The Gnostic Burroughs?


You learn something new every day:

In 1984, in Boulder, Colorado, an interviewer asked William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), “What religious persuasion would you consider yourself?” Without hesitating, Burroughs replied, “Gnostic, or a Manichean.”

Upon reading those words, suddenly everything made sense.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that the above conversation occurred in 1984. In many ways, Burroughs was a far more lucid and accurate analyst of twentieth century politics than even George Orwell, whose speculative concept of “newspeak” in his 1948 novel 1984 was quickly overshadowed by the real-world machinations of post-WWII Madison Avenue advertising techniques and Washington D.C. public relations firms.

Superior to Aldous Huxley’s brilliant 1958 collection of essays, Brave New World Revisited, Burroughs’s 1974 book The Job is a must-not-live-without essential guide to charting the opaque labyrinth of obfuscation and lies regularly constructed by the Reality Studio to protect itself from the light of scrutiny. Unlike his more naïve contemporaries among the Beat literary movement, Burroughs never took his eye off the twitchy sharpshooter in the corner, the wild card in the deck known as Control.

The whole essay makes for good reading, if you have a little extra time on your hands.

I went through a William S. Burroughs phase during the late 80’s, when I was also reading Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg in a feverish gush. Very liberating, these Beats who turned accepted reality on its head. They were not the mindless goof-offs that people think they were. They were brilliant visionaries who saw behind the curtain, and in their literature they clued us in to what they saw.

Much of it was ugly, indeed.