Thee Temple of #MeToo
October 1, 2019 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Groupthink and Other Painful Reflections on ​Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth "The current conversation, a slow-burn hagiography through and through, frames TOPY as a tongue-in-cheek, self-aware "anti-cult"—half esoteric art project, half culture-jamming prankster pagans who struck fear in the hearts of the Thatcher and Reagan regimes through parody of a radical youth crusade. But the primary sources—many long available for those willing to look, and others just now surfacing—reveal Thee Temple to have been far from puckish liberators. TOPY and P-Orridge's knowing adoption of cult iconography and organizing principles quickly slid from satiric emulation to full embrace, and many Temple apostates describe years of escalating exploitation: a guru with a sycophantic following; the systematic breakdown of individuality and autonomy; rigid hierarchies, disciplinary regimens, and incessant bullying; preying on the suggestible and vulnerable; explosive, tyrannical outbursts; and the appropriation of others' creative voices and ideas."

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(also thanks to @catvincent on Twitter and Tumblr for sharing this article)
posted by The Ardship of Cambry (22 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
For some reason variants of this phrase seems to fit pretty much anywhere these days:

Scratch an ironic cultist and usually you only scratch off the irony.
posted by tclark at 12:03 PM on October 1, 2019 [21 favorites]

This is a well-timed post as I have been rediscovering Psychic TV and listening to them pretty much nonstop lately. When I was originally into them back in the 1980s, I don't remember there being any TOPY groups around where I lived so, thankfully, I didn't have to deal with that particular bit of bullshit.
posted by NoMich at 12:24 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

We seemed to have the more glamorous role, media visibility… and I had a nice house and car" (P-Orridge 2010c: 423-424).

Isn't that always the way. No matter how arty and rough-and-tumble the image is, the person at the top always makes sure to live comfortably. "Genesis P-Orridge - I have a nice house and car" was not the glamorous image folks had in mind when this stuff was transgressive the first time.
posted by Frowner at 12:45 PM on October 1, 2019 [5 favorites]

[TOPY members must] immerse themselves 100% in devotion to the group … even at the risk of personal disintegration and mental collapse. Transformation can only occur if the Individual is prepared to sacrifice all they have, including a previous personality
This reminds me a lot of the portrait of Adi Da/Da Love-Ananda in Holy Madness: The Shock Tactics and Radical Teachings of Crazy-Wise Adepts, Holy Fools and Rascal Gurus. The same promises to free you from the chains of convention; the same demand to allow yourself to be totally broken down psychologically in order to reach the place of freedom; the same impression that someone is using people's sincere desire to be better, truer people to be an asshole to them and fuck with them.
posted by clawsoon at 12:54 PM on October 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

just off the bat, i recommend cosey's autobiography to everybody at all times, it's a great book by a working artist that touches on some of these tensions as she experienced them unfolding in time. if you like this sort of thing also last girl standing by trina robbins is similarly great; both of them spend some time writing about the particular issue of ironic/transgressive men mishandling power in smaller artistic scenes, and deflecting misuse of power by identifying as ironic or transgressive. it does my soul good to see this called out as a specific maneuver.

i like this article. well-researched, well-argued, and showing moral examination on the author's part. the author articulates some concerns i arrived at on my own time about the dangers of conflating transgression at large with being shocking and unpleasant. i fell into that trap for a long time myself and it's slow getting out.

all that on top of the usual snares of community, hierarchy, and power playing out as they do where all humans gather. may we do better and continue to do better.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 12:56 PM on October 1, 2019 [21 favorites]

tclark, yeah, this is basically the Story of the Internet:
quickly slid from satiric emulation to full embrace
posted by Sangermaine at 12:57 PM on October 1, 2019 [6 favorites]

I was involved with a band that had some ties to the Temple. Never knew the madness went this deep. The few Temple members I met were very decent and relaxed folk. Never met Genesis though and from the distance I was at (s)he always seemed like the disaster as shown in this article. (hindsight, I know, but still the truth)

Just like what happened to others mentioned in the article, the band got sued by Genesis for use of Temple imagery. At that time the band was more popular in certain circles than Psychick TV itself. A further letter was unsurprisingly more consolidating and the lawsuit would be called off if some remix deal could be done. I believe the whole thing fizzled out in the end. Like a lot of these asshole shenanigans, it's all bluff and bluster hiding the big nothingness.
posted by Kosmob0t at 1:17 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

if you like this sort of thing also last girl standing by trina robbins is similarly great; both of them spend some time writing about the particular issue of ironic/transgressive men mishandling power in smaller artistic scenes, and deflecting misuse of power by identifying as ironic or transgressive.

I'm genuinely not trying to be an asshole here, and obviously this does not in any way whatsoever excuse or negate accusations of abuse, but what's with the misgendering by Genesis' detractors in the article?
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:43 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Per Wikipedia, "In accordance with their work on the Pandrogyne Project, P-Orridge now identifies using the pronouns "s/he", "h/er", and "h/erself"."
posted by queensissy at 2:11 PM on October 1, 2019

I am suddenly very glad I bounced off that copy of Thee Psychick Bible as hard as I did. P-Orridge always felt a bit off in every news I saw about them.

Also glad that I never quite got my hands on any Psychic TV when I was younger, more impressionable, and more into industrial. I might have gone down the TOPY path.
posted by egypturnash at 2:17 PM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

Whoops - posted that too soon. Gen has also at times preferred a plural (rather than singular) pronoun usage, neutral and alternating pronouns. I'm not sure it's clear when all of the people in this article were interviewed or when their excerpted writings were made, so I'm not sure there's malice behind the misgendering.
posted by queensissy at 2:18 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

nb WidgetAlley, in my comment above I misspoke because I was thinking about Cosey and P-orrige's interactions in the past, prior to the Pandrogyne project, while writing. No malice but I spoke wrongly. Thanks for catching.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 2:50 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

And with now being quite a way through this article it just really reinforces how much better Chris, Cosey, Current 93, and Coil were than Gen. Their music was better, and their ethos was better. Especially in our modern age, this cult, Messiah mentality can go to hell.
posted by SystematicAbuse at 4:37 PM on October 1, 2019 [9 favorites]

it just really reinforces how much better Chris, Cosey, Current 93, and Coil were than Gen.

I was listening to all of this stuff at the time and am inclined to agree. I never really got what certain folks were clearly getting from Psychic TV. Throbbing Gristle, yeah! But the Psychic stuff I was hearing just wasn't hooking me, as if whatever magic they had wasn't making it to the records, if that makes sense.

Except that time I stumbled into them playing live just after they'd pulled their acid house conversion. A friend was on the guest list. We arrived way late and discovered a very strange scene. Maybe a hundred people in the room, all dancing like mad, at least half of them jammed onto the stage. Genesis P was on the dance floor, cutting loose. The vibe was wonderfully weird and infectious, all the normal band/audience barriers broken. Not at all what I was expecting. So I'll give them that.
posted by philip-random at 4:57 PM on October 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

That was a great article, thanks for posting. His conclusion at the end was something I'd like to see more music/art critics express. I find it hard to believe something like this could ever exist again with the destruction of the "traditional" music economy, but one never knows what will come in the future.

A previous comment of mine was deleted, so I'd also just like to second Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanny Tutti as an eye-opening read.

The author also quoted extensively from England's Hidden Reverse by David Keenan which is an excellent book that is now available again if you haven't read it.
posted by SystematicAbuse at 5:08 PM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

I really hit it off with Genesis at a dinner once. Not sure how to feel about that.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:21 PM on October 1, 2019

For a second I thought we were talking about Christmas's "Ultraprophets of Thee Psykick Revolution". Thank thee maker.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:32 PM on October 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

I thought it was understood that GP-O was all about manipulation. What I could gather was that either manipulations were done to you or else you did them to the world. Even small ones you made were proof that you were not getting snowed under.

First person I read who changed pronouns (E instead of I in 80s writings) and did so to make a speed bump of sorts, to make sure the reader did not gloss over the familiar. GP-O made an effort to force some notice over small things, and told us that was powerful stuff that anyone could do. Reading some of GP-O's manipulations, a person could feel like they were getting somewhere they wanted to go.

After a while the E and 'ov' loses their arresting quality and the reader realizes they can decide they are leveled-up already and need no more, or else they could be the potential mark, by design. I never thought GP-O ever hid intentions of being the manipulator. It always seemed to be right there in the instructions, and documented in experiments or adventures. You could read it with some distance and take from it, or buy in and get taken somewhere.

I saw PTV in concert in '88? and the bass was so very heavy that you felt it in your diaphragm. They slowed the tempo down and it was like changing the tempo of one's breathing, slowing the room's breathing, like they were priming the audience for some hypnotic message. I couldn't help but think it was intentional and kind of awesome. The crowd was into it. GP-O was making out with all comers on stage while the band worked furiously, and the spell snapped. And hey, Naked Raygun was playing down the street, so I didn't stick around to get the payload.

I had friends who had productive or enjoyable connections to GP-O. They (was using plural back then) helped with friends' research, others they crashed with when on tour and that all seemed nice enough. Years later, people I was acquainted with who followed GP-O around or moved to live in Gen's orbit - they seemed to have much more stress or gave up more. I didn't know how bad it was, but it sure didn't seem empowering. I gave up on GP-O about then.

It sucks to have a Woody/R. Kelly figure in the kind of art or music I'm drawn to. I guess I'll do some Meta-searching on threads that deal with the cancellation of the artist when you want to consume their art. I might have to reckon with "The Orchids" ringtone I'm still rocking...
posted by drowsy at 9:40 PM on October 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

Someone who is influenced by Aleister Crowley and Charles Manson turns out to be problematic.
posted by acb at 1:26 AM on October 2, 2019 [8 favorites]

[One comment deleted. People may have missed it above, about Genesis P-Orridge's pronoun change -- for clarity it seems like “s/he” and “h/er” are the correct pronouns so let's please try to stick to that.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:00 AM on October 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Is nothing sacred??? nope, guess not...
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:47 PM on October 2, 2019

And so, once again, my Universal Suckage Meter inches imperceptibly upward.

Next up: Nurse With Wound's Stephen Stapleton tortures helpless rodents.
posted by metagnathous at 6:45 PM on October 3, 2019

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