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.