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

Over the past fifty years, I've never had what's commonly known as a career due to my obsessions with a spectrum of obscure topics and disciplines of dubious commercial value. However, taken as a whole, all these esoteric products, processes and services 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' or "get me" which is fine; sometimes I don't get me either. This interview touches on most (but not all) of my various fields of work. NOTE: This conversation with Casey Inman commenced in 2014. I have since updated my responses to include more recent developments. - Antero - Feb. 8, 2022.


Could you describe how astrology can serve as chaos magick?

Serve as chaos magick? I don't practice "Chaos Magick" as defined by Peter J. Carroll (who first coined the term), though I get how my approach to astrology might be seen that way. I understand astrology not just symbolically but experientially. I'm into ritual and like opening up to the living forces symbolized by the Planets, the states of consciousness represented by the 12 Houses, and the multiple styles each of the 12 astrological signs represent.

This somatic engagement of energies in the body began eight years before I started studying astrology with the creative group ritual work of “paratheatre” that I initiated in 1977 (inspired by Jerzy Grotowski). Though my paratheatre did not include astrology in any way, this group work process embodies a visceral exploration of what Jung called "active imagination" for making the Unconscious, conscious. Paratheatre opens 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 (ego being subordinate to the Self).

These ritualistic somatic experiences compelled the writing of my books ASTROLOGIK (1999), and EXPERIENTIAL ASTROLOGY (2022) 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 a direct experience of energies symbolized by the planets and not just as concepts. Making these adjustments also synced up with the real life events of navigating the forces, states and styles of my daily existence. I don't assign astrology to everything that happens. I actually only think about and apply astrology periodically for my own benefit and in the readings I offer others. I use astrology as a tool for tracking forces as a way to endure and enjoy an unpredictable world. Chaos is my friend. Hanging out with Robert Anton Wilson and Greg Hill back in 1979, I've since become more Discordian Pope than 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 ought to live out my 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 might be or what it might mean. In this way, my approach to astrology tends to be iconoclastic. I view preconceptions, no matter how allegedly meaningful, as lies of the mind. Experience carries far greater priority for me than concepts of experience when it comes to knowing truth; the map is not the territory. Astrology sometimes helps me entertain various perspectives about my experiences.

I do 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 basics, the next step involves studying your own horoscope to see if and how it coincides with your actual life experiences. This takes self-honesty and a bit of imagination and critical thinking to test the astrological symbols against your actual life experiences. 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. I'm not one of these astrologers who says "Astrology is Life!" . Maybe to them it is but to me Life itself has always been more important than astrology.

The world’s ancient myths contain really great characters and stories. Since I'm of a poetic mind, I see the universe not just made up of atoms but of stories -- passed down from generation to generation, century after centuries. 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 create a rewrite. If you can wake up to the story of your life, you can participate more fully in it, if that's what you want. Many remain asleep to their story or try to live out the stories of someone else, which can also become its own story. Everyone has a story. 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 experiential astrology where I coach participants towards their own interpretations of the symbols 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 becomes 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. Good luck with that. There's no true escape from reality. If you want true escape, learn to escape into reality, into and through the heart of the human condition.


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, images and feelings from that dream started flooding my awareness. Repeating this dream movement increased my dream recall and infused my waking experience with the presence and power of that dream. As someone with a deep background in experimental theatre, I was curious about what might happen if I added more movements from another dream to create a kind of dream choreography. That’s how the dreaming ritual was born. There have been additional stages and preparations developed since then that are documented in my books TOWARDS AN ARCHEOLOGY OF THE SOUL (2003), STATE OF EMERGENCE (2020) and in my paratheatre video, "DREAMBODY/EARTHBODY" (2012).

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

The psychic veils previously dividing my daytime and dreamtime worlds have become a bit more threadbare. I don't feel nearly as much tension or conflict between conscious ego and the Subconscious. Overall, I feel more self-unity and connected with everything in ways I do not always understand, nor do I need to. I don't necessarily have to understand something to experience it. I'm also less likely to try and analyze my dreams when the dream itself can show me what it means.

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

What a great and odd question. Beyond their obvious connecting fibres - through the luminous filaments in my solar plexus - the dreambody and the earthbody in me serve different functions and differ in many ways. They are like twins who found themselves on opposite sides of the tracks. One belongs to the day and the other, the night. Like siblings inhabiting different worlds, they also express a larger constantly changing whole they are part of, like seeing the Sun and the Moon at the same time in the sky. My friend, 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", in an attempt to give 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?

Huge questons! Guboo Ted Thomas, a Koori aborigine elder I met in 1987, told me that 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, feed, 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 can stimulate the imagination. Let me try and explain that. 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 and interpret what might be happening. Under the influence of any nondual experience of cosmic unity, the intellect is temporarily stunned. Our associative, dualistic thinking gets put on hold. We don’t know how to explain or name the experience; it's too novel, too new, too all-encompassing. In the face of nondual experience, we can either 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 these kinds of experience and simply pay attention and witness, you don’t have to go batshit crazy. I mean, you'll still probably go crazy but more mystic crazy than psycho crazy. This receptive mode of awareness, to witness without assigning meaning or labels, is what I have come to 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 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. In the current digital era, I have taken to the insurrection of the Poetic Imagnation as a mission. My personal politics is about fighting for the life of the soul, personally and collectively through my films, books, and paratheatre work.


"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 oneric autobiographies; I don’t like seeing myself or my life literally on the screen. I enjoy sifting my experiences through the grinding mill of imagination before making them public. Some of my films are far less autobiographical, like “THE BOOK OF JANE ”(2013) where I reached beyond my personal 'man world' in an attempt to convey the parallel 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 two strong Finnish women, my mother and her mother. But ultimately, “The Book of Jane" is a story about the inevitability of fate and how our choices can define how we live with our lot in life.

Describe your writing process…

Really? That's difficult. Though my process differs when 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 important to take breaks, go for a walk or ride my bike or do something physical to break writer’s trance. Writing can be very hypnotic. I think the basic prerequisite to finishing a writing project is simple but not easy: you must be willing and able sit 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. Though once in awhile I will get lucky, not every draft comes out good. I've learned to become open to producing bad writing, if only to know what it looks and feels like. I produced nothing but bad writing for the first ten years or so after I started. I stopped believing in so-called "writer's block" when it became obvious that writing was also one of the most difficult things I know how to do. I simply stopped expecting it to be easy. No more writer's block.


"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, David Lynch. I'm also inspired by random stuff that happens every day. My chief source of inspiration remains at bit more esoteric as it comes through an ongoing dialogue with the Muse archetype. Not "my" Muse; these Muses belong 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. No way. I love her too much to subject her to those kinds of 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 -- use 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 must sustain the kind of support systems that abolishes 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 group paratheatre work. Other times the Muse appears in my dreams or through the actions of strangers or the way a cat looks at me. It's often random. Sometimes I know the Muse by a presence that feels sacred; other times the Muse comes to me like a bolt of lightening or a kick in the back of the head. Or a burst of hysterical laughter. The Musea come and go. They are not on my watch; I am on theirs.


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

What have you learned from working with actors?

As someone who started out as an actor and performer, I am familiar with the process from the inside out. Any actor truly commited to their craft is like a child ready to play. Most actors I've worked with tend to have playful, flexible, and healthy egos. Some actors do grow big inflated egos that can, sadly, sabotage their talents; big egos are not the same as strong egos. I do not work with bighead actors but with those I have a good rapport with. Sometimes rapport upstages talent. Making any film is already difficult enough as it is without the additional stresses of a flaming diva. I don't mean creative disagreement which can be very constructive when there's mutual respect all around.

I support a relaxed atmosphere on my sets and stages to more freely explore any drama that can be played, rather than having it become too self-serious. I do my nest to follow the Muses call here since they often operate at the speed of play. I learn different things from 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.


"Soror Mystica" (2017) ParaTheatrical ReSearch. click image

How does paratheatre tie into your creativity?

Massively. To me, all creativity starts with receptivity. I learned this through the paratheatre practice of No-Form, a meditation term stolen from Buddhist Zazen practice. In paratheatre, we don't do sitting meditation but adapt the process into 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 -- the internal landscape of the Subconscious. I view the Body as the living embodiment of the so-called 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 and after they’re done with us.No-Form practice also tends to act as an ego-corrosive ritual that can, with practice, open up the playing fields of creation. Without the kind of receptivity, I doubt any real creativity is possible. .

When I approach any creative process, I don’t like to start thinking that I know what I’m doing. To a certain extent, I'm following a vision or a tone but for any process to be truly creative, I really need to discover my way as I go. I like being 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 into the tunnel vision of preconceptions and the rantngs of a self-defined creator ego. Who am I kidding? I am not the creator. I am nobody looking for clues. I experience uncertainty as a creative state.

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