Author and filmmaker Michael William West wrote, “Sex Magicians: The Lives and Spiritual Practices of Paschal Beverly Randolph, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, Marjorie Cameron, Anton LaVey, and Others”. Today we have some sex talk!
1. What made you decide to specifically write about individuals that are associated with sexual magic practices for your book, “Sex Magicians?”
There seems to have been a kind of passing of the flame from Randolph onwards, as far as pioneers of sex magic are concerned. Likely because practitioners are extremely few in number. So there was a natural draw to the most prominent individuals, even though certain others could have been included. I tended towards diverse people, from different backgrounds, with different political views, with different objectives.
2. Considering how sex can be a taboo subject, is it hard to learn about people who have practiced sex magic?
I don’t think sex is a taboo subject anymore. You’d have to live an extremely sheltered life to be able to continue in that fallacy. What is taboo, however, is spirituality. A lot of western people are uncomfortable with admitting they have metaphysical longings…throbbings, even. I think far more people are experimenting with sex than are with metaphysics and questions of the human spirit.
3. You live in Paris. Americans tend to view France as having a more progressive attitude towards sex. Do you find that to be the case?
That’s a very difficult question. The answer could be very longwinded, and still be unsatisfactory. They are extremely different cultures. I think Americans suffer from more psychosexual trauma than the French, on the whole. However, I think the French are surprisingly conventional when it comes to sexuality – there’s a well-established code, which seems quite liberated, but there’s not much deviance from it. Also, sadly, you are much more likely to be sexually assaulted in France than in the US, which points to some deep societal problems which might not be as apparent in the US. I think the United States is a more mystical place than France, which is a country obsessed with rationality and measure. You can measure the universe, but you cannot measure your desire to explore it – and I believe Americans are more willing to make those kinds of explorations, whether through practicing sex magic or otherwise. France does have its mystical traditions, however, and when you do encounter them, they are magnificent.
4. What can we learn from studying the lives and works of the people featured in your book?
Fundamentally, they are all adventurers. These are people who fixed their lives on a goal, whether rocketry, poetry, music or whatever, and then explored the fullest extent of the tools available to them, within themselves. This led them to revelatory experiences which improved the quality of their work and gave them one of the most satisfying types of life available – that of the adventurer, and of the informed risk taker. They were not afraid of life, that is what I think they all have in common, and there’s a lot to be said for approaching life without fear.
5. “Sex Magicians” explores the lives a diverse group of people, including Jack Parsons, Aleister Crowley, Maria de Naglowska, Genesis P-Orridge, and others. For being such a diverse group, do you find that they all have things in common?
Yes, they all strove to understand themselves, to position themselves in the universe, rather than just in their immediate surroundings. They found power in themselves to do exceptional things, they are all adventurers.
6. How were you first introduced to the idea of sex being a component of magic?
My first literal understanding of it was through reading the works of Aleister Crowley. But what he spoke of correlated to ideas and experiences I’d already had, but not yet understood.
7. When we say, “sex magic”, it’s not just heterosexual intercourse, is it?
No, that would be absurd, especially in a book featuring people like Genesis, Aleister Crowley and William Burroughs. If people are looking for arbitrary moral restrictions on their bodily functions, they are welcome to browse the Koran or the Bible. There’s no need for definitions of hetero- or homosexual in sex magic, there is just sexual; all it requires is that it be fully consensual and within the bounds of the law.
8. If someone is already a magical practitioner, how would suggest they incorporate sex into their practice? (If this is a topic you think you can speak about.)
There are magical practitioners who feel they do not need to incorporate any sexual component into their practice and that is perfectly reasonable. Sexual magic is sometimes considered as being more useful to westerners than purely meditative magic – as we might call it – as our society does not easily permit a life of free contemplation for extended periods of time. Not many societies do, but until recently enough, such things were possible in places like India. Sex magic can be a kind of short cut. If someone is already interested in incorporating sex into their practice, then I would guess they had already felt drawn in that direction, and so they should just follow their intuitive guidance system. Reading the works of Peter J. Carroll would be an excellent basis of ideas, but in truth it’s about allowing yourself to go down whichever path you are being drawn down. There really aren’t any rules when it comes to exploring the inner self, or how sex can be used to do so – apart from the obvious ones I mentioned earlier.
9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share with our readers?
My belief, which I state in the book, is that magical practice, like transcendental meditation, or anything else in the spiritual realm, is a means to an end, a way of improving what you do in life. My end is as a film maker, and I will be releasing a short film based on the experience of using a Dream Machine, as invented by Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville – and popularized by William Burroughs, Kurt Cobain and others – in the next few months. More information will be on my Instagram page @michaelwilliamwest or my website michaelwilliamwest.com
10. Parting shot! Ask us at The Magical Buffet any one question.
What’s the greatest adventure you’ve been on from the comfort of your own bed?
Dreaming. Seriously. I have vivid, intense dreams.
About Michael William West:
Michael William West is an author and filmmaker from Paris, France. He has been a student of the occult and practitioner of left-hand traditions for almost 20 years. He writes for A Void magazine and released the film, “9 Circles: Limbo”. He lives in Paris.
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