Tag: Dark Star Rising

Reflections on Recent Events

Tlon, who publish Dark Star Rising in Italy, have asked me for some comments on recent events in America to post on their blog. I’m posting here my reply to Michele Trionfera, who was an indispensable guide on my mini-Italian book tour back in 2019.

Dear Michele,

Many thanks for asking me to comment on recent events in America. I have to say that I was deeply saddened and dismayed at what took place at the Capitol, but the saddest thing was that I was not surprised. The only thing that did surprise me is that events didn’t take an even worse turn. That may be because of the nature of these sudden, volcanic social eruptions: pressure builds up and then the lid blows off the cooker. But after the initial explosion, unless there is some plan or guidance to lead it, the energy dissipates and dies down: the pot boils over and puts out the fire… I am reminded of something the Joker says in the film The Dark Knight, when he compares himself to a dog that chases after a car, biting at the hubcap. If the dog ever got the hubcap, the Joker says, he wouldn’t know what to do with it. If you look at the faces of the ‘patriots’ who stormed the Capitol last Wednesday, on the CCTV recording, you can see them looking around, half like tourists amazed to be there, half like looters who didn’t know what to take first, or ‘iconoclasts’ who don’t which statute to smash. We could also say they were like people who play around with magic and then, when it actually works, say to themselves “What the f**k! This is real?” It was a good thing that among the crazies who broke into the place, there wasn’t anyone who could have organised an “occupy the Capitol” event in the way that other people occupied Wall Street.

Many things came to mind when I watched the news reports here in London. As you know, I’m American, but I’ve lived in London now for twenty-five years; in fact today, 10 January, is the twenty-fifth anniversary of my relocation here. During that time I’ve seen America go through some remarkable, extraordinary changes – the UK has too – but if anything brought home the idea that in the twenty-first century, things would be different, what I saw on the BBC Wednesday night did. Many have said that the twentieth century was the American century. Well, the twenty-first isn’t. The end of the twentieth century may have been 9/11, in the way that the true end of the nineteenth century was the First World War. I would say confirmation of this was Trump’s election – with the years of Obama’s administration a brief stopgap in the process. But the final nail in the coffin, as it were, were the ‘patriots’ party-crashing the Capitol. I want to say “Olympus has fallen,” but I don’t want to draw attention to a bad film. One hopes that similar ‘patriots’ don’t recognize the need to organise. They’ve seen that it can be done. If there’s a next time, it may be more purposeful.

One of the things that Trump’s refusal to admit his election defeat brought home to me is that he is a perfect example of the psychological type that in Dark Star Rising I call “the Right Man.” I borrow the idea from the writer Colin Wilson, who first heard of it from the science fiction writer A.E. Van Vogt. Simply put, the Right Man is someone who under no circumstances will admit to being wrong, and who will stop at practically nothing to get his way, even resorting to violence. This is why Van Vogt also called him “the Violent Man.” This is not an example of so-called “toxic masculinity,” as there are Right Women too. We can see this in Trump’s refusal to accept any “reality” that does not suit his purposes. Trump’s whole agenda has been about “creating” his own reality. He has been very good at it. More than 70 million Americans like his reality, and some of them have taken it to the streets.

Like other demagogues, Trump has been able to project some of his seemingly inexhaustible self-confidence into his followers, which is what all demagogues and, I should add, gurus do. In Dark Star Rising I speak of a gradient ranging from the magician, to the guru, and to the demagogue. Each operates in a similar way; what is different is the size of the audience, as it were. The magician puts a spell on one person, the guru controls a cult, and the demagogue hypnotizes a whole nation. (There are, of course, good magicians and gurus; I’m talking about the bad ones. I don’t think there can be a good demagogue; that would be the benevolent dictator.) When thus under the sway of the guru or demagogue, the individual can temporarily rise above himself, become something “more,” filled with the guru’s power or with the sense of mission given to him by the demagogue. (He or she can’t generate this themselves, hence the need for someone who can. If they could, they wouldn’t need him.) Clearly, many people who have got behind Trump had an interest and background in far-right political ideas. But many also did because, for better or worse, he gave their life a meaning it didn’t have.

This is something that progressive critics don’t get. Many people who voted for Trump were not necessarily gun-loving, racist red-necks. They were people who lacked some sense of their life being about something more than decent housing and having enough to eat, which, of course, are important but not enough. Men, and women, we know, do not live by bread alone – if I can quote scripture when speaking of a devil… For better or worse, Trump gave them a sense of purpose. A misguided, misdirected purpose, to be sure, but something that, in a warped way, was something of an ideal. As I say in the book, this is something that Hitler and Mussolini did too. We have an appetite for this just as much as we have an appetite for food, and we can satisfy that appetite with the equivalent of a healthy meal or junk food. This is something that progressives don’t get because it smacks of religion or mysticism – and that, we know, is the “opium of the people.” But sadly, people need a kind of opium in the sense that they need dreams, and opium or the equivalent provides them. I would say what we need is to find a way to provide the meaning, the dream, without the drug. We also need better dreams.

Another thing I talk about in the book, is the way in which what we can call the “acceptability barrier” has moved during Trump’s years. This is the Overton Window, or what is considered “acceptable discourse.” We can say it is the measure of what you can “get away with.” (I want to say that people have been “getting away with” a great deal in the art world for years; has the fashion  now moved into the sphere of politics?) The Alt-Right, who were for a time fashionable – where are they now? Richard Spencer supported Biden! – raised that window considerably, and Trump pretty much threw a brick through it. The barbarians (I am thinking of the fellow with the horns) who broke into the Capitol took advantage of this. From what I saw on the news, it looks like they broke some real windows too.

In a way, the images I saw of the ‘patriots’ in strange costumes and bizarre get ups, reminded me of two leftists outbreaks in the 1960s: the anti-Viet Nam War march on Washington in October, 1967, and May ’68 in Paris. If we want to say that what happened at the Capitol was an expression of the ‘occult politics’ that has surrounded Trump’s administration – and I believe it was – then it has antecedents in what happened in ’67 and ’68. In ’67 Abbie Hoffman tried to levitate the Pentagon, while the filmmaker Kenneth Anger, a devotee of Aleister Crowley, tried to exorcise it. May ’68 was all about “creating reality.” “Take Your Desires for Reality,” and “Power to the Imagination!” were some of the slogans that brought Paris to a standstill. Trump has always “taken his desires for reality,” and he has had decades of practice in bringing “power” to his imagination, being a devotee of “positive thinking.” The imagination is a tremendous force, kept in check by reason, and when it is unleashed and allowed to let rip, it is difficult to control, and it has no political allegiance. That the gate crashers were followers of Qanon secures the link with the occult politics of the 60s even more: ironically, many today who would have found themselves among the hippies now share an online “alternative reality” with far-right advocates the flower children would have abhorred.[1]

Something else that Trump has helped undermine is our ability to distinguish reality from fantasy, or truth from falsehood. This is not limited to the right side of the political spectrum. People who deny biology in favour of what they see as an individual’s “right” to be whatever sex he or she wants, can be said to be “taking their desires for reality.” This has left us, I believe, in what I call a “war of all against all,” in the sense that there is no common ground, no shared baseline reality, but instead a kind of continuous battle on all sides among competing causes, again, rather like one of the “survivalist” Reality TV shows, in which participants contest each other on a deserted island.

In a recent essay, “Trickle Down Metaphysics: From Nietzsche to Trump,”[2] I show how Trump took advantage of the erosion of our belief in a stable, ‘objective’ truth or reality that had been underway since the late nineteenth century and which became de rigueur, in American universities at least, in 1980s and 90s, with the rise of intellectual fashions like deconstructionism and postmodernism. Trump no doubt has never heard of deconstructionism or postmodernism – both of which are decidedly of the left – but he nevertheless took advantage of the atmosphere of epistemological uncertainty they created. (Odd how intellectual fashions, arising among “men of the left,” helped to put a “man of the right” in power; is it too much to see a kind of intellectual French Revolution followed by a Reality TV Napoleon in this?) 

Postmodernism aligned nicely with Trump’s embrace of “positive thinking,” which likewise ignores or rejects the idea of any ‘truth’ that is not malleable. Postmodernism was dealing in “post truth” and “alternative facts” well before Trump hit the campaign trail. Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking, and Trump’s mentor, impressed upon him the idea that “Facts don’t matter. What matters is our attitude toward the facts.” This is a belief shared by what is known as “chaos magick.” I hastened to add that Trump most likely never heard of chaos magick, and in no way is it responsible for him. But as I point out in the book, he seems to have a natural talent for it, and if anything can serve as a example of this, I’d say what happened at the Capitol can be seen as a kind of chaos magick run wild. It was a transfer of what was happening online to the “real” world, the tweet made flesh, as it were. And this is what was supposed to have helped him get in the White House in the first place, the “synchromysticism” that the devotees of Kek and Pepe the Frog engaged in.

Trump’s years as a Reality TV star also contributed to the strange ontological milieu we now inhabit, in which once again there is no clear demarcation line between “reality” and “fantasy.” Watching the CCTV footage of the mob in the Capitol, they reminded me of contestants on Big Brother or Love Island. Yet perhaps the most drastic expression of our seeming inability to distinguish truth from falsehood is the dramatic rise in “conspiracy consciousness,” which is a direct result on the “assault on truth.” Let me quote from the essay I mention above. I write that:

At the same time as the postmodern party was turning into a somewhat disheartening morning after, an ambience of general distrust had taken hold of the popular mind. A “hermeneutics of suspicion,” as the philosopher Paul Ricoeur had called it, had settled in, a cynicism that, in its desire not to be taken in, subjected everything to doubt. Yet the popular mind had also acquiesced in a kind of discontented fatalism, convinced that the individual is at the mercy of forces well beyond his control, in the world and in himself, something that both postmodernism and deconstructionism had repeatedly repeated. The individual as such no longer existed; he was merely an empty space in which vague but omnipotent “social forces” operated. Ironically, this suspicion of once trusted sources was allied with a mind so open to a variety of “conspiracy theories” that it was ready to swallow practically any “alternative” account, as long as it contradicted whatever the “official” one was.[3]

Which is to say that we live in a time when everything is plausible but nothing is definite.

This susceptibility to conspiracies is, in a way, a good sign, in the sense that the psychologist C.G. Jung thought neurosis was a sign that the patient was trying in some way to deal with his problem. It was an ineffectual way, but it at least was an attempt. I would say that conspiracy theories are collective neuroses, in the sense that in the face of a world that seems increasingly out of control, they posit some kind of control, some intelligence, however insidious, behind the course of things. In other words, they posit some meaning behind what would otherwise seem real, true chaos. This is an expression of the hunger for meaning I mentioned earlier. Religion used to provide this, but we’ve outgrown it without gaining something to take its place. (This is the challenge we’ve faced for the past two centuries.) In the vacuum left behind, any powerful idea that can grip the individual takes hold. Unfortunately for many, in Trump’s case, one vacuum was filled by another.

          Sadly, I don’t see this as the end of Trump or Trumpism. Back in November, after the election, I found myself thinking: “Was that all it took? An election?” I found it hard to believe that the Trump Show had been cancelled. I don’t think it has. I think that just as Brexit was seen as the prelude to Trump’s presidency, what happened in the Capitol may be the opener for something else. What, I don’t know. But some barrier has been breached. “All things will be possible,” Ivanka Trump said when she introduced her father to the Republic National Convention in 2016. I’ll say. Those images from the Capitol alone, which will be turning up as memes and gifs soon enough, tell us that. Whom will they inspire? To be honest, I don’t really want to know. I don’t want to appear an alarmist, but Nancy Pelosi was right to want to make sure Trump couldn’t get at the nukes. I am wondering now if anyone has or can keep him away from them. Why do I say this? One thing I learned when researching my book is that Trump is driven by a need to do something bigger or better than it’s been done before, or, more to the point, to do something no one has done before. He also suffers from what is known as “gigantomania,” the need to create huge structures – like Trump Towers and his failed attempt to build the biggest casino in Atlantic City and other megastructures. It’s an affliction he shared with Hitler and Mussolini, who both enjoyed creating huge monuments to their power. One of the first things Trump did in office was to drop the “mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear explosive in the US arsenal, on Isis in Afghanistan.[4] He can go kicking and screaming and saying its fake news to the end, but given he came in with one, someone really should make sure he doesn’t go out with a bang.


[1] https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/yoga-wellness-and-qanon-conspiracy-theories/

[2] https://garylachman.co.uk/2020/09/01/trickle-down-metaphysics/

[3] Ibid

[4] https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/trump-drops-the-mother-of-all-bombs-on-afghanistan

Jung at Heart and a Trip Down Under

Here is a link to my latest conversation with Jeffrey Mishlove. This time we take on Jung, and of course we can only scratch the surface.

On a different note, here is short notice for a trip down under. I’ll be in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, in August, giving some talks. The idea of my heading there has been in the planning stage for quite some time, but it wasn’t until last month that it seemed it would really happen.

Here are the links for my talks in Sydney, on Dark Star Rising and Hypnagogia, the strange intermediary state of consciousness between sleeping and waking, with which many who attend my lectures are familiar… And here’s a link to a weekend devoted to A Secret History of Consciousness and Lost Knowledge of the Imagination.

And here is the information I have for my talks in Melbourne. Contact details are sadly missing but I’m working on getting them:

GARY LACHMAN – LECTURES IN MELBOURNE

DOCKLANDS

Saturday 3 August DOCKLANDS: Library at The Dock, Level 2, 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Cnr. Collins & Bourke Sts, VIC, 3008

10:00 – 11:30am – A LOOK INSIDE THE WORLD, our ancestors saw a living nature rather than a mechanical one. This vision informed Goethe’s view of the world and we can discover how to use this vision today.

2:00 – 3:30pm – A DIFFERENT KIND OF KNOWING, before reason, logic and “facts”, a knowing based on the total picture of reality prevailed. Throughout history there have been individuals who have combined both “facts” and the bigger picture.

WARRANWOOD

Sunday 4 August WARRANWOOD: The Michael Centre, 37A Wellington Park Drive, VIC 3134,  VIC

 2:00pm – 4:00pm – THE CARETAKERS OF THE COSMOS Living Responsibly in an Unfinished World, looking at how ancient ideas about our place in the world can unite with those of some of the most important but little known sages of recent times to envision a future in which we “take care of the cosmos” by becoming “fully human”.

 

Dark Stars Over Italy, Crowley Again, and Intellectual Diversity

This month I’m heading to Italy for a three-day book tour, promoting the Italian edition of Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump in Rome, Milan, and Turin. As you might expect I’m excited about this. The book seems to be getting some attention in the Italian media – at least I’ve been interviewed by Andriano Ercolani for the cultural blog Minima et Moralia (readers of Theodore Adorno will no doubt recognize the title) and by Giulia Villoresi for the newspaper Repubblica. I’m including the interviews here in English for the benefit of my non-Italian readers.

Also, here are links to two recent video interviews. One is with John Tangney for his Intellectual Diversity Podcast. I talk about my experiences in academia and as a freelance intellectual – an endangered species by all accounts. The other is the latest installment of my ongoing series of interviews with Jeffrey Mishlove. This time we tackle Aleister Crowley, who is always good material for discussion.

All the best.

Here is the interview for Reppublica:

Questions:

1) Did you get a chance to get a feel for Beppe Grillo, the postmodern comedian who brought “the people” in charge in Italy? Did you know he’s ideologically chaotic, racist, megalomaniac, consecrated to business, a conspiracy theorist and a promoter of the occult power of internet?
2) Do you ever think about the coming of a new dictatorship? How and where do you imagine it?
3) Couldn’t it be possible that the Occidental Ego – so materialist, scientist and inner-life killer – is indeed the “root of all evil”, just as Guénon, Evola and Dugin thought?
4) Are there some facts, or events occurred after the release of your book that you wanted to comment in the book? I mean, facts or events that you consider meaningful for your arguments?
5) I apologize in advance if the following question sounds too direct. I don’t often get a chance to ask it to an American intellectual: do you have any doubts about the official line on September 11th?
Answers:
1. I’ve seen Beppe on news programs here in London. He seems to have had quite a career. If I’m not mistaken, in recent years he has distanced himself from the 5 star movement he founded a decade ago? At least that’s the impression I get from some articles I’ve read. He also seems to have hit quite a few bulls-eyes in his attacks on corruption in government and business. While that is needed it’s a shame that it’s being done in the context of a populist movement that finds itself on the right side of the political spectrum, something that, I’m sure you know, is going on in other places in the world. People like to be entertained – panem et circenses, no?. That’s why we have a Reality TV star as a US president. Putin, we known, entertained an entire nation with a non-stop “virtual reality” created by his spin doctors, characters like Vladislav Surkov, for at least a decade. But where is Beppe these days? Last I saw he had given up on politics. That isn’t unusual today. Demagoguery is more in fashion.
2, A coming new dictatorship? Do you mean in addition to the ones in Russia and Brazil? I have a correspondent in Brazil who is extremely worried about what is happening there. One of the people I refer to in the book, the German historian Oswald Spengler, said that in our age dictators – Caesars in fact! – will be on the rise. Was he right? America is going through a period of fracture and division unlike anything since the 1960s, when I grew up. I think the country is even more divided now. Chaos breeds strong men to arise and bring things to order. We used to think that nothing like a dictatorship or authoritarian government could arise in the US. I don’t think we are quite so sure today. The little I grasp of history suggests that anything is possible – in fact, isn’t that the message of people like Trump and Putin? When I was growing up, the USSR seemed solidly in place and nothing short of a nuclear conflict would have toppled it. Where is it today? I’m working on a book about Russia in fact, and in its millennium long history, the Soviet period is the shortest, a mere 70 years. Anything is possible. One Russian philosopher of the late 19th century, Vladimir Solovyov, wrote a book in 1900 about a coming Antichrist. He isn’t evil per se, but comes to rule the world by giving “the people” what they want, including endless entertainment. We don’t need to take the idea of an Antichrist literally to know that keeping everyone happy is a more efficient way of keeping them in line than any more aggressive means. This is why Huxley’s Brave New World is a more accurate warning of what’s happening today than Orwell’s 1984, which isn’t to say that Big Brother and other Orwellian ideas aren’t a concern. It’s funny, I keep thinking we are living in the world that all those books, like Huxley’s and Orwell’s, warned us about it. But Big Brother and its like are the hottest things on TV.
3, Yes, the western ego – the “me”, as I speak of it in the book – has certainly created quite a few problems. But the kinds of alternatives to it offered by Guenon, Evola, and people like Dugin are certainly no answer to it. All they offer is the polar opposite, the other side of the pendulum swing. I don’t think the answer to the problems generated by the rise of the individual “I” in the west can be met by negating that “I” in favor of some elite, organizing our lives for us – with the best intentions, of course – which is what Guenon and Evola suggest in different ways. Nor will the kind of ego-less communal society that Dugin envisions help. Which is preferable, the dictatorship of the “me” or the dictatorship of the “we”? I believe we have reached a stage in our development at which we have to find a way to bring together the two sides of our being, the rational intellect, and the intuitive inner self that has been sidelined since the rise of science in the 17th century. I am no enemy of science – I worked as a science writer for a prestigious university in California for a time. What I do reject is “scientism,” the faith – which is what it is – that ALL questions about life, reality, existence, etc. can be and MUST be answered via the scientific method. We’ve known since the 18th century that there are parts of human existence – the most important parts – that science simply is unable to accommodate. I mean things like meaning, beauty, truth, freedom, values, etc everything that makes live worth living. We also know that the picture of humankind offered by science only goes so far and that we have all had experiences that science simply won’t accept or tries to explain away. I mean paranormal and mystical experiences. These are a real part of our life, of that I am as sure as I am of the computer I am using to answer these question. But because the “official” accounts continue to reject these things, they have fallen into what we can call our “shadow,” to use a term that Jung made popular. Since Freud we know that what is repressed doesn’t disappear, it only turns up in awkward places. What is happening I think in contemporary life is that these “occult” kinds of things are reappearing in our “shadow,” and since the progressive political movements reject them – as they do all mystical and spiritual sorts of things (religion is the opium of the people, Marx said, and for better or worse, progressive politics tends to focus on material well being) they are being appropriated by the other side. Hence the Alt-Right and their use, apparently, of a kind of magic. I should also say that the West itself has a long tradition of thinkers, poets, writers, and artists who are aware of the problem of the ego and who have created a whole body of work surrounding this. We can start with William Blake and Goethe and go from there. In my own way I have addressed the problem in my own books.
4. I wouldn’t say that there’s anything that I missed, but I would say that since I wrote the book I have certainly seen the term “chaos” turning up in political contexts more and more. Here in the UK the whole Brexit debacle is a case in point. No one seems to know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what they expect to get from it. In one of his books Nietzsche says something like “I do not know what to do. Modern man is everything that does not know what to do” – I’m paraphrasing but that’s the gist. He could have been writing about today. In fact, he was. One of things I argue in the book is that Nietzsche saw what is happening today, more than a century ago. He knew it was on its way “I write not for today, nor for tomorrow, but for the day after tomorrow” he says in one of his books. Its the effect of what I call “trickle down metaphysics.” Nietzsche was concerned about the coming nihilism in the 1880s. Sadly he went mad before he could do much about it. But since then people like Heidegger, then the deconstructionists have taken up the idea until today the idea that existence is meaningless – and ours in particular – is taught in universities and proclaimed by postmodernists galore. Well, I don’t think we can blame people like Trump for saying “Nothing is true? Everything is permitted? Okay, let’s go for it!” Trump most likely never heard of Nietzsche and certainly never read him, but he got the idea and ran with it. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that “there is no truth” and feel liberated from what you consider “oppressive” cultural and societal constraints by it, and then say “Well, no, you can’t use this to your advantage.” Why not? What do you have to oppose this? Without truth in the old sense the only thing that determines things is power. Which, sadly, is where we are today.
5. I can’t say that I ever seriously thought that 9/11 was the outcome of a conspiracy. I am not given to conspiracy theories, although, oddly enough, I met David Ray Griffin years ago when I was student and was thinking of studying the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead with him. He is the major 9/11 conspiracy theorist. When I discovered this, years after we met and also after 9/11, I was surprised. I didn’t read any of his books about it though.
And here is the interview for Minima et Moralia :
Questions:
1) How would you summarize the main topic of the book?
2) How would you describe briefly the international propaganda strategy of far-right populism?
3) How can we face the misappropriation of certain authors (i.e. Jung, William Blake) by the occult side of far-right?
4) Which has been the most disturbing discovery that emerged during your research?
5) How can the left wing cultural side fight back the frightening risin’ tide of neofascism?
6) How can we break the “evil spell” of alt-right propaganda?
7) What are your next projects?
Answers:
1. The book is about the “assault on reality” that I see taking place in early 21st century consciousness. This is happening in many quarters. The book begins with a look at one aspect of this, the resurgence of a kind of “occultism” or “magic” in contemporary US politics, but it is not limited to this; in a deeper, more inclusive way it has been taking place in Russia for decades. I begin by looking at claims made by the alt-right that they somehow “dreamed” or “willed” Trump into office. Such “magical” ideas could be easily ignored, were it not for the fact -a  real fact, not an alternative one – that similar developments have been taking place in other areas, in academia, popular culture, and philosophy, going back to Nietzsche’s warning more than a century ago about the advent of nihilism, the collapse of belief in hitherto unquestioned “realities.” Nietzsche saw that the pursuit of truth, by both religion and science, inevitably led to the recognition that “truth” in some clear, objective, self-evident character simply did not exist. What Nietzsche saw back in the 1880s has become de rigueur  for us, through postmodernism and deconstructionism, but also through the fascination with “reality TV” – which gave us the current American president – and the longstanding valid “occult” objection to western rationalism’s rejection of intuition and other “mystical” perspectives. I call this “trickle down metaphysics.” With Trump, a product of reality TV, we have our current “post -truth” and “alternative fact” world. Trump is also a devotee of “positive thinking,” a variant of the kind of “magical thinking” that the alt-right say they used to get him elected. As I point out in the book, ideas about “creating our own reality” have moved from self-help seminars and books to political strategies. The kind of “virtual reality” that has been in place in Russia since Putin’s arrival is an expression of this.
2. I would say it combines some valid criticisms of the “establishment” – which is generally on the left or at least the “progressive” side of the equation – with resentment at how this “elite” has ignored these concerns, with pandering to fears and anxieties over “identity.” When a civilization enters its “time of troubles” – as the historian Arnold Toynbee referred to fundamental crises in a society – the confusion and uncertainty this creates can be relieved by establishing or adopting a simple, easily grasped idea of one’s self or one’s group. This is the “tribal consciousness” that has seen a disconcerting rise in recent times. Unfortunately, many if not most people find a “self” through belonging to some group, and identifying with it’s beliefs, customs, rituals etc. A small minority anchor their self in some inner reality, an inner truth, which sustains them amidst the flux. These are the people we simple do not hear about or from, because in our dangerously polarized times, their quiet, reasonable voice is drowned out by the shouting and insults coming from either side. It’s not easy to find that center in oneself, but it is the only thing that can keep us from being overwhelmed by the surges of irrational anger and resentment coming from either side.
3.There hasn’t been a book worth reading that hasn’t been misunderstood and misappropriated by some group wanting to validate itself by adopting it as its Bible. The Bible in fact is a case in point: probably no other book has been used to legitimatize actions and beliefs that are the absolute opposite of what it says. Nietzsche, whose name is dropped pretty regularly by the alt-right, was picked up by the Nazis – his sister, a fan of Hitler, helped in this – but was quickly dropped when they realized that what he was really saying had nothing to do with their thuggish heroics; he called for all anti-Semites to be shot, something that must have set Goebbels’ alarm bells ringing. Jung was another, although, to be fair, Jung at first did think something might have come out of National Socialism, because he was critical of the hypertrophied rationality of modern man. He later admitted he was wrong, unlike Heidegger. We can’t stop these thinkers falling into the wrong hands, but we can do our best to understand what they are really saying, and so disarm those who want to use them for dubious purposes. But this isn’t something that only afflicts thinkers that far-right folk have picked up. A great deal of leftist thinking has been used to justify Stalin’s murderous regime, and Marx looked forward to seeing the bourgeoisie hanging from the lamp posts. Discrimination is key, as it is in so many things. But we need time, effort, and patience for this, and today’s hyper-reactive world, in which everyone has to apologize for what they say immediately after saying it, makes these commodities difficult to obtain.
4. Most disturbing is the extent that “creating his own reality” has worked out for Putin. If Trump is a one man reality TV show, Putin has had an entire network creating a “virtual reality” Russia for years, and his identification with Holy Russia or Moscow as the Third Rome, the upholder of “traditional values” against the decadent west, has worked very well for him. The Eurasia meme – Russia not as a backward cousin of Europe, but as a new civilization, rising up as the west goes under – has proved very valuable and in the case of Crimea and Ukraine, has changed the map. If this is “magical” thinking, it seems to work.
5. I think the left has a lot of work to do. Its imaginative charge, meaning its ability to motivate people, has, I think, faded quite a bit. It isn’t as “sexy” as the right, which, for good or bad, manages to dip into the mythological waters and profit by them. The left has always been anti-myth, anti-religion, keeping to sweet reason and rationality (“Religion is the opium of the people,” etc.). It also seems to have fractured into a variety of different interests groups which come together when there is a common enemy – Trump, far-right populism – but doesn’t seem to have a unifying belief or “cause” in the same way that the right seems to. I’m not a leftist myself, or a rightist. I am one of those unfortunate people who are compelled to think for themselves and refuse to be absorbed into one group or another. But I think that if there is any hope for a decent future, it will be because of precisely these kind of people. To be honest, I do wonder what a post-Trump, triumphant “progressive” future will be like. I am concerned about a doubling down of “political correctness” and a sentiment of “never again!”.
6. Again, awareness, discrimination, effort, thought, a refusal to react to provocation – and also spending less time on social media, which has become a swamp, brimming with all sorts of organisms which can easily infect us through symbols and slogans that reach below our conscious minds and directly affect our unconscious, releasing the anger there. It doesn’t matter if this is directed against the alt-right or whoever. It is the sheer affect that counts, the loss of our self, the plunge into dark, turbid waters. That only adds to the confusion.
7. I’m currently working on a book about the “return of Holy Russia,” a kind of follow-up to Dark Star Rising, although it can be read by itself.

Dark Stars Over Europe

The Italian edition of Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump goes on sale today. I’m very excited about this, but as I say in the new Introduction I’ve written for this edition, my excitement is tempered with concern. Since writing Dark Star Rising, I’ve watched developments in Europe with more than a little trepidation. A populism anchored in right wing politics seems spreading across the continent. And not only in Europe, as events in places like Brazil seem to suggest. Here, in the UK, where I live, the exit of Britain from the European Union has only generated more chaos and stimulated more of the anger and abuse that seem to have taken the place of political discussion. To put it mildly, these are uncertain and unsettling times and there doesn’t seem to be any end to them in sight. Those of us with clear heads have to keep them. Let’s be thankful that so far that’s only metaphorically. Here’s the Introduction in Inglese.

 

Dark Stars Over Europe

By Gary Lachman

When I heard from my publisher that an Italian edition of my book Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump would be coming out soon, I was of course delighted. Although I am an American ex-pat living in London now for some twenty-plus years, I have always felt a strong connection to Europe. (And for those who will point out that England is part of Europe, I suggest they consider Brexit and the feeling that many in the UK have these days towards those bureaucrats “on the continent.”) This is romanticism, to be sure, but it is a part of me nonetheless. This means that whenever I hear that a book of mine is coming out in Spanish, Norwegian, or, as this one is, Italian, I feel a certain thrill, and am excited at the idea that this usually means that I will be travelling to those countries to give talks and lectures to promote the new translation.

Yet I have to say that on this occasion my delight is tempered with a certain hesitation. I am troubled by the feeling that for a publisher to want to bring out an edition of this book in a European tongue, means that its topic is of interest to the people that speak it. Normally this would give me nothing but pleasure. But this time it’s different.

Why? The main idea behind Dark Star Rising is that in recent years there has been a resurgence of a kind of “occult politics” in the United States, but also in Russia, and that it is  part of the wave of populism and nationalism that has spread in those countries and is now flooding Europe. In an earlier book, Politics and the Occult, I looked at how occult and esoteric ideas have informed politics in the modern world on both sides of the ideological divide, left and right.[1] In fact, I wrote that book in order to show that not all “occult politics” must be right-wing, as writers like Umberto Eco have argued. There is a kind of “progressive” occult politics too, going back to the Rosicrucians of the early seventeenth century, and in my book I give many examples of it. But this recent return of occult ideas and beliefs to politics seems fairly anchored on the right. One example of this may be familiar to some Italian readers.

In February 2017, the New York Times ran a story about a talk Steve Bannon, then Donald Trump’s chief strategist, gave to a group of conservative churchmen in the Vatican. Bannon spoke on his usual topics – immigration, the fight against Islamic fascism, the Global Tea Party movement – but what the Times pointed out was something else. In the course of commenting on Russian president Vladimir Putin and his upholding of “traditional values,” Bannon mentioned someone in Putin’s milieu who was a reader of Julius Evola. As I point out in the book, Julius Evola was a brilliant but controversial twentieth century Italian esoteric thinker whose political views were very much on the right. He tried to influence first Mussolini, and then Hitler, and he later became a kind of éminence grise for movements on the Italian post-war right that were rising up, as Evola says, “amidst the ruins.”

That an adviser to the newly elected President of the United States was a reader of Evola was certainly something to consider. That the New York Times would make it headline news made me feel that indeed something strange was going on. This was the sort of thing that maintained a kind of fugitive existence on the fringe of the mainstream world. Now it was smack in the middle of everyday life. What was even stranger was that the person Bannon was alluding to, the reader of Evola within Putin’s circle, was Alexander Dugin, an individual with one of the most eccentric careers in postmodern politics. Dugin started out in the 1980s as anti-Soviet dissident punk and through a series of remarkable metamorphoses, became a respected authority on geopolitics, some of whose ideas – as I argue in the book – seem to have informed President Putin’s activities in Ukraine and the Crimea.

If this was not enough, Evola is also one of the ideological pillars of the Alt-Right, the far right counter-culture movement that grew up around Trump’s presidential campaign. And just as in the 1920s Evola tried to influence Mussolini through the use of a kind of “mind magic” or “mental science,” Richard Spencer, founder of the Alt-Right, claimed to have put Trump into office, through the use of a similar kind of magic, this time involving the internet. It is quite a story and I won’t spoil it for the reader here. I will only add that Trump himself is a devotee of a school of philosophy known as New Thought, whose central belief is that “thoughts are causative,” that through the power of the mind alone, we can alter, even “create” reality. Trump’s particular brand of mind magic is called “positive thinking,” but as I try to show in the book, it has much in common with the kind of postmodern magic that Spencer and the Alt-Right say they have got up to, as well as with the sort of occult ideas informing President Putin’s geopolitical adviser.

All this of course could be nothing more than the most ridiculous nonsense. Supporters of Trump will say he didn’t need magic to win the election; critics will say that any “magic” is just a smokescreen for Trump’s cynical Machiavellianism. But in a time when the very idea of “reality” or “truth” seems at best very shaky, who is to say what forces or factors can influence events? For the better part of a decade, people in Russia inhabited a reality that was for the most part invented for them by the government and distributed through the media. (How different it is today is debatable, but the emphasis, I think, has changed.) The kind of “reality TV” world that Putin had in place may have been the inspiration for America’s own reality TV president. Certainly the relativity of truth and the rejection of objective fact that characterizes the postmodern, deconstructive view emanating from the universities for decades, has played a part in obscuring the difference between reality and fantasy. As I say in the book, it has in fact precipitated a trickle-down effect, from the metaphysical heights to the lowlands of everyday. The “post-truth” “alternative fact” pop nihilism we luxuriate in today is the result. Reality is up for grabs. If each of us doesn’t take hold of it firmly, someone else will provide one for us. There are many people out there with less than salubrious designs for doing just that.

Since leaving Trump’s team, Bannon, we know, has toured Europe, drumming up support for and fanning the coals of the kind of populism that put Trump into power. Like all populism, it succeeds – when it does – not through reasoned argument – although Bannon and his fellow travellers will argue otherwise – but through the power of images, symbols, and slogans. These simple and direct stimuli reach below our conscious minds and influence us at deep, visceral levels, the same levels at which magic works – when it does. If the claim of success that Spencer and his gang have made is warranted, it did in November 2016. And if I am correct about the influence Alexander Dugin had on Putin’s activities in Ukraine and Crimea, it did in 2013-14 too. Are there similar efforts being made in Europe today? Does the success of nationalism and populism in several European states suggest that there are? I don’t know. I do know that in Dark Star Rising I have tried to dispel the darkness around these matters as best as I can, and to make clear what is at stake these days in what I call a “war on reality.” That my publisher Tlon is putting out the book encourages my outlook. Their name suggests that they are aware of the fragility of reality – I am a great reader of Borges – and that they are conscious of exactly what is at stake. I am certain that a reader picking up this book will feel that way too.

Gary Lachman

London, November 2018

 

[1] Gary Lachman Politics and the Occult (Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 2008)

 

Dark Stars, the Meaning of Life, and that Jordan Peterson article

My interview with Nikita Petrov about Dark Star Rising for MeaningofLife  TV is now up on You Tube. It seems to have generated a lot of discussion. But you can see for yourself here.

And an article I wrote about Jordan Peterson during the height of Petersonmania has also been put online by the good people at New Dawn magazine. Here it is.

And for those in the London area, I’m at Watkins Bookshop tonight, spelling out what these dark stars mean in our dim time.

That’s enough for a late summer post.

 

Madame Blavatsky, P.D. Ouspensky, and Magical Politics

I’ve posted some video recordings of some recent talks on You Tube. I tweet about them when I post, but I’m not sure if everyone here sees this, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to put the links together in one place. So, in chronological order:

Madame Blavatsky, The Mother of Modern Spirituality, Thomas Carlyle House.

(The amazon.com and amazon.co.uk links for the book.)

In Search of P.D. Ouspensky, Kensington Central Library.

(The amazon.com and amazon.co.uk links for the book.)

Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, Conway Hall

(The amazon.com and amazon.co.uk links for the book)

An interview with me about Dark Star Rising for Rebel Wisdom.

For those in the London area, I’ll be talking about Jung, Maslow, and Colin Wilson in the context of Individuation, Self-Actualization, and getting “beyond the robot” at the Day on Meaning at Birkbeck College, University of London, this July 29th. Some tickets are still available.

My talk on Aleister Crowley for the Century Club 18 July is sold out. An encore is scheduled for September.

I’ll be giving the closing talk for the Decadence, Magic (K) and the Occult conference at Goldsmith’s College 20 July. My topic is “Occultism in the World Today” and will focus on all the strange occult politics I’ve been writing about of late.

On 9 August I’ll be giving a free talk at Watkins Bookshop on Dark Star Rising. I’ll post details when they’re available.

A Dark Star Round Up

As you might expect, it’s been a busy week. Dark Star Rising; Magick and Power in the Age of Trump has been released in the states and will be available in the UK on 25 June. I’ve been promoting it left, right, and center, and will be doing so for the foreseeable future, with more interviews, more podcasts, and my talk for the UK launch at Conway Hall on June 26. In the meantime, I thought I’d gather some of the recent interviews and podcasts together, so those interested can find them all in one place. Here goes.

My interview with Sean Stone on RT’s Watching the Hawks Part 1 and Part 2.

My interview with Mark Frauenfelder at Boing Boing’s Incredibly Interesting Authors.

My interview with Erik Davis at Expanding Mind.

My interview at Aeon Byte.

An excerpt from the book at The Daily Grail.

An excerpt from the book at Reality Sandwich.

My interview with Gordon White at Rune Soup.

And an interview with me at Occult of Personality.

I hope you can enjoy these. I’ll be adding more as things progress and stars may rise, dark or otherwise.

 

Barfield, Ouspensky, and oh yeah, that Trump book…

I’m giving a talk next week at Rudolf Steiner House here in London on the work of Owen Barfield. Readers of A Secret History of ConsciousnessRevolutionaries of the Soul, and Lost Knowledge of the Imagination will be familiar with Barfield and how his ideas have been a central influence on my own work. I’ve talked about Barfield’s work in the context of other topics, but this will be my first talk on his life and ideas directly. I am looking forward to it and to returning to Rudolf Steiner House, where I gave a talk on Lost Knowledge  not too long ago.

I’m also giving a talk later in the month on one of my favorite writers on consciousness and esotericism, and one of the first that I read, many years ago, P.D. Ouspensky. My first biographical book was about Ouspenky, and over the years I have found myself going back to his work on a number of occasions. Last year I made a kind of pilgrimage to Virginia Water, about twenty miles outside of London, where for a time in the 1930s and ’40s, Ouspensky had his own version of Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man. This will be the first talk on Ouspensky that I’ve given in quite some time. The only other one I gave was when In Search of P.D. Ouspensky was first published, in 2003. As you might expect, I am looking forward to this too. Both talks will be videoed and, gods willing, posted on You Tube.

In other news, Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trumphas finally risen. It was released in the US today – 29 May – and briefly occupied the No. 1 position at Amazon in, I’m not quite sure, magic, metaphysics, whatever genre it falls into in our increasingly classified times. (Remember when there used to be just an occult section in bookshops? Those were the days.) It’s holding on to that slot in Kindle and I don’t know how the audio book – which I’ve yet to hear – is doing. So far it’s garnered a few reviews; here are some links: Liberty Law Site, Forbesthe Faith Matters blog, and my favorite so far, Prof. Bruce Charlton’s splenetic response to the book. I have, in his words, “crossed the line”, “abandoned all” my “earlier standards of scholarship and fairness” and “joined the forces of darkness.” I have also been “corrupted” – very rapidly it seems – by “Global Elites” and have embraced their “moral inversion.” Or actually my hitherto hidden embrace of their “secular progressivism” is now clear as day.  News to me but then I never get the memos.

I can only thank Prof. Charlton for being moved enough by my book and the outrage it sparked to put his ideas into print – or pixels. I can also only say that if he thinks I am an agent of secular progressivism he has not read my previous books as attentively as he suggests. But of course in our highly polarized time, if you are not on one side you must be on the other and of course there are only two. For an idea of my take on progressive ideas, readers – and I include Prof. Charlton – may want to take a look at my article “What is Jordan B Peterson Really Saying?” in New Dawn magazine. Unfortunately the article isn’t online and I can’t disseminate hard copies. I don’t profit by it, but if you plump for a copy it may give you pause for thought next time you think of bemoaning the fact that I have been corrupted by the forces of godless globalization. If only.

Dark Star will continue to rise this week, and, I hope, for many weeks to come. I am on BBC Radio 3’s Freethinking broadcast this Thursday evening, 31 May – GMT – discussing the book with Matthew Sweet. And on Friday evening I am being interviewed for RT for their program Watching the HawksI’m not sure when this will air, but when I know, I’ll spread the word. And on 26 June I’ll be talking about the book to the Fortean Society at Conway Hall, a venue which, in its day, welcoming figures like Bertrand Russell, was most likely a veritable hotbed of secular progressivism. Drat, tarred with that brush again!

I should also mention that my online course for the CIIS on Lost Knowledge of the Imagination begins today. Something else I am looking forward to.

In the meantime, if you’d like to join me here, in my work for the forces of darkness, by all means do. Buy the book, read it, post a review, and then together we will look for a flashlight.

Seeing the Invisible, Hearing Lost Knowledge

My talk at the Center for Contemporary Culture Barcelona (CCCB) last week on the influence of the occult on art – part of their fantastic Black Light Exhibition – went over well. The audience – more than a hundred people – seemed to enjoy it, and although there were some slight technical problems – rooted in my clumsiness with the universal translator – I count it as a success. The curator, Enrique Juncosa, is a charming, intelligent character and it was a delight to speak with him about the ways in which the mystical, the magical, and the esoteric have informed much of the art of modern times, and what they are getting up to in it today.

I’ve contributed an essay to the exhibition catalog, La Luz Negra (“Black Light”). Two friends have also contributed pieces: Erik Davis, of Techgnosis fame and the curator Cristina Recupero, with whom I worked on the Geheim Gesellschaften (“Secret Societies”) exhibition held in Frankfurt and Bordeaux in 2011. The catalog is tri-lingual, with Spanish-English and Catalan-English editions. If you are interested in occulture and can make it to Barcelona, the exhibition is well worth the trip. If you can’t go that far, the catalog can give you an idea of what you are missing.

As for my talk, here’s the link to the video. There is a brief introduction by Enrique, then the talk. In the Q & A that followed, I speak a bit about Dark Star Rising, which will be released on 29 May. Among other things I raise an interesting point: Is a tulpa sitting in the White House? What’s a tulpa? That’s a good question and I give some ideas of an answer in the book.

In other news, the audio book of Lost Knowledge of the Imagination is available. Here’s the link. It’s also available at amazon.com  There’s a free trial offer or you can purchase it separately. I haven’t heard it yet and look forward to hearing my words in – well, not exactly print but you get the idea. There’s also an interview with Mark Jeftovic, who produced the audio book.

It looks like it’s going to be a busy summer.

Dark Star Rising Over a New Dawn

Goodreads is having a giveaway for Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, which will be released on May 29th.  Five copies are up for grabs so get your skates on. And the Dark Star audio book – my first – is also available.

In other news, the latest issue of New Dawn has my piece on Jordan Petersonmania. In it I ask the philosophical question “What is Jordan B. Peterson Really Saying?,” and come to what I think are some useful answers. They may even help us get past postmodernism sooner than we think.

Happy May Day. I’m giving a talk on Madame Blavatsky this week at Carlyle House – I think she would approve –  and remember that May 8th is White Lotus Day, when she pulled up stakes once again and headed into the Akasha…