Catch-up: Speaking on Fandom, Religion, Robert Anton Wilson

Been a while since I updated, and a fair bit happened in the interim… (and I’m not even mentioning the many splendid gigs I went to!). The last 5 weeks were especially busy.

The end of July had a personal first: I was invited to give a lecture at an academic conference, based on blind-read peer review selection of my paper. This was a big deal for someone with no college at all!

The conference was on Fandom and Religion at the University of Leicester. It was a fascinating three days. Science fiction and fantasy fandom was only a small part of the range – there were great talks on the religious aspects of everything from Polish football teams to music fans (two talks alone on Bono!).

My talk was called The Tulpa In The West (which you can read at that link to academia.edu) here’s the abstract;

The concept of the Tulpa first appears in Western thought within the writings of world traveller and mystic Alexandra David-Neel in 1929, in her book Magic And Mystery In Tibet. In David-Neel’s account, the Tulpa (which she translates as ‘thought-form’) is a human-form, physically manifest ‘spirit’ entity created by her Buddhist-trained visualization and meditation. After creating her tulpa, she lost control of both its form and intent, having to eventually banish it back to wherever it came from. This concept has infiltrated both popular culture and the occultism of the 20th and 21st century.

Authors such as Walter B. Gibson (the creator of The Shadow) and comics scribe Alvin Schwartz have used the tulpa concept to describe elements of fictive reality leaking into the ‘real’ world. The tulpa has appeared in a variety of other modern works, ranging from TV shows such as Supernatural to the near-future science fiction comic book Doktor Sleepless. It also formed a major element in the origin of the fictionally-derived but potent urban myth of The Slenderman, and has led to magical practices such as the chaos magic ‘egregore’ summonings and the internet-originated, fandom-adjacent act of ‘tulpamancy’. I discuss the rise of this Westernised conception of the tulpa, its considerable variance from the actual praxis of Tibetan Buddhist worship and its implications for both our post-structural, ‘hyperreal’ society and modern occult praxis.

My enormous thanks to the scholars who organised, spoke at and attended this conference, who were uniformly kind and friendly to an unschooled weirdo.

Last week was a double-header. Some of you might recall my involvement in the stage version of Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger (as co-worker at the Liverpool street ritual which channeled the synchronicity powers of both Carl Jung and John Constantine, and then my being the surprise celebrant for director Daisy Campbell’s impromptu wedding the day after the premiere last November)… and that I gave a talk earlier in the year at Senate House Library on the subject of Wilson.

On 27 August, I gave a very expanded version of this talk at my beloved Treadwells bookshop, which seemed to go down well. I’ll hopefully be posting a YouTube video of the talk over the weekend for those unable to attend. As Daisy, Kate Alderton (who played Arlen Wilson in the play) and my Daily Grail colleague/instigator/KLF biographer John Higgs were in the audience, it was quite the reunion… and one which continued into the next day.

On the 28th, John Higgs held the launch for his new book, ‘Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense Of The 20th Century‘, which I can’t recommend too highly. This book deserves to be as big a hit as A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME & read by far more of its purchasers.

It takes all the major developments through that century – from shifts in art and culture to the end of empires, the birth of science fiction and our networked world – and not only explains their development lucidly and ties the whole lot together, he makes it downright hilarious in places. (Especially how he explains postmodernism by comparing it to Super Mario Bros.)

It was great to see the enthusiasm for John’s work here, and meet up with even more of the Cosmic Trigger crew. Even more exciting: Daisy unveiled plans to bring the play to the US in 2017, the tenth anniversary of Bob’s Death. Santa Cruz, Ca, 23 July. Make a note!

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