Dedicated to the Great Heart and Great Soul of the Great Shaman Jhonn Balance
16 February 1962 to 13 November 2004 :
I don’t expect I’ll ever understand
How life just trickled through my hand
Jhonn dead dead dead. May he be blessed by all horned animals. IO PAN IO PAN IO PAN PAN PAN! “Death knows, death goes, death blows, death shows… Does death come alone or with eager reinforcements? Holy Holy Holy”
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
IT IS WRITTEN in The Book of the Law: Every man and every woman is a Star. It is Our Lady of the Stars that speaketh to thee, O thou that art a star, a member of the Body of Nuith! Listen, for thine ears become dulled to the mean noises of the earth; the infinite silence of the Stars woos thee with subtile musick. Behold her bending down above thee, a flame of blue, all-touching, all-penetrant, her lovely hands upon the black earth, and her lithe body arched for love, and her soft feet not hurting the little flowers, and think that all thy grossness shall presently fall from thee as thou leapest to her embrace, caught up into her love as a dewdrop into the kisses of the sunrise. Is not the ecstasy of Nuit the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the omnipresence of her body? All that hath hurt thee was that thou knewest it not, and as that fadeth from thee thou shalt know as never yet how all is one. Again She saith: I give unimaginable joys upon earth, certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death. This thou hast known. Time that eateth his children hath not power on them that would not be children of Time. To them that think themselves immortal, that dwell alway in eternity, conscious of Nuit, throned upon the chariot of the sun, there is no death that men call death. In all the universe darkness is only to be found in the shadow of a gross and opaque planet, as it were for a moment; the universe itself is a flood of light eternal. So also death is but through accident; thou hast hidden thyself in the shadow of thy gross body, and taking it for reality, thou hast trembled. But the orb revolveth anon; the shadow passeth away from thee. There is the dissolution, and the eternal ecstasy in the kisses of Nu! For inasmuch as thou hast made the Law of Freedom thine, as thou hast lived in Light and Liberty and Love, thou hast become a Free-man of the City of the Stars.
LISTEN AGAIN to thine own voice within thee. Is not Hadit the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star? Is not He Life, and the giver of Life? And is not therefore the knowledge of Him the knowledge of Death? For it hath been shown unto thee in many other places how Death and Love be twins. Now art thou the hunter, and Death rideth beside thee with his horse and spear as thou chasest thy Will through the forests of Eternity, whose trees are the hair of Nuit thy mistress! Thrill with the joy of life and death! Know, hunter mighty and swift, the quarry turns to bay! Thou hast but to make one sharp thrust, and thou hast won. The Virgin of Eternity lies supine at thy mercy, and thou art Pan! Thy death shall be the seal of the promise of our agelong love. Hast thou not striven to the inmost in thee? Death is the crown of all. Harden! Hold up thyself! Lift thine head! breathe not so deep–die!
OR ART THOU STILL ENTANGLED with the thorny plaits of wild briar rose that thou hast woven in thy magick dance on earth? Art not thine eyes strong enough to bear the starlight? Must thou linger yet awhile in the valley? Must thou dally with the shadows in the dusk? Then if it be Thy Will, thou hast no right but to do Thy Will! Love still these phantoms of the earth; thou hast made thyself a King; if it please thee to play with toys of matter, were they not made to serve thy pleasure? Then follow in thy mind the wondrous word of the Steele of Revealing itself. Return if thou wilt from the abode of the Stars; dwell with mortality, and feast thereon. For thou art this day Lord of Heaven and of Earth.
Love is the law, love under will.
The Benediction of the All-Begetter, All-Devourer be upon thee.”
(Aleister Crowley, Liber CVI: Concerning Death, Copyright OTO)
Today five years ago, John Balance died in a tragic accident. Goeffrey Rushton, better known under the name Jhonn Balance, is an artist whose art, life and magick has inspired me in many ways, when I was a teenager. John has started out as a fan of the infamous ‘Wreckers of Civilization’, Throbbing Gristle, where he met Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, his life partner and co-founder of their band Coil. They founded the band Psychic TV and Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth with Genesis P-Orridge in 1981 (as far as I remember). After arguements they both left TOPY and Psychick TV to follow their own creative spark and to break free from TOPY that seemed to turn into a trap of a cult, as they said.
“Genesis is definitely, concretising ideas from various traditions, but we assumed the mantle of organised religion, copying aspects of The Process Church, Jim Jones and actual clerical stuff, and we came across as a cult, but we were in fact individually practicing sexual magic. So that was a camouflage, which eventually became a trap that we had to break away from. I felt very strongly that we had to get away from that.”
Their first mini-album has become How to Destroy Angels, ‘music(k) for the accumulation of male sexual energy’, which is to say that men could use it for homosexual magic(k) (though they said that women could use it, too). Their following albums Scatology and Horse Rotovator are a testimony to their brilliance and that they have always been ahead of their time (like with most albums that followed). John Balance was responsible for vocals, lyrics, chants, synthetics and various esoteric sound-making instruments and devices. Outside of Coil he collaborated with Nurse With Wound, Death In June, Psychic TV, Current 93 and Thighpaulsandra, and produced a couple of Nine Inch Nails remixes. His early work and wide-ranging collaborations made him one of the most influential figures in the industrial, experimental minimalist and neofolk music scenes. Peter Christopherson is the ‘unseen’genius behind the inimitable sounds and ‘styles’ that Coil has invented. He wasone of the original members of the band that invented the genre of Industrial Music, Throbbing Gristle, co-founded Psychic TV and Coil. Christopherson has participated in the reuniting of Throbbing Gristle (I think in 2004) as well as composed an album for his current solo endeavour The Threshold HouseBoys Choir (now SoiSong).John and ‘Sleazy’ have nurtured the entity called Coil for 23 years.
John Balance has influenced me on many levels. First of all, Coil helped me in times of isolation in ways I hardly can describe. They helped me to come to terms with the fact that I am an outsider and that I’m neither mad nor alone. (In fact Sleazy once told me in Berlin that “it’s very important to be an outsider”!) The music of Coil displayed an orginality and a creativity that showed that ‘occult experiences’ are real and can be ‘translated’ into sound. John was initially influenced by Max Ernst and the surrealists. Later P-Orridge and Burroughs introduced him to the general concept of magic as a practicality in everyday life. After having been asked how magic has sweeped into his work, he answered:
“Well it has, totally. I’ve always been into magic, with Crowley’s ‘k’, and studied it. I tried to buy stuff by Crowley when I was young, but my parents absolutely refused to have anything to do with it and actively discouraged me. I wrote to Alex Sanders (King of the Witches), when I was 14, and he wrote back to me saying thanks for writing, I’m very pleased that you want to do this, but can you write back when you’re 18. He wouldn’t accept anyone so young into his coven. I used to worship the moon too, I’d encourage other boys at school to do it, too. I just instinctivelydid things like that. It once got me into trouble. I was at school with the son of David Tomlinson, who was in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (a Disney comedy about witches). The two of us were taught astral projection by a teacher and there was a scandal because they thought there was some homosexual relationship going on with the three of us, but there wasn’t. I went to school one day and there was David Tomlinson’s limousine outside -he grabbed me as I was coming off the school bus and asked whether his son and I had a sexual relationship with this teacher. From then on, all the teachers were watching me!”
Asked at which point he started to practice magick, he said:
“…even as a kid I used to do it. I was an only child, always talking to animals, fantasy creatures and spirits. I would make little plasticine gods and make offerings to them. I was just born with a pagan sensibility. I’m an animal, I’ve never been a human – there’s no difference between animals and humans to me. I think that’s one of the signs of a true pagan. Some life experiences can just jolt you into it. I had German measles really badly, twice I think, and wasn’t allowed contact with the light in case I went blind. Shut in this dark room, that was like my initiation, I imagine.”
However, it was really Spare who got him into a way of magick that was truely his. “As soon as I discovered Austin Spare I realised that we were loners, we practiced magick on our. That’s my style of magic, the shamanic way – and Spare was definitely a shaman.” Like Spare did paint pictures in a sidereal fashion, where images and gestalts are infused into the realm of Midgard, Coil did a sidereal sound, where ‘the Other’ – the Mystery – (Runa?)pours into mundane reality.
“What Spare did in art, we try to do through music. This is why we do sidereal sound. The way he twisted his pictures, so that the geometry appears warped, we try to do that, to produce strange geometries through sound, so that it comes out sideways. We do it with technology, with 3D devices, phasers, out-of-phasers, all sorts of gizmos. There’s no one particular box that does it, we all do it any possible way that we can. … Spare used to do speaker battles, where he would project sound into the aether – which I think is a real physical thing, some kind of cosmic glue, a genuine substance, or non-substance – that connects everything and allows unexplained things and ideas to be transmitted.”
John Balance had a very intimate relationship with Spare. He did sigils to ‘contact’ Spare and his Current of the Zos Kia Cultus. After that Coil were in touch with Crowley’s and Spare’s art forever. In many ways Balance was overwhelmed by the results of his magical workings. They collected many artifacts from these two artists and magicians. Balance claimed that you can commune with the pictures of Spare and that they would change.
“Some of the chaotic ones, you look at them with one person and see certain hings, and you look at them with another person and you see a completely different set of things. Every piece he did was magical. There were some that were done for other people specifically as magical spells, such as the stele or the magical alphabet. But he lived his life as a magician and a stoic. He could survive for a week on a kipper… Austin Spare had people who came through for him, spirit guides, and there are magical currents. He may have opened up a gateway or whatever, but now it’s flowing in trickles, rivulets, even streams. That’s why it’s very important that we flash Zos Kia Cultus – Spare’s magical philosophy or code – and his images onto the screen at our performances, to energise Spare’s current and put our own energies into it. To make it a living, breathing, energising, wonderful thing. By Cultus I don’t mean a cult, but a way of life, a philosophy, a code, which puts me in touch with what I really, truly should be doing onthis planet.”
And this means really – albeit in a different context – what Ódhinn meant by the saying that “I Give myself to mySelf”: that you would totally dedicate yourself to the divine current you come in touch with. Everything you do becomes you. There is no difference between your everyday life as Joe and your magical persona. You do not only do, but you become magick. “Like Burroughs, or Spare, there’s no difference between our philosophy, our lifestyle and our art. This is what we do. We are what we do.” Well, my friends, and this is what I call Chaos Heathenism in action. However, there is a dark side to all of this. Jhonn (as he later spelled himself) suffered from two demons: depression and alcoholism. He struggled with both of them his whole life. And as Peter has told me, his alcoholism started when they were doing E’s (MDMA) in the mid-80s and Jhonn began to use alcohol for ‘coming down’ from them. On November 11th 2004 Jhonn fell down the stairs in his house after having been drunk for weeks. He never again regained consciousness and died on November 13th 2004. Lost Balance
This has been one of the saddest days of my life. I was to perform my duty in a Gnostic Mass as a Deacon in OTO (now I left the order, as you know). My friend Maarten e-mailed me to tell me these terrible news. I was hardly able to perform the ritual, but I did and prayed for Balance and lit a candle for him (as I do every year). For days I was in shock and my girl friend (though not being a ‘fan’, but knowing my pain) cried. I will never forget the pain and grief I felt for weeks, if not months, after this shaman died. It was as if a brother has gone away.
When I interviewed ‘Sleazy’ on December 30th 2005 in Berlin with my friend Henrik, when Throbbing Gristle were doing an exhibition in Berlin, he told me many times things like this: “You should’ve asked Jhonn”, “Jhonn was the expert”, “Jhonn was into the Occult”. I’ve seen Jhonn performing in Amsterdam in the year 2000 and in Berlin a few years later. I’ve never spoken to him out of shyness. There’s nothing I regret more nowadays, but it seems to me that this was necessary. There were those who had the key to Coil (an elite or minority), and then there have been the ‘fans’. I’ve certainly belonged to the minority of those, who knew what Jhonn was talking about. In many ways his life has been an example of a prophet in a Blakean sense. “Why be bleak, when you can be Blake?”, he once said. We have seen a few of such seers. One example has been Allen Ginsberg. But at the same time you could fill in the gap by saying Jhonn Balance:
“He considered his role of poet-prophet as part of the miraculous tradition of his creator, William Blake … He recognized that the Latin conception of the poet as vates, the prophetic seer, fitted his own identity as a divinely inspired poet who could now see below the surface of reality into the very essence of existence. … When Ginsberg started searching through Blake’s writing for a model for his role as poet-prophet, he was startled by Blake’s insistence that … the art of the role of the poet was to help his fellow men perceive the depths of reality. … Blake’s prophet is not a person who predicts the future; rather, the prophet sees deeper into the meanings of things.” (Portugés 1978: 65/66)“
Jhonn Balance was just such a man. I admire the work he has created with Sleazy and I will never forget all the special moments, inspirations and revelations I experienced whilst listening to Coil. “When you listen to Coil, do you think of music?” was one of Coil’s slogans. Well, when I listen to Coil I think of magic(k). But Jhonn Balance’s tragic death meant also a departing for me on a magical level. In the past when I got ‘into’ magic(k)’ I entered the same chaotic place into which Jhonn has immersed himself totally: the derangement of the senses, as Rimbaud called it. But after I have stared into the abyss a few times – drug abuse like and otherwise – I knew that Jhonn’s sudden death was also a warning for me. Though his death had more to do with his alcoholism than magic, I also believe that approaching magic like Jhonn did (and many of us did probably) has certain dangers:
“Experience has shown that one’s life is a reflection of spiritual processes, and a magician’s desire may be counter to his or her soul’s necessity, unless backed up by the order of the sacred world (echoed in the soul) has temporary effects and often conspires to undo the fertile areas of one’s life. Therefore, magic is by no means the sole answer in the face of life’s greatest hardships (…)” (Travers 2008: The Serpent and the Eagle, p. 8f)
I also think that approaching magic without certain inner developments is a very dangerous thing. Development of Self ahead of the development of sorcery techniques (like casting sigils etc.) ensures that you will have the wisdom to seek what you need more than what you merely think you want. My path is now more towards a balance – a harmonious and more ordered way of approaching the initiatory process even if I still consider thee Chaotick Path to be my approach to the Mysteries. But in a certain way, Jhonn’s death was also a marking point for me to leave the path I’ve been walking on and to turn away from the restless seeking of drug-induced visions, extraordinary experiences and self-destructive invocations “under my unquiet skull”. Such realizations were hard lessons for me to learn and to accept and you will hardly find them in ‘occult books’ (and I read more than a few). Freeing mySelf from such fetters on my path by researching the traditions of the ancients and learning to use the consciousness technologies of the ritual and chaos magicians of today, I believe to discover a more holistic and integral vision of mySelf /selves. This means that I had to look very critically on my initiatory process and on the path(s) I’ve been walking on until now. “O Silver Goddess, keep us from single vision.” (Coil)
May the Gods Bless Thee,
Jhonn’s two friends, and the exceptional artists, David Tibet (Current 93) and Steven Stapleton (Nurse With Wound) say:
“With burning sadness and with burning sorrow we remember You as:
kindest of men, funniest of men, most intuitive of men, most incisive of men, most generous of men, a great artist, a great voice, a great visionary, a great Soul and a great Heart. Finally you were overwhelmed by it all: by all the beauty and by all the pain. You perhaps never knew how much you were loved. Till we meet again as we know we will, our dearest friend, with love always to you dearest Geff, John, Jhonn, shape-shifter and joker, in angelic form now, playing with stars in the love of God. David Tibet and Steven Stapleton”