Caws performs an important service here with this anthology of artistic, literary, and cultural manifestos. The collection brings together for the first time over 200 manifestos, translated by various hands. It begins with English, French, Swiss, Russian, and Irish statements on Symbolism and extends to recent postmodernist declarations. The anthology includes famous manifestos on Cubism, Futurism in its various manifestations, Fauvism, Dada, Vorticism, and Surrealism, as well as more offbeat movements, such as Nowism, Thingism, Letterism, Giorgio de Chirico's Scuola Metafisica, and Kurt Schwitters's Cow Manifesto. Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of modern art, aesthetics, and culture,
I wonder if, with the likes of Eckhart Tolle and his ilk, we aren't experiencing a resurgence of Nowism. Personally, I'd rather it was Cowism. But I have to admit, never having encountered Kurt Schwitters before now, I've never read the Cow Manifesto. Off to look for that one now...
This one's a bit dense, lots of German, and I didn't recognize the names in the first half either. But stick with it. Slog on and you'll surely catch the drift...
In his autobiography Max Halbe wrote that Friedrichshagen was a state of mind rather than a place. If this was so, then Ascona, a tiny community on the Swiss side of Lake Maggiore, must also be considered as part of the Friedrichshagen mindscape. Ascona offered Wilhelmine reformers a lakeland idyll even more attractive than the Müggelsee, and a much better climate, but in the 1900s its transient population were still recognizably Friedrichshagener. Some, such as Mühsam, and Else Lasker-Schüle, flitted between the two. For others, such as Henri Oedenkoven and Ida Hofmann, Ascona became a home for some twenty years. Oedenkoven, a wealthy Belgian, and Hofmann established a natural health sanatorium, Monte Verità, near the village in 1900. Their regime was strictly vegetarian and abstinent, with plenty of sun, fresh air and water, together with generous helpings of Wagner's Parsifal. At various times it attracted the likes of Hermann Hesse, D.H. Lawrence, Max Weber, and C.G. Jung, as well as a succession of Naturmenschen -- longhaired, barelegged, sandal-wearing "seekers after truth" -- who passed through the small community, which became the "semi-official meeting place for all Europe's spiritual rebels."
Are you tracking on the covers as this thing continues to unfold? I won't be able to do this in the published book. And they're not just there for the pretty pictures. But look at the pictures. Check the dates. Click through and read the fine print, between the lines: The Cult of Health and Beauty... Imperialism... Race. Re-scan those emphasis-mine names in the passage above. Do you see what's going on here? Sure you do. A story is unfolding, like a face emerging from a London fog. Too close for comfort, devil cross your grave. You only wish this was ancient history.
Nietzche, Eliade, Yeats, A. Huxley, the artist formerly known as Schickelgruber. What's past is personal, eternal return. Brave old world come round again at last. And baby gonna party like it's 1939.
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Friday, April 28, 2006
We commenced research where modern conjecture closes its faithless wings.
And with us, those were the common elements of science which the sages of to-day
disdain as wild chimeras, or despair of as unfathomable mysteries.
If what you know about Edward Bulwer-Lytton is that there's a bad-writing contest named after him, then what you know is next to nothing. In his day, he was more popular than Dickens, with whom he was closely contemporaneous. He had a huge influence on Madame Blavatsky (her favorite novelist, she said), and I would argue (though I've never seen it said), on the alchemical speculations of C.G. Jung. Given the influence of these latter luminaries on the shifting and shifty realities of our present -- an influence veiled in historical shadow, occult in the original sense -- few understand the continuing impact of a bad science fiction writer's second-rate dreams on the dark and stormy world we've inherited from all three by virtual default.
With that the old gentleman condescended to enter into a very interesting, and, as it seemed to me, a very erudite relation of the tenets of the Rosicrucians, some of whom, he asserted, still existed, and still prosecuted, in august secrecy, their profound researches into natural science and occult philosophy.
Zanoni ~ Bulwer-Lytton
The allure of that occult philosophy was too much for Blavatsky to resist. Not that she was an unwitting dupe. Ever the brilliant mystic side-show barker, she knew an opportunity when she saw one. By 1875, coincidentally the year Carl Jung was born, she had founded the full three-ring Theosophical Society in New York, and the psychic fever that generated worldwide was a major driver of the occult revival into which G.I. Gurdjieff -- three years Jung's senior -- first emerged in fin-de-siècle Russia. None of these later developments were unrelated or took place in a vacuum. And the Gurdjieff phenomenon was but one among many.
It is in the occult category of subterranean or Shambhala-Agartha literature in which Bulwer-Lytton’s name frequently arises. Bulwer-Lytton had a profound effect on events of both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He had a passion for occult studies, and used his knowledge of the occult as the basis for several of his novels, including Zanoni (1842), A Strange Story (1862) and The Coming Race (1871) (all available, by the way, from the Gutenberg Project). His work strongly influenced Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophy spiritualist movement in the late nineteenth century, and the Nazi movement of the early twentieth century. I shall present a number of quotes from the following four sources, describing this influence: The King of the World by Réné Guénon; Shambhala by Victoria LePage; The Occult Roots of Nazism by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke; and Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism and Nazi Survival by Joscelyn Godwin.
In an epilogue of sorts to Zanoni, Bulwer-Lytton writes:
Were we not so divinely charmed with "Faust," and "Hamlet," and "Prometheus," so ardently carried on by the interest of the story told to the common understanding, we should trouble ourselves little with the types in each which all of us can detect, --none of us can elucidate; none elucidate, for the essence of type is mystery. We behold the figure, we cannot lift the veil.
For "types" in the above, try reading "archetypes," and ask yourself, as I've been doing, whether, in addition to Madame B, Jung also read that passage. And whether, drawn by this essence of mystery, he decided then and there -- or thereabouts -- to lift the veil.
Somewhat miraculously, given the circumstances, I recall a scene from over 25 years ago. I was drinking heavily (it was never light) at some Buddhist bash in Denver -- a birthday party for Trungpa Rinpoche -- and talking to Shambhala Publications' publisher Samuel Bercholz.
"Sam, I want to write a book," I said.
"Yeah? And what would your book be about?" he asked.
That threw me. Having been on semi-permanent vacation for so long, I hadn't really thought about it much. Five years later I got sober and I've been thinking about it ever since.
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Saturday, April 22, 2006
In keeping with the general tenor of that last one, I'm pleased to be able to present the following brilliant bit of social commentary from The Head Lemur. That link explains more. Sort of. And if you're not like way deep into the tech scene, it may help to know that O'Reilly has published a very successful series of Head First books. As it says on that page: "Learning isn't something that just happens to you. It's something you do."
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
The table below is a somewhat modified version of an Amazon Listmania list I recently put together. This cast of characters is only partial at present. However, it does give some sense of the rogues and miscreants with which Mystic Bourgeoisie (the book) will deal.
Below the graphical portion of our program is a more complete timeline, with the dramatis personae linked to their corresponding Wikipedia pages. If you read through all the links in this post, you will be ABD-qualified for your Ph.D. in Bunkum and High Weirdness.
Let's kick this one off with an assessment by John Michell, author of The New View Over Atlantis -- that's a view over the book's cover there below. Keep two things in mind here; he is neither 1) the John Mitchell who got busted in the Nixon thing, nor 2) Edgar Mitchell, the NASA astronaut turned New Age whackjob who founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences. No. He's the other New Age whackjob who got leyed in 1969 and hasn't stopped talking about it since.
Evola looks beyond man-made systems to the eternal principles in creation and human society. The truth, as he sees it, is so totally at odds with the present way of thinking that it shocks the modern mind.
That's called out as a blurb on the Amazon page for Evola's Men Among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist. Personally, I'd never heard of Michell before reading that quote, but being curious, I clicked over to The New View Over Atlantis -- the old view presumably having been the book's first incarnation in 1969. I mean, whoever he was, Atlantis is always good for laughs -- and more important to my present purposes, a surefire magnet for the kind of game I'm tracking. I'm glad I went and looked.
Turns out the book is not so much about Atlantis as it is about ancient astronomers, "ley lines," and Stonehenge. But hey, why quibble? More interesting to me were the links I dug up to some of his other work, including a book called Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist. Following is a longish passage from that book, but it says more about Julius Evola than I could convey in as many words. We'll return to Evola more than once -- and we've mentioned him already in these previous installments:
For now, try wrapping your head around this "defense" of Evola by a man beloved of many New Age types, who clearly sees himself as continuing the "Tradition" (a sort of code word also discussed in one or more of the above listed posts). This is from pp. 146-47 of Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist, a page or two into a chapter titled "A Rad-Trad Englishman and an Italian." Michell has just described a vision of the good life held by one
William Corbett (1763-1835). He continues...
It comes as a shock to be reminded how closely this picture resembles the ideal images of fascism. But there is a world of difference between the gross literalism and inhumanity of a totalitarian system and the high idealism of a radical traditionalist. That difference was emphasized by Julius Evola (1898-1974), the Italian rad-trad philosopher. Though idolised by Mussolini, he was fiercely critical of the Fascist system -- and of man-made systems generally. He rejected Darwin, and the entirety of modern, secular thinking, in favor of the traditional, classical world-view. Like Socrates, he perceived a divine order in Creation, and he acknowledged a tradition, based upon that order and passed down from the great civilizations of antiquity. The old tradition, and the virtues of honesty, justice, courage, piety and noble conduct associated with it, were the main elements in Evola's reactionary revolution.
In 1951 he was arrested and brought to trial in Rome for "glorifying Fascism." The prosecutor made a farce of the proceedings by refusing to specify objectionable passages in Evola's writings, saying it was a question of his tone or "general spirit." The trial collapsed and Evola was fully acquitted.
Most of us are familiar with that sort of accusation -- against one's tone, attitude or general spirit. Bullies and witch-hunters are always on the lookout for fascism, racism, sexism, elitism, loyalism, religious sentiments or whatever is considered most incorrect at the time. In Evola they find their ideal victim. In his most powerful book, Revolt Against the Modern World, he spoke of manliness, mystical sovereignty and legitimate authority. He spoke also about occult politics and the collusions between democrats and demagogues to effeminise society and dumb it down. Inevitably, he brought in the Jews, associating the Jewish mentality with materialism. That makes him, if you like, an anti-Semite. But he was not speaking racially, or against the Jewish tradition which he respected. His reference was to a state of mind, occurring in Jews and Gentiles alike: the state of mind that is reflected in the chaos of the modern world.
Allow me to say that that makes him an anti-Semite even if you don't like.
I'll have more up here soon about Evola and his many pals and well wishers, including Mircea Eliade, Alain de Benoist, and the ever fascinating Miguel "Nazi UFOs from Antarctica" Serrano.
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Friday, April 14, 2006
I know I've been hard on the poor New Agers here. Perhaps I've been too tough. Do I think these people are Nazis? No, of course not. I don't think they're bright enough to be Nazis, but that's just my personal opinion. Other people have different opinions, naturally. Which is what makes this a great country. (If you live in some other country, hey, your loss.) Anyway, I thought maybe it was time to let the other side have its say. So below, absolutely verbatim, are the title slugs of some hugely positive reviews of a handful of books I wouldn't stoop to wipe my ass with. Do I agree with them? No way. (Well, only with the last one.) Please understand I'm only doing this so no one will be able to say I'm biased.