Saturday, November 30, 2019

Snatches of the Everlasting Gospel 1

Where have we landed? What moon rises? How tight the snare? How high does the bile well up? One step more and the floor caves in. Gentle creaking outwits the subtle approach of late compression. If we wager that this System of fixity outlasts even the desire for complete cessation, if every middle potential thwarts understanding, then what hope remains?

Mutually hostile national encampments. Barriers, lines, tripwires, unblinking eyes, stomping rubber. No migration. No inter-mixture. No permeation. The only other available offering is the gulag made global. Choose yer police state: particular or universal, whitewashed or rainbow-hued, assimilated or cosmopolitan, pure or impure. This is the present straightjacket of expression, both arms tied around back for maximum immobility.

And at each extreme, and in every gradation between, corporate entrenchment proceeds in snowballing descent. It somehow creeps beyond or between both sides of the permitted fare. The most ethnically homogenous states also have their iPhones and Starbucks. Corporate monoculture has already colonized the minds of those living in the most vigilant ethnostates.

A third position has been snatched from us. There is no beyond Left and Right. There is no beyond at all. "Left" and "Right" are merely two poles of an immanent sphere. “Beyond Left and Right” has become a recruiting slogan for seductive fascists in drag. And it works. "The enemy is Globalism," bleat the red-pilled. “Leftists” -- they could be your neighbours or even your family members -- are far easier to identify and confront than shadowy elites, and easier still to recognize than the dynamic forces of an impersonal economic machine fueled by social disparity and greed.

And the resulting resurgent “populism” -- its ranks bloated by the dispossessed -- becomes defined by this false "third position": Workers’ rights but not for migrants. Social safeguards but only for the national and racial in-group. Our military. Our borders. Our corporations. Our tradition. Our race. If only we could clean our own rooms, eliminate the filth and confusion and degeneracy, everything might turn out fine.

Of course, none of this is new -- modern history still drips with the gore of past cleansings -- and it has always ever been a means to perpetuate power in a different guise. The most horrorshow hoodwink. Po-po-mo proto-brownshirtism for the beard-styling and sweater set.

And in the Left corner: a 98-pound weakling with a victim complex, a wraith of the Vampire Castle, a puritanical doxxer and purger, a self-marginalizing identity campaigner, ideological purity taking the place of the racial or civilizational purity of their opponent, concerned more with policing the ranks of allies than in confronting the enemy.

Sanctioned thought progressively narrows and constricts. Even the weapons of liberation from past counter-cultural or radical movements -- autonomic mysticism, psychedelics, drop-out and refusal lifestyles, sexuality, paganism -- are rejected out of hand as being entirely co-opted by the Right.

And, in truth, this is occurring. The extreme Right is ecstatic to appear edgy, funny, hip. If the Left sterilizes and lobotomizes itself by shackling the imagination with reductionist materialism, the Right will suavely waltz in and offer a whole smorgasbord of spiritual and libidinal dainties. Wilhelm Reich becomes relevant again: the Left has once more allowed fascism to appear sexy, even holy.

But this Left is the unfortunate corner in which we find ourselves and must defend. It's all that's left. There is no outside of the ring. Even the spectators are on the inside. Either this or nationalist/internationalist state/corporate hellworld.

And let’s not be confused by definitions. The U.S. libertarian designation of the Left as collectivist and the Right as individualist is entirely misleading, and likely intended to mislead. The National Socialists were not socialists, largely successful propaganda aside; their name was designed to deceive and seduce the disenfranchised and desperate. Both the Nazis and the fascists, while implementing social programs to benefit their chosen constituents, did nothing to halt corporate capitalism. Instead, in these regimes the class structure of capitalism was exemplified.

Capitalism is emphatically not the free market -- a desire as utopian as genuine communism and paradoxically perhaps having much in common with it -- instead it is the presently-existing economic system which employs state privilege and the monopoly of force in order to further empower and enrich both capital and capitalists. It is really an extension, with cosmetic alterations, of the past rule of aristocracies and monarchies. Capitalism, though in varying degrees, is intrinsically authoritarian, by definition.

"Socialism," in the few times when it has grasped the reins the State, has also been authoritarian and pernicious, but this is precisely when it is not functioning as socialism. This is actually a perversion of its nature. Trotsky rightly called this system "state capitalism." Actual socialism, with workers' control of production as its aim, began as a libertarian movement of the underclasses, and in essence it still is. Equality must always be coupled with liberty.

Unlike capitalism, it has no vested interests to protect with State power (although the attainment of this power does create vested interests, to disastrous and well-known consequences). Socialism should be merely a transition to communism which, even by strict Marxist definition, is a stateless and classless society.

Socialist and "communist" parties and sects have attempted and continue to attempt to wield State power, through the ballot or the bullet, in order to enact this transition. Yet the anarchists have always -- from the get go -- rejected this as necessarily leading to strategic and ethical catastrophe (as predicted and witnessed by Proudhon, Bakunin, Emma Goldman in Russia, etc.). Thus the "Left" of this essay will be dedicated to the anarchist Left, other comrades being for the present welcomed into the struggle despite their greater or lesser delusions concerning the benign use of State power.

In truth, all states now are “mixed economies”: corporate capitalist governments that offer their populations certain benefits through taxation -- public roads, libraries, schools, welfare, etc. -- present in proportion to the strength of past and present social movements.

The Right, then, regardless if it advocates for an international "liberal" capitalism -- capitalism with benefits -- or for a nationalist conservative capitalism (and at times of crisis like now there is a genuine split along these lines among the ruling class, trickling down to the population), is always in defense of capitalism. The two branches amount to the same state-corporate rule.

The Left is, or should be, something else entirely. It seeks for the total overthrow of this system and desires for it to be replaced by a stateless and classless society or, better still, societies. Yet to do this it needs to know its roots, running deep through the culture and in the human psyche, and to take back all that was stolen during the long gory stomp of history. It needs to find its "tradition."

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 Guénon, 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"

This passage by Peter Lamborn Wilson (and, as an initial aside, none of the quoted authors here are free from controversy, nor are their ideas or actions accepted entirely by me), from his essay “The Shamanic Trace,” found in Escape from the Nineteenth Century, has been cited before in this blog. I continue to find his delineation of a tradition of the Hermetic Left to be compelling, and I’ve tweaked this notion only a bit into “Hermetic Anarchism.” The idea of a radical or even revolutionary tradition, emphasizing both freedom and equality, and combining “unmediated autonomy and unmediated spirituality” is an attractive one.

The Right, as Wilson explains, currently dominates our understanding of esoteric spirituality, and it is this perspective that permeates art, literature and popular culture. This perspective is present throughout the work of an entire spectrum of  20th century thinkers and writers. It spans from the self-named Traditionalists -- Guénon, Shuon and Evola and their successors like Mircea Eliade and even Joseph Campbell -- to the Modernists -- Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, W.B. Yeats etc. and those that they have influenced like Marshall McLuhan -- to occultists like Crowley and psychoanalysts like Carl Jung.

All of these men are deeply fascinating to me, their ideas appear constantly throughout this blog, and yet they are all very conservative or even reactionary while this blog attempts to be just the opposite. But the ideas all of these men contain, I believe, deeper and older and more emancipatory currents which have the potential to break the narrow bounds of their politics.

The bulk of the “Left,” though, refuses to engage with these figures and their concepts altogether because it concludes, and understandably so, that their metaphysical philosophies are inseparably coupled with their tainted politics. So in rejection of all spiritual and metaphysical speculation and sentiment, leftists generally favour a fairly reductive scientific materialism.

Discussions of altered states of consciousness, mythology, tradition, the occult, synchronicity and other psychic anomalies, archetypes, non-physical entities, magic, etc. are largely dismissed as being apolitical or denounced outright as being reactionary and quasi-fascist. But as Wilson explains, it is relatively recently that the Right has “hi-jacked” the idea of tradition and monopolized the discussion of the above subjects, none of which are intrinsically abhorrent.

Yet an older, ancient and even archaic, “tradition” has existed and still does exist. It stretches back to the earliest Paleolithic, to the dawn of modern humanity and maybe prior to that, to what Marx & Engels called “primitive communism” -- the original stateless and classless societies. But what the Marxists chose and choose not to emphasize, to the detriment of the entire revolutionary project, is that in addition to being anti-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian these “primitive” tribal societies were, for tens of thousands of years, deeply spiritual: animist, pantheist, non-dualist, shamanic, magical.

And even towards the end of the Neolithic, when these libertarian and egalitarian spiritual antinomians began to be enslaved and eradicated through the emergence and expansion of the ancient states and empires, their influence persisted throughout history as a subversive and subterranean stream.

The following does not attempt to sketch out the entire history of this tradition -- which William Blake, following the radical Diggers and Ranters of the English Revolution, called “the Everlasting Gospel” -- as this needs to traced out for every nation and culture on Earth, but instead offers a scatter-shot sampling of radical spiritual movements and manifestations across space and time, taken from multiple and promiscuous sources.

Right traditionalists can be mined and plundered for concepts and rites that they themselves have appropriated, but even when these are “liberated” they pale in comparison to knowledge of the living tradition, however loose, ephemerally connected and unorganized it may be, of the Everlasting Gospel.

A Certain Propensity

Julius Evola is perhaps an appropriate character to start with, especially because of the increasing popularity of his ideas with alt-right and far right groups in recent years. Evola hi-jacks the tradition by inverting historical reality. We can therefore differentiate legitimate tradition from reactionary fantasy by inverting Evola.

The favourable climate and the natural plentiness eventually induced most people to seek peace and rest and to cultivate the feeling of contemplation and getting lost in nature, rather than an active pursuit of affirmation and self-transcendence. Therefore, even in the order of what can be affected to a certain degree by external factors, while the Northern Light goes hand in hand, through solar and Uranian symbols, with a virile ethos and a warrior spirituality consisting of a harsh will to establish order and to dominate, conversely, in the Southern traditions the predominance of the chthonic theme and of the pathos of death and resurrection corresponds to a certain propensity to promiscuity, escapism, a sense of abandonment, and a naturalistic pantheism with sensual or mystical and contemplative overtones. -- Revolt Against the Modern World

Evola's distinction between the Northern and Southern traditions is misleading from the outset. If harsh northern climates inevitably generate cultures with "a harsh will to establish order and to dominate" then the relatively peaceful cultures and tribes of Arctic Canada and Siberia are difficult to account for.

But we all know what Evola really means, and he is quite overt about this. He is referring to Germanic people, Aryan people, White people. It is this race that possesses a "virile ethos and a warrior spirituality" and that is exclusively on "an active pursuit of affirmation and self-transcendence." Evola is apparently unconcerned that his characterization of  Germanic tribes largely contradicts the early accounts by Tacitus and Julius Caesar, both of whom commented on the high status of women within these communal societies and their essential integration with the natural environment.

Anthropologists Marija Gimbutas and Riane Eisler have argued, however, that an essential division existed between older, more matriarchal and agricultural, "partnership" societies and patriarchal, chariot-riding "dominator" societies, but the question remains if the latter arose because of pressures from early imperial states. Oppressive encroachment from Imperial Rome on the stateless tribes to the North seems to have had the effect of causing these groups to militarize in self-defense and then eventually to become expansive themselves.

In any case, in a choice between "dominator" and "partnership" societies, it is obvious what the fascism-is-not-reactionary-enough Evola would choose. It is the matriarchal, partnership Southern tradition which is the source of cultural decadence and darkness, whereas the pure and virile Light of reason and order shines only from the hallucinated North.

However, it is not just a matter of flipping Evola's terms and raising the South above the North. Just as his depiction of the Northern tradition is for the most part fiction, his sense of the Southern traditions is likewise skewed. Affirmation and self-transcendence can be found, for example, in southern Buddhism, but it is also true that the first imperial states were formed in the hotter climes of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

What Evola and his recent fans invoke is a mythic justification of certain values, and an elevation these to a "tradition." Yet, in doing so, he also by necessity maps out a counter-tradition, with contrary values, which can be now affirmed, reappropriated as it were.  But, leaving Evola sputtering in the dust, instead of this representing a lunar or Southern tradition only, the affirmation can broadened to include essentially the archaic tradition of those cultures, across the globe, that thrived for millennia before the onset and onslaught of the State.

The values that Evola disparages can be celebrated: the seeking of peace and rest, the reverence for nature and the feminine, contemplation of the fertility cycle of birth, death and rebirth, sensual and mystical pantheism, promiscuity and the ecstatic overcoming of all boundaries, the emphasis on the sharing of possessions and social equality. All of these are facets of the Everlasting Gospel.

Now the animals rites of the caves were certainly instituted by the Aurignacians, and the female images, though never present in these sanctuaries, are as certainly an expression in the outside world of a power which also had its place within -- hence the stylised wall engravings and the inscribed and painted symbols. It seems reasonable to imagine that the makers of those statuettes had also passed beyond the stage of localised relationship with the archetypal beasts, to the conception of a pervading principle, not in this case their own creative power, but a life-substance through which that power could act, conceived already in the human form of maternal fecundity. -- The Gate of Horn, G.R. Levy

This movement in thought among peoples of the Upper Paleolithic from local animal rites to a conception of a more universal "pervading principle" of maternal fertility and fecundity may represent the essential origins of the Everlasting Gospel, although Gimbutas and others speculate that Goddess worship may have gone back hundreds of thousands of years. Certainly there is much evidence of the coupling of animal and woman worship, with many of the earliest figurines and cave drawings being hybrid animals and human females (with some male "shamanic" depictions included).

As Levy points out, the caves themselves invoke the Goddess. Caves were the model of later temples worldwide, but both temples and the primal caves take the form of the vulva and womb of the Goddess. Celebrants were initiated within and emerged reborn. The spiral or serpentine designs on the threshold or just within these caverns indicate the creative and life-giving power of these portals into the mysteries.

If this is also the origin of Evola's "Southern" tradition, then so be it. The whole cycle of life is affirmed, all creatures viewed as being equal sons and daughters of the Goddess. According to Gimbutas, this is humanity's oldest religion, its most long-lasting -- pockets surviving to the present -- and its most widespread, existing on all continents.

Marx and Engels confused spirit with established religion -- as their doctrinaire followers continue to do -- because, as Western white males, they could not see the total paradigm of ancient women’s original communism. Coming from this linear, fragmenting, and reductive Western tradition -- which has historic roots in the Judeo-Christian Bible as well as in Aristotelian-Platonic, Greco-Roman hyper-rationality -- they could not comprehend the primal holism of human experience on earth. As a result Marxism tends to reinforce, rather than oppose, Western capitalism’s notorious strategy of alienation. Marxist analysts generally are obsessed with isolating economic/productive development from magical/religious/sexual development. -- The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth, Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor

Sjoo and Mor, inspired by the research of Gimbutas and others, contrast what they call "ancient women's original communism" with reductive Marxism. The statement that white males could not possibly see the "total paradigm" of primitive communism, and the Everlasting Gospel arising from it, is most certainly wrong. It's true that at least from the outset of expansionist states patriarchy has been dominant, but as the archaic partnership societies were egalitarian, men also participated in the "primal holism" that these authors describe.

In addition, ever since the emergence of  patriarchy and the State, certain men have also been at the forefront of resistance movements, both social and intellectual, that have opposed oppression and inequality. Even within Jewish sects and early Christianity, as well as in Pythagorean and Platonic fraternities, the anti-authoritarian and communist values of the Everlasting Gospel are reflected.

Sjoo and Mor are right, though, in their basic critique of Marxism. Marx, in rejection of the idealism of Hegel -- himself deeply influenced by the Hermetic tradition (yet unfortunately also a big fan of the State) -- postulated a strict dialectical materialism. All historical processes are reduced in this philosophy to class conflict and material production.

The economic analysis of Marx and Engels is crucial for understanding the development of capitalism and the contradictions inherent within it, but by ignoring or even suppressing the magical, religious and sexual currents of past communal or revolutionary movements, Marxism does tend to contribute to the very alienation it claims to struggle against. The Everlasting Gospel rejects such alienation in total.