I just discovered a deliciously scathing review of Mircea Eliade's work in a 1966 issue of The New York Review of Books (subscription required, and highly recommended). Such cogent criticism from as far back as 40 years ago appears to have have had little impact on Eliade's sales to a readership increasingly constituted of Fox Mulders, all desperately wanting to believe. Yeah, the truth is out there, baby. Only it's so far out, you don't have the foggiest clue where to look for it. Try starting here. Following are some clips from the article, Sermons By a Man on a Ladder by Edmund R. Leach.
If Eliade writes:
Recent researches have clearly brought out the "shamanic" elements in the religion of the paleolithic hunters. Horst Kirchner has interpreted the celebrated relief at Lascaux as a representation of a shamanic trance. [Shamanism, p. 503]
most readers will believe him simply because it fits the argument. They will be quite unimpressed by the pedant's comment that there are in fact no "reliefs" at Lascaux and that no one has the slightest idea why the paintings were made. Again, when Eliade tells us that:
Heine Geldern has established a connection between the human sacrifices and skull hunts that are abundantly attested in Assam and Burma and a matriarchal ideology. [Yoga, p. 300]
it suffices that he can cite a reference dated 1917. It is futile to point out that Heine Geldern himself had no evidence at all.
What is the driving principle behind this sort of wanting-to-believe "history"? What methodology could possibly justify such leaps of "faith" disguised as scholarly social science? To such questions, The New York Review of Books reviewer offers a salient insight.
Eliade's personal mysticism seems to give him a confidence hardly justified by his evidence. He proclaims the truth as an enlightened prophet speaking from a great height. Shamans do not need to be consistent.
And of course the latest and most powerful mass-media-potentiated salvo in this blitzkrieg of wish-fulfillment irrationalism comes from the pen of noted seer, savant, and world-class "symbologist" Dan Brown. The best review of The Da Vinci Code movie I've found to date is this one. (btw, I found this via this google search. It won't work if you've got SafeSearch™ turned on. With SS turned off, it comes up as the first hit.)
... Franke was distracted by me nudging him in the ribs every time Audrey Tautou was alluded to (whether by gross reverential euphemism or triangular hand gesture) as The Living Embodiment of Pussy, and I was distracted by Franke shushing me every time I whispered some variant of "So when is Hanks going to kneel and sip from her divine chalice" ...
You may write that off as too frivolous, too vulgar, but to me it perfectly encapsulates The Big Message of Gimbutas, Eisler, Brown and a whole new generation of indiscriminately credulous Foxy Mulders. Goddess help us.
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
On May 24 -- in Girl We Couldn't Get Much Higher -- I posted a notice about a new biography of Timothy Leary, ending it: "Expect to hear more." While I haven't yet finished the book (and probably never will; I don't actually read books in any normal sense), The New York Times came to the rescue today with an article -- The Nutty Professor -- in its Sunday Book Review section. Naturally, the following passage was my favorite.
...by 1968, his slogans were so poised between derangement and Madison Avenue that they could pass for visionary... It was awfully hard to tell charlatans from prophets at the time, and besides, the denatured, anti-intellectual language that dominated discourse then (and is still with us, in a New Age guise) had been rolling off Leary's tongue since before he had ingested a single microgram of lysergic acid...
I read this review last night before my paper arrived. But this morning, wanting to check whether it had really made the cover, I did something I rarely do: retrieved the physical Sunday Times off my front-door stoop (it's heavy, OK?). Yes, it's on the front page. However, having already read it, I turned to the table of contents to see what else was going on in the book world. First, I briefly depressed myself by noting that Malcolm Gladwell's Blink has been on the hardcover nonfiction bestseller list for 68 weeks -- and his Tipping Point on the paperback list for 96 -- which linked phenomena demonstrate so well How Writing Without Thinking Can Make a Big Difference. I ask myself, is this merely sour grapes on my part? And I answer in all honesty: what do you mean by "merely"?
I also flash on the bit from the Leary review about anti-intellectual language dominating discourse, but unpacking that one would require a second cup of coffee -- or maybe a first cup of Hemlock. And besides, I was headed for another topic.
To wit, an article in the same section of The Times titled "Neocon or Not?" reviewing a new book called Reading Leo Strauss. Evidently, according to the reviewer, old Leo's got no business being the darling of the American Right -- though in fact he is -- because he wasn't really all that political. Words to that effect. This despite the fact that Allan Bloom, "the most well known of his disciples" (here quoting the review) gave us a right-wing jeremiad in 1987 called The Closing of the American Mind -- which I also never read, except to glean that Bloom was fond of Plato. I stopped reading right there because Plato's parable of the cave in The Republic reminds me of the sort of speculation one might get from a bunch of college sophomores sitting around baked on their first experience of smoking pot. "Yeah, yeah! It's like we're in this cave, see, and all we ever get to see is shadows, you know?" Yes, actually, I do know. (Why am I finding it so difficult to shake this depression today?)
Now, what I forgot to tell you -- (actually, I didn't forget; it was a rhetorical trick; can you feel the suspense building?) -- was that between checking the Leary review and reading the one about Leo Strauss, I happened to peruse my Amazon recommendations. And among those, I was mildly interested to see Spectrum: From Left to Right in the World of Ideas. I was interested because one of the recurring Trooths that has emerged in the researches I've been reporting on in this blog is that the labels Left and Right are not much use in sorting out what went down to get us to where we are today. For instance, I bet you never would have guessed that Jack Kerouac told his last editor that he was going to Germany "to see the concentration camps, and dance on Jews' graves." (See Subterranean Kerouac, page 379.)
But once more, I digress. (Or do I?)
Anyway, I did click through to the Spectrum book, where one G. D. Peterson of San Mateo, CA, USA, appears to contradict the author of the today-in-NY-Times-reviewed Reading Leo Strauss.
Strauss is well-known in relation to the neo-cons, but did you know that he was a big fan of Schmitt, a political writer who made a bid to become the official philosopher of the Nazi Party?
<Johnny_Carson>No, I did not know that.</Johnny_Carson>
In fact, I was like: who the fuck is Schmitt? So of course I turned to Wikipedia, where I learned that, whether or not his "bid" failed or succeeded, Carl Schmitt "became professor at the university of Berlin in 1933, the same year that he entered the Nazi party (NSDAP), which he would continue to belong to until the end of the war."
And we're supposed to believe that Leo Strauss was unpolitisch? I'm smelling whitewash -- which, nota bene, is not to say AryanWash(tm).
OK... so where does this leave us? This post was supposed to be about serendipity -- finding that Leo Strauss review right after reading about his affection for some known Nazi schweinhundt. But who knows what it ended up being "about" -- such a prepostmodern concept anyway.
Finally -- the depression is just not going to go away -- I turn back to The Times and note that the #1 bestselling hardcover book in America today is Godless by Ann Coulter. Forget the Prozac. Somebody shoot me.
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Later: I suppose I should say something more about this. OK. Well, the fact is, no one is going to shoot Wayne with a grenade launcher (though his prayerful begging for mercy [see inset] has nothing to do with his being spared). In my view, this non-eventuality is, in itself, a problem to which there is no forthcoming solution, spiritual or otherwise. Thus, two contradictory corollaries come to light: 1) Dyer is full of shit on the "solutions" front (which we already suspected, probably), and 2) we're therefore stuck with him (which we already knew). Thus, this post really adds nothing whatever to the sum of human knowledge, unless it be an ironic -- albeit quite possibly despairing -- chuckle.
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Friday, June 23, 2006
I guess I haven't written about her here yet, but I've been interested for some time now in Mabel Dodge Luhan. Mabel was quite the piece of work. In the '20s, she lured all sorts of literati to her ranch in Taos, New Mexico, notably D.H. Lawrence, but more interesting for my purposes: Carl Jung. Instrumental in that particular luring was one Jaime de Angulo, a rogue anthropologist proto-hippie cowboy who at one point was married to a woman who later became better known as Cary Baynes -- whose name you will find on the cover (as translator) of the far-famed Bollingen edition of The I Ching or Book of Changes. For more about Jaime, meanwhile, see: Rolling in Ditches With Shamans. You can imagine my interest, for oh yes, it was a tangled web they wove -- and that's only the merest hint of the twisted skein.
All that aside, however, I was amazed this morning to come across a book by Christopher Lasch -- author of The Culture of Narcissism, the theme behind which Mystic Bourgeoisie originally got started. My amazement was not that I'd discovered a Lasch book I'd never heard of -- though that's true too -- but that, in this book, he writes about Mabel Dodge Luhan. (Did I mention that Dennis Hopper bought her house in Taos while he was making Easy Rider? This was just before he was found starving, hysterical, naked, wandering through a Peruvian rainforest at dawn, looking for God knows what.)
Even the digressions are spouting digressions. But that's the way it is when the threads all start coming together. Think of it as invisible reweaving. (Which at this point in the process is still all too visible. Lucky you.)
So as I was saying... aside from all that, here's what I just read that I thought worth sharing:
The modern world in its ignorance of the past believed that it had discovered sex, had rescued it from the grip of "Puritanism"; but what had really happened was that sex for the first time had come to be seen as an avenue of communication rather than simply as a means of mutual pleasure. By insisting that sex was in fact the highest form of love, the highest form of human discourse, the modern prophets of sex did not so much undermine the prudery against which they appeared to be in rebellion (itself a comparatively recent development) as invert it. In effect, they took the position that sex, far from being "dirty," was more "spiritual" than the spirit itself, having its ultimate sanction in the communion of souls which sex alone, it was now thought, could provide.
This clip from Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir (p. 158) -- which is about Lakewood, California, not Palestine -- gives a sense of how prominent occult ideas were in that state well before "the '60's." (Note the inclusion on this list of "psychology.")
It is unlawful to tell the future in my city. One of the oldest ordinances in the city code book, adopted when the city incorporated in 1954, lists the illegal practices by which the future may not be foretold.
It is illegal to furnish any information "not otherwise obtainable by the ordinary processes of knowledge by means of any occuit psychic power, faculty or force, clairvoyance, clairaudience, cartomancy, psychology, psychometry, phrenology, spirits, seership, prophecy, augury, astrology, palmistry, necromancy, mind-reading, telepathy, or by any other craft, art, science, talisman, charm, potion, magnetism. magnetized substance, gypsy cunning or foresight, crystal gazing, or oriental mysteries."
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Sunday, June 18, 2006
"If we have just discussed the viable science of levitation - in which that you as a heavy, three-dimensional object vibrating according to the hertz of the planet allows you to have the same stability as mass itself - if suddenly you were to change your field, then the mass that you are made up of would change as well. So it would vibrate; you would still be you but you would be vibrating at another frequency. In other words, we can see you and you are still John Doe, but you are not in the world because you are no longer obeying the laws of gravity and physics here. So you are actually levitating fifteen feet above the floor; we can see you, but you are eating the surrounding time in this time. And while you are sitting there, you are actually in the future. You are in another dimension of time that will one day be your linear future."
I realize this post is pretty lame. It's just that it's been so long since I posted anything, I didn't want to forget how it worked. Admittedly, Ramtha is strictly for the stupid and gullible. If, on the other hand, you're smart and gullible, here -- as a booby-prize bonus -- is the very latest thing in esoteric NewAge++ jive artistry...
Postmodern shamanism, harmonic convergence, Mayan prophecy, fractals, jungle dope, big words... trust me, this one's got it all. Just published (May, 2006) in time for some great beach reading before your next scheduled out-of-body experience or the end of the world, whichever comes first.
Those are not only Ramtha's words, as reproduced on the back cover of the book, but that's Ramtha's picture, as well (the one with the hat). Sure, it looks like Shirley Maclaine's guru, J.Z. Knight, but as she's smoking a pipe (like a man), we know this is actually Ramtha, the 35,000 year old Lemurian warrior. OK, so it's a little complicated, but that's only because you're spiritually clueless. There's hope, though. Buy the book and get a bit closer to The Teachings! And there's still time -- if you hurry -- to sign up for Ramtha's Summer of Wealth (clicking highly recommended).
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Monday, June 12, 2006