When discussing individuals who have successfully managed to blur the boundaries between Art and Magic, we might immediately think of writers like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. But Alejandro Jodorowsky, better known for his avant-garde films El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973), should also be included in that small category; even more so because unlike Moore and Morrison, Jodorowsky is credited his own unique variety of magical practices, known as Psychomagic.
Trying to define Psychomagic may be nary impossible –and perhaps even pointless. Jodorowsky himself has said in interviews that it is a sui-generis combination of Magic, Shamanism and Psychotherapy, but when you see the images from the 2019 documentary Psychomagic: a Healing Art, produced by ABKCO Records & Films, you quickly realize Sigmund Freud would have never endorsed the kind of things Jodorowsky makes his ‘patients’ do: Being buried alive while simulating vultures eating off your carcass, smashing pumpkins as a representation of your estranged parents, walking around the streets painted in gold, skydiving or riding a merry-go-round dressed as a toddler. The best way we might come close to describing Psychomagic is healing by art performance.
I think the first time I heard of Psychomagic was in the late 2000’s when I was listening to a radio interview of Jodorowsky, who had come to Mexico to promote a book he had written about the subject titled Manual of Psychomagic: The Practice of Shamanic Psychotherapy (2009). In the interview Jodorowsky explained that instead of a consulting room he would just sit at an outdoor café in Paris, while throwing the Tarot card (another specialty of his) waiting for people to come by in search of aid. Once, he related, there was this woman who complained of being terribly timid, and this was the ‘remedy’ he prescribed to her: She was to invite everyone she knew –her parents and siblings, friends, co-workers and employers– to her apartment, and once all the people were gathered she was to stand right in front of them, and without saying a word she had to get undressed, turn around, bend over, spread her buttcheeks and proudly show them her asshole; if she managed to do this, Jodorowsky assured her, she would forever be cured of her shyness!
Whether the woman actually carried out the prescription or not, Jodorowsky didn’t say in the interview. I guess that all medicine carries inevitable side effects, and Psychomagic would not be the exception…
Yes, getting naked in front of your mom and dad sounds indeed quite absurd, but not as absurd as the way a young Native American was cured of a strange and sudden illness in the XIXth century, after waking up from a strange nightmare. The village’s medicine man understood that the boy’s dream was a powerful vision from the spirit world, and had all the tribe members perform the scenes of the dream in front of him. The boy got cured and would grow up to be known as the famous shaman Black Elk.
Psychomagic is also not as absurd as some of the stories we hear from witnesses who claim the close encounter experience –especially the ones who call themselves ‘abductees.’ My friend and colleague Greg Bishop has often compared the UFO phenomenon with an obscure art movement, due to not only its seemingly unnecessary theatricality (why do these objects need to be lighted up as Christmas trees, for example?) but also because it manages to convey in an incredibly short amount of time a great deal of information, which can vary greatly from person to person depending on their own cultural baggage –the same way two different people would stand in front of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and come up with two entirely different interpretations.
It is often said that UFO experiencers tend to develop psychic abilities or artistic talents after their close encounter, and researchers have often wondered if this is the result of an exposure to some unknown source of energy. Perhaps, or perhaps this might be merely the result of a kind of ‘paranormal psychomagic’ performed in front of the witness, which releases the mind from long-held traumas.
This is just mere speculation from my part, but one thing is for sure to me and that is that the Absurd can have real beneficial properties. I can attest to that personally, because back in 2012 I performed my own form of ‘psychomagic therapy’ when I attended the Paradigm symposium in Minneapolis, and I chose to present myself in front of Micah Hanks and other of my online friends –who have never seen my face before– wearing a red luchador mask.
From that day forth, the Red Pill Junkie became a real-life avatar for Miguel Romero, and although it didn’t completely cure me of my old manias and neurotic behaviors, it certainly propelled my life into a wonderfully bizarre journey. Absurdity –it’s what the shaman ordered!
Psychomagic: A Healing Art will be released for streaming on August 7th of 2020, and it will also be part of a deluxe box including digitally-restored copies of Jodorowsky’s movies.