Friday, 19 June 2009

Fear and Loathing of the Birdie Song

Some light relief from the upcoming Avalonian Aeon with an episode from my university days in 1981.I was big on Hunter S Thompson at the time and this showed what effect input can have on your head. What has this got to do with Glastonbury, Crowley and mystical, magical subjects? Firstly I am not aspiring to white light sainthood. If I have come to know and understand anything it's not despite the fact I had a bit of a wild youth but because of it. The piece also provides a contrast to another chemically inspired moment a decade later, a vision of Isis, that serves as a measure of the nature of my journey. Never mind anything else, I really enjoyed writing it.


In early December, a remarkable opportunity arose that tested all I had learnt during that weirdest of years. A nearby hall of residence booked for their Christmas Ball an act guilty of appalling cultural atrocities: the Tweets. Earlier in the year they had scored a hit in the pop charts with their uniquely hideous Birdie Song. This involved a performance, dressed in bird costumes, with a characteristic dance, whereby, in the midst of repeating grotesque pantomimic synthesised birdcalls and handclapping, they flapped their wings and turned around in a circle, encouraging others to imitate them. The whole thing suggested a bad acid nightmare to me. I happened to know someone who was involved in the general arrangements for their arrival. They had stipulated that they required a large bottle of vodka between them. At this point I realised that a bad acid nightmare was indeed within my power to produce. I still had in my possession a large amount of acid in blotter form. An irresistible idea occurred to me: I could put a monster dose of it in the vodka, leave it to soak for a few days, remove it and then hand the bottle to the Tweets. I discussed this indubitably evil plan with a few friends and we wondered about the possibilities of making it happen.

In the week leading up to their performance, I indulged in delicious drug-fuelled imaginings of the potential for utter carnage that might be unleashed. I could vividly picture the scene. The end of term Christmas Hall Ball. Large numbers of happy young students, eager to enjoy themselves after their academic exertions and relax with their friends, prior to returning home to their parents for Christmas. Party time. Tinsel and balloons festoon the hall. Many are already a bit merry. Music plays as a group of girlies have a little jig around their handbags. The star turn of the evening is happily awaited. An innocent anticipation of fun and frolics pervades the place. In their dressing room the Tweets, a bunch of good decent blokes, swig from the communal vodka, looking forward to the gig ahead. They don their bird costumes.

Time passes and now they’re in full swing. Up on stage they go through their Birdie dance and, with great mirth, the crowd join in. There are mighty guffaws and hearty belly laughs. The now very merry Dolly Dingbats, tinsel in their hair, are executing a veritable shamanic stomp around their handbags. Up on stage it’s business as usual for the Tweets. They’ve been through the whole routine countless times before. Hang on a minute though. As the heinous chemicals begin to take effect, inside their heads something different is starting to happen. The music they’re playing seems to be echoing strangely. It sounds warped and not at quite the right speed. One of them feels his fingers elongate and become uncomfortably rubbery. He loses the sense of the music he’s trying to play. Another sees the end of his guitar wobble, bend, and start melting like one of Salvador Dali’s clocks.

This bird costume feels really weird. I can’t tell where my skin ends and it begins. I never noticed the others looking like that before either. The way all the flashing lights are moving across their costumes, floating, seething, green and purple. Their eyes. Are there really people in there? No. This is fucked up. Something’s badly wrong here.

To the poor lads of the Tweets, the raucous audience begin to take on the vibe of a Hieronymous Bosch painting. Leering, sweaty, warty, purulent faces seem to bark menacingly. Their gyrations suggest preparations for human sacrifice. It’s all some kind of Hammer horror voodoo ceremony and the Tweets, in their cult costumes, are the leaders. All these people are here because of them. They have all been brought together for some nightmarish purpose. It has to end. Must escape.

Fast forward. Later that night. Just outside the dining hall where the gig took place. Blue lights flashing. The sound of a helicopter overhead. There’s broken windows in the hall. It’s empty and dimly lit in there now. Chaos is strewn across the floor. Broken bottles, shards of glass, smashed chairs, an overturned table. Look closer. Beer. Blood. And a sad, pathetic sight. A discarded handbag decorated with tinsel. Outside again, a priest, eyes downcast, slowly shakes his head as a traumatised group of youngsters, some weeping, others with dishevelled or ripped clothes, some bandaged and bleeding, are led away by police and nurses. The scene pans out. Ambulances. Police cars and wagons. Television crews. Photographers. People talking earnestly into microphones against the backdrop of lamentation. Focus back in on a figure, dressed in a bird costume, strapped to a stretcher, his glazed eyes insanely dilated, screaming gibberish, thrashing around, being loaded into the back of an ambulance. More tumult now over by one of the adjacent residential blocks. A group of police in full riot gear, helmets, body-armour and shields, have cornered a figure against a wall, where a searchlight from the hovering helicopter has projected the shadow of its bird costume. A few policemen cautiously advance, brandishing electric cattle prods, towards their cornered prey. Howling like a wild beast he prepares to take on all-comers, a Mansonesque Foghorn Leghorn.

One week later. An official visitor at a psychiatric hospital is shown the terrible legacy. He is led down a corridor of reinforced doors where screams fill the air. A door window shutter is drawn aside to reveal a figure, dressed in a ridiculous bird costume, slumped on the floor. He is mute in the catatonic despair of a hellishly intense introspection nightmare. It is explained that he refuses to take off his bird costume and responds with astonishing violence to any attempt to remove it. It is considered that, for now, it would be dangerous to administer any more medication and it is best to leave him as he is. Indeed a similar state of affairs pertains with one of his comrades but with one major difference. Further on down the corridor another opened shutter reveals a Tweet slamming himself, full speed into the walls, repeatedly. Noting his observers, he launches himself, screaming, at the door. Smashing his bird-masked head against the window he falls back, unconscious on the floor.

The nation’s newspapers left no stone unturned in their crusade to uncover the truth behind the outrage. It didn’t take long to reveal the culprit. Headlines screamed the appalling details.



The day of destiny rapidly approached and reality considerations came to the fore. Of course I never went ahead with my maniacal plan. Regardless of the inevitability of my being easily caught and imprisoned and the whole of my future life being ruined as I acquired a reputation for monstrous evil that I would never be able to lose, the real issues at stake involved the total violation of every ethical code on the planet. There was no way I could believe that it was the True Will of the Tweets to undertake such an experience. To force it on them contravened all Thelemic principles. It was also clearly not in the spirit of Timothy Leary’s second great Neurological Commandment: “Thou shalt not alter the consciousness of thy neighbour without his or her consent.”

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Glastonbury Festival 1971 and 79 (from Avalonian Aeon)

Here is the next part of the 1979 festival pilgrimage that begins Avalonian Aeon and moves the action from Stonehenge to what becomes its centre of gravity at Glastonbury, beginning to explore its enormous mythos. The summary of View Over Atlantis has been blogged up before back in April as Part One of my tribute to John Michell who had just died. Here it is re-presented in its full context. There are piccies and videos again. Shame I couldn't find one for Tim Blake's New Jerusalem. There's a lot more text than part one yesterday and less personal reminiscences but they are there and form a crucial part of the huge impression that Glastonbury made on me. The state I was in enabled me to be sensitive to the personality of the place. Some of my Facebook friends will again recognise themselves and some of the events depicted. Only one name has been changed for the sake of what a wider audience might come to know on eventual publication.

“It was ragged and na├»ve, it was heaven”.
David Bowie. Memory of a Free Festival.

The Pilton festival has gradually attained the status of some kind of cultural institution. It makes the front pages of most national newspapers and gets covered by TV and radio. The scale of the event has become immense. Many local causes benefit from the profits and organiser Michael Eavis has become something of a hero. Much opposition and hostility had to be overcome over the years before this level of success. In fact the story of the festival is inextricably intertwined with that of the place it is always associated with, Glastonbury.

It had all begun in summer 1970 when Methodist dairy farmer Eavis attended the Bath festival and liked the music and colourful hippie types in evidence. He contemplated the idea of a similar sort of gathering at his own Worthy Farm, which his family had worked since 1894. Later that year, in September, a small-scale event took place. A mere 1,500 people saw Marc Bolan’s T Rex headline. It was enough of a success to be noticed but Eavis lost money nonetheless.

At this point, visionary initiative was added to the dynamic. Andrew Kerr had been personal assistant to Randolph Churchill, Sir Winston’s son. When Randolph had died, Kerr sought a fresh outlet for his energies. He read John Michell’s The View Over Atlantis and was inspired by the idea of reviving the celebration of the summer solstice. He had the funds to set his dream in motion. Initially he had considered Stonehenge to be the ideal venue. The mysterious weavers of destiny were keeping back something special for the stones though, something that required a particular cast of characters. Glastonbury was to press the “on” button. After the success of the small Pilton gathering, Kerr realised the possibilities of the site and approached Michael Eavis who readily agreed to his plans. A charming tale tells how Kerr was atop Glastonbury Tor when he saw a rainbow that seemed to descend onto the Worthy Farm area. This confirmed for him that it was the necessary location.

John Michell’s book, published in 1969, had become an instant Earth Mysteries cult classic, presenting a comprehensive survey of a widely varied field. Its ideas permeated the whole of hippiedom. Various notions that had previously been held only by obscure eccentrics now reached thousands of impressionable minds.

The modern idea of “Earth Mysteries” can be said to begin with the work of one man. Alfred Watkins was a Herefordshire merchant who travelled the country as part of his work. He developed antiquarian interests and was always fascinated to hear local landscape legends told by members of families who had lived in the same, virtually unchanging locations, for countless generations. This helped prepare his sensibilities for a moment of revelation. In 1921, at Blackwardine, Herefordshire, he was admiring the view when a strange intuition came over him. It was a way of perceiving the landscape differently and it seemed to represent a glimpse of an archaic forgotten worldview. He sensed a web of lines linking holy places and ancient sites: mounds, old stones, crosses, ancient crossroads, churches on pre-Christian sites, legendary trees and holy wells. They all seemed to stand in straight alignments that ran over beacon hills to cairns and mountain tops. When he came to investigate his vision on maps it appeared to be confirmed. Such features fell on straight lines with a frequency he felt to be above chance. Particular names seemed to regularly appear along such alignments: Red, White, Black, Cold, Cole, Dod, Merry and Ley. The last gave the phenomenon a name that’s stuck and since travelled the world. Ley lines.

Watkins’ discoveries were published in the 1925 work, The Old Straight Track. It attracted a small group of enthusiasts who formed a Straight Track Postal Portfolio Club and went on picnic-type outings to further his studies. It was all seen as a kind of charmingly eccentric manifestation of the inter-war years. The archaeological establishment barely deemed it necessary to refute the book. Watkins was not alone in looking at prehistoric sites in an unconventional way. At that time the idea of astronomical alignments at places like Stonehenge was already being discussed. It was Watkins who managed to stimulate a wider interest though, and he will always be remembered as the pioneer.

This whole way of looking at the landscape proved to be a potent beginning to a recovery of an ancient way of relating to the land. Other cultures were looked at with fresh eyes. John Michell provided a supremely eloquent, poetic vision of what these studies seemed to suggest.

Australian aboriginal spirituality provided fertile ground for comparison and stimulation. Their mythology told of a primordial period of creation known as the dreamtime, when the landscape was brought into its current form by the activities of divine beings whose deeds formed the eternal exemplary models for human behaviour. Paths across the land called songlines connected sacred sites. At certain times in the calendar it was necessary to walk these lines to revitalise them and ensure their proper alignment to the forces of creation by singing the very songs by which the world had been brought into being.

Ancient China yielded fine fruit in the form of the art of Feng Shui. The Chinese had a complex culture concerning the land as a living entity that needed to be related to in a state of harmony. To this end, buildings were sited in accordance with precise laws. The energy of the lifeforce, symbolised as a dragon, moved in channels through the land and ebbed and flowed depending on the nature of the terrain, whether mountain and valley and so on. Subtle procedures could aid and enhance its beneficial effects in an individual home and in the larger design of towns and cities. A wrongly placed building could bring misfortune and ill health to occupants. The art is still in use in the present day and can therefore be investigated in great detail.

All over the world, traditional societies had a way of interacting with their locale that had many points in common. In the light of these cross-cultural studies, it seemed valid to look at our own legendary traditions and prehistory in a similar way to look for indications of the same kind of patterns here. An exciting picture was revealed. The megalithic stone circle at Avebury had been considered by the eighteenth century antiquarian William Stukely to be a serpent temple of the Druids. We now know it considerably predates them but the serpent idea seems to gel with the Chinese concepts. The serpent perhaps symbolised the life energy in the ground. Alfred Watkins had originally felt that the leys were practical means of navigation. In later life he began to acknowledge the possibility that they had more esoteric purposes. John Michell affirmed that they marked paths of earth energy. It seemed the megalithic builders had a way of understanding this force and perhaps the ley system served a similar function to the Chinese Feng Shui arts. Dowsers are a modern example of people who appear to be sensitive to invisible forces beneath the ground, whether it be water, magnetic currents, or something more unclassifiable. Such sensitives have always existed and it seems likely the megalithic people could have made use of them.

William Stukeleys depiction of Avebury as a serpent temple.

British folklore concerning dragons yielded remarkable results. The English patron saint, George, is of course the most famous of dragon killers, closely followed by the Archangel St Michael. It is interesting to see how many churches dedicated to Michael are situated on hilltops. Glastonbury Tor is the obvious example. One of John Michell’s most important and enduring visionary insights was to notice an apparent alignment of Michael churches across the south of England. This has become probably the world’s most famous ley line.

It stretches from St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall,through his churches at Brentor,Burrow Mump in Somerset and the Tor, and goes on through Avebury stone circle and into Norfolk and the abbey at Bury St Edmunds.

St Michael's Mount


Burrow Mump. Photo Stu Quigley.

It travels across the longest continuous stretch of land in southern England. Many more churches dedicated to St Michael fall upon it. The suggestion is that the dragon force in the landscape was recognised by early Christians and certain esoterically-inclined church builders of the early Middle Ages. It became equated in the popular mind with the Devil. Michael was considered to be the ideal figure to keep these forces in check, due to his role in the Book of Revelation “War in Heaven”. The real nature of Michael’s relationship to the dragon force and what he himself may truly represent is an ongoing study. The original formulation of the line has set countless pilgrims off along it. It is now officially marked on a National Trust direction-finding plinth on the summit of Glastonbury Tor as the “dragon path”.

The second part of Michell’s book claims to reveal a cosmology of sacred geometry and mathematical mysticism that the creators of these ancient edifices, from Stonehenge to Glastonbury Abbey, and even Egypt’s Great Pyramid, had in common. The suggestion is that they all may have been heirs to knowledge that was a relic of some unknown previous culture, generally thought of as “Atlantis”. This canon of thought has formed a major part of the wisdom tradition of humanity, supposedly being passed down through the ages by the likes of Pythagoras and Plato, the Masons, the builders of the Gothic cathedrals and so on. Music has been an integral part of it, as its laws are believed to show how the harmony of creation functions. Even if one is not mathematically minded it can be an intoxicating experience to try and follow Michell’s elucidation of these ideas.

The most evocative of all the Glastonbury material in the book is the suggestion that the geometrical plan that its abbey was constructed upon was deliberately intended to duplicate the pattern of the city of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation. A similar geometry may, perhaps, be found in the layout of Stonehenge. The plan predates Christianity and represents an ideal of harmony that brings together the laws of heaven and earth through the geometrical forms of divine creation. Glastonbury Abbey was considered to be the successor to Stonehenge in a new epoch. That this is so is not only suggested by the geometrical gridplan but also by the existence of an apparent ley alignment that travels right up the centre of the abbey and the aptly-named Dod Lane just outside it, to Stonehenge. The complex unfolding of the geometry and the Stonehenge, Glastonbury, Egypt connection was further elaborated in Michell’s next book, City Of Revelation (later revised as The Dimensions of Paradise).

The contents of The View Over Atlantis hung in the air, like an esoteric energy transmission, around the inception of the 1971 Pilton festival. Powerful forces were at work. The story of the famous pyramid stage is a good example of that. In 1970 Bill Harkin was camping with a friend on the south coast of England. One night, gazing at the stars over the sea, he experienced an intense feeling of light. He decided to allow himself to be guided by it and they set off in his car, navigating solely through the vibe, with no sense whatever of any destination. Eventually they saw a road-sign for Glastonbury and arrived at the Tor. The synchronisation beam got them there in time to meet a group of extravagantly dressed hippie characters descending from the summit. One of them was Andrew Kerr. He and his friends were on their way to meet Michael Eavis to discuss the possibilities of a solstice festival the following year. Harkin fed them with tea, honey and oatcakes. They exchanged phone numbers. The next Wednesday, Harkin was out driving when he saw a vision of Andrew Kerr’s face on an upcoming phone-box. He immediately stopped and rang him. The news was that the festival had been given the go-ahead and that Kerr and his associates were moving in to Worthy Farm to begin the preparations. Harkin offered to help them that weekend. On the Thursday night he dreamt of a stage with two beams of light forming a pyramid. He was impressed enough to take the morning off work and make a small cardboard model of his vision. Within a few days he arrived on the Festival site. Kerr showed him a location he had dowsed as being auspicious for the stage to be constructed upon. Harkin recognised his dream landscape. Before long, his model was on a table at the farm and a phone call was being made to John Michell for advice on the sacred dimensions for the pyramid stage.

When the whole thing finally came to fruition months later, Kerr introduced the bands with this inspiring invocation: “Glastonbury is a place far too beautiful for yet another rock festival. If the festival has a specific intention it is to create an increase of awareness in the power of the Universe, a heightening of consciousness and a recognition of our place in the function of this, our tired and molested planet. We have spent too long telling the Universe to shut up; we must search for the humility to listen. The Earth is groaning for contact with our ears and eyes. Universal awareness touches gently at our shoulders. We are creators being created and we must prove our worth.”

What followed became a mythic event. After the massive downers of Altamont in 1969 and Britain’s gigantic 1970 Isle of Wight festival, Pilton showed there was still plenty of life in the hippie dream and its ideals had not been permanently sullied. Fortunately for posterity, the festival was filmed by David Puttnam and Nicholas Roeg and later released as Glastonbury Fayre. The event worked on many levels. Most obviously, it was a rock festival and a truly impressive line-up was assembled. Traffic, Arthur Brown, Daevid Allen’s Gong, Fairport Convention, David Bowie, Hawkwind and Quintessence, provided a time capsule of the musical vibe of the era.

Daevid Allen

Robert Graves

Many of the musicians were serious in their esoteric interests. The story of Daevid Allen, for example, represents a good case study. He was a personal friend of Robert Graves, the poet and novelist. Graves is generally remembered for I, Claudius. His magnum opus The White Goddess dealt with what he believed to be the primordial religion of humanity; veneration of the divine feminine principle. To Graves the true test of a poet’s inspiration will be their connection to the presence of this force throughout nature and the seasonal mythos it produces. It was a work written in a strange fever of inspiration. Beginning with a study of an obscure piece of Dark Age Welsh literature, it expanded to take in the whole of the classical world. When it initially appeared in 1948, it had set people’s heads on fire and played a part in preparing literate audiences for the revival of witchcraft and general paganism. He also supplied a very interesting introduction to Idries Shah’s seminal work The Sufis, published in 1964. This book suggested that most of the esoteric ideas circulating in Europe during the Middle Ages had been inspired by, and sometimes directly monitored by, mystical schools operating from within Islam. It was a contentious but fertile hypothesis. Perhaps the most fascinating example concerned the wandering troubadour minstrels who had played a large role in the dissemination of Arthurian literature. A case could be made for their connection to Saracen groups in Spain. It seemed the Celtic mythos was deemed suitable to be the carrier of other ideas. The troubadours sang the praises of “the Lady” and extolled the virtues of a cult of “Courtly Love”. They fitted Graves’ criteria of true poets. This remarkable movement had helped to mellow out the brutal aristocratic warriors of the time with a sense of the chivalric ideal.

Graves was a long-term resident of Deya on Majorca. The village was located at the foot of a small mountain capped by a church, on a site supposedly once sacred to the moon goddess Diana. In the spring of 1966, Daevid Allen was also living there and feeling himself being pulled towards some imminent initiatory event. All of the omens seemed to point towards Easter Sunday, which was also a full moon. An American visitor brought with him some of the legendary Owlsley acid. On Good Friday, Daevid chanced upon Robert Graves who took him for an exhilarating ascent of a steep hillside path. Graves gave forth a freeform discourse on themes from The White Goddess. It seemed to Allen that he experienced some kind of “bio-energetic power transfer by osmosis”. He felt that he was being empowered to “take a burden of fame and responsibility”, to become a modern troubadour. On the full-moon Sunday he ingested the psychedelic sacrament.

Allen experienced his partner Gilli Smyth as the Goddess in her many aspects. The climax of their acid sex session annihilated his normal sense of identity, leaving him as “zero in infinity”. Somewhere in all this he began to sense the presence of beings, entities of some kind, “spiritual gardeners, like experimenting doctors from another dimension,” who were moving some part of him into another realm and mode of functioning. He was aware that others were being similarly manoeuvred, “all being prepared for a common purpose in the hope that at least one of us will succeed in manifesting this mysterious purpose in the difficult field of dense physical reality.” The feeling took form in a vision of being on a stage. A large rock festival audience were giving him rapturous applause. There was a vibe of love and soul connection. “Looking up I see with psychic vision an enormous luminous cone of etheric light which is simultaneously drawing astral shadows up from deep below us and dissolving them in the downpouring radiance focused at its peak. As I look out into the audience I see that same light sparkling sweetly in their eyes.”

It was this experience that moved Daevid Allen to enter the field of rock music. He was a founder member of Soft Machine (named after the William Burroughs novel), noticeable on the London scene during the golden daze of the UFO club, in 1967, amidst the early careers of Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix. It was the later Gong project that finally made him feel that he was moving towards the fulfilment of his vision. Allen consciously considered Gong to be a magical endeavour, “a Self Initiation to the Path of the Heart through the medium of Rock Music”. Their first British appearance was at Pilton. The sound of Gilli Smyth’s “space whisper” vocals actually begin Glastonbury Fayre, to the visual accompaniment of atmospheric shots of the pyramid stage.

Gong became a great musical family who nurtured many fine talents. Steve Hillage emerged from their ranks. Their classic line-up recorded a trilogy of albums notable for a mixture of superb and innovative musicianship, whimsical humour and transcendental magic and mysticism. A full-blown Gnostic invocation features on the track Master Builder from the You. album (see video below) A world traveller, Daevid Allen made his British base in the Glastonbury environs and published the autobiographical gong dreaming 1 from there in 1994.

Q: Master Builder, tell me how you make a temple?
A: Tools and moon stones, you don't really need them, you know...
Q: Master Builder, tell me what the temple's made of?
A: Deep inside you, you can build an invisible temple in your own imagination if you will

lyrics Daevid allen.

One of the most striking performances in Glastonbury Fayre was given by Arthur Brown. This was the man who had appeared on Top of the Pops in 1968, wearing a flaming head-dress, proclaiming in an unsettlingly powerful voice, “I am the God of Hellfire.” Arthur was a kind of daemonic vaudeville trickster artiste. He dug into the shamanic roots of showbiz and rock to invoke an archaic gnosis disruptive of the grey comforts of consensus reality. He didn’t disappoint at Pilton. In front of the stage were three burning crosses. At each side of them stood a robed figure holding a flaming torch. To some of the clearly tripped-out audience the blazing triangle of light of the pyramid stage must have seemed like a doorway into another dimension. On the threshold of that realm, the hierophant Arthur invoked the appropriate energies through into manifestation. With his face painted black and white, dancing like a jerky marionette possessed by some voodoo deity, he intoned:

“Let, from the Father and the Mother,
Come forth the son.
Out of Chaos,bring forth the forms".

That was one aspect of the dynamic energies that were inspiring the alternative realities of the hippie dream. Directly after Arthur Brown’s appearance in the movie, a major complementary force in that process can also be seen. Once again a sea of people dance before the stage, but this time they are themselves singing. In joyful ecstasy they are chanting Hare Krishna. They part to let a car slowly drive through, showering it with flowers. It contained the thirteen-year-old Guru Maharaj Ji, (pictured above)leader of the Divine Light Mission. In the aftermath of The Beatles interest in Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation and George Harrison’s promotion of the Hare Krishna movement, many began to look eastwards for inspiration. Like a number of the influences that erupted into mass consciousness at that time, Hinduism and Buddhism had been powerfully present with a small, cultured and creative minority for most of the century, but this level of exposure was something else altogether.

Guru Maharaj Ji was, in 1971 in Britain, the most well-known and successful Indian export. His father Sri Hans Ji Maharaj was a spiritual master with thousands of followers. He had founded the Divine Light Mission, teaching a form of initiation called The Knowledge. This was supposedly an esoteric wisdom that had been in existence since ancient times and been transmitted from generation to generation. At any one time only one “Perfect Master” was alive who was able to pass it on. When his father died in 1966, the eight-year-old Guru Maharaj Ji inherited the mantle. It may well seem a bit odd that a child could be expected to effectively represent such wisdom but The Knowledge was not just a series of meditation exercises but an energy transmission. The young man had received something beyond information and ideas from his father. Entering into connection with him rendered others susceptible to the mysterious process.

The combination of his youth and the high level of wealth that seemed to surround him made the teenage guru a media magnet. His highly publicised first visit to Britain in 1971 coincided with the Pilton festival. At the peak of his success, a small, slightly plump, Indian-featured figure, dressed in white, sitting on a specially prepared chair, he addressed the audience from the pyramid stage. “Every materialistic thing is perishable. You should know such a thing as is un-perishable, the Holy Knowledge of God and that is within you.”

Somewhat at odds with the festival vibe, the guru taught a path of definite discipline. No drugs and an engagement in social responsibilities. In the early seventies the Divine Light Mission rapidly expanded in Britain and America. Some sort of denouement came in 1973 when the movement hired the huge Houston Astrodome for an event that was hyped up as being “the most holy and significant event in human history”. Maharaj Ji was to announce his plans for world peace, which was assuredly very near. Devotees were primed with some outlandish possibilities for the coming event. The Astrodome itself, or at least its roof, would fly into the air. All within would go with it, protected in a safe bubble as flower petals fell, singing angels appeared, and flying saucers formed a guard of honour. The rest of the world stood a fair chance of being trashed whilst this was going down. For those too young to remember, it didn’t exactly work out that way. In fact the event could easily be seen as a total kitsch gross-out. The young guru appeared seated on a throne, dressed in robes and an enormous crown, creating an effect that made the seventies sartorial excesses of Abba and Boney M seem tasteful and restrained in comparison. Accompanying this spectacle was a musical soundtrack full of lyrics like “the Lord of the Universe has come to us this day”. Not surprisingly his reputation declined somewhat after such an apparent fiasco. Some felt that a new epoch really was inaugurated at Houston in 1973, but on an inner level. Maharaj Ji has some devotees in Glastonbury in the present day. Now known as Prem Rahat, he still visits Britain, initiating people into The Knowledge. Some of those who were around in the early days will affirm that, regardless of any of the oddities of the time, he really was carrying some voltage, and connecting to it did change lives for the better. Such is the enigma of the guru.

Arthur Brown’s performance was suggestive of the way of self-mastery, of magic, the way of the western magus. A lonely path.

“Nobody’s here to show you how.
Nobody’s here to help you now.
You have to face yourself alone.”

“In my image, by my Will
do I hereby create
all forms and distinctions.”

By its side is the apparent opposite, a way of austerity, surrender, devotion, and mysticism. The guru.

“I can help mankind and everybody of you by giving that Knowledge.”

Out of that blazing triangle of light they beamed out together. How separate can they really be said to be? Just over twenty-five years later, Arthur Brown could be seen performing a devotional song in front of Adi Da Samraj (the former Da Free John) at his Mountain of Attention Sanctuary in California. He is also interviewed on video, freely confessing how overwhelmed he was by the awesome love Adi Da forcefully radiated. Had Arthur become a burnt-out old hippie who had lost it? Had that fiery head-dress melted a bit of his brain? It’s just not that simple. There’s a mystery here.

Perhaps the real stars of the movie were the audience. At the slightest excuse a huge drumming session would develop, ecstatic dancing break out, and clothes be discarded. An attempt at a Christian Service went that way. Many normals were somewhat perturbed by the spectacle of naked people crawling around in mud, licking the ground. Spliffs were mightily in evidence. Tripped-out weirdos stared into space and beyond for the cameras.

Watch this video for Andrew Kerr, Bill Harkin, Maharaj Ji, and the festival goers.

By all accounts it was a splendid time for all. All except the local residents, who had felt like they were on the receiving end of some sort of alien invasion. A number of the festival-goers and others who had connected to it inevitably became interested in Glastonbury itself. The place loomed large in The View Over Atlantis and John Michell’s earlier classic of psychedelic ufology, The Flying Saucer Vision. Strange hippies had been visiting the town in small numbers since the mid-sixties. Now they became increasingly visible, getting banned from local pubs and not exactly welcomed with open arms.

By the mid-seventies a few idealistic types had settled there. The opening of the now-famous Gothic Image shop began the transformation of the High Street into the New Age Mecca it has now become. They were strange and testing times for the town. Flourishing industries had gone into terminal decline. Many locals became unemployed. Complex economic factors were to blame. The arrival of a load of weirdos and the changes in the High Street were all but simultaneous and came to be inextricably linked in many minds. A mythos developed whereby the decline of Glastonbury’s industries and the closing of many old shops had actually been caused by the hippies. Unfortunately the most extreme forms of this belief attribute to the recent arrivals qualities not unlike those that the Nazis saw in the Jews. The bottom of the High Street has been referred to as the “hippie ghetto”. Get rid of these people and everything will be okay. These issues remain unresolved in the present day and constitute one of the town’s greatest challenges. The 1971 event had set all this in motion, so it wasn’t surprising that there was little local enthusiasm for a repeat. It would be eight years before another opportunity arose for a major gathering.

In 1979, after the dreamtime solstice journey, I awoke to the first full day in my new surroundings. Pilton festival proved to be another shock to the system but a subtly different one from Stonehenge. The site was far larger. There were more people. And it was legal. We were allowed to be there and that made a big difference to the general atmosphere. Music was ostensibly the centre of gravity. There were stalls. Food, books, and counterculture paraphernalia were for sale. Various organisations representing causes political and spiritual had tents amidst what was a kind of hippie village.

An interesting selection of music played from the sound system of the stage (which unfortunately wasn’t a pyramid this time) between acts.Different eras were brought together, at least in my head, by hearing Tubeway Army’s then current hit, Are Friends Electric?

and It’s a Beautiful Day’s White Bird

I soon met up with some friends who had also made the journey from Stonehenge and we settled into some predictable activities. After days of head-mashing it didn’t take much to wipe us out. On that first afternoon, we sat in the field of the main stage and started smoking. In no time at all myself, Mike, Mark and Dean were lying, flat on our backs, staring at the sky, incapable of moving. We were, in some indeterminate sense, conscious. There was conversation, like a half-remembered dream. Bands came on stage and played their sets. It began to get dark. Stars appeared in the sky above us and still we remained immobile. The night’s entertainment ended. People shapes drifted by us, back to their tents. Finally we stirred.

Something else was also happening. At one of the stalls I bought an A4 size booklet called The Glastonbury Giants by Mary Caine, on the alleged terrestrial zodiac. It was she who had presented the idea on Nationwide in 1976. As I sat around in my open altered state, I glanced at it, throughout the festival. She believed that the great earthwork edifice had been constructed by Sumero-Babylonians. I wasn’t aware of any confirmatory archaeology. The way the book was written made it difficult for me to assess. Only a year before, I’d completed “A” level History and Caine’s work was not presented in a way that my teachers would have appreciated. I felt it was important somehow though. I knew I had to persist with it. There were things that would reveal themselves to me. I would understand the cryptic, allusive, poetic text one day.

Another group of friends arrived from Essex with fresh energy, ready for mayhem. Gary set about intoxicating himself in a manner remarkable for its single-minded intensity. He began by consuming an unhealthy amount of Abbot Ale. I avoided this respected brew following a sad episode, at the age of seventeen, when I had attempted to climb out of the emergency exit of a bus that was, unfortunately, in motion. No such qualms inhibited Gary. Having attained to a rarefied state of raving delirium, he now invited the rest of us to partake of his speciality party piece, a Rasta cone This was a monster spliff involving an intricate arrangement of Rizla papers, an entire packet of twenty cigarettes, and a quarter of an ounce of dope. Even in his generally incoherent state he was able to construct this engineering marvel. As the time came to light it, the whole scenario seemed to take on a mythic quality. Some kind of salute and dedication was required. We were positioned such that a fine view of the distant mystic Tor commanded our attention. Some deep instinct inspired Gary to rise, unsteadily, to his feet and raise the monstrous artefact, like Excalibur, towards the sky. Facing the Tor he gave forth a strangulated sound that was both the proud affirmation of a warrior and the last gasp of a man who was about to write-off the rest of the day. The cone was lit, and after taking some mighty tokes, he passed it on whilst spiralling into a slumped heap in the remains of one of the previous night’s bonfires. As he dribbled and gurgled most of the group of chums were focused on his antics. I remained transfixed by the Tor. Something was being communicated to me. Of this I was certain.

To celebrate the Saturday peak of the festival, I dropped yet more acid. It was a very different experience to Stonehenge, subtle but ultimately deeper. The mystic input was making itself felt. With eyes closed, I entered into an Arthurian Glastonbury reverie. Something of the ambience of Mary Caine’s booklet was permeating my mind. I seemed to imagine a Merlin-type figure viewing the whole landscape from above and also, somehow, taking the whole festival into his comprehension. This was not a vivid visual episode but an apprehension on some other level. In the external realm of forms we were taking turns in being responsible for Gary, who had sacrificed basic motor skills and mouth-brain co-ordination to bring us the sacrament of the cone. This became quite surreal to me.

The climax of the stage entertainment was provided by former Gong keyboard player Tim Blake’s performance of his synthesiser epic, New Jerusalem. He had obviously been reading John Michell’s books. The lyrics had definite references to them. Blake was ahead of John Michel Jarre in pioneering the combination of electronic music and lasers. The presentation was spectacular.

And so, as I helped a man to walk who barely even knew who he was, let alone where he was, synths and lasers tingled my acid consciousness as these words emanated from the stage:

“Pyramids and Stonehenge are ley lines to this place,
City of Revelation, that governs inner space.
So now, tune in your auras, let solstice music sound
and build New Age vibrations and feed them to the ground.
For here, inside these valleys, that are so full of energy,
we’ll build a New Jerusalem, with love, from you to me.”

A mist had arisen in those very valleys whilst the set was being played and, for some, it was a combination that proved unforgettable. The depth of the experience expanded with time. A mighty mythos had been downloaded into my brain. The intensity of it was to change my life forever.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Stonehenge 1979 (from Avalonian Aeon)

It is 30 years ago this week that I went on a life-changing journey to the Stonehenge and Glastonbury festivals. This episode begins my Glastonbury based autobiography Avalonian Aeon (the cover image of which by Yuri Leitch can be seen above)that I have been writing for far too long now.

That this is a powerful anniversary has been proved to me by the amazing emergence of a number of people with whom I shared that great adventure in the last week thanks to the phenomenon of Facebook.

To celebrate this I have decided to upload in two parts the whole of the material from Aeon on the 1979 festivals. It shows how the book has been created as a mix of personal odyssey and comprehensive introduction and evocation of what the festivals were potentially all about and how they led me to the greater mystery of Glastonbury itself.

There's a lot of text here so I have broken it up with piccies and videos.
Stonehenge begins and Glastonbury will follows directly on as Part 2.


“We stand at the doorways to higher worlds
but they won’t open, until we open ourselves.”

Steve Hillage. Unidentified Flying Being.

“The Masters of Wisdom and Laughter
say, “it’s never too late, if you want to change your fate.
Change your head, and the rest will come after.”

Daevid Allen. Why Do We Treat Ourselves Like We Do?

June 21st 1979. Stonehenge. Dawn.
A new epoch was beginning. Margaret Thatcher and the Ayatollah Khomeini had recently come to power. Both developments had been greeted with a mixture of strange enthusiasm and intimations of horror. It was impossible to foretell what lay ahead but I had intuitively felt a need to look elsewhere for my salvation.

I left a steady job and consensus reality behind. The legendary Stonehenge free festival had been sending out a clarion call to me for years. I eventually found myself actually standing very near to those famous stones, at the moment of the summer solstice sunrise. I’d been aware of the event from the time of its inception in 1974, when, as a fifteen year old living in South East Essex, I’d heard mention of it on Radio Caroline. I was a fledgling hippie, filling my head with psychedelic era Beatles music and early Pink Floyd. On the longest day, sitting in a classroom at school, I indulged in a fantasy of the spirit of the 1967 Summer of Love descending, like tongues of fire, on the mysterious ancient temple.

A lot of media publicity attended the event, and the whole issue of free festivals in general, during that summer of 1974. It had all ended in tears at Windsor, when the police forcibly dispersed a group of hippies. A school friend of mine had been present there. He told me a tale that perhaps served to signify the end of my childhood. He said that he had seen a policeman drag a pregnant woman out of a tent and kick her in the stomach. I was not ignorant of history. It was quite a passion of mine. I knew all about Hitler and Stalin and the nightmare atrocities that had blighted the century. This was different. We were supposed to be the good guys. Now I was no longer sure who “we” were. If you tried to act out the ideal of the Summer of Love it could end up like that. I saw how newspapers and TV reported it. I noted the contrast to an eyewitness account. One thing was certain. I was with the hippies now.

During the following years, rock music was my religion. I would listen to Radio Caroline for hours whilst reading the New Musical Express. It was a golden age of rock journalism and that served me well. An article by Mick Farren on the Doors set me on the road to an obsessive interest in the band. If I knew that Jim Morrison was known to have read a book, I would make a point of finding it and reading it as well. This led me to Nietzsche, Frazer’s Golden Bough, and most importantly of all at the time, Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception. The erudite mystical British author had been a major influence on the birth of the psychedelic era with his account of experiences on mescaline. The Doors had taken their name from it. I read it repeatedly. Just like it seemed perfectly normal to listen to a favourite album a huge number of times, I would read articles and books again and again. I later realised that this was comparatively unusual. Another Farren article on the burgeoning weird cult scene clued me in to the existence of the notorious Aleister Crowley.

As a Led Zeppelin fan I was most interested to learn that guitarist Jimmy Page had a serious interest in the man known as the Great Beast and actually lived in a former home of his on the shores of Loch Ness. I read of Pete Townshend’s devotion to the Indian guru Meher Baba who had spent forty years in silence. He got a name-check on the sleeve credits of Tommy. To use Huxley’s terminology, rock was a door in the wall for me. It potentially led to so many things.

Seeing bands live became the social focus of my life. Gatherings of the Essex rock tribe would occur, generally on Saturday nights, at the Kursaal ballroom at the far end of Southend seafront. It was quite something to see a tide of Afghan coats and long hair moving down the Golden Mile. I soon had the coat and hair as well. What an incredible musical feast unfolded for us over a period of years at those Saturday gigs. I remember in particular two successive weekends in November 1974. Firstly I saw the virtually unknown Tangerine Dream perform a set with quadraphonic sound and a strange light show. It was barely possible to see the band amidst their futuristic machinery as they transmitted the cosmic void sounds of their classic Phaedra period. A matter of days later, Golden Earring were supported by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I first heard the anthemic epic Freebird live in Southend on a Saturday night!

It was remarkably diverse. Yes, I will admit to seeing Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, and Status Quo, but balanced against them were Can, Gong, and Van Der Graaf Generator. If the Kursaal was the parish church, there were sometimes excursions to the great cathedrals to see the likes of Led Zeppelin, and the Who. At Knebworth in 1976 as part of a gigantic crowd of 250,000, I’d seen the Rolling Stones. In retrospect the most significant thing about the day was when a hippie type asked me if I wanted to buy some cannabis and I said yes.

Gatherings of friends had become increasingly ritualised. Listening to music was the focus. Candles and incense helped enhance the experience. Some sounds seemed to demand to be heard in darkness. It was inevitable that drugs would enter the scene. It was a purely intellectual decision on my part that can be blamed on my school library. We received standard anti-drug propaganda by our Religious Studies teacher. I was less than impressed by his sanctimonious habit of mocking all world religions other than his professed Christianity. I therefore suspected that his teachings on the drug issue might be similarly distorted. We were given time to research the matter in the library.

In my studies, it seemed perfectly clear that heroin was garbage and I never remotely contemplated taking it at any stage, from that day to this. LSD and cannabis seemed entirely different propositions. I came across accounts of the use of acid in psychotherapy. I was enthralled by stories of mystical mythic visions. I noted the name of Timothy Leary. I heard of his use of the Tibetan Book of the Dead as a manual for hallucinogenic journeys into inner space. He had created a version of it entitled The Psychedelic Experience. When I discovered that my favourite Beatles track, Tomorrow Never Knows, supposedly showed the influence of Leary’s Tibetan-flavoured text, I was determined to find out as much as possible about the subject. It seemed that all of my favourite music had been clearly inspired by acid, so I was led to what seemed a logical conclusion: I had to take some. Fortunately those were the innocent days before drugs were easily available in schools and I didn’t know anyone who could get hold of it. Nonetheless, along with a fellow voyager named John, I made it number one priority. I was seventeen before the inevitable happened and the music of the Doors helped me to break on through to the other side.

The Doors - Break On Through

I already had a strong sense of attitude and identity before punk came along. I was glad that I had a great feeling for rock history and wanted to check out any album considered to be a classic. In 1977 I was blown away by Patti Smith’s Horses and Television’s Marquee Moon. I was certainly well aware of the debut albums of the Sex Pistols and the Clash but I felt that the musical year was equally notable for Bowie’s Low, Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express, and the Natural Elements of Shakti featuring John McLaughlin. Steve Hillages unashamedly hippy Motivation Radio made a big impact. In keeping with the hectic zeitgeist I took speed in some form or another virtually every weekend that year but at heart I remained psychedelic. Acid was in short supply for us during ’77. The speed helped one to stay conscious whilst smoking quantities of dope that would normally produce a virtual coma. Very weird effects sometimes happened around 4am during such sessions.

As the years went by I had continued to be aware of the Stonehenge festival. I was always busy with exams, at school and then sixth form college, but I was determined that I would get there one day. In 1978 I entered the big wide world and got a job in the Civil Service. Looking at the people I was working with, I became horrified at the prospect of creeping normality setting in and developed a prodigious appetite for reading as widely as possible in all mind-expanding subjects. Over the course of nearly a year in that office, a fantasy began to incubate. I would go off and travel in Mexico and live out episodes from Carlos Castaneda books, taking mescaline and imbibing the ancient wisdom of the culture. Not one single practical consideration ever intruded into this idea. I eventually resolved that, for starters, I would resign from my job in time to attend the Stonehenge event and then move on to a larger legal festival at Glastonbury that was scheduled for June 1979. There was a vague desire to visit Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris on July 3rd, the anniversary of his death. Next stop Mexico. My attitude to the external forms of hippieness was already mutating. My hair had got very long and my Afghan coat seemed to have become part of my body. Gradually I began to see it all as a uniform and restrictor of freedom. The coat was thrown away.

April 1979

May 1979

In May 1979 I shaved my beard off and had a short haircut. I visited a pub that lunchtime and sat amongst a group of friends. It was only when I started to speak five minutes later that they realised who I was. All this helped to affirm the sense of transition. I left work on June 14th. Four days later I would be going to Stonehenge.

On Saturday June 16th a group of the prospective travellers met up to get psychologically prepared for the coming journey. This meant getting totally stoned. At that time I hadn’t smoked for nearly three months. On my twentieth birthday I had ostentatiously announced I was giving up. Coupled with my major haircut this indicated that I always intended to move away from the usual perceptions of what being a hippy was all about. With Stonehenge imminent the demented Dionysian urge reasserted itself and I decided to indulge again. I knew though that one day that final spliff would come.

That evening, BBC TV showed a programme in the Sight and Sound series, simultaneously broadcast on radio. It featured hippy guitar legend Steve Hillage. A twee joke to some, a demi-deity to others, he was due to appear at Glastonbury within a week. It was a golden memory for a number of us to recall having seen him live at Southend Kursaal in 1976, promoting the epic L album. His lyrics were full of esoteric references, the music intense and transcendental, full of floaty synths and soaring guitar. It felt appropriate that his words should help send us on our way.

“This world is waking up into the New Age Revelation.
Our spirits are responding to the raising of vibration.
We’ll use the latest sciences to aid our inner souls,
to set the wheels of Love and Light a rolling down the road.
Who’s gonna be an Electric Gypsy? - - -
We’ll open up the Old Straight Track and fertilise the Earth,
rediscover the healing sound and ride the psychic surf ---
We’re talking of the labours and the work that must be done,
to purify, to sanctify, to stand inside the sun,
to enter in the Pyramid, to conquer all our fears,
to light the blazing lamp of Love
and shine it bright and clear.”

We left our Essex base early on the Monday morning, travelling firstly to London by train. There were commuters about. It was obvious to them that we weren’t heading for our jobs in the city. As the journey went on, consensus reality fell away. Finally we arrived in Amesbury, the nearest town to Stonehenge. There were no buses that travelled the necessary route so a walk of a mile or so was needed. The pavement along the final stretch of road was covered with colourful chalk graffiti, full of psychedelic hippie motifs and messages. Suddenly the landscape dipped down ahead of us, revealing the vista of the mighty stones to the left of the main road, and the sprawling tent city of the festival in a field to its right.

By the time of the solstice dawn that journey was all a distant memory of some other life and time. I tried to review what I’d just been through. What a glorious chaos it had been, the transition from employment as a civil servant to this mythic reality. I had wandered, staggered about, for three days and nights, past tepees, amongst fire eaters and jugglers, through a large group of naked people having a tug of war in a pit of mud, and so on. At one point a group of military helicopters buzzed the site. They descended low enough over us to raise dust and disturb tents. It was a fairly obvious statement on their behalf. Any time they wanted they could totally crush us and we shouldn’t kid ourselves that anything other than that was the case. It was just a passing moment. It hardly seemed to register. The culture shock was unending, amplified unto infinity by a constant diet of drugs. During the few hours of darkness a clear primordial sky of multitudinous stars had heaved and breathed over me. One night a few of us had come across a small clearing amongst the tents, presided over by a group of tepees. Two large guitar amplifier speakers therein blasted out Jimi Hendrix’s 1983: a merman I should turn to be and never had any music sounded more awesome. I distinctly felt myself levitate six inches above the earth. What could you expect if you took acid in the middle of all this? Ten years on, I really felt as if I’d made a connection to the energy of the sixties.

On the night of the 20th I dropped more acid and watched a superb performance by Here and Now. This legendary hippie/punk fusion band had made their reputation by playing all of their gigs as freebies. Their anarchistic lyrics over a soundscape of searing glissando guitar and spacey keyboards, usually accompanied by an intense lightshow, gave them a cult following. They were perfect for what was happening at Stonehenge.

“Here and Now is Floating Anarchy.
Don’t you know it’s the only way to be? ----
Violence is caused by governments, armies, police force.”

I knew by then something of the story behind the early days of the festival. Many years later, in CJ Stone’s Fierce Dancing, I discovered more. It was a bittersweet tale of visionary beauty, joy, death, and a boot stamping on a human face forever. One man is clearly identified as the prime force behind it, a man whose life story has passed into the realm of mythology, Phil Russell, better known as Wally Hope (pictured above in a rare photo). Born into a wealthy family, he became a trickster prankster acid head and sun worshipper. On holiday in Ibiza, a trip-born vision seized him. He wanted to take the great sun temple of Stonehenge back from the dour control of the state and return it to the people. The ceremonies of the modern Druid Orders there didn’t seem to do it justice. A total eclectic, with no conventional political agenda, he made his vision public by writing to a bewildering selection of celebrities including the Pope, the Dalai Lama, the Duke of Edinburgh, Ursula Andress and Colonel Gadaffi.

It may appear, at first glance, that he was a standard issue acid casualty. Some of those who knew him well tell a few strange tales though. Apparently he possessed paranormal magical powers. Penny Rimbaud was the main mover in anarchist punk band CRASS. He knew Wally and helped in the organisation of the first Stonehenge gathering in 1974. On one occasion, a warm cloudless day, he witnessed the appearance of Hope, dancing backwards, out from behind a bush. He was making arcane gesticulations and grinning incorrigibly. Having grabbed the attention of everyone present and asking them to “watch this,” he danced back out of sight only to reappear in like manner but this time accompanied by a snowstorm. His shamanic movements seemed to be the definite centre of the snow, as the air remained warm and still. Winking, he danced back behind the bush, taking the snow with him. When he again appeared, the snow had stopped. Once, whilst brainstorming on the Stonehenge venture, he stopped to relax after a marathon session, and threw his arms up in the air. Rainbow lights were then seen to manifest around him.

Wally Hope had a trademark tee-shirt that he’s always remembered as wearing. It showed the design of the Egyptian Eye of Horus with a rainbow arched over it. For various reasons that will become apparent, I have come to consider that as a potent magickal glyph of the energies behind the Stonehenge festival. About five hundred turned up for the first solstice shindig. After the majority departed a Wally hardcore remained. Quite where and when the whole “Wally” business really began is a complex bit of social history beyond the scope of this narrative. Most of the main protagonists behind the 1974 event all adopted the name. The Police and the media didn’t know what to make of a group of people who included Wally Moon, Sir Wally Raleigh and Wally Woof the Dog. They became front-page news. A convoluted legal process began in an attempt to evict them. Wally Hope seemed to be their spokesperson. He was quoted in The Times, on August 13th. “We are not squatters, we are men of God .We want to plant a Garden of Eden with apricots and cherries, where there will be guitars instead of guns and the sun will be our nuclear bomb.”

After various comings and goings some were still at Stonehenge at Christmas. Hope wintered in Cyprus, returning in spring to prepare for the next solstice gathering. He made himself generally visible as he travelled around organising the event. At a house in Amesbury, he was present during a police raid. An impenetrable vibe of conspiracy theory forever obscures exactly what really occurred. Hope owned a noticeable vehicle that was parked outside. The suggestion is that the whole thing was set up in order to get him. Whatever the case, he was charged with possession of a small amount of acid. He pleaded guilty in order to be free for the solstice. Perhaps he could be considered to be a spaced-out rather silly person but what then happened to him was not at all silly.

In a rapid sequence of events he was sectioned, put in a psychiatric home and fed with “medicine” in large doses. All kinds of official shenanigans accompanied this manoeuvre. The next time anyone saw him he was a shuffling zombie, pale and bloated, his tongue lolling around in his mouth. Most distressing of all, he was afraid of sunlight. The would-be reviver of the ancient solar cultus had been destroyed. The 1975 festival took place whilst this was going down. Thousands attended this time and it was considered a spectacular success. Once the last reveller had left the site, Wally Hope was released. Within a few months he was dead. Found on a kitchen floor, choked on his vomit. Coroner’s inquests were repeatedly postponed. Medical records disappeared. Vital questions were scarcely asked, let alone answered. What killed him was the same disease that could cause someone to kick a pregnant woman in the stomach. The psychologist Wilhelm Reich diagnosed it under the label of “Emotional Plague”.

The 1976 festival saw Wally Hope’s funeral. His ashes were scattered amongst the stones. The event was being filmed when the cameraman suddenly cried out, with some emotion. Penny Rimbaud, investigating, was told to look through the viewfinder. He clearly saw the ghostly form of Wally Hope dancing between, and even through, the stones. None of this appeared in the processed film but it didn’t matter. The myth was complete.

So, five years on from my first knowledge of the event, I had finally arrived near the stones for the 1979 solstice dawn. And there were the Druids. Arriving in a coach, like a football team, they were already robed up and set to go. The football impression persisted as they emerged, as if from a players tunnel, out from the car park underpass. I almost expected a chant of “Come on you Druids!” to resound from the waiting crowd. The Monty Python silliness passed as the greater mythological scene asserted itself. Here was the legendary solar temple. This alleged astronomical computer was believed by some to embody an ancient wisdom tradition involving sacred geometry and numerical codes. Other examples, so the mystics said, could be found in the dimensions of the Great Pyramid and Glastonbury Abbey. Glastonbury. On that solstice longest day I was to travel further still, to the greatest British sacred site of all and another festival. It was to be a pilgrimage, a threshold crossing.

The sky passed through hues from nights deep dark to dawn’s lightening blues. Pink clouds. Horizons hint of impending sunrise. We watched, my friends and I, as the Druids took up their position for their ceremonial. All that year a small group of us had been feeding our heads with some glorious white capsule acid. Some said it was mescaline. Whatever the hell it was it tended to bring out any latent mysticism that might have been lurking inside people. Music had taken on a revelatory quality. The best of it seemed to somehow represent a teaching and philosophy in its own right. Favourite albums would be listened to repeatedly, whilst under the influence, until they felt like part of one’s own cellular structure. Align yourself with the right music and your inner realms would vibrate at a higher frequency. A particular favourite of the first half of ‘79 had been Moroccan Roll by Brand X. This was complex, mainly instrumental music, likely to get horribly categorised as “jazz rock.” To know that one track included Phil Collins singing Sanskrit lyrics would probably not send a modern audience out in a stampede to find it. I consider it to be a brilliant album, full of a remarkable feeling of transcendental good-heartedness in the midst of its virtuosity. There was a moment on one of the tracks that had become everybody’s favourite. As we awaited the sunrise and Druid rite, a brief gust of wind wafted the sound of a few moments of music over from the tent city to our ears. It was, of course, the climactic part of our favourite piece from Moroccan Roll. The playing of it was nothing to do with any of our group. It was a superbly synchronistic moment. The obscure album was not exactly topping the charts at that time.

It was the only music that became audible over at the stones. Something seemed to be saying, “This is your time now. You are supposed to be here. You are on the beam.”

As the solstice sun began to rise I knew it was a new life beginning for me. The white-robed Druids in this space between the worlds were lifting the veil to a doorway, a rite of passage. What I’d already experienced meant that nothing would ever be the same again. I was twenty years old and all chances of ever becoming fully socialised to the hive reality had departed. There was no turning back. There was only further now, ever deeper into the zone unknown. To Glastonbury. Three years previously, on BBC TV’s Nationwide, I’d first seen it’s haunting hill, the legendary Tor, a fateful stimulus. I’d also first heard of an alleged vast terrestrial zodiac, lying hidden in the landscape there, marked out by roads and rivers, hills and fields. The festival, on the surface, was another great opportunity for me to continue my teenage pattern of seeing bands live. That was never my main reason to go there. My real focus was the mystery of the mystical capital of Britain.

I’d been awake all night on acid. Most of its effects had worn off but a vibrant clarity of perception remained and even the pull of a great fatigue couldn’t attract sleep. The longest day would be a very long one indeed. And that is most certainly what it became. With my friends Caz and Kev, I undertook an immense journey to Somerset. There was a bit of tension between the two gatherings at Stonehenge and Glastonbury. At one point a kind of pow-wow in a circle of tipis had debated whether Glastonbury had sold out by charging an admission fee. Some hardcore types had been scornful of those who were going to leave the site to go down there. As we departed, it somehow seemed obvious where we were going. A light shower of rain had briefly passed over and a tipi woman blamed us for it because we were deserting the place for Glastonbury. A strange dynamic continued to pass between the events during the coming years. The issues involved were of interest to me but were far from central to my main concerns. On that morning simply getting to Glastonbury before passing out unconscious was my primary goal. Delirious hours were spent on assorted buses that all blended into one, until it seemed as if I had been travelling on a bus forever.

We finally arrived in the locale of the place celebrated as the mythical Isle of Avalon as the sun was setting. A numinous afterglow mystically lit the rolling hills. I was in the immediate vicinity of the massive looming presence of the Tor. There were the apple trees of the otherworld. Where was the festival though? After the huge journey it turned out that it was not located at the actual town of Glastonbury but on farmland by a nearby village called Pilton. An unanticipated six-mile walk was needed. Night began to descend. By the time we arrived at the festival site I could truly feel that I was walking between the worlds. I still hadn’t slept. The race was now on to put up our tents as the first night’s headlining act, Steve Hillage, came on to his version of Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? Having seen Here and Now the previous night at the start of my great journey, it seemed the whole process had been very satisfactorily framed. This was a superb conclusion. It was less than a week since Hillage’s televised concert had helped send me on my journey. A quote from him in the festival programme landed really well with me immediately and would resonate through my life for decades to come as its meaning endlessly expanded. “The essential power within Glastonbury is fusion – the melting together of diverse ideas, attitudes and energies”.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009


June 16th is one of the great feast days of English literature. James Joyce set his epochal novel Ulysses, which tells the story of events occuring within the frame of one day, on that date in 1904.
I haven't got the time today to do justice to his godlike genius although I might make some additions to this post later.
For now I just wanted to acknowledge him as a shaper of twentieth century consciousness, a gameplayer in the Aeon of Horus and put up a modest video tribute

Below are some video extracts some excellent person has placed on You Tube from the 1967 attempt to film the book followed by The Senusal World

Kate Bush is to be commended for getting both Wilhelm Reich and James Joyce into the singles chart. Her 1989 Sensual World is largely inspired by the legendary final sequence in Ulysses, the stream of consciousness of Molly Bloom. A lot of the lyrics are virtually verbatim quotes. Yes.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Jesus and a baby dinosaur

Yes,that's right. Jesus and a baby dinosaur.
I just wanted to share this image and let you formulate your own responses.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

The Nazi Contactee at the Portal of the UFO era

From the section of the same name in Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus.

William Dudley Pelley was a genuine American oddity who has been labelled a “New Age Nazi” and was a significant influence on early UFOlogy. His career represents an entirely unique trajectory that nonetheless includes all sorts of nuances with which we are becoming familiar.

Pelley had some intense experiences when travelling as a newspaper correspondent in Russia during the time of the revolution. He saw all kinds of horrors which turned him into a vehement anti-Communist. He also began a fateful association in his mind of Communism with Jews. This was not exactly an uncommon idea at the time. Back in America he turned his talents to writing novels that were modestly successful and then screenplays for some Hollywood movies of the silent era. His burgeoning Anti-Semitism eventually drove him away from an industry that he felt was dominated by Jews.

What followed was another of those mysterious illumination destiny episodes that our cast of characters are so prone to. Pelley had an out-of-the-body-experience he would describe in a 1928 pamphlet of the same name as ‘My Seven Minutes in Eternity’. In this ‘ecstatic interlude’ he came into the presence of beings of some kind. From that point onwards his consciousness was permanently mutated. A few days later on a night-train journey he was reading a book when ‘Suddenly as I turned a page, something happened! I seemed to be bathed in a douche of pure white light on that moving Pullman. A great flood of Revelation came to me out of which a Voice spoke such as I had never heard before. What it said, I prefer to keep permanently to myself. But in that instant I knew that my bungalow experience had not been a dream, or even self-hallucination. Particularly I knew of the reality of that Entity whom the world now designates as Jesus of Nazareth! I knew that He was not a mythical religious ideal. I knew His ministry and career had been a literal actuality and that I had once seen Him when He was thus in His flesh!’ Pelley had returned as a man with a divine mission to promote a millennial Christianity, albeit one that was infused with a bizarre mix of Theosophical style ideas and was above all, rabidly racist.

Pelley’s first automatic writing message shortly afterwards came supposedly from a being who did not want to be thought of as a master but an elder brother. He stated that, ‘There must be neither tears, nor shadows of tears, in the way of the spirit. All is light, all is joy, all is beauty to those whose eyes have been opened to the radiance. Why should joy bring even the fleeting semblance of that which ye call pain.’ It was a long message and volumes more would follow as Pelley’s psychic faculties developed to include clairaudient hearing as well. The contrast of the general feeling of the first message with Pelley’s racism and where it would lead is a measure of the enigma of the man.

This transformation was occurring at the time of the Wall St Crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression which Pelley blamed on Jewish bankers. He paid increasing attention to the career of Hitler. When the Nazis came to power in January 1933 he was immediately inspired to found a group he named the Silver Shirts. They are generally labeled as fascist but it’s fairly clear that they may as well be called Nazis. They paraded around in uniforms and promoted virulent Anti-Semitism.

Whilst the esoteric background of the German Nazis was kept in the background Pelley had no qualms about promoting a blend of politics and a bizarre mix of his channeled messages with their Theosophical and millenarian Christian tone.

Pelley ran for president in 1936 as a Christian Party candidate, coming to be known as the “Star-Spangled fascist”. This was the kind of Christianity that desired segregated Jewish ghettos in America along with the same kind of legislation barring them from public life that had been passed in Germany. He didn’t get a tremendous amount of votes. Silver Shirt membership maxed out at around fifteen-thousand.

Once the war began Pelley continued to support Hitler and did not want American involvement. Remarks made against the government led to a trial and jail sentence. He was released as the UFO era got underway on the understanding that he would avoid public political life. Certain opinions did leak out however such as his belief that the newly created United Nations organization was part of a Jewish-communist conspiracy.

Pelley soon became a contactee, writing a book called Star Guests in 1950. He was therefore one of the very first in print, helping to set the style for what would come. A new group named Soulcraft was created as a vehicle for his UFO material which soon became extensive. He claimed to have seen one in 1953.

Humanity started thirty to fifty million years ago when star guests mated with primates. The different races of our planet were seeded by assorted aliens. The White master race come from Sirius. In a model reminiscent of Blavatsky’s Root Races, the Jews are some kind of unfortunate trouble-making hybrid and so on. We are involved in an enormous reincarnational process that includes long periods between human lives spent in other planes being purified.

A hardcore of individuals come together as mentors for humanity during crucial times. These are the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation. Pelley stuck to a millennial Christian centre of gravity and always considered he was living in the End Times. An interest in pyramidology, the belief that the dimensions of the Great Pyramid and its interior design can be interpreted prophetically, had influenced much of Pelley’s public career. He believed that Hitler’s coming to power in 1933 was a pyramid moment. His eventual prediction for the Second Coming of Christ does look rather interesting now. It was 17th September 2001. It’s safe to say there was a bit of apocalypse in the air round about then. Pelley began to believe he was in contact with Nostradamus who actually dictated some new material to him and brought along a host of historical figures for a chat as well.

Pelley could be considered to be ultimately ineffectual in his politics but he has left a definite legacy behind him. The bringing together of Anti-Semitism, an encouragement to cultivate military and survivalist skills and a Last Days millenarian Christianity that characterised the Silver Shirts became the template for the extreme American Right. A number of its leading exponents such as Richard Butler of the Aryan Nation group had been Silver Shirts and carried their hate agenda into old age. How bizarre and disturbing that such a figure can be found right in the middle of the early days of UFOlogy.