24 November 2007

My magickal motto

Sen stelsigno, sen sorto

(It is traditional for magickal mottos to be in Latin. As a Chaos Marxist, mine is in the Latin of democracy.)

22 November 2007

A rephrasing of the political part of the model

In the modern era, in the countries rich in capital and information, the biggest and most effective weapon in the armoury of social reaction is persuading the oppressed to culturally identify with their oppressors, and to experience other oppressed groups as culturally alien, incomprehensible and threatening. This is most effectively done through mass media which encourages the masses to experience the world around them from the point of view of the ruling classes - or, more precisely, from the point of view of the cultural-professional middle classes who work for the ruling classes (analagous to how the priest in the middle ages worked in the interests of the local lord, while of course having their own identity and interests).

This ideological effect is strongest among white-collar (communication/linguistic) workers, who generally come from a social and educational background very similar to those of the media priesthood. Case in point: the press releases from the striking writers in the United States emphasise that the writers are "middle class", that is, they are pledging allegiance to mainstream America - as communication workers, they know that that's necessary to win support from those who see the world entirely through the prism of the TV screen.

When media commentators talk about the underclass, they are not necessarily talking about an objective economic differentiation (since in many cases the physical-labour workers are better off financially than those in call centres and the like). They are talking about the gap between those fluent in the language, verbal and symbolic, of the oppressor classes, and those who aren't. The camera doesn't go into the homes of those workers who don't speak the dominant verbal or symbolic language because their experiences need to be interpreted for them to make sense to our rulers. So they are kind of left to fend for themselves, like Orwell's proles, except when they riot more than the police are prepared for.

The aim is twofold: (a) to build unity between the workers in language and information, and the workers in physical production and services; (b) to learn the skills of the media priesthood to create our own "worker's symbolic universe" or "proletarian noosphere", independent from bourgeois culture (but not rejecting it - instead, building something better on its foundation). A united and successful workers movement often causes splits in the media priesthood which encourages some defections, but that's a bit of a hard road to success for anywhere outside France or Venezuela right now.

16 November 2007

Magic, mysticism, marxism

The goal of the traditional Magus is to learn how to effectively manipulate this world of illusion in accordance with will.

The goal of the traditional Mystic is to dissolve the individual ego and will and attain cosmic consciousness, in order to see through the world of illusion.

The Chaos Marxist practice is:
a) to learn to distinguish objective reality (matter, physical energy, political economy, brute force and social practices) from subjective reality (the social myths which grow up around objective reality);
b) to recognize the consciousness or personality of both herself and others as "interpellated" (derived from the biological individual's attempts to fit in with the prevailing social practices, rather than essential to the individual) and therefore as subjective rather than objective reality;
c) to re-organise the individual consciousness to something which is more capable of being able to provoke change in objective reality, as a vanguard of a liberatory "current" of the oppressed and exploited. By recognizing that our "self" was constructed to fit in with capitalism, not to challenge it, we challenge ourselves to surpass the imposed boundaries of the self. In other traditions, I believe they call this "ego loss".

Marx declared that the proletariat were the revolutionary class, not only on the basis of their objective role in the economy, but on the supposition that this objective role led to an objective "class consciousness" that would make them capable of overthrowing the system. But Gramsci pointed out that this "good sense" was overlaid with "common sense" which develops to keep individual working people docile, obedient, and in all other ways able to survive in actually-existing capitalism. I have argued on this blog that the technologies of promoting "common sense" have leapt ahead since Gramsci's day, with the powers of mass-media marketing and psychology. We need to make that quantum leap ourselves, or keep talking to ourselves forever.

This side of the revolution, the successful revolutionary will have to learn to simulate a personality which operates on the basis of "common sense" in order to survive, while also developing a personality which operates on the basis of "good sense" in order to be effective in the struggle. "Good sense" will get you fired - "common sense" will ensure that you never actually change anything - so best to be able to pick "horses for courses". This seems to require the mystic insight that consciousness and personality is performative rather than essential (thank you Judith Butler).

You are not real. You are what you do. Lose your ego - your image of "yourself" and where "you" fit into your social setting, and your obsession with defending it - and you can become one with a current or force which can actually shape material reality. To put it in magickal terms, we are "helping create a solid egregore [conceptual entity with a will of its own] embodying the will to revolution of the most advanced section of the working masses, and subordinating the individual ego to this task". But remember that even after ego loss, there is much chopping of wood, carrying of water and posting on blogs, and you will need to recreate a kind of "pretend ego" to make this possible. Anyone who's ever been a stage performer will understand what I mean by this. Being a tool of the vanguard of the class does not mean that the demands of holding down a job, having friends, looking after your physical needs and communicating with people who're not part of your crusade will go away. Forget this, and you my friend are lost in the Abyss and need to be saved.

(Note that this is similar but different to the traditional Mystic concept of "unity with the universal will", since of course as materialists we don't believe in abstract concepts like "universal will". Also, where traditional mystics see the world as an undifferentiated unity, Marxism sees the world as a self-contradictory unity, which is why something happens rather than nothing.)

Those political or magickal groups which attempt to "insulate" their cadre from the Real World of Horrible Jobs, rather than preaching a deep involvement in them, are not only make sure their cadre will never become real leaders/Magi, but ensuring that they will just get wrapped up with another false personality, another, smaller world with the same (perhaps even nastier) games as the real world. Kill sectarianism with fire. An effective Chaos Marxist must be willing to ditch even their most cherished personality if it becomes counterproductive - and this includes the personality of "member of the revolutionary party / Magickal Order that will save the world". You may have to destroy everything you love in order to do what is necessary.

So: the Chaos Marxist has to learn the ways of (political and cultural) Magick, while also applying the tools of Mysticism to make the Magick effective. On the external side, effective political/cultural memetics, based on evoking a radical mass movement and requiring a minimum of physical resources; on the internal side, merciless criticism of the mental processes which make doing the external side of things more difficult than it should be. To be concrete: for me, the external side of things comprises International Socialist politics combined with viral marketing and Situationism, while on the internal side I'm seeing what Maat Magick coupled with a healthy SubGenius/Discordian sense of the totally ridiculous can accomplish. (An essential insight of Crowley's was that nothing banishes demons more effectively than laughter.) This is only my personal Work - I would be most interested to see what other people can accomplish, slotting their own preferred ammunition into the theoretical firearm I am creating.

Chaos Marxism is a practice meant to give an intellectual framework to the processes needed to become a revolutionary Magus - but we should never mistake the map for the territory, or forget that many of the great leaders of history got there by trial and error without the benefit of "system". In a sense, this is just a way of explaining to my people - over-educated young Westerners in the internet age - what is necessary. And, like every healthy form of Magick, it self-destructs on completion - in other words, all these mental processes by which we learn to be leaders of the class struggle will hopefully self-destruct if we ever get into a classless society. (Am I saying that the first thing the revolutionary party should do after the revolution is dissolve itself? Maybe if it doesn't self-destruct it did something wrong.)

Organic shamans of the working class

President Bush has achieved his dismal world standing despite spending $1.6 billion of hard-pressed Americans' tax money on black magic and brainwashing between 2003 and 2006.

- Paul Craig Roberts. Oh, sorry, that should read "public relations", not "black magic and brainwashing" above. Or should it?

Capitalism head-fixing technology smashes all previous forms of family and social life, and incorporates and commodifies any new social movements which do not base themselves on a clearly defined anti-capitalist political praxis. As Buddhism and the teachings of Thelema (properly understood) make clear, the individual is an illusion, something which is a result of the world we live in, not a cause.

The novelty in the current epoch of history is that the egregore of capitalism (generalised commodity production and wage labour) now dominates the majority of all human experience, and its sphere of domination inexorably expands in the absence of successful class struggle. You are what you are - I am sorry to say - because of how your personality evolved to enable you to survive under capitalism. (And if it failed to do so, I'm glad to see that they allow you to read my blog in the mental hospital or prison.)

This way of thinking bears some relationship to Althusser's concept of the individual being "interpellated" in capitalist social structures through the "Ideological State Apparatuses" of academia, media, etc. But I reject Althusser's essentially Stalinist and anti-humanist approach. All social structures are traceable back to human biological imperatives which in some cases predate our acquisition of consciousness, and the whole purpose of Chaos Marxist work is to create harmony between our essential animal nature and a technological civilisation which could enable us to transcend, rather than repress, that nature. The idea is that human individuality will become possible for the first time after capitalism. Also, he killed his wife.

Lies and delusion are the common currency of the modern era, since our rulers have decided they can no longer afford to buy our compliance with real money. Superstition, fanatical religion, fanatical religion disguised as politics, mind-control cults and cargo cults flourish in an era of social defeat. There is an "arms race" going on in current culture between the brainwashing / black magic skills of the ruling class and their ideological apparatus, and the objective despair, alienation and anger at the grassroots of society.

The bone-level anger and hatred, evoked in working people by the grimness of life as disposable labour in 21st century capitalism, expresses itself in a continuous "slow motion" riot. Working people take it out on themselves and occasionally random members of the bourgeoisie, in the shape of violence, drug abuse, sexual abuse, and property damage. Our rulers attempt to channel this continually welling hatred into mindless patriotism, hatred of religious, political or ethnic outsiders, and compulsion to buy whatever commodities will engender the illusion of being a valued part of a community for about ten minutes - like Fox News, or those reality TV shows where you get a vote which will affect collectively-experienced reality more significantly than a vote in a general election. (For the niche market who think they're too cool for Pop Idol or whatever, they've got you with the games which give you the illusion of being part of the Chosen Elite.)

Simply put: in internet-consumer culture, games and similar commodities substitute for unbearable reality. Chaos Marxism plays games as well, but as training for reality.

The task for organic intellectuals / cultural-political magi / revolutionary witches / whateverthehell can't just be coming up with the ideology needed for our side to win. We need to come up with an entire culture, and by extension, an entire identity - or at least a framework in which new and better identities of opposition can grow. If we don't do that, people have no choice but to continue to believe that they are who the TV, the teacher, the boss and the priest tell them they are. We don't just need our own academy - we need our own entertainment, we need our own mythology, until the day we break through and can just be human.

The catch is, though: how can we do this without turning into a self-absorbed sect or even a mind control cult? The basic answer is "vanguardism, not elitism" - the difference being that you can only be a vanguard if (a) you are actually, demonstrably out in front, (b) you've got a large number of people following you. If your particular Order or League or Party or whatever isn't an organic part of a mass movement and playing a leading role, don't you think it should be? The second part of the answer is: you have to have the right kind of boundaries between yourself and the mass movement, once you're in there. No boundaries and you might as well not exist. Firm, steel-hard boundaries and you'll be incapable of actually leading - your comrades will distrust you at best and hate you at worst. An actual revolutionary vanguard can't afford to have secrets or hidden agendas. To lead you have to learn as well as teach.

13 November 2007

Sectarianism - kill it with fire

One of the chief banes of occultism is the addiction to paper credentials, authorisations, charters and the like, which it is felt lend some sort of spiritual weight, exaltation or glamour to the recipient organisation. However, the proof of the pudding is surely in the eating, and the yardstick for assessing any group can only be its creativity and vitality. Another bane is that of harking back to a supposed sort of Golden Era, in this case an imaginary homogeneous O.T.O. in Crowley's time. Now, anyone who has taken so much as a cursory glance at the history of occult orders must feel almost sea-sick from the flux and flow exhibited. Like minor political groupings, there is a succession of schisms and regroupings, alliances and splinterings.

- Michael Staley. This blog was founded on the presumption that there was a commonality of both methods and aims between post-1904 occultism and Leninist politics, but it seems that there's a commonality of pathologies as well. I mean, you'd expect it from occultists, who are generally idealists and elitists and can be forgiven for wanting to keep their intellectual bloodline pure, but why do Marxists act like this most of the time as well?

Is this kind of small-group psychosis something inherent in the nature of all small groups, or just in small groups who want to change the world? You don't hear about this happening in badminton clubs.

08 November 2007

Petty-bourgeois occultism redux

From the "Occultism of Small Businessmen" files comes this quote from Harry Palmer, Grand High Wizard of a $cientology knockoff called Avatar:

If you introduce a powerful technology, like Avatar, into a lower social stratum, you are going to create revolution and wind up with blood on your hands.

Assuming that Chaos Marxism will ever become a "powerful technology" which can produce reproducible effects in individual, class and cultural consciousness, I should bloody well hope so. Seriously. I am not interested in producing a new elite, I am interested in becoming part of a vanguard.

Turn back, Sarah... before it's too late

Check out this intriguing article on the mystic resonances of David Bowie. While no-one can dispute that Bowie is cool - and, almost uniquely, still cool after 40 years - I would like to champion the case of another English musician who has deliberately used radical changes of image and disturbing lyrics about entities from an abnormal plane of existence to create an extremely unique form of cultural activism and a reasonably significant cult - namely Mr. Gary A. J. Webb. I would say that the difference between the two can be summed up that one was given powerful, culture-changing visions by heavy indulgence in magick and cocaine, while the other is an atheist who reads a lot of sci-fi and is a (self-diagnosed) Aspie.

05 November 2007

More on 90s nostalgia

The founder of the Maat current and Don Webb of the Temple of Set, writing in the 90's, agree on one thing, as do many other occultists: that the collapse of European Stalinism is a huge breakthrough for "the good guys" and proves that the people doing the good magick are beginning to make a breakthrough.

Oh, how naive that all looks in retrospect. The 90s were the era of smug, false hope among the Western middle classes, convinced that since the people who determined the ideology of their own culture had triumphed in that nasty squabble for bragging rights known as the Cold War, so"bad history" was over and now nothing stood between them and millennial utopian fantasies. As I said previously, the ideology of The Matrix was the high point of this current - before it went to hell in the dot.com crash and the WTC disaster.

As the Socialist International found out in 1914, this is what you get for identifying with "your own" corporate and political bosses. This kind of extremely basic buying into someone else's reality is still to this day endemic among bad-ass magickians who think they're questioning everything. Only Marxism continuously reminds you that your boss and your media and your government never, ever have your interests at heart.

04 November 2007

Method of science, aim of politics AND religion

"Marxism" is the combination of the theory of dialectical materialism and the practice of revolutionary socialism. "Common sense" of modern society - including the crude and warped caricature of Marxism known as Stalinism - sees the material world and the world of ideas as distinct and independent. This is one of the reasons why hypocrisy and lies are such a defining feature of modern ruling classes. Some subsets of the infosphere, on the other hand, assert that material nature is subservient to the idealist, narrative or spiritual realms. Out of this comes all manner of religions, from Scientology to neoconservativism.

Marxism, on the other hand, see concrete and abstract realities as a dynamic, ever-changing unity, with the material world as the first and last but not the only reality. The Marxist method works on a dynamic of concrete->abstract->concrete - precisely the same, I am interested to note, as the Maat current, despite their founder's rather glib dismissal of "Marx-Leninism".

Marxism used to be often described as "scientific socialism". This phrase has fallen into disuse, corrupted by its application to the dull, mechanical materialism (backed with messianic phraseology) of Stalinism. Stalinism, as we all know (*cough*Lysenko*cough*) was pretty fuckin' far from scientific. Modern descendents of Stalinism, like the Cuban government, betray this heritage when they talk about "moral education" about the joys of working hard and living frugally as the key to inoculating their populations from the images of material abundance promised by Western propaganda. I dunno about you, but I'm sufficiently old-fashioned that I still like Marx's original vision that socialism would mean a higher material quality of life for the vast majority.

I also want to reclaim what the greenies sneeringly refer to as the "Promethean" myth at the heart of Marxism - the idea that the aim is "man's power over nature" - or, to put it in a more hippy-friendly idiom, the sovereignty of consciousness over mechanical matter and social egregores. Knowledge is power - to be able to control what's real you need a damn firm grasp of what is real and what is the "common sense" of your personal and social reality-tunnel. That's the basis of the scientific method. Most modern Western occultists seem to have given up the search for "what is real" and confined themselves to looking for a new and more fun religion. Well, to hell with that.

Chaos Marxism calls for a firm commitment to what both Marx and Crowley would have recognized as science - dismissal of all myths, firm concentration on what forms of belief and systems of knowledge enable you to measurably and predictably cause changes in material and objective reality. Everything has to begin and end in the $2.99 material world (what the Maatians call "Level 10"), and if you're not doing that, you're not doing real magick, you're just astrally wanking. The reality-tunnels of middle-class Westerners who can afford to patronise occult bookstores are not the measure of success, but the thousands of millions of people living in poverty and oppression on this planet, and the ecological sustainability of human civilisation itself. (I do note that since the ecological question came up in pressing fashion, the hard core "there is no significant objective reality" crowd seem to have shut up a bit. Nothing is designed to ensure your belief in gravity more than falling out of a plane.)

I do note, in passing, that the CM aphorism that "nothing is more fatal to magickal success than a magical (i.e. idealist) worldview" is shared by Don Webb of the Temple of Set (we thought of it independently, honest!) And here's a good article giving solipsism a slapping, from a guy who's written a book on Pop Culture Magick that I really have to buy.

01 November 2007

A new aphorism

Che Guevara said "if you are a revolutionary, make a revolution." Similarly: if you are a Renaissance man, start a Renaissance.