A new interview with me: “Life and Mind of a Teeming Brain”



My online friend Rafael Melo has just published a new interview with me at his blog Cloudy Sky. Topics include my reasons for writing about horror and religion and such, my creative process, the centrality of depression and dread in my life as a writer, my favorite music and movies, the deep meaning of angels and demons, the current state of higher education, and more.

Here’s an excerpt where I get personal about my childhood anti-education in the realm of horror cinema:

RAFAEL: What are your main influences for writing about the horror genre?

MATT: My major horror influences include Lovecraft, Ligotti, Ted Klein, and a host of other writers in the weird fiction tradition and the wider tradition of supernatural horror in general. When I was young I read a lot of Poe’s and Bradbury’s horror stories, and this proved significant. So did a horror record that a friend played for me at his house one late summer afternoon. It featured some spooky sound effects plus a few readings of classic horror stories, including a deliriously unhinged performance of Poe’s “The Telltale Heart.” I can still hear the narrator’s voice as he goes for broke in an over-the-top reading of the final line: “Here! Here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!” That flat-out marked me, man.

Although I don’t usually name him in this regard, I suppose I ought to mention Stephen King, too, since I imbibed a large number of his books in my youth , along with the movies adapted from them, and this was influential. My parents didn’t let me watch scary stuff when I was young, so when the movie versions of Carrie and The Shining and the television miniseries of Salem’s Lot came out in the 1970s, I saw the ads but didn’t get to see the movies themselves, and my mind generated all kinds of vague expectations of the colossally frightening things that must be in them. The same thing happened with non-Stephen King movies, too, including Hell Night, Silent Scream, and several more. Whenever I accidentally caught the television advertisements, I was so frightened that I couldn’t stop seeing them in my mind’s eye for hours afterward. Quite seriously, these commercials filled me with a sense of terror and dread. But at the same time, I found them hypnotically fascinating.

I’ve realized in recent years that my parents did me a wonderful creative favor, albeit inadvertently, by forbidding me to watch such things, because this worked in tandem with a native bent in my personality to inculcate a deep and tantalizing sense of some elusive horror that’s loose in the world, and that can never really be seen or known directly, but that would absolutely fry you if you saw it face to face.

. . . When Lovecraft invokes the idea of unspeakable horrors and sanity-blasting cosmic gods and monsters, and when he says the fundamental supernatural horrific response is basically coeval with the ancient category of consciousness that we call “religious experience,” I hear him developing an eccentric version of negative/apophatic theology and helping to clarify the very thing that drives me personally.

FULL INTERVIEW: Matt Cardin — Life and Mind of a Teeming Brain

FYI, Rafael also runs the antinatalist blog The Last Page and has long been an active presence in the online community devoted to discussing antinatalism, including in the works of Thomas Ligotti. If you can read Portuguese, you can look up and read his book of antinatalist philosophy, A Última Filosofia: An Essay about Antinatalism.

About Matt Cardin


Posted on May 29, 2014, in Arts & Entertainment, Religion & Philosophy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Being bugged throughout my whole life by the nagging sensation of daemonic dread and then coming here , learning about Rudolf Otto, listening to you talk about him, was a real a-ha moment in my life that is hard to articulate . Everything coalesced for me then , understanding at least that there was a thinker who thought about it and put a name to it . so that now if I hear others describing that emotion on the internets or if I want to describe it myself I have a word and an academic reference to say this is that . i didn’t have a word for it before that anyone could understand besides words like spooky, creepy crawlies and so on . I was just like you as a kid although I had more freedom to watch scary movies and whatever . I took out books like Communion by Whitley Strieber from the public library as a kid . What I was really fascinated with even as a young kid was the fascination element of the numinous . My friends wouldn’t want to watch films about aliens or whatever, but I would be the first one in line kind of thing to consume it. and yet I never had nightmares from it . I identify strongly with Otto when he calls it dionysiac . not scary, but pleasurable . it’s hard to put into words as I said how much it nagged at me . i -was- -really- fascinated by it . when i felt the shivers cascading down the length of my body, as a kid, I stopped and wondered what it was, and I learned to release it on purpose . but it wasn’t until i got older that I learned the idea of the Self-Loss that you can actually let it loose in a much more uncontrolled and chaotic way (don’t try this at home) , and i had a kundalini emergence psychosis . it was from learning to harness daemonic-dread that did it for me, put aside the question of lineage for now but my point is if someone were to establish lineage it is their golden ticket . it’s an extremely important emotion .

  2. When I started learning about Korean shamanism and Vietnamese sorcery and mediumship in University and found all these connections between the idea of the Self-Loss, Psychosis, Daemonic-Dread, and transubstantiation of ki and so on.. I did understand what happened to me. It’s a bit convoluted , but,

    Korean shamans initiate through the temple of the body as an alchemical apparatus [1]. They offer themselves to the realm of Hungry Ghosts, that first feed on and then reciprocate their ch’i [2]. This initiation process commonly results in a spiritual emergence psychosis, mania, and insomnia [3]. Korean shamanism is the primary basis upon which the country has adopted Christianity – in a charismatic sense [4]. Many Korean Christians interpret the infilling of the Holy Spirit as ch’i or ki. Learning this was quite a head-trip for me. Besides Marcel Mauss, who was an important primary reference for Hyun-Key Kim Hogarth’s work on Korean shamanism, another really important reference that I’ve found useful is Rudolf Otto who theorized daemonic-dread. It is through daemonic-dread that a Korean shaman creates temporal distortion from [5] .

    My citations for my research,

    [1] Korean Shaman Rituals by Jung Young Lee
    [2] Kut: Happiness Through Reciprocity by Hyun-key Kim Hogarth, The Gift by Marcel Mauss
    [3] Korean Shamanism -Muism by Dr. Kim Tae-kon & Dr. Chang Soo-kyung
    [4] Shamanism In Korean Christianity by Jang Nam Hyuck
    [5] The Idea Of The Holy by Rudolf Otto, Korean Shamanism: The Cultural Paradox by Chongho Kim

    There are other books like on Vietnamese mediumship that are really good, but they don’t describe the process step by step in such painstaking detail as books on korean shamanism . the detail of the whole coming into being of a korean shamanism from total isolation, release of daemonic-dread in the self-loss, reciprocity, psychosis and mania, the gendered and sexual aspects, on and on.. this level of detail is unprecedented in the world .

  3. Even Buddha, a fundamental aspect of his enlightenment was daemonic-dead, he was assaulted by the daemonic-world, in the wilderness, he responded with compassion . Daemonic-dread is a fundamental aspect of Buddha’s enlightenment . It’s an integral part of the story . Thai buddhists believe that he offered himself to the realm of hungry ghosts much like Korean shamans believe or what Shugendo ascetics in Japan believe

  4. Thanks, Matt, brilliant as ever to hear you describe so succintly some very slippery and hard to define concepts like “daemonic dread” and its fundamental polace in horror and religion. And thanks for turning me on to Rudolf Otto, you’re like a good “portal” band like Sonic Youth, always alerting me to intersecting lines of works and ideas.

  5. Bloody hell, Matt, you like Poledouris, Morricone, Queensryche, this is truly uncanny. [if your also like bands like Candlemass and Borges or Eco we might be long lost twins] I think from now on I am going to start asking people who are into Lovecraft and Nietzsche and exploring sleep paralysis what kind of music influenced them in early life. I think there might be something there.

  6. I find others in the right place in time, wherein their mindset for a particular topic(s) compliment(s) mine.

    Your mentioning influential writers, Matt, struck a chord, and it’s still ringing for freewriting. πŸ™‚

    I have recently picked up Goldberg’s ‘Writing Down the Bones’ for the first time this week, without knowing you or others here would mention her work as influential(especially in the interview), and, now, knowing you and others DO read her books, I’m ecstatic. There is commonality!!! I was late to the game, and I blame age.

    While I’m reading her WDTBs, I am also reading another freewriting book, ‘Accidental Genius’ by Mark Levy. And, it’s quite exciting that I have the new opportunity to unleash the power of the Sun (*sorry, though of Sunny-D) — the power of my internal writer without first self-editing. It is immensely pleasurable now to start a writing session by first crafting crap and not worry what others think of it, as it’s for my eyes only.

    I am genuinely glad when I find others, especially those that I admire, sharing stories of success in adaptive methodologies for creativity. This freewriting, a strategy of sorts, I like, and I will continue. I thought you and other readers should know, as daily/weekly/whatever agendas for the molding of post-it note kinds of ideas and coffee stained narratives is important (*take what you can get, right?). I share it hopefully with another who doesn’t know of Goldberg as me (last week).

    And, too, I enjoyed your sharing glimpses of your childhood and adolescence, Matt, when and where you began experiencing existentialism and moderate instances of depression. Very understandable.

    Like Goldberg, I feel I can read your personality through each line very clearly, and I hope for you to continue posting more on the site. We look forward to your projects.

    I thank you once again for sharing and existing, so as to provide helpful, encouraging, educational, and entertaining horror/philosophy/religion blog posts.

    Cheers for Matt! Thanks too Rafael for conducting this!

    How I wish I could have met Matt at Baylor in an English class. It would have been nicer to know of Ligotti and Laird Barron and freewriting methods then instead of grinding away on other pre-req materials, hating to sit to write, in a rigid manner, with a brain ready to vomit ideas. πŸ˜€ Better now than never, I suppose. My brain will vomit no more in public. I keep that for the pages during my freewriting sessions. πŸ™‚

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