The Newest Oldest Story II

[see Part I]

II. I do not ♥ Baby Boomers

Aldous Huxley called occult nature worship the “perennial religion,” because it is the default to which man returns when his gods desert him. It makes sense after all to appeal directly to the effects of nature, rather than their causes, when the chips are down.

Our gods have, in fact, deserted us; or, maybe, we have deserted them. The difference is irrelevant. I will not list the evident examples of Christian corruption over the centuries, nor today, as I have chronicled them elsewhere in these pages; only in passing will I submit that the world’s other faiths, which have also apparently lost their damn minds, are not acting as though the Forces they serve are almighty, or are unfolding the universe as They should.

Adherents are forcing gods’ hands to an extent that it bears consideration there was never a Hand in play at all. This week I heard the phrase, “Buddhist Militants,” among the static of the day. I said a small prayer to Whatever Was Listening that I had misheard the speaker, or that I had heard a satire show on someone’s television or radio. The Onion? At any rate, it’s bad out there.

At the admitted risk of rewriting a pomo version of Fraziers’ Golden Bough, let’s look at the essential aspects of disaffected humanity’s newest oldest story, which is a revival of some very old notions, albeit notions stoned heavy, on doses of consumerism, Hollywood and LSD, notions which are flourishing, under our noses, at a very precarious time.

Humanity’s religions and folk histories hold common themes and elementary forms that tend to repeat themselves in a cross-cultural way without losing their basic integrity. I am telling the Historians nothing they don’t already know. Joseph Campbell pumped this well dry. But we (I am an amateur, of course; please excuse the 1P plural. I make no pretense to the profession’s privileges) were trained to view this phenomenon in a very kumbaya up-with-people kind of way; i.e., as evidence of our common origins and common humanity. In contrast, many people without the benefit of learning in context, have also noticed these parallels, and have decided–and I don’t dismiss the notion out of hand–that our Bibles, Qurans, and Gitas hold a real and secret history more solid than myth and metaphor. I’m speaking of that time of heroes and gods, of miracles and beginnings, of promises and apocalypses.

The Perennial Religion’s narrative, as distinct from its foundational myths, is more fluid, but clings like a weed. It is our culture, our human culture. Humanity’s home is in the stars–we are made in Imago Dei. We belong somewhere else. There was a time when we could commune with Him or Them who made us, but some hideous fault caused the lines of Communication to break. Now we wait–for what? The Hidden Imam, The Second Coming, 2012, the Age of Aquarius, Gotterdammerung, The Aeon of Horus, The advent of the Superman, Transhuman immortality through technology or the Singularity, The defeat of Xenu a la Battlefield Earth, the return of Menachem Schneerson, etc., etc. And this would happen. Soon. If not for the dreaded Other, who work for the Enemy, and are perhaps colluding with Dark Forces, to retard or prevent the new Golden Age.

Though basic to the revealed faiths, such cyclical clock-watching is passe for many grown-up theologians. They have internalized the struggles and great swings of epochal time, and turned a calendar into a meditational mnemonic; the apocalypse, as taught by many modern Christian theologians, occurs in the human heart, in every generation, to every man and woman on earth. I like this approach, but it has two related drawbacks–people like literalism, and the revision has never really been communicated, at least on the Christian corner of the table, to the laity, in great numbers.

Rewrites occur all the time, keeping the narrative fresh1. I could fill this zine with examples. The general kernel of the unorthodox version, which is the one that threatens to metastasize before our very eyes, is contained in the exoteric teachings of the global Occult. The characters have different names, but they are constants: at the end of the last Ice Age, a group of the wise, who may or may not have been human, hopped around the globe, giving science to the ancients from pity for our misfortune, what with all the ice and starvation and such. They are, in embarrassing passages of our Holy Writs, variously, djinn, Nephilim, extraterrestrials, a Hindu family that can’t seem to get along for anything, survivors from Atlantis, the inhabitants of the Hollow Earth, or the Ascended Masters of some Caucasian or Aryan proto-Civilization, like Mohenjo Daro (of which, coincidentally, Sepoy was an inhabitant).
Continue reading The Newest Oldest Story II

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  1. DaVinci Code, The Works of H.P. Lovecraft, anything by A. Crowley, anything by David Icke, the included texts as examined tongue-in-cheek by Robert Anton Wilson, as well as Wilson and Shea’s Illuminatus, which was only partially a joke, Philip K. Dick’s entire oeuvre [esp. the last half], many Christian televangelists when they’re being honest, X Files, The Book of Enoch, The works of Giordano Bruno, anything by Elizabeth I’s private wizard, John Dee, the speculations of Nicolas of Cusa, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the Communist Manifesto, various “Rosicrucian” documents, Daniel, some Masonic tracts, Ezekiel, the Vedas, Revelation, Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Independence Day, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Jung’s lectures, traditions surrounding the extraterrestrial contents of the Ka’aba, The Hermetic Kabbalah, Wilhelm Reich’s work, anything by Pynchon, the recent Paulo Coehlo phenomenon, the secret doctrines of the Nation of Islam, etc. []

The Newest Oldest Story I

[sepoy notes: A tip from a CM reader led me to Stargates in Iraq. Feeling inadequate to the task, I called a few favors and farangi is here to tell us the story.]

How I Learned to Stop Worrying–about Humanity, Ganesh, Bill Moyers, Foreign Policy, and The Strange Life of Robert Anton Wilson–and Love the Apocalypse.

Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of The Future.
The men who hold high places/Must be the ones to start/To mould a new reality/Closer to the heart.
Rush, Closer to the Heart.

dollar.gifI. You’re probably a blasphemer and almost certainly full of horse-shit.
The United States’ legal system operates on the adversarial principle. This means that the Court and jury do not root for any party to a lawsuit–not the prosecutor, not the defense, not any witness, nobody. They listen to all sides; everyone gets a chance to climb into the witness stand and make his case–point being that every party has an interest in covering his arse, and that makes him most likely to dish hard against other parties in the suit. As Don Corleone so wisely told: “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” Your enemies will tell you the truth, or at least tell the truth on you to somebody else.

Along with other formative experiences, training in the adversarial approach has ruined me for good scholarly behavior, especially with regard to paying obeisance to orthodoxy. I want all the information on a subject before deciding what I think of it. Worse yet, I trust my own generalized guerilla agnosticism, or at least the awareness of my own expansive capacities for self-delusion, denial and bias1, to help me sort it all out.

As a community college professor, nobody expects me to be “doing scholarship,” so I also have the luxury of not giving a damn about my reputation among the distinguished peer reviewers at The Big Boffo Prestigious University Journal of Fashionable Notions About Things That Interest Only The Five of Us Waiting for the Waitress to Bring Beer.

As well noted in these august pages, I am skeptical of skeptics, doubt doubt, and make little distinction between the New York Times and the now defunct, alas, Weekly World News. Note well that I would slap the NYT, not bolster the WWN: Jayson Blair could as easily have been writing about Bat-Boy; Blair’s writing, so beloved before its exposure as fraud, was no more “truthful,” than interviews with The Airborne Nocturnal Juvenus, but is fouler for its pretense to truth, and the Times is foulest for building a culture where Blair could flourish. The News would’ve fired the bastard within a week as a purple-prose hack.

Moreover, I have worked in Public Relations, and have seen from the inside what we all suspect rightly, and know in our hearts, as true. Our “media” consists of hired bullshit. Many journalists are lazy, venal poseurs with one eye on the camera and another glazed with erotic drunkenness caused by proximity to power. They’re too stupid to call a press release on its stank, too vain to admit they’re too misundereducated to understand art criticism, history, or economics, and they’re too cowed to look properly upon politicians and authorities, which is to say down.2

I also teach. Chomsky. To Freshmen. At a Community College. In the Midwest. One might suppose my students either wouldn’t get Chomsky, or his arguments, or they would, out of God-Fearing Hannity Heartland Conservatism, reject him as a “Conspiracy Theorist,”3 and thus feel entitled to ignore every damn thing he writes. They don’t.

As always, they surprise me with reminders of the essential common-sensical core of my people: one student, a weary CNC operator returning to participate in a 2+2 program with a local private liberal arts school so he can enter the management track at his shop, responded to the foreword of Manufacturing Consent with a glistening riposte:

“I’m forty-two years old. I know what a shit sandwich tastes like.”
Continue reading The Newest Oldest Story I

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  1. i.e., if you think you’re crazy, you’re probably pretty sane. it’s the folks who think they’re normal, or sane, you have to keep an eye on. []
  2. Apologies to Mencken. []
  3. his phrase is a hypnotic meme which should be translated as: “Move along, nothing to see here.” It also serves to cue fear in those of us with something to lose in this culture, warning that investigation into the contents of the subject argument will lead to ritual ostracism, loss of prestige, and professional “shunning.” Never mind most of the time, a cursory examination of the subject argument would disallow any fantastic claims; the intended and quite effective function of the hypnosis is to prevent such examination in the first place, which is surely a more more dangerous trend than suffering fools gladly, and benefits no one except assholes with something to hide. []

Story

That ‘story’ bit in history:

Villemessant, the founder of Le Figaro, characterized the nature of information in a famous formulation. “To my readers,” he used to say, “an attic fire in the Latin Quarter is more important than a revolution in Madrid.” This makes strikingly clear that it is no longer intelligence coming from afar, but the information which supplies a handle for what is nearest that gets the readiest hearing. The intelligence that came from afar—whether the spatial kind from foreign countries or the temporal kind of tradition—possessed an authority which gave it validity, even when it was not subject to verification. Information, however, lays claim to prompt verifiability. The prime requirement is that it appear “understandable in itself.” Often it
is no more exact than the intelligence of earlier centuries was. But while the latter was inclined to borrow from the miraculous, it is indispensable for information to sound plausible. Because of this it proves incompatible with the spirit of storytelling. If the art of storytelling has become rare, the dissemination of information has had a decisive share in this state of affairs.

Every morning brings us the news of the globe, and yet we are poor in noteworthy stories. This is because no event any longer comes to us without already being shot through with explanation. In other words, by now almost nothing that happens benefits storytelling; almost everything benefits information.

The first storyteller of the Greeks was Herodotus. In the fourteenth chapter of the third book of his Histories there is a story from which much can be learned. It deals with Psammenitus. When the Egyptian king Psammenitus had been beaten and captured by the Persian king Cambyses, Cambyses was bent on humbling his prisoner. He gave orders to place Psammenitus on the road along which the Persian triumphal procession was to pass. And he further arranged that the prisoner should see his daughter pass by as a maid going to the well with her pitcher. While all the Egyptians were lamenting and bewailing this spectacle, Psammenitus stood alone, mute and motionless, his eyes fixed on the ground; and when presently he saw his son, who was being taken along in the procession to be executed, he likewise remained unmoved. But when afterwords he recognized one of his servants, an old, impoverished man, in the ranks of the prisoners, he beat his fists against his head and gave all the signs of deepest mourning. From this story it may be seen what the nature of true storytelling is. The value of information does not survive the moment in which it was new. It lives only at that moment; it has to surrender to it completely and explain itself to it without losing any time. A story is different. It does not expend itself. It preserves and concentrates its strength and is capable of releasing it even after a long time. Thus Montaigne referred
to this Egyptian king and asked himself why he mourned only when he caught sight of his servant. Montaigne answers: “Since he was already overfull of grief, it took only the smallest increase for it to burst through its dams.” Thus Montaigne. But one could also say: The king is not moved by the fate of those of royal blood, for it is his own fate. Or: We are moved by much on the stage that does not move us in real life; to the king, this servant is only an actor. Or: Great grief is pent up and breaks forth only with relaxation. Seeing this servant was the relaxation. Herodotus offers no explanations. His report is the driest. That is why this story from ancient Egypt is still capable after thousands of years of arousing astonishment and thoughtfulness. It resembles the seeds of grain which have lain for centuries in the chambers of the pyramids shut up airtight and have retained their germinative power to this day.

– Walter Benjamin, “The Story Teller” (1936)

حرام

۱) فيض

تمەيں کەو رند و محتسب ميں اج شب کون فرق ايسا
يە ا کە بيٹهے ەيں ميکدە ميں وە اٹھ کە اۓ ەيں ميکدە سے

۲) فيض

اج تک شيخ کے اکارام ميں جو شۓ تهي حرام
اب وەي دشمنِ دين راحتِ جان ٹەري ەے

۳) حافظ

می خور که شیخ و حافظ و مفتی و محتسب
چون نیک بنگری ، همه تزویر می کنند

۴) عطار

ره ميخانه و مسجد كدام است
كه هر دو بر من مسكين حرام است
نه در مسجد گذارندم كه رند است
نه در ميخانه كاين خمار خام است
مرا كعبه خرابات است امروز
حريفم قاضى و ساقى امام است

Operation Academic Freedom

Finkelstein EndorsesSeriously. How many more things can the DePaul administration do wrong? They denied tenure to Finkelstein in June expressly against the recommendations of his department and his college. And now they have cancelled his classes and re-assigned his office space – in apparent violation of AAUP rules. The mind boggles at the sheer ineptitude of DePaul.

Why isn’t every tenured faculty member at DePaul canceling their own classes for Fall quarter? Forget about Finkelstein’s politics or scholarship – just to defend sanctity of the contract that is made between an academic institution and a scholar (cf: Idea of the University)

While that is never going to happen, the academics are indeed holding a conference in defense of academic freedom. Maybe that’ll show them.

Etceteras

Leo Strauss ruined my graduate school experience and caused the Iraq War. Or maybe not? Chicago Reader investigates the hidden imam of neo-conservatism. I blame Bernard Lewis, actually.

Foreign Policy Magazine TV interviewed some ambassadors of countries on their Failed State Index. You can watch Amb. Mahmud Ali Durrani defend Pakistan. “Don’t blame us for everything”, indeed. The news-junkies can also listen to a podcast by him on Pakistan and the War of Terrifying Terrors.