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The Bottom of the Mind

A conversation between a Host and a conjured revolutionary cyclotherapist Guest. Broadcast on the BBC as part of the late-night series TALK TO SLEEP, commissioned by John Dryden/Goldhawk in 1999: an exploration of the ubiquitous radio interview format, yet with GW playing host, guests and all band instruments…..



HOST:      “The Bottom of the Mind.” The title sounds — ominous.

GUEST:     It comes from the wonderful sentence by the French poet Paul Valéry, “the bottom of the mind is paved with crossroads.”

HOST:      With “crossroads”?

GUEST:       Yes. And my program for self-renewal gains access to those crossroads through a therapeutic technique called “Walking the Circle”, a technique that I have personally experienced for more than ten thousand miles.

HOST:     Ten thousand miles, so that makes it alot more than a twelve step program —

GUEST:     Yes (chuckles) oh, I’ll have to remember that.

HOST:      When I first saw a mention of Walking the Circle in one of the early press releases, I thought it referred to an eco-tourism.

GUEST:   In a sense, that is not too far from the mark, though in my program, the wilderness is a wilderness more of subjectivity than of geography. A subjective wilderness is, uh, far more difficult to access than simply signing on to an exotic safari.

HOST:    You refer somewhere to the “wildness within”?

GUEST:   That’s right. There’s a wonderful quote from the American Thoreau, that I print on the back of my business cards, (hands GW a card), here —- go ahead— read.

HOST:    “It is in vain to dream of a wildness distant from ourselves. There is none such. It is the bog in our brains and bowels, the primitive vigor of Nature in us, that inspires that dream.”

GUEST:     Very good.

HOST:      So Walking the Circle initiates a journey through the wild bog in our brains and bowels?

GUEST:       Yes, though the idea of The Circle is highly polymorphous, in an almost metaphysical way, it’s the Circle of circles, the Circle that circumscribes all other circles of life and being, circles of community, circles of communication, circles of meaning. And of course, each one of these circles has a distinct voice, that must be uncovered and released into the air  —-

HOST:     So what was the, uh, philosophical genesis for your perspective?

GUEST:     While I was a graduate student back in the 1980s, I proposed what at the time was considered quite an eccentric hypothesis, namely that the figure of The Circle was not only a static symbol, but also a highly dynamic opening into latent languages that resided just beneath the surface of collective consciousness, if only we could hear the grooves.

HOST:     And those grooves can only be heard person by person —

GUEST:     That is my hypothesis.

HOST:       So how would I proceed with the basic technique?

GUEST:    Yes, well, the basic technique emerges from a series of experiments that I performed on myself beginning in the year 1995, and  involves dissolving the self into a circle of time in a way that releases  what I call the existential gramophone.

HOST:      The existential gramophone?

GUEST:     Yes, it’s accessing of the deep self, the deeply inscribed set of voice tracks that are fundamental to our identity, and that must be liberated through a process we call The Essential Broadcast, the only way to know who, or what, is down there.

HOST:      Down there? You mean down at the bottom?

GUEST:       Exactly. Down there where you really are, at those crossroads down at the very bottom of the mind, and we need to give voice to the bottom, and we do so through this technique that we call “puddling”.

HOST:   “Puddling”, or “paddling”? With a “U” or an “A”?

GUEST:       Puddling, with a “U” : it’s a form of broadcasting,  really.

HOST:      Some of the recordings that you’ve played for me, the voices sound inhuman, like they are coming from some dark, distant cave — it’s very unsettling.

GUEST:     Yes, well those recordings are from my own personal grammophone: I do not feel comfortable playing other people’s bottom voices in public, but in my case, I find them very compelling. Listening to them gives me a tremendous sense of well-being, as if simply releasing them into the air is a kind of liberation, and the grooves, the grooves are songs of freedom.

HOST:      But often the song is there, and then it disappears for long periods.

GUEST:   Yes, you see those are the rhythms of identity. Baudelaire said that dispersion and reconstitution of the self, tout est là, that’s the whole story.


HOST:     Professor, numerous traditions of psychoanalysis have proposed techniques for getting to the bottom of the self, but most of these involve language in some form. Yet for you, language really has nothing to do with it.

GUEST:       Not exactly. There is a language at the bottom, but it is not one that conforms very well to the psychiatric couch. Talking cures will indeed cure, but it cures the talk, but my technique is beneath the talk, not the articulate memories and symbolic dreams, but the bogs and the bowels.

HOST:     Not a “talking cure” then, but a “walking cure”?

GUEST:    Oh, I really must write some of these down, that’s very good.

HOST:      Is there anything to be afraid of?

GUEST:      Certainly not in the beginning, but as the experiments proceed, let’s just say it would be wise to remain alert to the unanticipated. It’s a kind of dredging, in a way, and when the net comes up, you can’t be surprised if there is more in there than just a few wet fish.

HOST:      So tell me exactly what I have to do.

GUEST:     The first step is to find a private place, one that is open and yet isolated. Next, you establish a circle on the floor of the space, using chalk, or a marker of some sort, or I actually prefer to use colored tape. The circle should  be exactly five feet in diameter, and then you place your tape recorder in the precise center of the circle and you’re ready to roll.

HOST:      And then the journey to the Bottom  involves simply walking along the circle for extended periods?

GUEST:       It begins as a journey, but your ultimate goal is to puddle yourself into the other dimension.

HOST:       The other dimension, I don’t follow you.

GUEST:       Think of it as skipping down into the basement, perhaps. Usually when we say that someone is walking in circles, we mean that they  are caught in a state of entropic suspension,  expending energy and yet never getting anywhere. But my approach is rooted in the many alternative traditions of circle dancing, these are dervishes who enter into the circle of repetition to achieve ecstasy through psychokinetic travel. The standard notion is that ecstasy is in some way an elevation, but I have discovered that the spin to the bottom is far more sublime.

HOST:     So would it be better to dance the circle, then, I mean to really get a full dose of the sublime?

GUEST:      You’re welcome to try, but I suspect you will quickly exhaust yourself. Walking will achieve the same end, and you will have more energy reserved for the important part.

HOST:       The essential broadcast.

GUEST:      That’s right. Giving voice to anything and everything that comes up through the circle, through your nervous system and larynx and out into the world — you need to imagine that at the inner part of the circle is a record for the inner part of your self, and that your feet are frictive needles releasing the information on the record through the application of sustained animal energy.

HOST:      So how long do I have to do this?

GUEST:       I recommend starting with an eight hour session to establish the groove, then gradually work up to the full twenty-four hours, which is when you can really expect the inner record to release some of its more fundamental tunes.

HOST:     Twenty-four hours!

GUEST:       It’s a long way to the bottom.

HOST:       What happens to the essential broadcast once the gramophone has been activated and recorded?

GUEST:     That depends on the client. I have some who hear their broadcast once, and never again, and then are those who put the tapes on endless loop and can never seem to hear enough of them.

HOST:     Do I detect the echo of Narcissus?

GUEST:       You might say that, or you might say simply that some people are more comfortable with their bottoms than others.

HOST:      Is there any one broadcast that sticks out in your memory?

GUEST:     There are many broadcasts, but it would not be ethical to disclose them in this context.

HOST:      Is there any neurological basis for this, that somehow Walking the Circle trigger endorphins which in turn produces the ecstasy?

GUEST:      Possibly, but I believe we have become too reliant on these simple chemical explanations. Remember that the mind is far more complicated than the brain. The brain is an organ lodged inside a fixed skull, but the mind has a locus that is always shifting, it’s very fluid.

HOST:       It occurs to me that the Existential Gramophone is a kind of Time Machine, not unlike Wilhelm Reich’s Orgone Box.

GUEST:     Yes, in a way, though Wilhelm Reich was never able to get out of that box was he, which made the box more of a storage device than a playback machine.

HOST:       Forgive my skepticism but the whole thing sounds like Edgar Allan Poe suddenly deciding to join the New Age.

GUEST:  It’s quite alright. Everybody is skeptical until they master the technique. But I can tell you, from my experience with hundreds of very well-grooved clients, once they feel those needles carving fresh tracks into their wild souls, the problem then becomes how to turn the grammophone off.

HOST:     So there’s pleasure at the bottom?

GUEST:     It — it would seem so.