"Be Clear In Admitting Your Real Desires"- A Conversation With Dr. Vanessa Sinclair and Carl Abrahamsson
The impel and history of couple Vanessa Sinclair and Carl Abrahamsson is quite vast so forgive me as I know there's some ground I failed to cover here. Vanessa is a psychoanalyst, sound artist, filmmaker, writer and podcast host. Carl is a writer, lecturer, filmmaker, and sound artist as well as head of a film production company and book press. Abrahamsson had a heavy hand in occulture journal The Fenris Wolf (which has been resurrected in recent years) as well as an original member of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth Scandinavia (TOPYSCAN) alongside Genesis P-Orridge. Vanessa and Carl run a record label together releasing their own music alongside outside contributors. The two are very intertwined in one another’s projects. It’s highly recommended that the reader cruise around Vanessa’s website here and Carl’s website here for further examination of these exceptional worlds. Vanessa and Carl were kind enough to communicate with me via email over the past few weeks. Special thanks to the both of them for sharing their story with Fruit Of The Spirit.
Roger: Firstly, where did you both grow up and what was childhood like?
Vanessa: I was born and grew up in Miami, Florida. As it’s always sunny and hot, I spent much of my childhood and adolescence outdoors, hanging out in parks, climbing trees, riding my bike, swimming and just generally running around.
Carl- I grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. My childhood was safe and pampered. I was allowed to roam freely inside my interests, which included comics, movies, music, photography, and books. I found school uninteresting but pushed through without any major effort. I dropped out of journalism college at age 23 to pursue my own interests and writing, and I’m still on that same/similar path today.
Roger: You’re both musicians/sound artists. When did you begin playing/writing/performing?
Vanessa: I never intended to become a musician (or poet or artist for that matter). My parents are both creative, my mother is an artist and my father a woodworker/carpenter, and all of their friends are also creatives, artists and musicians as well. So the arts and music were always around. Growing up in Miami, we’d often hang out at bay-side bars and restaurants that had an outdoor open floor-plan and singer songwriters always playing. As such, as I grew older I gravitated towards creative people and musicians. Pretty much all of my friends and loved ones have been creative in some way. I had a group of friends living together in a house that was called Monkey Village. They were all musicians and would frequently play together. Sometimes when they would jam, I would join in playing a tambourine or triangle. That sort of thing. Or we would all paint outside. So I dabbled with art and music in various ways with friends, but I was always in school, and school was my main focus. I didn’t consider myself an artist or musician in any way, or even particularly creative. When I finished college and went on to graduate school, I was really the only person in my friend group to do so. As I grew older and my tastes and friends became more experimental and avant-garde, I would join in their recording sessions, playing the typewriter, plucking a lap-harp, or reciting spoken word. In 2015, when I became obsessed with cut-ups, I would create cut-up poetry and then record myself reciting the poems, or speaking the spells out loud. I created an iTunes playlist of all of these cut-up recordings and would listen to them on shuffle on a loop while creating more cut-ups. One day, I sent some of these cut-up recordings to Carl, and he sent them back to me set to music! I hadn’t expected that. I loved them and was so moved. And that’s how it all began! Now I am happy to send cut-up vocals to sound artists who desire to play with them and set them to music.
Carl: My interest in playing arose from my great love of music. I simply wanted to try out and see/hear what I could achieve in a similar vein. The two veins I was interested in was psychedelic rock on the one hand and experimental electronics on the other. I started making records in 1987 and it’s been rolling along ever since, mainly with the projects “White Stains” and “Cotton Ferox.”
Roger: When did the interest in making books and magazines begin? Did you do zines as a young person?
Vanessa: When I was in my senior year of high school, I had a boyfriend who had a zine, and I used to create comic strips for his zine. I wish I still had those! When I was older, I naturally began writing more and more as part of my profession. I tended to write about the arts and music from a psychoanalytic perspective. When I met Carl in 2013, he invited me to contribute to The Fenris Wolf, so I sent him a piece I wrote on Dada and Psychoanalysis (included in The Fenris Wolf volume 7). I wrote a piece on Pandrogeny and Polymorphous Perversity, which was included in The Fenris Wolf 8. Carl was the first person to really support my cut-up poetry, setting my words to music as described above, and publishing my first book Switching Mirrors in 2016. Then when we had the first Psychoanalysis, Art & the Occult conference in London, the collected papers became The Fenris Wolf 9, which Carl and I edited together. Since then I turned a conference I hosted On Psychoanalysis and Violence into a book published by Routledge, a collection of pieces inspired by my podcast became Rendering Unconscious: Psychoanalytic Perspectives, Politics & Poetry, a new book of cut-up poetry, this time also featuring my collage-work, and on and on. The most recent book I’ve edited is a collection of Psychoanalytic Perspectives on the Films of Ingmar Bergman, due out later this year.
Carl and I have also been posting about our magical practices weekly on our Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/vanessa23carl). We collected the first year of posts into a book called It’s Magic Monday Every Day of the Week, and we’ve just wrapped a second year of posts, which we will turn into a new book soon. You can check out a list of my books here: http://www.drvanessasinclair.net/books/
Carl: My main interest in terms of creative expressions has always been writing. So I early on wanted to have some kind of publication of my own. The first real zine I had was called Splasch, and was focused on comics, circa 1980-1982. Then followed Lollipop and Acts of Interstellar Torture (1985-1988), which were all about rock’n’roll, trash culture, and movies. After that, in 1989, I got more serious with the occultural journal The Fenris Wolf, which is still going today. From 1990 and onwards, I’ve run publishing companies parallel to my own writing. I like to say that I’m addicted to printed matter!
Roger: I enjoy how the two of you employ cut-up techniques in much of your work. When did this begin and where do you see it going?
Vanessa: I began diving into the cut-up method full force in 2015. I had just moved into a new apartment that was all my own. When I move into a new place I like to cleanse and consecrate the new space before moving in my belongings. So I went over to the new place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn after work. I picked up some candles at the bodega and some salt. I lit a candle and put salt in all the corners, then swept it up. I sat in front of a candle in the center of the empty loft, and I thought to myself, “I wonder what would happen if I consecrated this space by creating cut-ups, Burroughs style.” I had the piece on Pandrogeny and Polymorphous Perversity with me, so I decided to cut it up. And here we are!
I see myself continuing to practice the cut-up method. It’s become such an integral part of my life. Just yesterday, we visited Kvilleken, an 1,000 year old oak tree in our region, and I brought my cut-ups and collage materials with me. I created a collage and asked Carl and the artist River (https://river-artefacts.com) who was with us (she created the cover-painting for Carl’s forthcoming novel Codex Nordica) to each draw some cut-up text from a pouch, and I integrated the text into the collage. Then, for example, tomorrow I plan to record some spoken word pieces for a few sound artists who have expressed an interest in setting my vocals to music. So I will likely read and record the collage created at Kvilleken into that process. Someone will set the spell poem to music and send it out into the world. I’ll create a collage film to accompany the music, and the creative process goes on and on.
Carl: I got into Burroughs and Gysin in the early to mid 1980s. For me it was the same as with the music: I wanted to try my hand at actually making what I liked to listen to (or read). The active work with textual cut-ups waned after a few years for me. I have always been more interested in the “stream of consciousness” writing when it comes to lyrics for music, for instance. As for cut-ups applied to other things than writing per se, that’s another matter. Enforced chance can be very creative and magical/transforming.
Roger: When did you both form an interest in occultism/spirituality/satanism?
Vanessa: My mother has an astrologer, who she has seen for decades, since before I was born. She created a natal chart for me when I was born. Growing up in Miami, Santeria was always around. Many of my friends’ parents were what I thought of as witches at the time. Brujas. I was always immersed in nature and was a natural witch, always talking to spirits, trees and those types of entities. When I was a young teen, around 13-14, I had a friend with whom I would experiment. We would hypnotize ourselves and travel to each others houses via astral projection, etc. It was clear to me then that magic really worked, and that realization was actually quite overwhelming. I think it would be less overwhelming, if society didn’t pathologize those types of experiences. I felt like I shouldn’t be able to have an influence, like I wasn’t worthy or established enough to be able to create change in the world. So for a while after I graduated high school, during my late teens and early 20s, I really fought against myself and my natural inclinations. I became an atheist and really focused on science. I studied accounting and then became pre-med. That was also the worst time of my life, where everything always felt like it was going wrong, just one thing after another. After having what some call a Spiritual Emergency (check out the book edited by Stanislav Grof) I got back on track. I decided to study psychology and return to my interest in human consciousness and potential.
I briefly dated a guy who was a satanist in high school, whose parents were also satanists. I remember he was 18 and had a vasectomy, as he told me satanists don’t procreate. It was a brief encounter but I recall his parents lived on Star Island or Hibiscus Island, one of those islands off Miami Beach where the wealthiest and most famous people live. Of course, meeting Carl I’ve married into the Church of Satan family, and I must say everyone I’ve met, Peter, Peggy, Blanche, Ruth, are all the most thoughtful, well-rounded, and individuated people. And funny, too! Each have their own views and perspectives, and everyone shows each other respect. It’s great!
Carl: I would say early 1980s, so basically in my teens. From a budding curiosity grew a more methodical research that is still going on today. It has been most rewarding and satisfying, and is a big part of my life to the extent that it is nowadays almost a career for me. I’m currently writing a book about my adventures in various magical orders and groups, which will be published in 2024.
Roger: What have you been reading lately? Currently listening to?
I frequently listen to my friend Emil Amos’ music. He has several bands: Grails, Om, Holy Sons, Lilacs & Champagne, plus some solo work. I also love Otto von Schirach’s album Draculo (also a friend from Miami), and everything by Little Annie (who also now lives in Miami!). Lately I’ve been immersing myself in various Swedish bands. I’ve recently acquired my Swedish citizenship, so I am learning as much as possible about the culture. Dungen, Slowgold, Anna von Hausswolf, The Amazing, Union Carbide Productions, Freddie Wadling, The Soundtrack of our Lives, Cosmic Overdose, and other artists from Subliminal Sounds.
Carl: I’ve been ploughing through Hermann Hesse recently, and I love his writing and spirit a lot. As for music, I’m basically only listening to classical music. However, Vanessa is great at making very cool playlists so I do get a dynamic variety of stuff via her.
Roger: I’m curious about the role of occultism in activism. Things are getting rougher and rougher out there in the world. How do you both think we can use esoteric thought to make a difference?
Vanessa: I think magical practice in and of itself is subversive. By it’s very nature it is not of the mainstream. Even if it’s in fashion or trending. When we really practice magic, when we focus our will and put it into practice, we are individuating. The more of us that align with ourselves, the better. Connecting with our ancestors, the land, and other magical practitioners is so important. These are all magical acts and acts of revolution. These actions really change things. They create space for shifts to take place.
We were recently listening to "At Stockholm", which is one of my favorite pieces of music of all time. Carl, Gen and Thomas Tibert created it in 1989, and it was released in 1990. As part of this recording, there is a reading of A Message From Thee Temple by both Gen (in English) and Carl (in Swedish). When we were listening to the album recently, the words really hit me again:
"Thee Temple strives to end personal laziness and to
Engender discipline. To focus thee
Will on one's true desires. In thee belief, gathered
From experience, that this maximizes
And makes happen all those things that one wants in
Every area of L-if-E
Explore daily your deepest desires, fantasies and
Motives, gradually focusing on what you would like
To have happen in a "perfect world", a "perfect situation"
Taking away all restrictions and "practical"
Considerations. What you would really want
Then decide to try and do it
Thee mere visualization of that true goal, your true
Will, begins thee process that makes it happen
Clean out thee trappings and debris ov compromise, ov
What you've been told is reasonable for a person in
Your circumstances. Be clear in admitting your real
Desires. Discard all irrelevancies. Ask yourself, who
You want as friends, if you need or want to work
What you want to eat
Check and re-check everything deeper and
Deeper, more and more precisely to get closer and
Closer to, and ultimately, integrate with, your real Self
Once you are truly focused upon yourself internally
Thee external aspects ov your L-if-E will fall into place
They have to.
Skeptics will say that they simply don't believe this
Psychic process works. But it does
It is thee key to thee temple!"
This message is so true! Even more so now than ever. Try it!
The systems set up by mainstream USAmerican monoculture, which has unfortunately spread globally through cultural imperialism, do not encourage individuation. They espouse to believe in freedom and individualism. Those things are not the same. Freedom in USAmerica means the everyday citizen is free to be manipulated, abused, and exploited, with no regulations, protection from governing bodies or anyone else.
I think the best thing we can do is begin by analyzing ourselves, looking within, thinking about our belief systems, ingrained belief systems that we consider to be true without really examining them or interrogating where they’ve come from. Are these really things we believe? Or have these ideas been instilled in us by others? Psychoanalysis, creative practices, and magical practices are all ways we can self-reflect, interrogate, reassess, and break down, so we may recreate ourselves and our world. We can invent new ways of being in the world. I write about this and discuss various ways artists have done this through their work in my book Scansion in Psychoanalysis and Art: the Cut in Creation (2020).
Immersing myself in these practices – the psychoanalytic, artistic, and magical – has done wonders for me in my life. Truly beyond my wildest dreams. I hope others feel inspired. Hence the Psychoanalysis, Art and the Occult series of events. http://psychartcult.org
Carl: On an individual level, we certainly can. For me, that’s where it belongs. As soon as there are collective goals based on some vague degree of resonance, then corruption and group dynamics very quickly pop up. For me, the “path” or whatever we prefer to call it, is very much about individuation and self-refinement. When we pursue that path with honesty and determination, we can affect people in an inspiring way, and thereby we can cause change in an indirect yet potentially very powerful way. If we so desire, we can of course direct transforming energies towards things or issues we would like to see resolved in a different way. But as soon as there are more people involved, the original overall goal usually gets muddled by interpersonal dynamics, and ultimately lost in the fog.
Roger: Thank you both for taking the time to talk with me. Very grateful.