Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hermetic Anarchism and Uddering the Author 3

The poets, in this instance Shelley on the "Left," all recognized that political and spiritual freedom were identical and impossible to sever:

The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains
Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man
Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless,
Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king
Over himself; just, gentle, wise.
-- "Prometheus Unbound"

"Equal, unclassed, tribeless, nationless" -- this is what liberty truly consists of. The individual imagination is subject to no xenophobic or provincial limitations and boundaries. We are creators, makers, poets. The very act of sensing and perceiving, to refer to Nietzsche again, make us all better artists than we realize. We are the Unique Ones, as the individualist anarchist Max Stirner declared, and it is only through our own particular and unique visions that we sneak a peak at eternity.

The Scornful Aristocracy of Tramps

The age of revelations never ended. There are countless gods. We reject both the rigid monotheism of the Abrahamic orthodoxies and the equally suffocating monotheism of scientific materialism and reason. Sterner acolyte, Renzo Novatore, proclaimed the end to all -ologies and -isms. The only principle wide enough to encompass all of our desires and imaginings is life itself:

History, materialism, monism, positivism and all the isms of this world are old and rusty tools which I don’t need or mind anymore. My principle is life and my end is death. I wish to live my life intensely and embrace my death tragically. 

You are waiting for the revolution? Let it be! My own began a long time ago! When you are ready (god, what an endless wait!) I won’t mind going with you for a while. But when you stop, I shall continue on my way toward the great and sublime conquest of the nothing!

Any society that you build will have its limits. And outside the limits of any society, unruly and heroic tramps will wander with their wild and virgin thought — those who cannot live without planning ever new and dreadful outbursts of rebellion! I shall be among them!...

All societies tremble when the scornful aristocracy of tramps, inaccessibles, unique ones, rulers over the ideal and conquerors of the nothing resolutely advances. So, come on, iconoclasts, forward!

Already the foreboding sky grows dark and silent! -- "Iconoclasts, Forward"


The sublime conquest of nothing! The only ground that truly exists, the only firmament where our stars can be hung, is nothingness itself. And nothingness is itself not a thing. Flowing emptiness -- endless, timeless, vacuumous and ecstatic. Beyond Church and State, Time and Space, Ear and Eye, Saturn and Jupiter. Hermetic anarchism should be first to be tossed on the intellectual bonfire of the vanities.

But of what practical use is this? How is this in any sense realistic? How does this help the suffering masses of Syria -- to name just one topical hellhole in a world full of dire agony? But anarchy dances on all floors. It is the closest thing we have to a liberation from all politics -- the terrible game that could be defined as the science of concentrating and wielding power. Anarchism, the reverse of this, is simply the process of maximally distributing and decentralizing all forms of power. And it is a process that does not end.

The miserable masses of Syria may in fact be best off in PKK-run Kurdish villages that are apparently (fingers crossed) practicing an effective form of "libertarian municipalism," as advocated by Murray Bookchin. Unfortunately, and this should come as no surprise, these Kurdish villages are precisely those under vicious attack from the U.S.'s latest bête noire, the terrorist supergroup, ISIS. The veil tends to fall hard quickly after it is raised even a sliver.

But, as in the anarchist city of Barcelona briefly during the thirties, these Kurdish experiments in anti-authoritarian living actually function. There is no shock here. History, or more accurately the cracks and margins within and outside the official pages of history, is dripping with similar stories of communities who were successfully able to become, at least temporarily, truly free.


Peter Kropotkin wrote an anarchist masterpiece on the immense influence of mutual aid on both the natural and social worlds. Kropotkin points out that the medieval city, free from feudal domination, with its craft guilds and other voluntary associations was a model of mutual aid and liberty.

In short, the more we begin to know the mediaeval city the more we see that it was not simply a political organization for the protection of certain political liberties. It was an attempt at organizing, on a much grander scale than in a village community, a close union for mutual aid and support, for consumption and production, and for social life altogether, without imposing upon men the fetters of the State, but giving full liberty of expression to the creative genius of each separate group of individuals in art, crafts, science, commerce, and political organization. -- Mutual Aid

Kropotkin goes on to say that much, in our own time, of what even anarchists consider to be utopian was already realized in the High Middle Ages.  

More than that; not only many aspirations of our modern radicals were already realized in the middle ages, but much of what is described now as Utopian was accepted then as a matter of fact.

The point being that by no means are these ideals unachievable. Official history is only a fraction of the whole human story. And much of this story involves people living beyond the grasp of Church and State.


Imbecile Illusions

By now, though, it is difficult to even imagine a condition of freedom. Usura determines even the aesthetics of our our society. Everything has become utilitarian, mass-produced, conformist, disposable. Only those items which can easily be resold for a profit are not designed to be almost immediately obsolete. Nothing is built to last. All "products" are useful, convenient, unoriginal, ugly.

To overthrow usura is to qualitatively transform reality. Something like the medieval guild system would be restored. Objects would be crafted with pride, stamped with originality, made to please the eye and elevate the spirit. Cities transformed into collective works of art.

This is the polar opposite of the automotive hell that most of us somehow persist within today. Lawrence Ferlinghetti captured this best:

They still are ranged along the roads   

          plagued by legionnaires

                     false windmills and demented roosters

They are the same people

                                     only further from home

      on freeways fifty lanes wide

                              on a concrete continent

                                        spaced with bland billboards   

                        illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness


"This could be anywhere, this could be everywhere." To break this dark spell, a necrotic curse that materially binds us, has deep spiritual effects. Creation, reality construction, for the highest values sets off an upward spiral towards the eternal. Robert Duncan explains that everything taken from the commons is a step away from eternity and one more enmired in the suck of time.

It is toward what I have called the eternal that time is disturbed to awaken the workers of the world to the virtue, the power, that lies in their labor. The poet, too, is a worker, for the language, even as the field and the factory, belongs to the productive orders and means in which the communal good lies. All that is unjust, all that has been taken over for private exploitation from the commune, leaves us restless with time, divorced from the eternal. -- The H.D. Book

This process, though, can be reversed. It also provides a third option, a new direction. Beyond and outside of both private property and state control, with all the devices and mechanisms of oppression and imposed misery implied by these two, is the commons. This is an archaic place of freedom, now reduced to back alleys, weedlots and the unexploitable wild.

And yet this is the same place in which we all imagine. And in this fashion it is infinite. The commons stretches back through the free cities to the cave sanctuaries of the old stone age. And when it wells up again, first in the imagination, matter itself will be transmuted.


A Balance of Contradictions

Anarchy is the struggle for and celebration of the commons. It is not bound by property. Only a (non-)space of no limitations is able to satisfy it. And let us not be limited either by rigid categories. There is a plurality of anarchisms. Neither communist, nor individualist, nor both, nor neither. Robert Anton Wilson, as always, along with Robert Shea lay out the terms in sparkling lucidity. They begin by contrasting the free market with the state:

FREE MARKET: That condition of society in which all economic transactions result from voluntary choice without coercion.

THE STATE: That institution which interferes with the Free Market through the direct exercise of coercion or the granting of privileges (backed by coercion).

They go on to list and define the most prevalent forms of privilege -- taxes, usury, landlordism, tariffs -- and the dominant political-economic systems -- capitalism, conservatism, liberalism, socialism -- which are constructed around these varying forms of privilege. They finally arrive at anarchism itself:

ANARCHISM: That organization of society in which the Free Market operates freely, without taxes, usury, landlordism, tariffs, or other forms of coercion or privilege. “Right” anarchists predict that in the Free Market people would voluntarily choose to compete more often than to cooperate; “left” anarchists predict that in the Free Market people would voluntarily choose to cooperate more often than to compete. -- The Illuminatus! Trilogy

Thus, long before the current and sham craze to get beyond the left-right paradigm, Wilson and Shea were already pointing to anarchism as a system which both encompasses and transcends both. Their definition quickly karate chops both participants in the debate, sadly still continuing, between individualist and communist anarchists. True anarchy is both and neither. Both the individual and collective dissolve into what Kropotkin, and Proudhon earlier, termed the mutual. Proudhon's philosophy of mutualism is very solidly carried on and made new in the writings of Kevin Carson.


All individuals are always already members of collectives and all collectives are composed of unique individuals. Again, only through the particular is glimpsed the universal. There is no final stage in history, no ultimate ground upon which we all, humanity in general, will behold eternity. The difference, then, between Proudhon and Marx is essentially metaphysical.

James Billington, in his compelling history of radicalism, Fire in the Minds of Men, argues that the key split between Proudhon and Marx can be traced back to their diverging takes on the philosophy of Hegel.

Their different views of history were evidenced in the contrasting
uses they made of Hegel's thought. Broadly stated, Marx turned Hegel
upside down, making his theory materialistic rather than idealistic;
but he maintained the basic Hegelian view that reality was monistic and
that history was moving necessarily and dialectically toward the
realization of an ideal future order. In contrast, Proudhon left Hegel
right side up, maintaining the Hegelian image of history as a process
of ideas unfolding through contradictions.

But Proudhon insisted that the agony of contradiction would not lead
to despair or resignation as long as man did not look on the situation
with complacency or cynicism. The real answer for society was not
the mythic conclusion of some future, final synthesis; but the realistic
possibility that at every stage the contradictions which are part and
parcel of life itself could be held in equilibrium. Proudhon spoke of a

dynamic ever-changing equilibrium: an "equilibration" between forces
that would never either vanish or lose their venality. The balancing of
such rival forces, though always tense and precarious, was the highest
good that man can hope for on earth.
-- Fire in the Minds of Men

A dynamic ever-changing balance of contradictions -- this is anarchy. It itself is a process and not a state. It is never completed. There is no ability for a monopoly of power to congeal. It makes no sense to say that anarchy or anarchism would never work. It is working right now. It will never be total, this is correct, but if it was it would not be anarchy. The final socio-political synthesis that the Marxists pine for is anathema to any anarchist worth his salt.


Even revolution is totalizing in this respect. The revolution is ongoing or it is nothing -- it is only the means for a new faction of power heads to seize the reins of the state. Lenin himself recognized this incongruity within classical anarchism. In The State and Revolution, Lenin quotes Engels on just this point:

Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is an act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon, all of which are highly authoritarian means. And the victorious party must maintain its rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionaries. Would the Paris Commune have lasted more than a day if it had not used the authority of the armed people against the bourgeoisie? Cannot we, on the contrary, blame it for having made too little use of that authority? Therefore, one of two things: either that anti-authoritarians don't know what they are talking about, in which case they are creating nothing but confusion. Or they do know, and in that case they are betraying the cause of the proletariat. In either case they serve only reaction. -- quoted in The State and Revolution

The authoritarian nature of revolution is hard to deny. The dire necessity of using force in order to remove force is one way that violent revolution is justified by classical anarchists. Another possibility, though, is to change our understanding of revolution. The revolution, or perhaps a more neutral term like "the ruckus" is preferable, could be defined as any action that moves towards individual autonomy and freedom and away from authoritarian control.

The ruckus, in this sense, is perpetual and all-pervasive. It continually creeps closer to anarchy but it never entirely reaches it. And yet it is not dissatisfied. The moment of ruckus itself is a "break thru" to eternity.


Outcast and Vagabond

Totality can only exist in the imagination. The anarchists, like the mystics, have had a vision of this, but they cease to be anarchists or mystics when they attempt to force their formulations of this vision upon others. Yet as vision alone it is pure and it inspires action toward liberty -- the ruckus.

One of the greatest of these visions came from an early anarchist, a friend and comrade of William Godwin, the poet William Blake. Blake also viewed secular revolutions as being mere steps to something greater which could only culminate in eternity. Revolution must lead to revelation or it must fail. The ultimate goal is apocalypse. Northrop Frye explains Blake's view:

If there is greater imaginative power in the revolutionary impulse, it is not so much because of what it accomplishes as because of what it is in itself. Revolution is always an attempt to smash the structure of tyranny and create a better world, even when revolutionaries do not understand what creation implies or what a better world is. The apocalypse will necessarily begin with a slaughter of tyrants, and Christ came, Blake says, to deliver those bound under the knave, not to deliver the knave.

Therefore the real war in society is the “Mental Fight” between the visionaries and the champions of tyranny. -- Fearful Symmetry


The "slaughter of tyrants" is general. It includes the deposing of earthly despots and psuedo-democrats, but it reaches beyond this to the principalities and powers in high places, the Archons, Jupiter and Saturn, space and time. The fight is mental. The battle field is the imagination and the final outcome of this great struggle is one world, really one man:

Once the heart and stomach of a larger human body appear, a larger human brain will soon follow them, and the Golden Age of Atlantis, when "all had originally one language, and one religion," will be restored. The religion will be the religion of Jesus, the Everlasting Gospel, and the language will be the tongue of Albion. Blake does not mean by one religion the the acceptance of a uniform set of doctrines by all men: he means the attainment of civilized liberty and the common vision of the divinity and unity of Man which is life in Jesus. By one language he does not mean English: he means, quoting the Bible and repeating Milton in Areopagitica, that all the Lord's people will become prophets: speak the language of the imagination, and the perception of the sun as a company of angels will be the rule rather than the exception. Further, he does not say that all were originally of one race or kingdom or empire, and though he symbolizes humanity by the name of his own nation, his has nothing to do with the frantic jingoism which a confused idea of the same symbolism might easily develop, and has developed in our day.

One language and one religion -- this sounds dangerously close to the most horrible projections of NWO paranoids. But this has nothing to do with the New World Order. The language is of the imagination and the gospel is everlasting. Both are are beyond representation. Both resist definition and monopolization by priests or kings. Both only exist in the particular and the singular, and both are embodied and rooted in the sounds and scents of untamed nature.

The one man is all men and women -- at once singularity and teeming multitude, universal but bewilderingly diverse. Blake called this man, Albion, and later Joyce named the same man, Finn and H.C.E. -- Here Comes Everybody. Adam Kadmon is another one of his names. And he is not only "he." The veiled exile returns. Shiva and his Shakti fucking eternally, always on the brink of orgasm and annihilation.

Robert Duncan, the anarchist and poet, extends Blake's vision even further. Beyond tribe, beyond nation, beyond race, beyond even the human species -- yet at the same time in the celebration of all of these. Finn manifests a universalism of all nature, of Pound's "stone alive, wood alive," a universe of singularities.

To compose such a symposium of the whole, such a totality, all the old excluded orders must be included. The female, the lumpen-proletariat, the foreign; the animal and vegetative; the unconscious and the unknown; the criminal and failure -- all that has been outcast and vagabond in our consideration of the figure of Man -- must return return to be admitted in the creation of what we are. -- The H.D. Book

Prism Planet

All attempts at summary, while welcomed, are inadequate and if taken as authority are intolerable. In the collapse of the priests and kings proper, science has taken on this authority for many. Hermetic anarchism accepts it as metaphor, as a practical means to limited ends, but as only one facet of the imagination. The scientific method is merely one method of many, useful in certain instances and pernicious in others. Paul Feyerabend called this embrace of a plurality of methods, epistemological anarchism.

Epistemological anarchism differs both from scepticism and from political (religious) anarchism. While the sceptic either regards every view as equally good, or as equally bad, or desists from making such judgements altogether, the epistemological anarchist has no compunction to defend the most trite, or the most outrageous statement.... His favourite pastime is to confuse rationalists by inventing compelling reasons for unreasonable doctrines. There is no view, however 'absurd' or 'immoral', he refuses to consider or to act upon, and no method is regarded as indispensable. The one thing he opposes positively and absolutely are universal standards, universal laws, universal ideas such as "Truth", "Reason", "Justice", "Love" and the behaviour they bring along, though he does not deny that it is often good policy to act as if such laws (such standards, such ideas) existed, and as if he believed in them.

The anarchism of being conjoins the anarchism of knowing. The so-called "new science" can be lucratively plundered for inspiring metaphors. Non-locality, self-organization, indeterminism, uncertainty, self-similarity, holographic structure, etc. are attractive not because they somehow, as scientific terminology, add credence and respectability to similar concepts within visionary traditions, but because they "make new" very ancient, even archaic or "primitive," understandings.


We did not, however, overthrow the authority of the church and its dogma only to accept the new mediation of scientists/specialists/experts. Instead, each is the exclusive expert of their own perception and reflection. The new science may resonate with much older mystical sources, but these latter go far deeper and explore the entire spectrum of human experience.

William Blake was one of the first to sound the alarm against the new dogma of scientific materialism. Blake called it "Newton's sleep," the "natural religion," an extreme narrowing of the range of the imagination and perception.

If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, & stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again. -- "There Is No Natural Religion"

Other romantic poets followed in Blake's wake. Romanticism, in this sense, was not a new movement. It was a return to a a poetic understanding of life based on the primacy of the imagination. The only disagreement within the Romantic movement was whether, as Blake taught, nature was merely a facet of the imagination or, following Wordsworth, the imagination and nature perfectly mirrored one another. All Romantics, however, and all genuine poets of all countries and ages, are in agreement on the oppressive limitations of scientific materialism.

An anecdote of John Keats and William Wordsworth wonderfully reveals this critical spirit. The two poets were at dinner together, and Keats proposed a toast:

Confusion to the memory of Newton!

To Wordsworth's questioning of the reason for this toast, Keats replied that Newton "destroyed the poetry of the rainbow by reducing it to a prism." [The Romantic Imagination, Maurice Bowra.] It is easy to share Keats's concern. For reductive scientism a prism is really a prison of perception. It attempts to provide for humanity a final word on things, an authoritative explanation that can only be challenged by officially recognized experts.


Individual, singular visions and revelations are only accepted as potentially entertaining fancies -- nothing to be taken seriously unless one, like Pound and very nearly Blake, plans for an extended and enforced stay at the local bughouse. Private apocalypses are only tolerated if one is quiet about them, or if they are presented as harmless "fiction." This is the true extent of "freedom of speech."  

Hermetic anarchists, though, perhaps now know more about Newton than did the romantic poets. Newton was really one of the last of the alchemists, his own allegiance to dogmatic materialism is only a projection onto him by later adherents of the new faith. And, contra Keats, the prism far from necessarily limiting our understanding of perception also demonstrates the ubiquity of the rainbow. Where there is light there is mystery. Keats's sentiment is sincere, but he need not have been concerned. Imagination is not that fragile.

Guerrillas gonna Guerrilla

The task of current poets and anarchists of the imagination appears to be more arduous than in the Romantic era. Nearly everything has become simulacra -- preformed, programmed, plastic, each a fully disposable and interchangeable unit in a uniform series with no original and no real difference.

How could it be possible for vision to penetrate into the eternal within a global system of usury where the real has been reduced to that which can be cheaply reproduced, priced and sold in non-localized, abstract markets? Even within this automotive, automated hell, though, the poets have not yet become extinct. There are cracks, glitches, blindspots in the panopticon, and enlightened madmen like PKD are always there to discover the divine in the detritus of the death culture.


The vision is particular, singular, individual but it always opens up a vista of the whole. Both the neo-nats and the skeptoids offer only further fragmentation. The categories are defined slightly differently but we remain boxed in, fenced off. The other is othered.

Instead, the penetrating vision is fluid, polymorphic, eclectic. It remains polytheistic and pagan, unmediated and promiscuous, indefinite and contradictory. It is non-dualist but not dogmatically so. There is polarity in nature, in thought -- Crowley's 2=0. We affirm Nietzsche's rejection of Platonism -- there is immense value in the earth, in the flesh -- but there is a wide gap between the mundane view and that of eternity. This is reflected in Blake's "double vision," in Nagarjuna's "two truths." There is a kind of coitus of perception entwining the particular and the eternal, the renewal of the Golden Age within the present world.

And all agents of mediation have been eliminated from this vision. They are no longer there to take their cut, to add distance and alienation. And perhaps this is what is manifesting. The absolute panopticon can only exist as a nearly perfect mirror of the collective imagination set absolutely free. Total control may be only a hairsbreadth away from total liberation, just as the State's most effective strategy against a guerrilla insurgency is to go guerrilla itself.

It is not the internet that is liberating humanity, it is the collective imagination that is surfacing and manifesting as the architecture of the world soul.

The net is not the world; it is the imagination of the world. -- The H.D. Book (1961) 


Already the parasitic middlemen are falling away, becoming irrelevant. In the music industry, in the film industry, the transformation is occurring in any place where information is abundant and can be given away without loss -- in education, in media, in medicine, even in design and manufacturing. And the trajectory here is extremely clear. The final gatekeepers who bar the doors to eternity are about to be swept aside, bypassed, ignored. The state and the big banks are the final middlemen to fall.

Direct democracy is now fully possible and is becoming a reality in places like Iceland and the central squares and parks of cities across Europe and America. Bitcoin ushers in a new era of P2P banking -- not the solution but a start, a Napster of peer financing. Even Bitcoin is already obsolete, needlessly centralized, too easy to manipulate. It is now but one of numerous cyptocurrencies. A few like Freicoin are modeled after one of Pound's heroes', the German anarchist Silvio Gesell's, ideas of an alternative currency based on demurrage. Gesell's conviction was that a currency, like any other commodity, should lose value over time, thus discouraging hoarding.

Pound's central concern about currency, of "the problem of issue. Who issues it? How?," is about to be addressed on a mass scale. And, beyond the purposeful summoning of oblivion which may also come, there seems to be no way of stopping this process. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri spell this out beautifully in Multitude:

The deployments of marines and military bases scattered around the globe are not insignificant. And yet this picture, like an Escher drawing, is completely unstable and with a shift of perspective can quickly be inverted. The strength of unilateral deployments is suddenly re­vealed
as weakness; the center it raises up is revealed as a point of maximum vulnerability to all forms of attack. In order to maintain it­self Empire must create a network form of power that does not isolate a center of control and excludes no outside lands or productive forces. As Empire forms, in other words, geopolitics ceases to function. Soon unilateralist and multilateralist strategies will both prove equally in­effective. The multitude will have to rise to the challenge and develop a new framework for the democratic constitution of the world.


As Blake and PKD taught, though, the Empire is not only externalized in bases and forces. Both it and the Temple are also within, but the way forward is the same. The commons will be expanded into all fields. All the representatives of time and space, and ultimately these Archons themselves, will melt away as the illusions they have always been. All authority will become drowned by the issue of the udder of eternity. Tits up!

The cycle has come round again. America is where Anatolia was. It is a place where human beings, just to stay alive, have to jump, to dance, and by dancing revive the rhythms, recover cyclical time. An-archic and pantheistic dancers no longer sense the artifice and its linear His-story as All, but as merely one cycle, one long night, a stormy night that left Earth wounded, but a night that ends, as all nights end, when the sun rises. -- Against His-story, Against Leviathan!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hermetic Anarchism and Uttering the Otter 2


And for ages men had gazed upward as he was gazing at birds in flight. The colonnade above him made him think vaguely of an ancient temple and the ashplant on which he leaned wearily of the curved stick of an augur. A sense of fear of the unknown moved in the heart of his weariness, a fear of symbols and portents, of the hawk-like man whose name he bore soaring out of his captivity on osier-woven wings, of Thoth, the god of writers, writing with a reed upon a tablet and bearing on his narrow ibis head the cusped moon. -- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Foxes and Hares

Two distinct and antagonistic camps can be found inhabiting and waging battle within the "alternative" media landscape. These two camps are much more like shifting and fluid tendencies of thought than organized factions. There are no clear lines of demarcation.

Even within the same circles of "friends," in the same social media groups or web forums, these opposed tendencies can be identified. At times even a single individual will express agreement to certain talking points of one while also believing in the basic tenets of the other. Only in the abstract can we really speak of two distinct groups.

This may be changing. As global conditions continue to deteriorate a polarization is becoming evident. Increasingly, people are being asked to choose a side. This polarization within "alternative" media circles can be seen as a reflection of the wider polarization in more mainstream culture. The split between "conservatives" and "liberals," "right" and "left" has its direct parallel in the so-called alternative movement, whether this is admitted or not.


Both of these camps widely differ from their mainstream counterparts in their view that the status quo is intolerable, that radical change is needed. While their opposition to the mainstream (and this dichotomy of the mainstream vs. the alternative is also problematic) unifies the two camps this is about the only common ground that they share.

The aim of this post is to clearly delineate what these two are, to demonstrate how both are lacking, and to propose a third choice -- another Other. Provisionally, and more in jest than anything else, I've been calling this "Hermetic Anarchism," a term mostly borrowed from Peter Lamborn Wilson. But it can be given many names. Before it can be defined, though, the two opposing camps which are also in opposition to it must be laid out on the dissection table.


One side, one tendency, which could be called the alter-mondists, identifies itself as "skeptical." By this, in contrast to the classical philosophy of skepticism which advocated a full suspension of judgement, it means a more or less dogmatic opposition to anything which does not conform to the accepted limits of scientific materialism.

The skeptics are openly hostile to anything that smacks of the "spiritual." They require "evidence," conforming to the narrow bounds of the scientific method, and they utterly reject knowledge gained by faith, intuition, visions or extra sensory perception. All this gets dismissed as being mere "woo."


In arguments they insist on strict logic. Debates with skeptics largely devolve into semantic battles over whether or not a particular point is one or another logical fallacy. They equate finding fallacies in the arguments of their opponents with making a convincing case.

Naturally, they have nothing to tell us about the singular, the subjective, the immeasurable, the imaginative. None of these can be proven, regardless of the meaning generated by these kinds of experiences, so they are ignored or more often than not ridiculed.

Nearly everyone now has a "friend" or two that falls into this camp. They are the kind of person whose pastime it is to pick fights with religious people on web forums. They are the evangelizing New Atheists who refuse to take any more religious bullshit. Even agnostics are labelled fence-sitters and appeasers. They seem to be unaware how they make even the most hell-fearing Christian fundie appear like a beacon of tolerance and open-mindedness compared to themselves.


Politically, many claim to be libertarians but paradoxically they fervently support industries and technologies which are among the most state-subsidized -- nuclear power, vaccines, GMOs, etc. To be opposed to these industries is to be anti-science, a far greater sin, it appears, than being pro-corporation or pro-state. Their libertarianism is far from true anarchism. The state should exist only to protect private property. This means that the more property you have, the more protection you will get. A terrific system for robber barons and pirates.


Some skeptics, though, have apparently come to notice this contradiction or else they never made the compromise with libertarianism in the first place. Conventional Marxists fall into this category. Instead of being opponents of globalization they argue that the real problem is the lack of regulations at the international level. They are also in favour of the technologies listed above and seem to genuinely believe that these can, once in public hands, greatly advance the living conditions of the vast unwashed.

These two sub-factions appear to be at war with one another, but they fundamentally agree on one level. They both believe change needs to happen on an international scale. They both think that this change is entirely material in basis. There are no spiritual solutions, no necessary transformations of consciousness, no magic.

They have no patience for conspiracy theories, UFO accounts or anecdotes of the supernatural. They are intolerant of non-scientific belief systems, but at heart they are pluralists. All individuals, regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, etc. are to be welcomed into the new secular world order. In this way they are similar to mainstream NWO proponents, but they are opposed, both libertarians and socialists, to hierarchy and elitism.


The opposite camp, what might be called the neo-nationalists, is even more varied and even less united. A binding factor is a strict opposition to One World Government. Instead there is a renewed emphasis on nationalism or even tribalism. The ultimate goal of the NWO, the neo-nats argue, is complete control of all facets of our lives. This the global government hopes to accomplish by eliminating all natural social ties between individuals.


The only agent of social mediation must be the State. The family, "nuclear" and no longer "extended," must be completely destroyed. Individuals are to be entirely atomized and alienated, utterly dependent on the State. When finally all familial, religious, racial and cultural connections are severed the World State will have the mind, body and spirit of the individual at its complete disposal. He or she (and gender will also no longer matter) will have no will of his or her own. Two plus two will equal five.

There exists, the neo-nats insist, a long-term conspiracy to bring about this goal. At the apex of the conspiracy, in the very eye of the pyramid, are the Elite. In conspiracy theory lore there are varied and often contradictory views as to the true identity of the shadowy masters. More exotically they are presented as Reptilians, demons, Archons, shadow aspects of ourselves. More mundanely they are viewed as being the 1%, the old aristocracies and increasingly, when pressed to be realistic and concrete, the Jooooos.

History repeats itself in this way. It is the Jews that seem always at hand to play the dreaded role of scapegoat. Increasingly, once open-minded, open-ended and sincere researchers have come to feed at the common trough of anti-semitism.


All of the tired old cliches are put back into service. The Jews, or more subtly, the "Zionists," have wormed their way into the highest ranks of the most influential sectors of white society -- the media, real estate and especially banking and finance. They pose as "whites" within these positions of power but they both covertly and quite openly act to bring down the noble white race. They have many weapons at their disposal.

The script is recycled straight from the Protocols: The Zionists employ their unlimited capital, immense media influence and activist leaders in the streets to promote multiculturalism, mass immigration, race-mixing, feminism, pacifism, vegetarianism, mysticism, relativism, Agenda 21, counterculture, psychedelic drugs, minority rights movements, the New Age and so on.


Recently all of these have been conveniently lumped together under the umbrella term "cultural Marxism," even though nobody seems to know what this term really means. All of these, according to this view, are designed from the get-go. They are the fruits of conspiracies that span decades and even centuries.

The neo-nationalists argue that each race is unique, that each race struggles for dominance against every other racial group. Each race should have their own separate languages, cultures, mythologies, traditions, political systems. There should be no mixture, no adulteration, no unnatural co-mingling.


The Jews, the white neo-nationalists froth on about, are not playing the racial game fairly. They are using cunning and deceit to destroy the white race from the inside. The combined complex of "cultural Marxism" is the means to this end.

The white neo-nationalists, once very marginalized even within the conspiracy theory milieu, are beginning to take centre stage. Like the Nazis before them, they are well-poised to hijack, both physically and intellectually, the whole movement. Perhaps this was the plan from the start?

Volk Off

After the failure of 2012 to mark an obvious and dramatic turning point in history, and faced with heightened ridicule and taunting from the materialists and skeptoids, many conspiracy theorists became entirely antagonistic to anything smacking of mysticism and the New Age. They had been duped. They had danced blindly behind the pied pipers and had very nearly fallen off the cliff. They had been made fools of, victims of yet another tentacle of "cultural Marxism." Never again! It was time to become hard.


The real masters, the ultimate controllers of the Machine, the new dispensation announced, are not some shadowy or mystical group of other-worldly or interdimensional spirits or entities. They are not even abstract groups like the 1% or the NWO.

Instead, they are actual men and women with actual addresses and identities, and who wield nothing more magical or supernatural besides highly advanced technology. And this group was named over and over again throughout history. They are the Jews and their ultimate aim, through infiltration and subversion, is to irreparably shatter the supremacy of the white race.

After 2012, the religious and spiritual thinking of the neo-nationalists also hardened. They are increasingly hostile to "soft" Christianity, which has always been weakened by its Judaic roots. The Nazis, once universally derided by conspiracy theorists as being the very epitome of the type of totalitarianism they despised, are now looked at in a brand new light. History, after all, is written by the victors, and the victor of WW2 is the "Jew World Order."

Hitler, it is now argued (conveniently ignoring older research that traced Nazi financial ties to Wall Street and the Bush family), was really fighting against the banks and the global system of usury. The Holocaust was largely a figment of Bolshevik propaganda -- an early manifestation of "cultural Marxism" before the term was even invented. The Holocaust, they warn, is still successfully employed to justify Zionist schemes everywhere.


And like the Nazis, the neo-nationalists are returning to Nordic myths, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon lore, the religion of the "volk" or the "folk." There is an embrace of paganism but a complete rejection of the universalism of Theosophy or New Age one world religion.

The politics of the neo-nationalists, though, are not necessarily Nazi or even fascist. Many remain very hostile to the centralized state, although they are not internationalists like other libertarians. There is an appeal for "national anarchism," an anarchist tendency that views the centralized state, which enforces an artificial and essentially perverse multiculturalism, as being the primary problem. The alternative to this, they hold, is a patchwork of ethnically and culturally distinct and purified "nations."

Within these bantustan-like statelets the system of government is entirely up to their respective members. It is each "nations'" prerogative whether it will be draconian, intolerant, illiberal or not. National anarchists have thus made alliances with many other nationalist groups some of which could not be classed as "anarchist" at all, just as long as they are united in their opposition to the federal or central government. For this reason many anarchists are opposed to national anarchism. It has been described as "letting a hundred authoritarianisms bloom."


Neither Nor

The national anarchists tend to make the assumption that what individuals truly desire is to live with their own kind, to follow only the customs and traditions of their "tribe." But many people do not want this at all. I, for instance, come from a "tribe" of friendly, yet insular and conservative, Christian fundamentalist rednecks. In no way do I feel that I am represented by this "tribe" or that I represent it. I have always felt alienated from it. I have always been different.

And I know that I am by no means alone in this. Many of us feel different and love difference. We, the freaks, the misfits, the hermetic anarchists, love the swirling, colourful, riotous sights, sounds, smells and tastes of big multicultural cities and human diversity wherever it can be found.


We like to be able to live, work, play, eat, fuck where and who and what we want. We abhor equally the UN, globalist, state capitalist/state socialist, monocultural corporate nightmare and a hypothetical system of ethnically-cleansed, racially pure, mutually hostile "nations." We reject both options.

In a sense the hermetic anarchists are "beyond left and right," but not in the way that this term is usually abused these days. "Beyond left and right" is now a term successfully employed by the Right to attract leftists to its brand of intolerance. By all means we refuse conventional liberalism and leftism. We have long broken free of the ideological straightjacket of Marxist historical materialism.

We want none of its narrow, mean-spirited categorization, but the tradition of the Left we call ourselves a part of is much older, much deeper, much more diverse than anything that currently is identified as leftist. Only in this way we are beyond both.

It may seem strange to associate the Left with a tradition. Generally it is the Right that is called traditional. There is a spirituality of the Right that became evident in fascism and the Nazi movement, a kind of race mysticism, which is abhorrent to the Left. The Left, insofar as it will admit to having a tradition at all, is materialist and atheist. Can we really speak about a spiritual tradition of the Left?


Returning To A Plot That Has Already Begun

And yet there is such a tradition, one that reaches back far further than when socialism became synonymous, due to its being commandeered by the Fabians and the Marxists, with the oppressive nanny state. Socialism was the movement for the democratic and social rights of the people, both of the country and of the city, and the people were (and largely are) polytheist and pagan. There is an intellectual tradition coinciding with this which Peter Lamborn Wilson, who I borrowed from, referred to as the "Hermetic Left."

If we have learned to associate ceremonial magic with right-wing politics thanks to such figures as W B . Yeats and Aleister Crowley, we should learn to be more careful in our categorical assumptions. The idea of "tradition" was only hi-jacked by the Right in very recent times (and thanks in part to such "traditionalists" as Guenon, Evola, Jung, Eliade, or T. S. Eliot) . Formerly the Left had its tradition as well, the "Good Old Cause" that combined unmediated autonomy and unmediated spirituality. While the traditionalist Right veers toward a dualism of good and evil, spirit and body, hierarchy and separation, the Hermetic Left emphasizes "ancient rights and customs"of freedom, equality, justice-and bodily pleasure (e.g., Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell). The Left is "radical monist", Saturnian and Dionysian; the Right is "Gnostic", authoritarian and Apollonian. Naturally these terms and categories get, mingled and confused, combined and recombined, in an excessive exfoliation of the
strangest hybrids and freaks. The Right has its mystical revolutionaries, the Left has its Gnostic Dualists. But as generalizations or ideal models I believe that the rival traditions can be clearly distinguished. --
"The Shamanic Trace" 

A combination of "unmediated autonomy and unmediated spirituality"  -- this is the essence of the "hermetic left" or "hermetic anarchism."The heroes of the "hermetic right," Yeats and Crowley and Jung and Evola, can also have their ideas ransacked and plundered. Theoretical promiscuity. Swallow the mystical insights and spit or shit out the elitism and the bland and stifling categorization.


Every man and woman is a star, as Crowley wrote. We are all far better artists than we know, as Nietzsche taught. Each individual does provide a unique perspective for God, as according to Yeats. All three of these writers are associated with the Right, but these ideas are deeply shared by hermetic anarchists.

The absence of mediation, both by the State and by the Church -- by Space and Time, is only possible because each individual is the co-creator of whatever it is that is taken for reality. These men, when they express such insights, are certainly part of a shared tradition.

The poet Robert Duncan, himself a spiritual anarchist inspired by Ezra Pound, H.D. and other Modernists and in turn a big influence on Wilson, tied this archaic, underground tradition of "spiritual resistance" to the wider poetic tradition:

Our work is to arouse in a contemporary consciousness reverberations of old myth, to prepare the ground so that when we return to read we will see our modern texts charged with a plot that had already begun before the first signs and signatures we have found worked upon the walls of Altamira or Pech-Merle. -- The H.D. Book

The timeless plot continues. It is beginning to be aroused again. The old myth, fashioned in images and sounds, stretches from the caves of the Paleolithic to the stars reflecting eyes reflecting stars. The signatures are found in Altamira and in Alpha Centauri. The marvelous penetrates it all. P.L. Wilson directly follows from Duncan:

That there exists an unbroken underground tradition
of spiritual resistance, a kind of hermetic "left" that has roots in Stone Age shamanism, and flowers in the heresies of the "Free Spirit".

Duncan saw Ezra Pound as being a key figure of this tradition, even though Pound was certainly not of the "Left":

As important for me is Pound's role as the carrier of a tradition or lore in poetry, that flowered in the Renaissance after Gemisthos Plethon, the Provence of the twelfth century that gave rise to the Albigensian gnosis, the trobar clus, and the Kabbalah, in the Hellenic world that furnished the ground for orientalizing Greek mystery cults, Christianity, and neo-Platonism. "The tradition is a beauty which we preserve and not a set of fetters to bind us," Pound wrote in 1913. -- "The Lasting Contribution of Ezra Pound"

"A beauty that we preserve" -- a glimpse of the eternal, of the truly unmediated or immediate. A peak behind the curtain. We are all straw men.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Stopgap Dredge-Up from the Journals: Boring Western Buddhists

All Greece hates
the still eyes in the white face,
the lustre as of olives,
where she stands,
and the white hands.

"Helen" -- H.D. 

Lhasa/Kathmandu, 2010

Western Buddhism has it wrong, or at least it only provides an incomplete picture. For it, Buddhism is merely an advanced and profound realist ecology -- the self disappears in a web of relations that extends through society, nature and things. It is essentially a deeper look, taking to heart all of the ethical implications, of the current post-new physics, scientific paradigm. It is the perfect and complete gospel for the green movement. And it falls short of what Buddhism actually teaches.

It is true that the self is dissolved into a web of relations, but the question is what this web consists of. In one sense this could be the forces, molecules, organisms, ecosystems of modern science -- all of these entities are bound together by weavings of context as well, but this web could just as easily, as it is traditionally, be composed of buddhas, bodhisattvas, maras, gandharvas, pure-lands, hell-worlds, etc. The nodes of the web do not matter. They are just as real/non-real as any other replacement.

Western Buddhists have no problem in contemplating that a particular bodhisattva is just a metaphor for a certain mind state. Here it is easy to conclude that these fantastic forms are only symbols. The Western Buddhist deems the traditional Buddhist's prayer to Avalokiteśvara as if he were a real being to be touchingly naive. The Western Buddhist knows the difference between metaphor and reality. But does he know that all of the entities that populate his realist ecology are in the same way metaphors?

Buddhism teaches that no thing exists in and of itself. In this way all things are empty. How we define the nodes in the network, how we distinguish one node from another, is also empty. A one-thousand-armed bodhisattva is just as real as a strand of DNA. Both are provisional metaphors. Both are eddies we have isolated in the tumult that we have given name and form to. Both are subject to continual change, to birth and death. Neither are isolated and eternal archetypes.

A non-duality also exists between fantasy and reality. The products of any culture's collective imagination, whether self-defined as "scientific" or not, are just as real as any other. Mara and the force of gravity are equally as imaginary. Both are empty and both are without self.

Western Buddhism, then, should be wary of taking the ecological worldview as a given. It too is a provisional construct, subject to birth and decay. It has certain wisdom to grant but so does traditional Buddhism in its own terms -- not subject to translation to modern ontology or psychology.

Perhaps all of the ecological problems that Western Buddhism is rightly concerned with are the symptoms of having any sort of worldview at all, not the result of bad science. Buddhism implies adrsti, having no attachments to any worldview, even an enlightened take on ecology.

To have no worldview, to fully embody the fact that all perspectives are empty, is to seemingly invite madness. This is not the case. Madness involves the dogmatic adherence to one belief system above all others. Buddhism demonstrates the provisional nature of all belief systems, including science and including itself.

Ecology may provide detailed models on how matter and energy are circulated within a network, but the demons and deities within traditional modes of thought may, as Jung often repeated, allow insights into human psychology far in advance of our current understanding of the mind.


To have no worldview is to live in a space where everything is possible. This is a space of no general laws, only singular rules. All roads of exploration are kept open. Isn't it the case that all of our current problems have been produced because certain roads, like science and progress, have been transformed into superhighways, while others, like traditional tribal paradigms, have become dusty, hard to find back alleys which are no longer on the maps?

We do not need to collectively move from one worldview to another which is more "accurate," which the ecological perspective certainly appears to be, but we need to abandon all worldviews. This is a move into the unbridled imagination, a move which I consider Buddhism encourages us to make.

Just as there are no limits to imagination there are no limits (except that of ceaseless transformation which also marks the imagination) to the space of reality. In the end, Buddhism teaches that these two spaces are non-dual. When the Western Buddhists fully realize this the full mind-cracking will commence.
The love of a god with a goddess
Is but for the one night in passing,
So thin are the summer cloths!
The river waves of the sky
Have cut through our time like shears,
They have kept us apart with dew.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Hermetic Anarchism and Othering the Other 1

Imagination is a magic carpet
Upon which we may soar
To distant lands and climes
And even go beyond the moon
To any planet in the sky
If we came from nowhere here
Why can’t we go somewhere there?

-- Sun Ra "Imagination"

I end up spending a lot of time in Jimbocho, the old bookseller's district in Tokyo. Hours and hours I rifle through piles and stacks of dusty pulp hunting for gems. Usually my luck is good, and occasionally I find just the book that I need. There are two shops in particular, both specializing in used English books, where uncanny things can happen. At times the course of my life takes bends and twists because of books that find me at these shops. This happened most recently in June.

I noticed Richard Ellmann's The Consciousness of Joyce on one of the shelves. I'd heard about this book before, so I picked it up and started to leaf through it, wondering if I should make the purchase. As I was reading, I became aware that three American(?) students had entered the store. A conversation between two of them caught my attention.

"Have you ever read Ulysses by James Joyce?" one guy asked his friend.

"No, but to tell you the truth it's pretty far down my list of books to read. I'm not that interested. I guess one day I'll read it just to say that I have."

Needless to say, this conversation made the decision for me. I went to the front desk and bought Ellmann's book, which is a study of Joyce's most famous novel, and on my way out I saw that the first guy was now alone, looking through the stacks. I looked over at him, smiled, and sputtered out "Read Ulysses" in a hoarse voice. "Alright," he said and smiled back.


I have no idea if this guy decided to read Ulysses because of this brief encounter with a disheveled, preoccupied loon. And I have no way of knowing if he enjoyed it if he did. I'd like to think, though, that it changed his life. I remembered soon after this took place that Ulysses is also a novel of encounter. The situation synched with the story. For an instant, at a single intersection of space and time that went beyond both, I had become Bloom and he had become Stephen. And the moment passed.

After reading Ellmann's book, though, I also realized that this moment had greater depth than even this. Bloom is Odysseus. Stephen is Telemachus. For just that instant, I had entered myth. I was back home from a twenty year misadventure in which I had lost all of my companions and barely escaped alive. This was my first word of greeting and advice to my sole heir and confidante. And it loops back again.

How often does this happen to people everywhere, if they only noticed? This is not reincarnation or even metempsychosis. This is much more like putting on a mask, looking through its eye holes for a time, and then setting it down. When we look out through the mask, whether with awareness or not, we give the mask life. Just as we peer through it, whoever or whatever it represents peers through us. The archetype momentarily ruptures the surface.


Ellmann's book takes up this theme in relation to Ulysses. I knew, though, because of the weirdness in the shop that the book would also point to something else, something most likely unintended by the author, yet something that would show me the next step. That's how it always seems to work. The next stage arrived on July 16th, a few days before I published the last article. This will take some background to explain.

The subject of the present post is really anarchism, and Joyce's peculiar take on anarchism is a major theme of Ellmann's book. In a chapter called "Spacetime," Ellmann demonstrates how deep Joyce's anarchism goes. Ellmann explores this with regard to the question: If Bloom is Ulysses, if Molly is Penelope, etc. then who are the gods?

Joyce needed in his book an element that would correspond to the sense the Greeks possessed, of preterhuman forces governing human life. In the Odyssey the influence came from Olympus, where the gods were real, or almost real, and not simply counters. Joyce found in space and time powers as elemental as Neptune and Hyperion, but secularized. Our lives are on the one hand enforced movements from room to room, concessions to our surroundings. On the other hand, our lives are enforced surrenders to tick and tock, temporal exigencies which wear us down if we like it or not. We are creatures of our maps, and our watches.       

Ellmann implicitly argues that Ulysses is a book of revolt against the tyranny of Space and Time. In the book's third chapter Stephen is walking alone on Sandymount Strand, a beach on the shore of Dublin Bay. In his head there rages a debate between Aristotle and Kant on one side and Berkeley and Jacob Boehme on the opposite, among several others.


Stephen wonders if it possible to transcend the categories of Space, the "ineluctable modality of the visible," and Time, the "ineluctable modality of the audible," in order to directly experience what Boehme calls, "the signature of all things." This, Stephen realizes, is the true domain of all poets.

He closes his eyes as he walks and contemplates the vanishing of the sensory world and its soul-stifling limitations. He asks himself:

Am I walking into eternity along Sandy mount strand?

But he is not convinced. He knows that he is kidding himself. His imagination has not yet become a faith. He opens his eyes, wondering in jest if all will be a "black adiaphane," an endless, timeless nothing of infinite potential. And yet he does not really expect this. He opens his eyes:

See now. There all the time without you: and ever shall be, world without end.

Space and time reassert themselves as the ultimate barriers to the individual imagination. This evidence of the senses would appear to end the debate. Stephen knows, however, that this "proof" is unsatisfactory. The senses, and even reason itself, are unreliable and incomplete. His soul still longs for something more. The debate within himself and with others continues throughout the book. Eventually there is resolution, at least temporarily, in the most dramatic manner towards the end of the book.


Ellmann explains that this climax is directly foreshadowed in the second chapter. While ostensibly teaching schoolchildren, Stephen's mind is already churning over the questions he would more deeply explore on Sandymount. He envisions a Blakean end of history, the collective entry into the eternal:

I hear the ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry, and time one livid final flame. What's left us then?

He can contemplate the overthrow of space and time, the end of bitter rule from Olympus, but as he demonstrated on the Strand he cannot yet enact this. Ellmann points out, though, that these words are prophetic. Space and Time do get overthrown. Eternity does burst through. And this was where things began to get very weird for me personally.

In the "Circe" episode, all of the old categories are cast down. Before this episode Dublin is revealed to be a wasteland. There is drought. There is an epidemic of hoof and mouth disease. Desires are unsatisfied, women labour long but cannot give birth, and both the politics and culture of Ireland are shown to be fully repressed by Empire. Suddenly, though, clouds form and a deafening thunder claps. The rain showers down, Mina Purefoy (pure faith) gives birth to a son, and fertility triumphs over sterility. Stephen and his friends rush into the street in wild glossolalia and drunken revelry.

In the second half of the book, these premonitions begin to be realized. Time and space, once so firm and masterful, begin to crumble, and both continuity and contiguity are reduplicated. The bonds that keep things next to or before and after each other are loosened, objects and creatures appear from nowhere and events that should be prior are subsequent and otherwise disarranged.

Bloom and Stephen are drawn into the inescapable lure of "Circe," a red-lit Walpurgisnacht. Here, anything goes and all boundaries dissolve. The visions begin. Stephen is visited by the emaciated, corpse-like ghost of his mother, "raw head and bloody bones." She inflicts him with painful darts of guilt, for not believing in the Roman Catholic faith, for refusing to pray beside her deathbed.


Quickly, Stephen appears to realize that this wraith is much more than just the ghost of his dead mother. She is the phantom of restriction. She is the embodiment of the tyranny of time and space, Church and State, the "laws" of physics -- Blake's "vegetable glass of nature." He first shouts his defiant refusal:

The intellectual imagination! With me all or not at all. Non serviam!

I will not serve! There is no greater expression of anarchism. And what is the authority for this cry of utter disobedience? Nothing less than the intellectual imagination. And yet still the cloying pleas from the dead to repent and conform persist. He then strikes out violently with his staff, at once eradicating the demon of denial and shattering a chandelier. And this is the moment when prophecy is fulfilled, history ends, and my mind is blown sky high:

(He lifts his ashplant high with both hands and smashes the chandelier. Time's livid final flame leaps and, in the following darkness, ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry.) 

Boehme, Blake and Berkeley have won out over Aristotle and Kant. Matter is revealed to be just a facet of mind. Imagination is victorious. This in itself is sufficient to get the fine neck hairs bristling, but exactly at this point in Ellmann's book the earth opened up and was about to swallow me whole. Ellmann quotes the above passage on page 66, contrasting it with the almost identical quote from the second chapter. In the copy of my book, though, in the margin right beside this passage, which is also marked with a vertical line, someone had handwritten in pencil:


Eh?? Any Crowley fan will recognize this as as the 16th trump or key in his Book of Thoth tarot deck, the Tower. And anyone fitting this bill would also realize that only a Crowley fan would write such a thing. This blew my head for any number of reasons. I had just been making a clear connection between Joyce and Crowley for a post I would publish on July 20th. I had also been reading Crowley's Moonchild, in which the Tower card prominently features. I felt as if this was written for me alone.


I discovered this bit of marginalia on the morning of July 16th, while reading Ellmann's book in the train on my way to work. I nearly had to get off the train to take a walk. July 16th, of course, matches with with Atu 16, and besides being a month after Bloomsday, it is also a profoundly sync-rich date in itself. I have written about this date previously in this blog.  

Finding this, nearly the only marginal scribble in a book that I had bought under weird circumstances about a month before, only confirmed the fact that I was meant to go down these obscure passageways.

I have also written on this blog how the Tower trump is connected to 9/11. "ATU XVI," tied to a passage on "shattered glass and toppling masonry," has obvious resonances to 9/11. What this means, though, is that 9/11 is also an echo, from this perspective, of Stephen's smashing of the chandelier. The veil was rent on that day. Very paradoxically, perhaps, on one level history ended on 9/11. The Twin Towers were Time and Space.


Crowley's explanation in The Book of Thoth on the meaning of Atu XVI contains very similar themes: 
Briefly, the doctrine is that the ultimate reality (which is Perfection) is Nothingness. Hence all manifestations, however glorious, however delightful, are stains. To obtain perfection, all existing things must be annihilated. The destruction of the garrison may therefore be taken to mean their emancipation from the prison of organized life, which was confining them. It was their unwisdom to cling to it.

Crowley associates this unsettling doctrine with Shiva, the Destroyer, whose sign is that of Nothingness. Joyce also plays with these ideas directly. As he strikes the chandelier/wraith with his ash staff, Stephen shouts out its name: "Nothung!" This is the name of Siegfried's sword in Wagner's Ring Cycle by which the Germanic hero overthrows the tyranny of the God Wotan or Odin, the equivalent deity to Rudra or Shiva in India. And in a Joycean pun, Nothung is clearly Nothing. The old order is ending and everything is being cast down, even death. Stephen takes on yet another mask.


This act is repeated with far less violence in Finnegans Wake:

He lifts the lifewand and the dumb speak. 

Can I assume, then, that the unknown Thelemite who read Ellmann's book at some point before me was directly referring to 9/11? There is no way of knowing this. The paperback edition of my copy of The Consciousness of Joyce was published in 1981. Who knows how many people read this book before me, or if "ATU XVI" was penciled in before or after 9/11.

The only other mark I noticed in the book, a little later on page 70, was next to a passage containing Bloom's own vision in the "Circe" episode. He sees his deceased son Rudy, not as the "mishapen dwarflike creature who died at eleven days" but as a "perfect eleven-year-old boy." In the margin beside Ellmann's passage, with what I assume to be the same pencil, is written: "11!"

Now, is this because my unknown Thelemite was seeing the parallels to 9/11, or was he/she only remarking on Crowley's own fascination with the number eleven? As it is stated in The Book of the Law  (1:60):

My number is 11, as all their numbers who are of us.


This all raced through my head while sitting on the train. As I got to work, though, the connection seemed confirmed. In my first class one of the students was wearing a white t-shirt with the words "Manhattan NY" and the outline of an apple with a photo of the New York skyline within it. The weird thing was that it was a pre-9/11 photo with the Twin Towers in central position and lined up with the vertical lines of the N in "NY." I excitedly asked him about the shirt, and he didn't seem to think it was any big deal. He was shy that I pointed it out.

The next day, July 17th, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, MH17, was apparently shot down over Ukraine. In addition to making the obvious link to MH370, the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that disappeared in March, many sources connected this incident to 9/11. Apparently it was the deadliest plane crash since 9/11, and in conspiracy circles the temptation to identify this as another false flag, like 9/11, was irresistible.

But what does 9/11 have to do with anarchism, even in the profound sense that Joyce is applying to it? Clearly the crimes of 9/11, regardless of who supplies the narrative, were not carried out by anarchists. They also did not lead to anarchist ends. Superficially 9/11 appeared to be attack on the existing control structure. In the end, though, 9/11 only expanded and more deeply entrenched the coercive capacity of the power elite. 9/11 allowed the police state to come out of the closet.


In another sense, however, 9/11 was archetypal. However it was orchestrated, and whether this was intended or not, it too was a fissure into the eternal. For me, and I know I am by no means alone, time and space did end for a brief but measureless moment on that day. Like all such moments, and they are of the same quality yet very different scale and intensity of my experiences in the bookshop and on the train, it stripped away the illusion. People speak of "waking up" on 9/11 and I think that this is actually what they mean. 

These moments, Joyce's epiphanies or Pound's luminous details, are at the core of this deep anarchism, or what might be called hermetic anarchism. Or perhaps we prefer to leave out the -ism altogether. From the perspective of conventional anarchism, which is usually strictly materialist in outlook, all of this looks dubiously abstract and unrealistic. Flaky even. Ellmann goes on to show, though, that it is not at all removed from the traditional concerns of the anarchist movement.

Ellmann notes that Joyce's brother Stanislaus recorded that James was fond of quoting a line of Blake's: "the king and the priest must be tied in a tether." This is classical anarchism and both Joyce and Blake were clear devotees to this passionate, anti-authoritarian sentiment. Blake advocated that each man should be the king and priest in his own house. Stephen echoed this feeling in his confrontation with the British soldiers in Ulysses. The State and the Church are primarily in our minds, and it is here, first, where they must be tethered.


Ellmann points out that both Joyce and Blake found an expression of this idea in Dante. It is a thread that runs, as we'll see, through the whole poetic tradition. In The Divine Comedy, both the crown and the mitre are set upon Dante's head before he enters Paradise. Both of these powers are fully taken on by the individual as he or she encounters eternity. As Ellmann explains:

The priest lays claims to an eternity of time, as the king if he could would rule over infinite space; and against these forces, anthromorphized in earthly authorities, Stephen and Bloom have to muster their own forces.

In more contemporary terms the King is the State, the obvious ruler of Space. The Priest is not as clearly paralleled in our essentially secular societies, but the Corporations, being the pushers and pimps of the dominant religion of consumerism, are well suited to represent the lords of Time. Work and Scientism also conspire to bind us in segmented and suffocating Duration.

Blake is explicit on how these forces must be overthrown. The most powerful weapon we have is the imagination. Everything in our culture is geared towards convincing us to doubt or trivialize this all-important faculty. Let Disney imagine for you. We are told, likely more from friends and family members than by the authorities, that this way of thinking is unrealistic, a waste of time. Even "anarchists" scorn and ridicule the idea that the imagination can lead to liberation. Blake, however, was unequivocal:

The world of imagination is the world of eternity. It is the divine bosom into which we shall all go after the death of the vegetated [i.e. mortal] body. This world of imagination is infinite and eternal, whereas the world of generation is finite and temporal. There exist in that eternal world the eternal realities of everything which we see reflected in this vegetable glass of nature. -- A Vision of the Last Judgment

This should not be interpreted as mere Platonic dualism. Blake also taught that the body is indistinguishable from the soul. The material and spiritual worlds, the world of generation and the world of eternity, are one. Only in our perception are they divided. The split is epistemological, that of knowing, instead of ontological, that of being. And we know that knowing and being end up being the same. There exists a chaos of categories in which only the imagination can thrive. And this chaos is anarchy:

Anarchists have been claiming for years that "anarchy is not chaos." Even anarchism seems to want a natural law, an inner and innate morality in matter, an entelechy or purpose-of-being. (No better than Christians in this respect, or so Nietzsche believed—radical only in the depth of their resentment.) Anarchism says that "the state should be abolished" only to institute a new more radical form of order in its place. Ontological Anarchy however replies that no "state" can "exist" in chaos, that all ontological claims are spurious except the claim of chaos (which however is undetermined) and therefore that governance of any sort is impossible. "Chaos never died." Any form of "order" which we have not imagined and produced directly and spontaneously in sheer "existential freedom" for our own celebratory purposes—is an illusion.


This is from Hakim Bey's essay, "Ontological Anarchy in a Nutshell." Ontological anarchy is basically synonymous with the terms "deep anarchism" and "hermetic anarchism" from the present post. Perhaps it is better. Bey also introduces the term "utopian poetics" in the same essay. He describes it as:

The penetration of everyday life by the marvelous—the creation of "situations"—belongs to the "material bodily principle", and to the imagination, and to the living fabric of the present.

This very much agrees with Blake and Joyce and my own experience. This "utopian poetics," the penetration of the marvelous, the spontaneous upwelling of indeterminable chaos, is a current that runs through the entire poetic tradition. In, for example, "Another Weeping Woman," poet Wallace Stevens writes:

The magnificent cause of being,
The imagination, the one reality
In this imagined world

In the poem, the "weeping woman" is cut off from this "manificent cause of being" because she is consumed by grief at the death of her lover. "Black blooms" of existential poison occlude her vision and paralyze her imagination.

These "black blooms," caused by many things besides grief, are what keep us bound in what Crowley called, in reference to the Tower, "the prison of organized life." Another poet, Robert Graves, describes this prison in his magical book, The White Goddess

‘Nowadays’ is a civilization in which the prime emblems of poetry are dishonoured. In which serpent, lion and eagle belong to the circus-tent; ox, salmon and boar to the cannery; racehorse and greyhound to the betting ring; and the sacred grove to the sawmill. In which the Moon is despised as a burned-out satellite of the Earth and woman reckoned as ‘auxiliary State personnel’. In which money will buy almost anything but truth, and almost anyone but the truth-possessed poet.

Reality is disenchanted. Nature is commodified. The very symbols of poetic truth have had their meanings stripped from them. This is the Waste Land.

This arrives at my central concern with this series of posts. How can we, as visionaries, as individuals who have had glimpses of the eternal, who know that if we pay attention these moments are not at all rare, stay true to vision? How do we avoid the obvious sham, the blatant trap, the absolute bullshit choice, of corporate one-world globalization vs. mutually intolerant tribal, national, racial categorization? How has this false choice even come up in "alternative" circles?

The Tower is tricky. Its destruction can signify the end of Time and Space, but this act can also bind us even more to these vengeful gods. For thirteen years we have traversed the Abyss. The veil may drop once again. Will we, enmired even more deeply in senseless, illusory categories, simply fall with it? Or, with the poets of chaos, have we realized that it has already fallen, that it continues to fall, and that we can see a light behind it?