a spectrum of esoterica
Astrology, Paratheatre, Dreamwork, Cinema, The Muses Dialogue
Casey Inman interviews Antero Alli (images & underlined words are links) © 2014

Over the past forty odd years, I've never had what might be called a career due to my obsessions with a spectrum of obscure topics and disciplines of dubious commercial value. However, taken as a whole, these esoteric products, processes and services also add up to my life's work. I'm grateful for those who have appreciated and supported it. I am also amused by those who've dismissed me or my work when they couldn't 'get it' which is fine; sometimes I don't get me either. This rare interview touches on most (but not all) of my various fields of work. - Antero; July 9, 2020.


Could you describe how astrology can serve as chaos magick?

Serve as chaos magick? That depends on how it's defined. Though I don't practice "Chaos Magick" as defined by Peter J. Carroll (who first coined the term), I can see how my approach to astrology might be as close to chaos magick as astrology gets. I understand astrology, not just symbolically but experientially. I like to experiment with engaging the living forces symbolized by the Planets, the states of consciousness represented by the 12 Houses, and the multiple styles that each of the 12 astrological signs represent.

This intuitive approach to somatic engagement of energies began eight years before I started doing astrology readings through the creative group ritual work of “paratheatre” that I initiated in 1977 (inspired by Jerzy Grotowski). Though paratheatre did not include astrology in any way, this work process embodies a visceral exploration of what Jung called "active imagination" for making the Unconscious, conscious. Paratheatre opened the floodgates to engaging the autonomous forces, states, and styles within the internal landscape of the Body itself but without astrological labels. I learned to access and express the four elements of earth, water, fire and air as energies or spirits within a larger category of what Jung calls the Archetype of The Self.

These discoveries compelled the writing of my book ASTROLOGIK, where I changed the three key astrological terms of Planets, Houses, and Signs to Forces, States, and Styles respectively. These small semantic adjustments opened up a whole new world of how I could experience and re-interpret Astrology as direct experiences and not just as concepts of experience. Making these adjustments synced up with my real life processes of navigating the forces, states and styles of my daily existence. I mean, I don't assign astrology to everything that happens. I use astrology primarily as a tool and a language for tracking forces as a way to endure and enjoy an unpredictable world. Chaos is my friend. Since hanging out with Robert Anton Wilson and Greg Hill back in 1979, I've become more of a Discordian Pope than a Chaos Magickian; hail Eris!


How do you go about using astrological forces to navigate
your daily life? How can an individual began to use astrological
forces to navigate their own life?

Well, it's not like I study my astrology books every morning to see how I should live out that day; I don't do that. I like to keep my mind free of astrology so I can count on having an actual experience before thinking I know what it might mean. In this way, my approach to astrology tends to be more iconoclastic. I view preconceptions, no matter how allegedly meaningful, as lies of the mind. Experience carries far greater priority for me. I use astrology to entertain various perspectives about my experiences. Yes, there is life after astrology.

With that said, I think it's important to first have a good grasp of the traditional textbook meanings of the basic alphabet of astrological symbols. Though this education can last a lifetime, if you have diligent study habits you can learn the basics within a year or two. This should also include researching the ancient mythologies that the Planets and the Signs are associated with. After you understand the basic symbologies, the next step involves applying these symbols to your own life experiences. This takes a bit of imagination and critical thinking to test the traditional meanings of the astrological symbols against your actual life experiences. LIfe itself is bigger than astrology. Confusing the map for the territory will just make your astrology more dogmatic. If you can remember that astrology is a language, and not a science or a religion, than you are more likely to become a better astrologer.

The world’s ancient myths contain really great characters and stories. Since I'm of the mind that the universe is not just made up of atoms but of stories, passed down from generation to generation, using astrology as a language makes a lot of sense to me. We are all characters walking through the pages of our own stories. Some stories are inherited and not truly our own, while some stories have enough holes in them to invite a rewrite.If you can wake up to the story of your life, you can participate more fully in it. Many remain asleep to their story or try to live out the stories of someone else, which can be a story in and of itself; everyone has a story -- stories within stories within stories. I look at any astrology chart as a map of a person’s story.

Every Autumn equinox, I teach a 6-week interactive online course in this approach to astrology where I coach participants towards their own interpretations of the symbols in their charts to access the territory of their actual lives — not the lives they wish they were living or hoping for but the existing conditions of their actual lives. In this way, my approach tends to be more reality-based and why my work may not be for everybody; some people want or need to learn astrology as an escape from their actual lives.


How did you come up with the dreaming ritual, back in 1986?

I just woke up one morning and remembered how the wind was blowing this tree branch in one of my dreams. I started moving my arm in the same slow waving motion as that tree branch. The more I did this, the more the images and feelings from that dream started flooding my awareness. Repeating the dream movement not only increased my dream recall but it infused my waking experience with the presence and emotion of that dream. As someone with a deep background in experimental theatre, I naturally thought about what might happen if I remembered more movements and created a choreography with them. That’s how the dreaming ritual was born. There have been additional stages and preparations developed since then which are documented in my book TOWARDS AN ARCHEOLOGY OF THE SOUL and in my paratheatre video, "DREAMBODY/EARTHBODY"

Have you noticed any changes in your life as a result of the ritual?

The psychic veils previously dividing my daytime and dreamtime worlds seem to have become more threadbare. Overall, I feel more connected with everything in ways I do not understand, nor do I need to understand. I'm also far less likely to immediately try and analyze my dreams and instead, let the dreams themselves show me what they mean.

Do you see any correlations between your dream personality
and your “real life” personality?

Beyond their obvious connecting fibres, through the luminous filaments in my solar plexus, the dreambody and the earthbody serve very different functions and are different in many ways. They are like twins who found themselves on opposite sides of the tracks. One belongs to the day and the other to the night. They are like siblings inhabiting very different worlds and yet, they also inhabit a larger constantly changing world that contains both daytime and dreamtime realities. My friend, the astrology columnist Rob Brezsny, refers to this overlay between daytime and dreamtime as the drivetime. Back in 1995, we made a feature cyber-fi movie together, "The Drivetime", giving cinematic expression to this phenomena.


"Overland" (2017; bird&wolf, music video ) click image for details

What role does the Earth play in dreaming?
What role does the earth play for humanity?

Guboo Ted Thomas, a Koori aborigine elder I met in 1987, told me was the mountain teaches the dreaming. In his world, which is over 40,000 years old, the dreaming instruction comes straight from Ayer’s Rock (Australia) to the human being through a forceful transmission. If you can surrender to the earth, that is to say, open yourself to a deep receptivity to nature, out in the woods or up on a mountain, I think all kinds of deep transmission can take place. Guboo said the earth is this big dreaming entity and we are, as expressions of the earth, being dreamed into being by this big dreaming entity. I understand this idea holds no value for the separatist ego or those seeking imperial proof of everything mysterious but that’s the way his people see it. And I feel lucky to see it like that. too.

I have no idea of the role the earth plays for humanity beyond offering us a temporary place to live, breathe, eat, enjoy ourselves and create the chaos we are so well known for. The real question here is what role does humanity play for the earth? I see a reciprocal feeding process between the earth and humanity and it’s high time we dug deep to discover how to best feed the earth that has never stopped feeding us. The earth is calling the shots, has always called the shots.


"Out of the Woods" (2015; feature film) click image for details

Can the dreamtime ritual be used to resuscitate the imagination?

It can. I think any experience, whether it’s a ritual or something that just happens to us in the course of living, that exposes the underlying unity of existence — this alone can stimulate the imagination. Let me explain that a little better. When our dualistic intellect encounters any authentic non-dualistic experience, it can be a bit of a shock. Without duality, the intellect cannot rely on comparisons and associations to deduce its interpretations of what might be happening. Under the influence of cosmic unity, the intellect can be temporarily stunned; our associative, dualistic thinking gets put on hold. We don’t know how to explain it or name it. In the face of any all-encompassing unity, we can either learn to stop and pay attention or go batshit crazy trying to figure something out that's clearly beyond our current categories. If you can relax the analyzer in the face of non-dualistic experience, pay attention. You don’t have to go batshit crazy. You can simply play witness and take notes. This receptive mode of awareness, to witness without assigning meaning or labels, can also stimulate the poetic imagination, what I call the second attention.

Why is it important to resuscitate the imagination?

Because imagination death precedes death of the soul. If you are locked into the over-literalist thinking style that has dominated western culture for the past several hundred years, your imagination has probably suffered and maybe even turned belly up. Not everyone needs or wants an imagination; many people seem to function just fine without one. For me personally, imagination has become as essential as the basic needs for water, food, shelter, love; I feel dead without it. The purpose I derive from creativity and art depend on a supple and feral imagination.


"The Book of Jane" (2013; feature film) click image for details

Many of your stories depict events that have happened
in your own life. Did you consciously do this with your film,
The Book of Jane?

Many of my films can be seen as veiled autobiographies. However, unless you knew me very well, you would never know it; I don’t like seeing myself or my life literally on the screen. I enjoy putting my own experiences through the grinding mill of imagination before making them public. Some of my films are far less autobiographical, like “The Book of Jane”, where I reached beyond my own 'man world' in an attempt to convey the stories of an elderly homeless woman, a middle aged university professor and her younger lesbian partner. I did draw from my childhood memories of being raised by the two strong women, my mother and her mother, though this is not a film about my mom or my grandma. Ultimately, “The Book of Jane" is a story about the inevitability of fate and how our choices define how we end up living with our lot in life.

Describe your writing process…

That's difficult to describe. Though my process differs with writing non-fiction books and scripting fiction-oriented screenplays, the physics remain the same: I sit in a room alone for hours at a time and commit to the task of writing and re-writing. It’s also important for me go take a walk or ride my bike or do something physical to break writer’s trance. I think the basic prerequisite to finishing a writing project is simple but not easy: you must be willing and able sit alone in a room without interruption or distraction for at least three hours at a time, every day for many weeks, months, maybe years. You must also commit to rewriting. Not every draft comes out good. It’s also important just to write a lot and be open to producing bad writing, if only to know what that looks like.


"The Greater Circulation" (2005; feature film) click image for details

Who and/or what inspires your films?

My favorite filmmakers: Andrei Tarkovsky, Robert Bresson, Terence Malick, John Cassavettes, Guy Maddin, Lars von Trier, Wim Wenders. I'm also inspired by random stuff that happens every day. My chief source of inspiration remains at bit more esoteric since it comes through an ongoing dialogue with the Muse archetype. Not "my" Muse; this Muse belongs to no one! Many who know me or know of me (not the same thing) might falsely assume that my lovely talented wife Sylvi, is my Muse. However, I love her too much to subject her to those impossible expectations. Though she definitely inspires my creative processes with her music, I prefer to relate with her as a human woman person and not a Muse.

The Muses as I have come to know it, him, her or them uses me in whatever way best serves creation. My job remains very simple; not easy but simple, almost workman-like. I just have to live the kind of life that maintains enough internal receptivity to hear their call; don't want them to get a busy signal! I also must sustain the kind of support systems that abolish survival anxiety. In other words, if I wish to maintain critical receptivity to the Muses, I must figure out how to meet my basic survival needs, stay healthy, and not get too full of myself. These are the basic prerequisites to my creative process. I sometimes encounter the Muse in my paratheatre work and other times the Muse appears in my dreams or through the actions of strangers or the way a cat looks at me. I can be random. Sometimes I know the Muse by the presence of what feels sacred; other times the Muse comes to me like a bolt of lightening. Or a burst of hysterical laughter. The Muse comes and goes, and takes on many forms and colors.


"The Invisible Forest" (2008; feature film) click image

What have you learned from working with actors?

I have learned that actors, especially those truly commited to their craft, are a bit like children wanting to play. Most actors I've worked with tend to be highly creative individuals with strong, flexible, healthy egos. Some actors do grow big egos that can, sadly, sabotage their talents. These bighead actors I now avoid; big egos are not the same as strong egos. I only work with actors I have a good rapport with. Making any film is difficult enough as it is without the additional stress of battling egos. Creative disagreement can be constructive when there's mutual respect all around. I prefer working a relaxed set where I can freely stage any drama to be played, rather than to be taken too seriously -- the Muses tend to operate at the speed of play. I also learn different things from different actors, like what they need from me and what they don’t need to do their best work. Some actors do better when I tell them what to do, while others excel after I cut them loose to do their own thing. I also like working with non-actors who have not yet learned how to “act” and don't carry the same baggage as learned actors. I have been working with actors since my first stage play in 1974. Generally speaking, I love actors.


"Orphans of Delirium" (2004) ParaTheatrical ReSearch. click image

How does paratheatre tie into your creativity?

Massively. I mentioned how my relation with the Muse archetype demands an internal receptivity. The crux technique of paratheatre is called No-Form, a meditation term stolen from Buddhist Zazen practice. In paratheatre, we don't do sitting meditation but adapt the process as a stance that leads to physcial expression and action. The No-Form experience cultivates a profound internal receptivity for detecting and accessing currents of energy in the body and the internal landscape of the Subconscious. I view the Body as the living embodiment of the socalled Subconscious mind. No-Form acts as a trance-induction device for triggering altered states given over to somatic, visceral and vocal expression. After each of these expressions, we return to No-Form as a trance-dispersion device to discharge these very energies after we're done with them, after they’re done with us. Without the kind of receptivity I experience in No-Form, I doubt any real creativity is possible. No-Form practice also tends to act as an ego-corrosive ritual that can, with practice, open up the playing fields of creation.

When I approach any creative process, I don’t want to start thinking that I know what I’m doing. For any process to be truly creative, I need to discover my way as I go. I need to be somewhat clueless and open to clues. I don’t want to know too much. Without this kind of open receptivity, which is not passivity, my experience can quickly narrow and funnel down through the preconceptions of a self-defined creator ego. Who am I kidding? I am not the creator. I am nobody looking for a clue.

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"Escape from Chapel Perilous" ParaTheatrical ReSearch - Dec/2018, Portland OR

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