Peter Whitehead
life films books orders links home
falcon
interview

published in Fringecore, January 1998
RISING ABOVE THE SIXTIES
interview with Peter Whitehead by Dee in 'fringecore' (beyond transgression)
 A journal of the cultural fringe & the weird issue no.2 Dec 1997/Jan 1998

Picture

Peter Whitehead is renowned for his significant contribution to the sixties counter-culture scene, which he believes sowed the seeds

 today's resurgence of anti-authoritarian and eastern philosophical thought and the prominent role of drugs. Peter's sixties films included Wholly Communion (the documentary of the great Albert Hall Poetry Festival in 1965), Charlie is My Darling (the account of the Rolling Stones '66 Irish tour), Tonite Let's All Make Love in London (including Pink Floyd's 10-minute epic of Rock 'n Roll entropy) and many other song promos. Subsequently he produced other films including Perception of Life, The Fall, Daddy (a psycho-therapeutic collaboration with sculptress Niki de St. Phalle) and the photo-book Baby Doll (reviewed in Fringecore #1). In recent years he has been writing books, such as Nora and..., Pulp Election: The Booker Prize Fix by Carmen St. Keeldare (Peter's pseudonym), and The Risen, which is the prime subject of this interview.

Peter, you were very much part of the sixties' and early seventies' scene in London and the USA experiencing the revolution first hand. How do you see the evolution of the counterculture expression?

PW: This counterculture force is stronger today than earlier, flowering amongst the 18-35 year olds, a new lost generation, with no interest in voting or propping up the myth of rationality and the prevalence of reason, both left and right questioning the whole conceptional paradigm of scientific materialism, Christianity and its cohorts, regarding them as a huge confidence trick.

I stopped making films in the 70's, after The Fall, in which I filmed the demos at Columbia University and witnessed close-up, the brutality of the police, cracking heads with venom. At that time I thought I could change the world and by being part of it while it evolved, attach myself to the world as a participator. However, I began to realise that in my role behind the camera, I was simply a voyeur. So if I couldn't change the world, maybe I should change myself.

How were these changes manifested?

PW: Prior to commencing my filming career, I had graduated from Cambridge University as a physicist and crystallographer, having developed a very rational mindset. Soon I was finding it difficult to reconcile the polemics in my consciousness, on the one hand rationality, and yet also within me this deep feeling that this was not remotely connected with what one should be accessing. I had always had a deep interest in Ancient Egypt and ancient systems of mysticism and the potential for simulating links with quantum physics.

Such developments are being more rigorously pursued today. They required a shift from our obsession with linear time into vertical time, hypertext. The Net, interactive movies etc. are a start. We need to create the interface between modern physics and ancient mysticism.

I believe a form of the apocalypse is drawing closer - the end of the millennium will signify 2,000 years of domination of rationality and scientific materialism over consciousness. In fact, in a way the apocalypse is here, the old structures are falling apart, on their last lap and being deconstructed and fragmented. This is a very exciting and stimulating era, one where society will be forced to let go of its old standards and values.

Reason is a myth. Rationality, manipulated by Christianity, is redundant. The need is not for rationality, but for structure. Linear forms from A-Z, illustrated in the concept life - death will be replaced by the new paradigm of virtuality, parallelism... It is possible to have structure without linearity - that is the unconscious. Two thousand years of rationality, killed 200 million people, based on the rational arguments for wars. It is time for letting go, allowing the forces within us to take over. However, the unconscious must be structured.

In fact, you completely changed your lifestyle. No more Baby Doll, Daddy, and the like, and went off on your falconry trip. What were you searching for?

PW: I suppose you can say that I see myself as a truth seeker, looking for the invisible - the structure beyond the physical world. I replaced one all-seeing eye (the camera) for another. The only difference was that one was for pursuing the illusion of the outside world, whilst the other was pursuing the illusion of the interior. That was the primary motivation for my transportation into the world of the falcon. Breeding and trapping them in the Arctic, Afghanistan, North Africa... running the largest centre for falcons in the world for 8 years in Arabia. I have been interested in the falcon since I was a child, when I became possessed having seen a bronze sculpture of the falcon in the Louvre. I was fascinated by the fact that it travels so fast going nowhere. It hovers, outside of time and when it re-enters reality, it swoops down to murder, kill and eat.

The falcon was the most important thing for the Ancient Egyptians, symbolising the birth of the spirit child Horus - the Golden Falcon of the Dawn from the copulation of Isis and Osiris illustrates.

I came to a point where I felt I was too much involved on the material level. I wanted to go back, to deeper access the paradigm.

Peter Whitehead's novel The Risen is a symbolic autobiography of the whole process - the essence of the Egyptian mysteries, the paradigm of cosmo-genesis or the birth of human consciousness. The Risen, published in 1994 and due to reappear as a paperback in November 1997 (at 9.99 from Hathor Press) is described as a 3D "Holographic Novel", a vivid quest into the mysteries of ancient mythology, occultism and female sexuality. The title came from a poem by Ted Hughes in Cave Birds about a shamanistic trip. The poem is also called "The Risen" - about the birth of a ghostly falcon. Peter received the manuscript through the post, dedicated to him, on the very day that he hatched his very first falcon in a breeding project. Coincidence? As Alan Moore explains "The novel draws the reader through the half silvered mirror of reason into its own time space, a virtual inscape fusing magical imagery from holography and morphic resonance, fetishistic sex and pagan initiation rites - an occult tour-de-force which will alter our perceptions of reality - forever".

In fact in addition to the highly original and impactful story and the scope and profoundness of the intrigue and symbolism, the power of the book is in its ability to drag its readers deeply into the inner debate on first, the polemical relevance between the philosophy of rationality/reason and spirituality/ consciousness and secondly, the unifying of two consciousnesses in order to achieve harmonisation of the brain as one mental entity. To illustrate this, Peter uses the parallel researches of two seemingly unconnected experiments as his back-drop. In one a physicist splits a pyramid-shaped diamond with a jade-green X-ray laser, and in the other a dreamer splits his mind with a pyramidine crystal of the psychedelic smart drug Tiresiamine. Both reached the inevitable meeting- point of infinity. So there is a third pyramid in which a third eye (like the magic eye of Horus) is opening, moving us to the next dimension, beyond linear time, beyond the ego, to holographic time in which unconsciousness, and desire, are limitlessly attainable.

Let's talk about your novel, The Risen.

PW: My novel The Risen is the result of that reinvestigation into my inner Self. It is a symbolic, autobiography of the whole process... The essence of the Egyptian mysteries, the paradigm of cosmo-genesis or the birth of human consciousness. The novel is about the inner birth of the falcon - the rebirth of the mummified falcon spiritually. We have to all be reborn spiritually. This rebirth is being accelerated, happening on a collective level with the growing interest in Tibetan mysticism, Buddhism... a polytheistic system. God is not about some Jewish gentleman living up in his jewellery shop in heaven. There are more gods than one as the Egyptians knew. They believed in the Netas or energy forces. The reason it is called The Risen is because it is about the accessing of time vertically, creating the hypertext link, entering space, our consciousness, vertically. When we reach that point we will understand that all time, past and future, is present in the present.

 'He said desire was the essential unifying force, binding the two sides of the hologram together. The world has been cut into fourteen parts by reason, and its technology, science. We may find thirteen of them, but the most important, we can't. It is magic itself, the phallus of Isis... signifier of desire. It is her desire that completes the picture, makes the fragments fuse, from confusion to fusion, if only for a moment, alas! After desire subsides, you're back with the thirteen pieces. But cut up desire, look at a small fragment, and you see the whole universe. Desire is a holographic part of the universal unity, wholeness, an erotic, ecstatic God!'

Please expand upon your concept of the holographic novel - the relevance of the double viewpoint - where the two distinct consciousnesses interface and become aspects of one mental entity - one unifying force of desire - holographic time and dream as the hologram of life?

PW: I used the idea of a holographic novel, because for me there are two aspects to a hologram that interest me; one is it's an amusing model that I can use in my novel and did so some might say cynically but that is not the case at all. The real reason is that David Bohm, a physicist for whom I have the greatest respect, and Karl Pribram, a neuro- physiologist, and various other people believe absolutely that knowledge or consciousness is holographically dispersed through the brain and throughout the universe. The holography, which is just a sort of two-dimensional into three perception that we have which gives us the concept of three-dimensional space, is actually how the fields interact with each other. If you like - holograms upon holograms upon holograms which I think David Bohm called the holo-movement. It is a holographic universe, unconsciousness is holographic which means that in the brain any single one idea is available everywhere. Now I've taken this concept - I haven't found it anywhere else and anybody else but I'm sure they have used it - of holographic time. In a photograph of a holographic image if we chop it up into a million bits, every single millionth bit is the whole image, as you probably know. Well, do the same with time that means that in every moment of time there are all the other moments of time, which is why we appear to see it as one kind of time but if we chop it up every single one moment of time could contain the past and the future. The first lines of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets are quite correct, that is holographic time. The question is how do we access it. We do it by opening the third eye, which is the birth of Horus the Falcon.

In The Risen one half of your holo-male protagonist, John Faulkner, develops and takes the Tiresiamine to "induce a new bias-frequency in his brain, inducing receptivity to the so far undetected R-Field matrix, enabling him to see holographically - to develop gravity waves that communicate information or transfer souls from one frame of reference to another. The R stands for reincarnation. What are your thoughts on reincarnation - the energised rebirth of the spirit, its transformation and migration?

PW: It's one hell of a question, you know, you can write a book on it. Many have. Why I dealt with reincarnation in The Risen is twofold.

One that I had anyway unconsciously always been preoccupied with the falcon, right from a very early age, then it became an obsession with ancient Egypt and a particular sculpture of a falconheaded man and then it became a preoccupation with the Egyptian Book of the Dead then and so on, I was sort of living out the myth of the birth/rebirth of Horus the falcon. My life with my falcons - obviously - were experiences that provoked my interest in spiritual development and so on. But the birth of the falcon in ancient Egyptian mystical science clearly is to do with reincarnation. The act of copulation between Isis and Osiris I would say, because of the nature of the way it is described with the absent phallus and so on and how she recreates it through magic and so on and copulates with it, suggests to me absolutely the question of artificial insemination. And if the ancient Egyptians who knew more about this than we did because they didn't have the problem of rationality came to the conclusion that rebirth was in some connected with artificial insemination then you know I'd say that they had proof. My preoccupation with Horus which I've lived out more than anyone surely in the face of the earth, copulating with falcons year after year. I have lived it out because it was a deep instinct. That's one side of it.

The second side of the whole thing to me is that I've not elaborated upon - and I'm not really prepared to do too much at the moment because I've got to write a book about it, but I will hint at it - is that when I was in Pakistan where I sort of lived off and on for a couple of years - I had a girlfriend there and this trapping falcons business and what else and exploring the mountains and nether regions - an extraordinary place. I did actually work, on and off, with a shaman - a remarkable man, a clairvoyant, a seer, call him what you will, so distinguished that he advised the President of Pakistan three morning a week for three hours. He was a totally illiterate man - he's dead now, who was a map-maker - couldn't read or write, couldn't speak English, and I worked with him and Samina, my girlfriend, who is also now dead, on a number of occasions working towards accessing the spirit that he said from the first second of meeting me, possessed me, haunted me and had been directing my path and my progress and that the whole falcon thing was related to it. To cut a long story short he set up a series of expectations - call them premonitions, call them clairvoyant - in Russia the falcon is called the clairvoyant falcon - he set things up so when they happened to me I was able to recognise them. Or they were gonna happen anyway. He didn't cause them, he set me up to expect certain connections and things, so that when they happened I knew and recognised them and I was able to totally recreate in the present time, a life that I have lived before. Clearly and as always still got unconscious access to. He was able to give me that certainty so that when it happened I was able to just meet somebody and know, and actually he told Samina in Pakistan - she was on her way to come to meet me - that she shouldn't bother because I had finally met the person I was always looking for with whom I had been totally with, in a former life and so on and so forth. He did on another occasion actually physically, physically bring down a spirit, he tried for 24 hours to do it and it came in a very strange way which when I meet you I will tell you, I'm not gonna tell you in this context, are pretty amazing.

After that kind of experience with this kind of a man in the kind of context of Pakistan and so on and mysticism and so on you're never the same again, and you certainly can't trust rationality or western concepts of the real world. Having been there then reincarnation is an absolute fact. I kept a diary from 1962 of a number of dreams and experiences all of which led up to 1979. I have an absolute factual record of all the steps that I have taken gradually trying to access a previous life. I have physical direct data which he knew nothing about. All he was able to say was I will put you in touch with the spirit and you will receive the message and I received the message and it linked the past, the present and the future. Reincarnation is a fact. The thing is we cannot know it through rationality, but we know it unconsciously - all our systems of unconscious knowledge do talk about the same kind of things like the soul and migration and so on. The Risen is a shamanistic trip. The shaman always was a person who would go up the tree and go off and come back with the knowledge of the future and the past and in the Rig-Veda it is always the falcon who returns with the future and past with cyclic time, with the sacred mushroom in its claws. The same sacred mushroom of course which Isis transformed into the means by which through artificial insemination she fertilises matter and gives it form, a form that we know is life which is developed into her own kind of consciousness.

Dreaming so closely resembles being under the influence of such a drug, that the body must create its OWN psychedelic drug, provoking a momentary psychosis. A rare blessing! A drug related to LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, no wonder dreams are often so fascinating! Well, we found a drug produced during REM periods of sleep, and called it HYPNOTAMINE.

 

Eating the crystal confirms that Hypnotamine provokes the psychosis we call dreaming. Ignore them! Unless you're one of those enlightened people who know that psychosis leads to a higher form of truth. In dreams are involutes of knowledge worth unravelling, visions of the future, and messages from other beings trying to be reincarnated through your consciousness, from other networks. From the virtual-time reality network!

...Cindy and I worked on synthesising other drugs closely related to Hypnotamine, which we'd found was rather different in structure to the known psychedelic drugs. But here was another psychotic idea! Was there not a drug that might even be responsible for narrowing consciousness, responsible for the greatest crime of human history, reason?

Dreams are messages being received from the R Field and they resemble the feeling of being under the influence of hallucination-invoking drugs. The dreams are an important and directorial part of the novel. How did your own experience with mescalin influence these sections and the essence of the Tiresiamine task?

PW: I have only taken mescalin once. It was one of the most significant and exciting experiences I have had in my life. It opened up my mind to multiple points of view and as consciousness is chemical, it convinced me that synthesising psychopharmaceuticals was one way of accessing other levels of consciousness. I never took it again, although I've dabbled in psilocybin which is much milder and of course I practice mythical meditations. Mescaline was so powerful I've never been able to live in reality in the same way ever since. I am not interested in the so-called real world. I have the knowledge that just around the corner there lies access to higher, multi-layered states of mind. From then on, if only you have the sensibility to see it as a higher truth, you can open yourself to new perceptions. Like opening up the doors of Aldous Huxley's "Doors of Perception to Heaven and Hell". Energy is in everything - you can feel it, see it, touch it, experience it as a higher force.

 He was stunned momentarily, taken unaware, instantly slipping out of time, unable to avoid returning to the instant when his laser presumably collided with the strata or organic carbon in his diamond crystal... or when it whirled out of control... a distinction he had yet to ascertain... drifting... and in that brief second of collision which should not have happened, the fusion of opposites, and in the space where there should have been nothing, emergence of energy that had come from nowhere... and he would have to call it cold fusion, meanwhile, because there was nothing else that could resemble it. Where was the new energy coming from, inside his crystal... or his mind?

Do you believe in the existence of matter in the form that it is generally, physically understood or is it simply energy transformed by one catalyst or another?

PW: Matter does not exist except as a series of interfaces, of coincidental coincidences. Coincidences are just actual cross-roads between various different energy fields of which we can perceive a couple, and they give us the illusion of materiality and for me this symbol is of the Caduceus' involute which is Tiresius, with the snakes surrounding it. If you like those snakes they're just a couple of the fields and they intertwine. It is a moiré pattern. If you put two patterns one over the other you see the dots connect. If you can imagine three invisible fields overlapping each other and all we see are the dots where they connect. Let's say you take two fields and then you just end up with the dots and then you take two other fields and you end up with the dots then you just layer the two resulting fields over each other and you just have the dots where they connect. That's all we see. The rest is dead to us.

And then it dawned on him, he was Tamino, he was undergoing these rites of transformation, being initiated by these temple girls into the rites of sacrifice; self-sacrifice. Shouldn't he escape before it was too late? No, nothing could have pulled him away from them now, from wanting to see what was next, to want to know what was next. 'When I know always what is next, at every moment, then I will be initiated,' he murmured to himself, pleased with himself.

The role and/or need for sacrifice as a means to transform the Self or to make the Self, being or spirit sacred?

PW: Sacrifice is just very simple; it's giving up the ego. You have to do it by dreaming, or rituals, or sex or whatever you want to call it, and the ego you know is just a sort of means by which we create the illusion of linear time which is much more comfortable than cyclic time and matter which is much more comfortable than no-matter, absence or translucency. And, you know, the ego is quite a useful kind of device. But true expansion of consciousness into the fields where we can access what life is really about, which is reincarnation and cyclic time, then we have to sacrifice the ego and we do it by various means; the sacred prostitute, sex, drugs, dancing, and all the means by which we sleep, and once the ego is sacrificed we enter the realms of the sacred.

Isis copulating with Osiris symbolises the unconscious mind reunited holistically to the conscious mind. Cured! Osiris was also the essence of a certain tree/plant of immortality - living inside the tree of knowledge, his BLOOD became the essence of the sacred plants that grew under it...

Please explain a little more about your "real level" copulation with falcons - the mythical relevance of the spirit child of Isis and Osiris - the mystery of their sexual union, the reconstitution of the body of Osiris, the lost phallus, embalmment, the immaculate conception and its relevance as the essence of cosmology and ideas of the development of consciousness?

PW: I was one of the first people with a very notorious reputation of transporting eggs from very remote regions back to England. I used to bring eggs from Pakistan, and Africa, and the Arctic, falcon eggs and hatch them, in England. I used to carry them on my stomach, thousands and thousands of miles and for days on end and when you have falcon eggs which you hatch yourself you can imprint the falcons, which means that they don't see other falcons and they grow up and they actually believe that they are humans or they believe that I am a falcon, probably both are true, and these falcons are then trained to come into sexual condition, two or three years later. You work with them continuously as individuals so finally when they copulate, they copulate with you, and I trained quite a number of falcons to copulate with me; the males would actually fly over and ejaculate on a hat that I had especially designed and the females go into the nest and scrape, open themselves up and I would inseminate them with the semen I got from the males. So I was literally and absolutely creating the mysteries of Isis in my temple of Hathor which is my falcon centre in Arabia, just over the water from ancient Egypt. I did copulate with falcons and I took the form of the female falcon in order to hover, in order for the male falcon to come over and land on the back of my head. There is actually a very famous sculpture of the pharaoh Chepren or Khafre, who built the second pyramid, who is connected very much with my own spiritual connection with ancient Egypt. There is one sculpture with the falcon actually on the back of his head and his wings outstretched. That is exactly the way the male falcons landed on my head and copulated and ejaculated.

The pleasure is so profound that he opens himself wide and he thinks he is experiencing sex as a woman and this idea seems to take him another dimension away from his normal consciousness... and he find himself holding back slightly to prolong the pleasure, poised within seconds of orgasm...

I have heard you say that you would like to experience sex as a female, because only females understand the true feeling of releasing their ego. How do you see the relevance of orgasm, its female/androgynous connotations as in the Death of the King?

PW: The orgasm is a total mystery to me, to be honest. Because I can't figure out how we would ever copulate if we didn't have it or why it was so necessary to evolve it. I don't actually want to talk about orgasm.

..."The Vision", Yeats tells us, was entirely dictated to his wife by spirits; she wrote it automatically in a trance. Crowley tells us the entire Book of the Law was similarly "received" by him from an Egyptian spirit/priest called Aiwass. Crowley had spent the morning meditating on a stele in the Cairo Museum, an Egyptian magical text connected with Horus-Ra- Heraktly, Rising Falcon of the Horizon - the secret name of the Giza sphinx. He'd been led there by his wife Rose, in a trance, repeating the word "Horus". When they reached the unseen stele, Crowley discovered it was exhibit number 666.

Do you believe that the secret, hermetic mysteries of Egypt are better understood today...

PW: No. We do not understand them at all.

... bearing in mind our closer link with the concepts of energy consciousness and the spirit?

PW: I do believe, however, that if we can more effectively get rid of reason, then we have a hope of accessing what they were up to. But they for 4,000, 5,000, 6,000, maybe 12,000 years sustained a total and absolute consciousness of origins and time and space and they were the most beautiful race on the earth. Everybody who knew them said they were the happiest race on earth. They had secrets, their secrets, the real secret of the heart of the Isis and Osiris rites, we do not know. I believe it was to do with artificial insemination on the level of accessing and bringing down consciousness in some digital form through the magnetism of the - the sheer total magnetism - of the pyramids and so on. I do believe that there was a technology there, records of which will emerge, in the next seven years, and we will then know more. Again, we will know, but knowing is not being. We will not be able to do it.

... and the Egyptian Books of the Dead, the Rig Veda, the Avesta of Zarathustra, all PSYCHOTIC, embodying the holographic involute of transparency and translucency, but also re-evaluate the half-silvered mirror, all that remains of consciousness, hacked down to his present scarred (scared/unsacred) level by so-called reason.

Also maybe you could comment on the relevance today of the Egyptian and Tibetan Books of the Dead, Rig Veda - transparency and translucency - the half-silvered mirror as all that remains of cosmology?

PW: I don't know, I don't use the word cosmology, I use cosmo-genesis, which is our concept of the origin of the universe. It is a meaningless concept, you wouldn't need to ask it unless you were a rationalist who believes in death and beginnings and ends; there are no beginnings and ends. I only believe in cosmo-genesis and we have theories about cosmo-genesis but for me cosmo-genesis is actual consciousness-genesis. When we talk of cosmo-genesis we talk about the first event, which is the kind of consciousness that we have that came into matter as we have it in the earth with the ancient Egyptians. They brought it down in some way, or it came to us. And it was symbolised totally by the hovering falcon and the knowledge of the companions of Horus who clearly came as light or lasers, who came as pure consciousness and altered our consciousness. It was a - just like a - you know - you record, you use a tape and you record with using the basic structure of the tape. They came and used the basic structure of matter as we had it and the brain as it had evolved, it had reached the point where it was capable of being restructured. And that was the moment of cosmo-genesis. As far as we could know it, and that was always referred to in ancient Egypt as the birth of Horus the falcon.

Well, they called it the alighting on the original perch. The ancient Egyptians anyway believed it was the falcon that created the universe. In other words it has created human consciousness. Therefore it must be connected to the rites of Isis and Osiris, therefore it must be connected in some way to a kind of artificial insemination. It's just for me a coincidence might you call it, that I have spent my life copulating with falcons. And now I'm writing books about it.

home

A Film 'The Falconer - The Lives and Works of Peter Whitehead' is currently being edited by the directors Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit. The film is also a collaboration with Dave McKean. It will be shown on Channel 4 in the U.K. in March 1998 and in a longer version in cinemas sometime afterwards.