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• Sergey Kuryokhin and Pop Mekhanika – all documents
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Hannelore Fobo

Sergey Kuryokhin: Improvisations and Performances

Part Three

Empire and Magic. Sergey Kuryokhin's “Pop-Mekhanika No. 418” (1995)

Second, revised version 11 March 2020 (First version 13 August 2018)

page 5 • A New Spark in the life of Pop-Mekhanika: Aleister Crowley

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to page 6 • The Helsinki and Saint Petersburg (Pop-Mekhanika 418) performances >>



page 5 • A New Spark in the life of Pop-Mekhanika: Aleister Crowley

In the first half of the 1990s, Kuryokhin, having become disillusioned with the impact of his music on society, set his ambitions on politics. His eccentric yet highly entertaining Pop-Mekhanika performances in the 1980s, a remarkable example of Soviet-era alternative pop culture (if such a paradox actually exists), had reached a conceptual dead end. The chaotic and funny way in which he juxtaposed jazz, rock and folk music with animals, dancers, and other performers was exciting only as long as it mocked the official culture. Once Pop-Mekhanika had gained recognition and had brought Kuryokhin fame, he started feeling weary and referred to it as having become “somewhat mechanical”.[1]

This is one of the reasons why the number of Pop-Mekhanika performances dropped sharply in the 1990s. Kuryokhin dedicated most of his time to other projects, such as solo concerts and film music, but it seems that he was missing the big show. Andrey Sigle quotes Kuryokhin: “Music and cinema are complete rubbish. The real show is politics. Whatever music has to offer, politics has it ten times larger.”[2]

Again, Kuryokhin was seeking the most radical point of view. Before he affiliated himself with the NBP in 1995 (he only became a member in 1996[3]), he had been interested in Vladimir Shirinovsky, leader of the LDPR (Либерально-демократическая партия России / the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia),[4] a party based primarily on Zhirinovsky's ideas of a "renewed Russian Empire with a ‘liberal’ market economy”.[5]

But he obviously found Limonov’s and Dugin’s ideas more interesting. Furthermore, he found Crowley’s impact on Dugin’s political concept no less interesting.

Crowley’s texts had been quite influential on the New Age movements of the second half of the twentieth century, but these were little known in Russia. They had attracted a number of Pop and Rock musicians – among them Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), who had acquired Crowley’s former manor, in Scotland. The cover of the LP “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, which displayed the Beatles’ purported fans, has Crowley standing between the Hindu guru, Sri Yukteswar Giri, and actress Mae West.

At the same time, Crowley has always been considered a highly controversial figure – in the first place because of his scandalous behaviour and the fact that he advocated techniques of sexual magic as a way of revealing the individual’s “True Will”, the reason for one’s incarnation.[6] Mistlberger calls Crowley one of “the three chief enfant terrible [sic] of 20th century spirituality” (the others being Osho and Gurdjieff):

    …for the prime reason that they were not only concerned with the uncompromised truth needed to bring about inner transformation, they were also deeply provocative personalities who behaved in ways that seemed at times impossible to reconcile with the wise men they otherwise presented themselves as. They were thoroughly uncontrollable and the very definition of the spiritual avant-garde. On the way, each was branded as sinister, even evil, by many who could not understand them, and each was a prime example of the antinomian crazy-wisdom master who defies moral codes en route to establishing and enacting their spiritual work.[7] […] But where Crowley and Gurdjieff stand out is their sheer charisma, in the conflicting forces of light and dark that clearly moved through them. They were nothing less than alchemy in action.[8]

Some pages later, a warning follows:

    That said, Crowley had a dark side, or more accurately, a dangerous side. To associate closely with him was to risk getting burnt.[9]

Crowley himself called his path scientific and hence coined the term “Magick” for his own magic. He gave a longer description of “Magick” in his Letter 83 from the 1940s, where he distinguished Yoga from Magick (he employed both): “Magick is extraversion, the discovery of and subsequently the classification of and finally the control of new worlds on new planes.” [10]

The following passages from the same letter are added in order that Magick may be better understood.

    Magick is the Science and Art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will. […] The aspiring Magician only analyses himself for the purpose of finding new worlds to conquer. His first objective is the astral plane; its discovery, the classification of its tenants, and their control.

    All his early practises [sic] therefore are devoted to exploring the worlds which surround (if you choose, or if you prefer—are contained in) the object of sense. If there is a tree in your garden, you want to find out whether that tree is occupied by a nymph or a nat [sic], and if so, what are they like? How do they act? How can you make them useful to your purpose? It is in fact the ordinary every-day scientific method of exploration. […] To begin with we must build up an apparatus of examination, and this we do by discovering and developing qualities in our own structure which ware [sic] suitable for the purpose.

    The first step is the separation of (what we call, for convenience) the astral body from the physical body. As our experiments proceed, we find that our astral body itself can be divided into grosser and subtler components. In this way we become aware of the existence of what we call, for convenience, the Holy Guardian Angel, and the more we realise the implications of the theory of the existence of such a being, the clearer it becomes that our supreme task is to put ourselves into intimate communication with him.

    For one thing, we shall find that in the object of sense which we examine there are elements which resist our examination. We must raise ourselves to a plane in which we obtain complete control of such. […]

    Before closing the subject entirely, I think it well to point out that there are quite a number of worlds on which a good deal of work remains to be done. In particular, I cannot refrain from mentioning the work of Dr. Dee and Sir Edward Kelly. My own work on this subject has been so elaborate and extensive that I shall never sufficiently regret that I never had an opportunity of completing it, but I should like to emphasize that the obtaining of a book like Liber 418 is in itself so outstanding an achievement that it should serve as an encouragement to all Magicians.[11]

“418”, the number Kuryokhin chose for his concert, was of great importance in Crowley’s numerology. It signified, among others things, “Abrahadabra”. Crowley replaced the ‘c’ in “Abracadabra” with an ‘h’, explaining that

    ABRAHADABRA is “The key of the rituals” because it expresses the Magical Formulae of uniting various complementary ideas; especially the Five of the Microcosm with the Six of the Macrocosm.[12]
    Now Mars is referred to the number 5, and Sol to the number 6; both to the idea “Force and Fire”, though in different ways. Now “Force and Fire” is the attribute of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, Lord of the Aeon; and 5 and 6 are mystically mated to represent the Accomplishment of the Great Work in Abrahadabra, the Word of the Aeon.[13] [14]

Kuryokhin was, fittingly, assigned NBP membership no. 418.

Kuryokhin announced his decision to engage in politics in May 1995, during a press conference with Dugin, Limonov and the artist Novikov,[15] arguing that “the only adequate form of art for today is politics”.[16] Alexander Kan, deeply disturbed by his friend’s radicalisation, encapsulated the essence thereof: “Kuroykhin was dead set against [our arguments]. He said that National Bolshevism was a deeply and seriously-held conviction on his part, adding that humanism and other liberal ideas had suffered total bankruptcy – in the very same way that any thought of Russia’s kinship and convergence with the West had suffered total bankruptcy.”[17]

Ultimately, Kuryokhin’s quest for “action on a totally global scale” expressed itself as a rehash of communist and other totalitarian ideologies with the added component of mystery – not mystery in the sense of a riddle, but mystery in the sense of an initiation or initiation rites, i.e. in the sense of mysticism. His penchant towards mystery is evident already in his early interview for “Cadence” (1981/1983): “I want the metaphysics of total unity, I want to come close to mystery, I love mystery, I love the very spirit of this ancient ritual.”[18]

Kuryokhin adapted a number of “Crowleyan” elements so as to include them in his last two Pop-Mekhanika concerts: the one in Helsinki and the one in Saint Petersburg. By taking this new approach, he was pursuing the creation of the “New Man” – a not entirely new idea, if we recall the programme devised by the Soviet Communist Party that promulgated the “all-round and harmonious development of the individual, […] educating a new man, who will combine harmonious spiritual wealth, moral purity, and a perfect physique.[19] A poster announcing Kuryokhin and Dugin’s lecture on 3 November 1995 shows a muscular Arno-Breker-type male figure holding a weapon, and the text reads “Concerning the Education of the New Man”.[20]

On a deeper level, there is a parallel with Crowley’s intention behind Ararita: “This book describes in magical language a very process of Initiation.”[21] Whether the last PM performances should be seen in this light is a question that will be addressed in the last chapter of this article.


[1] Fobo, Hannelore Pop-Mekhanika in the West, Chapter 7, “The Formal Side of Anarchy”. Web 28 July 2018 http://www.e-e.eu/Pop-Mekhanika-in-the-West/index7.html

[2] Музыка и кино — это полная ерунда! Самое настоящее шоу — это политика. Там всё, что есть в музыке, можно умножить на десять.

Kushnir, Alexander [Aleksandr]. Sergei Kurekhin. Bezumnaia mekhanika russkogo roka, (Sergey Kuryokhin. The Crazy Mechanics of Russian Rock) [Сергей Курехин. Безумная механика русского рока], p. 198. Moscow: Bertelsmann Media Moscow, 2013

[3] Limonov writes that he issued the NBP membership card at Kuryokhin’s request, and handed it over to Dugin, who visited Kuryokhin in hospital in the spring of 1996.

Limonov, Eduard [Edward]. Kniga mertvykh. (The Book of the Dead.) [Книга мертвых.] Saint Petersburg: Limbus press, 2013.

Web. 25 July 2018. https://www.litmir.me/br/?b=100917&p=71

[4] Kushnir, Alexander [Aleksandr]. Sergei Kurekhin. Bezumnaia mekhanika russkogo roka, (Sergey Kuryokhin. The Crazy Mechanics of Russian Rock) [Сергей Курехин. Безумная механика русского рока], p. 199. Moscow: Bertelsmann Media Moscow, 2013

[5] Hanson, Stephen E. Post-Imperial Democracies: Ideology and Party Formation in Third Republic France, Weimar Germany, and Post-Soviet Russia. (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 220.

[6] “If one's true Will, the reason of one’s incarnation, be to bring peace on earth, one must not perform an act of love with motives of jealousy or emulation.”

Crowley, Aleister et. al. Commentaries 
to Liber AL vel Legis. I.52. The New Comment

Text © Ordo Templi Orientis. Web. 31 July 2018. http://www.oto-hu.org/documents/essay/english/Commentaries_to_Liber_AL_vel_Legis.html

[7] Mistlberger. P.T. The Three Dangerous Magi. Osho, Gurdjieff, Crowley. Alresford: John Hunt Publishing, 2010, p.3

[8] Ibid., p. 7

[9] Ibid., p. 15

[10] Crowley, Aleister. Magick Without Tears. LETTER 83: Epistola Ultima

Biblioteka Peyades

Complete and Unabridged, edited with a Foreword by Karl J. Germer2

© 1954 Karl J. Germer for Ordo Templi Orientis. Renewed 1982 © BLURB. Web. 28 July 2018.

https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/crowley/mwt/mwt_83.htm

[11] Ibid.

[12] Crowley, Aleister et. al. Commentaries 
to Liber AL vel Legis. I. 20. The New Comment

Text © Ordo Templi Orientis. Web. 31 July 2018.

http://www.oto-hu.org/documents/essay/english/Commentaries_to_Liber_AL_vel_Legis.html

[13] Ibid., I.15.

Crowley uses “Abrahadabra” as a ritual in his Liber Samekh: “He then that is as yet ignorant of that Name, let him repeat a word worthy of this particular Ritual. Such are Abrahadabra, the Word of the Aeon, which signifieth “The Great Work accomplished”; and Aumgn interpreted in Part III of Book 4”

Crowley, Aleister Liber Samekh Theurgia Goetia Summa (Congressus Cum Daemone) sub figurâ DCCC (ca. 1920). Web. 25 July 2018. https://hermetic.com/crowley/libers/lib800

[14] In their Neophyte ritual, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn linked “Abrahadabra” with Breath and Life and also with the god Horus.

Regardie, Israel. The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites and Ceremonies of The Golden Dawn. Ed. by Carl Llewellyn Weschke. Sixth Edition. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications. 2003, p. 345.

[15] Timur Novikov was not engaged politically to the same degree as Kuryokhin. In essence, Novikov’s artistic position was that the real defender of Western civilisation is the East, and that the West has betrayed these values. I have discussed his criticism of the West in an article written in 2014.

Fobo, Hannelore. “(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov ‘New Classicals’ and Timur Novikov ‘New Russian Classicism.’” 2014. Web. 31 July 2018. http://www.e-e.eu/Classic-and-Classicism/Index.html 

See also Chapter 10, footnotes 5 and 19.

[16] [...] “что на сегодня единственной актуальной формой искусства является политика”

Kushnir, Alexander [Aleksandr]. Sergei Kurekhin. Bezumnaia mekhanika russkogo roka, (Sergey Kuryokhin. The Crazy Mechanics of Russian Rock) [Сергей Курехин. Безумная механика русского рока], p. 201. Moscow: Bertelsmann Media Moscow, 2013

[17] “Курехин стоял насмерть, говорил, что национал-большевизм – его по-настоящему искреннее и очень серьезное убеждение; что гуманизм и прочие либеральные идеи потерпели

полный крах, точно так же, как полный крах для России потерпела и мысль о родстве, сближении с Западом.”

Kan, Alexander [Aleksandr]. Kurekhin. Shkiper o kapitane (Kuryokhin. What the Skipper says about the Captain) [Курехин. Шкипер о Капитане]

Saint Petersburg, Amfora, 2012. p. 120. PDF for Digital Editions version. Web. 31 July 2018.

http://lifeinbooks.net/chto-pochitat/kurehin-shkiper-o-kapitane-aleksandr-kan/

[18] Kan, Alexander [Aleksandr]. “Sergey Kuryokhin Interview. Taken by Alexander Kan.” Translated from Russian by Felicity Cave. In Cadence. The American Review of Jazz & Blues, Vol. 9 No. 2, February 1983, p. 14. Web. 31 July 2018

http://www.e-e.eu/Sergey-Kuryokhin-Interview/index.html

[19]  Part Two, Chapter V, point E: All-round and harmonious development of the individual. In the period of transition to communism, there are greater opportunities of educating a new man, who will combine harmonious spiritual wealth, moral purity, and a perfect physique.

Program of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1961. With a Special Preface to the American Edition by N. S. Khrushchev. New York: International Publishers 1963, p. 123

[20] “O vospitanii Novogo Cheloveka” [О воспитании Нового Человека]

Kushnir, Alexander [Aleksandr]. Sergei Kurekhin. Bezumnaia mekhanika russkogo roka, (Sergey Kuryokhin. The Crazy Mechanics of Russian Rock) [Сергей Курехин. Безумная механика русского рока], p. 207. Moscow: Bertelsmann Media Moscow, 2013

[21] This quotation is Crowley's description as found in The Equinox III:1 (a.k.a. The Blue Equinox), “Præmonstrance”, and displayed on the page attributed to IAO together with basic Information about Aleister Crowley's Liber DCCCXIII vel ARARITA sub figura DLXX.

page undated. Web. 28 July 2018

https://iao131.com/commentaries/liber-dcccxiii-vel-ararita-sub-figura-dlxx/


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Uploaded 13 August 2018
Last updated 11 March 2020

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