Who will stand up for Myanmar

Largest book in the world is contained here, at Kuthodaw Pagoda (ကုသိုလ်တောဘုရား) in Mandalay, Myanmar.

Dedicated to my
friend Marshall,
my friend Dennis,
my friend Leo,
my friend Stanley,
my friend Maung
Maung;
all the friends
of Myanmar,
especially every
single student
that I ever
taught.

Folks of the Ayeyarwady River (ဧရာဝတီမြစ), near Mandalay, not far from Sagaing.

Who will stand up for Myanmar

when life itself has been gunned down?

Who will stand up for Myanmar when

Being is held in such low-standing,

who will stand up for Myanmar, who

            believes Western democracy is real,

            who believes the West is real.

Who will stand up for Myanmar

            who would stand up herself

            if not for the Golden Triangle,

“[F]or the poppy rules the world”[1]

as the whole world is colonized.

Who has stood up for the memory

            of the 8888 Uprising,

Who has stood up for the Saffron monks,

Who has stood up for the murdered

            and raped Rohingya,

Who has stood up for the million

            who’ve been displaced.

Believes that sanctions will,

            or ever have done anything

                        about this

And who enable the proliferation of

            military dictatorship the world over?

Who will

            stand up for the tortured

                        denizens of Insein Prison,

Who will read the

            interminable discourse already produced

                        on this subject,

And who will read this poem.

Who will protest nonviolently

            to the end global capitalism,

            with the indomitable spirit

                        of a Theravada monk,

And who will unite across

            every religious division

                        arm in arm, who

Will give up the religion of

            global capitalism.

Who will

            wake up to stand up

Dreaming in their violent mythologies

            to know who wrote

                        Burmese Days,

            let alone there’s a country

                        called Myanmar?

Who will stand up for what

            they regard

So cheaply to be bought

Turning the entirety of their backyard

            into a sweatshop.

Who will stand up for the workers

            of Myanmar

Who will stand up for a nation

            not their own

Who will give up the violent dominion

            of all nation-statehood.

Who will stand up

            for Marshall

beat repeatedly in the head,

threatened with firing squad

For merely spitting on a police car.

Who will stand up for Myanmar.

Who will stand up for the migrants

            of Myanmar,

            of the World

forced into modern slavery,

And who will stand up for this fact

that slavery is worse than it ever has been,

            throughout the entirety

                        of your so called progressing of Civilization,

            democratic values!

Who? How?

            When.

Cow outside a temple near Bagan (ပုဂ).




[1] (Jim Morrison, Paris Journal)

The evanescence of property.

Intellectual property establishes a dominion over time in the way property does space. This is because concepts unfold in time in the sense that language is syntactical.

            Modern science corporatizes intellectual property. Establishing an interdependent relation between power and knowledge, this is analogous to the interdependence between political power and wealth.

            Concepts are a reflection of illumination, a consequence of the conditions for existence made up of electromagnetic gravitation in a void; the emergent property of consciousness in a system; or the complex order arising out of chaos, making up a whole composed of parts. This is precisely intelligence, the ordering, the structuring of a vast infinitude of data.

            Ownership of intelligence implies an individualizing or atomization of intelligence which is specifically human insofar as the human being creates hierarchies out of its understanding.

            The problem with this is existence or the world as an environment, gets excluded from the system of understanding that informs our understanding of the world. In other words in order to create a system out of something one must isolate a part from a whole, effectively complexifying that part into its own whole. For instance, in the structure of language that is a system of communication, this system effectively becomes a parallel or mirror reflection of the world it enframes by signifying. Signification itself is a mere reflection of a state of affairs; and explicitly not that state of affairs in-itself.

            And yet, in being a snapshot of a state of affairs, it does manage to be an illumination of conceptual knowledge, knowledge being not intrinsically separated from the power that it mirrors, its absolute existence as energy; existing under the relative conditions that make it perceivable as matter, distinctly reflected through an apparatus which has evolved over time to be sensitive to light in specific ways that create perceptions.

            Trying to “own” something as evanescent as this is the very definition of illusion. For to “own” it implies that it could be grasped once and for all, and preserved in a specific state. Which is not only impossible—for it is impossible to grasp one’s own reflection—but also betrays a deep delusion to think that the reflection has existence in-itself, in the same way that it is a delusion to think that language is precisely reality, or that these two things are necessarily separated by an absolute border.

            That border is purely conceptual. And this is why knowledge cannot be “owned,” for it betrays the fact that this flows equally through everybody.

Reflection of the Moon

The universe is like
a piece of paper,
A bounded infinity
with determinable shapes.

The world is like a constellation,
made out of fixed stars
          that the mind
Connects distinctly at places.

And if a concept is a reflection
then what’s reflected is light
Like sun energy
            shining on the moon;
As matter condenses
            because there is shadow
I can understand, you.



On sex-positivity & reaction

Conservative ideology must be sex-negative and acclimate the perspective to a pessimism for life. For several reasons, for instance the class hierarchies that are grounded in injustice are to be seen as natural, and hence the miserable world they create must also be seen as natural.

            The things in life that are inherently positive, like sex, must be governed through their enframing as negative, for sex-positivity would inherently create a more balanced world insofar as the human reproductive function can be linked to love and not violence, freedom and not slavery, equality and not compulsion, and so on. This sex-positivity would threaten the hierarchical order of things, and hence sex and therefore life itself, the consequence of sex, must be pathologized; constructed through sex-negativity if the order of the world itself, as Western Civilization as such, its supremacy, is to be preserved.

            Sex-negativity as status quo then, also the conservative position, with the upper hand but also the mandate to preserve, can attack progressive forces which would seek to liberate sexuality as degenerate. Without addressing the systemic nature of sex-negativity, conservative forces can criticize left-wing forces for being idealistic, not being able to see the presupposed naturalness of sex-negativity.

            By negating sex, construing it as negative, the bad consequences which come from this, can be framed as natural, when putting the abstract concept of civilization before the anthropological reality of human beings.

            The conservative ideology will put the abstract concept of civilization before the anthropological benefits of sex-economic progress in order to preserve the hierarchical structure of class relations.

            This is why the conservative ideology will sacrifice individual happiness, by acclimating the perspective to pessimism regarding life, because the imperative to conserve general power privilege through class relations overrules particular instances of truth-knowledge or individual self-control, happiness or contentment, for the sake of this systemic goal.

            The contentment of sex-positivity in the broad anthropological sense as sex-economic, threatens the structural violence that grounds civilization through the power of hierarchy and class relations.

            Another way of putting it; by linking the idea of sex-negativity to civilization itself, the sex-negative position becomes the correct, or moral position.

            By linking civilization to hierarchy, it becomes moral. Injustice and inequality by degrees are also moral.

            Sex-positivity becomes immoral, and linked to the idea of degeneracy, or “anarchy,” the dissolution of civilization.

Fragments of a concept of cyberspacetime

If postmodernism is in a way characterized by an eclectic return to the past, then in what comes after postmodernism, the singularity of information which characterizes a control society, has flattened the former distinctions between spacetimes altogether. This is perhaps the capitalist realism effect of cyberspacetime.

            Rule by cyberspace time is algorithmic. It facilitates the gig economy, a way of personality construction and hence memory-making that is image-cinematic, based around profile building; and a generalized understanding of everything that encompasses the self and the world, which looks similar to a kind of generalized mental disorder.

            Despite its real material, technological character, cyberspacetime is primarily a mental phenomenon.

            Whole patterns, phases, fads, memetic stages play out in cyberspacetime, in ways that are cyclical with similarities to actual spacetime, but ultimately in a separate realm though this area is, as I speculate, still largely in the mind.

            In theory cyberspacetime could fuse with the brain in the way that language capacity became a biological inheritance of human beings. This concept seems to show the fluidity between the technological and biological. One begins to wonder if beings evolved a capacity for language, becoming human beings, through generational contact with the world. Cyberspacetime wouldn’t so much as be fused with the human brain, as be a catalyst or stimulus for the evolution of new neurological capacities.

            In conclusion, we may be approaching an analogy between something like the psychedelic experience and representational thinking. That is, a drug can change brain chemistry, in the same way a mere experience can change brain chemistry. And prolonged experience with a certain kind of chemical reaction could create transformations of a so called alchemical nature.

            If duration is the embodiment of spacetime, then cyberspacetime is like a cell of duration. In this way cinema is both its precursor and most apt symbol of representation.

            The Influencer is cyberspacetime embodied.

            One quality of cyberspacetime is that it is at once eternally fleeting and oppressively permanent.

            A reified Now that swells and keeps swelling infinitely to monstrous proportions of seeming omniscience, it occludes the impermanence of mutability in the natural flow of things.

            The algorithmic influence of cyberspacetime is ultimately psychological, that is to say the artificial intelligence of the algorithm learns enough about the individual user to make them feel like they are being influenced. This feeling of influence is real though real insofar as it is psychological. In this way the effect of influence is similar if not analogous to the effect of ideology; of propaganda more broadly which has always taken its manipulative techniques from psychology.

The Slough

Blood flows in one direction,

            towards the heart.

Freedom, if the concept exists, never

Shall leave behind a single soul ever

Trapped inside wage

            labor to do their part.

Not money but freedom is what I need.

Don’t give me none of that

            wage slave’s currency.

It’s a great irony of civilization

that pure reason

            is in fact

a Gateway drug of insanity.

the God of the West,

            realism of capitalists—

Our spirit is formed

like water from hydrogen,

it counters that from

            which it was formed,

                        the flame

And therein lies the Great

Mystery of palingenesia,

            of the interconnectedness

                        of the heavy

                                    & light,

the hot & the cold.

Emptiness is pure potential

at bottom chaos

the interconnectedness of all things,

butterfly effect

ultimately the unknown:

what Rimbaud sought

through his long dérèglement de tous

            les sens

to know je est un autre.

“Truths are illusions

which we have forgotten

            are illusions,”

(Nietzsche). This is

the matter of simulacrum,

            for the utility

            of an illusion

                        is in its

            being seen through.

Stuck to facts,

all truth is

always the truth of power

in this rigged dimension

where might makes right;

Our human rights

are always the product of surrendering

personal sovereignty;

Our freedom of speech

is always the right of the State

to take that away;

Human freedom

under State government

is only that which can

            by brutally denied

                        to you

if you’re standing

            in its way.

            thinking and writing,

Creating an edifice—

the mind is a calculation

            machine,

striving to bring concepts

            & things

            into balance.

& Civilization is already

            a simulacrum,

especially when imposing

            a center on the boundless;

Hierarchizing creates

            classes of Master

            & Slave,

Language and mythologies

            are a semiotic code

            that justifies the Order,

and hence Ideology

            & material subjection

            reign.

The singularity of information

            is the boot

            of the control society,

And sold as liberating,

            a freedom

            that is slavery,

which is its neoliberal character.

Freedom as a War

            of all against all,

Law that codifies in Justice

            that the mighty will rule,

This is the neoliberal regime

            & tyranny of the market

—making us, in the mythologies

            of pseudoscience, believe

Competition & violence are

            intrinsic to the human species.

Art sought pretentiously

            to immortalize

By resisting death,

We’ve petrified life

And the contrivances multiplied.

The Lords even in death

continued to rule with their legacy

like mummified pharaohs,

The canon was haunted

            by the auguring

            of an Ozymandias,

And we all fell into a cult

            of personality from Shakespeare

On, as if under the spell

            of one such

            fragile Ego.

Every poem kills,

like in an exchange

            of value

alienated persons

can’t simply be

but in capitalist agony.

Write, rights

some have more,

much more time

deserving of value

to make their thoughts

on being an artist rhyme.

Being a subject

Every conception

is a form of syzygy.

Deny the poetry

            in philosophy,

the ideology

            in reality,

the magic

            in thinking.

The Lords are artificial gods

whose powers are godlike.

They may not even exist

apart from the human mind,

Whose power is nowhere

when it is everywhere,

nowhere in the people

when in institutions;

Nowhere in communities

when in the State,

nowhere in our bones & sinews

when in our bellies as processed meat,

in our brains as pharmaceuticals,

Surrounding us as in a spider’s web

            of digitized capital.

Power is a frame,

a picture frame,

The capstone of representational

            thinking,

A Master code.

The structure of language

            itself,

Structures of the unconscious

Like dinosaur bones,

            an unending history of brutality,

Arranging in spacetime

the black blood of Empire.

Flowing always to the top

            of the cybernetic head

                        of Talos,

As its structural hand

shatters the skull of the

            indigenous

with a billy club—

Brutalize your Ego,

Kill It dead,

            the Fascists

            inside your head.

            Give us

competition without resentment,

cooperation without hierarchy.

law absent of violence,

rule drained of domination.

            We must

revolt against the given

with “[a]n impossiblist élan”![1]

For to be a poet,

            a good poet,

an actionable one,

             is to be

a magician.

            Desire is the means of production. No emancipatory structure can exist that doesn’t first collectively free desire.

            (ii) It is consumption that primarily defines a late stage of Capitalism. Production and consumption are two sides of the same coin, like Master/Slave morality.

            (iii) Desire must be overcome not through denial, but rather through disinterested affirmation. Denial is what fuels compulsory consumption. Production becomes pathological under Capitalism.

            Be disinterested

                        in how

                        the State

            defines your Self.

            Be disinterested

                        in forms of power

                        that are slavery

which is the privileged

                        domain of currency. 

            Be disinterested, in the sense of free from commodity fetishism; disinterested in the sense of free from fetishism in general. Fetishism is a pathology of object-subjects.

            Need is fundamental. Making need equivalent with money is a historical contingency.

            (b) Desire is a complex need, an emergent one. Under Capitalist Realism, fundamental needs and superfluous desires become conflated.

            (c) The reproduction of the system requires poverty; to perpetuate this injustice, the petty bourgeois who could align with the proletariat, are kept in bad faith illusions that equate a lack of superfluous desires with a lack of freedom and even the threat of impoverishment. In practice it becomes a check on challenges to capitalist realism, by limiting one’s imagination to see life without superfluity as meaningful or gratifying.

            -白森


[1] Randolph Bourne, Twilight of Idols

Oedipus and the State

The Hegelian Left, or Young Zizekians are a Cybernetic Left, a dominant trend in the online left, and why?

            Why counterpose Zizek to Chomsky, acting as if there were something in Chomsky that was missing or wrong, in need of filing in with Zizek. The Hegelian Left seems to react against the trend in thinking in Deleuze and Foucault. Is there anything bugged about this Hegelian left? Is there something in the identitas that makes it primed for Schismogenesis?

            Does the Mark Fisher splinter of Zero Books mirror the outgrowth of an alt-right vis-à-vis Nick Land? Is War with China, or the equilibrium imposed by a Neo-Cold War, pandemic new normal, the end result?

            We must run Sufi-dances of resistance around that Cybernetic Control system, using our Reichian theory and vision of Burrough’s Lemuria, to fight the Time War!

            This is the shape of the conflict we are looking at in this age of influencers.

            (ii) Difference-in-itself is an Infinity of potential Ideology. The differences which make a difference in Gregory Bateson’s formulation of the Bit, or unit of information, is the same as the Idea. Idea simply isn’t separate from the world, but informs it in key ways, especially in the form of control.

            Now has Jim Morrison not anticipated this control society, the Police of Qualities with his concept of The Lords, dramatized symbolically in the poem called “The Movie”?

            The Police of Qualities is the Naming, “the imposition of a categorical hierarchy,” (白森), and Lacanianism, which is key to the Cybernetic Left, would seem to have given the Occident a theoretical foundation for the Cyberneticization of the Self; that at once reifies the Occidental notion of the self in its perpetual absence. This rhetorical move is what I would identify as the bugging.

            When Bateson says, “quiescence and activity have equal informational relevance,” in The Cybernetics of “Self” : A Theory of Alcoholism, what he’s talking about correlates precisely with the concept of 無為. And what this is, is no less than a basis for the method of schismogenetifying.

            What is the connection between Lacanianism and Bateson’s Cybernetics of Self? Both cement an identity through difference, or reify a non-presence through absence, or create a Self that is a non-self by theorizing a stability based on lack. This lack is the desire which is sublimated.

            Theory for Theory’s sake is defined by inaction. The part that would act is sublimated into theorizing. This is where the politics of Anti-Oedipus become essential for us. For as Reich showed us and as James DeMeo demonstrates in Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence in the Deserts of the Old World, there is nothing universal about the Oedipal conflict. Alternative social formations can exist which are not Oedipal or coercive, involving sex-repression, or delusional Cybernetic Self-formulations that reproduce Capitalist social formations; insofar as they require a State, putting the myth of Civilization above the collective desires of humanity to live free and in equality.

iii

Ask me why any tree in nature should

Command your respect more than

            a political state.

Why be moved to appreciate

Order growing out of chaos

As opposed to the violence of State law?

Is anything more naturally manifested

            than democracy

From perpetual occupation by

            standing armies?

War vanishes along with

            the mandate for peace.

Arboreal parliament never divvied

            one clod of soil

Never zoned roots based on

            vested interests

Or compelled a single leaf to change.

Like to claim with a straight face

States serve the people as

            provider, as protector

As shelter from the storm?

            You’re nuts.

Servants need masters as

            masters their servants alike.

So as the earth is to water,

The body is to spirit,

            & each guides it and shapes

It. So too is the individual

            to the community,

A heautonomous part

            of an absolute whole

That functions as a symbol.

            “I” works in this way.

Manichaeism of the Intelligence Complex

            1

Ruins of the United States

were never found

among the nuclear

fallout. Only in name

did the Empire live on,

synonymous with

the concept of Atlantis.

In this way we can look forward

            to Plato

as much as Plato existed in the past.

            Behold the exposed

structure of the Thoughtform!

Consider that Tila Tequila

was a canary in the coalmine

            for Christian Nationalism,

falling in with the alt-right

as it was forming before the rise of Trump

“[claiming] celebrities get sacrificed

and that she was possessed by Satan

            back in 2012”

            & “Satan inspired Marx!”

says Russ Dizdar

            on the Shatter the Darkness

podcast. “I don’t agree

with homosexuals. . . and

transvestites and all that. . .

            [pedophiles] want their civil rights!”

            he said on 27 August 2020,

            parroting an Intellectual

Dark Web talking point

            on the idea that the right

is being silenced by “atheist,

            Marxist Communism!”

It’s “the Dark Side!”

            which he describes

            as if it were a political movement.

            Behold! the exposed structure of

The “real world” as tulpa,

Simulacrum: An illusion

with a mind of its own,

It was summoned

into existence.

The archetype of the demiurge,

a Creator of reality, a creator

            of fictions, it’s

An ancient conflict

that’s as modern

            as classic.

In fact it fabricates

just the distinction.

For what else

is zero,

What else is

            Before Christ

& anno domini?

When is it really?

            2

The most heavily propagandized

people on earth

are Americans,

because we don’t have propaganda

we have public relations.

Anna Freud was a life long virgin.

Edward Bernays began

using Uncle Sigmund’s ideas

before the psychoanalyst was

            even famous.

He pioneered the perceptual

            control

that led to the successful 1954

            coup in Guatemala,

strengthening the dictatorial

            banana republic

of United Fruit Co.

            & after the death

                        of Marilyn Monroe

            classical psychoanalysis began

to shift into New Age

            through the Human Potential Movement.

Fritz Perls of the Esalen Institute

            was influenced by Reich,

Wilhelm Reich who believed

in the liberatory potential of Eros,

            & who linked psychoanalysis

                        w/ Marxism—

the ideological enemy

            of Ms. Anna Freud

who had Reich expelled from

the International Psychoanalytic

            Association, & Vienna

& Berlin local psychoanalytic societies.

            ii

famous spy James Jesus Angleton

employed a phrase

“wilderness of mirrors,”

taken from a poem

by T. S. Eliot

            (whose influence by Shelley

            was a source of anxiety

                        for the theist),

            to describe the world

of espionage

            & counterintelligence;

            he also knew Pound

                        whom he visited

                        on vacation

            taking photographs—

his father’s business flourished

            in Italy,

            the father described

as being chummy with Fascists.

            3

The United States is now a fascist country.

            It’s always been a fascist country.

Consider the founding fathers,

Consider the genocide of the First Peoples,

Consider the absolutely brutalizing institution of slavery.

Consider what Frederick Douglass said, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

Consider the War on Mexico,

Consider the colonization of the Philippines.

The United States has always been a fascist country.

If you consider the eugenics programs,

If you consider the corporate crushing of the labor movements,

If you consider MK-ULTRA.

Consider “Birth of a Nation,”

The Trail of Tears,

Boarding schools for American Indians in the 1930s,

Consider that Henry Ford was an anti-Semite

And admired by Hitler

            who kept a photo of the beloved entrepreneur on his desk,

Figuring why couldn’t he get away with genocide if America had!

The United States has always been a fascist country.

And what is Fascism really?

It’s being unable to criticize blatant injustices when you see them

            without being called un-American,

It’s when you support bloody, oppressive dictatorships the world over,

Fascism is when you facilitate covert coup d’état

in Iran 1953,

Guatemala 1954

the assassination of Patrice Lumumba,

            propping up the dictator Mobutu in the early 60s in Congo

using a false flag operation in the Gulf of Tonkin

            to get boots on the ground in the Vietnam War,

coup in Brazil 1964,

            Chile 1973,

            Argentina ‘76

the list goes on and on.

Fascism is Operation Condor.

Fascism is totalitarianism that poses as Democracy in the United States

            like totalitarianism often poses as Communism,

Feeding off of the energy of the other, producing mutually reinforced

            State authorities,

Not to mention that war is always profitable.

Fascism in the United States,

            Communism that is Totalitarianism in the United States

             is all the bad in other countries out there,

Never here. Fascism is a War on Drugs,

             a War on Terror

            against mujahideen it helped to create,

Fascism

            always insisting that war is the solution,

Fascism in the United States,

            Fascism. A War on Everything.

A War on Everything in the United States

            that will not be assimilated into its inverted democracy,

Its ideology of manifest destiny that Edward Bernays spun

            through the birth of PR from World War I on

that Imperialist wars are always about the Spreading of Democracy.

Everybody Loves Democracy!

            Everybody Loves America!

The United States has always been a Fascist country—

            Everybody knows that

It’s always been like this—

            4

Like God,

Reality is a concept

eat your heart out

            John Lennon.

            ii

Life is the eternal fire of which we are

            brief manifestations like a lightning flash,

Our ashes and sparks are deeds and words,

            indeed they smolder as they spread.

They may disintegrate on the crude clay of earth,

            blackened and worthless

Yet to think such material is the All

            mistakes a shadow play

On cavern walls for reality,

            like forgetting that Bacon was Shakespeare?

Or that Marlowe didn’t really

            die in a tavern back in 1593!

            -白森

The Police of Qualities Arrests the Whole on the Other Side: Reading THE MOVIE by The Doors

In the Emperor’s mania

            to master uncertainty,

The data flow determined

            to eclipse the bottomless source,

A heat-seeking missile

            like mercury in a thermostat

Closes the gap between

            the human psyche & A.I.

The synergy of the

            diachronic & synchronic

Dialectical matter,

            one apprehends in time

The circular causality

            of a War on the Mind.

            “a Same that always manages

                        to integrate the Other,”

Demogorgonic consciousness,

            Who borrows the Medusa’s eye

            Resigns to the empirical lie.

            The knower petrifies the known:

            The subtle dancer turns to stone.[1]

            cyberneticization programs

A double bind into ψυχή

            making of the butterfly

                        a rorschach blot of

            ink,

                        spun into a simulacrum

Made of text;

            its qualities now policed.

            You become the singularity

Composed of “collective totalities

            [working] together like gears

                        to replicate History

            in the form of a feigned

                        movement of evolution,”

(Tiqqun, The Cybernetic Hypothesis).

This program inverts

            uncertainty into

                        an invisible order

That gains equilibrium

            out of contrived chaos,

A stimulation of reactance

            which binds uncertainty

                        to replicatable cycles,

Enabling a potentially unending

            schema of probabalistic

                        loops.

This is the essence of Time War,

            a construction of roads;

            (re)mixing universe on haunted

                        four-track at dawn.

Apparitions of ghost faces in car windows,

            FYE parking lot in the dead of winter,

Cradled in dex coma

Then we ran out of gas at Huntington Bank.

Months passing in seconds

Lost on the seemingly endless road of time,

It’s essentially this

that Morrison means

            by THE LORDS,

its insinuation

from all his thoughts

            on cinema

& condensed into

            one statement

                        his spoken

word called THE MOVIE.

ii

We begin our analysis by focusing on two key words in the opening line, “[t]he movie will begin in five moments. The mindless voice announced,” the words moments and mindless. Why moments? It’s an odd choice that invokes a tension between the words minutes and moments, the notion of a movie beginning in five minutes a much more standard usage in the English language, the choice of moment therefore serving as a linguistic provocation. Why not minutes? This is in order to provoke this comparison between a minute and a moment, these synonymous terms that both signify a short duration of time. The key difference between them is that the former emphasizes a quantitative aspect of time, whereas the latter emphasizes a qualitative aspect. Five minutes is always five minutes, 300 seconds, etc., but five moments could very well be five important milestones of a life, the moment of “birth your life and death” for example, as the poem continues further on. It’s not precise to measure time quantitatively in regards to “moments,” “five moments,” and yet this is how the “mindless voice” proceeds. Why?

            It brings us to the use of mindless, to its connotation that aligns it more with the category of the quantitative, it implies a mechanical quality. The artificiality of the announcing voice that carries out its automatic function has an element of the routine, the robotic and in a sense transhuman, while there’s also another meaning to mindless, in fact, the more primary meaning of foolish or negligent, mind-numbing. “Mindless” as a quality of either the cause or effect of a mind-numbing process, the result or prerequisite of the automatic activity or indeed “entertainment,” as we are made aware later on that the audience at The Movie will have “seen this entertainment through and through.”

            “[They] appease us with images,” Morrison writes in THE LORDS. “Through art they confuse us and blind us to our enslavement. Art adorns our prison walls, keeps us silent and diverted and indifferent.” This indifference is key. The “entertainment” has become blasé, “your birth your life and death” that’s been seen “through and through” has become blasé. Hence the audience files “languidly into the hall.” Languid means “lacking in vigor or vitality,” “lacking in spirit or interest,” “indifferent.” Everything about the process has an unsettling feeling of having become a routine, it’s as if going to the movies evolved into a ritual, in both senses of the word, as a routine but also as a religious ceremony. “The program,” “this entertainment,” The Movie is a modern ritual, a ceremony of mind-numbing effect that produces indifference in the viewer and saps them of their vitality.

            “[A]s we seated and were darkened” is also interestingly phrased, “[we] were darkened” implies not only that the cinema hall, the room darkened but that the audience themselves “were darkened,” creating an analogous relationship between the individual hall and the individual members of the audience, the hall as macrocosm and the mind of the spectator as microcosm, as if the hall were a representation of the audience’s inner life. Indeed this classically oneiric metaphor recapitulates the age old homology between cinema and dreams. The Movie is a mass delusion or fantasy, a mechanical dream; it’s the quantification of moments and in a way, it’s a policing of the qualities of consciousness. “Did you have a good world when you died? Enough to base a movie on?”

            This line turned out to be eerily prophetic, like another vision of Morrison’s that came true in his anticipation of electronica music of the new millennium, in an interview with The Doors on PBS’s Critique show on April 28, 1969.

            The new generation’s music will be, it’ll have a synthesis of [country and blues] and some third thing. It’ll be entirely, maybe it’ll be, it might rely heavily on electronics, tapes, I can kind of envision maybe one person with a lot of machines, tapes, and electronics set up, singing or speaking and using machines.[2]

            “Did you have a good world when you died? Enough to base a movie on?” A movie based on Morrison’s life was produced sure enough in 1991, featuring this track, “The Movie” by The Doors, right in the opening scene no less. Ironically or according to fate, or the prescience of Morrison’s vision, the film famously gets him embarrassingly wrong, turning him into an awkward caricature. It is in its own ways mind-numbing and negligent, for example in misrepresenting aspects of the way that Morrison died by framing him as obsessed with death. It conjures up a maniacal dream image of a man who seemingly wanted to die, and whose death is hence no mystery but rather a blasé event, that “is not new,” for we’ve seen it “through and through.” And this is especially true in the wake of the many clichés and tropes of a musical biopic on the self-destructive rockstar, of which this film is in some sense a founding example.

            “The Doors” movie does for Jim Morrison what The Movie does for its audience in his spoken word poem, to a degree it’s a policing of qualities in who this man was; what the factual details of his life were; and even in the final analysis, of what his life means. The sum total of a life gets reduced to a few moments of mind-numbing screen time, to “entertainment,” a “program.”

            To be fair the 1991 movie “The Doors”—though a seminal event in shaping the image of Jim Morrison—is still part of a longer tradition that existed before the movie existed; the overemphasizing of the darker aspects of Morrison’s personality, through representational works is a tradition inaugurated with the 1980 publishing of his salacious “biography” No One Here Gets Out Alive. But the effect remains the same. Whether intentional or unintentional, conscious or not the effect results in a policing of qualities. Although arguably any biography, representation or symbol is inevitably going to do this, precisely because any textual or symbolic representation of anything ever is always already doing this. We can never know anything or anyone completely through mere words or images, through a text or symbolic representation of any subject, alone. For “the map is not the territory,” (Alfred Korzybski). It’s never the territory, and yet this is the mania of the Emperor, “[described by Jorge Luis Borges] who wanted to have such an exact map of the empire that he would have to go back over his territory at all its points and bring it up to scale, so much so that the monarch’s subjects spent as much time and energy detailing it and maintaining it that the empire ‘itself’ fell into ruins,” (Jean-Francois Lyotard, Libidinal Economy, 1973).

            I’m getting out of here. Where are you going? To the other side of morning.[3]

            This is where the thrust of the poem shifts, “the best part of the trip” (The Soft Parade, 1969) or more like the moment of freak-out. It’s as if one of the spectators in the audience experiences a bad acid flashback or a rotten sense of déjà vu, there’s something uncanny going on. “Where are you going?”

            The question comes on like a voice in his head, from that same announcing “mindless voice” from earlier, but now in the theater of the individual’s mind. Microcosmic, it speaks directly to him, responding to his actions or his fear, the desire to run, and so it must be hallucinated and not actually experienced in the macrocosmic hall, experienced as a real illusion on the screen. Or perhaps it could be; what exactly is the difference between a real and a fake fantasy? “Where are you going? To the other side of morning.”

            A double meaning is deployed here through the homophones morning and mourning, which taken together allude to the classic analogy between sleep and death. The poem then becomes more hallucinatory or surreal, passing into the next image through the dream logic of non sequitur, “[p]lease don’t chase the clouds, pagodas.” Still there’s cohesive symbolism packed into this densely. The dreamy image of a cloud has archetypal significance as a labile thought form, a symbol of forms that are impermanent, connected as much to a natural function of dreaming or to the imagination as it is to the concept of Mutability, as in Shelley, “[w]e are as clouds that veil the midnight moon; / How restlessly they speed and gleam and quiver, / Streaking the darkness radiantly! yet soon / Night closes round, and they are lost forever.” As an oneiric juxtaposition “clouds” and “pagodas” are as if edited together or associated through dream logic, but it’s clear there’s also already an implicit connection between the two images in their relation to the concept of impermanence. Enlightenment in the Buddhist sense derives much from learning how to stem the sufferings which arise from impermanence, understanding how to avoid clinging to that which can never endure according to the cyclical qualities of existence, as in “birth your life and death.” Not to “chase” after impermanence reflects this bit of wisdom. And yet coming from the omniscient announcing voice, “mindless” but internalized by the spectator, it’s as if the command intends to dissuade him from engaging in this more natural—one might say archaic—form of imagining, free from any technocratic policing of qualities where the “clouds” are like a functioning libido, a desiring freely or classically, that is, neither directed nor contained within the automatic, ritualistic, blasé and prerecorded control scheme of The Movie.

            From this airy to solid image of the structure there is a phallic connotation that furthers the underlying dream logic of the next transition, into “her cunt gripped him like a warm, friendly hand,” carrying with that the implications of sacrilege; and causing further resonance of tensions between the sacred and profane, implicit in the ritualistic, and ceremonial function of The Movie—not to mention in the rendering automatic or blasé of a more profound, human or spiritual quality as we shall soon see. For the simile that Morrison employs here is to render sex as a handshake, making of it a routine, ritual, automatic event, precisely like The Movie—blasé, emptying of moments that are arguably profoundly spiritual their natural vigor, sapping them of their meaning or at least policing their qualities by reducing the ground of all human reproduction to a mere “cunt,” and sex to an automatic activity performed solely for the sake of “entertainment,” or as a “program” of escapism. For it’s precisely when the spectator tries to flee that he’s reeled back into the hallucination by escapism in another form, which is of course the real structure of this particular prison constructed by THE LORDS, it subjects us to escapism that’s no real escape at all, but rather the very shape of our own cybernetic prisons. “[A]rt [used to] confuse us and [which blinds] us to our own enslavement,” The Movie is the escape that is no escape; a poison masquerading as a cure; a delusion or a “counterfeit infinity,” (Theodore Roszak) that was marketed to us wholesale as a mind-expanding entheogen.

            At this point the oneiric passes into the onanistic, and we shall be left pondering the classic literary symbol of the gates of horn and ivory.

            i see

            In one there’s life & function

                        the other artificial scarcity,

            value from death.

                        Rarity—

            “You favor life

            He sides with death

            I straddle the fence

            And my balls hurt,”

                        (Jim Morrison)—

iii

            a subtitle of THE LORDS

                        is NOTES ON VISION.

concentration

            connotes both

                        fixed attention

            & a density

                        of fluid

biological & narrative

            climax,

the mechanistic,

            violent,

                        sensuous

            & horrific

all

condensed into this

            one last

                        equivocal line.


[1] Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture (1969)

[2] “A Profile of Jim Morrison and The Doors – On and Off Stage,” PBS’s Critique (1969)

[3] “The Movie,” The Doors, An American Prayer (1978)

An Investigative Poem in the Spirit of Ed Sanders on the Theory of Mark Fisher and Nick Land

Wherein the Concept of “Demogorgon” Plays a Major Part

“Listen all you boards, governments, syndicates, nations of the world,

And you, powers behind what filth deals consummated in what lavatory,

To take what is not yours,

To sell out your sons forever! To sell the ground from unborn feet forever.”

-William S. Burroughs,

Last Words of Hassan Sabbah

Fisher is dead,

Land expatriated in Shanghai,

            what were they doing

Researching Cybernetics

            through the Ccru?

Land wrote The Dark Enlightenment

            that is synonymous with

                        the neo-reactionary movement

            a vanguard of the alt-right,

But Fisher is on record

            defending Land as more of

                        an insurrectionist anarchist,

            to label him as a Neofascist:

Simply too reductive?

            Žižek had been paraphrasing

Adam Philips,

            speaking of the prospect

                        of self-knowledge

            as that “ancient Greek

                        bullshit, ‘know yourself,’

            and so on.”

It got me wondering about why Žižek is so popular,

            why the notion of Psyche

                        in its ancient Greek sense,

ψυχή, as “the source of life

            and consciousness,”

                        “the spirit or soul,”

“Spirit of the universe,”

            “butterfly,” etc.,

Is considered to be so antiquated,

            & such an unexamined

Target of postmodern irony;

            And in what sense

                        the arcane scientism

            of a Freud or Lacan

Is so much more epistemological,

            compared to esoteric

                        traditions of the ancient world.

Justin Murphy on Youtube

            who once interviewed Land

Has a video,

            “My Lacanian Psychotherapy Session

                        With Eliot Rosenstock,”

            author of Žižek in the Clinic

Published by Zero Books in 2019.

Rosenstock has a video

            on Youtube, called

                        “Witchcraft,

Symbols, and Categories!

            Egoism and the Absolute,”

And I began to wonder where exactly

            the contradiction lied?

Why is it that so few these days

            ever mention Reich,

Beyond a James DeMeo

            or a Roberto Freire?

                        A Communist thinker steeped in psychoanalysis,

Could Žižek really avoid it, and

            once you’re in there

                        is it not a quick hop,

Skip & a jump to the notion

            of Lemurian Time War

                        as explicated by the Ccru,

On the hyperstitional

            quality of the fiction

                        of William S. Burroughs?

ii

Free association;

The Absolute isomorphism

            is Emptiness,

A prime mover that is

Pure imagination.

            according to the

Book of Changes,

            Earth is receptive,

Heaven is creative,

            although both are

Two sides of the same coin.

It struck me that

            detaching egotism from individuality

                        might go a long way

            towards deposing the celestial

                        dictator of all religions

            & totalitarianism, for

The schismogenesis of the Trumpian world

            was that identity politics was

                        the reinforcement of white supremacy.

            (Ed Sanders is

                        ancient Greek poetry

                                    to me!)

                        know: Demogorgon

            is a Form

                        of schismogenesis

that inverts “the One”

            into contradicting

                        ideologies.

iii

The dandelion blew (ψῡ́χω)

Skies released the paratrooper

Who became consciousness

On landing within itself.

We’re in. How long has there

Been motion picture photography?

(He kept his camera wrapped

            in her silk underwear,

A modern totem.)

You mean to suppress our

            immanent revolution?

Play on, earth spirits of the

            Third Stone from the Sun!

                                    Cue: Hendrix,

                        Dale.

            wide Justice,

being of fire—

            never alights. 

            There is a will to be free

            that even if neutralized

            by freedom’s enemy

            is always on the rise.

            To turn around is to doubt

                        that ‘everything flows’ (πάντα ῥεῖ)

            And then to see there can

                        be no one enduring force,

            If there is to be eternity

            The word camera is a doublet of chamber, both meaning in a sense a room.

A camera behind

            the screen, the

                        screen is mistaken

For a mirror,

            wherein a tape

                        plays on

Endless circulations

            (death is

                        the threshold without which

            there would be

No meaningful change. There

            would be no such thing as meaning.

There would only be an

            endless circulation

                        of the same).

In the depths of infinity, death is beautiful.

The problem with the Demogorgon

            (a scheme that inverts

                        the Absolute diagram)

            is in shattering primordial

                        Emptiness,

                                    dark & light

                        are mistaken for each other

            as in a mirror,

They no longer occupy that space of their natural

            polarity, and hence Emptiness

                        can be mistaken for stuff,

            and stuff

For emptiness. However Emptiness

            & similarly Non-duality

                        are not valid

Models in the psychoanalytic,

            anti-ψυχή or only Judeo-Christian

                        spirited “West.”

iv

“The West” exists

            if and only if

the idea of cultural supremacy is accepted

            a priori.

The neoliberal fascist intellectual movement

            born of the Trump era

was primarily an ideological reinforcing

            of cultural supremacy.

While this is also implicitly the idea of racial supremacy,

            it explicitly takes the form of a “war of ideas,”

                        i.e. a reinforcing of ideological dominance.

            All ideas can be refuted but can art be refuted?

The result of a successful hermeneutics

            of disinformation

Will be to have created a semiotic

            labyrinth of sorts,

                        an inscrutable maze

Of signification that leads ultimately to confusion,

            anxiety, fear, and

                        hence the falling backwards

Into faith in the authorities,

            presumably the source of instantiation

                        of this negative feedback loop,

            the schismogenetic diagram;

This is why God

is likened to The Word

it’s a Demiurge.

“[The dominant control program]

builds its monopolistic dominion upon

the magical power of the Word:

upon programming and illusion,”

            (Ccru, Lemurian Time War).

The inscrutability of information

leads to the impenetrability of

defense.

As Sun Tzu says,

“the skillful fighter puts himself into a

            position which makes defeat impossible,”

                        (The Art of War, IV.xiv).

If the mind is inscrutable,

then only the body can be subdued.

But subdue the mind

and the body will follow

of its own accord.

            -白森

How “New Age” is in a Sense the Ultimate Disinformation Campaign Responsible for Destroying the True “Human Potential” of the 1960s

The potent mix of mysticism and politics that was unique to the 1960s, had a revolutionary potential which was systematically undermined in a variety of ways. The legacy of this covert subversion lives on, in the myths we continue to tell ourselves about that monumental era.

            Anyone with an interest in history, especially modern history that goes as far back (& far out) as the 1960s, absolutely must read the brilliant historical poet Ed Sanders’s masterpiece on the cult of Charles Manson, called The Family.

            I just finished up with it, the colossal, “data-midden” 540 page 2002 revised edition, that I was inspired to take on after recently rediscovering Sanders’s manifesto “Investigative Poetry,” which is in my view immensely important, both as a literary and political statement.

            “Investigative Poetry” was published by City Lights Bookstore in 1976. It could be described as a call to arms of sorts, a calling-all-“bards,” as Sanders likes to say, proclamation that asserts the need for historically minded, verse writing individuals to once again assume their rightful place among the elucidators of history. I first came across “Investigative Poetry” in the early 2010s; led in that direction after fortuitously discovering what might have been the first poem I ever read by Sanders, his brief but thorough work of history-poesy called “The Final Times of Jim Morrison.”

            After all of the sensationalized disinformation frankly that I had encountered over the years on this infamous pop cultural icon, Sanders’s very credible take on Morrison’s sudden, mysterious death—in Sanders’s revolutionary, investigative-poetical style—was the first time I became privy to what was indeed factual information that was often left out, or otherwise obscured in more famous works dealing with the subject. The best example is probably the way that Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie “The Doors” created an enduring aura of myth around Jim Morrison. Stone’s film is not a documentary of course, but nevertheless purports to be a “biopic,” what is essentially the filmic equivalent of a biography. Morrison’s mysterious death in a bathtub in Paris is depicted in a way that basically conforms with the official story that Morrison died of a heart attack. The subtext would also seem to suggest that any other details or factors involved in his passing will remain for the most part forever unknowable, veiled as they are behind a shroud of perpetual mystery.

            This is simply inaccurate.

Looking Critically at the Myth Surrounding Jim Morrison’s Death

            There is a lot of data on the subject actually, as incomplete as that may be. At the very least what is there proves that there has always been a discrepancy between the facts as they are compared to the official story that went down in the historical register.

            I will try to briefly summarize this data, versified by Sanders in “The Final Times of Jim Morrison.”

            At around the same time that Jim Morrison’s on again off again girlfriend Pamela Courson had developed a very serious addiction to heroin, she had also become romantically involved with a wealthy French count called Jean de Breteuil, a prominent heroin dealer. In fact it was Jean de Breteuil who had supplied Janis Joplin with the fatal dose of heroin that killed her on October 5, 1970. In the aftermath of this event, de Breteuil was compelled to flee the United States, where he had been residing illegally. He asked Pamela Courson, by this time severely addicted to heroin, to accompany him to Paris; she agreed, apparently “leaving [Jim] Morrison a note / which upon reading he burned.”

            In late December of 1970 Courson returned to the United States urging Morrison to quit the Doors and go off with her to live in Paris, where he might be able to focus more on his writing. Morrison eventually consented to this idea. Courson returned to Paris on February 14, 1971. Morrison followed about a month later on March 12.

            Courson located an apartment for Morrison that he could sublet evidently “through connections of de Breteuil,” that Morrison moved into around mid-March.

            Morrison and Courson drove to Spain on April 10, then flew back to Paris on May 3.

            During this time de Breteuil went off to Southern France to meet with Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, there with his band on vacation. Over the course of selling heroin to Richards, de Breteuil happened to meet, and subsequently get involved with, the actress Marianne Faithfull, an ex-girlfriend of Mick Jagger, who was staying with acquaintances at a house a few doors down from where the Stones were staying. Faithfull would go on to live with de Breteuil for a few months; she would even decide to accompany him to Paris for a weekend. This turned out to be the weekend of July 3, 1971, when Jim Morrison was to perish from an alleged “heart attack.”

            Based on the data that is available this characterization of Morrison’s death as having resulted from a “heart attack” is very misleading. It is more generally acknowledged nowadays that Morrison unwittingly consumed an overdose of heroin. This divergence from the official narrative may not appear to make all that much of a difference on the face of it, but actually makes all the difference when considered in the context of how obviously strong a need there was for Courson, de Breteuil and perhaps even others to obscure the distinction between a heroin overdose and a heart attack.  

            Exactly what happened on July 3, 1971 is where the data is at its patchiest for obvious reasons, but what is known within a relatively fair amount of certainty is this.

            De Breteuil, and heroin, were involved, based on later confessions from both Pamela Courson and Marianne Faithfull. The story goes that Morrison, who had a well documented aversion to heroin, began consuming a substance with Courson that he was under the impression was cocaine. As Morrison began to experience violent, alarming reactions to the substance, Courson was allegedly unable to do much to help him, due to her own acute heroin intoxication. Courson claims that around 6 AM she finally came to, where she found Morrison lifeless in the bathroom.

            The first person Courson contacted was de Breteuil, who according to Marianne Faithfull, left their hotel room in a hurry before “[returning] in the early hours of the morning / in an agitated state.” In almost an exact replay of what had happened with Janis Joplin back in October of 1970, de Breteuil and Faithfull then “manicly packed / and flew to Tangier / where they stayed with his mother / the Comtesse de Breteuil / for a week.”

            Courson also called her and Morrison’s friends in Paris, the filmmaker Agnès Varda and Alain Ronay, asking Ronay to call an ambulance for her, because Courson couldn’t speak French.

            Alain Ronay it would appear, was the one largely responsible for mediating the situation between Courson and the French authorities. Later, Ronay went on to publish in the April 25, 1991 edition of Paris Match magazine, a confession as to what actually happened in the aftermath of Morrison’s death. After reading the article in the original French, Patricia Kennealy explains on page 385 of her memoir Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison:

            [Alain]’s confession is a revelation, and fits in neatly with some of the points at which logic had strained over the years. In fact, what [Alain] Ronay has confessed to, in public and in print, is a masterful coverup, improvised on the spot, that has held for two decades against all comers. Out of what he says was his concern for Jim’s reputation, his wish to avoid the druggy taint that clung to Janis and Jimi. . . and above all his resolution. . . to allow Pamela Courson to evade the weight of the law’s majesty crashing down on her for her actions, [Alain] Ronay lied systematically to the French police and firemen and medical examiners, to the U.S. embassy officials in Paris, to Jim’s friends and family and fans, and to the world forevermore, thus enabling Courson to profit by what she had done and failed to do. . .

            Although Morrison and Courson were never married, Courson was Morrison’s legal beneficiary. Upon his death Morrison’s estate, including exclusive rights to the use of his poetry, passed into Courson’s hands. Following Courson’s death by way of heroin overdose in 1974, Morrison’s estate exchanged hands once again. It is now under the control of Pamela Courson’s parents.

            This factor, concerning the control of Morrison’s estate, actually goes a long way towards explaining why in despite of the facts, Morrison’s death remains cloaked in an aura of myth.

            Patricia Kennealy (whose memoir Strange Days must be acknowledged for what it is; one of the major sources of historical credibility that we have on the subject of Jim Morrison) had extensive contact with Oliver Stone during the production of 1991’s “The Doors.” This is what she has to say about the way that Stone ultimately portrayed Morrison’s death, especially in so far as that pertained to Pamela Courson.

            So: the coverup, the untruth, the falsehood, the taradiddle, the subreption, the whopper, the lie. Even Oliver Stone, that soi-disant crusader for ugly truth, goes along with the furtherance of the fairytale: Pam’s parents are said to have given him no choice, requiring him to do so as ransom for permission to use Jim’s poetry—poetry to whose copyright they had fallen heir after their daughter’s death intestate. They even try to prevent Pam being shown, in the movie, as any sort of drug fan at all; and in the event there is but one scene that does so. But the biggest ransom demand the Coursons reportedly make is that Oliver Stone cannot depict their daughter as having had anything whatsoever to do with Jim Morrison’s death.

            There are of course, other threads of inquiry that could be taken up in regards to this topic. However at present my intention is not to scrutinize every detail of this one particular case, but rather to emphasize that overall, as a general phenomenon, the existence of obvious discrepancies between data and official narratives in the case of high profile deaths is by no means a rare occurrence. One can detect the obscuring tendency of what is more often than not the media hype apparatus at play in a truly astonishing number of high profile deaths, that are by no means limited to say, Morrison’s other famous 27 Club counterparts; but also in the controversial passing of less “trivial,” more purely historical figures such as John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Hampton, even John Lennon, et al.

‘The modern history of the United States moves along parallel lines,’ Or the Bounty of Willful Ignorance

            This brings us back to the underlying topic at hand.

            What Ed Sanders is able to do in the comparatively tiny 17 page “The Final Times of Jim Morrison,” he does on a truly epic scale in The Family, a real masterpiece of investigative reporting. There is as of yet no equivalent document that has done as much, at least for me, in facilitating an understanding of the so called “Death of the 60s.”

            I do not say this lightly.

            One reason is because for as long as I can remember I have always conceived of the 1960s as a fairly definitive turning point in modern history. Another is because of the shear profusion of data that era left behind. It is often overwhelming to the point that, one begins to question whether or not some all illustrious truth object ever actually existed in the midst of everything that happened; or even if it did, that overwhelmingly it would seem like whatever that might have been had pretty much already been lost to the wind. Ironically the more I look into it the more I am starting to understand why I always thought that.     

            I was doing some follow up research on Sanders’s The Family for starters as there is indeed, something about Sanders’s work that infects you with an all-encompassing passion for gnosis. I came across an article in Bomb magazine from September 25, 2018 called “Digging Our Way Through the Data Midden.” This article, written by one Ammiel Alcalay, is for the most part a review of Sanders’s latest historical epic, Broken Glory: The Final Years of Robert F. Kennedy. In the article Mr. Alcalay contends with why the work of people like Ed Sanders, whom Alcalay sees as a kind of “citizen investigator” poet, is so essential in the 21st century.

            Alcalay writes:

            In many ways, the modern history of the United States moves along parallel lines: one line emerges from the ideological propaganda, cognitive dissonance, and psychological warfare pioneered by Walter Lippmann and Edward Bernays starting in the 1920s, becoming fully weaponized by the 1950s to expand US imperial interests exponentially and subjugate domestic dissent. Another line emerges from archival documentation, eye-witness accounts, common sense, and the willingness to relentlessly question the basic assumptions of the constructions of reality that have become both surround sound and something almost like a second skin, enclosing and suffocating the parameters of our rational and imaginative faculties.

            After reading The Family there really is no denying the discrepancies between the facts of the case as presented by Sanders and the mythology of Charles Manson that has, as a result of media saturation, been passed down to us over the last 50 years. The effect is indeed, one of “cognitive dissonance;” a feeling that popular explanations are in a very real sense fantasies which have been cobbled together—from aspects of the data, true—but in ways that ultimately contradict with the reality of the situation when apposed in the context of the bigger picture. This poses a veritably existential predicament that could be likened to the concept of double bind in psychology or what is known colloquially as being damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We are talking about the instantiation of a dilemma whereby accepting the fantasy explanation is to remain in essence, willfully ignorant or disinformed; whereas the alternative, “[questioning] the basic assumptions of the constructions of reality” helps one fair no better for the most part, only stranding one in exponentially more precarious domains of the unknown. Even if satisfactory conclusions can then be reached within that deep and dark domain it goes without saying that one will discover themselves in possession of a category of information set firmly outside the boundaries of the status quo, far beyond what has been deemed socially acceptable to talk about. The truth is that a large portion of humanity craves oversimplified information permitting of totalized certainty—which is after all, the bounty of willful ignorance—especially when posed with inconvenient ambiguities of a social, political or metaphysical nature. By the same token however I would hope that an equivalent or even larger segment of humanity views unwarranted levels of absolute certainty as the indelible red flag of suspicion. I would hope that people still value Socratic humility in the face of doubt, in other words.

            This is precisely the type of ethos that Ed Sanders lives out in his investigation of the Manson Family. His methodology demands that his readers come to their own conclusions about the Manson Family case; a situation that bears fruit of a strange, horrific aspect. Unfortunately however the truth is often like that. No one can just hand it to you. It doesn’t come in easily digestible, 30 minute news packets. It demands a commitment to seeking it out. Quite often this means that one must take on the responsibility for a fair amount of truth-sleuthing themselves.

Manson’s Pilgrimage to Esalen

            One thread in particular that struck me in this vein was the “Esalen connection.”

            This is the notion that there was/is something vaguely suspicious about the Esalen Institute in the Big Sur area of California, that is worthy of citizen investigation. I first became interested in this line of inquiry after learning about the fact that Charles Mansion had taken a pilgrimage of sorts to Esalen in the direct lead up to the Tate-LaBianca murders in early August of 1969.

            This stood out to me because throughout The Family Sanders is routinely able to report on what Manson was doing and for the most part why, often in fully chronological order and more often than not, through the inclusion of specific dates and times. Therefore it seemed notable that, as Sanders writes on page 190 of his 2002 revised edition, “the chronology of Manson’s whereabouts during the days between August 1 and 8 is filled with gaps.”

            The data was scant, but there are a few details which, when taken together, seem to warrant suspicion.

            It is known for example, on July 30, 1969 several days before Manson seemingly decided on a whim to visit Esalen on August 3, “to enjoy the mineral baths” as Manson later claimed; that a phone call was made to Esalen for unknown reasons from 10050 Cielo Drive. 10050 Cielo Drive was of course the residence of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, where 5 victims including Tate would be brutally slain by members of the Manson Family on August 8, about one week later.

            One of those 5 victims at 10050 Cielo Drive, heiress of coffee Abigail Folger, was known to have attended seminars at Esalen.

            She could have been the one to place the call; or maybe it was Sharon Tate, who is also reputed to have attended seminars at Esalen.            

            These are circumstantial details, but become underscored later in The Family on pages 458-459, when in February of 1971, Sanders attended a luncheon with an unnamed attorney with ties to Esalen. Sanders notes that this attorney was later listed in the 1973 book The Encounter Game by Bruce L. Maliver as one of three “Esalen directors.” This is what Sanders writes about the meeting:

            [The attorney] mentioned that the Esalen Institute was upset (apparently over the fact that Manson had gone there just before the murders, and that it might become public). Three or four times during the evening [he] said that if I was following the story of a group of “twelve former Scientologists” who turned satanist and were into sacrifice, then “you should keep your mouth shut” because they’d likely kill me. Mixed in with his talk about the satanists, he told me that Peter Folger, father of Abigail Folger, had spent $500,000 paying people off in this case. Twice he said this. When I asked why Abigail Folger’s parents were so eager to cool it all out, he said something about “San Francisco society.”

            Much of the information contained in that paragraph is in need of explication.

            As I intend to limit the scope of this essay, mainly to focus on my perceptions regarding the Esalen Institute, I hope only a brief outline of the complex relationships involved here will suffice.

            Let’s begin with Scientology and Satanism.

New Religious Movements, such as The Process Church of the Final Judgment

            If there is a point where the seemingly disparate influences of Scientology and Satanism converged in this case, that was undoubtedly in the form of a rather visible organization from this period called The Process Church of the Final Judgment. This organization was founded by one Mary Ann Maclean and one Robert Moore. Mary Ann Maclean was born in Glasgow, U.K. in 1931. Robert Moore was born in Shanghai, China in 1935 but returned to England with his mother at the age of 1.

            In the early 1960s, Maclean and Moor met each other at the Hubbard Institute of Scientology in London, where both were studying to become Scientology practitioners. As a result of some intense therapy sessions the two underwent together, they ended up falling in love. Eventually they were married, taking between them the surname de Grimston. Around 1963 Mary Ann and Robert de Grimston left the Church of Scientology in order to found their own organization called Compulsion Analysis, a client cult offering therapy sessions modeled after mind-mastery “auditing” techniques developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

            Over the course of the next two and a half years the de Grimstons attracted a core group of clients that would go on to make up the foundation of The Process. This was what the organization rebranded itself around 1966 to reflect an evolution within the cult, referring to the way their various rituals and group therapy session were called “processes.” From here the cult began to take on a definitively religious character although had not yet fully embraced the particularly satanic elements of occultism, including an emphasis on apocalyptic violence that was to become fundamental to the organization’s theology by the time The Process evolved into a full blown church, and felt called to begin proselytizing internationally. This shift toward satanic occultism occurred following a religious transformation that members of the group underwent in Xtul, Mexico, where the nascent church had embarked on a spiritual pilgrimage. Members of The Process became firm millenarians after surviving a hurricane that solidified a pantheon in their theology which went on to consist of three primary gods Jehovah, Lucifer and Satan.

            Taking a closer look at the specific brand of dogma issuing forth from The Process Church of the Final Judgment, as the organization was later to be incorporated, is necessary at this point. Doing so will actually establish the thematic objective of this essay in three particular ways.

Myth-making, and the Syncretism of Pseudoscience and Pseudomysticism, as a kind of Form of Disinformation

            The first and most basic objective is to demonstrate—by pointing out the obvious similarities between The Process Church’s apocalyptic theology, and Charles Manson’s own apocalyptic theology of Helter Skelter—just one out of a multitude of ways in which the Manson myth, as it were, is deficient; at least in terms of being an accurate depiction of historical reality. The Manson myth in this sense might be defined as the notion that Manson “acted alone” so to speak; that his particular brand of evil was as it were, an isolated strand, or but the manifestation of a lone nutcase in the void. This presupposition is demonstrated to be false by the mind-boggling amount of evidence—much of which is brilliantly documented by Ed Sanders in The Family—that shows the extensive quantity of underlying connections and motivations behind the Manson case which get meaningfully distorted, or excluded wholesale from the mythological version of events that most people take to be an accurate representation of historical fact.

            The second and third ways the objective of this essay will be demonstrated are somewhat intertwined; one being to analyze certain characteristics of what are called new religious moments. The Process Church of the Final Judgment is a good example of a so called new religious movement, as are cultural elements that came out of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California such as the Human Potential Movement, what was a precursor to today’s “New Age” spirituality. The other is the way these movements more often than not involved a particularly modern form of syncretism whereby elements of pseudoscience and pseudomysticism were combined to create rather dubious cultic entities, through a process that for lack of a better term might be classified as a form of disinformation. I say a form of disinformation because the process essentially functions in the same way that disinformation functions, by undermining various truthful elements of an information flow not unlike the way a virus might; latching on to data and mimicking it and copying it, but in key distortive ways that ultimately destroy the integrity of the system.

The Fatal Danger of Spiritual and Psychological Syncretism in the Ideology of The Process Church

            These overarching themes being laid out as such, let’s focus on the theological system of one new religious movement in particular, The Process Church of the Final Judgment.

            The Process Church’s theology was based, as is basic Christian theology for the most part, on inherent dualisms. For example the Processans believed that God was a supreme being, infinite and perfect but therefore by the same token, humanity was imperfect, finite and inferior to God. They believed that Christ, as the Son of God, was an intermediary element capable of unifying these dichotomous elements. Another dichotomy identified by the Processans was an opposition between Christ and Satan. This was basically the key opposition in Processan theology represented by the idea that Christ and Satan were mortal enemies, who through the power of love might reconcile their differences, bringing about the final unification process that was to establish their millenarian utopia by triggering the apocalypse.

            Another aspect of The Process Church’s system, a characteristic shared with other spiritual disinformation cults among new religious movements, is that the organization’s theological system also functioned simultaneously as a kind of psychological model. The gods of the Processan pantheon Jehovah, Lucifer, Satan and Christ, were also said to represent different aspects of the human personality. There was an entire pseudopsychological model not unlike a Myers-Briggs test, where the archetypes of the Processan pantheon had been combined into four major personality types Jehovian-Satanic, Jehovian-Christian, Luciferian-Satanic, and Luciferian-Christian. There was even a questionnaire that potential cult initiates could fill out in order to discover their “personality type, or god pattern” (Entry on the Process Church at the World Religion and Spiritualty Project).

            I should say here that while I do believe integration of psychological and spiritual elements into a unified system is possible, this sort of combinatory process would need to be carried out with a fair amount of wisdom and intelligence. Needless to say wisdom and intelligence are going to be in short supply in any modern cultic environment, where authoritarian systems of strict hierarchical organization and compulsory obedience are integral factors in the successful operations of a cult. Therefore I am of the opinion that unscrupulous fusions of spiritual and psychological elements especially in the context of new religious movements, are liable to lead in one of two directions. One is to a relatively innocuous although ultimately harmful form of spiritual materialism. The other, the worst case scenario as exemplified in The Process Church or The Manson Family, is to unleash a hideous, often murderous form of occultism.

            I will give one brief example of how fusing, or confusing rather than wisely integrating spiritual and psychological elements can by analogy be compared to a disinforming process, or perhaps even a kind of psychological black magic. Take say the Processan notion of the unification of opposites which is, as far as psychological models go, an important concept in Jungian psychology. It is well known for example, that Jung considered the basic Christian theological world view to be rather neurotic in a psychological sense, due to a basically pathological fear and hatred of the Devil. Jung’s view was that this represented, in his understanding of the human personality, an inability to integrate what he called The Shadow. This was the archetypal dark side of the human personality, representative of those things people fear, hate, or do not understand about themselves. Failure to integrate this shadow side, mainly through repression, was often the root cause of various neuroses or pathologies including a proclivity towards violence. This of course makes certain psychological sense, although in the case of an entity like the Process Church which conflated psychological elements with spiritual elements, an idea that was meant to be taken as a purely psychological concept, transmutes into something far more ambiguous; a tenet which can be taken in one way, or another, or even as both simultaneously. This dissolving of the meaningful boundaries in between opposing concepts and elements goes a long way towards explaining in some sense the perverse, murderous and satanic phenomenon at the heart of Charles Manson.

A More Fundamental Motive Behind the Tate-LaBianca Murders, Beyond the Official Helter Skelter Explanation

            Many authors including Ed Sanders have commented on the obvious parallels between Manson’s theology and that of The Process Church, so I will not go any further into that here. What I do think is important to mention however are all of the indications that Manson might have actually been an initiate of The Process Church himself; or if not an initiate of that organization specifically, then of another perhaps even larger and more all-encompassing satanic organization that was devoted to black magic occultism of a particularly ghastly variety, that is to say, one which routinely practiced human sacrifice. There is evidence to support this conclusion, even though that evidence has been systematically obscured through certain distortive tactics, some of them legal, some of them extra-legal. The most explicit example of this would be the well known story of how Ed Sanders and his publisher E. P. Dutton & Co. were sued by The Process Church of the Final Judgment in 1972 shortly after the release of the very first edition of The Family. This original edition of the book not only tied The Process Church to the Tate-LaBianca murders, but also to another high profile incident of mayhem in the late 1960s, namely by way of connections to Sirhan Sirhan the man who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy on June 6, 1968. The Process Church won the case (although it is worth mentioning that in England, where libel laws are purportedly stricter, they lost) forcing Sanders and E. P. Dutton & Co. to remove all formal mention of The Process in further editions of the book. However this did not totally impede Sanders from communicating the wealth of data he had collected on connections between Manson and various elements of “Scientology and Satanism.” He simply had to resort to making oblique references to this fundamental, subterranean element in the Manson case, by variously referring to “an English satanic organization,” or “a well-known international occult society,” or “the devil cult,” “[a] parent world-wide satanic organization,” “a satanic group of English origin,” “[a] satanic cult,” “[a] satanic society,” etc. While this does muddy the waters to the extent that it becomes hard to determine when Sanders is referring to The Process Church of the Final Judgment and when he is referring to other similar or splinter groups of that particular organization, there are times when he includes enough circumstantial data that it becomes possible to discern The Process out of particular details

            For example in Chapter 112 of the 2002 revised edition of The Family, a pivotal chapter in terms of documenting the depth of weirdness and intrigue bound up with this time period, Sanders mentions “a satanic group of English origin that had oozed to America in 1967, 1968 and 1969,” which also had “Mexican operations.” These specific details all strongly point, albeit indirectly to The Process Church. Chapter 112 “An INS Agent Investigates,” is undoubtedly worth dwelling on here for a moment, because of the immensity of particular implications contained therein. It details a moment in 1974 when Sanders learned about an Immigration and Nationalization service criminal investigation that “delved not only into the activities of the English Satanists, but also into the Robert Kennedy assassination, the activities of Sirhan Sirhan, and finally into Charles Manson and the murder of Sharon Tate.” Sanders was working with a private investigator at the time who was permitted to read this INS report. Sanders writes:

            The report stated that English Satanist cult members invited Sirhan Sirhan to a number of parties that were sponsored by television people in the L.A. area, and that one of the parties took place at Sharon Tate’s residence. […] [The report also stated that] a Los Angeles law-enforcement agency had an informant who averred that the English Satanist group had commissioned Manson to kill Sharon Tate. […] The reason for the contract. . . was “something that [Tate] unfortunately overheard that she was not supposed to overhear either in regards to Sirhan Sirhan or about Sirhan Sirhan.”

            Further inquiring into what information might have been sensitive enough to require Sharon Tate be killed, Sanders’s private investigator was told by the INS agent.

            “I cannot discuss that. It’s a matter of national security.”

            This takes us back to the fact that there was information regarding the Tate-LaBianca murders apparently sensitive enough to require that the Folger family pay out a sum of about $500,000 in hush money. There was obviously something rather big below the surface in need of covered up. Thus it’s worth inquiring into some of the underlying connections that existed between the Folger family, Charles Manson and The Process Church of the Final Judgment, that are conspicuous enough to warrant suspicion in this case; a case that has for that matter always been portrayed in the official mythology as one of nihilistic randomness, as one of senseless carnage for which no motivation beyond a perfect storm of evil and insanity, was ever thoroughly presented.

Underlying Connections Between Manson, The Process Church, and San Francisco Society

            Best place to start in my view is with the web of association running through the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic. This institution was a visible part of the slouching toward utopian aspect of flower power in the so called 1967 Summer of Love.

            When Manson was released from jail in California on March 21, 1967 his federal parole officer was a man named Roger Smith. Around January of 1968 Smith quit being a parole officer in order to establish a drug counseling program connected with the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic. It would appear that Smith actually befriended Manson, likely introducing him to Al Rose, the administrative head of the clinic, who it is said Manson crashed with for a time in San Francisco. Al Rose also became associated with some of the girls in the Manson Family. Rose and the medical director of the clinic, a man named Dr. David Smith, would perform a formal academic study on the Family circa 1968, titled “The Group Marriage Commune: A Case Study,” published in the November 1970 issue of the Journal of Psychedelic Drugs.

            Sometime around spring or summer of 1968 Mrs. Inez Folger, mother of Abigail Folger, started volunteering at the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic. She assisted Dr. David Smith by helping with the drug treatment program. Furthermore, as Ed Sanders writes on page 40 of the 2002 revised edition of The Family:

            Mrs. Folger helped the clinic receive a grant from the Bothin Foundation and $25,000 from the Merill Trust, according to a high official at the clinic. She held several fund-raising parties at her house during the year she worked at the clinic. Abigail Folger, as well as Colonel and Mrs. Tate, attended one such benefit party given by Mr. and Mrs. Folger at their home and it appears that one or more members of Manson’s Family, perhaps Manson himself, attended that fund-raising cocktail party.

            (Roger Smith, Manson’s federal parole officer during March of 1967, recounted how bad he had felt when he had seen the newspaper headlines one day at Haight-Ashbury clinic in late 1969 that the Family had been arrested for murder. He said he recalled the fund-raising party at Inez Folger’s house.)     

            It has also been alleged that Abigail Folger knew Charles Manson personally, most notably in Maury Terry’s 1987 investigative work The Ultimate Evil. The book traces underlying connections between Son of Sam murderer David Burkowitz and a satanic organization known as the Four Pi movement, alleged to have been an offshoot of The Process Church of the Final Judgment. According to Terry’s information Abigail Folger, like her mother, was into doling out quantities of the family fortune to various people or causes. It is said that in September of 1967 Folger advanced $10,000 to an art house in San Francisco called the Straight Theater, very possibly at the behest of Manson himself. If true this bears witness to a very interesting connection between Folger, Manson and The Process Church as in Chapter 3 of The Family, Sanders writes:

            One informant later alleged that Manson met members of an English satanic organization that was proselytizing on the Haight in 1967, at a house owned or rented by the owners of the Straight Theater.

            Members of The Process Church were indeed proselytizing on the Haight in 1967. Moreover the location of the Straight Theater was on the corner of Haight and Cole. As Maury Terry writes on page 608 of the 1987 edition of The Ultimate Evil:

            Not coincidentally, Manson lived at 636 Cole during this period, and the Process was ensconced at No. 407 on that block.

            Again it is notable, if not highly suspicious that significant connections such as these underlying key figures in the Manson case were covered up, in so far as the story has been handed down to us that characterizes the Tate-LaBianca murders as but a random outburst of senseless violence. The fact that it can be demonstrated that most if not all of the key figures in the case were tied intimately with one another makes the official notion that they were not, look like a deliberate fabrication. In general this is the uncomfortable truth at the dark heart of what concerns us here; although in having already expounded much time on sketching out some of these basics, I should return to the question of where if at all, the Esalen institute fits into it, the subterranean reality underlying the dominant myth.

Esalen as the Center of Hip Spirituality

            Interestingly enough the concept of Esalen as an object of suspicion already occupies a space within the popular imagination, most notably in Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel Inherent Vice. In the novel an entity called the Chryskylodon Institute, conspicuously modeled after Esalen, is portrayed as a nexus of sorts; a place where the seemingly disparate worlds of illegal drug smuggling, covert government operations and a hip spirituality movement, all appear to have converged.

            To begin with the Esalen Institute is most famous for having exerted a strong influence on what scholar Theodore Roszak deemed the “Counter Culture” of the 1960s. How, was by being at the center of the so called Human Potential Movement, a new religious phenomenon that grew into what is nowadays referred to as “New Age.” Before proceeding with a critique of the foundational zeitgeistbehind Esalen, the New Age ethos that Esalen for the most part spawned, here is some background information about the institute.

            It was founded in 1962 by Richard Price and Michael Murphy, both Stanford University graduates who first met sometime around 1960 through a Vedanta meditation group located in San Francisco. Using capital provided by Price’s father who was vice president of Sears at the time, the institute was constructed on a 375 acre plot of land in Big Sur which Murphy’s family had owned since 1910. Known for its majestic hot springs, the area was once sacred grounds for the Esselen Indian tribe—peoples all but decimated nowadays—from which the name of the institute is derived.

            In the early 1950s, as an undergraduate at Stanford, Michael Murphy had been introduced to concepts of Hinduism by a German scholar of Asian religions called Frederic Spiegelberg. Murphy was later inspired to move to India, where he lived for eighteen months at the Sri Aurobindo ashram, a spiritual community. Through a meditation group studying under one of Sri Aurobindo’s disciples in San Francisco, Murphy met Richard Price. 

            Price, similar to Murphy, had been inspired by courses on comparative religion taught by Frederic Spiegelberg at Stanford University. Other parallels in the lives of these two men, before they met, were that both had spent time in the military after graduating from Stanford; both graduated with degrees in psychology; and both decided to drop out of grad school in order to pursue burgeoning proto-New Age sensibilities. While Murphy was studying meditation at the Sri Aurobindo ashram in India however, Price spent an almost equivalent period of time in a mental hospital; institutionalized by his parents after undergoing an experience that nowadays might be referred to as a “spiritual crisis.”

            Around 1960, Price attended a lecture at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, delivered by the prominent English writer and mystic Aldous Huxley. This lecture, titled “Realizing Human Potential” was to have a major effect on Price, as well as on the founding philosophy of Esalen. In fact, the overall influence of Aldous Huxley’s ideas on the foundation of Esalen, seems impossible to overstate. The very first series of seminars that Esalen rolled out in the fall of 1962 for example, called “The Human Potentiality,” were based on Huxley’s lecture. Furthermore the importance of this concept is obviously reflected in the name given to the outgrowth of Esalen’s social and political agenda, the Human Potential Movement.

The Millenarian Pretensions of Human Potential, and the Implicit Cultural Imperialism at the Heart of New Age Syncretism

            A friend and contemporary of Aldous Huxley’s called Gerald Heard, who was also a British expatriate, writer and mystic similarly exerted a powerful influence over the foundation of Esalen. Heard and Huxley had cofounded a spiritual retreat in the Santa Ana mountains southeast of Los Angeles called Trabuco College of Prayer, operational from 1942 to 1949. It evidently served as an early model for Esalen. The concept of Human Potential is said to have been its “guiding principle.” This was the belief, as preached by Gerald Heard, that human beings “were on the cusp of an evolutionary advance—that the tide of evolution would allow mankind to merge with God’s infinite consciousness” (“Chasing the Divine,” Don Lattin, 2011).

            It should be apparent to anyone familiar enough with contemporary New Age spirituality that such an idea is still very much a part of the ethos of that belief system. It would also appear to be the fundamental illusion at the heart of that belief system; the old millenarian carrot on a stick, a sleight of hand, quite frankly, that was and still is cleverly obscured behind a guise of syncretism. This syncretism in a sense reflects the coming together of Heard and Huxley, as well as the coming together of Murphy and Price, i.e. it is a coming together of the psychological and the spiritual, the scientific and the religious. At the same time it is also the syncretism of an astonishingly diverse range of religious traditions all being lumped together into one single category that “Westerners” arbitrarily refer to as “Eastern.”

            Far from creating a helpful distinction, these designations boil a great number of distinct entities down into absolute categories such that the valuable similarities and differences between them become at best obscured or at worst irrelevant. A project that would appear on the surface to be about promoting unity, but which actually is about increasing conformity; on some level it works according to principles involved in the creation of “black propaganda,” or disinformation—but more on that aspect later.

            Moreover these designations carry with them the overtly imperialist assumption that there is something altogether exceptional about the “West,” or by the same token Other about the “East.”

            Indeed the Esalen project purports to be an experiment in mingling “Eastern” traditions with those of the “West,” an idea that in theory looks like an attempt to syncretize strands of Asian mysticism with European scientism derived from the Enlightenment. However in practice this project invariably becomes a pretense for appropriating “Eastern” cultural traditions under the guise of their somehow being deficient according to a key “Western” tenet, or their needing tempered by some inherently “Western” value. 

            But before getting any further into this critique of thinly veiled cultural imperialism, let’s return for a moment to the concept of Human Potential.

The Hucksterism of Aldous Huxley

            Again, Human Potential was the idea, at least in Gerald Heard’s view, that human beings were on an evolutionary path towards increased spirituality; a path that was at last going to culminate in apprehending a transcendental object at the end of time, or in fusion with the Godhead. Aldous Huxley’s take on the concept was more or less in tune with this, only decidedly more science-ified; more in line with the visions of dystopia/utopia that he laid out in such novels as Brave New World (1932) and Island (1962).

            Aldous Huxley was of course a man who enjoyed, and continues to enjoy a brilliant reputation as an intellectual. And no doubt he was a persuasive lecturer. His theory of Human Potentiality was based on empirical evidence it would appear, as he mentions in the 1962 lecture “Realizing Human Potential:”

            The neurologists have shown us that nobody, no human being has ever made use of more than, perhaps as much as ten percent of all the neurons in his brain; and perhaps if we set about it in the right way, we may be able to produce extraordinary things out of this strange piece of work that a man is.

            He goes on to suggest that human beings might further evolve by way of technocratic processes such as selective breeding (i.e. eugenics), the use of pharmacological aids (i.e. drugs), or other various means which seem to me a great deal like some prototypical form of “perception management” (i.e. brainwashing).  

            Considering how prominently this theme of Human Potential has continued to manifest in the popular culture of the 21st century—whether that’s through the pseudomystical guise of say the 2012 prophecy, or the pseudoscientific guise of transhumanist singularity—I find it alarming that, after nearly six decades, this clearly fraudulent, reprocessed millenarianism has not been more openly and intelligently criticized. 

            For starters just consider Huxley’s claim, that he makes within the first five minutes of the “Realizing Human Potential” lecture; this idea that human beings only ever utilize about ten percent of their brain. As the reader has no doubt already realized as this urban legend has become astonishingly wide spread, there is no truth whatsoever to such a claim. Known as the ten percent of the brain myth, there is some confusion as to where this urban legend originated, as well as how it came to be so broadly disseminated. It is surely one of the more unusual types of urban legends in that it so happens to be of the scientific variety. Given the nature of Aldous Huxley’s towering reputation as an intellectual however, as well as the lasting influence this concept of Human Potential has had on mass culture, through Esalen and basically mainstream acceptance of New Age, I don’t think one has to look much further than Huxley’s “Realizing Human Potential” lecture to find the origin as well as means for dissemination of such a pervasive myth. It certainly begs the question of exactly where Huxley acquired his purportedly empirical data; or if his claim to the heretofore latent potentialities within the human organism, was even based on any actual scientific data at all. What seems clear is that he presented his claim as if there was evidence; there is simply no other way to interpret his rhetoric, as he appeals to the expertise of neurologists.

            The neurologists have shown us. . .

            Indeed, he does what technocrats are wont to do by appealing to experts as religious people do to gods; that is to say, to popular sources of perceived infallibility. It lends him the appearance of credibility, making us more likely to find his argument persuasive, because we tend to want to believe highly credentialed people when they tell us things; especially when those people succeed in dazzling us with far off sources of authoritative knowledge that would seem to extend beyond our limited understanding.

            Bearing this in mind I think it’s fair to say that from the very beginning this idea of Human Potential was shot through with, if not disinformation per se then at the very least, quite an egregious error. Again we’re taking about the idea that human beings are on the brink of spiritual evolution; a process that only requires specific forms of heterodox mystical or psychological practices in order to activate, such as the ingestion of psychedelic substances or engagement in Tantric sex. This idea, if not a deliberate sleight of hand or carrot on a stick, is but the same old millenarian Emperor in new clothes; a dubious pseudoscientific/pseudomystical claim that was in essence, nothing more than the establishment of a thoroughly modern myth.  

            But this is only to look critically at the ostensibly scientific or psychological aspect of the faulty premises behind this concept; of equal if not greater importance are the errors, or deliberate obfuscations inherent in the purportedly mystical side of it. Again, focusing a critical eye on the particular influence Aldous Huxley brought to bear on this aspect, should help to illuminate my point.

Aldous Huxley, Either Deliberately or Erroneously, Would Seem to Have Confused a Circle for a Line

            Let’s begin by briefly examining Huxley’s notion of The Perennial Philosophy; especially in so far as that idea contradicts metaphysically with his pseudotheory of Human Potential.

            The  term Perennial Philosophy itself has a complex origin; not to mention that as a concept, it proves rather difficult to define. This doesn’t so much concern us however, as at present we can limit ourselves to examining Huxley’s basic employment of the term, which he succeeded in popularizing by way of a 1945 publication titled The Perennial Philosophy. This book was basically an anthology of select passages culled from various sacred texts or the writings of mystics throughout the ages. Huxley’s introduction to the text would seem to stand as the best example of how he understood and wished to communicate this idea of Perennial Philosophy. The very first sentence of his introduction reads as follows:

            Philosophia Perennis—the phrase was coined by Leibniz; but the thing—the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being—the thing is immemorial and universal.

            Am I the only one who feels like this sentence is unnecessarily convoluted?

            But my own personal sensibilities on writing aside, there is no getting around the fact that amusingly, as in his “Realizing Human Potential” lecture Huxley has committed here, in despite of his air of intellectual authority, an immediate factual error. While this error is of far less consequence than his extensive promulgation of the ten percent of the brain myth, nevertheless he is simply wrong to state that the phrase Perennial Philosophy (philosophia perennis) was “coined by Leibniz.”

            (One does begin to wonder just how Mr. Huxley continues to enjoy such an unchallenged reputation, if he was indeed this in the habit of getting things so immediately wrong.)

             But this pettiness aside; why don’t we begin more of a substantial critique by noting the connections here between this sentence and the new religious thought that we looked into previously.

            It seems that Huxley tends to lean towards mixing a vocabulary of mysticism with that of scientism. Just consider the way he speaks of “the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to. . . divine Reality.” This syncretic tendency I feel, is epitomized in the phrase itself, “divine Reality.” Baked into this amalgam is both the inherent certitude of explicit scientism, which purports exclusive authority over uncovering Reality; as well as the devoutly religious certainty in believing said Reality principle must be deified, or in some sense, divine.

            Keep in mind this reflects more than anything else the particular world view that Mr. Huxley brings to bear on the concept of Perennial Philosophy. He interprets it in his own particular way, a concept that essentially rejects the idea that there could ever actually be one particular interpretation of it. This is because Perennialism, in so far as I understand the concept, asserts that at the origin of all phenomenon, especially mystical phenomenon, there is an eternal recurrence. Based on the nature of infinity, this can be said neither to have terminated or commenced, but to perennially manifest in a multiplicity of patterns. In this way Perennialism can be understood as the idea that there is truth at the heart of all religious traditions precisely because they share at bottom this same recursive origin.

            This characteristic bears out in the very definition of the word perennial. It means that which lasts, or exists for a long or apparently infinite time; also that which endures, or continually recurs. I bring this up to emphasize what seems to me to be the quintessential aspect of Perennialism, or a Perennial Philosophy, namely that “truth” in a sense, or being, what have you, implies a circle. Furthermore this notion of circularity is perhaps the most recurrent pattern one discerns among dare I say every single mystical tradition, mystery religion or esoteric school of philosophy that has ever existed throughout recorded history. At the core of all that ancient wisdom, is the simple fact that every truth shows a common origin, in one’s coming to understand the fundamentally cyclical nature of being and time.

The Millenarian Carrot-on-a-Stick, Or a Teleological Construct Laid Over Natural Circularity

            But to avoid waxing on in far too poetically abstract of terms about this, allow me to break off here, having secured this important distinction for us to take away. The defining characteristic of a Perennial Philosophy as we have seen in the definition of perennial itself, is that the wisdom of this philosophy can be said to recur, such that the phenomenon implies the circularity of time.

            It is therefore notable that this definitive characteristic gets left out in Huxley’s perennialism concept. In fact, if anything he seems to conceive of this idea in exactly the opposite fashion. Where the idea is in essence free flowing, he appears to close it off. As an example, simply go back to that first rather convoluted sentence of his introduction to The Perennial Philosophy, where he speaks of “man’s final end;” then recall if you will, the whole pseudotheory behind the concept of Human Potential. Suddenly it begins to seem like we’re looking at a model of time that’s quite obviously and arbitrarily linear.

            I contend that this move was the first, perhaps deliberate sleight of hand; the subtle insertion of a carrot on a stick, that obscured an otherwise intuitive, mystical understanding of the nature of time behind a veil of millenarianism. One needs only consider the state of the world, and the role new religious movements continue to play in keeping folks of the first world pleasantly deluded, to see just how far that carrot has carried and continues to carry us forward ever deeper into a world of perennial illusions. The spell if you will at the center of this confusion is again, the conflation of an intuitive understanding of time as cyclical with a millenarian construct of time as teleological. It takes a wisdom tradition based on seeking the timeless source of knowledge within one’s self—within the eternally recursive now—and reroutes that outwardly, towards some theoretically possible but perennially far off moment in time. It serves to focus one’s desires on an imagined utopia; indeed deluding one into seeking after this “heaven” of sorts, always one step beyond in the perpetual future when Human Potentialities as it were, had finally been realized. One longs forevermore to reach “man’s final end” in the always theoretical, perennially unrealizable last evolution into a divine being.

            Look no further than the relatively recent 2012 phenomenon to see how this sleight of hand is still capable of maintaining the same old illusion up until the present day. Even after the prophecy was shown to be inconclusive, as all teleological prophecies inevitably are, no doubt there are still those in the New Age community who retain their belief in the millenarian ideology. It is because as time goes on in its circular fashion, so too does the promise of transcendence ever remain a distinct possibility on the horizon. One perennially readjusts their hopes and dreams to focus on that ever elusive transcendent object at the end of time; either that or one resigns themselves to resentful cynicism, convinced that cosmic change of any significant quality will never come. Both attitudes are flawed, based on a misconception of change as somehow conforming to the linear dimensions of a timeline (or timewave, based on the ruminations of famed Esalen associate Terrence McKenna).

            It seems to me that this most basic of metaphysical errors stems again from the perhaps deliberate rerouting of seekers from the correct object of their attention. According to perennialism this object is not to be sought in the direction of some far off transcendent point, dangling like a carrot on a stick forever before us, but rather in the direction of where the so called “Ground of all being” as Huxley would say, would appear to reside immanently within all of us, namely in the past; or more specifically, where the past and future meet as it were, in the eternally recursive moment that is Now. This is the origin of that classic bit of New Age folk wisdom that states the Time is Now.  Paradoxically however this axiom of the so called New Age utterly contradicts with the illusory pseudotheory of Human Potential, what is in my view nothing more than a classic recasting of the mind forged manacles of illusion, binding consciousness yet again to the proverbial cave whereby shadows of desire eternally distract us from ascertaining a deeper understanding of the universe.

Subordinating the “East” to the “West”

            Along this line of thinking I have come to understand that the entire ethos of New Age spirituality is in a very real sense, perhaps the ultimate spiritual disinformation campaign. But more on that later. For now let’s focus on the ridiculous assumption that these ideas are in some sense “new.” On one level, the various spiritual traditions that all get lumped into this category of New Age such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, aspects of Shamanism, etc. are it should go without saying tremendously old, and basically in every case a hell of a lot older than even the concept of “Western Civilization.” On another level, in that sense of there being a Perennial Philosophy, these ideas are timeless—neither new nor old—never truly new, in so far as they are never truly old.

            This is where I think at last, we arrive at the inherently political aspect of all of this. It is where it becomes difficult to look at the syncretic chimera that is New Age spirituality and see anything other than a loosely veiled form of cultural appropriation that serves the ongoing interests of global imperialism. Of course, political domination more often than not, takes on the form of a game of divide and conquer. Thus we have this categorically useless although politically important primary division into the “East” and the “West.” It seems to me that this division serves two major functions; the first is to categorize these domains as being somehow fundamentally different from one another, especially in the sense that the “East” epitomizes a place of Otherness. The second is to maintain a power boundary on the grounds of this Otherness in which the “East” becomes subordinated to the “West” due to some perceived, inherently exceptional characteristics on the part of the “West” that entitles that domain to establish and maintain preeminence. Invariably this exceptionalism seems to break down to the frankly vacuous, largely fabricated pretension of the “West,” which seems to fancy itself as the bastion of “Democracy.”

            This same tendency to rationalize “Eastern” subordination to the “West,” due to perceived characteristics of ingrained categorical difference (i.e. superiority), can be seen to have played out in the main objective of Esalen’s Human Potential project; an attempt “to mix Eastern spirituality with Western individualism, democracy, science, openness, and optimism” (“Where ‘California’ bubbled up,” The Economist). Taking a closer look now at the way Esalen in particular set about syncretizing “East” with “West,” we may be able to shine a light on a couple of key contradictions at the heart of this process. The attitude of Esalen cofounders Michael Murphy and Richard Price towards realizing their Human Potential project, was described in an article on American spirituality from a December 2007 issue of The Economist. The article explains:

            […] Murphy and Price didn’t want to import the Asian traditions wholesale. Mr Murphy had hated the conservative and hierarchical society that he saw in India, which Mr Price compared to his totalitarian experience in the mental asylum. They wanted to mix Eastern spirituality with Western individualism, democracy, science, openness, and optimism. In particular, they liked [Aldous] Huxley’s idea about “human potentialities”, and adopted the term.

            The essential criticism to take up here I believe is with this notion that a “conservative and hierarchical society” of India, a kind of basic presumption of Orientalism, is somehow fundamentally “Eastern,” that it is somehow a wholesale aspect of an Asian tradition.

            Implicit in this whole idea of mixing “East” and “West” I would argue, is the assumption that each hemispheric domain has special characteristics that the other lacks. Based on this passage in The Economist, one might assume the Esalen project characterized “The West” as being overly materialistic, or spiritually deficient in some way; whereas “The East,” perhaps more advanced in that respect, was by the same token a bit too collectivist, too anti-democratic, anti-scientific, closed off, pessimistic, etc. & hence this impetus for mingling abstractions of the two hemispheres such that the disadvantages of one might be tempered by the advantages of the other. Aside from being absurdly reductionist, firstly there is a massive problem with assuming that conservatism and hierarchicalism are classifiably Asian characteristics, or isolatable features of modern India; when such characteristics can in no way be separated out from, and in some sense can actually be attributed to, the effects of British imperialism. So not only do we have a negative characteristic being attributed to “The East” when, if anything, that characteristic should be attributed to “Western” colonial influence; also we have the implication that Asian traditions are comparatively not very liberal, not egalitarian, not individualistic when for the most part—taking into account specifically the “Eastern” traditions of say, Buddhism or Taoism—one could argue that exactly the opposite is the case.

            Again the assumption is these ideas are all “Eastern” in so far as they are not “Western” so one would assume the distinction should hold up under scrutiny, but in fact it does not. Take say, the stereotypical notion that the “West” is more individualist, the “East” is more collectivist; that the “West” is more egalitarian, the “East” is more totalitarian. In fact, one finds all of these characteristics manifesting albeit in different capacities in different ways among traditions that belong to both “East” and “West.” This is why I feel the hemispheric distinction is useless, or is at least far less helpful than what I would argue is the more prominent factor in whether or not a religious tradition tends more towards the conservative or liberal, egalitarian or totalitarian side of the political spectrum.

            It is the degree to which theism is present within a religious tradition.

            One way I propose to illustrate this is by briefly sketching out some basic differences between certain Asian religious traditions that highlight the inadequacy of this “Eastern” category.

            I believe the simplest way to do this is by describing what in essence makes Buddhism differ from Hinduism, as well as to highlight the uniquely atheistic elements within Taoist cosmology.

Key Political Distinctions Inherent in General Differences Between Certain “Eastern” Religions

            As Hinduism is itself a blanket term, almost as unhelpful as the term “Eastern,” I will have to limit myself here to engaging with those basics of Neo-Vedantism that Aldous Huxley was partial to; considering the influence this school of thought in particular would thus have had on the mystical proclivities of Esalen’s Human Potential Movement. I shall compare these elements of Hinduism with Buddhism in a nutshell, by first characterizing one as being significantly more theistic than the other. Furthermore Buddhism can be said to have grown out of Hinduism, in so far as Buddhism represented in a sense the rejection of conservative and hierarchical elements in society at that particular time. In so far as I understand, not to mention speaking in generalized, abstracted terms here, Hinduism had codified the cyclicity of cosmic processes; whereby a belief system that made law out of mystical concepts, such as the immanence of God or transmigration of the soul managed to impose rigid systems of hierarchy overtop of a metaphysic that was in essence fluid, establishing in this way a reign of what perhaps might be called spiritual permanence. Hence, Buddhism comes along with new insight into the nature of impermanence; the idea that even the metaphysics of immanence and transmigration are in turn, illusions of another fashion, that arise out of what in Buddhist cosmology is perceived to be the Absolute Principle, or Ground of All Being—namely—Emptiness; a realization that, needless to say, shattered the arbitrary presumptions and entitlements upon which authoritarianism sought to erect its hierarchical temple. Furthermore insight into Absolute Reality, what most religious traditions call God, but which Buddhism sees as going beyond any such ideations—insight into that; the nature of this Ground, was not the exclusive domain of Brahmins or a priest class, but available to any or all who would devote themselves to following a path towards enlightenment. (It also seems highly relevant to note that the Buddha neither made claims to his divinity nor professed himself to be a prophet, rather he seems to have viewed himself as but a teacher and philosopher, whose methods of advanced spirituality could be applied by any who wished to employ them.) In this way I feel its easy to see that the defining principles of Buddhism do not conform at all to stereotypical conceptions of oriental despotism, or any other kind of abstracted binary conception of irreducible qualities inherent to either the “East” or the “West.” Also I hope that in some way it shows how religious ideas traditionally conceived of as Asian, such as transmigration of the soul, the immanence of God, polytheism, etc. also coexist with Asian traditions of a definitely atheistic metaphysical quality, a nuance that seems to me like one of the first to vanish in these projects aiming to syncretize spirituality of the “East” and the “West.”

            Moving on to another Asian religious tradition with distinctly atheistic qualities, we should note a few characteristics of Taoism.  Again we have a cosmology with an Absolute Reality Principle or Ground of All Being, in this case called the Tao that, unlike in say Neo-Vedanta or Judaism, is not a Godhead but a depersonalized, non-anthropomorphic path or “Way.” In this fashion one would be incorrect to speak of the Tao as being divine or not divine, for the Tao is simply the Tao; it just is what it is. Accordingly this Ground of All Being, akin to Buddhist Emptiness or the pure potentiality of Formlessness gives rise to two fundamental principles underlying the energetic structure of the cosmos, essentially a Monad but divisible into the dichotomous elements of Yin and Yang. Although this emanation into duality leads ultimately into more and more complex binary forms such as archetypal masculine or feminine qualities, even the ethical qualifications of good and evil; at the core, within that immanent Ground of the Absolute, these reciprocals are conceived of as a continuous interplay between positive and negative energies strictly in an objective sense. Moreover following this path or Way then becomes like going with a natural flow—undirected but nevertheless significant; good because of the inevitable harmonies that arise from the synchronization of Being in accordance with nature. A radically important political principle in my view follows from this perspective, namely in reference to the unguided but nonetheless harmonious cycles of nature, a phenomenon that underlies the paradoxical notion of order arising out of chaos. Enforced order is indeed a kind of aberration, a usurpation and inversion of the natural order of things. Applied politically this is the kind of insight that gives rise to the idea that freedom “is best conceived not as a negative rejection of external restrictions but as a positive self-regulating form of responsible activity,” to quote prominent art historian, poet and anarchist Sir Herbert Read. The same political and moral principles underlie the famous opening lines of Henry David Thoreau’s classic of political philosophy, Resistance to Civil Government, or Civil Disobedience where he states:

            I heartily accept the motto,—“That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe—“That government is best which governs not at all”. . .

            It is an idea made explicit in the Tao Te Ching, the foundational text of Taoism from over 2500 years ago; poetically put as such in Chapter 37 of the translation by Arthur Waley:

            Tao never does;

            Yet through it all things are done.

            If the barons and kings would but posses themselves of it,

            The ten thousand creatures would at once be transformed.

            It’s insight of this particular character that I feel too often, perhaps deliberately gets lost in our East/West syncretic projects. Ether too much scientific materialism gets in to evaporate all spirituality from the atheistic metaphysic; or too much theism gets in to erode the subtle nuance of the Absolute Ground of Reality as Emptiness. Or any other number of syncretisms that unfortunately do not unify or unite, so much as they blur and destroy vast amounts of perennially important wisdom traditions under a blanket term of Westernization; branding Otherness as a project that is hip, fresh and “new.”

Intent to Disinform

            I don’t think this is an accident, that the process works out in such a way. As I have said before and, in some sense I mean this quite literally that,—beyond standard processes of commodification which should be familiar to anyone living under capitalism—there is in my estimation another, even more nefarious mechanism at play here; a more sinister and occult, but nonetheless demonstrably provable phenomenon. It is a process devoted to maintaining control over flows of information, vast amounts of data that can only be predictably managed by way of disseminating propaganda. This includes the use of so called “black” propaganda techniques, standard components in the contrivance of disinformation.

            There are many interesting levels to this; so I am going to need to begin by defining my terms, starting with “information.” By extension this should in theory, clarify what I mean when I use the term “disinformation.”

            To keep things simple, let me begin by limiting the scope of my definition to the admittedly abstract but nonetheless straightforward idea, that information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty. This is from what I understand, a classic formulation originally put forward by the mathematician Claude Shannon. In addition to this, the idea of information as “the resolution of uncertainty,” I want to further explore this concept through the thinking of cyberneticist Gregory Bateson.

            In fact, focusing on Gregory Bateson at present marks an important transition for the purposes of this essay, as the rest of what I am trying to communicate up to the pending conclusion, hinges on the work of Gregory Bateson.

Information as Defined by Gregory Bateson

            Bateson famously defined information as “difference which makes a difference,” an idea that in comparison to Claude Shannon’s definition, feels rather cryptic. The idea comes off more intuitively however when put in context, so a brief foray into the lecture from which this definition originated should prove illuminating.

            The lecture, called Form, Substance and Difference, was delivered in 1970 in commemoration of Alfred Korzybski, an independent scholar known for developing a field called General Semantics. A famous dictum of General Semantics is, “The map is not the territory,” an analogy in reference to the concept of signifier and signified; or the distinction between objects and their symbols. This analogy will be necessary if we are to follow Bateson’s abstract logic in defining difference, as well as information as “difference which makes a difference.” Bateson begins by asking what it might be that bridges the gap between “territory” and “map.” He states:

            “What is it in the territory that gets onto the map?” We know the territory does not get onto the map. That is the central point about which we here are all agreed. Now, if the territory were uniform, nothing would get onto the map except its boundaries, which are the points at which it ceases to be uniform against some large matrix. What gets onto the map, in fact, is difference, be it a difference in altitude, a difference in vegetation, a difference in population structure, difference in surface, or whatever. Differences are the things that get onto a map.

            But what is a difference? A difference is a very peculiar and obscure concept. It is certainly not a thing or an event. This piece of paper is different from the wood of this lectern. There are many differences between them—of color, texture, shape, etc. But if we start to ask about the localization of those differences, we get into trouble. Obviously the difference between the paper and the wood is not in the paper; it is not in the wood; it is obviously not in the space between them, and it is obviously not in the time between them. (Difference which occurs across time is what we call “change.”)

            A difference, then, is an abstract matter.

            The “map” organizes the raw data of the “territory” into an abstract form of knowledge. Both the data of the “territory” and the knowledge of the “map” are forms of information, but one is distinct from the other due to a level of abstraction. This level of abstraction differentiates matter from mind.

            Bateson then continues:

            I suggest to you, now, that the word “idea,” in its most elementary sense, is synonymous with “difference.” Kant, in the Critique of Judgment—if I understand him correctly—asserts that the most elementary aesthetic act is the selection of a fact. He argues that in a piece of chalk there are an infinite number of potential facts. The Ding an sich, the piece of chalk, can never enter into communication or mental processes because of this infinitude. The sensory receptors cannot accept it; they filter it out. What they do is to select certain facts out of a piece of chalk, which then become, in modern terminology, information.

                  I suggest that Kant’s statement can be modified to say that there is an infinite number of differences around and within the piece of chalk. There are differences between the chalk and the rest of the universe, between the chalk and the sun or the moon. And within the piece of chalk, there is for every molecule an infinite number of differences between its location and the locations in which it might have been. Of this infinitude, we select a very limited number, which become information. In fact, what we mean by information—the elementary unit of information—is a difference which makes a difference. . .

            If we return for a moment to the classical definition of information as the resolution of uncertainty, we can make a comparison that should help to clarify what Bateson is saying. His “infinite number of differences” we can equate with uncertainty, the resolution of which comes from discerning “a very limited number” of differences out of an infinite pool. Again this is a process of discernment or, to return to the map and territory metaphor, a transformation of data into knowledge. Here the idea of transformation is key because it represents the difference being made in the “difference which makes a difference,” as “make a difference” basically means “to cause a change.” This change is interesting because it is essentially a function of itself, a metafunction if you will; the differentiation of difference. This permits for the logic of paradox in understanding that, while data and knowledge are both forms of information, what binds them together is the same property that divides them into classes apart, that is to say, difference.

Disinformation as Difference Which Makes No Difference

            If then, we can speak of information in this abstract way as being “difference which makes a difference,” by the same token I propose that the concept of disinformation be understood in precisely the same way, although with the slight distinction of being “difference which makes no difference.” This is an idea constructed similarly out of a paradox, but one which I hope to demonstrate, also makes a fair bit of sense in the abstract.

            Another way to put it might be to say that disinformation is a difference which reinforces sameness. In this way we could speak of disinformation as a process whereby one is deceived into believing that uncertainty has been resolved, when in fact one remains in a state of uncertainty. Interestingly enough in this kind of inverted condition, grasping after actual information will produce a feeling of cognitive dissonance, where information that would normally resolve uncertainty has the opposite effect of making one feel increasingly uncertain.

            It may be appropriate to speak of this condition as a schismogenic state, in which the property that distinguishes uncertainty from information becomes inverted. This condition once introduced can actually be reinforced, to the point where an inverse quality will come to be naturally perceived as the opposite, i.e. lies become true. No doubt this phenomenon forms the basis of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels famous saying that a lie repeated often enough will eventually become adopted for the truth.

New Age as “Disinformation”

            I have used the metaphor “carrot on a stick” often enough throughout this essay, for good reason. It is a fitting analogy for the way that disinformation operates, not to mention a classic symbol of illusion employed for purposes of manipulation. I have repeatedly applied this analogy to describe what I believe lies at the heart of New Age spirituality, namely a well-wrought artifact of spiritual disinformation, if you will. For emphasis I will repeat that I find this to be the overlaying of a teleological illusion (i.e. the whole idea of Human Potential) onto ancient wisdom traditions that, based as they are on the perennial understanding of cyclical processes, contain metaphysical ideas professing exactly the opposite. The truly important information, the bit that “makes a difference” has been negated.

            New Age appears countercultural; seems, in so far as its “new” and alternative, to be a departure from the mainstream when in point of fact it’s fundamentally no different from the status quo; or at least in no way that really “makes a difference,” hence, a “difference which makes no difference.”

            This bears out in a number of ways. One example might be the way the anti-materialistic ethos of “Eastern” philosophies get subverted, in how say, one needs to purchase tickets to an expensive seminar just to be able to learn about them. Or another major example of this, especially pertinent to the 1960s but indeed no less relevant now, is the way that young mystics get deluded into seeking after spiritual knowledge exclusively through the usage of psychedelic drugs. The brilliant scholar Theodore Roszak, back in 1968 already made a point of this in his assessment of Timothy Leary; a figure with ties to Esalen, who perhaps more than any other figure from this particular time, embodied the way spiritual disinformation spread by way of conflating psychedelic drugs with a new form of religion. 

            Theodore Roszak was actually the man who coined the phrase counterculture in what is in my view a masterpiece of scholarship, his 1968 book The Making of a Counter Culture. In a chapter titled “The Counterfeit Infinity,” Roszak critiques Leary’s project, noting the potential inversion of spirituality for materialism as “ironic in the extreme, because one could make an excellent case that the revolution which Leary purports to be leading is the most lugubrious of illusions.” Especially pertinent to the concerns of this essay, Roszak locates Leary’s project within the same pattern of teleological sleight of hand that I have tried to argue makes up the heart of New Age—the idea of Human Potential as inspired by the inverted wisdom of that other immensely important “spiritual materialist” Aldous Huxley. Roszak writes:

            By way of a mystic religiosity, Leary has succeeded in convincing vast numbers of the young that his “neurological politics” must function as an integral, if not a central, factor in their dissenting culture. “The LSD kick is a spiritual ecstasy. The LSD trip is a religious pilgrimage.” Psychedelic experience is the way “to groove to the music of God’s great song.”

            But the promise of nirvana is not all. Leary has begun of late to assimilate the psychedelics to a bizarre form of psychic Darwinism which admits the tripper to a “new race” still in the process of evolution. LSD, he claims, is the “sacrament that will put you in touch with the ancient two million year old wisdom inside you”; it frees one “to go on to the next stage, which is the evolutionary timelessness, the ancient reincarnation thing that we always carry inside.”

            There is, I would like to suggest, almost an air of behaviorist operant conditioning about Leary’s project. It is as if one of the major, if not the major objective of his project was to syncretize if you will, or intimately associate the psychedelic experience with the mystical vision; to make synonymous with the sacrament the mystery itself. Blending these two distinctions into one as I have argued earlier in this essay, is in my view akin to a disinformation process whereby uncertainty, under the guise of certitude, displaces what were otherwise meaningful differences with a novel “difference which makes no difference.” For the process to be meaningful I gather; if there was to be a meaningful synthesis between two rather oppositional forms of knowledge like say, science and mysticism; unless the key differences that made one element distinct from the other remained preserved, as in perhaps a reciprocal form of dualism; it seems to me that the essence of both would eventually become corrupted overtime, such that what used to be a defining characteristic of one,  blurs into the other resulting effectively in the establishment of meaningless uniformity. This is the essence of what I was trying to get at by criticizing the reductionist logic of boiling cultural traditions down to a matter of “East” and “West,” all in the name of a project of “unification” ultimately masking the underlying imperial policy of cultural subordination.

Conclusively, the Difference Between the Artist and the Propagandist

            This leaves us in a position of speculating as to the possibility of whether or not unity could ever actually be achieved without this undesirable by product of enforced conformity. The answer I suspect is to be found crucially, in the quality of transformation between a “difference which makes a difference” and a “difference which makes no difference;” the function of change in the resolution of uncertainty into information, and the maintenance of uncertainty in the contrivance of disinformation. Perhaps we attain here to a level of abstraction once removed from the idea of information/disinformation to a more metaphysical realm where this distinction translates into tension between reality/illusion. I think it will be interesting to return to Theodore Roszak here, who developed a similar idea by way of an analogy in The Making of a Counter Culture, one that ironically takes on the form of a comparison between good and bad “magic.” The way he uses the term seems to correlate with advanced mental work of various sorts, such as the arcane formulations of theoretical mathematicians say, or the cryptic symbolism of visionary poets.  Another way he employs the term is in how this advanced mental work may inform a product of some kind, or a performance or ritual that on the one hand could be used to enlighten the individuals of a community, or on the other hand to deceive them. As Roszak writes:

            . . . there is one magic that seeks to open and vitalize the mind, another that seeks to diminish and delude. […] There are mysteries which, like the mysteries of state, are no better than dirty secrets; but there are also mysteries which are encountered by the community (if such exists) in a stance of radical equality, and which are meant to be shared in for the purpose of enriching life by experiences of awe and splendor.

            Myth, or drama or even, media let’s say, is a good example of an ambiguous form of this kind of “magic.” Myth, when interpreted metaphorically, can lead to fantastic insight into the imagination, or the archetypal structure of the human mind whereas literal interpretations just as soon lead us into intense dogmatic confusion, or close-minded compliancy. By the same token everyone is familiar with the difference between movies or books that “make us think” as opposed to the kind of mindless entertainment we desire to consume just in order to “escape.” Whatever makes up in particular this qualitative difference is what I am trying to get at with the idea of “magic,” or advanced mental constructions that variously enlighten or deceive.

            Roszak further explores this dichotomy by asking what the difference might be between cultures based on the scientific world view compared with the mystical one, between societies that defer to the expertise of technocrats and those which defer to the otherworldly visions of the shaman. “The difference is real and it is critical,” he says.

            It requires that we make a distinction between good and bad magic—a line that can be crossed in any culture, primitive or civilized, and which has been crossed in ours with the advent of the technocracy.

            The essence of good magic—magic as it is practised by the shaman and the artist—is that it seeks always to make available to all the full power of the magician’s experience. While the shaman may be one especially elected and empowered, his role is to introduce his people to the sacramental presences that have found him out and transformed him into their agent. His peculiar gift confers responsibility, not privilege. Similarly, the artist lays his work before the community in the hope that through it, as through a window, the reality he has fathomed will be witnessed by all who give attention.

            There is a political, specifically egalitarian aspect to the way in which the shaman’s role fits together with the rest of the community. This is in opposition to the way a practitioner  of “bad magic” functions. As Roszak explains:

            Good magic opens the mysteries to all; bad magic seeks simply to mystify. The object of the bad magician is to monopolize knowledge of the hidden reality (or simply to counterfeit it) and to use the monopoly to befuddle or cow. The bad magician—in the form of the priest or the expert—strives to achieve the selfish advantage of status or reward precisely by restricting access to the great powers he purports to control.

The Resolution of Uncertainty

            I would like to bring this already overlong essay to a close by returning to the topic of Investigative Poetry.

            It is unfortunately one of the essential characteristics of disinformation, or of illusion more broadly, that it will be in some sense almost indistinguishable from reality or the “truth.” For this reason I am of the opinion that Investigative Poetry may prove a valuable tool in our struggle to illuminate vast networks of ideological control. It challenges the ideological notion that truth comes in but one form, that is to say through the medium of non-fiction, or “journalism”; and indeed, never has there been a notion more self-serving to the interests of disinforming propaganda than this.

            Disinformation only succeeds where we trust the medium through which the message is received; or where we have lost our ability to resolve uncertainty independently; or where perhaps we have come to believe that the only thing in life that is ever actually certain is uncertainty. The last proposition is a paradox of course, but one that I hope reiterates the function of mystery, or the logical paradox of circularity that characterizes “this strange piece of work that a man is.”

            Finally I will close with not a statement, but a question.

            Why did Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek decide to name the band they would go on to form with Robby Krieger and John Densmore The Doors, was it in reference to William Blake, or Aldous Huxley?

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