Thursday, 22 January 2015

Pulling the Cosmic Trigger Part 2: The Cosmic Drain Cover


On Saturday morning, we had several free hours before the Cosmic Trigger play was due to start. I suggested a pilgrimage to the bust of Carl Jung in Mathew Street. This marks the site of the theatre where Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus was first staged, in 1976, by Ken Campbell. It was also where Ken's daughter, Daisy Eris, who'd written and directed the Cosmic Trigger play, was conceived backstage.

Jung is here because of a famous dream he had in 1927.

'I found myself in a dirty, sooty city. It was night, and winter, and dark, and raining. I was in Liverpool. With a number of Swiss, I walked through the dark streets. I had the feeling that we were coming up from the harbour, and that the real city was actually up above, on the cliffs. We climbed up there. When we reached the plateau, we found a broad square, dimly illuminated by street lights, into which many streets converged. The various quarters of the city were arranged radially around the square. In the centre was a round pool, and in the middle of it a small island....I had had a vision of unearthly beauty, and that was why I was able to live at all. Liverpool is the 'pool of life.' '

Memories Dreams and Reflections, 1927


Jung never visited Liverpool. But the Liverpool poet, Peter O'Halligan believed he'd identified the location of the dream, and the 'round pool', as a cast-iron drain cover in Mathew Street. O'Halligan had had his own dream in which he saw a spring bubbling out of this very drain.

According to Ken's biographer, Jeff Merrifield, there really is a pool under the street here:

'When excavations were carried out...when plans were under way to build a new shopping mall, the engineers discovered a huge brick-built reservoir, the original site of the pool, with water still in it. Originally, when the city was being constructed, it was where they brought in the water supply. And all this was under Mathew Street...'  Seeker! p.137

O'Halligan rented the warehouse overlooking the drain, and opened the Liverpool School of Language Music Dream and Pun. It's now an Irish pub, but Carl Jung is still there, gazing down at his drain cover.

Jung's dream was on p223 of O'Halligan's copy of the book. Looking for a book to stage in Liverpool, Ken Campbell picked up a copy of Illuminatus! and found it was full of the number 23. Turning to page 223, he discovered that Jung was a character in the book! Wilson later thanked Campbell by putting him in Cosmic Trigger, on page 223. 

Bill Drummond, who designed the stage sets for Illuminatus, became obsessed with the Mathew Street drain cover. He came to imagine that it was the 'fulcrum of an interstellar ley-line'. This is how he described it to a music journalist in 1981:

'It comes careering in from outer space, hits the world in Iceland, bounces back up, writhing about like a conger eel, then down Mathew Street in Liverpool....Back up, twisting, turning, wriggling across the face of the earth until it reaches the uncharted mountains of New Guinea, where it shoots back into space. Deep space....This interstellar ley line is a mega-powered one. Too much power coming down it for it not to writhe about. The only three fixed points on earth it travels through are Iceland, Mathew Street in Liverpool and New Guinea. Wherever something creatively or spiritually mega happens anywhere else on earth, it is because this interstellar ley line is momentarily powering through the territory.'

Bill Drummond, 'Foreword' to 45 

Like Bill Drummond, I stood on the cosmic drain cover
In 2013, on the eve of his 60th birthday, Drummond spent 17 hours standing on the drain cover. He also stood here in the summer of 1983, when he was managing Echo and the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes:

'His idea was to arrange for the Bunnymen to play a gig in Iceland at exactly the same time as the Teardrops played in Papua New Guinea. He would remain in Liverpool and, at the correct time, he would go and stand on the manhole cover. Quite why he would do this, though, was another matter. He had a vague feeling that something would happen, but exactly what was hard to define.'  

John Higgs, The KLF: Chaos Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds.

It was only years later that Julian Cope of the Teardrop Explodes discovered Drummond's motivation in trying to get him to play New Guinea:

'Bill had a plan. It was a plan for attaining True Genius. According to Balfey, he believed that the centre of Liverpool's power was near the Carl Jung statue which stood outside the Armadillo Tea Rooms, Liverpool. At that point supposedly, five roads meet.....The metaphysical energy coming down the 'leyline' would create incredible psychic power. Bill Drummond would be standing in Liverpool where the five roads meet, ride the power and attain True Genius.
  And that was Bill Drummond's story. And that was the supposed point of the Australian tour...And a whole lot of things that had fucked me up so badly at the time.
  Bill Drummond never attained true genius; he became an A&R man for Warner Brothers....But I had to admire his story. And I was pleased that there had, at least, been some reason for his craziness.'

Julian Cope, Repossessed, p.110

So that's why I too stood on the drain cover (above), supposing that it might possibly help heal my right little toe, which I'd damaged a couple of weeks earlier falling down the stairs. 

I then limped off to Tate Liverpool, where I rested my foot by sitting on the sofa in Susan Hiller's 'Belshazzar's Feast' installation (right). I took my right shoe off, and watched the flickering flames on the tv set.

After a while, I heard two women talking right behind me.

'Is it on loan from Madame Tussaud's?'

I turned to look at them, and gave them a real fright.

'It's alive!'

They thought I was a waxwork! 

A simple mistake? Or the after effects of standing on a mega-powered interstellar ley line?

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