Tuesday, December 19, 2006

William S. Burroughs: 20th Century Gnostic Visionary





Even the so-called science fictional elements of his books were not intended as satire or metaphor. Burroughs could very well have been introduced to the Nova Express model of invading extraterrestrials (and/or intrusions from alternate dimensions) at a very young age. In various interviews, for example, Burroughs has recounted one of his earliest childhood memories.

When he was four, he woke up early in the morning and saw little gray men playing in a block house he had made. "I felt no fear," he said, "only stillness and wonder." When asked about this incident in 1987, interviewer Larry McCaffery offhandedly referred to such experiences as "hallucinatory." Burroughs replied, "I wouldn’t call them hallucinatory at all. If you see something, it's a shift of vision, not a hallucination. You shift your vision. What you see is there, but you have to be in a certain place to see it."

This image of "little gray men" evokes more recent, popular conceptions of extraterrestrials as seen on the mass market covers of any number of books by Whitley Strieber, the author of Communion (1987), Transformation (1988) and several others in which his ostensible contacts with alien beings are delineated.

1 comment:

W.M. Bear said...

Burroughs replied, "I wouldn’t call them hallucinatory at all. If you see something, it's a shift of vision, not a hallucination. You shift your vision. What you see is there, but you have to be in a certain place to see it."

I basically believe this. Does the sheer fact that someone claims that they saw, for example, the Archangel Gabriel necessarily mean that the Archangel Gabriel was NOT there for them to see? Modern and postmodern sensibilities -- especially the reductive, so-called "sceptical" variety -- tend to dismiss this kind of experience out of hand AS "nothing but hallucination," meaning the experience of something that is NOT there. But suppose the "something" IS there?