The project is still on

 Read this (ThreadReader version). Even though the author is a hard materialist/individualist, I think it's vitally important for the work I've been trying to do here for almost *checks watch* HOLY CRAP ALMOST TWO DECADES. I hope to formulate a proper response soon. 


Happy New Year! (Or: Intentions Against Cynicism)


Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration (hijrah) was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated.

It may be the case that irony was once a powerful tool in the hands of the oppressed, exposing the hypocrisy of those in (political or religious) power. Sadly, this does not hold anymore - not in rich capitalist parliamentary democracies, in any case. Pop culture has internalized the 60s ethos of corrosive irony. It shows in second-tier comedians reproducing hierarchy - in the name of anarchy - by mocking progressive restrictions of discriminatory expression.

Of course, the left is not free of this type of irony, either. Much of what’s been written on this blog over the past few years has commented on this convergence of the worst parts of online culture and progressive social movements.

For the coming New Year, I wish every reader of this blog and of these words the clarity to see their motivations, the guilelessness to strive for pure intentions, and the grace to receive these.


Here's another Hadith for you:

"God is beautiful and loves beauty"

I still remember the day, about three years ago, when I witnessed the beauty of souls trained in Sincerity and Love. I said to myself: "I don't know what it is these people have, but I want it, too." I cannot claim to have been more than moderately loyal to this commitment. But I do sincerely believe that it matters to have a commitment to strive after the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.


Humility is endless

The stuff I was writing here 15 years ago reads like a virgin writing about sex, and there's a damn good reason for that.

Not that it's worthless, but it's theoretical. 15 years of practice has taught me humility, and a struggle with shame and despair. Perhaps it can all be recycled to the good. We'll see.


Remain in Hell without despair

 On the Word to St. Silouan, “Keep Thy Mind in Hell and Despair Not” /  OrthoChristian.Com

"Society is doomed for one very simple reason: it takes dozens of men working months with millions of dollars in materials to build a building, but only one dumb-ass with a bomb to bring it down." - Jason Pargin writing as David Wong, John Dies At The End

What the unreliable narrative voice of this excellent horror-comedy novel has discovered here and is presenting as a realisation of the awful truth is simply the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or entropy. It is the nature of this universe that things are much easier to destroy than to build, that anything worthwhile decomposes into dust, atoms and kipple as soon as you stop paying attention to it. "Gresham's Law of Memes", as promulgated by this blog, recognises the same thing - "bad memes drive out good", destructive, nihilist appeals to the worst parts of our nature are much easier.

Somewhere in his 20+ years of blogging, Robert Fripp once quoted a Guitar Craft person who, while doing the huddle before a performance, felt the overwhelming urge to do something to spoil the mood/wreck the performance. In Fripp's parlance, that's the Great Deceiver talking (aka The Prince of This World, The Father of Lies and the Uncle of All Tricks). Eric Tamm's unauthorised Fripp biography quotes that Penfold-looking mofo as saying "Temptation is a reward... The Devil cannot make use of people who are drowsy... Until now, you were just a turkey." I think this is the same thing that Pargin is referring to, in the same book, by: 

when you read the Bible, the Devil looks back at you through the pages... even reading about the Devil tips him off, he knows... you're somebody he may have to deal with.

"Performance is inherently unlikely," goes a Guitar Craft aphorism (which Fripp has said were written not by him, but by the "personal voice" which speaks through him on very good days. I have my own version of that voice which wrote everything good on this blog). Trying to do anything worthwhile and good in a universe based on entropy is unlikely. The very existence of life in such a universe is unlikely (which is why religious brain-death merchants love to use entropy to deny the science of evolution). And the existence of intelligent life, even more so. And the existence of intelligent life which has built a complex technological society about to make breakthroughs into space travel and artificial intelligence, even more so. 

The anthropic principle states that all this incredible unlikeliness must have happened for us to be here, able to grasp how unlikely it is, and make little-read blog posts about it. I wonder whether Gurdjieff talking about awakening to the true horror of the situation meant the same thing as St Silouan when he heard Jesus telling him personally to "keep thy mind in hell and despair not".

In strange and uncertain times, such as we are living through, on occasion a reasonable person might despair.
But Hope is unreasonable.
And Love is greater even than this.


Check out this smooth Prince of the Orient

Idries Shah on Attention – Lorne Mitchell's Thursday Thoughts

Been reading a lot of Idries Shah lately. He was clearly a truly enlightened being and a con-man, and it's pretty clear from his works that he justifies the role of the Teacher as being to tell whatever lies are necessary to get the broad masses to accept the important stuff. You could call him the Lenin of Sufism, like Lacan is called the Lenin of Freudianism, with all the good and bad that entails. 

 Anyway, all his stuff is free to read online; I'd suggest you start with The Sufis, which is an interesting combination of "a good introduction to the literature" with "hilarious Robert Graves-style shaggy dog stories about how the entire Western Esoteric tradition is actually ripped off from Sufism, up to and including Gardnerian Wicca". (To someone who knows about this stuff, it comes off like that dude from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Or virtually any Iranian person you speak to.) And of course Robert Graves, alongside J. G. Bennett the teacher of Robert Fripp, were just two of the i-want-to-believe Westerners who paid Idries Shah to know what they really thought.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that Idries Shah seems to have had the same project with Western esotericists that Chaos Marxism has had with small Western communist groups. The purpose being to yell: wake up, bozos. You're not doing any good, you're just being a fanclub and jerking each other off, if not actively abusing each other. We've all got to learn how to learn.


Mere Orthodoxy


C.S. Lewis: Surprised by Chesterton
I think I'm a Communist for the same reason that G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis were orthodox Christians* - an irrational blinding love for what this world could become, and an intense seething hatred of what is ruining it. Not for nothing is "Tikkun Olam" a slogan of the Abrahamic religions and the insurrectionist movement.

Where those worthy gentlemen saw a personal transcendent God, however, I see the possibilities (even as far as going to the stars) of the consciousness of humanity as a species, with a duty of care towards the rest of Earth's biosphere; and where they saw the Devil, I see the intense selfishness of material privilege which will destroy consciousness - and Earth's biosphere - in order to preserve itself. The rigid theists don't have any place in their mythology for empathy and altruism among animals, for example. And Jack Lewis doesn't seem to have any better argument against Islam, for example, than Brett Kavanagh's "I LIKE BEER".**

Still, it's amusing to see how Chesterton in particular combined orthodox Christianity with a passion for democracy and social justice which tipped into sympathy for anarchism, and this bit is particularly funny:
The guillotine has many sins, but to do it justice there is nothing evolutionary about it. The favourite evolutionary argument finds its best answer in the axe. The Evolutionist says, "Where do you draw the line?" the Revolutionist answers, "I draw it HERE: exactly between your head and body."

Lewis liked that revolutionary imagery as well:

This universe is at war. It is a civil war, a rebellion, and … we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel. Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.

The shitty thing is that this is precisely what the Bad Guys - the fascistic culture warriors who really want to go to war for Mr Potato Head's gender - believe, as well. So you get modern "tankies" who learn that freedom is slavery, solidarity is imperialism, exploitation is anti-colonialism, and still get to play-act the good guys. All you need, as Orwell knew, is to worship the Powers that Be, The Prince of This World, because they're "obviously going to win" so they might as well be God. And you also get Philip K Dick's gnosticism. The revolutionary/resistance aesthetic is not necessarily progressive, is my point.

* And why Rudyard Kipling believed in the British Empire and the White Man's Burden, I suppose.

** Chesterton is awful on Islam. He firstly defends Trinitarianism by conjuring up a racist fantasy of consistent monotheism leading to bloodthirsty Muslamic hordes, coincidentally implicating the other consistent monotheists from that part of the world. And then he brags about how Christian civilisation is great because when Rome fell the Church preserved civilisation. Yeah, right, the freakin' Islamic world preserved Greco-Roman learning while the Franks were all chopping one another's heads off in bogs, and only after a few centuries of rank barbarism did they come to steal all that civilised stuff back at swordpoint from not only the Muslims but their Eastern "Christian brothers".


Losing my religion

Losing My Religion

The Leninist parties of old asked unquestioning obedience from their followers, forcing their members and, after gaining power, their subjects, to conform to their every twist and turn in order to attain their political goals. Just read The Little Red Book for an illustration of this.

When the prospect for world revolution faded, these goals were watered down to the military goal of defeating the enemy. When the Cold War ended, the enemy had to be defeated not by military, but by economic means. Which really meant shaking the hand of the devil - capitalism - in a relentless commitment to rise to the top of this wicked system.

The attempt to organize a successful drive to social change instead turned into a quasi-religious worship of power qua power. This drive persisted and now rules in the form of a constellation of supremely evil and ruthless authoritarian parties oppressing over a billion people in China alone.

This heart is increasingly sceptical of the possiblity of a politics that is both revolutionary and democratic, both radical and liberal. Once the need for a radical, thoroughgoing transformation of society has been established, its fire cannot be kept out of "undesired" areas. This is why revolutions spring out of control and are said to eat their children. (Slightly-related hot take: this is what the generation of "Social Justice Warriors" now coming of age in the United States will find out some time over the next decade.)

It is exactly the same principle that makes spiritual paths so all-encompassing, bringing everything in the practitioner's psyche to light, causing turmoil that requires careful and skillful guidance in order NOT to bring about the demise of the practitioner. Perhaps the Trotskyists, then, have got it right, after all, that the crisis of the Russian revolutionary process was really one of leadership.

The project of Chaos Marxism has not been able to offer anything substantial in the way of a resolution of this dilemma, the choice between a radical reconstruction of the World-As-Is while retaining respect for what might be called everyday human needs and basic human decency. Since our inception, we have only been able to appeal to caution in the face of radical Radicalism (if you know what I mean), deferring the nasty work to spiritual and religious traditions. Note that this counts as a valuable achievement in its own right.

Of course, people have been telling me of this impossibility ever since I got involved in politics, but I can say with equal parts honesty and shame that I have never realized the true meaning of this. "Maybe" this radical politics, then, was just an ego project, an intellectualization of a personal and social maladaptibility. Maybe the Christian do-gooders are right after all, and power in all its forms is wicked, which means this world is wicked, which means it must be rejected or at the very least thoroughly left alone.

I struggle with the idea of accepting what seems to be a fundamentally conservative insight - that only God (i.e., an unfathomable instance that really controls everything behind the scenes, and which is neither human nor a human creation) controls the to and fro of worldly affairs. And that a radical politics amounts to idolatry (i.e., the most radical departure possible from the turn to God, and therefore to be completely and absolutely rejected).

But as a lapsed teenage convert to radical-leftism, my only slightly less immature 20-something-year-old self sees few other options.