Vox: An Interview with Rob Brezsny

An interview with Rob Brezsny by Antero Alli

Most people recognize Rob Brezsny's name attached to his internationally syndicated FREE WILL ASTROLOGY column. Some folks know him as the beloved weirdo behind WORLD ENTERTAINMENT WAR, a funk-shock, iconoclastically political rock 'n' roll outfit. When I first met Rob many years ago, it was with the uncanny feeling of meeting a soul mate who didn't fit my picture of a soul mate; he was male and kind of unearthly. Over the years a friendship has developed between us, where Rob has somehow remained one of the most genuinely enigmatic people I've known -- er, unknown.

If Rob Brezsny were a drug, he'd be a mix of truth serum, DMT, and Coca Cola. The most dangerous thing I know about Rob Brezsny is that he's for real. He actually does consort with spirits. He truly is a 21st century oracle. He is especially for real when it sounds like he's pulling your leg; that is the time we should listen more closely or reread the previous sentence of his written work. Rob Brezsny is also hilarious the way poet Jean Cocteau is, in realizing how all of creation is wrapped up in the contradictions.

ANTERO ALLI: Rob, what's been intoxicating you lately?

ROB BREZSNY: What's been intoxicating me lately has been my willingness to be a nobody. To be empty on purpose. At least temporarily, I really have lost my sneaky old urge to be loved and admired for the stuff I create while intoxicated. Hallelujah! Let's hope this state of grace lasts. Let's hope I don't interrupt my next epiphany in order to steal its spiritual kick for use in some work of art that'll show my ego off in a glamorous pose.

Hey, I don't even know if I'd better talk about any of this. Maybe I'm already bragging about being nobody, and so I'm not nobody any more. Don't trick me now, Antero. I want to stay down here for a while, in the caves of deep hermetic garbage. I want to keep inhaling the fumes of this alchemically fermented, gold-colored, strawberry-flavored garbage. I don't want to be under any obligation to haul it up to the surface and show everybody what beautiful garbage it is.

AA: Can I get high with you?

BREZSNY (laughing): If you like gold-colored, strawberry-flavored garbage...yeah.

AA: No, that's your garbage. I want to get high with you by not having to be anybody.

BREZSNY: (laughing): You're welcome to it. It's a great happy birthday kind of feeling.

AA: Feels like Christmas, doesn't it? I wanted to ask you about another festive experience I've been having lately, which is, I think, related to clues you've leaked to me about your own adventures. I know this may not be literally true, but I've been fantasizing that I can smell more estrogen in the air. Makes me think that maybe there's some kind of secret female insurrection going on.

BREZSNY: Care to expand?

AA: You know how pumped-up male egos produce more testosterone? Well, maybe when women become more powerful, they generate more estrogen.

BREZSNY: I'm not sure of many things in this life, but one thing I know for damn sure is that we are now in the midst of an invasion of the divine feminine archetype. Sometimes I feel it as a kind of time-traveling form of mass psychic surgery as performed by radical women pantheosexuals from the year 2070. Sometimes I feel it as the Oversoul -- whose name seems to have been changed from Christ to Sophia, by the way -- calling us home. Sometimes I feel it as Mother Earth herself saying, in effect, "Humanity's testosterone-poisoned dream needs a potent antidote of Goddess Medicine -- NOW!"

It's visible everywhere -- in the visions of the Holy Mother and the Great Goddess being seen in the sky all over the world (though largely unreported by the media). The UFO phenomenon, also grossly underreported, comes from the same source -- from Sophia poking holes in the three dimensional consensual hallucination called "reality," and blowing in great big waves of four-dimensional Mojo.

Now personally, you can either resist and reject this Mojo, or you can let it steep you and simmer you till you start having productive spiritual orgasms. The Rush Limbaughs and Eminems and Hannibal Lecters of the world are terrified by the divine feminine takeover. They're digging in for their last stand. But it's too late. Sophia or Kali or Isis or whatever name you want to give HER, is going to melt down their fake world.

To be sure, it will take a while: Call it Slow-Motion Apocalypse. In the meantime, those of us boys and girls who're welcoming Her will be aiding and abetting the reverse action, which we might call Slow-Motion Metamorphosis. It'll take forty or fifty years. Corruption, collapse, and chaos will unfold side by side with regeneration, redemption, and revelry.

AA: I've heard rumors that you were abducted by a sect of crazy priestesses. Is this true? And if it is, will you talk about the kidnapping?

BREZSNY (nervous laughter): It's a delicate thing.

AA: What did they teach you? Did they impart any secret rituals or ways of getting high?

BREZSNY: Let's talk about them in the present tense, since in a sense I'm still under their benevolent "house-arrest." Sometimes my abductors call themselves The Menstrual Temple of the Funky Grail. Other times they say they're the Breakfast of Amazons.

In fact, during the time I've been in their...uh...safekeeping, I've eaten a lot of this weird food they make, Breakfast of Amazons cereal. It's made from artichokes, grapes, wild rice, and a secret ingredient they won't officially reveal to me, though I have a pretty good guess. It's dark purple flakes that they serve in a bowl with a thick, milky liquid they call Moon Flower Juice.

AA: Does it get you high?

BREZSNY (laughing): Well, yes, but... Let me just say that when I first encountered the women of the Menstrual Temple, they treated me to all of what I now call the old-fashioned forms of intoxication -- you know, blithering, blubbering, senseless joy...your eyes rolling to the back of your head...the sun coming out at midnight and scaring away all your fears. Eating the Breakfast of Amazons cereal can launch me into that kind of experience. But later I found out that their gifts of this old-fashioned style of intoxication were just the priestesses' sly way to get me interested in them so they could teach me about a very different variety of intoxication. I call this other kind "time-release intoxication" because it takes a few moments to sluice into me and then takes two days or three weeks or a year to release its full epiphany.

AA: How does it work?

BREZSNY: First, I have to be utterly ready to believe I'm not who I think I am. Second, I have to be so receptive that I break all my previous records for being receptive. Third, it always involves a visit from a presence I have no choice but to call the Goddess.

It's sudden. She's there out of nowhere. She's upon me, inside me. I'm a burning body -- on low heat. I'm erect to Her, but not with a crazed, bellowing testosterone rush. Rather, it's a cool steady heat like a firefly. I'm not trying to be bizarre when I say this, but it's as if I'm a lesbian in a heterosexual man's body enraptured with the gorgeous naked joybody of a voluptuous four-dimensional Goddess flickering into three-dimensional view. The Feminine Word of Words becoming Flesh.

It lasts for 30 seconds, or three minutes, then it's gone. Outwardly, nothing much appears to have happened. Inwardly, I'm in a relaxed state of red-alert pleasure. Wildly disciplined and blissfully shocked. Miniature mine sweepers with faces like Pac-woman are swirling through me hunting down all my phallocratic imprints. You know what it means to have a chronic, low-grade infection? Well, this is a chronic, low-grade intoxication.

Two days or three weeks later, I can still sense the miniature mine sweepers blowing up phallocratic imprints. The work seems to go on around the clock, with tender relentlessness. There goes another shred of my Joseph Campbell-approved admiration for the solitary hero archetype; there goes my teenage fantasy of being a charismatic rebel rockstar; there goes one more fragment of my fathers' fathers' fathers' instructions to either under-idealize women as dumb bitches or else to over-idealize women as all-powerful agents of nurturing redemption. No more crazy-making virgin-whore hallucinations for me, thank you.

AA: What conclusions have you come to after all this ?

BREZSNY: I suspect that this time-release intoxication requires an Other. You can't do it on your own. The Other may be your tender angel or muse, or an actual person who is herself intoxicated, or that divine invasion of the Oversoul from the future. And you can be sure this Other is not interested in telling you how great you are or in reinforcing your ego's inflated -- or deflated -- notions of who you are.

AA: Being nobody makes you receptive.

BREZSNY: Absolutely. Receptivity is the key. As long as I think I can induce the intoxication myself, then what comes is more likely to be the ego's cheap trick than the Goddess's gift. Even more interesting: For the joyous shock and blessed scouring of the intoxication to be genuine, I have to keep changing the ways and means I find it. In fact, I'd go so far to say that if it doesn't stretch my ingenuity to its limits and renew my heart by almost breaking it, it's not intoxication.

AA: Is there anything else the Menstrual Temple of the Funky Grail wants to tell us through you?

BREZSNY: Yes. The archetypes are mutating. The old gods are dying right in front of our third eyes. And one of the most thrilling and chilling of the new archetypes is the prankster goddess, whom I call the feminismo trickster. She's been virtually absent since Lilith was banished at the dawn of phallocratic history.

(Short history lesson: According to Hebrew myth, Lilith, not Eve, was Adam's first wife. Adam told Lilith to get lost after she insisted that she wanted to tell jokes while making love, and try the woman-on-top position for a change. Adam only liked to do it doggie-style. Seriously.)

Anyway, when most people think of a prank, they visualize bad but funny trouble committed by angry, vulgar guys. You might remember the time some teenager you knew went to the house of an adult he hated. The kid put a paper bag full of dog poop on the porch, lit it with a match, rang the doorbell, and ran away. When his victim came to the door and saw the flames, he stamped on it. His shoe got covered in shit.

This kind of macho mayhem has unfortunately come to be regarded as the very definition of tricky mischief. But in fact it's a distorted caricature of the art. It's driven by revenge and the desire to humiliate. It reinforces the ancient phallocratic nonsense of "Us Vs. Them." The typical macho prankster is proud of feeling nothing for what he mocks. He performs the dehumanization of his target as he affirms the superiority of his alienation.

The feminismo trickster, in contrast, uses the prank as a loving tool for obliterating hierarchy, as a sacred leveler of elitist pretensions. She is not driven by revenge or oneupmanship. She empathizes as she disrupts, seeking not to discredit and embarrass the target of her mischief, but to shock it into becoming more itself. It's a celebration of the aesthetics of the erotic soul over against the sneaky agendas of the separative ego. The feminismo prankster loves what she profanes. Weaving her fate together with her targets, she honors her relationship with it even as she tweaks it out of its literalism.

A feminismo prank, though it may be surprising, is ultimately friendly. It romances the contradictions with crafty compassion. It's an eroticomic strategy to extinguish the glamour of the ancient Us Versus Them.

One caveat: Though the feminismo trickster borrows from the ethic of "commit random acts of kindness," she is also aware of Chogyam Trungpa's distinction between actual compassion and idiot compassion. The idiot kind is the short-term fix we offer a suffering person in order to console him, even though it might encourage him to keep doing what brought on his pain. Authentic compassion, on the other hand, might at first seem severe -- as when we refuse to buy into someone's habitual tendency to portray himself as a victim. If done lovingly, though, this more strenuous kindness serves as a wake-up call.

AA: Anything you want to add before we stop?

RB: How about a meditation on "supplication," a word the Menstrual Temple taught me to think about very differently?

AA: Receptivity dovetails nicely with supplication, I'd say. Go ahead.

RB: Note first the presence of "supple" in supplication. Real supplication is never the pitiful duty of an ossified fanatic driven by conscience. Nor is it the product of a repressed underdog embroiled in a decadent celebration of his own powerlessness. There's no fearful dogma in supplication, no masochistic longing for the interplay of dominance and submission.

The Menstrual Temple showed me that real supplication is a kind of thaumaturgy, or magical wonder-working. What could be more wizardly than the brave surrender of your ridiculous omniscience? What could better earn you the right to call yourself a potent magus than to master the art of robust unconditional love?

Real supplication empowers the devotee as much as the recipient of his supplication.