I am pleased to say that I have an article published in Void Front Press’ new collection Sustain//Decay. Edited by Owen Coggins (Open University) and James Harris, this 289-page collection brings together writings on drone music and mysticism by a diverse range of authors, amongst them Kristina Wolfe, Kim Cascone, Eyvind Kang, J.-P. Caron and Drone Box representing perhaps the speculative and luminescent side of drone mysticism, while Coggins, Harris, Absentology (Mark Horvath & Adam Lovasz), Steven Shakespeare, Joseph Norman and others explore the heavier, doomier side: rounding off the collection with an interview with Sunn O)))’s Atilla Csihar.
My piece is titled Inner-Sense and Experience: Drone Music, Esotericism and the Hieroeidetic Field, and looks at the role of the esoteric imagination the production of drone music. It develops Arthur Verluis’ concept of the hieroeidetic, which can be described as the imaginative space that exists between artist/audience and the art object:
Hieroeidetic knowledge is described as being encountered “in the field of imagination midway between the mundane and the transcendent”. When presented to an audience of what Versluis calls ‘sympathetic’ and ‘initiatory’ percipients, such a work may also serve as a preparatory for their own gnostic experiences: it leads them away from phenomenal reality to an intermediate, mesoteric, world, and possibly, through an imaginative engagement with the images therein, to an experience of a transpersonal or transcendent world. It is the possibility of a work to manifest a mysterious, hieroeidetic knowledge, or gnosis, that can be perceived as a distinguishing feature of art that is considered esoteric – Versluis’ interpretation of the ‘esoteric’ signifying an encounter with inner, rather than outer (exoteric), phenomena.
I first encountered this concept in his excellent book on esoteric art, Restoring Paradise, and it is a concept I feel that fits an artists perspective on the role of the esoteric in art very well: although it has not yet really been explored or theorised in further depth, perhaps owing to something of a philosophical divide between Continental and Anglophone scholars of Western Esotericism – for example, being taken to task by Wouter J. Hanegraaff for his somewhat ahistorical ‘religionist’ perspective that potentially undermines the empirical nature of academic scholarship (- and the necessity of putting esoteric studies on this footing within what might be called the ‘discourse community’ of the academy). However, I think developing interdisciplinary frameworks may help us to appropriately re-evaluate Versluis ‘sympathetic’ approach within ‘Western Esotericism 3.0’, particularly with regard to the developing sociological and cognitive science threads therein (- I feel in some ways Hanegraaff may have hinted at how to do this in an earlier article, as has Klaassen). As a small contribution, my article looks at ‘reverse engineering’ one of Versluis’ case studies to propose a tentative framework for studying ‘hieroeidetic art’. It then looks at the work of Kim Cascone and Hawthonn in these terms: it’s still something more of an artist/practitioner paper than a dispassionate academic piece, but I’m working on that… 😉
Below are a few images from my chapter. Sustain//Decay is available as two editions: a $29 limited print with full colour images and a bonus CD compilation (curated by Kim Cascone, and including an exclusive Hawthonn track), and an ultra-cheap $10 print-on-demand edition.
Addendum: Hawthonn – Cave-Witch, Grass-Witch, Star-Witch
If you are interested in finding out what the Hawthonn track on the compilation CD is about, here’s some text we wrote, which is not included in the book or CD:
Cave-Witch, Grass-Witch, Star-Witch develops from a group vocal recording made at Rowtor Rocks, Derbyshire, along with a series of grass-reed calls made on Conistone Moor, and at the ruined settlement of Din Lligwy, Anglesey. We took turns to intuitively explore, expand and rework the material into a form possessing the necessary balance between movement and stasis, harshness and purity, that would enable a sense of engaged, imaginative enchantment.
When opportunities to audition the music in a relaxed, receptive, meditative state presented themselves, these were used to evaluate the explore the hieroeidetic field of the sound, and to develop the emergent symbolism. One such instance occurred early in the process: the reed calls seemed to suggest a series of particular daemonic personalities, an insight triggered by the imaginative perception of one of the calls as a sigil (see the figure below). Following this insight, visual forms relating to other reed calls began to proliferate in the minds’ eye. Allied to this, an emergent notion of daemonic agency led us to strengthen the cause-and-effect relationship between the foregrounded calls and the underlying textural material.
Other vivid imagery emerging from listening sessions included: a goat looking into a cave; a raven; a stone floor embellished with auguries in flaming blue calligraphy; and a sense of penetration into the mysteries of a witchcraft. Given that a major interest of ours recently has been the women’s mysteries, as approached through Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, and Peter Redgrove & Penelope Shuttle’s The Wise Wound, it seemed also appropriate that the structure had unconsciously developed into a tripartite one, associated with the three visible phases of the moon and maiden-mother-crone symbolism.