a number of other bizarre things. Some months later he was hit over the head with metal sticks and wandered off into the woods with one boot on.

I think that watching a mental meltdown like that made us all take pause. I had felt a little mentally invincible because of the extreme pressures I’d put myself under, and survived. But seeing how easily upset that balance is… was sobering.

Shortly after that I went to Bard college, and shifted my focus from practice to theory. Those years are a blur to me now though I still have piles of notebooks crammed full of notes. I was voracious.

Time was moving on in a linear fashion for me but I still continued writing it into the story as if it all happened at the same time- because as I’ve said, in terms of thinking of time as a spiral, it is happening simultaneously.

The Order of the Hidden Path, which is mentioned in various places throughout the book, was originally a real fake order founded around this time. That is, it was a blind that we put together to help us get cigarettes, other substances, and social favors, for free. As you’d expect, the title isn’t incidental; the ugly truth is that if you’re producing independent media and aren’t otherwise wealthy, you’re going to find yourself down to your last smoke, your last dime, time and time again. It is equally true however that if you know enough about social networks and have enough determination and willpower, you’ll get by. Who knows, in the long run, you might even exceed your expectations.

Agent 156 introduced the “Order of the Hidden Path” to me over a bottle of Stoli. There was an inner order of artists, philosophers and miscreants that did more than accrue connections and goods, but the social body was just for the sake of bringing in fodder.

I began hatching plans to organize audio and video recording and production facilities though I had no idea how I’d raise the funds at first. Every night before going to bed I would visualize what the studio looked like, I’d go so far as to imagine what it felt like, with my fingers on the faders, trying to make the illusion as real as possible. Visualization is a crucial step in the manifestation process, though if it ends there it’s just wishful thinking.

The recording studio idea began a couple years prior to that, with a series of events that led me into an underground multi-million dollar studio in Pennsylvania…

The summer before I returned home from college to our apartment in Mill Grove. This would be one of the last times I’d return for any span of time… The spring-time that happened so briefly but poignantly in my adolescence seemed to have skipped summer and passed directly into autumn. All I came to experience in my return trips during these years was dissolution and decay. The land felt barren and resigned. All of my old romping grounds, thick woods over ancient Indian burial grounds, were all now strip malls and stretches of McMansions as far as the eye could see. Amazing that I could still be so young and see so much change. Nevertheless it is in this soil that the seeds of my life took root, and it is suburbia, not the city or countryside of my youth, that I must grudgingly call my origin.

Old Blotter, a band that I had played in throughout high school was now working on recording an album at a recording studio nearby called the Dome. I was brought over to check the place out. There was still the slightest sting from my alienation of them in our junior year, when I began drowning in my own depths. We could at least hang out again. The subject was rarely broached.

The three of us: Dave, Kevin and I spent hours after school every day in Kev’s basement rehearsing and playing with the four track. Maybe I can trace my fascination with recording back further, to these evenings, and my first excitement at the beauty of overdubbing. There’s something really interesting about being able simulate being in the same place at the same time, even if you’re thousands of miles apart. The musical conversation still occurs, it’s like letters in a bottle, still very emotional and personal even if you could never put it into words.

“This is the place?”

Kevin didn’t answer. He often had a dour expression on his face, though his demeanor was generally laid back and good-natured. This was one of those times.

All I could see were overgrown vines and a rusty fence encircling a run-down shack. I took in a deep breath of summer air and headed through the fence behind him, walking brusquely, his head down and hands in his jacket pockets. The vines and brush inside the fence were up to my chest. Thorns snagged my jacket as I passed by.

We were now standing at a rotten wooden door. The paint was flecked around the edges, red and orange splotches ran from the hinges down the side of the building. As Kevin opened the door, I noticed a surveillance camera directly above. I couldn’t tell if it was functioning or not.

At that moment there came a rustling from the trees to our left. I froze. Looking up, all I saw was the full moon, a few fast moving wisps of cloud, and silhouetted leaves flickering.

There came a sound like a hooting owl, then silence again. Kevin and I looked at each other. He shrugged, turned the doorknob and headed in without comment.

As I followed I started to get an inkling of what was going on. There was a long staircase leading into the ground, all black. At the bottom of the staircase was a disjointed door painted rainbow, with a slanted top. It was like a rabbit-hole in Alice in Wonderland.

I made my way down over the black carpeted steps, ignoring the bizarre owl calls that echoed behind me.

Past the portal, the building – or should I say underground complex – continued from one room to the next. Though I wound up returning many times, I still cannot recall the exact floor-plan or much of what occurred beyond those doors. The memories exist just outside of my reach, like an interrupted dream. These rooms – irregular, polka dotted, striped, full of mannequins and thousands and thousands of dollars of recording equipment – were all at odd angles to each other, containing slanted doors and circular staircases to new levels or overhangs. It was a little like standing inside an Escher drawing.

Rich, the producer, was nowhere to be found. Kevin and I headed into the control room. After a minute or two of sitting on the wrap-around couch and looking at the guitars hanging on the wall across the room, I started wandering around inspecting the mixing board, and the racks of outboard gear… I recognized ProTools hardware and asked Kevin if he knew how many channels in he had on his setup out of the mixer. Kev shrugged. I sat back down again next to him, still feeling an odd awe. I had never been in a studio before, and certainly never expected to be getting this bizarre exhilarating rush.

Kev said Rich would probably be along soon.

Sure enough a few minutes later a figure that looked like the bastard love-child of Robin Hood and Bon Jovi bounded through the door. Long, crazy hair, leopard print spandex, suede leather jacket complete with matching fringe, dark round sunglasses. Then I noticed a bunch of twigs and leaves in his hair and wondered if he had been up in the tree hooting at us that whole time. Who the hell was this guy?

He immediately jumped into a neurotic and affected monologue at Kevin: did he want to tune his roto-toms E, F, Gb? His rabbit has been shooting sperm everywhere again. Did Kevin have the acid he had asked for? Hey why don’t you check out this new 3d software I got now I can create my virtual temple. Halfway through this rant he suddenly fell silent and rushed over to the mixing board, hit a few keys on the keyboard calling up a song, and said he needed to replace all the snare hits on this recording with a solid good snare sound. They were too uneven and compressing wasn’t cutting it. Again he trailed off in mid-sentence and he put his ear up real close to the speaker as he kept playing the same two second section of the song over, and over, and over, and over again.

Kevin, as always, seemed nonplussed.

A little while later he took us both up to the surface again to smoke a joint. The whole time he hadn’t acknowledged my existence, though I could tell he was paying me careful attention. As he rolled the joint he finally looked at me, asked me my name, then jumped into a diatribe about native American shamanism and Buddhism. He handed me the joint a minute or so later, saying, “by the way, I’m a Shaman.”

“Yeah?” I asked. I’d dabbled’ myself but wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a Shaman. I couldn’t go through the hole in the ground by my own choice, it still had to call me.

He leaned closer to me, conspiratorially, looked over his shoulder quickly, and then said, “my real name is Rahuu.” At the same moment the first inhale hit my lungs.

It’s almost eerie that I can’t recall the rest of this interaction. It has been entirely wiped from my memory. Normally I can draw images, or sounds, at least a scrap of a memory. Here there is a hole. I that we talked for many hours, and I returned there again and again, sometimes to do digital design work, which I had never really done before, and other times just to watch him produce. In retrospect everything makes sense, you can see how you got from point A to point B. But when we are at point A, there is a certain feeling, like a nagging itch you can’t quite reach, that forebodes the future- as if that future is already contained within that seminal, chance moment. I knew then and there I’d have a studio, even though I’d never even considered it before. How many potential futures do we pass up when we turn off to this gut instinct? How many of them should we turn away from? After all, one of these threads has your death at the end of it…

But before we can see where this was all going, I have to share with you some of the concepts that were brewing in my mind, because there is an interplay between these ideas and the ensuing reality, though it isn’t a 1:1 relationship.

In everyday interactions, it became clear to me that there was a social dynamic, in fact a social mind, that most of us aren’t conscious of but all of us are connected to. Maybe Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious is similar to this, but I’m not really talking about archetypes. More like prevaling social trends which are, from one perspective, the aggregate of individual choices; but from the other, our individual choices are simply the expressions of this hive mind.

I was studying social psychology and insect behavior at the same time, and became fascinated by the cross-overs there. Granted at the granularity or scale that most think of psychology, there isn’t much similarity between a human and a bee or ant.

However if you zoom out to look at large group dynamics, you see the same kind of behaviors being exhibited, whether insect or human. Individuality is irrelevant at this scale, yet there is a guiding force. Science says it is biological, as if this somehow dismisses the mystery; yet the fact that each part is created with an inborn purpose and role which allows the whole to operate is beyond explanation. I began to theorize that it was all the highly esteemed differences that we hold from other animals that interfere with the smooth operation of this principle. Yet should we just turn those things off we’re like babes stumbling around in the dark.

Thus the dis-organization known as the “Mother Hive Brain” was born. In a way this was just a natural progression from the Order of the Hidden Path.

When I started losing faith in the efficacy of any kind of intentional, organized spiritual group or organization, I became enamored with this idea of a creative free-for-all, consisting of – and here’s the catch – people who already know their “bliss,” as Joseph Campbell calls it. That is, their will or motive, the thing they do that makes them both useful to the group and feeling fulfilled, at the same time.

This “hive mind” philosophy had practical rammifications as well, because it can be utilized in personal interactions if you are aware of group dynamics at work.

For instance, as I started exploring this idea through experiments, I discovered that people in this culture value money very highly – so highly in fact that they are often much more willing to part with things that cost money than with money itself. For instance, with an established social network, it is relatively easy to get a very well cooked meal, a comfortable bed, or a professional back massage, at least for a couple nights, even if you have no money whatsoever. Of course if this is abused and not reciprocated by some other service, the utility of this network dwindles to nothing. The system only works when everyone has something to contribute.

However if you try to get the money for those services from within that same network, you will oftentimes fail. In other words, it’s much easier to ask most people for a hot meal than for $40.

I learned this lesson from the Order of the Hidden Path experiment, however that had failed in my mind partially because as I said, we intended it. We tried to create a structure. Contexts are ever shifting; the only way to adapt to the flow is to have capacities, not plans.

Most communes, including those I have been involved in, fail as a result of the ticks and leeches, on the one hand, and the power-crazed bullies on the other. Free loaders, the drama and power hungry-they all come running to opportunities like this. Don’t announce that you are a “cult” at all – better yet, announce it so loudly that no one in their right mind takes you seriously. If you can manage, don’t even let the people in the cult know they’re in it. JOIN MY CULT!

This idea caught on more than I could have expected. Groups, social networks with similar objectives, companies with covert back-room-plans, and the like were springing up all over the place. Each was connected to the next through at least one point of contact, and that “over-network” was close to spanning the globe.

At the time, the focus with Mother Hive Brain itself was more on media pranking, mockumentaries, and audio mindfucks. Since those days a lot of this pranking fizzled, as it often does, along with the brains of the pranksters.

Towards the end of my collegiate career I started a media company with four others – Chris, Stone, Dave, and Sarah – at the time we called it Evolution Studios though we changed that around when Revolution Studios got big into the Evolving Media Network. (EMN.)

It’s quite likely that divulging some of this will get a hit put out on my head, but I really want to give you a worthwhile glimpse behind the curtain here, and you won’t get that by mincing details.

Screetch of tires on asphalt, then grinding gravel. Discordant free jazz, cokenose sniffle. As we pulled away from our rooms Stone told me that he’d been thinking over our idea of starting a production studio, and finally he’d arranged just the in’ we needed. Except he said something along the lines of he’d had it arranged.’ He always had to put things in the most shady, cryptic fashion. He’d have you thinking his connection to the industry was some Mafioso when really it was his mother.

Dave’s apartment, well there’s nothing to say really. It looks like an apartment. A teenager dribbles his basketball up to the hoop on the television.

They start talking about Shenequa. .

“Did you hit that?” .

“Hit that?” .

“Yeaaaaah, you know- oooh baby.” .

“Did you wear a rubber?” .

Stone turns to us. “So our job is to create an original music soundtrack for this 10 minute spot on HIV. We have a one week deadline for completion. I’m sure we’ll find that more than ample…” .

One thing I came to learn is that the deadlines we got were never realistic. Someone always had to be working at a breakneck pace, and it was never satisfactory to the client. I’ve come to discover that this is pretty common in corporate media, especially when there is a step between you and the end-client. There was another company that was acting as our corporate “face” so we could be the crazy freaks we were, and get away with it. The downside was that we were kind of invisible in the process. The orders came down to us and someone had to follow them. As we started taking on more facilities and employees the stress increased exponentially- but I’m getting ahead of myself.

This project in my memory is a blur of v-drums, delay effects chains, and Aderol. Generating ten minutes of new music from scratch and syncing it to video in one week is a little like trying to cram an elephant into a sardine can. Especially when you have to create a studio out of nothing in that week, as well.

The Aderol came as an advance favor from my friend Devon who had managed to convince Bard college administration to allow him to teach a credit course on neurolinguistic programming (NLP) called ‘The Pragmatic Navigation of Consciousness.’ He would sit at the front of the room, clip mic attached to his white T-shirt, speakers behind us booming his voice as he talked, and talked…

For those not familiar with term, NLP is an acronym for “Neurolinguistic Programming,” which was originally an alternative psychotherapeutic approach developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Later this technique was applied, possibly more pervasively, to Marketing.

The fundamental presupposition of NLP is that the language we use, vocally or in our head, is a representation of thought processes. Thus if you remodel the language itself, there will be a corresponding remapping of “subconscious” processes.

Most of the class consisted of the basics of hypnotic induction- vocal cadence, tonality, physical and verbal anchoring and installation, and the like. These techniques are taught by example, rather than a step by step process like most Americans are used to. For instance, if I am going to demonstrate a very simple example of incongruence, I might mention incongruence, and then a minute or so later start saying really positive things while frowning, shaking my head “no,” or slouching.

At no time during these classes or the seminars that followed did anyone stop and say, “ok, now this is an example of anchoring,” and then demonstrate. It was much more free-flowing and organic than that, the idea being that these are all things that we do already; a successful teacher “installs” these things so we can utilize them more effectively, without making it an awkward, consciously intended process.

This was probably my first official introduction to NLP. For those unfamiliar with these ideas, you’ll have to bear with me on this as getting into it would steer us far off course. And anyway, I’ve subtly been demonstrating a couple of these techniques in the background as I lead you through this rush tour of the past ten years of creative production. You’ve probably picked up even more than you realize.

Devon wanted us to produce a video demo for him and The Great Work (TGW), an organization he was preparing to get venture capitol for. This was also produced from scratch- script, video, audio, post-production, 3d animation, all of it. And we had another one week deadline, which meant another week of working in shifts and pulling staggered all-nighters. If you don’t know how to do something, find someone who does, or figure it out.

It quickly became apparent that no one really knew what it was that “The Great Work” was supposed to do, with lofty ‘Global Trajectories’ such as Space Exploration, Cybernetics, and Intelligence Intensification. But we were all idealistic kids living in the pre dot com bust back then, and anything was possible, if you could find the right venture capitalist. We spent hours smoking pot around business tables and talking about the interrelationships of our organizations. To an extent it was a little like kids playing dress-up, but I can’t deny the lessons learned. Fake it till you make it.

Just like that, we had our studio. Following the completion of this project we loosely joined forces with The Great Work and began reconstructing, or you might say rehabilitating a 2500 sq foot hunting lodge into a place to make media. We started having regular, invite-only hypnosis seminars and media experiments, happenings, and so on. The facilities themselves were supported through the ongoing pharmaceutical CD-ROM work; this made for a very bizarre hodgepodge of people doing corporate work in one room, playing network video games in another, trance induction or internal kung fu in another, and drug induced media experiments in another. This also created a lot of resentment from the people who got wrangled into the corporate work more often than others, as is inevitably the case. Even if it’s paying fifty grand a pop, it’s still the crap work. This came to a head later.

On some level we were aware of the play-acting aspect of it, and of the fact that all of the “face” people put on in these corporate environments was an act. We called the studio itself “Orangeface,” (along with the now defunct domain name feeltheface.com), and often played characters, or charactures of ourselves, even in meetings. These characters were used in these reality-movies that we’d make, for instance descending on a party of unsuspecting people in character with pro video equipment and making them create an adaptation of Apocalypse Now. Of course the real ‘project’ was taking place in the cameras filming the production itself, rather than the movie being made.

Unfortunately many of these tapes were lost when our recording studio was hit with by a freak flash flood later that year. In a matter of minutes we were waist deep in ice cold water in a studio full of electronics, with the power still turned on… It’s amazing no one was hurt. The only remaining project of this nature that was salvaged was the first, and probably worst one that we did roughly spoofing off an NLP seminar. This project is available on the Join My Cult! website in the media section.

This character acting thing quickly bled over from play-acting into everyday life, and it became pretty hard to determine what was character, and what was identity. Or is there a difference at all?

Other group audio and video experiments like the now infamous Famous Kentucky Meat Shower of 1873 came from these facilities, and this period of time. We had tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, the ability to use them, and the freedom that comes from being in the middle of nowhere. In addition to producing both corporate and professional projects, it allowed us the freedom to go wild with experiments that we knew probably weren’t going to make a whole lot of money.

A pretty extensive and creative crew formed around these nexus points, including Jason Stackhouse, who was occasionally working on sections of Join My Cult! with me, Jason Benson, who appeared in Join My Cult! and was working for us as a 3d designer, Jason Wyse, a writer and very talented hypnotist who moved out from Pittsburgh I believe to work with The Great Work and helped me facilitate this project in a number of ways, and Rob Green, who moved into the area and began developing a binaural meditation aid called the Mind Driver.

Let me take a little segue to talk a little more in depth about the Mind Driver, and trance induction and NLP in general, since this is a question that seems to come up a lot.

I’ve utilized this device, and similar technology, as a means of putting myself into specific frames of mind, primarily for use in many of these creative projects.

So what is it? The simple answer is that the Mind Driver sends specifically timed, alternating light and sound signals to the brain which trigger a corresponding effect there. This effect is often referred to as “entrainment.” Technically this is the process whereby two connected oscillating systems with similar periods fall into synchronicity. The system with the greater frequency slows down, and the other accelerates.

This isn’t “science fiction,” either. All your brain does all day and night is respond to patterns of light and sound.

Have you ever taken a train somewhere, and found that you slipped into a deep, almost sleep-like trance? A combination of the frequency of the sound, rocking motion of the cabin, and the regular, knocking noise of the tracks below are some of the environmental effects which create this state of mind. You witness a similar effect while staring at a fire… or even a television.

This is a very simple, every-day example of some of the principles that make the Mind Driver work, except it provides far greater control over those variables. The possibilities are only truly limited by your imagination, and receptivity.

Another thing most people unfamiliar with binaural technology wonder is what they should expect. Used to being entertained through flashy effects in movies or energetic music, they get a little put off when they plug in and discover instead flashing lights and various humming sounds. The changes the machine creates occur within you, not around you.

So the vector of my approach with it has primarily been in trance induction, visualization, and creative facilitation. Initially I was curious but skeptical. When I began experimenting with it, I was really into Qabbalistic pathworking, and so my first experiments were with lucid dreaming, astral projection, and the like.

I remember putting on the headset, feeling a bit ridiculous, and beginning the program. At first I didn’t know what to expect, and was a little disappointed when all I heard was a thrumming sound, and some annoying flashing lights. I quickly realized I could change the light levels, and found a more comfortable medium.

For a couple minutes I waited for “something” to happen, and when nothing did, and my eyes started itching, I considered taking them off. Then I thought to myself, maybe I have to guide it a little. So I began breathing deeply and regularly, and relaxing. No complicated pranayama, just opening myself up to whatever comes.

Sure enough I started seeing dancing kaleidoscopes, very much like the initial hallucinations at the onset of a mescaline trip. (Errr… so I am told…) My mind started wandering, and as it did I suddenly realized that I had slipped into what was more or less a fully vivid dream, except that a small part of my mind was still aware of my body, which felt very warm but also far away, as if “I” was somehow projected deep beneath the earth.

The device I worked with when writing Join My Cult! was somewhat limited in terms of its programs. In fact I generally just ran a program that would drop you down into a theta state – which I have always found to be the best place to be for creative “riffing” – and then a ramp back up and out. The Mind Driver, on the other hand, lets you design programs graphically on your computer, which pretty much creates limitless possibilities especially if melded with other media, like a simultaneously running trance induction tape or CD…

The most effective use for devices like this is in conjunction with other techniques, and with a clear intent in mind even if it is something so straight-forward as ‘relaxation’ or ‘energized enthusiasm.’ In other words, it helps calibrate a state of mind but you are still populating the content.

Thus began my exploration of fusing meditation and technology.

Back to our time-line. As is the case with all things, there is a rising action and a falling action. Without really reaching a discernable climax, my involvement in the organization was reaching its end. I contracted lyme disease and was for the most part inoperative for months. The group mind was preparing to abort me. I could feel it but wasn’t sure what to do about.

During that period of time my wife began sleeping with one of my partners, and as can be imagined, everything exploded into fiery drama. Even as open as this format is, there are some things that aren’t for public consumption.

I wrote all of this into the story as well. Every part of my life was open source, free to be drawn upon in the work. This is my philosophy on the matter – you have to make yourself completely available to what you create, on all levels, even if you fictionalize that content. To do otherwise is ingenuine.

In my stubbornness I stayed with my wife but I took my leave of the company as a full partner in 2001, and spent the following six months training and preparing the rhythm sections for what was to become Descent. The lyrics and music there were heavily connected to Join My Cult!… as I was in the editing and re-writing process with the book. Some sections were changed by the creative process of working on the album, and of course both were informed heavily by the issues we were wrestling with at the time.

As you’re probably seeing a crucial part of my process is the two way feedback that occurs between your life, and your projects. Really, if you’re committed to your work, in the end there is no boundary. They inform each other freely. I think you really have to be willing to reach into yourself and deal with the most poignant issues to you at the time, even if they aren’t pretty. And it’s also true that many people won’t necessarily know what the song is about, but if the emotions and ideas ring true, they’ll feel it and I think that’s really what it’s about.

Shortly thereafter, both my wife and her jilted lover left the company as partners so I again had access to the facilities. These were crazy times, I still had access to all of these facilities and personnel but had none of the responsibilities that come from keeping a small company afloat from month to month. All bets were off, across the board. For a year or so, I pretty much lived as a bohemian.

I shipped the Descent tracks out to my friend Scott Landes, who had moved to California a couple years previous. He has this burning, intense ferocity about his guitar playing that’s almost autistic. I knew I had to find out what would happen if we worked on this project together, though I didn’t know what it would be like doing it over such a distance. (If you catch the lyrics in the first song, Distance, they’re about this process – ”…never to meet, except in song.”)

I also tried to utilize what I had learned about trance induction. Perhaps as a result, the entire album plays like a haunting after-image. It glides by ghostlike and gives no real purchase to hang on to. If you listen to it closely, it pulls you to another world. If you don’t, it becomes invisible, nebulous, even non-existant.

For those interested in production, I’d like to remind you before moving on that no matter what precautions you take, the universe will always throw you a curveball. I mention this because, as an example, as I was midway through the mixing process with Descent, my mirrored RAID and all of the tertiary backups simultaneously died. To this day I’m not sure if it was a network-wide virus, or a collosal hardware failure. Many of the people who have worked with me over the years have come to conclusion that in matters like this I am cursed, as these sort of disasters have plagued just about every project I’ve worked on. I think to some extent these disasters are just par for the course, but I also can’t say they are wrong.

I was left with pre-mixes, single audio files with the levels already set in stone, which I had to then take into the mastering process. In other words, this album never sounded nearly as good as it could have, and I think in many ways it is these imperfections which drive us to take on the next project, and the next.

Sarah and I decided that, more than anything else in the world, we wanted to create music. And we wanted to do it with Scott. We dropped everything and moved 3,000 miles to begin working with him. This is simply the level of commitment that the work requires.

Most of my experiences up to this point had been on the East Coast. I’d traveled to Texas once or twice, and a couple other places, but driving across the country and really seeing it started to open me up. I resisted. I felt home sick and something deep inside me rebelled against living in Orange County. My luck there was atrocious; it seemed like everything that could go wrong did. I’ve found plenty of times in life that though I don’t believe in a God that is sentient in the way that we are, there is definitely something to the universe that’ll nudge you in certain ways, and knock your teeth out if you don’t listen. On the other hand, what did we expect? We were consciously and actively invoking Babalon in her various forms (Kali, Inana, the Whore of Babylon), through the music we were creating. It’d be almost disappointing if she didn’t rise to the occasion.

Despite considerable odds, we spent ten months writing material, rehearsing and getting it up to speed for live performance. We rented out a house in the heart of the cookie-cutter suburbs in “The OC,” and converted our living room into a recording studio.

The moment you stepped into the house you were presented with bed foam to the ceiling, and racks of sound gear, a giant PA, eleven piece drum kit, tablas- just about anything you could want to make sound. From a pro recording standpoint it was bare bones, put together with the intention of setting up recordings for many different applications in a couple minutes.

The name ‘The Abyss of Hallucinations’ was carried over from the Orangeface studio, which may provide some amount of confusion when people are reading liner notes. Babalon was working here during this time but we jammed, recorded and produced a lot of other material, from freestyle rap projects that choked the house with marijuana smoke to salvia jams on trashcans. (The salvia sessions, all entitled cryptic things like “GOLDEN MONKEY” and “SLUDGE NYMPH,” have thankfully been lost.) The studio was open to all musicians who wanted to come by and record.

In that time our website also met an overwhelming deluge of traffic… over 1,000,000 visitors in six months. This was the result of my “day job,” which consisted of various promotional schemes. The most effective came from creating visually intense collages, or taking nude photographs of Sarah, and getting these images up on highly trafficed sites. This was back when Suicide Girls had maybe fifty girls; some days we’d see ten thousand hits from a posted series. During this time all the artwork I produced was essentially used as Babalon promotion material. Everything was tagged with the URL and given away for free.

There are different ways of measuring success. You can be seeing a lot of traffic, getting a lot of work done, and still be starving and unable to make rent. From the perspective of someone who has experienced it, I can genuinely say that starving does not make for better art. There’s really nothing cool about it.

Generating sustainable success with work like this, when you are doing it on your own terms, takes not only incredible dedication and effort, but also a lot of time. I’ve been told a literal translation of “kung fu” is “energy time,” that is, something that takes a lot of sustained effort to do. If that is so, then I think it would be apt to say that all artistic processes are kung fu.

The formula is really quite simple: take the time to produce something worth sharing with people, take the time to find a method of distributing it, take the time to promote it time and time and time again, in literally thousands of venues and conversations, and make sure that your profit margin per unit is sufficient. That’s all there is to it. The trick is keeping yourself alive as you do these things.

Though many people manage, it’s very difficult to put your full effort into the Work you are doing and work a day job at the same time – of the two one inevitably wins out, and many times, it is the day job that wins since it provides the comfort we expect.

Forcing yourself into a “succeed or die” mentality can create black-and-white thinking that limits your options, but in my experience it also generates a hell of a lot of motivation to do it now, and do it well, because all of your will-to-survive is being called into play. The world is littered with wanna be rock stars, writers, and artists. It may sound good at a bar at 3 am when you’re 20, but it starts to sound pretty tired at 50 if you haven’t touched your guitar in 30 years. There are plenty more who deserve recognition and never get it of course, but when living it really counts, they’ve done their service. If as the Egyptians thought there is any heart-weighing going on after death, they’ll get off.

Also spoken from experience, the downside of this psuedo-tantric ploy is that you risk burning up what the Taoists call Jing, your bodily life energy. From an alchemical standpoint you’re literally burning your self to get there. I’ve lived this way for years, and have found that something really does pop up at the last minute to get you by time and again when you are putting your all into living through will. Like anything else though, it comes at a cost. So before really committing yourself to the do or die philosophy, make sure you are prepared for the consequences.

The beginning of the end, for the Babalon chapter of my life, occurred at the ZenseiderZ Summer Solstice gathering in Phoenix. This was a loose band of chaos magickians, many of them artists, that formed initially through the internet and was coming together in person for the first time. We spent around a week chilling together, sharing magickal and practical techniques with each other, along with an ungodly amount of chemicals and in some cases, bodily fluids. Babalon put on her last performance, and then combusted in proper VH-1 style – the singer, my wife, ran off with the drummer.

Once again the pattern that I wrote into Join My Cult! had repeated itself. At this point, I decided, the book was finished, because I didn’t want to have to live through that hell again. I wrote in new insights from seeing this pattern yet again, and shipped it off to New Falcon. Done. Enough.

Most of the material we wrote as Babalon was never recorded in the studio and is lost, though a couple live recordings do remain, that we have released as “Dreams and Reflections.” Right towards the end we started receiving unsolicited requests from venues asking us to play there. These requests persist to this day.

In many ways my entire idea about life and world was connected to that relationship, so when it ended I felt both completely shattered, and at the same time, renewed. I suddenly found myself able to do things I had never before imagined possible, though I now realize it was because, for a short while, I had no real attachments whatsoever. I had no fear. What was left of desire was there for the sake of momentary entertainment.

I trashed more than half of my belongings and packed the rest in my small sedan. And I drove.

The year that followed was a gypsy life, constantly moving from one location to the next, from one side of the country to the other, then back again. Whatever it took to get by.

In the thirty or fourty thousand miles I traveled in that time I think I probably spread a lot of these memes more than I realized at the time, especially at the conventions I got into.

By the time Join My Cult! was finally on the shelves, tens of thousands of people had heard of it. Actually turning that buzz into sales can be a tricky thing; you can see tens or even hundreds of thousands of people visiting your site, or being handed cards at shows or conventions, and only a couple hundred of those will eventually turn into purchased books.

As I implied a moment ago, it’s a statistics and persistence game. It is usually kept well under wraps but don’t be surprised if your favorite author works at Starbucks to keep from starving when not on book tour. People are usually hesitant to part with money. The economy of scale is often a factor as well, meaning that to someone with little money, ten dollars holds the same value for them as ten thousand might to someone else. As you can probably guess, many of my projects have more of a cultural appeal to those in the former category, so this is something I’ve seen time and again.

One approach is to sell them something they feel they need, that will make them better in some way. That works for non-fiction. Fiction supposedly tries to sell an experience. Something I’ve learned however, an author’s percieved identity sells books.

When a name reaches a certain memetic strength, it becomes a talisman. I’ve noticed that this strength persists even sometimes when people haven’t even read their books. You’d be amazed at how many times people have come to me asking about Fas Ferox, leading in with “Wow, Neil Gaiman! I hear he’s really good…”

This fact is a little terrifying to me at times, as I do value my privacy and go through long periods where I would rather not be all that social outside the select sphere that I choose. However there are many ways that you can create that persona. Despite what I just said, writing good books might be a start.

There is another aspect of ‘success’ that you need to factor into your work. The first book, or first album, unless if you are one-in-a-billion lucky, is your foot in the door. Maybe years later it’ll become a run-away success but your goal with it, if you are playing the Independent game, is getting your name out there, and as a means of setting the bar for yourself so the next time around you can surpass it. Your first project, even the first couple projects, are proving grounds wherein, if you generate even moderate success, you can take that cred and find yourself an agent, make a deal with a distributor, or do whatever it takes to make it to that next step.

Expect to bleed yourself dry, and then wake up and do it again. Like any other business, on a financial level, you probably won’t break even for quite some time. That’s the name of the game, but when the alternative is living the rest of your life on someone else’s terms, it seems like a fair enough risk.

Hopefully this brief walkthrough of the past eleven years has been informative and interesting for you. I’m always open to questions and comments from my readers – though I’m very over-committed as it is I do my best to reply to all the letters I receive, eventually.


During one fateful year of study, while focusing on ethanol influenced Qabbalah research and early experiments in ritual music, James Curcio visited a recording studio in PA called the Dome. The moment he walked through the front doors and down the rabbit-hole into the underground compound, he began to formulate a plan for to mastermind personal and cultural rebirth through apocalypse (and the great parties resulting).

Inspired by event such as this, he used a combination of so-called magick and a unique form of voodoo mind control – learned from spider monkeys and feral lesbians – to develop a variety of media enclaves and projects.

These include:

James Curcio (http://www.jamescurcio.net) Babalon (http://www.babalonband.com) Join My Cult! (http://www.joinmycult.org) Bedtime Stories With The Antichrist (http://www.greylodge.org/gpc/?p=55) Generation Hex (http://www.generation-hex.com) Fas Ferox (http://www.fasferox.com)