Danielle Kirby

Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth


1950:  Neil Megson (Genesis P-Orridge) was born.

1955:  Peter Christopherson (Sleazy) was born.

1969:  COUM Transmissions formed.

1975:  Throbbing Gristle formed.

1980:  P-Orridge and Christopherson visited William Burrows.

1981:  Throbbing Gristle disbanded.

1981:  Psychick TV (PTV) formed.

1981:  Temple of Psychick Youth (TOPY) formed.

1982:  PTVs first album Force the Hand of Chance was released.

1982:  First Transmission was filmed.

1984:  Peter Christopherson left PTV and formed Coil with John Balance.

1991:  P-Orridge left TOPY.

1991:  P-Orridge founded “The Process.”

1992:  Beyond Belief aired on Channel 4, representing First Transmission as evidence of Satanic Child Abuse.

1992:  Police raided TOPY-affiliated homes.

1997:  Psychick TV was disbanded by P-Orridge.

2003:  PTV3 was established by Genesis P-Orridge.

2008:  TOPY North America changed its name to Autonomous Individuals Network (of thee 23rd current) (AIN23).

2010 (November 25):  Peter Christopherson died.

2010:  P-Orridge founded Thee One True TOPI Tribe.

2020 (March 14):  P-Orridge died.


Thee Temple ov Psychic Youth (TOPY) is an experimental ritual magic network founded in 1981 in the United Kingdom, which is still active in various forms to this day (Partridge 2013:189). TOPY and the affiliated Psychic TV (PTV) are some of the religio-occultist and artistic-performative explorations of an expansive group of artists and occultists. Originally formed by Genesis P-Orridge (1950 – ) [Image at right] and Peter Christopherson (1955 – 2010) in 1981, TOPY and PTV were intended to more directly explore these themes as they had emerged within their earlier work.

TOPY is most straightforwardly understood as a chaos magic community. Chaos magic is premised in a fairly anarchistic approach to the world, and is generally understood as a left-hand path approach. Transgression is a central aspect of chaos magic, and the underlying notion is one that seeks the deliberate subversion or destruction of dominant modes of thinking, primarily as a source of power. The chaos magician will use any tool that may come to hand, with no necessary reference to its provenance or intended use. It can appear to be, but is not necessarily, anti-ritual: the chaos magician might, for instance, transform a night of watching television into a method of divination constructed as magical practice. In this way, chaos magic tends to be situated at the extreme end of the tendency towards pragmatism in modern magical practices in general. (Kirby 2013:98-99)

Initially, PTV and TOPY formed a paired endeavour designed to explore their religious and occult interests, with PTV more focused on performance and media, and TOPY more oriented towards overtly spiritual and occult exploration (Ford 1999:11, 16). The concerns, aesthetics, and practices of both TOPY and PTV are situated in a continuum which developed from the earlier performances of the COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle (Ford 1999:11, 16). They are also manifest in the later works of Coil, the various projects of Genesis P-Orridge, and related to a raft of other musical and artistic endeavours such as Current 93, Bauhaus, Soft Cell, and The Grid (Siepmann 2018:87).

An essential aspect of the conceptual development and cultural location of TOPY are the COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle, both artistic projects that directly led to the founding of PTV and TOPY. Cosey Fanni Tutti (1951 – ) and Genesis P-Orridge were founding members of the performance art group COUM Transmissions, working alongside Spydee Gasmantel, Pinglewad, and numerous others (Ford 1999:2,4; Keenan 2003:20). They took inspiration from Dada and were aesthetically related to the Viennese Actionists and the Fluxus movement, with COUM actions increasingly focused on subversion, sex, and undermining the rarefied positioning of aesthetics within culture (Johnson 2018:184-85). Notably, COUM gained notoriety through their use of mail art, and intensely provocative exhibitions such as Prostitution, [Image at right] the show that gained them the epithet “wreckers of civilization.”

In the wake of the 1976 Prostitution show, the band Throbbing Gristle (TG) was formed, comprised of Cosey Fanni Tutti, Genesis P-Orridge, Chris Carter (1953 – ), and Peter Christopherson (Higgs 2003). TG more directly addressed sound and music as its medium, moving somewhat away from performance art focus of COUM (Colquhoun 2017:7). Usefully seen as a merger between the various emphases of art and music within the group, TG deliberately took the preoccupations of the art world as tools to deconstruct rock and roll (Ford 1999:5, 17-18). TG’s music gained a small if fervent following which continues to this day. Towards the end of its initial trajectory, performances introduced what P-Orridge referred to as “psychic” music, heavily laden with religious symbolism and prefacing the later focuses of TOPY and PTV. TG broke up in 1981, with Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter expecting a child and largely estranged from P-Orridge.

P-Orridge and Christopherson formed Psychick TV and TOPY almost immediately after the break-up of TG, with TOPY emerging as an eclectic mix of experimental art, music, ritual, and magic and a community that combined “a magical order, a think tank, an archive, an experiment in intentional art, and many other things.” (Abrahamsson 2018:28). Early participants included luminaries such as David Tibet and Michael Cashmore of Current 93 and John Balance (Geoff Rushton 1962 – 2004), who alongside Peter Christopherson formed Coil in 1984 (Keenan 2003:44-49). Gary Levermore of Third Mind Records and Simon Norris (otherwise known as Ossian Brown, of Coil and Cyclobe), for instance, both founded early ritual houses. While most of these members left TOPY fairly early, most notably Peter Christopherson in 1984, by the late 1980’s it claimed a worldwide following of 10, 000 and an extensive and expanding network of access points (Siepmann 2018:88).

While various offshoots of TOPY  have continued, the second of the movement’s original movement’s co-founders, Genesis P-Orridge, died in 2020.


TOPY does not hold to a particular doctrine or belief, but rather asserts the plausibility of magical practice and encourages an ecumenical and experimental approach to magical work as part of everyday life. The need for individual liberation from normative forms of thought (Kirby 2012:54; Rushkoff 1994), as well as from past experiences (Abrahamsson 2018:8), form the ideological underpinning of the group. Magical practice was seen as a means of undermining various forms of social control as well as being a process of self-actualisation. As an exploration of metaphysics, magic, and shamanism (Keenan 2003:48), TOPY collected and disseminated metaphysical experiments and created a network connecting practitioners and interested outsiders alike.

Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth has been convened in order to act as a catalyst and focus for the Individual development of all those who wish to reach inwards and strike out… We offer no dogmas, and no promises of comfort or easy answers,.. You are going to have to find out your Self, we offer only the method of survival as a True Being, we give you back to yourself, we support your Individuality in which the Spirit and Will united  with passion & pride (TOPY 2009c:33-34).

The sources of inspiration for TOPY were eclectic to say the least, and incorporated western esoteric ideas and practices from a variety of sources. These sources included John Dee, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), the various synthesis of the Golden Dawn and the works of Aliester Crowley. Eastern metaphysics was likewise fair game, particularly Buddhism, as was Chaos magic and Sex magic, and indeed TOPY is still considered an important Chaos Magick community (Granholm 2011:532). More recent countercultural narratives also played a significant part in the group, with the ideas of iconic individuals, such as William Burrows, featuring alongside luminaries, such as Austin Osmon Spare, and Brion Gysin. The Process Church is likewise a source of inspiration, both in their sense of visual design and their conceptual focuses (Louv 2009:400-20). It its eclecticism, TOPY stands as perhaps the preeminent example of an occultural movement, and indeed Genesis P-Orridge is attributed with the formulation of the term. Any material that was useful was used, and at the heart of TOPY was a desire to build a practical magic removed from mysticism and the strictures of religion. The collected wisdom and experimentation of ages were all seen as building blocks in this mission: perhaps guides but certainly not constraining practice.

Sharing information was, and is, a central element of TOPY. Carl Abramhansson, for instance, noted in regard to the Scandinavian branch of TOPY that the sharing of materials was often more important than ritual practice itself. By his account, rituals were often undertaken to support and help the promotion of newly developed materials rather than as the ends of the organisation (Abrahamsson 2006:12). In its pre-internet inception, TOPY relied upon physical means of publication and dissemination, largely via mail (Siepmann 2018:83), and produced books, cassettes, CDs, records, videos, magical workshops, lectures, films, and concerts (Abrahamsson 2018:29). In more recent times, since the popularisation of the internet, the sharing of information and post-geographic networks have found a very comfortable home online. In both contexts, TOPY was and continues to be an important nexus for the dissemination of occultural information and detraditionalized spirituality (Partridge 2005:160).

Our function is to direct and support. Work that is needlessly repeated is simply wasteful. Accordingly we will be making public books, manuscripts & other recordings of our progress, in various formats, video and audio. These do not contain meaningless dogma but are examples of our interests & beliefs in action. They are made not as entertainment, but as experience, not the mundane experience of day to day routine but of the Spirit & Will triumphant (Keenan 2003:43).


There are numerous texts outlining the reflections and practices of TOPY members online and in hard copy. Foremost amongst these is the collection contained in Thee Psychick Bible, [Image at right] which provides an edited set of TOPY works, predominantly authored by P-Orridge and edited by Jason Louv. In this collection, there are a range of texts from members reflecting on ideals and philosophies of TOPY alongside interviews and essays, but principally it is a practical text, a “how to” of chaos magic TOPY-style. Central amongst these texts are Thee Grey and Black books, which outline the process of Sigilising and its importance to ritual practice. A sigil is a meaningful symbol which is imbued with magical power and used as focus in ritual practice.

Thee Grey Book was written between 1980 and 1982. It covers a raft of expository material, exploring subjects such as sex and its energetic usefulness through orgasm in both spiritual and creative goals, and the function of ritual in the same. There are discussions on the value and need for discipline in both physical and psychic contexts, the inevitably of death and the need for social evolution. Importantly, the text outlines the suggested process of Sigil work, in this case requiring a combination of written desire, hair, and bodily fluid in a ritual which is to be undertaken on the 23rd of each month at 23:00 hours. The artefact created is then sent to the temple, and upon completion of twenty-three such rituals one becomes a full Initiate of the Temple. It is unclear to what degree this structure was actually taken up by participants. Thee Grey Book asserts the goal of deprogramming the individual from the structures of control, and through Sigil use, offers a tool with which to do so (TOPY 2009b).

Thee Sigil ov 3 liquids

This ritual should be performed alone, on thee 23rd ov thee month, beginning at 23.00 hours, in a place where you will have no interruptions or distractions. Within thee limits ov what is practical, you should arrange thee environment and atmosphere to be as conducive as possible to thee execution ov this Sigil for yourself. If at all possible a candle(s) should be thee only source ov light. This Sigil must be performed naked.

One ov thee aims ov thee ritual is to concentrate your attention and energy on your most intense sexual fantasy. To do this you must first decide what it is and write it down on a piece ov paper. It should be what you think would generate in you thee maximum possible excitement, pleasure and fulfilment, regardless ov thee identity, sex or age ov those who take part with you, alive and guiltless. It is essential to be completely honest with yourself, and not write something because you think it might satisfy other people – remember thee purpose ov thee Sigil is to really make these things happen. Once you have written thee fantasy on thee piece ov paper, you have to make thee paper special.

To do this it must be touched by thee three liquids ov thee body. That is, spit, blood, and OV, which is thee Temple name for thee fluids obtained by masturbation – semen from thee male and lubrication from thee female. For example, first let a few drops ov spit fall onto thee page, next a few drops ov blood. You must use some kind ov sharp and clean instrument to do this. Remember only a small quantity is required and you should use your common sense in terms ov thee method employed and ov hygiene both before and afterwards. Lastly, and in any way that is most pleasurable to you, bring yourself to orgasm and allow thee OV to touch thee paper. While you are doing this concentrate not only on thee inscribed fantasy, but also on thee idea ov thee Temple and that fact that doing this sigil is inevitably bringing you closer to what you really want.

You must then attach a lock ov hair from your head and also some ov your pubic hair to thee paper.

Remember these 2 hair types and 3 liquids may be incorporated on thee Sigil Paper in any manner that feels appropriate to thee thoughts thereon described. Thee basic actions outlined above should not be seen as a limitation. Part of thee process is uncovering your innate creativity, finding your own way of making something of your own, no matter how small or transient it may be.

Please remember that thee process of sigilisation is primarily experimental and self-initiating (TOPI), and should be approached as such. Thee Temple expects you to keep full documentation, including observations and information on your sigil practise. A copy of thee documentation should be sent with your sigil.

Leave thee Sigil Paper overnight to dry in a safe place. On thee next day send it to thee Temple. You do not have to attach your name to thee Sigil Paper if you don’t want to. All submission to thee Temple will remain at all times absolutely confidential, and will be stored in a locked vault. All applicants who complete this satisfactorily will receive personal encouragement, suggestions and direction for thee subsequent months ritual (TOPY, 2009b: 46-47).

Thee Black Book takes up the practice of Sigils again, in this case expanding on their functional use as part of a process of actualisation, and the necessity of experimentation rather than instruction. In this context, Austin Osmon Spare’s approach to Sigils is directly cited as a guide.

Sigils are used to enable two things to occur.

Effective communion with unconscious levels

The lodging of a desire or wish at unconscious levels without the conscious mind being involved or aware…

In order to Sigilise…, put down on a piece of paper all the letters of which the sentence is composed, omitting all repetitions. The resulting sequence of letters is then combined and incorporated into your Sigil. (This sequence of letters is called a glyph.) The wish, thus Sigilised, must then be forgotten; that is to say, the conscious mind must desist from thinking about it at anytime other than the magickal time, for the belief becomes true and vital by striving against it in the consciousness and by giving it (the Sigil) form. Not by the striving of faith (TOPY 2009a:88).

The text further reiterates the importance of orgasm and corresponding energetic release for charging the Sigil: The Sigil itself has no power until charged, it is the desire underpinning its creation and enactment that allows it efficacy. Beyond the extended discussion of Sigil work, Thee Black Book also expands upon the collective work of the Temple insofar as the Sigil work of individuals affiliated with the Temple also feeds the Temple and in turn allows a greater efficacy of all individual Sigil work: what is referred to as a united network of exchange (TOPY 2009a: 8-99).

The final named book of TOPY is somewhat distinct from the earlier two. If the Grey and Black books read like instruction manuals for Chaos Magicians, Thee Green Book reads like a despairing tirade. In the Thee Psychick Bible, Thee Green Book is attributed as the final TOPY Station Ratio 5 Bulletin, 1991, (P-Orridge 2009), and seems to be P-Orridge’s exit piece from TOPY. Read simply, it is an extended rant against the Ultra-terrestrials, for whom we are cattle. P-Orridge describes them as “beings which exist in the same space-time coordinates as life on Earth, yet on a different vibratory level. They exist as parasites on human consciousness” (P-Orridge 2009:361). Even placing aside the uber-control narrative of the ultra-terrestrials and the Men In Black, it is a deeply despairing text, closing with the phrase “I leave you all in a fine mess.”

There is an element of reclamation or rehabilitation at play within the magical thinking and practice of TOPY. Magic is squarely positioned as a functional everyday tool rather than a mystical spiritual one. Unlike the formalism often accompanying esoteric and occult traditions, TOPY rather promoted demystification and the use of the tools at hand. Nowhere is this more evident that in their approach to media texts and composition for ritual or magical purposes (Kirby 2012:52-55).

It can be said, for me at least, that sampling, looping and re-assembling both found materials, and site-specific sounds selected for precision of relevance to the message implications of a piece of music, or a transmedia exploration, is an alchemical, even a magical phenomenon. No matter how short, or apparently unrecognisable a “sample” might be in linear time perception, I believe it must, inevitably, contain within it, (and accessible through it) the sum total of absolutely everything its original context represented, communicated, or touched in any way; on top of this it must also implicitly include the sum total of every individual in any way connected with its introduction and construction within the original (host) culture, and every subsequent (mutated or engineered) culture it in any way, means or form, has contact with forever (in past, present, future and quantum time zones) (P-Orridge 2009:142).

Media forms are avenues of magic, as technology as well as through the use of their content. A practitioner can rely on the tools of modernity just as readily as ancient artefacts for ritual practice. This demystified and pragmatic approach to spiritual tools tends to characterise both TOPY and chaos magic more generally.


One of the key aspects of TOPY is that it sought to be an inclusive endeavour based on individual experience and practice rather than a uniform group of likeminded believers (Kirby 2012:52-55). Far more a society than a belief system, TOPY was formed as a community built around shared interests (Partridge 2014:131), and was conceived primarily as a network. Originally based in the U.K., across the initial decade of its existence it spread to include numerous Access Points (regional headquarters) and Stations (administrative headquarters) (Siepmann 2018:88). TOPY-CHAOS was the Australian station, TOPYNA was the North American station, TOPYSCAN was Scandinavian-based, which eventually grew into TOPY EUROPE (Abrahamsson 2018:29). The first phase of TOPY ended in the early 1990s in the wake of the misrepresentation of First Transmission and corresponding police raids (Louv 2006:25-26; Abrahamsson 2018:29). While originators claim to have disbanded TOPY in the early 1991’s, TOPY has persisted in various iterations since then (Kirby 2011:fn 36). After Genesis P-Orridge’s departure, TOPY continued to exist, albeit with significant friction between P-Orridge and extant members and with an increased emphasis upon tools to resist the slow decay of society (Dwyer 1993:52).

Splinters and offshoot groups have since emerged such as the Family Ov Phychick Individuals (FOPI), originally a Psychick TV fan group and later a music collective derived from some participants (Partridge 2005:159). In 2008, the North American branch of TOPY changed its name to the Autonomous Individuals Network (AIN) while still claiming the same overarching goals (AIN23 2008; Granholm 2011:fn 37). In 2011, Genesis P-Orridge initiated Thee One True TOPI Tribe with Jacurutu:23 as an attempt to instigate an artistic collective (P-Orridge 2011), although this project appears inactive. While there has been a steady insistence on TOPYs continuity, the analogue means of communication TOPY initially formed around have been largely subsumed by digital communication and the type of resource sharing and community it provided is now online. Certainly it has structurally become a predominantly online endeavour (Partridge 2005:160).

For all that it sought to be radically individualist and non-hierarchical, the particular heritage of TOPY is such that it is easy, and indeed common, for discussions of the group to swiftly devolve into hagiography. The original founding members are extremely well-known in the worlds of art and music, and the intertwining of artistic creation, collaborative work, and metaphysical endeavour make firm distinctions between people and projects unusually complex. This tendency is particularly evident in the case of Genesis P-Orridge, whose public ideologies and politics rival h/er artistic and occultural practices in their capacity to seduce and divide audiences. P-Orridge has long been attracting such attention, from h/er earliest “happenings” (Ford 1999:1, 9) to h/er ongoing pandrogeny project (Hurst 2018). Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is often considered the leader, frontperson, or spokesperson of TOPY, and P-Orridge was one of the originators of the temple. P-Orridge left TOPY in 1991 in what seems to be somewhat acrimonious circumstances, and there are numerous accounts of disenfranchised ex-collaborators and -friends involved in various content and copyright battles (Siepmann 2019). Nonetheless, P-Orridge was and continues to be a central figure within the network, albeit now as part of the mythos.


Publicly, TOPY members regularly encountered criticism and even condemnation for performances and the like. By far the most extreme instance of this, however, was in 1992, when the U.K. Channel 4 program Dispatches aired a program titled “Beyond Belief” (Kirby 2011). Using footage from 1982 film First Transmission, the program claimed to provide evidence of satanic ritual abuse. First Transmission was a TOPY film made in 1982 and partly funded by Channel 4 depicting graphic sex rituals staged by David Tibet, Peter Christopherson, John Balance, Derek Jarman, Genesis P-Orridge, Paula P-Orridge, and narrated by Alan Oversby (Mr Sebastian) (Keenan, 2003:223). While swiftly debunked within the public sphere, the incident occurred around the height of the Satanism scare (Richardson, Best and Bromley 1991), and had lasting impact on those effected. Police raids were carried out on the homes of TOPY members and collaborators. Materials were seized, notably the huge archive accumulated by Genesis P-Orridge. P-Orridge and family were at the time travelling, and chose not to return to England, rather taking up permanent residence in the U.S. People’s phones were tapped and their mail read. Moreover, there was considerable concern that legal reframing could result in contentious consensual sex acts (such as S&M or bondage) or performance art (such as the work of Cosey Fanni Tutti and COUM transmissions) being interpreted as assault (Dwyer 1993; Savage 1992:51). The narrator of First Transmission, Alan Oversby, was sentenced as part of Operation Spanner, which wrongly accused a homosexual S&M community of paedophilia and pornography. This incident is generally seen to mark the end of the first phase of TOPY activity, and by this point the majority of early members had moved on to other pursuits.

Internally, there have been ongoing issues over authority and ownership of the group and its intellectual property. A regular feature of TOPY inquiry was experimentation with authoritarianism and freedom, and the interplay between them (Keenan 2003:96-97). Exploring and understanding systems of control, disrupting normative culture, and creating mechanisms to undermine internalisation of the status quo were all central features of magical and ritual practice. Personal discipline was seen as a mechanism through which freedom could be found, and immersion within the TOPY way of life was desirable. However, the tendencies towards autocracy factored in the disaffiliation of some original TOPY members. Key figures such as David Tibet and John Balance, and later Peter Christopherson, were deeply concerned with the tendency towards hierarchy and charismatic leadership in the group (Keenan 2003:48, 218). Likewise, there have been numerous and ongoing concerns around ownership: of creative texts, of ritual practice, of trademarked symbols. This is a more or less constant feature of Genesis P-Orridge’s public life, having reoccurred across many different projects as early as the COUM transmissions [Image at right] (Johnson 2018:184; Tutti 2017:263). Throughout the 1990’s, for instance, P-Orridge copyrighted and sought to limit the use of the Psychick Cross, seeing h/erself as synonymous with the group (Louv 2009:500-23). It is hard not to see the instigation of the One True TOPI Tribe in a similar light, as an assertion of authenticity and authority.

Genesis P-Orridge performed a final concert in London in 2018, but was then already struggling with the myelomonocytic leukemia to which she ultimately succumbed. Controversy had already begun around P-Orridge even before her death in 2020. One of her earliest cultural collaborators, Cosey Fanni Tutti, authored a book, Art Sex Music (2017), in which she accused P-Orridge of numerous instances of physical and sexual abuse. While P-Orridge categorically dismissed all of the allegations, her legacy has become more complicated (Brazier 2018; Siepmann 2019).

Image #1: Genesis P-Orridge.
Image #2: Poster for COUM’s “Prostitution” exhibition.
Image #3: Thee Psychic Bible.
Image #4: COUM Transmissions.


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Colquhoun, Matthew J.L. 2017. “Industrious Records: Reflections on the Ethics of Georges Bataille and COUM Transmissions.” London: Goldsmiths.

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Publication Date:
2 February 2019