To Empedocles there is just one alternative to magic. That alternative is magic. Any distinction between some extraordinary magical realm and our ordinary, mundane, conventional world is purely illusory. For apart from the kind of magic, so very rare, that can free us and give us back the purity of consciousness which is rightfully ours there is another kind as well.
This is the magic that throws its spell into each and every corner of existence and through its bewitching power turns what happens to be utterly extraordinary into something just as utterly banal.
-- Peter Kingsley, Reality
The deluded are bound by chains and find pleasure in them, saying that all is ultimately real. Yet with certainty must all things be viewed as if they were a magic spell.
What I am out to complain of is what I seriously believe to be an organized conspiracy of the black lodges to prevent people from thinking...
-- Aleister Crowley
In Illo Tempore
The moment of creation, from the dominant perspective, is the moment when cosmos emerges from chaos. Chaos, the primordial she-serpent of the chthonic slime, is killed by the civilizing hero.
However, another way to look at this is to see Chaos being sacrificed for creation. And, at the same instant, the moment of creation is also the ecstatic, erotic union of Chaos and Cosmos, of Earth and Heaven. At times the woman is sacrificed for creation, at times the man. They are interchangeable. Sacrifice, the act of creation and the consummation of the sacred marriage are one and continue to be one.
Creation is the time of myths, the time of gods, goddesses and heroes. It is sacred time and it occurs at the turning of the New Year. Creation unfolds at the centre, at the holy mountain, at the axis mundi, at the meeting of Heaven and Earth. Every ritual, every embodiment of the imagination, every marriage re-enacts the original creation.
This is not a reproduction, a simulacrum, a lesser copy. It is the original event. Those involved literally become the gods once more. In this moment of creation all duality ends. Profane time and history ceases. Chaos and Cosmos are both transcended. But Chaos is never killed once and for all, and Cosmos never reigns supreme. Their sacrifice/fuck recurs eternally.
Every religious quest is a journey to the centre. The centre is in Jerusalem, Mecca, Ayodhya, Memphis. But it is also in every temple, cathedral, mosque, shrine, etc. It is also in every hut, house or dwelling, in every sacred tree, rock or river. But beyond that it is in the backbone of each and all. The centre is everywhere -- so much so, as the Buddhists teach, that we may as well say there is no centre.
According to a certain myth of the Eastern Church, Golgotha (the place of the skull), the location where Christ was crucified, is also the site of the original Garden where creation first took place. At this axis, Adam was breathed into existence and later died and was buried. Christ's blood trickled down from the cross and touched Adam's skull deep in the Earth. This instantly redeemed Adam, and consequently all of humanity, from sin. We have been living, once again, in paradise ever since. It is only a matter of realizing this.
Sin, which Nietzsche called "separation," and history are the same. History is precisely the story of humanity's sins. In the life of an individual sin is personal history. This consists of all the accumulated moments in an individual's life that fall outside of ritual. Ritual, in its purest form, does not mean rote repetition, although it becomes this for people for whom it ceases to have living meaning.
Ritual is living according to one's nature, synonymous with being in harmony with all of nature. The Tao. Rote repetition characterizes ritual when the Tao is not lived. When rituals are conducted as meaningless repetitions we become separated from our natures, from nature herself, and sin and history result. The Tao, in contrast, occurs in absolute harmony with life. The Tao is the present moment, the moment of "Once upon a time..."
The moment of awakening is this moment of creation. It occurs when history ends, when the state falls and all sins are forgiven. It is when all separation ceases -- when Chaos and Cosmos, Earth and Heaven, object and subject are unified. The cycles do not end but are turned and re-turned at every instant. Every flash, every second, includes universal creation and destruction. The apocalypse, the eschaton, the deluge, as well re-birth and re-creation, are happening right now.
Watching Late Night Static
All "primitives" live without and against history. They continue to live in eternity, at the dawn of creation, when the ancestors, spirits and gods danced on the Earth. Dualism, dichotomy, separation had not yet shown their masked faces. All existence was, and is, a mystery.
As anthropologists like Pierre Clastres and Marshall Sahlins demonstrate, primitive society was defined by its resistance to the formation of the state and its history. The shaman's job, primarily, was to show the people the efficacy and power of the old customs, rites and myths. Nothing "new" needed to happen because they were already living in paradise.
With the performance of each rite, which included daily things such as food gathering, hunting, preparing and eating meals, childbirth, death, healing, marriage, playing, tool-making, love-making, singing, praying, etc. -- each moment of sacred day -- the primitive was transported back to the instant of creation, to the dawn of all things. He or she became new again.
The time between these creations was negligible and so little sin or personal history could accumulate. Everything was perpetually washed anew. This was the condition of nearly everybody on the planet for tens of thousands of years.
Then, seemingly out of the blue, history began. But this did not really happen suddenly. Somewhere, in the lands of the tribes of Mesopotamia, resolve broke down. Either environmental conditions were too harsh, or the people became too lax, or for other reasons a state began to form.
This was only barely tolerated at first. The chief had become king but only if he would be sacrificed each year to ensure the renewing of creation. This slowly became the dominant rite and all other rites lessened in significance. "History" had begun, but it only lasted for a year before it was brought to an end and started anew.
Either because of pressure from or in imitation of the first state, other tribes began to form states in return. Competition between states soon ensued. Gradually the kings and their supporters convinced the people to allow them to expand their term of rule.
From yearly sacrifices, to two-year sacrifices, then seven years, twelve years and so on up until the natural life-time of the king and finally to a time when only surrogates were sacrificed, history accumulated and stretched out to longer and longer cycles before creation was renewed. History became modeled after greater and greater astronomical cycles.
Eventually a new model or paradigm arose. This seems to have originated in ancient Persia, where it was taken up and modified by the Hebrew prophets, and later developed into the Christian religion, subsequently becoming the dominant worldview of the entire globe. This is the model of linear time.
Instead of the archaic or ancient belief in vast and endless repeating cycles, or the primitive view of the eternal present, the linear model begins with a single and unique moment of creation, is followed by a long stretch of historical or "fallen" time, and ends in apocalypse and eventual paradise.
History is then justified in this view -- not resisted as in the in the primitive paradigm -- as the actions of God or the World Spirit to eventually bring about final reconciliation. History becomes accepted as the movement towards apocalypse.
This linear model of history incrementally began to affect everything. States brutally expanded with the justification that they were the agents of history. History built on itself. "Progress" emerged as an ideology that justified everything new. Tribal communities or primitive agricultural societies temporarily managing to escape the bonds of history became, by hegemonic political, economic, cultural or technological means, inevitably ensnared.
This is the state of things today. History has continued on its genocidal, totalitarian march across all pockets of the globe. It will continue on its march until fiery apocalypse engulfs it utterly. This is the only meaning to history. And, almost ironically, it is the one thing that makes its horrors even minutely bearable: one day it will end.
There is no chance of any existentialist or historicist acceptance of history -- it is too terrible to accept and nothing can justify it: no final democracy, no universal prosperity, no global leap in consciousness -- all of these are insufficient. They do not wash away the sins of the past. Everybody knows it but few will admit it -- only apocalypse will make amends.
The mystical experience -- the personal apocalypse -- which is the insight shared by primitives that history never really began, that this is right now the non-dual moment of creation, is only a passing solution. The mystic, during the boundless duration of her inner experience, entirely escapes history, but if she is to live in this world, in a modern society, she partakes and is complicit -- as we all are -- in the terror of history.
Our very economic, political and technological systems hardwire bloody history. They have developed directly from its atrocities. The Scientific Revolution would not have been possible without the gold and silver stolen from imperialist plunder and genocide. And the same plunder and genocide continues to this day.
There is no escape for the mystic. No cloister or monastery is truly apart from the global economy. Or if it is, it will not long remain so. Reintegrating into the few besieged primitive tribes that remain is impossible for one conditioned in every way by modern culture. The mystic, like the rest of us, is entrapped in the intolerable onslaught of history.
Mahayana Buddhism recognizes this fact. Personal awakening is not enough -- all beings must be awakened. All must be free of history or none are free. However, even temporary escapes from history and into eternity are desirable. They are the only worthwhile events in life and range from "getting lost" while watching the clouds to a full-blown non-dual union with the universe.
Moments of resistance and revolution against the historical machine also contain the potential to burst one into eternity. These moments should be sought after everywhere. But they will pass and history will continue.
All beings must be liberated and history must end. How can this happen? Who knows? Perhaps the moment of personal apocalypse will miraculously, as some sort of watershed event, bring all of history to its end. That is why mystical, ahistorical experiences must always be sought after. But until they do usher in the eschaton they must not be seen as ends in themselves. The revolutionary, apocalyptic bodhisattva still has much work to be done.
If the neocons or ISIS or other fanatical freaks want to, for their own reasons, bring about the apocalypse we say: good. Bring it on. Our job is to save as many as we can by helping people to be prepared in all ways and to make sure that the apocalypse is complete. There should be no centres of control or proto-states left for the elites to slink off into and from which history could start again.
To "return to the paleolithic" means precisely to return to eternity without history. The four-hundred thousand year-old vigilance against the state must return. The new tribes and shamans must never again let down their guard or let the rituals lapse. This time eternity will be forever.
Enematize The Unchiton
History must bring about its own demise. Its hardwiring and acceleration into technology, and the resultant destruction of wild nature, has ensured that this collapse will come soon. This should surprise nobody. History's only purpose, right from the start, was to off itself. There were, and are, many vested interests within history who stood, and stand, to gain from its perpetuation but they too are caught up in a self-destructive teleology. History is humanity's suicide note.
Technology, however, has guaranteed that the final plunge will come sooner than later. Nuclear weapons, toxic waste, resource depleting industrial agriculture, ever more dangerous wars and acts of terror, all of these are the result of historical "progress" through technology.
As Jacques Ellul points out, more technique is not the solution to technical problems. More technique only compounds existing problems and creates new problems. More technique, more technological "solutions," only accelerate the drive towards catastrophe. The apocalypse, therefore, is coming very soon as history, through technology, has finally found the way to totally obliterate itself.
We are, in this way, no different from any of the other apocalyptic fanatics -- be they Christian, Muslim or Marxist fundamentalists. We only hope to "immanentize the eschaton" -- to make it happen sooner than later because the later it happens s the more will perish in the inevitable collapse.
If it was a matter of accepting a final utopia of freedom and justice we would work towards that. And, according to the bodhisattva paradox, this is the only thing worth working for. But history -- no mater its slogans -- will not end in this way. There are too many things left unresolved, too many historical forces still in motion, too many scores to settle. History demands apocalypse. Everything cries out for it.
The only thing we can hope for, the only thing we can strive for, is a miracle of global proportions. An anarchist miracle. Is it futile and foolish to pray for a final apocalypse of love and not of hatred and violence? Through Spirit all things are possible. Let the mystery of personal apocalypse be expanded to a universal scale. Let us hope that these two are the same. Let it be revealed. Let the spell end. Invoked, Chaos slithers out from the slime.
And yet here is where it all turns inward, upon itself. History is also an imaginary abstraction, an empty phantasm. There is no history in the woods, in the stars, in your cells. What history? Whose history? The primal entirely subsumes the cyclical and the linear. The narrative rope is frayed into a thousand brittle threads, each an eyed tendril observing its own world. All technology is only an elaborate extension of this. The Story is the spell. The miracle has always been here. The nightmare of the word has already been overthrown by the images assembled in our hearts.
It is rather remarkable that in considering the whole assemblage of all the things that really constitute modern civilization, from whatever point of view it is looked at, one is always driven to the conclusion that everything seems to be increasingly artificial, denatured and falsified. Many of those who criticize modern civilization today are struck by the fact, even when they do not know how to carry the matter any further and have not the least suspicion of what really lies behind it.
A little logic should, it seems, be enough to indicate that if everything has become artificial, the mentality to which this state of things corresponds must be no less artificial than everything else, that it too must be "manufactured" and not spontaneous; and once this simple reflection has been made, indications pointing in the same direction cannot fail to be seen in almost indefinitely growing multitude everywhere.
-- René Guénon, The Reign of Quantity