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.)