Sunday, October 17, 2010

The New Normal


Secret societies? UFOs? Numerology? Transhuman cyborgs?

Strange occult symbols showing up on cereal boxes and toy commercials? Rumors of arcane rituals lurking behind the headlines?

Pedophile priests and rabidly anti-gay preachers on the downlow? Vampire cults, suicide cults, polygamy cults, body modification cults...?

Welcome to the New Normal.

A jaded public, a ravenous media beast (that reaches into every corner of the globe every minute of every day), terminal disillusionment with the old certainties, and extreme economic anxiety have all conspired to unleash a host of memetic contagions (that were once safely ensconced in the underground) onto the mainstream.

Strange ideas once kept hidden from the public have reached into every home via a digital barrage of movies, TV comedies, radio shows, video games, bestselling books, magazines, podcasts, blogs and whatever up to the minute form of digital media I haven't been made aware of yet. It's all happening all at once and slowly but surely rewriting the rules of respectable public discourse.

WHAT WE DO IS SECRET

Secret fraternities like the Masons and the Rosicrucians were once sworn to keep all of the weirdness they discussed in the safety of the lodge secret, under pain of death. The point was to prevent exactly what we're seeing now, a battalion of Djinn flying from their digital lamps, Pandora's box thrown open for all the world to see. Now we have morons who can barely read or write holding forth like unassailable experts on the "occult conspiracy." It's unbearable.

The weird irony in all of this is that although the Church kept a lid on all of this for 1500 years through a ruthlessly efficient program of torture, imprisonment, excommunication and the occasional mass genocide, it was militant paranoids within the Christian camp who've done more than any other group to disseminate and popularize all of these strange new memes.

Sure, you had your occassional prankster (say a Robert Anton Wilson or Church of the Subgenius) or occasional Masonic theme show up in a strange venue (like a TV detective show) but it was the tireless efforts of a hard core of Christian zealots who've truly unleashed the contagions, just as their forebears unleashed the Plague and Black Death on an unsuspecting Europe.

MEMES SACRIFICED TO IDOLS

Cooper was a radical Fundamentalist, so where's the Christian symbolism?

Radical Christian Fundamentalists like James Shelby Downard, Milton William Cooper, Texe Marrs, Fritz Springmeier, Michael A. Hoffman and countless others predated all of the Da Vinci Code's and the Last Templar's and planted all of those seeds that are growing into magickal beanstalks as I write. (At the same time, the Nation of Islam and sects like the Nuwabians were disseminating some of the same information in the inner cities.)

Their goal was simple- they were out to find strawmen and scapegoats to blame modernism and secularism and liberalism on. It couldn't possibly be that their ideas were tried and found wanting - or that the white working class they sprung from was being systematically sold out by the global corporate interests they unwittingly acted as apologists for - it had to be some powerful cabal behind it all.

Old church lady rants against an obscure, extremist Masonic splinter group called the Illuminati were dusted off and brought up to date and the legend continues to grow. (Of course the most dastardly Illuminists are those who question this overheated exegesis, or point out the countless logical fallacies wielded like chainsaws in lieu of actual research.)

A lot of the energy to this culture came from the Cold War, especially the second wave of anti-Communism black budgeting that brought huge amounts of untraceable cash into the 80s militia/gun show subculture that popularized the work of people like Cooper.


WHEN YOU STARE INTO THE ABYSS
The unconscious message: "The occult is sexy, virile and captivating"

Having closely watched the Fundamentalist Conspiracy underground for 20 years I've seen a strange process take shape- the arcane power of all of those strange occult symbols has obviously taken hold of many of the researchers who claim to be "exposing" it. In some ways it's the same process as the porn addict who poses as an antiporn crusader or the "antigay" activist who immerses himself in the deepest bowels of the gay S/M underground.

Having known more Fundamentalists on a personal basis than I wish were so, I can safely say the subculture has no shortage of hysterical drama queens. There's also a kind of approach/avoidance conflict behavior- where an individual is powerfully drawn towards a thing but simultaneously feels deep shame and guilt for that attraction so they have to attack what they are up to their necks in.

And it's everywhere these days.

The unconscious message: "Witches are rich and powerful and you are not."

So while you've always had occultists working on the far fringes, it's been these ostensible anti-occultists who've done more than a hundred thousand OTO lodges ever could to disseminate these memes among the public at large.


THE REAL McCHRISTS

But surely, some might argue, aren't they doing God's work by "exposing" all of this alleged devilry? Well, here is where the extreme - and absolutely deliberate- impoverishment of American religious discourse comes in.

When I was a kid I had a lot of exposure to the Nazarenes. I don't know if they've been dumbed down now as well, but back in the 70s they were pretty hardcore. All of our youth pastors at my church were Nazarenes and my mother also got her degree at a Nazarene college, so I got a pretty good read on where they stood.

The Nazarenes were not allowed to watch TV, listen to secular radio, drink, smoke or dance. They didn't need to get out their super secret decoder rings to declare secular culture fallen and wicked, they knew it was. One of my youth pastors once bragged that she got a hiding from her grandfather because he found her with a deck of playing cards.


As to the work of the Makow's and the Marrs', the old school Nazarenes would scoff and tell them to turn away from all of it and preach nothing but the Gospel. They might cite the wife of Lot, who couldn't keep her eyes off of Sodom and was struck down for her curiosity. Never mind looking for the works of the Devil, they'd say to their backsliding co-religionists. They're everywhere, you idiots, and you'd best spend your time in prayer and Bible study if you know what's good for your soul.

And so it goes.

AN INSIDIOUS VECTOR

Is this for or against the "Illuminati?" That's the big question, isn't it?

And now we're at the point where you can get yourself a pretty decent education in the occult by reading nothing but Christian Conspiracy sites. In fact, I'd recommend it to aspiring occultists since a Tom Horn or a "Vigilant Citizen" is going to make it all so much more alluring and glamorous than sitting around with a bunch of dizzy old hens at the Lucis Trust, or a bunch of dabbling, Dew-gulping D&D gamers at the local occult "lodge."

In fact, I remember one OTO honcho (since expelled, as always happens with these groups) gushing that aspirants should read Craig Heimbichner's "exposé" Blood on the Altar since it made the OTO infinitely more dangerous and exotic than it really is.
The same holds true across the board.

Though a self-confessed Christian, the person or persons called "Vigilant Citizen" helpfully keep/keeps a separate site containing a sizable library of occult texts for the all of the budding Crowley wannabes out there (as well as an abundance of corporate advertising bursting with arcane symbology on his/their main site).

Don't forget that the Great Beast himself was raised in a strict Fundamentalist cult. Did he discover the dark arts through similar "exposés" kicking around the old Brethren meeting house? Don't bet against it.


MAGICK IN THE AIR

Now, there are plenty of other factors in play- a preponderance of magic and supernatural memes in kids entertainment, for instance. Not that it's not always been the case, but it definitely feels different. And just in case the kiddies don't grasp the full effect of all the sorcerous memes floating around out there, they're just a Google click away from a well-appointed (and lavishly-sponsored) Conspiracy website who'll help them get the full effect of all of the symbolism....and make it all seem impossibly sexy and rebellious and empowering at the same time.

Twenty years on (a lot longer if you factor in the old Apocalypse scare literature from the 80s) I'm getting a bit sick of the hysteria. Maybe that's why I feel myself being drawn back more and more into the science fiction that filled my own childhood with magic and wonder. But we're faced with the New Normal and we can either engage it or watch it metastasize.

Luckily, there's a lot of good coming up through the floorboards- a rediscovery of powerful mythological memes, spiritual explorations in popular sci-fi shows and films, cosplay, conventions, the rediscovery of the power of festivals... I could go on, but just check the archives.

Other writers have noted how people like Crowley and Parsons were still psychically under the thumb of the millennia-long campaign to annihilate the indigenous beliefs and folkways of their ancestors (a campaign created as the hammer-fist of the original new world order), and so gravitated to the role of villain. Maybe all of this new pop occultism is part of that process as well. When you discover something that's been deliberately hidden from you, social conditioning instills a feel of naughtiness and transgression. That inevitably will pass.

Maybe this New Normal will be replaced by a new New Normal in which all of these things seeping back into the mainstream will be processed and refined, in the best sense of those words. Not maybe, actually- I'm certain of it.

PS: From a FB friend: "I was always under the impression that Marrs doesn't realize people like me (Occultist) enjoy his books more and learn more from his stuff then just about anyone. Love his books."
UPDATE: Somebody - say the Greeks, the Germans, the Japanese - must have a word for self-defeating propaganda, for making an argument that makes one's opponent's views seem not only reasonable, but self-evident. I'm not aware of such a term in English, so I'll offer my own suggestion- the "Tom Horn."

WOULD YOU DENY THEIR FUTURE?

Now, I think Horn is a perfectly decent fellow, if not a bit excitable, a bit dramatic. But he has this odd knack for selling opposing viewpoints to his own. In his latest anti-Transhumanist essay (excerpted from his upcoming book), he makes the case for Transhumanism by painting a nightmarish Future Shock scenario for children whose parents have resisted having their children modified. Here Horn presents a young Christian girl whose life is a living hell because she can't even coexist with her transhuman classmates:

...starting in 2019, parents whose children went without basic modifications were charged with neglect and had their kids put in foster homes. She just wishes it wouldn’t come to that...(t)hat’s why she gave you the school report compiled by Prof. Joel Garreau describing the average high school pupil today, so you could understand how her classmates:

• Have amazing thinking abilities. They’re not only faster and more creative than anybody she’s ever met, but faster and more creative than anybody she’s ever imagined.

• They have photographic memories and total recall. They can devour books in minutes.

• They’re beautiful, physically. Although they don’t put much of a premium on exercise, their bodies are remarkably ripped.

• They talk casually about living a long time, perhaps being immortal. They’re always discussing their “next lives.”

• One of her new friends fell while jogging, opening up a nasty gash on her knee. Your daughter freaked, ready to rush her to the hospital. But her friend just stared at the gaping wound, focusing her mind on it. Within minutes, it simply stopped bleeding.

• This same friend has been vaccinated against pain. She never feels acute pain for long.

• These new friends are always connected to each other, sharing their thoughts no matter how far apart, with no apparent gear. They call it “silent messaging.” It seems like telepathy.

• They have this odd habit of cocking their head in a certain way whenever they want to access information they don’t yet have in their own skulls—as if waiting for a delivery to arrive wirelessly...which it does.

• For a week or more at a time, they don't sleep. They joke about getting rid of their beds, since they use them so rarely.
I know there are a lot of religiously-motivated parents who make their children's lives difficult by denying them some of the frills of secular life, but I can't for the life of me imagine any parent- any decent, self-respecting parent- who'd put their children through the pain and humiliation that Horn presents here. Sure, you have your bizarre cultists- Christian or otherwise- who seem to exist only to put children through hell, but most normal Christian parents are not going to sit back and watch their children be tossed in the evolutionary dumpster.

I have no doubt that most Christian families will do (if and when Transhumanism becomes an everyday reality) what they done for the past 50 years when faced with challenges from the secular world- find some obscure Biblical passage, stretch it to the absolute logical limit and use it as a banner to "christianize" Transhumanism. As Horn has pointed out, it's happening already.

Rather, it has happened. I'm old enough to remember a lot of nightmare scenarios relating to computers and now everyone-particularly Evangelicals- use them to put across their worldviews. In a way we are already Transhumans- many of us essentially exist in the digital world. Nearly everyone has some kind of electronic device that acts as an external neural hard drive.


FUTURES THAT NEVER ARRIVED


But I'm also old enough to have seen several generations of technohype come and go. Horn wants us to believe that we're just a couple years away from becoming cybernetic superhumans, and certainly people like DARPA, the Singularity U folks and the various Transhumanist associations would like us to believe that as well, but it took 30 years for most people to adapt to personal computing, which is child's play compared to Transhumanism.

If we were 20 years away from a Borg reality we'd already be hearing about real cyborgs, and all of the elite class would look 50 years younger thanks to nanoplastic surgery and tissue regeneration and all the rest of it. We're just now starting to see ideas talked about in the 60s and 70s hit the market- private space travel, videophones, jet packs, exoskeletons- which is means we're looking at a 40 to 50 year lag time. And there are still a lot of sci prophecies that are still struggling (terraforming, hovercraft and flying cars, fusion energy) to get out of the prototype stage.

Horn should know better. He, more than anyone, should be aware of the messianic delusions of the scientific priesthood. Just because something exists on paper, doesn't mean it has an application, or even will reach that stage. We've been sold science as salvation in the secular media (and as sorcery in the so-called alt-media), but the truth is often as messy as the countless failed apocalypses of the religious fringe.

SECRET SUN READING LIST