Tuesday, July 27, 2021

An Occult Investigation Into Joy Division - Part 2

The later years of the 19th Century were marked by an intuitive sense among astronomers that there was a ninth planet in the Solar System, which was disturbing the orbit of the outermost planet known thus far, Neptune. In 1906 the American astronomer Percival Lowell instituted a project to discover what he termed Planet X, and, after many missteps, a young astronomer at Lowell's observatory, Clyde Tombaugh, would indeed locate a mysterious body in the early months of 1930. What Tombaugh had found was the most disturbing and destructive astrological force that has ever cast its dire influence on mankind, the planet Pluto. It was suitably named after the Roman god of the underworld, the reciprocal of the Greek god Hades, and like its namesake the new planet would drag humanity down to its most fetid depths as part of its process of transformation. Astrologically Pluto represented Mars, the planet of war, at a higher octave, and was therefore the planet of extermination and genocide, as well as of organised crime and nuclear energy. As part of its Hadean legacy, Pluto also represented the divided self and internal conflict, and therefore psychoanalysis and shizophrenia. It was Pluto that gave the 20th Century its choking, polluting, leadenness and murderous intensity, and tore individuals apart in wrenching soul conflicts.

It is generally considered that the astrological force of a new planet starts to manifest for a Saturn cycle prior to its discovery, this being 30 years, the time it takes for Saturn (the outermost planet visible to the human eye) to orbit the sun. This would place the start of Pluto's influence at 1900, the year that the British opened their concentration camps in South Africa during the Boer War. From there the first truly major Plutonian ruptures occurred with the Great War, the Russian Civil War and the Armenian Genocide, although it was only after the planet fully revealed itself in 1930 that its appalling energy manifested to its full potential. It was the Plutonian current that elevated petty criminals and malcontents such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong into world-historical monsters capable of unleashing unprecedented levels of violence and brutality. But these eruptions were merely a calling card, as Pluto's mature phase of governance would commence on 16th July 1945, with the detonation of Trinity, the first atomic bomb, in the desert of New Mexico. Trinity was built around a core of fissile radioactive metal that had first been synthetically produced four years earlier, and had been named, naturally enough, plutonium. The subsequent detonations of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the resulting doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, placed all of humanity under Pluto's oppressive mass, the all-pervading low level psychological terror of the Cold War being the distant planet's ultimate expression.

Pluto's significance would not end here, of course, as its influence trickled into every niche and corner of existence, and even into the apparently trivial realm of popular music. Its arrival can be traced very precisely, to the opening chords of Jumpin' Jack Flash, while the leaden pall of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin would represent its anchoring in the cultural zeitgeist. Although Punk had intially represented a furious rejection of the ponderous sound of these forebears, Pluto would soon have its way with the arrival of post-punk and its perilous plunging baselines, spectral guitars, and infinity-seeking synthesizers. Thematically, Joy Division represented the two poles of the Plutonian ordeal, in both their schismatic sense of internal conflict and in their existential sense of oppressive external force. This was even apparent in their name, with Division marking an internal binary conflict, and the full name deriving from the forced prostitution of concentration camp inmates. Indeed the band's early predilection for Nazi imagery would dog their career, although it was a series of photographs taken by Kevin Cummins that gave the best visual inclination of their proximity to Pluto.

The post-war housing of Hulme that formed the background of these pictures illustrated Plutonianism in its (literal) concrete form. The slum clearance programmes in Britain's major cities were conceived and proselytised under the rubric of social improvement, although in practice they were generally akin to a domestic application of RAF Bomber Command's wartime policy of dehousing workers. The only major difference of course being that in this instance it was close-knit British working class communities that were broken up and peripherally displaced rather than German ones. Hulme was a particularly egregious example of the poor quality of system-built housing, this partially being due to characteristically Plutonian corruption on the part of the developers. The latter half of the 20th Century's fixation on concrete as the preferred building material, often inspired by the bunkers and pillboxes of the war years, nonetheless evoked the alien and awesome mass of Pluto, which was a force that could fascinate as much as it could repel. This dark fascination can be intuited in a track such as Komakino, that perfectly encapsulates the tractive pull and crushing gravity of that darkest of planets:

Post-war Britain was absolutely riven with Plutonian epiphenomena, the conflict in Northern Ireland, with its schismatic sectarian hatreds, and Brutalist British Army watchtowers erupting out of Victorian streets, being a particularly marked example. The Moors Murderers and Yorkshire Rippers who stalked the North and brought horror into the most mundane surroundings were also Plutonian irruptions. Perhaps Joy Division's most salent evocation of Pluto was The Atrocity Exhibition, which fused the Plutonian worlds of inner torment and mass murder together in a tableau of torture and conflagration; of sadism in both its microcosmic and macrocosmic dimensions. There was, however, something purging within this music, as the death of Curtis and termination of Joy Division seemed to take much of Pluto's power with them, such that the darkness and intensity of post-punk would suddenly appear overwrought, or even absurd.

However terrible the power of Pluto may have been, a nonetheless remarkable parallel trend had been working to undermine it. Continuous observation after its discovery had resulted in the consistent downgrading of Pluto's mass throughout the 20th Century. Initially, it had been calculated as being approximately as heavy as Earth, although by 1976 a series of drastic revisions had reduced its estimated mass to no more than 1% of Earth, this in turn still being a gross overestimate. The importance of this was that as Pluto apparently shrank so did its astrological influence. Wars became smaller, monolithic ideologies began to splinter, popular culture began to wane. The dark enchantment of the ninth planet began to dissipate and the world it had created would start to appear baffling in hindsight. In 2006 Pluto received the ultimate indignity of being downgraded from planetary status, and was instead designated a dwarf planet, of only minor astrological concern. The last great Plutonian conflagration, the invasion of Iraq, would mark the beginning of its swansong. As with its discovery, a Saturn cycle of 30 years will have to pass before Pluto's influence definitively fades, and it will not be until 2036 that it finally becomes dormant. Nevertheless, we are already firmly on that path, and this is why the 20th Century, and its artistic and architectural fads, its frenzied wars and Promethean inventions and discoveries cannot, and indeed will not, be repeated. There cannot be another group like Joy Division, because the planetary energies that summoned both them and their world into being no longer dominate.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Is there a Future in England's Dreaming?

There's a notable interview with Elton John in The Guardian, in which he lambasts the Conservative Government's apparent neglect of the performing arts during the negotiations around Brexit. According to Elton:

"People like me can afford to go to Europe because we can get people to fill in the forms and get visas done, but what makes me crazy is that the entertainment business brings in £111bn a year to this country and we were just tossed away. The fishing industry – which they still fucked up – brings in £1.4bn. And I’m all for the fishermen, but we’re talking about more than a hundred billion pounds of difference here, and we weren’t even thought about! 'Oh well, the arts: they don’t matter.'"

Now I think that Elton is a little mistaken about what is going on here, because I strongly suspect that the Government are tanking the arts quite deliberately. And, if they are, it demonstrates that the Tories are belatedly exhibiting some political nous. The first and most obvious point is that the British culture industry is generally very strongly anti-Tory, and in funding the arts what the Conservatives have actually been doing is feeding their enemy, and indeed shoring up one of the most implacable cadres that oppose them. For purely opportunist reasons it would suit the Tories to torpedo the culture industry no matter how much revenue it brings into the country, and it amazes me that they have taken this long to apparently figure this out.

However, there is an added benefit for the Conservatives in hobbling the arts, and which I referred to at length in a previous essay. This is that the culture industry, and popular culture in particular, have since the 1950's been one of the primary motors of British national demoralisation. This has not necessarily been ideological in character, but rather derives from the only future that most contemporary artists find Imagine-able - the peaceful world-utopia where there is nothing to kill or die for, and above us only sky. In opposition to this, the state and society that has been inherited from the past can only be viewed as outmoded and oppressive. Naive optimism and jaded cynicism are the two sides of the same nihilist coin, and this is why Give Peace A Chance and Holidays In The Sun are both essentially the same song. As a consequence, popular culture and especially popular music have tended to portray Britain, not inaccurately, as a spent and decaying former imperial power, lost in illusions of former glory, and internally riven with divisions based on race, class, and much else besides. Just spend five minutes perusing John Harris's Twitter feed, and you will get the picture.

This outlook has never been seriously challenged by the British state itself, mainly because most politicians, including even Conservative ones, basically agreed with it. When the Sex Pistols snarled that "there is no future in England's dreaming", or when The Waterboys trilled that "Old England is dying" they were, despite their apparent outsider status, merely reiterating the common sense of the ruling class. Unfortunately for Britain's creative artists, the one politician who now appears to stridently disagree is the current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. In a recent interview (of sorts) in The Atlantic, Johnson was prompted to hold forth on the subject of the author John le Carré, as follows:

'He told me he’d taken a completely different lesson from the novelist. To Johnson, le CarrĂ© had exposed not the fakery of the British ruling class, but its endemic passivity, and acceptance of decline. “I read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy at school,” he said. “It presented to me this miserable picture of these Foreign Office bureaucrats … For me, they were the problem.” Johnson told me this was exactly what he was determined to fight.

"You lump me together with various other people—and you say we are all products of these decadent institutions and this culture, an inadequate and despairing establishment. That’s not me!" He said he was trying "to recapture some of the energy and optimism that this country used to have."'

Now it could indeed be the case that the likes of Roger Waters, Joe Strummer and Thom Yorke are absolutely correct, and that Britain, or at least England, is definitively clapped out and cannot be revived. It may also be the case that any attempt at national renewal is wrong in principle and that it is through international collaboration and transnationalism that the future beckons. It is nonetheless definitively the case that if anybody was to attempt a serious project for national renewal, the very first obstacles that would need to be swept aside are the creative artists and performers. This is why the arts and creative industries will need to ready themselves to meet, for the very first time, a government that will be happy, and perhaps even eager, to see their demise.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Where The Mana Flows Like Water

Stumbled across the Alan Lomax Archive, a film-maker who travelled through Mississippi, the Appalachians and Louisiana in the late 1970's, producing a record of the music of these regions, such as these fine gentlemen, the Heavenly Gospel Singers:

The impression these clips give is of a skein of spiritual force that these performers, who are, after all, mostly amateurs, can effortlessly plug into. And when I say spiritual force, I am of course not talking metaphorically. There's an ease here in channelling spiritual mana that would necessitate gut-wrenching exertions from professional musicians if they attempted its replication. This also gives an insight into the sheer artificiality of the music industry, of how it is very much a soiler and a spoiler.

There's also an archaic aspect to these performances; they seem as though they could equally have been recorded in 1958 or even, but for the electric instruments, in 1928. The mass culture ploughs insanely on through its countless mutations, while in the back country the culture remains timeless.

It's amazing to think that this was filmed in a country that had only just finished visiting the moon and was still immersed in the space race. I like to think that you could see similar scenes in the more neglected regions of the USSR, only with the guitars replaced with balalaikas and the root bear substituted with vodka.

I do wonder to what extent this kind of music has persisted into the present day. I would guess the two main threats to it have been rap culture and middle-class hipsters co-opting it in their eternal search for authenticity. I expect the level of poverty is still the same though, or possibly even worse.

One string guitar = me when I get on the subject of Spengler or Jacques Ellul.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

An Occult Investigation Into Joy Division - Part 1

"A sense of fear and oppression is very characteristic of occult attack, and one of the surest signs that herald it. It is extemely rare for an attack to make itself manifest out of the blue, as it were. We are not in our normal state of mind, body and circumstance, and then find ourselves suddenly in the midst of an invisible battle. An approaching occult influence casts its shadow on consciousness before it makes itself apparent to the non-psychic. The reason for this is that we perceive subconsciously before we realise consciously, and a line of creeping shade indicates the penetrating of the subconscious censor from below upwards.

As the attack progresses, nervous exhaustion becomes increasingly marked, and there may, under certain conditions, which we will consider later, be such wasting of the tissues that the victim is reduced to a mere bloodless shell of skin and bones, lying on the bed, too weak to move. And yet no disease can be demonstrated."

- Dion Fortune, "Psychic Self-Defence"

There is no musical group more puzzling and disturbing than Joy Division; that both invites and confounds curiosity, and prompts the deepest attempts at analysis that yield almost nothing. Joy Division are both profound and impenetrable, such that any intiative to explain them is invariably diverted into panegyrics dedicated to the surface of their sound, which is a modernist hall of mirrors. But is there another means of approach that might yield more? Perhaps not, as I suspect that Joy Division will forever remain obscure, but it is maybe worth making the effort. However, just such an effort will require taking a different tack to all previous analyses, and viewing the world through a different lens than that previously accorded to any study of the band. In this instance, we will attempt to study them from the perspective of that school of occultism known as the Western Mystery Tradition, whose most notable contemporary manifestation is the Golden Dawn system of magic.

The first two concepts that we will employ are in fact almost ubiquitous to all esoteric and occult systems, whether they originate in the Occident or the Orient. These are the concepts of reincarnation and of karma. The Golden Dawn magical system, and its offshoots, posit that each human soul is made up of two major components, which are known as the Individuality and the Personality. The Individuality is that part of ourselves that is eternal, and is reincarnated from existence to existence, while the Personality is that part of ourselves that is unique to each particular existence. The Individuality is also known as the Higher Self, and is a part of ourselves that is only very rarely encountered, if at all, during our entire lifetime. If it briefly emerges, it is usually at a time of great stress, or distress; if, in the middle of a crisis, you have experienced the phenomenon where a single wise voice enters your head, and gives you absolutely the correct advice on what to do, then you have encountered your Higher Self. It follows then, that the Personality is also known as the Lower Self, and the divide between these two selves is called The Veil, the purpose of much occultism being to cross this veil and unite the lower and higher selves.

The Lower Self is the part of us that we experience in our day to day existence, and which encompasses all our personal qualities, both good and bad. The purpose of being born into different personalities is to learn the lessons that each particular personality, with its strengths and weaknesses, has to give. From an esoteric point of view, there is no point having the same personality forever and ever, as our inherent limitations and biases, not to mention our varying physical and mental abilites, will always restrict the knowledge that any one personality can accrue. As such, in each personality we grow, (hopefully) mature, and (sometimes very painfully) learn as much as we can, and then we die, and the knowledge accrued is retained by the Individuality ready for the next incarnation. The memories of the previous incarnation(s) are rendered inaccessible, although the skills, talents, and lessons learned are retained by the Individuality. This is the root of apparently innate talents, or abilities to comprehend particular facets of existence with unusual alacrity. As the Individuality accrues knowledge and experience, so each incarnation becomes easier to navigate at the most basic level, and the soul turns itself towards spiritual growth. Eventually, all the lessons of material incarnation have been learned, and the soul continues its journey removed from any physical constraints, this basic orientation being known as destiny.

When this principle is applied to the personality at the heart of the great drama that was Joy Division, we should think then not of Ian Curtis, but of the soul that was temporarily incarnated as Ian Curtis. And it is at this juncture that the concept of karma assists our understanding. The term used for karma within the Golden Dawn system is fate, although karma is the term that has become more colloquially common and readily understood. It should be noted in passing then that fate is a very different concept to destiny. In esoteric terms, karma is a neutral, unpersonified principle in which the results of any action or deed are returned to the person who enacted them, the purpose being to serve as a lesson in conduct. Karma, the results delivered by our actions, is how we learn in each incarnation, should we be alert enough to recognise it. However, the fact that karma can span incarnations also means that it cannot be evaded; as we sow, so do we reap, and as all of us are flawed and prone to foolishness, so we all reap in abundance.

This is particularly pertinent with regards to Joy Division, as they give every impression of having been a vehicle for the working out of karma. Although the allusions are always vague and indistinct, the overall sense that they convey is that many lifetimes previously, the soul that was temporarily incarnated as Ian Curtis made some terrible, fateful error, that unloaded a crushing burden of karma that has pursued and harried it ever since. What this mistake may have been is impossible to ascertain, but it would seem to have been spiritual and/or religious in nature, and was accompanied by a deep sense of betrayal, thus indicating that the protagonist may have been tricked into making it. Although karma itself is neutral, the means through which it is enacted can be very active indeed, and whatever error Curtis' antecedent made, it seems to have unleashed furies that have pursued it relentlessly, possibly for centuries. So what could these furies be? Some insight may be gleaned from Dion Fortune's invaluable guide to such phenomena, Psychic Self-Defence, in which she outlines, amongst other ailments, the problem of psychic attack.

Psychic attack is probably the most common form of occult disturbance, its origin essentially lying in a suggestion made to the subconscious mind. which acts as the seed for an acute mental complex, filled with double binds, that will eventually erupt into consciousness. Such a suggestion is usually made by a person we know and can be made deliberately or accidentally, and acts on a vulnerability or fissure that is already apparent, but dormant, in the subconscious. If you know somebody, maybe at work, who acts pleasantly towards you, but nevertheless makes you feel uncomfortable or energetically drained, then you will have some idea of the kind of process at work. Nevertheless, Dion Fortune also pointed out that:

"It happens sometimes, however, that a rapport has been formed with the attacking entity in a previous incarnation, and therefore it holds, as it were, the key to the postern. Such a problem is a very difficult one, and external assistance is needed for a solution. The difficulty is increased by the fact that the victim is often disinclined to allow the break to be made, being bound to the attacking entity, whether discarnate or incarnate, by bonds of fascination or even genuine affection."

These latter kinds of psychic attack are essentially karmic in nature and tend to pursue the individual who suffers them from one incarnation to the next, the means of manifestation in each life essentially being the same. There are strong suggestions within Joy Division's music that such psychic attacks afflicted Ian Curtis, although it is doubtful that they were the most frequent, or most pernicious, of his woes. Nonetheless, what makes a song such as Digital so remarkable is that it is an almost perfect evocation of how a psychic attack operates, from a vague sense of disquiet, to increasing dread, and then to panic and full-blown immersion. There is also the sense of personal invasion, the word "digital" indicating a double, and repetition, the sense of the attack happening again and again with ever increasing force.

Another principle of Western occultism is that each of us exists on a series of planes, which can be allocated in a number of ways, although the usual schema is to posit five basic planes, these being the material, the etheric, the astral, the mental and the spiritual. The first three of these planes pertain to the Lower Self, the material plane obviously corresponding to our physical body and physical surroundings. The contemporary Western worldview generally maintains that this is the only plane that really exists, the other planes being either epiphenomena or wholly imaginary. Nonetheless, the etheric plane refers to an animating general life force that is known in Eastern systems under such names as qi and prana, while the astral plane is the realm of dreams thoughts and emotions. The other pair of planes, the mental and spiritual, pertain to the Higher Self and are thus generally inaccessible to our normal consciousness. Dead Souls recounts an irruption of unbalanced and hostile psychic energy on the astral plane, dreams being a common arena for the staging of psychic attacks. Once again there is the sense of repeated assault, in Curtis' insistence that he is being continually called for. There is also the intimation that some kind of karmic account is waiting to be settled, that a debt is due. Possibly, even, that a sacrifice is expected.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

If The Principle Dies, You Don't Have A Chance

There can be few groups more thoroughly, remorselessly forgotten than Easterhouse. This is especially ironic given that the title of their debut album was Contenders, although at the time of its release this name was far from anomalous. Having been endorsed by Morrissey, a dubious honour even back then, Contenders was released by Rough Trade in the same week in 1986 as The Queen Is Dead, and only The Smiths' release held it off the top of the independent charts. It was a record that embodied the band's deep contradictions, which were reflected in both their towering strengths and chronic weaknesses.

Easterhouse were as musically conservative as they were politically radical, their outspoken revolutionary socialism framed by what initially sounded like the most pedestrian strumming imaginable, like The Smiths without the cutting-edge effeminacy. On Contenders this was further immersed in multiple layers of production lacquer, such that you could almost smell the varnish when you cupped an ear to it. However, the record also showcased Easterhouse's tremendous strengths. The first of these was that although even at the time their politics verged on the anachronistic, their world-historical vision had an epic grandeur, such that their apparent muscial ordinariness could nonetheless evoke colossal vistas of torment and resolution. Perhaps the group's greatest boon was singer Andy Perry's voice, which I personally think was the finest male voice of the Eighties. Finally, their songs were just really, really, good, being ambitiously structured and featuring memorable and penetrating lyrics. Lenin in Zurich is, quite simply, a great, great song:

Easterhouse's weltanschauung hinged on two of the great revolutions that had convulsed the early part of the 20th Century, and their consequent impact on the British working class. The first of these was obviously the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917, whose tenets the Perry brothers were still openly loyal to. Indeed, Get Back To Russia, the band's anthemic paean to the land of the Revolution, is remarkable in hindsight mainly for demonstrating just how much confidence the Western left still had in the USSR, just a few years before its demise:

The other land of revolution revered by Andy and Ivor Perry was Ireland, and Contenders was replete with Irish Republican folk songs and hymns to the Easter Rising. Perhaps the best song on the album that dealt with the travails of 20th Century Ireland was 1969, their chronicle of the genesis of the Troubles in the North, this again adopting an unashamedly pro-Republican standpoint:

However, these sentiments would also date quickly, as even at this time the fire within Irish Republicanism was starting to abate, as the movement inevitably became domesticated by moving further towards practical, pragmatic electoral politics. Furthermore, Easterhouse had strongly backed the recently defeated Miners' Strike, and had even featured Arthur Scargill on one of their record sleeves, so if the intention of Contenders had been to raise consciousness and inspire action, it instead resembled a lament for a worldview that was fully in retreat.

Nevertheless, if the revolutionary socialism that Easterhouse espoused is unlikely to again be the engine of global change that it had been at the beginning of the 20th Century, it has at least endured, and is in many ways in a healthier state than the various unlovely models of liberal capitalism that once threatened its complete annihilation. And, as the wheel has turned (almost) full circle, so too has Contenders aged surprisingly well, its incongruity to its era having been its greatest strength of all.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

That was the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius

One of the persistent tropes of the late 1960's, along with "Flower Power", was the notion that the world was entering an "Age of Aquarius", which was to be a time of universal love and understanding, in which peace and harmony would reign supreme. This was famously given voice in The 5th Dimension's paean to the coming age, Let The Sunshine In, itself taken from the counter-cultural musical Hair, which celebrated the demise of the old era of organised religion, authoritarianism and racial oppression, and the immanent rise of:

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation

All this suggests that these people actually knew very little about astrology, for whatever the zodiacal sign of Aquarius represents, it has very little to do with love and understanding. So what exactly does the Age of Aquarius represent? It is in fact a product of a natural process known as the Procession Of The Equinoxes, in which the Earth's axis of rotation gradually shifts over a 26,000 year cycle. Its astrological effect can be visualised by looking at the wheel of the zodiac, and imagining a horizontal line being traced from its centre directly left to its circumference. Where the line meets the circumference is our current position in time, and the wheel rotating anti-clockwise is the Procession of the Equinoxes. Each 30 degree portion of the zodiac that represents a specific sign takes 2160 years to pass our point on the circumference, this of course meaning that every astrological age, including the Age of Aquarius, lasts for 2160 years.

Each of these ages in turn takes on the characteristics of the zodiacal sign that governs that particular Age, while the signs themselves are influenced by what are known as their ruling planets. Aquarius is ruled by the planet Uranus, which was discovered by William Herschel in 1781. Uranus had previously been unknown as it is not visible to the naked eye, and the fact that it had to be observed by the artificial means of a telescope means that it is strongly associated with technology. It is also an unusual planet in that its axis of rotation is not longitudinal, as with all other planets in the solar system, but rather latitudinal. As such it rotates "horizontally" rather than "vertically", and is thus also associated with eccentricity and individualism. Finally, Uranus is considered by astrologers to be "Mercury at a higher octave", and so amplifies those characteristics already associated with Mercury, which include communication, deceit and theft. As a result, the Age of Aquarius can broadly be defined as the era of technology, mass communication, eccentricity, mass deception and globalised fraud.

The Age prior to Aquarius was the Age of Pisces, this being the 30 degree segment that abuts Aquarius in the anti-clockwise direction. Pisces is governed by Neptune, another previously unknown planet, which as its name suggests is associated with an endless oceanic formlessness. Neptune is also considered to be Venus, the planet of love, at a higher octave. As a consequence, Neptune is considered the planet of universalism, humanitarianism, helplessness, and addiction, amongst other things. Perhaps the archetypal expression of the Age of Pisces is Christianity, which emerged at the beginning of the Piscean era. Prior to the birth of Christianity the majority of religions were polytheistic, each with a pantheon of gods that competed and fought and loved and deceived each other, their struggles mimicking the chaotic forces of nature. As polytheistic religions innately fail to posit a single truth or litany of truths, religious strife in the polytheistic world was rare, and it was possible for faiths to live alongside one another, and for gods to "drift" from one religion to another. However, a monotheist religion such as Christianity, with its one God and single source of knowing, had by its very nature to be a universalist faith, banishing and destroying all those creeds that contradicted it. Equally harsh treatment had to be meted out to heretics and sinners as to infidels, as there could be no deviation from its edicts.

This in turn implied that the Age of Pisces was to become an era of totalising conflict over belief systems, and when Christianity encountered its first universalist rival in Islam, the result could only be war. Another by-product of universalising monotheism was that as a creed expanded it required an increasingly complex system of bureaucracy in order to maintain it, and thus it birthed ever more rigid hierarchies. As such, the Age of Pisces effectively became the age of universalism and hierarchy. This also applied to those conflicting Piscean civil religions that gradually supplanted Christianity following the Enlightenment, such as Marxist socialism, liberalism and conservatism. In each case Jehovah was superseded by a remote and unquestionable arbiter of godlike truth (Dialectical Materialism, "progress", "The Market") with sinning non-believers being subjected to such scornful of epithets as "reactionaries", "luddites", and "protectionists".

The actual start of the Age of Aquarius is disputed by astrologers, although the most commonly quoted commencement date is 1879, when it began to gradually eclipse the Age of Pisces, its establishment being heralded by those three clarions of atomisation: Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Einstein, and Sigmund Freud. One of the most fascinating insights into the emergence of the Age of Aquarius was during that great clash of universalisms, the Second World War, as recorded in the book The Magical Battle of Britain. This documented the symbolic battles against Nazism conducted by one of the 20th Century's greatest occultists, Dion Fortune, as she outlined in a series of communications to her magical group, the Fraternity of the Inner Light. However, Fortune's letters to her fraternity also contained her premonitions of the world that would emerge from that great conflagration, such as her Letter 77 of 15th June 1941, in which she commented that:

"The Piscean Age has passed and the Aquarian Age is drawing away from the phase that astrologers call the cusp, or sphere of mingled influences, and beginning to show its true characteristics. Not only are the conditions of life changing, but its moral standards also. This does not mean that there will be no standards of conduct in the Aquarian Age and that freedom will be extended into anarchy; there are certain standards that are eternal, such as truth and honesty, but there are others that change with the changing age".

This statement confirmed the principle that there is no "hard edge" between astrological ages, but that they gradually blend into each other. In her subsequent Letter 118 of 31st May 1942, Fortune expanded on her theme, as:

"I have stated that the old order has passed away and a new phase of evolution is already with us. That it is the Age of Aquarius is an astronomical fact, calculated mathematically. Basing my conclusions on the occult teaching concerning the nature of Aquarius, I have tried to indicate how the New Age may be expected to work out. When I say the old forms of social organisation will break up and everything will be in a state of flux, that racial and social barriers will be eroded and a general intermingling take place, I am not enunciating socialistic doctrines but astrological ones."

This mixing and intermingling would be a result of the breakdown of the racial hierarchies of European imperialism, and the cultures of deference that maintained class divisions in the metropoles. Fortune anticipated the erosion of the "colour bar" that denied positions of responsibility, or even entire careers, to non-whites both in the colonies and in Britain, and they would indeed disappear, although some would linger in place even up to the late 1970's. From the ruins of the old order, Fortune imagined a new economic order, governed by "neutral" trans-national organisations, and based on free trade, that would expand across the whole world, as:

"It is the men and women of the New Age who must make contact across national barriers as soon as the fighting is over, and they must meet as Aquarians, not as English, French or Germans. They must bring in the New Age for all men, not for their own people only because the New Age is an age of co-ordination of the whole earth, and it cannot be brought in piecemeal. Those who share our ideals are on our side, whatever language they speak, whatever may be the colour of their skins, or the shape of their skulls, or by whatever name they may call their God or gods or no-gods."

This world would require the dismantling of colonialism, and so:

"The rightful owners will resume ownership but there will be strategic points all over the world which will be held by the United Nations for international commerce and international policing and they will be mandated. For the whole of the New Age turns on the concept of the ownership of the land by the people versus the ownership of the people by the land. So you will see a great many places hitherto under English ownership reverting to the original owners.

Dion Fortune's vision was remarkably prescient, and it indeed guided much of the self-declared "enlightened thinking" over the long post-war era. However, what was also notable about it was that in its positing of a single, peaceful, harmonised world of multi-cultural liberal capitalism, it was actually rather universalist. This in turn implied that the Piscean energies that she thought had already largely dissipated were in fact still strongly in force. As a result, what Fortune was predicting was not the forthcoming Age of Aquarius, but an interregnum in which the Aquarian energies were still constrained within a Piscean framework. This was the world that most of us grew up in, and mistook for the permanent shape of the future; a world in which a musical like Hair could erroneously be considered prophetic. The neoliberal unipolar moment that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union perhaps marked the zenith of this premature Age of Aquarius, before the real Aquarian energies pressed in with Brexit and the election of Trump. That the Chinese, on whom the hopes of a New World Order were effectively based, had not actually bought into the notion was perhaps the most unwelcome surprise of all.

The Age of Aquarius as it actually is, with its socially mediated mass deceptions, eccentric populist insurgents, fragmenting established institutions, and emerging civilisation states with incommensurable values, is not proving accommodating for the universalist idealists. But this is the future, and its most disorientating qualities are only going to intensify, because it was the utopian visions of a harmonious global order that had actually constituted the interregnum.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Shadow of Aquarius

There's a fascinating (although annoyingly advertisement-heavy) interview by Aris Roussinos with the Cornish hotelier and QAnon advocate John Mappin below:

Mappin, a character I had never previously heard of, is one of a plethora of charismatic individuals from both right and left that seem to be constellating around a genuinely novel and perplexing worldview that not only refutes established political conventions, but also the consensus of what constitutes reality. Other figures either embedded, or being drawn into, this field include the likes of James Delingpole, Jordan Peterson, Piers Corbyn, Russell Brand, Glenn Greenwald and Joe Rogan. Perhaps the two great fathers of this tendency (I hesitate to use the word "movement") are David Icke and Julian Assange, while both Donald Trump and Nigel Farage are the nearest it comes to having a political wing.

The most striking aspect of the interview from my perspective is Mappin's allusions to spiritual forces guiding his work. This tends to confirm my suspicion that we are witnessing the early stages of the breakdown of the materialist-rationalist-atheist model of reality that has guided politics for at least the last century, and it is fringe figures like Mappin who are leading the attack. One of the reasons the "radical" left are struggling so much nowadays is that their claim to be the ultimate refutation of the status quo is undermined by the fact that they are fully immersed in the current, but fragile, materialist consensus reality. This makes them particularly incapable of processing the weirdening that the collective Western worldview is currently experiencing, their only recourse being to plunge into ever more fanatical and abstract forms of identitarianism.

So what's going on? I've been meaning to explain this for a while, but alas I am very busy these days, and have not been able to devote the time to this blog that I had hoped. The short form, however, is that a 2000 year old pattern defined by the twin forces of hierarchy and universalism is coming to an end, and we are entering an Aquarian realm defined by individualism, eccentricity and synchronicity. That is to say that figures like Mappin, and the worldviews they espouse, are likely to become the norm, and that politics will become less about contested values and more about incompatible realities. This ultimately means that politics as we have known it, in which there are at least some shared assumptions that we all accept as a basis for contest and debate, will become impossible, with the result that it becomes increasingly ad hoc and geographically limited.