Below I present to you, an interview with author, musician and psych magic practitioner, Thad McKraken. Thad is a regular contributor to Disinfo.com and has written several books including his most recent Transmissions From Outside of Time.
Thad and I have been chatting through facebook for a few years now and I find his approach to magical practice (while very different from mine) fascinating and likely usefully for many aspiring magicians of our modern times.
Q: Recently on Disinfo.com you declared “chaos magic is dead, long live psych magic”. Can you provide a working description of what “psych magic” is?
A: I’ve said for a while that what I do has as much to do with shamanism as it does the Occult. Although shamanism can be defined a bunch of ways, in general it involves the ritualistic ingestion of psychedelic compounds. I think for the most part the Occult has lost sight of this, which is weird. I think a lot of magickians just don’t like the lessons that psychedelics try to teach them as they involve things like karma and most people who are into magick want to be amoral assholes.
If you read say Liber Null/Psychonaut by Peter Carroll, he continually points out that chaos magick was ultimately derived from shamanism in the first place. Then you find out that Carroll is essentially an atheist when pressed. Granted, I have a lot of respect for the guy, but what this has to do with shamanism I haven’t a clue? Shamans are talking about flying out of their bodies and turning into living sound and what not.
In general, when I read articles about chaos magick and how to supposedly practice it, a lot of it seems influenced by materialism more than anything else really. It’s sort of taking these shamanic concepts and then saying, well, we know that’s bullshit because conformity, so how can we explain this stuff in the most atheistic science-y way possible. My interest in everything spiritual started with having my mind blown by psilocybin mushrooms when I was 18.
I was experimenting with astral projection long before I ever got into magick as well as I got into that at the same age, because of my psychedelic experiences. If you have odd enough encounters with this stuff, the idea that there’s no over-arching spiritual component is sort of ridiculous. In fact, I’ve been shown the precise opposite i.e. that there’s an impossibly complex spiritual element to everything you’re doing with magick that I don’t even begin to comprehend.
In shamanism you’re developing a relationship with sacred plants and recognizing that there are spirits associated with those plants. With chaos you’re told to put an individual spin on your practice, so that’s where mine went i.e. back to shamanism. Which again, according to Carroll it originated from in the first place. In a way, a lot of the chaos magick stuff I’ve encountered sort of takes the sex and the drugs out of the equation too, which again, is odd to me seeing that the first book I ever read about the Occult was Sex & Drugs (originally titled Sex, Drugs, & The Occult) by Robert Anton Wilson.
I think this combination is going to get more interesting results and is simultaneously way more fun. I actually just learned recently that the Golden Dawn is anti-marijuana or something, which is again, so off to me. I’d have to research that more to really say definitively whether that’s wholly true or not. I just read an article the other day about chaos magick stating that you shouldn’t be combining it with drugs. I’ve heard a ton of Buddhists argue that sort of thing too and I don’t think they’re truly conceptualizing what they’re saying, which is ultimately that shamanism is bullshit. I tend to think that it’s not.
Q: Your particular approach to the occult arts seems to have a foundation upon on your technique of “ganj-i-tation”. Can you explain this process?
A: It’s pretty simple and I’d expand that to orgasmic ganj-i-tation. The basic premise is that you do visualization exercises while high and in an excited erotic state. Then after orgasm you meditate while trying to retain as much intel as you can before falling asleep. It works for me, hell, I have an entire book out about it (Transmissions From Outside of Time). In my case I started having fairly coherent spirit communications in this state. It’s what classic Occultists would refer to as knowledge and conversation with your Holy Guardian Angel. I can honestly do it anytime I want, and the problem with saying this is all just in my head, is that I’ve now demonstrated that whatever is in my head is somehow doing things like predicting the future in my life. You’d have to read the book.
It sort of shocks me that marijuana is being legalized in a lot of places including where I live in Seattle and absolutely no one I’ve found other than me is talking about its potential as a meditational aid. Again, this is something I caught onto long before I ever started playing around with what we call magick. I have vivid hallucinations if I close my eyes and turn inward when I’m high. Sometimes I get this thing where I’m rocketing through like a hyper-color mind portal. There’s a feeling of forward motion and it’s like I’m flying through an art wormhole world at rapid speeds. I hear music in my head that doesn’t exist as of yet and I’m actually able to control this music with the force of my will to a certain extent.
Now, the other thing about weed is that it intensifies the potency of the sexual experience. An ordinary orgasm suddenly becomes a time distorting projection into another world. It’s sort of unbelievable, but due to drug prohibition, there hasn’t actually been any serious studies on the combination of sex and marijuana as of yet. I think with neuro-science it’d be pretty easy to brain scan someone in this state and say, wow, yeah, something very strange is going on there. Just the imaging of the brain when women were orgasming that came out a few years back was freaky as hell.
So, this shit sounds crazy, but I think it’d be fairly easy to demonstrate that stoned orgasms are in fact generating fairly profound states of altered consciousness. I suppose it’s up to me to push legit research in this direction. In general this is where my practice moves from shamanism back into the Occult, as according to people like Gary Lachman and Robert Anton Wilson, the idea that hash based sex magick can aid astral projection has been floating around in those circles for centuries.
Q: In many of your writings, you describe higher-dimensional entities, psychic aliens and higher level beings. What is your most intense experience with these creatures?
A: It’s a continual thing with me and you can read my books to see just how much high strangeness I’ve run into in my life. I have some greatest hits though. One story I’m sure I’ll continue to tell for the rest of my life is when this entity, presenting itself as me showed up in my room and imparted this message:
“We are the beings from the Sirius star system that were communicating with Robert Anton Wilson. We are the grey aliens. We are death. WE EXIST OUTSIDE OF TIME. That’s why it’s difficult for us to communicate with you.”
It then projected a telepathic diagram of the concept of the Holy Trinity into my being that I still contemplate to this day. What it was showing me is that from its perspective, the perspective of the father (or mother) in the Holy Trinity, it sees all of human reality throughout history as a singular object, a developing star. It’s perceiving this from outside of the human timestream.
The son in that equation is the person writing these responses currently, and the holy spirit is the force tying all of this stuff together. I’ve further come to call it 3rd, 4th, and 5th dimensional timespace perception. It’s one of those things where I have zero rational explanation for why the human soul isn’t structured in this manner.
The idea of a Holy Trinity of sorts exists in nearly every spiritual tradition throughout history. I think what you’re ultimately doing with magick is tapping into these other dimensional aspects of yourself and making them work together towards a coherent narrative.
Q: You mentioned that you have quit drinking alcohol, what dynamics lead to this decision?
A: When I first got into magick I was somehow possessed with this idea that I could conquer alcohol. I have no clue where this came from but I was determined to drink constantly and transmute that energy into productive action, which worked. As a musician you spend a ton of time hanging out in bars. I taught myself to play wasted drunk so I could hang out in those bars before shows and at shows and not be bored out of my mind. It was fun. I’d come home from work and use beer to get my ass writing as well.
Beer in particular gives me a ton of energy, which I would then channel into creative endeavors. I got insanely good at hydrating constantly and pacing myself. I’d literally start drinking a noon every Saturday before band practice and just keep that going until 1am or whenever the fuck I went to bed. I was inspired to do this by people like Robert Pollard and Hunter S. Thompson I might point out.
What I didn’t realize was that this would blow up in my face quite spectacularly. I was eventually shown that my soul had to expend so much of my energy repairing the damage I’d done to myself from drinking that it had to divert energy from my mind, which lead to deep depressive states.
These depressive states lead to incredibly unpleasant daemonic encounters as well. It was sort of put to me that I had to clean up my drinking or my entire life and magickal practice would be a failure. Sounds a bit nuts, but alcohol does in fact radically distort your brain chemistry as I found out and alcoholics have all sorts of unpleasant demonic hallucinations.
So I went through the hard work of cutting out like 75% of my drinking, which was insanely difficult. I was severely depressed for at least a month and a half straight after I realized I had to take on this project. But I still drank casually for the next 3 years. Then I started realizing that I was getting severely hung over after even a drink or 2, so I had to quit entirely about a year ago.
Which sucks, because our entire social culture revolves around booze. It’s odd, but I’ve actually just recently realized that me smoking pot all day on my weekends had something to do with the headaches I was getting, so I’m going to have to stop doing that. Not stop smoking pot mind you, but smoking pot all day on my days off. I truly hope that I can get to the point where I can at least casually have a few drinks on occasions, but we’ll see.
All in all, let that be a lesson. Don’t go too far with this shit or you might have to quit entirely. Probably my biggest fuck up as a magickian thus far. “They” were telling me for years I needed to clean this up, but I just ignored them. I could go into how I’ve repeatedly been shown how daemonic or reptilian entities control humanity with narcotics and booze, but that’s what I’ve been shown. That message has come through the ether over and over again.
Q: In a recent post on Disinfo.com, you mentioned that you view magic ritual primarily as a way to get the spirits attention. Aside from your “ganj-i-tation” tech, do you do any other regular ritual work?
A: Most of my rituals happen internally, as I think magick is really about the evolution of language toward telepathy. Which is why watching say people doing Occult rituals on YouTube is sort of dumb. The whole point is what’s going on in the mind of the magickian, which is occluded. That being said, at the prompting of the spirits I started doing weekly rituals several months ago. Again, it mainly involves internal visualization exercises and strengthening the mind’s eye, which I think magick is about at its essence more than anything.
I do physical stuff too that aids this. I’ve also now done 2 full blown psychedelic rituals. I actually did my first one in 2012. It was designed to get my work out to a wider audience and help elevate the consciousness of the species. Hard to really determine whether that worked entirely or not, but I can say that a week after December 21, 2012, my writing got picked up by Disinfo.com and did in fact start reaching a much wider audience. None of that was planned consciously on my part at all, it just sort of happened.
Q: You have mentioned in the past that you feel that making your own music is a great way to induce an altered state. Could you talk about some of your experiences with music as a psych magic tool?
A: Yeah, and now we’re kicking it back into shamanism territory. The idea that sound can manipulate the consciousness of tripping people has existed as long as there’s been humans. Way before I got into the Occult or any of this stuff, I obsessively made the trippiest cut up music I could, primarily with samplers. Then I’d sort of listen to it ritualistically. The music was so odd that I never thought there’d really be a market for it and didn’t play it out because of that.
Nobody I knew liked it. I later started playing in more straightforward bands because I knew there was an audience for rock music and could get shows and what not. The supreme irony being that there’s now a way larger weird electronic scene in Seattle than there is a psych rock scene.
It took me a while to conceptualize what I was doing exactly. It’s basically a summoning ritual for the entities associated with chemicals like LSD and psilocybin. So I’d make these mind fuck tapes, then I’d take mushrooms and weird out to it. The idea was to make music that was psychoactive rather than merely psychedelic. I wanted the sound to conjoin with the music and take you to a higher state.
Sort of like if you were tripping and then sucked down a nitrous balloon, I thought the music could affect consciousness just like a drug. The thing is, I’m designing this stuff so it works on me, but I’ll never forget taking acid and going to a Mr. Bungle concert with my girlfriend at the time in the late 90’s. The acid was sort of weak and she said she could barely feel it. Then after the show I threw on some of my head fuck sampler shit and all of a sudden she was like, “holy shit, now I feel like I’m full on tripping”. I never told her this was precisely the point. So I think it would work on others and not just me.
I even did sort of an experiment years back where I took a minor dose of mushrooms so I could test whether it was the music or the chemicals that were causing the hallucinations. So I made this album called Sorcery and took a small dose. I wasn’t getting any real visions, then I threw in the disc and started hallucinating wildly. A swirling cosmic portal opened up on my floor and everything. Sure enough, when the album ended it then receded back into the floor and I was right back to mildly tripping with zero visuals. So it was a combination of the chemicals and the music and not just the drugs.
Fact is, none of this stuff has been studied yet people have been doing it forever. I just conceptualize it a bit different than the gajillion other weirdo outsider musicians in the world.
My magick in general is all about tweaking the set and the setting of the psychedelic experience to maximize potency. I’ve now been experimenting with how to use sound to transform stoned consciousness for over 20 years. Again, this is something that’s never been pursued scientifically.
If psychedelics were legal, I think it’d be fairly easy to demonstrate that things like delay effects and what I call hyper-maximalism can produce profound visionary experiences in the listener. I think trance minimalism is another way of achieving a similar effect. In general I think this happens by distorting the listener’s perception of time. If you distort that enough, it’s how “they” can get in.
Q: What is your favorite band?
A: I listen to so much music I can’t say that I have a singular favorite band. I’ve been doing a top 15 trippiest albums list for the last several years so if you google Psychoactive Soundscapes, I’m sure it’d come up. Some acts that have made what I consider untouchable stuff in my world would be Black Mountain, The Mars Volta, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Monster Magnet, The Future Sound of London, Midday Veil, El-P, Meat Beat Manifesto, Guided by Voices, Bardo Pond, Aesop Rock, Shabazz Palaces, and Voyager One.
Q: How do you apply your psych magic experiences to your day-today-life?
A: I’m going to write about that more soon actually. Most of the articles I’ve read about say sigil magick recommend visualizing sigils in an altered headspace and then forgetting them. I do the exact opposite. I don’t know, for some reason when I started playing around with this shit I found it addictive. I do weird visualization exercises constantly, most of which serve a particular purpose.
I’m always working at strengthening the muscles in my minds eye, and it differs from typical like, athletic visualization where you’re visualizing yourself nailing 3 pointers or something in the fact that you’re kind of creating an alien language that makes sense to your higher, or 5th dimensional self. Far out shit.
Q: Do you see a progression or narrative in your experiences with the entities you come across in your ganj-i-tation sessions? If, so, where do you think the process is leading?
A: Absolutely, I’ve become a completely different person in the 10 years I’ve now been practicing magick. As to where it’s leading? To godhood. That’s the idea anyway. At some point you can move beyond being a human and become an entire planet. Then a then a star. Then a galaxy. Then a multiverse. It’s just what I’ve seen in my lucid dreams. The constraints of our particular humanoid time stream are pretty limited from what I can tell. I have no idea how close to this goal it’s even possible to get in my lifetime.
Q: Who is your favorite living magician?
A: Grant Morrison. He’s literally the only other person I’ve ever read where I can go, yeah, that guy understands the weird shit I deal with on a daily basis. Seriously, I read as much esoteric shit as I can find and he’s the only one. Strangely, a lot of the time I relate more to what I hear from various supposed alien contactees than I do to what I hear from magickians. Whitley Strieber has stranger sex magick stories than anyone and he wasn’t actually consciously engaging in sex magick.
I’m a huge Alan Moore fan as well, but he just doesn’t get quite as out there as Grant. Alan Moore’s film The Mindscape of Alan Moore might be the best, most easy to understand primer on magickal philosophy I could ever recommend though. My wife knows nothing about magick and she insisted on watching it twice.
I will say that the feud between those two is retarded and sort of embarrassing to the Occult Sciences in general. They should really just make out one of these days publicly and end it. I will say, with as huge as comics have become with Hollywood, it’s sort of mind blowing that two of the biggest writers in the medium just so happen to be openly practicing magickians. No one can say that the overarching 5th dimensional narrative that governs our little talking monkey freak show isn’t interesting.