08 December 2012

Choose Your Illusion

The radical therapist David Smail argues that Margaret Thatcher’s view that there’s no such thing as society, only individuals and their families, finds `an unacknowledged echo in almost all approaches to therapy’. Therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy combine a focus on early life (a kind of psychoanalysis-lite) with the self-help doctrine that individuals can become masters of their own destiny. Smail gives the immensely suggestive name magical voluntarism to the view that `with the expert help of your therapist or counsellor, you can change the world you are in the last analysis responsible for, so that it no longer cause you distress’. (source)

This is vital to the point of being a "missing link" in the Chaos Marxist argument. We are against magical voluntarism (related to "magical thinking" in the negative sense of the term) and for magick in the sense of "creating change in accordance with will" (or Intention, to use our preferred nomenclature). The latter encourages responsibility - the former encourages victim-blaming, a "just so" attitude to the status quo (the people in charge made the right wishes), and quietism on behalf of the oppressed (if you fail it's because you deserved it, you thought bad thoughts etc.)

Interesting that Buddhist meditation is vulgarly described as a mechanism of thought control, when the point is that one does quite the opposite - abdicates the attempt to control thought, but also prevents thought from controlling action.

The neoliberal abolition of the public sphere and its replacement with privatised exclusive fora - shopping malls, gated communities, internet forums where you can talk only with people who share your prejudices or fixed ideas - is in itself the abolition of scientific objectivity and its replacement with "buy your own insane delusionary reality on the Free Market place of Opiates of the Masses". We have watched with hilarity as the Republican Party in the US have crashed on the electoral rocks after making a collective decision over the last thirty years that "perception = reality". They really thought they could make themselves beat Obama by telling themselves over and over again that they were going to. It's not just a cynical lie they tell to control the people - this is what our ruling classes actually believe.

Of course, this is another argument for exogamy, in that You Can't Hide From Reality if you have any interest in affecting it, but I think OtL has covered that nicely in his recent radio show.

07 December 2012

Love and Anger

Love and Anger are both forms of Intention - preserving and destroying, respectively, whereas Creativity is a third form. If you have to believe in a Trinity, believe in that one. Blessed St Ernesto said that revolutionaries were motivated by love, but surely we can all see that the good ones are motivated by anger and creativity as well.

Intention is sovereign, in that it burns through Habit (automatic action, without intention, alienation, reification, Unreality). If we can speak of God as something which is not real but makes reality possible, then God is Intention, and a "divine" or "perfected" human being is one who acts entirely in accordance with Intention, rather than in accordance with habit or reaction.

25 November 2012

Queen of the sciences

If theology can be described as "the understanding of the stories that really matter in a particular culture", then perhaps what Chaos Marxism is attempting is materialist theology. (God / The Other World exist to the extent that we behave as if they exist.) This goes beyond "literary criticism", "film studies" or "cultural studies" in that we want to examine how ideology is produced and reproduced at all levels of our society, what factors in society contribute to the acceptance and thriving of various memes/ideologemes... and thus how to create a countermovement to the current productive system through the unity of workers and art / psychology / practical spirituality (to supplement the unity of workers and science which Rosa Luxemburg defined as the purpose of a revolutionary party).

Perhaps what I really want is a discipline of ideology in the sense of psychology, sociology, etc. And memetics, then, becomes to ideology what genetics is to evolutionary biology.

16 November 2012

He who smelt it, dealt it

... or less crudely, The Tar-Baby Principle ("you are attached to what you attack"); or simply "criticism says more about the critic than the criticised". Case in point - the iron rule is that someone who angrily accuses someone else of a crime is quite obviously guilty of that precise thing and projecting, no matter whether the accusation is valid or not. Watch the Israeli Defence Force happily tweeting about how many civilians they've killed to make sure that civilians won't be killed. This is the Jungian "shadow effect" - what anyone hates and fears most is their own disavowed, repressed self.

Amazingly enough, the Sparts said something sensible once. When Stalin killed all those Polish offiers in the Katyn Forest, the Nazis went running to the Red Cross and anyone else who would listen yelling "OMG BARBARIC ATROCITY!" And they were right. But the crucial point is that this shows that the Nazis knew right from wrong, they knew perfectly well what a barbaric atrocity was, it was just all right when they did it themselves. I believe there is an acronym in American politics called IOKIYAR  that you might want to google.

The IDF might want to check our Chanology archives to find out what happens when you piss off the internet.

13 November 2012

Tribal Love (trigger warning: rapist scumbags)

You can't hide from God because he's bigger than you, and you can't hide from kyriarchical class-society because it's inside you and me. A vital insight shared by Chaos Marxism and Materialist Esthetix (and all decent mystical/artistic currents) is that the ego itself is a material product of class society, and "you" are what you are because you grew up where you were with the genes from your biological parents.

Therefore, the fundamentalist commandment to "come ye out from among them" - to "shield" the True Believers from the wicked wicked world - is totally counterproductive. Liberal secularists seem to think that Catholic priests rape children because of their tradition of celibacy or because of their religion. Hardly. They rape children because they can get away with it, and that applies to non-religious organisations such as the Scouting movement, the BBC, and... you guessed it, small socialist groups, especially the kind which (for example) insist that their members all live together and maintain party discipline at, er, parties.

This is the natural outcome of tribalism - the idea that we have to "have the back" of Our Fellow In-Group Members, no matter what scumbucket behaviours they get up to. Are your tendency-mates in another country doing something really dumb? To say so in public makes YOU the bad guy. Has your comrade in your own country been doing something really nasty? The correct thing to do is to ignore the allegations as politically motivated lies and smear the accusers. (EDIT:  until they're involved in a split or a faction fight which you're on the other side of. Then you trot out the blackmail material.)

I've said before that the only cure for this is exogamy - deliberately socialising and forming relationships with non-members of your particular Saved Sect - as a corrective to the fact that ten people in a room can talk themselves into anything. You can't live differently in this world - there is no such thing as an island of liberation in a sea of capitalism/wickedness. And I'm sorry to my Cuban solidarity friends, but "our enemies make us do it" is not an adequate excuse.

08 November 2012

On rejoining the reality-based community

But Obama really won, Maddow said. “And he really was born in Hawaii, and he really is legitimately President of the United States, again, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate last month, and the Congressional Research Service really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy, and the polls were not screwed to oversample Democrats, and Nate Silver was not making up fake projections about the election to make conservatives feel bad, Nate Silver was doing math, and climate change is real, and rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes, and evolution is a thing, and benghazi was an attack on us, it was not a scandal by us, and nobody is taking away anyone’s guns, and taxes have not gone up, and the deficit is dropping, actually, and saddam hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, and the moon landing was real, and FEMA is not building concentration camps, and you UN election observers are not taking over Texas, and moderate reforms of the regulations on the insurance industry and the financial services industry in this country are not the same thing as communism.”

(Yet before liberals, socialists or anyone to the left of Genghis Khan get too smug... before you pop someone else's own reality-tunnel, make sure your own isn't leading you in the wrong direction. There's some pretty impressive reality-denying going on on our side of the fence as well.)

01 November 2012


... a new and friendlier comments system, thank you OTL for your suggestion.

Two new aphorisms

  1. The essence of being human is yearning for what is not; from this stems our ability to labour, i.e. to make images in our minds real things in the real world. To be satisfied with the World-As-Is (the Black Iron Prison), therefore, is to be no longer human;  while to despairing of our ability to change the World-As-Is, to bring a little of the Palm Tree Garden into it (to accept alienation, in other words) is to be subhuman. As Rumi put it, "Seek pain* and unfulfilment!"
  2. As religion is the opiate of the masses, seeking to alter-is and not-is reality is the opiate of just about everyone. "Humankind cannot bear very much reality", as T. S. Eliot put it - the outcome of reification and alienation is (for both elites and subalterns) to escape into a wish-fulfilment, magical-thinking fantasy world. As some Satanist I once read said, "magical thinking is the antithesis of magick" - denying reality (science, etc) or pretending it doesn't exist never changed it. To quote the Church of the SubGenius once again (the real one, not the unfunny plagiarist Bob Dean's cheap knockoff): "You can believe you're not going to hell, but you must first face the truth that you are in hell now."

(* The Moorcock quote in the graphic is quite accurate: the question is whether "destroying yourself" is the goal or something to be avoided. CM would suggest that the answer lies in the definition of "self".)

31 October 2012

How to create an alternate reality

1) Find actors who're willing to play the Good Guy and the Black Hat respectively.
2) Find an audience desperately searching for a narrative to explain stuff that their previous ideology can't comprehend.

Good directors/showrunners/scriptwriters can keep this going indefinitely, and will be able to get their audience to buy the advertised products (or vote) in order to keep the show going on. The BBC's Adam Curtis explains how it's done in shocking but unsurprising detail.

24 September 2012

In defence of cult leaders

So does anyone start a mind-control cult on purpose? It is rumoured that a certain rummed-out science fiction writer started his "applied religious philosophy" solely and purely as a money-making scheme. It is certainly tempting - and much much easier - to assume that all the televangelists, half-baked jihadi imams, crooked Buddhist monks and leaders of tiny socialist sects out there do so in conscious and pure selfishness, seeking nothing more than to make a living without having to produce anything of value, and giggling at their success in pilfering funds from the sheeplike Pinks.

One thing I'm slowly but surely learning is that anything that's easy is probably dead wrong. James Cannon, the American Trotskyist leader, said that anyone does anything for two reasons: "a good reason, and the real reason". Let us start from a principle that Marxism, Islam and Scientology all hold clear - people are basically good, although forgetful and easily confused. Indeed, LRH himself - in a moment of interesting personal insight - suggested that if people get trapped in a spiral of evil behaviour, they end up "doing themselves in" to save the world from themselves.

The Alexander Technicians and the followers of Gurdjieff all agree that "it is difficult to overestimate the power of habit" - that people start doing counterproductive things and they keep doing them because they come to accept that as the "new normal". A Marxist description of ideology is that it's an "imaginary solution to a real problem" - we could connect all these with Bourdieu's concept of habitus, that your habitual patterns of behaviour becomes your identity and that to give them up just because they're counterproductive is the equivalent of death. And the Sufis take seriously the Prophet's injunction to "die before you die" (equivalent of Jesus's "be born again", I suppose).

So the argument I'm making is that perhaps all these cult leaders begin by actually believing that their methods are what's best for them, their disciples and the world. Nothing survives which is purely evil - the important thing to remember is that all lies with staying power are based on an element of truth, or that all ideologies are false extrapolations from real data. So any cult leader's practice will be a combination of real "juice" and ego-gratifying bullshit. A good reason - and a real reason - for ordering people around.

But the time comes when the cult's practice comes up against obstacles in the real world. At that point, the guru has two choices - the hard one, which would be to give up his/her ego-gratification, or the easy one, to give up the confrontation with reality (and remember that Reality is the Sufi name for God), and to turn the cult inward and to play God over their own little world. Jim Jones, in other words. God can destroy the world if he wants to. Take it away, Wikipedia:

One goal in the study of Thelema within the magical Order of the A∴A∴ is for the magician to obtain the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel: conscious communication with their own personal daimon, thus gaining knowledge of their True Will.[66] The chief task for one who has achieved this goes by the name of "crossing the abyss";[67] completely relinquishing the ego. If the aspirant is unprepared, he will cling to the ego instead, becoming a Black Brother. Rather than becoming one with God, the Black Brother considers his ego to be god.[68] According to Crowley, the Black Brother slowly disintegrates, while preying on others for his own self-aggrandisement.[69]

And that's where cult leaders come from. But the important thing to realise is they wouldn't have gotten there if they hadn't been trying to do something useful (as well as gratify their egos). It's just that they failed the final test, or decided it was too hard.


By the way, we're coming up to the 6th anniversary of Chaos Marxism, and I should explain that the reason I don't contribute that often is that I'm starting to become aware of how much nonsense my own ego spouts in an effort to make itself important. Thanks for your continued interest.

20 August 2012

A Chaos Marxist essay assignment...

Compare and contrast Crowley's admonition on "lust of result" with the Alexander Technique's criticism of "end-gaining", and describe how a similar attitude might be built into political strategy, with special reference to the means-end relationship set out in Their Morals and Ours.

11 August 2012

The saddest thing Ï ever read

“I’m no longer on world-changing missions. Because once I let go of the fantasy, once I said no more, I realized I hadn’t been changing the world. I was playing pretend with someone who was using me to perpetuate his own imaginary world.”
The feeling of abused trust from someone who honestly wanted to make a difference should be familiar to the vast majority of those who have been in a Leninist or anarchist group over the last thirty years. I even wrote a song (and a pretty good one) on the subject. Here's the world of small-group psychosis, once again, with relevance to two of our favourite subjects - corporate Scientology and otherkin.

(Reading about the FFVII cult was one of my inspirations for starting this blog, although I'm disappointed that they didn't mention the guy who thinks he's Neo from The Matrix. He was one of my favourites and commented here once, although truthofthespoon.net seems to have gone down.)

23 July 2012

Habit kills.

Habit kills the Holy Spirit, the revolutionary élan. Habit makes life easier at the expense of making creativity impossible - of becoming a slave to cause and effect. The mere fact that Leninist sects put "establishing a routine" (of paper sales, branch discussions, etc.) at the top of their priorities shows that they'll never be any use in an actual revolution. And then you get "reformist leaders" who tell everyone else to change their habits, while their own go unexamined.

Every form of psychology, revolutionary politics, true poetry or magic is about editing and deleting Habit. And that's probably all that Chaos Marxism has ever had to say.

Chaos Marxism in 1844

In 1844 we find Engels writing... a letter to the editor defending an "author of several Communist books" - Abbe Constant, who, under the name he later adopted - EIiphas Levi - would become the most renowned of French occultists.
Constant was a close friend of pioneer socialist-feminist Flora Tristan, whose Union Ouvriere (Workers' Union, 1842) was the first work to urge working men and women to form an international union to achieve their emancipation. One of the most fascinating personalities in early French socialism, Tristan was given a place of honor in The Holy Family, zealously defended by Marx from the stupid, sexist gibes of the various counter-revolutionary "Critical Critics" denounced throughout the book.
That Constant became a practicing occultist, and that he and Tristan were for several years closely associated with the mystical socialist and phrenologist Simon Ganneau, "messiah" of a revolutionary cult devoted to the worship of an androgynous divinity, reminds us that Paris in the 1830s and '40s was the scene of a remarkable reawakening of interest in things occult, and that the milieux of occultists and revolutionists were by no means separated by a Chinese wall. A new interest in alchemy was especially evident...
To what extent Marx and/or Engels encountered occultists or their literature is not known, and is certainly not a question that has interested any of their biographers. It cannot be said that the passing references to alchemy and the Philosophers' Stone in their writings indicate any familiarity with original hermetic sources. We do know, however, that they shared Hegel's high esteem for the sixteenth century German mystic and heretic Jacob Boehme, saluted by Marx in the Rheinische Zeitung in 1842 as "a great philosopher." ...
One of the things that may have attracted them to Boehme is the fact that he was very much a dialectical thinker. Dialectic abounds in the work of many mystical authors, not least in treatises on magic, alchemy and other "secret sciences" and it should astonish no one to discover that rebellious young students of Hegel had made surreptitious forays onto this uncharted terrain in their quest for knowledge.
This was certainly the case with one of Marx's close friends, a fellow Young Hegelian, Mikhail Bakunin, who often joined him for those all-night discussions at Proudhon's. As a young man the future author of God and the State is known to have studied the works of the French mystic, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin, "The Unknown Philosopher" and "Lover of Secret things" as well as of the eccentric German romantic philosopher, Franz von Baader, author of a study of the mysterious eighteenth-century Portuguese-Jewish mage, Martinez de Pasqual, who is thought by some to have had a part in the formation of Haitian voodoo (he spent his last years on the island and died in Port-au-Prince in 1774), and whose Traite de la reintegration is one of the most influential occult writings of the last two centuries.
Mention of von Baader, whose romantic philosophy combined an odd Catholic mysticism and equally odd elements of a kind of magic-inspired utopianism that was all his own-interestingly, he was the first writer in German to use the word "proletariat"- highlights the fact that Boehme, Paracelsus, Meister Eckhart. Swedenborg, Saint-Martin and all manner of wayward and mystical thinkers contributed mightily to the centuries-old ferment that finally produced Romanticism, and that Romanticism in turn, especially in its most extreme and heterodox forms, left its indelible mark on the Left Hegelian/Feuerbachian milieu. Wasn't it under the sign of poetry, after all that Marx came to recognize himself as an enemy of the bourgeois order?

(from Franklin Rosemont, "Karl Marx and the Iroquois" - available at our old buddy Ben Watson's newest insane project.)

29 June 2012

The Secret

An aphorism:
You can't control people by violating their personal integrity. You can only control them by getting them to violate their own personal integrity. An individual finds it much harder to fight back against their own wrong acts than another's.
The Mafia knows this when it requires you to "make your bones" (kill some poor bastard) before you can join. School bullies know this when they try to provoke a reaction from their victims. Cults both political and religious know this when they break down new members' egos just so they can replace them with one they prepared earlier.

Crucially, the "toy-town Leninist" requirement that comrades publically defend a decision of The Party that they disagree with does that as well, and is a major factor in the self-perpetuating leadership of formally democratic groups such as these. As Althusser says, if you kneel in the same place and pray in the same way for long enough, you'll believe in God.

Self-concept follows behaviour, and that's another aphorism. So "fake it till you make it" works, but make sure you know what you want to "make".

20 June 2012

Communication breakdown

"You've got to know three things to be a witch - what's real, what's not real, and what's the difference", says Lancre University Professor of Headology, Mstrs. Esmeralda Weatherwax. And Chaos Marxism agrees that the essential "insanity" of life under capitalism is the combination of reification and alienation - or, in other words, treating things as people and people as things - and co-comitant commodity fetishism - treating social relations as if they were actual real things.

The important thing is that if you realise that social relations are not real things, then you can "walk through walls", as the saying goes: ignore what other people consider to be the objective laws of physics, as seen in the finales of those great Gnostic movies Dark City and The Matrix. (Scientologists would say "be able to as-is a speeding bullet", which is precisely what Neo does just before jumping into Agent Smith's belly in a really messed-up metaphor.) Of course, this tends to offend the people who're still living in the platonic cave. Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty set fire to a bunch of paper and people acted like they'd just burned down a pile of useful goods, when of course the sum total of useful stuff in the world had not changed. That's called sacrilege against the One True God of 21st Century Global Society.

In summary: if "people" is defined as "ego" (that is, the patterns of behaviour rather than the bipedal body), then real things (inc. our own animal bodies and brains) are more real than people, and people are more real than social relations. However, if you act on that insight as an individual you will be socially isolated. The trick is to bring that insight to a community which acts in a way that that insight becomes "real" for others.

But this requires communication, in the sense of a common ground of meaning. In this way the job of revolutionary mystics is to design a new language.

22 May 2012

Wiederaufbau und Vernichtung

Chaos Marxism states plainly that the biggest organisational enemy (if you're a clam, the basic group engram) is sectarianism or cultlike behaviour. Many socialists/Christians have a wrong idea that "sectarianism" means "being mean to other socialists/Christians". Not so. As Duncan Hallas succinctly explained, it means:
failure to relate to the concrete struggles of workers, however difficult it may be to do so, and to set up utopian schemes as alternatives.
That is, rejecting what really exists in the $2.99 material world (including the things which don't really exist but which humans agree exist - the gods of the tribe, or in the modern world, money) in favour of some scheme that the sect made up themselves.

He quotes Trotsky, and let me edit his quotation a bit to make it more universal:
The sectarian looks upon life as a great school with himself as a teacher there ... Though he may swear by [liberatory principle] in every sentence the sectarian is the direct negation of [actual enlightenment], which takes experience as its point of departure and always returns to it ... The sectarian lives in a sphere of ready-made formulae ... Discord with reality engenders in the sectarian the need to constantly render his formula more precise.
All this boils down to: a sect is a group which considers what happens inside the group more important or more "real" than what happens in the big wide world. They made up something (a group, an ideology, a schema) and made that their world. So the health of the "little world" is considered more important than the "big one", as if just because it's smaller and more cozy it's more "real".

One common outcome of this is that the sect develops "its own justice" to shield its own members from the consequences of their actions (karma). This is of course the logic of the authoritarian, abusive family - "don't you dare tell outsiders what happens in here". So we find the Catholic Church and the ultra-orthodox Jews sheltering child-rapists from real-world justice; we find the Church of Scientology doing everything they can to make sure no Scientologist had to answer for the death of Lisa McPherson.

Speaking of the clams, I've mentioned before Hubbard's idea of ethics which meant if you were doing good things for the group you were allowed to commit sins against basic human decency, but if you weren't "producing" you were punished for the most minor infractions. Who doesn't see this happening every day in actually existing radical groups? We see this in the idea that "good comrades and activists" get excused for, for example, behaving atrociously towards women.

But the point is, any organisation which tries to change the world by drawing hard boundaries between itself and the world is doomed to failure and to become a caricature of itself, just like someone who raises their ego boundaries to the point where they can't actually feel anything outside of their own heads.

16 May 2012

Reflections on "the juice"

Every "current", to use the Thelemite term - i.e. a sustainably self-replicating meme for action and living - is defined by what Robert Fripp calls "the juice", which is nothing other than life. This is to be distinguished from rules (although a current may have rules), in the sense that it is the spirit rather than the letter of the practice.

One way of telling if a current still has "the juice" is to see whether it generates Masters - that is, those who are not able to tell the letter from the spirit of the Law, but are perfectly capable of breaking the letter to preserve the spirit (thus causing the current to be reborn under a new name), and bear the terrible personal costs of doing so. So, an organisation or tradition where people simply reproduce and replicate the insights of a Master (orthodox Trotskyism or corporate Scientology) is dead, dead, dead, and only produces symptoms of brain-death and soul-death in its adherents.

A Master is able to renovate the tradition, and in some ways this may mean being able to abolish the Law in its current form. Robert Fripp closed down Guitar Craft; Brad Warner closed down Dogen Sangha International; but initates of both those orders continue to do the work, under new names. Compare this to the screams of "liquidationism!" hurled at those who suggests that revolutionaries may have other options to organise themselves than toy-town Bolshevism or Seattle-cool-person anarchism. Javad Nurbaksh renovated rather than closed down the Ni'matullahi Order, but he caused massive outrage when he declared that the Order was no longer Shi'ite, or Sunni for that matter.

But yeah, a real Current involves within it the possibility of not only producing a Master but of thereby giving birth to a new Current. The "juice" in Gurdjieff's tradition would be proved by the fact that J. G. Bennett learned from G, and then started his own branch of the work; just as Robert Fripp did for JGB; and how these guys have done for Fripp.


Oh, and while I'm on it:

1. The structure of the ego can be described as a Bottom Line (self-description) and Rules of Behaviour which follow from and reinforce that Bottom Line.
2. The goal of the ego can be said to be avoiding an encounter with the painbody - i.e. the "shadow" part of the ego which is repudiated and repressed.
3. What the ego hates the very most is others who do things which are most strongly against its Rules of Behaviour, and therefore most strongly repressed into the painbody. This is trivially obvious, and even a joke when it comes to homophobia and other anti-sex Rules of Behaviour, but I don't think I realised its deeper applicability until now.

14 May 2012

Poetry in motion

Poetry is where art, language and the unconscious mind come together and have dirty, dirty sex. (No, that's not an Aphorism). So the question of "true poetry" - defined by Robert Graves as the kind of words that make your hair stand on end, words that have inherent meaning in their sound and rhythm as well as their denotative meaning, where the signifier is itself a signified - is very close to the questions we pose on this blog of depth psychology, practical memetic warfare and "changing one's mind" in the literal sense of the term.

Robert Graves claimed in his seminal (or should that be menstrual?) work The White Goddess that "true poetry" was indistinguishable from the True Religion, which was (in his estimation, based on well-meaning pseudoanthropology which was in fashion of the time) the cult of the Mother Goddess and her twin son/lovers expressed in the seasonal cycle. The initiatory tradition of this sacred poetry, he argued, was alive and well in the Welsh and Irish bardic colleges, among others, but had been lost and driven underground by Christianity. He set himself the goal, in his book, of recreating the basis of that tradition, although he expressly said he didn't consider himself qualified to draw any practical conclusions from it or to start initiating people himself. (Nonetheless, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes apparently had a little domestic cult of the White Goddess going, in which case, Sylvia should have killed Ted instead of the other way around.)

You see, that's the big problem with neo-Paganism. The initiatory tradition of the Western Indo-European Mysteries was broken and a soufflé doesn't rise twice no matter how much wishful thinking you put into it. I spent ten years in that tradition so I know what I'm talking about. Oh, Gerard Gardner got some fragmented folk-magic rituals, jazzed it up with some Crowley and some S&M and started his own ritual lineage, with blackjack, and hookers. But does it have the "true poetry"? Not being a Gardnerian intiate, I can't speak for them, but for me, all the reconstructed paganisms - or like most traditions of Wicca, the ones who claim to be reconstructed - lack it. I can explain this no better than in the words of Leonard Cohen: "A scheme is not a vision / and you never have been tempted / by a demon or a god".

In the absence of a formal intiatory Tradition which still maintains "true poetry" - or what Robert Fripp calls "the juice" - all you have left is what Sufis call an `Uwaysî initiation, i.e. Goddess Herself comes down and taps you on the shoulder and you say me? the chosen one? and I didn't even graduate fuckin' high school. And there's no way you can make that happen, although you can prepare for it just in case. I would say that the paths of modern cults like Discordianism and SubGenius suggests that "the juice" was at least there for a while, and maybe still is, who can tell.

However, in my own personal life, I got tired of waiting for the tap on the shoulder and ventured outside my own cultural background into an intact (although suitably modernised) initiatory tradition. Which brings up the question of how Marxists etc. should react to Burkean arguments that boil down to the idea that "Tradition is like natural selection, it's there for a bloody good reason". Lenin and Trotsky were adamant that there would be no Year Zero, you couldn't start human culture from scratch, that we should take the good bits out of Bourgeois Tradition. So how would Tradition balance with the free creativity of the masses under Full Communism?

I should close with the observation by Hooman Majd: "Not every Sufi is a poet, but all the great Iranian poets were Sufis". And Robert Graves certainly covers Persian poetic lore in his magnum opus. I stopped writing poetry about ten years ago because I got the idea that more people would listen to it if I set it to an electronic beat, but perhaps I need to go back to the purity of the words.

25 April 2012

The counterculture be damned!

Attention Discordians, SubGenii, Goths, Greenies, Thelemites, Chaos Magicians and followers of R. A. Wilson! Your image of utopia has already been co-opted and commercialised. The ruling class took all your good ideas and now uses them to perpetuate its rule. The idea that the system can't handle "true individuals" ignoring social conformity, doing drugs and "fucking like dogs in the street", has been proved wrong by the process of late period consumer capitalism. They sold it back to you.
...our notion about what’s wrong with American life and how the figures responsible are to be confronted haven’t changed much in thirty years. Call it, for convenience, the “countercultural idea.”... As this half of the countercultural idea originated during the 1950s, it is appropriate that the evils of conformity are most conveniently summarized with images of 1950s suburban correctness. You know, that land of sedate music, sexual repression, deference to authority, Red Scares, and smiling white people standing politely in line to go to church.... The ways in which this system are to be resisted are equally well understood and agreed-upon. The Establishment demands homogeneity; we revolt by embracing diverse, individual lifestyles. [...]
Go to any poetry reading and you can see a string of junior Kerouacs go through the routine, upsetting cultural hierarchies by pushing themselves to the limit, straining for that gorgeous moment of original vice when Allen Ginsberg first read “Howl” in 1955 and the patriarchs of our fantasies recoiled in shock. ... But one hardly has to go to a poetry reading to see the countercultural idea acted out. Its frenzied ecstasies have long since become an official aesthetic of consumer society, a monotheme of mass as well as adversarial culture. [...]
Corporate America is not an oppressor but a sponsor of fun, provider of lifestyle accoutrements, facilitator of carnival, our slang-speaking partner in the quest for that ever-more apocalyptic orgasm. The countercultural idea has become capitalist orthodoxy, its hunger for transgression upon transgression now perfectly suited to an economic-cultural regime that runs on ever-faster cyclings of the new; its taste for self-fulfillment and its intolerance for the confines of tradition now permitting vast latitude in consuming practices and lifestyle experimentation. Consumerism is no longer about “conformity” but about “difference.” Advertising teaches us not in the ways of puritanical self-denial (a bizarre notion on the face of it), but in orgiastic, never-ending self-fulfillment. It counsels not rigid adherence to the tastes of the herd but vigilant and constantly updated individualism. We consume not to fit in, but to prove, on the surface at least, that we are rock `n’ roll rebels, each one of us as rule-breaking and hierarchy-defying as our heroes of the 60s, who now pitch cars, shoes, and beer.

Thomas Frank wrote the above in 1995 and very, very little has changed. Capitalism can make a profit from people fucking like dogs in the street, and use those profits to oppress people, just as long as those people keep going to work (or running their small businesses) once the hangovers wear off. This is what you get from dismissing the labour theory of value, and the consecutive belief that consumption choices are political. And that's why all those great "majickians" got jobs as advertising copywriters, why Grant Morrison now writes superhero comics, and they probably think that that's liberation.

Sorry if I seem too combative, but I was always an "outsider" to the great counterculture of the 90's and early Aughties. I didn't get invited to those parties, I couldn't afford those clothes or books, I wasn't offered those good drugs. I was the person who got rejected by the cool mainstream kids AND the cool alternative kids. So it's a little bit schadenfreudlich to see what happened.

23 April 2012

The "held-down-7" model

Chaos Marxism declares that the goal of revolutionary politics is to reconcile the material and the ideological/cultural/spiritual; this world and the next. It distinguishes itself from "false liberation" ideologies, which tend to combine mechanical materialism and the most rank superstitious idealism, and never the twain shall meet.

Stalinism was the Platonic model (heh) of this. "Mechanical materialism" - a hard belief in "management by statistics", in belief of overproduction of tractor factories and Sputniks as the road to social progress - went hand in hand with "voluntarist idealism" - the idea that you could achieve the objectively insane production quotas with enough revolutionary will, and anyone who didn't have that kind of will was a traitor subject to police action. Amazingly enough, this is precisely how the Church of Scientology works, as its schismatics argue. Hubbard theorised the spirit as an immortal being which wasn't bound by the laws of matter/energy/space/time, and simultaneously the mind as a mechanical computer in which every problem boiled down to a "stuck key". Of course, the mind/body/spirit is an internally contradictory complex living system with emergent properties. All words that weren't in common usage in the 1950s, but Uncle Joe and Foul Ole Ron thought they were the ultimate authorities on everything.

Modern consumer capitalism has at least the benefit that it competes against itself so superstition and inefficiency tend to be self-limiting in the field of production, although actively encouraged in the field of consumption. But we still have the "management by stats" - the worship of economic growth, the commodification of everything and the race to the bottom in workers' rights and conditions - at the same time it preaches The Secret, the Prosperity Gospel, and all the other lies that those bad things are happening to ungoodthinkful people. Please note that whenever a Newspeak word is appropriate, things must be really bad.


In personal news, once again actual practice has forced me to backtrack against some of my own "mechanically materialist" formulations in the realm of psychology. Seriously, I used to believe that my ideal scene was to transform myself into some cross between a Dianetic Clear and Mr Spock - never having anger, fear or other misemotion ever again. The works of Brad Warner have done great things in convincing me that this is an insane fantasy, that the truly enlightened continue to have human problems and human emotions until the day of their death. Enlightenment lies, as far as I can see, in being emotional or rational in accordance with what IS, rather than mental image pictures, "shoulds", ideological measuring sticks, etc. You can pick the woman up as long as you put her down again.

12 April 2012

Crimes, cults, karma

Foul Ole Ron said "the only way to control people is to lie to them", which is pretty much accurate. (Most of what he said in the 1950s was accurate in the sense of being a common-sense psychological or spiritual truism. He even warned his followers "if Scientology turns into a mind-control cult it could screw over the whole planet". The extent to which his practice degenerated to the point where he became what he warned against may be the subject of a later post.) But let's expand that to: the only way to enslave someone is to get them to commit crimes.

That's how cults work. The way you ensare someone is to take away their "self-determinism" - get them to violate their own principles, goals, values and ethical system, on the grounds that the greater glory of The Group justifies whatever means. And at that point they realise that if they ever leave the group, they will have to answer for their crimes in the real world, who will not take "we were only following orders" for an answer. Look at the way that Jack Barnes corrupted and destroyed Barry Sheppard by making him do his dirty work.

I've read an argument - I think it was by Alex Callinicos - that that was the real motivation of the Holocaust. The Nazis knew perfectly well that they were committing the worst crime against humanity ever. But that was how they were going to blackmail the German people into fighting to the bitter end. Note that the mass killings of Jews only happened after Stalingrad. Before then, the purpose of the concentration camps was to degrade the Jews to the point where they actually became the snivelling subhumans that Nazi ideology proclaimed them to be. But the murder machines started up, according to this analysis, so that then the Nazis could turn to their subject populations and say - in the immortal words of Bender B. Rodriguez - "Hey! Guess what you're accessories to!"

Law enforcement know this very well, which is why we have the concept of "turning states' evidence" - we will forgive your crimes if you strike a blow at your former group. But then law enforcement's goal is to shut down criminals and groups of criminals. When you're dealing with other groups of people who have a highly developed sense of "right and wrong", or are crusading against something as unreal as an idea, they will tend to turn on renegades from their enemy because at least that's something they can punish. As Marty Rathbun is sadly finding out. Anti-Scientologists are (a) disinclined to forgive him for the crimes he committed due to his former allegiance to a psychopathic leadership; (b) against the idea of Scientology rather than the crimes committed in its name.

03 April 2012

Sure I'm shaking in my shoes as I'm sending out the news

It sickens me to link to the Daily Mail, aka the Daily Heil, but this argument about how CBT is not therapy is very interesting. The argument is basically that CBT patches up the symptoms of mental illness well enough to get you back to work but doesn't actually deal with the sources of the problem. I would suggest that this may be the case for "official" applications of CBT, as the British NHS are doing; but the CBT workbook that I'm using in my personal practice works, as the Scientologists put it, "on a gradient", in that the first part is the kind of psychological first aid / meatball surgery to which Dr James refers, but the second part actually looks at the sources of character aberration (Rules for Living, Bottom Line), which I have found by far the most interesting and useful.

Really, all that "therapy" is, in this regard, is teaching the subject to look at her own mind (habitual patterns of thought and behaviour) objectively, or as the Sufis put it "with the eyes of sincerity and truth". This means an "exteriorising" from the habitual patterns of the ego, which has evolved to survive as best one can in the specific circumstances of growing up - which is why, as Dr James correctly states, learning to look at bad things from your childhood is very important. (The therapist or spiritual guide can serve as a "temporary point of objectivity" until you have your own objectivity, which is why "doing it yourself", or without someone whom you really trust, is much, much harder.) And all this is, CM argues, precisely identical to the Marxist notion of the working class evolving into consciousness of their own real interests and out of dependence on capitalist ideology.

But surely CBT has a point that the first priority should be to stop your ego making things worse for you in the here-and-now? CBT and Marxism agree that consciousness evolves through self-activity. The problem with the past is that it is past, you can't change it, you can only learn to accept it for what it is. But acceptance of past and present reality also means responsibility for your actions in the now, your ability to create the future. If you can't actually take responsibility for everything you do - if you believe that you have to keep making things worse because of bad things that happened when you were little, or that the planet is doomed because capitalism has screwed everyone up beyond redemption - then you really do need someone else making your decisions for you. We make the new world, we make our new selves, with the flawed material we have.

On this subject, I'm also intrigued by the argument that CBT is "un-British" in that it valorises "American" goals such as positive thinking and going for goals. This is a nationalist version of the Marxist argument made in this article, which is quite gobsmacking and shows that some academic leftists are taking the concerns of CM seriously now. The authors' point that Freudian psychoanalysis evolved in an era where the abiding psychic problem of the bourgeoisie was neurosis and guilt, but that these days the representative symptom is depression, really bears further exploration. Depression basically boils down to an incapacity to work or consume properly, which means that you're not doing your job as a subject of capitalism.

So the argument is that "positive thinking" really means "trying to make you fit into the machinery of the Black Iron Prison". So... what is the alternative? I've talked about this before - if you understand that the goals of working hard so you can make big money so you can spend it on leisure items are False Goals implanted by The Bad Guys and there's no real point to it - what do you do then? One of the major problems with actual-existing radical groups is that they end up acting just like capitalist workplaces. Bill Logan used to use bourgeois management-training programmes in his Trotskyist grouplet, or so former members tell us. Tony Cliff said "to defeat an enemy you must be symmetrical to it", but does that mean that revolutionary parties are supposed to exploit the labour-power of their cadres, to expect (as James Cannon did) the cadre to achieve all their personal fulfilment in work/leisure activities endorsed by The Party? Is this not a precise analogy to the "introjection" of traumatising personalities into the psyche - your mother screamed at you so you grow up learning to scream at yourself?

Too many committed revolutionaries are forced out of active politics by political groups which unthinkingly replicate the productivist logic and the "you should be happy doing THIS" moralism of late capitalism. Those who want a new world have to learn to marry dialectical materialism and "metapsychology"/non-dualist spirituality. We have to understand that since our practice creates the new world, we need to be objective from our personal and collective practice. We have to remember that patterns of belief and behaviour which enable the ego/group to survive in a harsh world can be precisely counterproductive to self-actualisation/creating real political change. Loving-kindness is truly revolutionary practice - anything else is creating a new boss who will be the same as the old boss. The discipline of the barracks or of the capitalist workplace have no place in our movement.

Grazie mille to Comrade Seymour for publishing the article which led me to these links.

02 April 2012

Aphorism on goals

If, as various spiritual traditions suggest:

1) life in this $2.99 Material World is a "game" which we consented to in the pre-life area;
2) beings adopt "pretence identities" and "substitute goals" when they feel that they've failed at the Game of Life:

then (aphorism time) the Game of Capitalism can be seen as a substitute for the Game of Real Life. As Marx said, the Game of Life (or History) only begins properly when the Game of Capitalism ends, assuming we still have an ecosystem conducive to advanced human civilisation by then.

Left hand, right hand, Aleister, Ron

This from the comments thread to this post by Village Voice editor Tony Ortega. For those not aware, Marty Rathbun was previously the 2nd-in-charge of the Church of Scientology, and he has since split from that organisation, denounced its leader David Miscavige betraying the legacy of its Founder and running slave-labour camps, and is attempting to start his own Scientologist International, with blackjack, and hookers, and e-meters. (So, these guys are to the Tom Cruise church what Protestants are to Catholics, or Trots are to orthodox Communists.)

I post this as a counterbalance to my recent positive-sounding ruminations on Rathbun's independent Scientology. I think perhaps my ego continues to have a sneaking regard for the subject because it would love to, as Scientology promises, be able to solve all its own problems using rationalism and without surrender. However, I am still intrigued by what seem surface similarities between Scientology and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - in that both claim to be able to "deprogramme" the subconscious mind by extracting, looking at and then "as-is"ing rules of behaviour and assumptions about reality. This "tech" doesn't require an empathic or transference relationship with a therapist, only someone to guide the patient/preclear's self-analysis, a job which can be equally well done by a computer.

Other points: given the points raised about Ron's insane bullshit auto-hagiography, others have pointed out that this is yet another link showing his debt to Crowley. Thelemites have often argued with me that Uncle Al did that deliberately - throwing insane grandiose lies into his writings just to see who'd be enlightened enough to realise they were bullshit. I don't credit Ron with that much self-insight. I also note the points made by other commenters on this thread that Rathbun seems much more interested salvaging those people damaged by the Miscavage/Cruise regime than repackinging "LRH tech" for the broad masses.


One thing that the Scientology Cult fears the most is that the common-sense parts of what is called "auditing" - which exclude trickery and coercion, and exclude subtle psychological manipulation and overwhelm, such as found in the Auditor-Code-violating "Implantology levels" - be recognized and used in a free fashion by independent counselors.

Skydog 7 hours ago
I have to think Rathbun must be a little frustrated at his current predicament. He is trying to defend a subject which is indefensible. I do agree with his premise that Miscavige is doing all in his power to portray Hubbard as a fraud. Fortunately, I did not watch the entire three hour video extravaganza that is the 2012 birthday celebration. Three hours is a long time for decent movie and the thought of watching and listening to the dropout dwarf and mullet head for that time would no doubt lead me to at least suicide ideations, if not attempts.  

The words of LRH [L. Ron Hubbard] go beyond "tall tales" and amount to fraud. Recently, someone asked me why or how anyone would ever get involved in this cult? My response was simply ego. It is a religion marketed on the promise that their "tech" can solve each and every problem-emotional and physical-that plagues the initiate.  The promise of immortality and super powers are powerful motivators for the vainglorious with large amounts of disposable income. These dupes are secure in their belief that the large donations made by them will ultimately contribute to their further success and give the the "super power" that they know LRH possessed. Absent in this fraudulent conduct is any "science" to back up their ridiculous claims. When challenged on this point, they point to faith.

  • Well said. This is precisely why Scientology is not an authentic religion. Authentic spiritual practice is about getting free of your attachment to thousands of ego-desires, not the amassing of power to control everyone and everything to your liking.
    This is authentic spiritual freedom and enlightenment that lies at the heart of the great spiritual traditions of the human race. It costs nothing.
    True spiritual freedom cannot be bought and yet demands that you surrender everything as you burn up your ego-desires in prayer and meditation in the zendo, church, synagogue, mosque, or temple.
  • Some of the very good research in this subject describe the effect of the great spiritual traditions as moving from a dualistic (egoistic) mindset to a nondualistic midset (no "I versus you" dichotomy). 
    Part of this also involves moving to direct unqualified life experience as opposed judgmental qualified experience.  This has been described as presymbolic, or beyond vocabulary.
    So Hubbard, by invented an entire new vocabulary and forcing his members to constantly look up words, he is pushing them back to a dualistic "pigeonholing" experience of life.  This is the opposite of what you're supposed to do.  I see no way around LRH's tech putting people at risk for insanity.
    But that's what you get when you trust a charlatan with your soul.
  • You are describing the "right-hand path." L. Ron Hubbard was a master of the "left-hand path." See http://carolineletkeman.org/sp/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1364&Itemid=92 and http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/02/scientology_and_4.php.
    Most Scientologists don't see themselves as following a left-hand path, however. Letkeman explains: "For its members, Scientology does not qualify as a valid left-hand path.
    Their members are lied to about the true sources of Scientology doctrine
    and about the qualifications and true background of its founder.
    ...  A left-hand path designation can only be assigned to those members in Scientology who are fully cognizant of Hubbard’s sources and true intent. Scientology’s upper management is cognizant of the exact left-hand path that Hubbard left for them—it cannot be other than this. It is only these small few that can legitimately claim to be following a left-hand path."
  • I'm aware that Hubbard practiced black magic, although it is interesting that he wasn't trying to pass that "expertise" on to his followers; rather, he implemented mind control mechanisms. 
    But what I was referring to is the research done on people who have had enlightenment experiences (and there are quite a few).  These were all on the "right hand" path of experience.  The descriptions of peaceful well being are fairly uniform.
    I'm not aware of any research done on the success of "left hand" practitioners, other than the examples of people who seem to have gone insane from the practice, like Hubbard. But I'd be interested in any references:)  That Letkeman article was interesting.

  • 27 March 2012

    Sturm & Drang (or: back to psychology)

    Chaos Marxism Aphorism #1 is: you are what you do. (I just found out the other day that this is also a lyric from a KMFDM song, cool beans.) And what you do is about 80-90% habit and conditioning, the power of which "it is difficult to exaggerate" (R. Fripp). It's just more efficient to run on automatic, even though you become half-ape and half-robot instead of a human being.

    You can't change "what you are" - your wants, needs, desires, likes, dislikes, etc. - in any direct sense because you don't have the kind of objectivity necessary. "The only thing more powerful than the human mind is the human ego" (I. Stang). But your habits and conditioned reflexes are learned in the process of daily life - problems are usually solutions to previous problems (Hubbard) and if you kneel in the same place and recite the same prayers for long enough you will believe in God (Althusser).

    And it is possible to do so consciously, as an act of will - you can change, first, your conscious choices of behaviour; and, secondly, learn to notice your habits and conditioned reflexes, at which point you can begin "reprogramming" them gradually, using magick or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or psilocybin or Scientology or revolutionary political struggle, whatever's most convenient at the time. Of course, you can only do this through practice, which - when we translate this into politics - means that simply lecturing the workers about how they and the boss class has nothing in common will just get them pissed off at you. To do any good, your activism must have practical suggestions for the here and now which reinforce your goal-message.

    Perhaps "you cannot walk the path without a Master" (Rumi) because the Master offers a necessary "stable datum amid confusion" (Hubbard) to act as a truly objective reference point. And to be a stable datum you must submit to that stable datum absolutely, no matter whether it's actually "good" in any objective sense. This is why "any act based on principle is a good one" (R. Fripp), and why some people have even got positive results from the teachings of Joseph Smith or Bhaghwan Shree Rajneesh. But eventually the goal would be to "find the Master (or the hero) inside yourself" - uncover the heart as an internal stable datum, not the endlessly fickle feline ego/nafs.

    The Scientology goal of "clearing the reactive mind" - i.e. having no habits or conditioned reflexes - seems foolish. Imagine if you had to remember to breathe, as apparently some psychonauts have ended up doing to themselves. No, the more feasible goal is to be fully conscious of all your habits, and edit them in accordance with Love and Will.

    Couple of fun readings for you: my old buddy Michael Lebowitz argues against John Holloway that you have to struggle against the Black Iron Prison, not just opt out of it, since only struggle makes it possible for you to learn to live outside a prison cell (see above); and our favourite junkie queer literary genius William S. Burroughs reminds us that, at one point in the past, cool people like himself and Leonard Cohen were attracted by L. Ron's research project.

    (Note by those offended by the positive references to Scientology teachings and concepts: L. Ron Hubbard was a massive plagiarist and of course even a blind squirrel finds a few tasty nuts once in a while, and it's those "tasty nuts" that Independent Scientologists are interested in promoting, rather than that bat-shit crazy stuff about Xenu or the fascist antics of the existing "Church" run by pope-on-a-box David Miscavige.)

    25 March 2012

    We interrupt this programme...

    I just received this email via an electric bicycle forum, would you believe.

    Dear Anonymous,
    The purpose of this message is to inform you about the Revolution:
    Please, watch the "Nazi Banksters' Crimes Ripple Effect" movie to find out why, how, and to have sound arguments to persuade others. The movie can be easily found with a search engine.
    Please, print the flyers at 2012jubilee.info and distribute them.
    Please, spread this message and the movie to everyone you know. 
    Ah, Anon. If only revolution - of the kind which really changes things, as opposed to "colour revolution / meet the new imperialist-approved puppet, same as the formerly imperialist-approved puppet" were that simple. But I must say this is exciting and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

    I think people of the future will realise what a huge impact the Wachowski siblings have had on the culture of the Internet age. Everyone knows what The Matrix (the original movie) did - pretty much bring Gnostic/Buddhist ideas into the mainstream - but V for Vendetta, even though it was a pretty craptacular rewrite of Alan Moore's excellent graphic novel, and it embraces conspiracy theories in quite a reactionary manner, gave birth to Anonymous as a political project.

    20 March 2012

    Mike Ely is a good guy

    When I started writing stuff like this five-and-a-half years ago, I did so under a pseudonym because I anticipated the gales of mocking, condescending laughter from the tough-guy RRRRRevolutionaries who knew that only ideas and words were important and soft, fuzzy stuff like "culture" and "emotion" could be left to fend for itself, if not an actual impediment to the struggle. But perhaps the time has now come.

    Anyway, follow the Kasama Project - they come from a Maoist tradition, we were originally Trots, but the Truth Is One and all those who sincerely seek the Truth Are One.

    03 March 2012

    And it's a big ZDRAVO...

    ... to our new Croatian-speaking readers. I have quite a good friend who supports Hajduk Split.

    02 March 2012

    A correction (a cat is fine too)

    Some readers from the Discordian community have expressed dissatisfaction with certain formulations I've made in the past, and with my vague comments that "I don't necessarily stand by everything I've said here over 5 and a half years". So it gives me pleasure to actually be able to stand up and correct/disavow an incorrect formulation in one of my "primer" texts. I quote from "The One Key and Nine Commitments of CM":

    On the micro-level, Chaos Marxism stands for the ruthless "obedience training" of the ego. Imagine that your ego is a badly trained dog - it barks when not necessary, it requires far more attention than it really needs, it humps your leg or otherwise annoys you when you're trying to do something. But you don't need to take it out and shoot it, you just need to teach it that its perceptions are not reality and it should submit to rationality and discipline. You'll all be happier that way.
    I retract this metaphor of "ego-as-dog" in favour of a much better one I heard from a Turkish Sufi sheikha the other day: ego-as-cat. A cat has many fine qualities, but it is also utterly and completely selfish and in it for what it can get. Whereas a dog wants to please its human Pack Leader and is willing to submit to discipline if yelled at enough.

    The "ego-as-dog" metaphor, I think, came out of my own ego wanting to sound "tough-ass" and perhaps provoke someone into arguing with me. But it would also explain why I put myself through a lot of unnecessary suffering over the last year. I've been trying to obedience-train a cat. You can understand why I might not have been doing myself any good.

    So, if your ego is a cat, you can't yell at it or punish it, it will either not get what you're on about or just go and piss on something valuable of yours or otherwise take revenge. In contrast, if "you" feed your ego tasty treats in return for not doing things that annoy "you", it'll be easier for all concerned.

    Note that this presumes that you have somewhere to make decisions from other than your ego, which is a big "if". Ideally appealing to the spirit, or God-however-defined, would be called for, but if we could do that we wouldn't be in this mess. Short of that, we have to at least appeal to the ego to make conscious decisions to achieve its goals, rather than going along on blind habit that is ingrained into its chosen Identity.

    (I just realised that the sections of the ego we can appeal to to attempt to act consciously are intellect, and will. The parts of the ego that are "cat like", on the other hand are emotion and physicality. So that's the four traditional Hermetic "elements" covered, and you have to balance them before spirit can peep through. You want alchemy? They turn the roses into gold.)

    This is probably what the Sufis mean by saying that "the nafs gets stronger in the process of transcending itself" - that you've got to build up the intellect and will parts of the ego so you are capable of actually doing things from intention rather than from bad habit or reptilian/primate urges, before you can even think of "transcending the ego". Even doing bad, antisocial, unpleasant things because you want to is a step up from, for example, having to tell the judge that you don't even know why you raped and murdered that girl in 1990.

    And that is probably where I've been going wrong all this time. Thinking I could jump from the thought of "this is what I want to do" to actually doing it. Impatience is a major personal defect of mine.

    01 March 2012

    Go cats go!

    I am following the outcomes of this class with rapt interest, and not just because they stroked my ego by putting this blog on their reading list. This is the kind of thing that I always hoped Ultraculture would turn into, and I look forward to seeing whether the results of their reality-tunnel-hacking can be shared and replicated with the broader Occupy movement.

    Chaos Marxism Manifesto 3.0

    (or, What We Have Learned So Far)

    All right. This is an insane mash-up of Sufism, Gurdjieff/Bennett/Fripp psychology, Robert Anton Wilson, CBT, and Marxist theories of ideology including Gramsci, Althusser and Eagleton. There's even a bit of Dianetics, the abreaction therapy which got real results before its rummed-out sci-fi-writing developer decided to turn it into a mind control cult. You ready for this?


    You have a body, you have a nafs (ego), you have an intellect, and what is "you" past all that we call "heart" or "spirit".

    The nafs is the part of the mind which lives in the here-and-now and adapts to it as best it can. The nafs is like a cat: with many admirable qualities and not "bad" in any way, but utterly and completely selfish and forgetful about anything which isn't about fulfilling its needs. That's just its nature.

    The intellect is a tool, a list of rules of logic. The Arabic word for intellect is 'aql which literally means "hobble". If your nafs is a camel or a donkey, your intellect is what prevents it running amok and eating all the dates, smashing up the tent, or just running to the hashish plantation and eating itself silly.

    The spirit, Sufis say, is a "guest" in this $2.99 Real World Of Horrible Jobs, which lives in the house of the nafs. It comes from "elsewhere". It's an emergent phenomenon, not amenable to rules of logic.


    The primary way that the nafs negotiates Life-As-It-Is is to build at least one IDENTITY: a "character", a script, a bunch of rules, set up to negotiate the challenges, games and rules of the Real World of Horrible Jobs successfully. "I am this - I am NOT that".

    The nafs' needs are therefore those which will make the identity stronger - build up the "I" and its defences against the "not-I". Althusser put it this way, that the identity is interpellated by social structure - society provides the rules and the nafs "rolls up" a character to play them.

    But let us also note that most people have more than one Identity, and we're not just talking about DID/MPD people here. You are not the same person when talking to your boss, your best friend, your aunty, your lover or to the cop who's trying to arrest you on a demo. The question is of course whether these Identities are part of a unified complex, whether they're at cross-purposes, or whether sometimes they're unaware of each other, or at least pretend to be.

    The example of what I'm talking about is the senior Buddhist monk I read about in Thailand, who was in the habit of sneaking out of the monastery late at night, putting on a wig and a fake general's uniform, and cruising the casinos and whorehouses. Similar of course to all those homophobic politicians in the USA found hiring rent boys to "lift their luggage" and similar. Such people are not necessarily conscious hypocrites, but might have two or more Identities, each attempting to get a piece of "the good stuff" that a particular society has to offer, even if one is doing all kinds of things that the other is shocked and appalled by. Someone who splits up their Identity enough can have their cake and eat it too, until someone else notices the bookkeeping errors.

    When we say "selfish", though, we may mean enlightened or benighted, depending on how far out from the body the nafs draws its boundaries. The nafs is there to provide for the body's needs but it also has needs of its own. Sometimes the nafs puts its own needs ahead of the body's needs, tending to ill health. Or other times the nafs will put the needs of others ahead of its own immediate needs, in order to build up its chosen identity (e.g. sacrificing lots of time, energy and resources on an organisation, family members, etc).

    Being a good provider for one's family or a community volunteer might be the nafs' way of getting its needs met, especially if it has a good relationship with the intellect. This is why following "rules", as in dogmatic religion or politics, does not defeat the nafs - it just creates the new "Good Person" identity, but it's just another identity, perhaps weaker and stronger in different parts than the old one, but no more creative. And we keep saying, "revolutionary" can be a pretty constricting identity as well - just another set of rules to follow. In fact, as we will explore below, a revolutionary, like a master musician or a darvish, is called up to serve creativity above all.


    CBT analyses an identity as composed of a Bottom Line and Rules of Behaviour. We teach our children them various rules which will enable them to play social games effectively, and to use their intellect to work out ways in which the nafs can get what it wants without evoking the wrath or opposition of others. And also, all through our lives, we develop further and secondary Rules based on our experience.

    Bottom Lines might be seen as being composed of various mental "film clips"  - either memories or fantasies with the label THIS MUST HAPPEN or THIS MUST NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. These pictures are so painful they are shoved into the "unconscious" (the "id", the part of the mind which is "not-me" according to the Identity and thus actively ignored) and keep running on automatic without the identity having any conscious clue about why things keep going wrong. ("Why do I keep doing stupid / self-destructive things like that?")

    So: therefore, much "unnecessary suffering" is caused by the nafs running one or more Identity "programmes" based on childlike, faulty, incomplete or obsolete Bottom Lines / Rules of Behaviour.  It is difficult to underestimate the power of habit. People will keep on with Rules of Behaviour which solved one problem a long time ago but never got shut off, and therefore become the new, hidden problem.

    It becomes even more complicated because the Identity will try to deliberately keep the mental film-clips running, because to switch them off will deprive the Identity of its raison d'être. An Identity will defend its own existence at all costs. Mindfulness practice will allow one to individually monitor these processes, find the Rules of Behaviour they embody. But it's very hard. All the nafs wants to do is to go back to running on automatic, which is so much easier (less effort).

    We've already mentioned CBT, which deals with these thought/emotion complexes by questioning them - using the intellect as a tool to erase them gradually. Abreactive therapy (eg. Hubbard's Dianetics) aimed to erase these mental pictures (engrams) by consciously recalling them and feeling the pain which went along with them, to relieve the need to keep them running consciously. I've got good results from solo abreactive therapy like the Universal Conscious Process, but it only works if there's a safe space in which you can feel these feelings without pulling the emergency stop button.

    Which brings me to the most important question of why psychotherapy is so difficult: the nafs will fight stubbornly protect itself and the Identities it creates. The counsellor will be in a therapeutic alliance with the intellect, but the nafs will be scheming to try to figure out how to keep its own little games going. So trained counsellors who can provide such a safe space are generally worth the expense - for exactly the same reason that in Sufism one must have a spiritual master (someone who has actually learned to submit nafs to spirit) to make any progress.

    But really, all psychology is a subset of the tools of reality tunnel hacking, for which see below...


    We want to minimise or eliminate "unnecessary suffering" to leave as much emotional and physical energy necessary to (a) meet the being's own real as opposed to imaginary needs to survive in this world; (b) undergo the necessary suffering of creating something new in this world.

    Creativity - i.e. introducing something into the world which wasn't there before - comes from the spirit. What else comes from the spirit is last-ditch holding operations when the nafs has lost control of a situation and can't help itself. (Hence mothers ripping car doors off their hinges to save the kids, people's "fairy godmothers" coming to them in a dream and telling them not to kill themselves, and all other "I never realised I had it in me" moments.)

    So each act of creativity is "fighting against gravity" - a guest in the house persuading her host to change how she does things and also her friends and neighbours. It is inherently unlikely. Fighting against gravity spends time, energy and resources to merely stand still - it is suffering. It is also worthwhile.

    If we (intellectually) decide we want more creativity in our life, then our task is to make our house welcoming for the spirit. An Arabic proverb is that "the nafs is fed from the mouth, the spirit is fed from the ear". I'm sure you can think of various ways that you can declutter your life a bit so you can have more room for creativity.


    A REALITY TUNNEL is the subset of the whole sensory experience of life as coloured by the Identity's need to divide the universe into "me" and "not-me".
    The broad mass majority of people forget that they built their identity and believe that they ARE their identity, and that their reality-tunnel IS reality. In fact, particularly in "intellectuals" (people who use their intellect as their primary tool for dealing with reality), quite often they'll adopt the reality tunnel first, and then "naturally" assume the Identity which goes with it.

    As Althusser put it, if you kneel in the same place and pray for long enough you WILL believe in God, sooner or later. Wise people know, therefore, that their own reality tunnel limits them, and strive towards objectivity. Any idiot knows that someone else's reality tunnel is limiting them, and set themselves the goal of changing their minds through brute force, trickery or simple drudging repetition.

    To use Gramsci's terminology, "common sense" is the rules that your nafs has learned about how to hold its Identity together in the World-As-Is. "Good sense" is what you learn from your own practice. "Common sense" is much easier to follow.

    This is where "magick", variously defined as "folk parapsychology" or "the art and science of changing consciousness in accordance with will", comes in. All the magickal rituals boil down to is an individual attempting to "hack" their own reality tunnel, in an attempt to make possible what appeared to be impossible, or at least to make melt into air what appeared to be solid - to expand their own personal universe and self-perceived qualities. What they all have in common is an attempt by someone to break down and rebuild an identity which has become limiting.

    Actually, it's only "magick" when one person or a group do it to themselves. If one person or a group do it to someone else, it's called "public relations", "propaganda", "psychology" or "brainwashing" - and the skills are precisely the same. Repetition, association, attention-grabbing, all that stuff they teach you in marketing textbooks. The technology is identical. (As R. A. Wilson pointed out, another name for building a new Identity from scratch and learning to live in it is "method acting".)

    The reason magick has such a low success rate, though is the same reason that self-therapy is hard - if you don't have an objective therapist (or Master) overseeing the process, fooling or even brainwashing yourself is just too goddamned easy. Changing yourself is easy once you've become objective - but that is possibly the hardest thing imaginable, on your own. As Esmeralda Weatherwax put it, you need to know three things to be a Witch - what's real, what's not real, and what the difference is.

    This is the hidden way in which "if you want to change the world, start with yourself" is actually good advice rather than sappy moralism. Another word for reality tunnel hacking, which would include all the methods above, might be parallax practice - "an apparent change in reality brought about by a change in the observation-position of the observer".

    You'd hope that this could add to real-world activities in order to make them easier, to deal with obstacles which might actually just be optical illusions if you shift your perspective.But vice-versa - the more you bring yourself into contact with reality outside your personal reality tunnel (in particular, things that are hard or painful, people who are mean or just disagree with you), the more you can your own personal reality.

    Which may be an answer to the question: "why is life hard?" and also provide an answer to "why are people on the internet / in small socialist groups crazy?" (Because they spent far too much time talking only to people like them and they've totally lost any objectivity.)

    Given the "reality tunnel" model, most people are looking at the world with sunglasses stapled to their foreheads and wondering why everything's so dark. They built their identity to survive and thrive in the World-As-Given, but their identity - their class position as well as all the other parts of their "habitus" - prevents them from understanding what's really going on without a lot of work. And this problem has only spread over the last 150 years or so.

    Marx said that the workers have nothing to lose but their chains, that they were the revolutionary class not only because they held the whole system up but that they had no selfish interest in doing so. But that was perhaps more true when the proletariat were only useful as labour and breeders of more labour.

    Since the early 20th century, when the proletariat became first political subjects then consumers, and therefore the objects of propaganda, no matter how objectively immiserated we are, we now have our very IDENTITIES (previously moulded by family, church and immediate society) moulded by mass propaganda. No wonder we can no longer see the wood for the thousand miles of billboards. Losing one's identity as a consumer of goods and media narratives is freakin' terrifying if that's all that been keeping you from existential dread and killing your family.

    Of course middle-class snobs look down on the workers "wasting their money" on consumer goods, even though that - even more than religion - is now "the soul of a soulless condition". Not that prosperity gospels and fundamentalist religions - which offer you "suffering with a point", i.e. both the earthly and heavenly paradises - are getting any less popular in the current economic slump. But even just "opting out" of consumer society, like the lifestyle anarchists and the Situationists wanted to do, can be just another trap. The middle class just have a different set of identities to escape into.

    A Sufi sheikh once said to me: "some people lose their ego when they start coming here, and then they just grow another ego". The political equivalent of this is to become a lifestyle revolutionary - where revolutionary activism is not an attempt to change the world, but an "entrepreneurial" attempt by the alienated subject to create a new place in the world. Fighting the cops then having a few home brews and vegan biryanis with your mates can be a lot of fun.

    A similar problem is when the revolutionary group, or the revolutionary analysis becomes the Identity which can't be relinquished. If you "are" your party, or you "are" your analysis, and that "defending" either of those is what your political activity is about, then you are not changing the world. You are just building a little bunker to hide from it. Political capital is not like financial capital, you can't keep it in the bank and earn interest. It's instead like seed corn, if you don't get it out there it goes rotten.

    So perhaps in that sense, those of us who never got on with anyone, not even the other misfits, have some kind of advantage... although of course being the "stone which was rejected and is now the cornerstone" can be another addictive Identity. Identities are necessary for survival, but they are also limiting and become obstacles to creativity and objectivity if they can't be taken off, amended or discarded, by whatever means you find useful. And I have tried dozens of ways to do so. At the moment, my practice is a combination of revolutionary eco-socialism with Sufism, CBT and UCP.

    The workers ceased to become a class-for-themselves when they accepted their interpellated identities as consumers. This process must be reversed before we will have a mass revolutionary movement. Revolution is therefore a matter of the whole working class performing collective magick / self-therapy.


    Hazrat-e-Pir Dr Javad Nurbakhsh was Professor of Psychiatry at Tehran University as well as the Master of the Ni'matullahi Sufi Order. So he was ideally placed to sum up this blog's attempt to reconcile psychology and spirituality (although the politics and memetics are our own addition to the mix).

    The way he put it, there were "superficial similarities" between Sufi practice and psychotherapy; the difference being that psychotherapy was about making the nafs healthy and strong, a necessary prerequisite to the Sufi goal of transcending the nafs altogether.

    Gurdjieff talked about the goal of his practice being to "awake the conscience". This is identical with "heart" or "spirit" in the schema we've been using - a place of action which is independent from all the (rightly or wrongly) selfish and self-serving considerations of the nafs. (This "true conscience" we separate from the super-ego or "false conscience", that part of the Identity which enforces the rules on itself by nagging in a voice that the Identity is used to obeying.)

    Essentially, most of the mystic traditions like Sufism or Zen work on a "subtractive logic" to achieve this - if you are mindful of all the thoughts and feelings that the nafs stirs up, and you stand back from them and watch them settle through a meditative practice, then whatever is left is spirit. The goal then is not to abolish or wipe out the nafs - which would mean physical death or being unable to look after yourself - but to develop the spirit, heart, or true conscience as an alternative source of action. 

    This is necessary because only the "spirit" has any hope of being objective. Mysticism is an attempt to solve the observer-experimenter problem identified by Heisenberg by making the observer "nothing".

    Like the Sufis, our equivalent for God must be The Ultimate Truth And Reality - al-Haqq. We should seek dissolution in the Truth - be prepared to sacrifice everything we ever wanted for ourselves to be able to serve that Truth. But we can only find that Truth by political, psychological, cultural and spiritual action. Through action we change our awareness; through changed awareness we discern right action. Trial, and error.