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 souffl├ę 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.