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New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Saturday, October 28

if you can't stand the heat

...STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN

OK, so you look at the book cover below and you think you know what's coming. But oh no, gentle reader, you have no idea!

I can't remember where I first heard of this guy, but it wasn't too long ago that his name started popping up in my... travels. Then I started seeing this book in the local bookstores. Graham Hancock also has a website, where, among various and sundry other questions of a thousand dreams, we read:

Why do Western lab volunteers, placed experimentally under the influence of hallucinogens such as DMT, psilocybin, mescaline and LSD, report visionary encounters with “beings” in the form of animal-human hybrids – beings identical to those the Amazonian shamans claim to meet and to those painted by our ancestors in the prehistoric caves?

Now, I have to say, gosh, damned if I know. Which, granted, is not really a sufficient answer to such a deep question. So bear with me for a moment while I (only seem to) digress...

A couple days ago I got email from a new reader. Aaron Anderson was quite enthusiastic about Mystic Bourgeoisie and we instantly got to swapping war stories, as it were. In a PS to his first mail, he mentioned that he'd studied Tibetan Buddhism at the University of Michigan (he's now a grad student at Stanford in the Developmental Psychology program). In my response re the Buddhism bit, I said...

Donald Lopez seems an interesting head. And his wife, Tomoko Masuzawa, has the most interesting book cover I think I've ever seen...

As it turns out, Aaron had taken a course with Lopez, and spoke with him on several occasions. With respect to the artwork, he said...

I agree with you about Tomoko's cover. Is that supposed to be Huston Smith tightening the gears of World Religion? At least he's a snappy dresser.
Perhaps it helps to know that Huston Smith is best known for his book, The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions -- also for being an acidhead (for which he can be forgiven) and the foremost living promoter of Traditionalism (for which he cannot). He has previously appeared here on on Mystic B, e.g., in The Jung-Eliade School, and in Follow Your Shiny Bliss. But this is all merely prologue to my response, which, without further preamble, follows...
Don't get me started about Huston Smith!!! God's gift to Traditionalism -- a closet Evolan, no doubt.

I meant to mention in that last one -- since I said something about drinking with Trungpa (which I definitely did) -- that I got sober since then (in Tokyo, of all places) and have remained so for the last 22 years. Before that, I drank enough to kill a small Russian regiment, and did enough psychedelics to blow Huston Smith from here to dharmakaya and back. What a fuckwit. (see? I told you not to get me started.)

Which reminds me... I'm going to have to blog this... so maybe I can start that here. I was in Barnes & Noble last night, slumming as usual, and I took yet another look at this book called Supernatural by Graham Hancock -- another fuckwit. This just-published POS now stands at Amazon sales rank 2,229, and is evidently climbing the charts. Odd, for a book that's so totally out to lunch. I am just so fascinated by such people as our Mr. Hancock. Sick, I know, but there it is. Anyway, I open the thing randomly and he's saying that he smoked some DMT. Then he checks the pipe. Ta-dum-ta-dum... time passes. Then he takes another toke. "After a minute," he writes, "I could tell something was happening..."

I practically burst out laughing! You got burned, asshole, that wasn't no DMT!

I smoked DMT precisely ONCE. Approximately .0005 nanoseconds after my first and only hit, my body MELTED into the rug I was sitting on. It was the most totally terrifying experience I've ever had -- out of hundreds of acid, mescaline, peyote, psilocybin, you name it, trips. Fortunately, I re-incorporated several (???) minutes later and was able to stand up -- which surprised me. Everything seemed back to "normal" -- no trails, none of the usual hallucinatory tell-tales. Then I walked into the kitchen of the apartment I was staying in. Every cabinet door and drawer was opening and closing, opening and closing... a regular silent symphony of kitchen activity, except no one was making it happen. And again, no trails, nothing to indicate it was anything other than plain old ordinary 3-D reality.

I just stood there with my mouth hanging open. After a few more minutes, the drug had completely worn off and I had the rest of my life to wonder about what had just taken place.

So yeah, I was pretty amused by Graham Hancock's "I could tell something was happening" (DUH!) "DMT experience." There oughta be a law about these fucking hosers!

heh.

And there, sportsfans, you have my entire take on Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind.



Wednesday, October 25

there goes the neighborhood


Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porches, I must make amends.

~ janis joplin

In "Moral Equality and Natural Inferiority" (Social Theory and Practice, July 1, 2005), Laurence Thomas writes...

As is well known, Kant made it unequivocally clear in his anthropological writings that he took blacks to be quite inferior intellectually. ... Kant, it seems, took the inferiority of blacks vis-a-vis Europeans to be rather like the difference between a Mercedes-Benz and a Ford Pinto...

Later, the same article notes...

In Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime, Kant remarked of a Negro carpenter who was reproaching white men that "this fellow was quite black from head to foot, a clear proof that what he said was stupid."
And you know when it comes to "clear proofs," ain't nuthin can beat Western Philosophy!

Now, Immanuel, if you could just step this way, there's someone would like a word with you...



new religions of race

“...charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.”

~ Apocalypse Now (1979)

Incoming!

But the question remains: where and when was it/is it coming in from? The following clip is from "A Religious Sonderweg? Reflections on the Sacred and the Secular in the Historiography of Modern Germany" by George S. Williamson (Church History, March 1, 2006).

...the 1890s and 1900s witnessed a proliferation of new religious movements and organizations that was perhaps unmatched in all of Europe. These included the Wagnerian art-religion in Bayreuth, Ernst Haeckel's "Monist League," Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy, and the dozens of groups associated with the volkisch Bewegung (folkish movement) that called for a new religion "suitable" to the Germanic "race." Declaring opposition to both the established churches and the "materialist" ideologies of liberalism and socialism, these groups sought to sow the seeds of spiritual revival. Some of the most interesting recent work on religion in Germany has been devoted to these movements, notably Corinna Treitel's study of occultism...
The study that last sentence refers to is A Science for the Soul: Occultism and the Genesis of the German Modern. Meanwhile, Richard Wagner's vicious antisemitism was a role model for the Nazis. Ditto that of Ernst Haeckel, the guy who coined the word ecology. Rudolf Steiner was originally a disciple of Madame Blavatsky, and never renounced her weird Atlantis-inspired notions about "root races" and Aryan supremacy. Perhaps your kid attends one of the Waldorf Schools he founded.

In a series of dense and often maddeningly difficult writings, Fichte argued that the free activity of self-consciousness must be the first principle of all philosophy. The acquisition of theoretical knowledge did not involve a passive reception of data from the senses but rather a continual striving by the self to overcome its own limitations. The key faculty here was what Fichte called the "productive imagination," which involved a continuous interplay of the finite and the infinite within the self. This dynamic gave rise to a "striving" through which the self literally created the world according to its own moral ideal.

The Longing for Myth in Germany:
Religion and Aesthetic Culture from Romanticism to Nietzsche

George S. Williamson, p. 45

Skipping over the blithe assumption of "the infinite within the self" -- quite the metaphysical quantum leap in itself -- recall that Fichte is what Emerson and Thoreau were reading in Concord back in the good old Transcendental days. However, if this all seems hopelessly mired in centuries past, note also that this create-your-own-world trope is the core message of that New Age extravaganza of stupidity, What the Bleep Do We Know? -- which in turn is the direct result of the "teachings" of J.Z. Knight and her 24,000-year-old Lemurian sidekick, Ramtha the Enlightened One (I wish I were only kidding).


Incoming!


But I dunno.
I often ask myself: am I looking too deeply into the past?
Or is it that...





Saturday, October 21

trinity

Trinity, the Second Coming...



Tuesday, October 17

do aryans have more fun?

Now this is what I'm talking about. Part of it, anyway.

btw, I think that title is supposed to be spelled out in snow, not blow. But I dunno; it could go either way. If you want a more sophisticated version of much the same sort of thing, try this treatment by one of the genu-wine original-flavor Leary-era entheogeneticists.

from Ralph Metzner's introduction to The Well of Remembrance...

“This book explores some of the mythic roots of the Western worldview, the worldview of the culture that, for better and worse, has come to dominate most of the rest of the world's peoples. This domination has involved not only economic and political systems but also values, basic attitudes, religious beliefs, language, scientific understanding, and technological applications. Many individuals, tribes, and nations are struggling to free themselves from the residues of the ideological oppression practiced by what they see as Eurocentric culture. They seek to define their own ethnic or national identities by referring to ancestral traditions and mythic patterns of knowledge. At this time, it seems appropriate for Europeans and Euro-Americans likewise to probe their own ancestral mythology for insight and self-understanding.”

Uh huh. See what I mean? More sophisticated. Or at least more sophist.



too many ironies in the fire

As my total Amazon affiliate revenues for the current quarter now stand at $12.36, I think you'll agree that I've already been more than adequately remunerated for the time and effort it takes to produce this blog. No offense intended, but I think it must be clear to most of you by now: I'm only in it for the money.

Which is why I started The Official Mystic Bourgeoisie Bookstore.

Yes, but -- as they say in those late-nite teevee ads -- that's not all. In addition to the fabulous loot I'm raking in, this bookstore setup has enabled me to create deliciously ironic juxtapositions, such as the one you see pictured immediately below...

For those new to this site, the idea here is not that you should go off and buy that book. No, no. The idea is to savor the subtle cognitive dissonance produced (in the true aficionado) by seeing "Mystic Bourgeoisie" and "Kundalini Yoga" in such close proximity. An acquired taste, to be sure -- but one that, once grasped in its true essence, easily eclipses escargot. Here, try another...

Now you're getting the hang of it. Hard to describe, sure, but after the initial flash, if you close your eyes and concentrate, it sort of tastes like chicken. Doesn't it? Try this one and see what you think.

No? More like a Blackened Gila Monster Caesar Salad you say? Really? OK, well, so our taste in ironic juxtapositions may differ somewhat. But hey, play around with it. Create your own. For instance, if you're not yet fully convinced you are God, you might want to explore further...

And so on.







“Set two features the 'Five Tibetans,' exercises to keep you supple, youthful and vital for life! ... Discover why Ravi & Ana's client list includes Madonna, Donna Karan, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the Red Hot Chile Peppers.”

product description
Kundalini Yoga for Beginners & Beyond



Saturday, October 14

what is enlightenment?

Unless the video has already crashed your browser, just ignore those guys talking in the background for a minute. We need a little intro here first. OK, so Google gmail is <koff> monetized by advertising, right? -- little text ads appear in the right margin when messages arrive. For instance, here's a screen clip from mail I just now received...

The picture of Eckhart Tolle was in the original mail, and is not part of the advertisement. However, you can see that the ads pretty much all relate to Eckhart Tolle -- except for the item down near the bottom that offers "More about... Clown Makeup." What's that doing there?

The only thing I can figure is that this mail -- which is a copy of something I sent to a couple friends -- also contained my brief observation...

Here, Eckhart Tolle -- bestselling author of The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment -- demonstrates what can be done with a little theatrical putty and a strap-on pig nose.

OK, alright, I know. It was just so unenlightened of me to write something like that. But let me ask you a serious question...

Well hey, here's a page where you can go find out! And here's a little video clip of the Reverend Michael Beckwith, founder of Agape International Spiritual Center, speaking with WIE editor in chief Andrew Cohen about the divine principle of tireless smarminess.

click below to feel the "profundinty"

Got that? All right then, let's pitch in and give God a hand. On your mark, get set...



Friday, October 13

thor of walden pond

You laugh, but check out his pal Bronson Alcott in his chapter on Thoreau in Concord Days (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1872, pp. 11-17)...
He of all men seemed to be the native New-Englander, as much so as the oak, the granite ledge; our best example of an indigenous American, untouched by the old country, unless he came down rather from Thor, the Northman, whose name he bore.
A bit far-fetched you say? Perhaps. But here's his biographer on the same theme...
Partly because of his own Northern French and Scottish ancestry, Thoreau felt kinship from the start, a family link, so to speak, with the Germanic or Northern languages, mythologies, and literatures. They were not, to him, essentially foreign; they were a part of his admittedly complex birthright. In later years his own name always seemed to him an only half-playful extension of the name Thor.

Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind
Robert D. Richardson Jr.
University of California Press, 1988, p. 28

A life of the mind, indeed. And on the page preceding that, I learned what all the Transcendentalists were really up to in Concord circa 1837. They were madly studying German so they could read the likes of Johann Gottfried Herder and Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Now, you can go to those Wikipedia links and read up on those guys -- or, to get the basic idea much more quickly, you can simply search Google Books for...

To cut to the chase, the "basic idea" is what Wikipedia calls the völkisch movement. And if you go to that page, the first thing you'll see is the graphic at the right. Meanwhile, our Google Books query has pulled up titles like...

Am I suggesting some sort of guilt-by-association here? You be the judge. But while you're mulling it over, keep in mind that there's nothing quite as unbiased and dispassionate as an efficient search engine with an enormous corpus of full-text books to draw on.

Finally, here's a Fichte clip I found in A Dictionary of Philosophical Quotations. I think it casts some additional and much needed light on Henry David "Thor" Thoreau and that whole crowd.

Attend to yourself: turn your attention away from everything that surrounds you and toward your inner life; this is the first demand that philosophy makes of its disciple. Our concern is not with anything that lies outside you, but only with yourself.

Science of Knowledge, J.G. Fichte
trans. P. Heath and J. Lachs, p. 6



Tuesday, October 10

the spiritual-industrial complex

As our last episode ended with a link to Roger Kimball's review of John Carey's The Intellectuals and the Masses, I decided to read that review again. (Hitler loved dogs. Ergo, all Cretans are liars. Neocon logic -- I'm a glutton for punishment.) Noting that it was originally published on First Things, I went over there and poked around a bit until I came across a piece titled Strange Spirits, a review of Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality by Leigh Eric Schmidt.

Publishers Weekly gives the book a starred review, and says...

Princeton religious historian Schmidt provides a sweeping and detailed look at the forefathers, and foremothers, of today's spirituality movement. From Emerson and the American Transcendentalists through early yoga exponents and up to media empress Oprah Winfrey, Schmidt labels, links and differentiates the strains of spiritual ferment and longing woven into American religious and cultural history. He claims the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd has always been here, often linked to progressive social and political activists via a social gospel. Having established the appreciable history of American spirituality, Schmidt's last chapter argues against the common critique of it as narcissistic and vapid. It is rather the changing expression of a broad American spiritual left that can counter today's dominant spiritual right.
I've highlighted a few terms there that I find curiously questionable. It is, for instance, a core axiom of Mystic Bourgeoisie that "the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd" is the very exemplar of narcissism and vapidity. Even if the validity of this axiom could somehow be proved -- which it can't be -- it would make no difference, as this crowd puts little stock in proofs. No matter, though, as my aim is not to proselytize or deprogram vapid narcissists -- merely to out them as such. Think of it as a public service.

As to Left and Right political labels with respect to the preachments of these various self-appointed otherworlders, this is an area in which "common sense" can lead the unwary seriously astray. As my postings here have repeatedly tried to show, there exists a widely unsuspected (but well documented) sympathy between many "alternative spiritualities" and that end of the political spectrum commonly called "the far right." Indicative of this affiliation are views that are overtly racist, inherently autocratic, and deeply wedded to irrational fantasies of imminent salvation -- whether via Sacred Path or Ruling Party, the aim often being to erase the distinction.

Fortunately, the guy who reviewed Restless Souls, Philip Jenkins -- see a few of his books in the sidebar -- is (as they say) alive to these issues. He writes...

I wonder about the progressive and democratic implications of the term "Spiritual Left." America’s esoteric and metaphysical movements have often demonstrated strongly authoritarian currents, which have been further reinforced by the Asian notion of the guru and the teacher-pupil relationship. By the 1930s, many of the American esoteric and occult movements were rampantly pro-fascist.
In this context, Jenkins offers the "worrying parallel" of European Traditionalism, and cites as evidence a book I have recommended here several times: Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century by Mark Sedgwick.

Preceding this, Jenkins has already said...

I fear that Schmidt’s characterization of the Spiritual Left is also excessively rosy, largely due to the limits of his study. He is focusing on thinkers rather than mass audiences -- and on these writers and activists only as they contributed to the metaphysical and spiritual movement. He does not therefore explore the many groups that drew on the same traditions but mingled them with far less palatable occult ideas.

...

In practice, it is nearly impossible to draw a clear line between the austere thought-world of Schmidt’s "Spiritual Left" and the freewheeling esoteric subculture of lost continents, telepathy, numerology, Rosicrucianism, and the Great Pyramid, not to mention cult communes and compounds. These, I submit, are lineal heirs of the Emersonians, quite as evidently as the ethical splendors of a Howard Thurman. From Schmidt’s exalted account of the elegant world of Progressive-era spiritual thinkers, we would scarcely imagine the mass industry in esoteric and metaphysical ideas from about 1915 on. This marketing boom reached its height in the interwar years with such charter members of the spiritual-industrial complex as Psychiana, MIGHTY I AM, the Silver Shirts of William Dudley Pelley, and a dozen mail-order cults dispensing the wisdom of the ages.

In this passage I have emphasized Jenkins's tip-o-the-hat to Emerson because it's so warranted -- and so richly deserved. American exceptionalism -- a.k.a. vapid narcissism -- had its first and most powerful booster in Ralph Waldo Emerson. In an article titled The Trouble With Self-Esteem (The New York Times, February 3, 2002), Lauren Slater wrote...
...as John Hewitt says in his book criticizing self-esteem, it was maybe Ralph Waldo Emerson more than anyone else who gave the modern self-esteem movement its most eloquent words and suasive philosophy. Emerson died more than a century ago, but you can visit his house in Concord, Mass., and see his bedroom slippers cordoned off behind plush velvet ropes and his eyeglasses, surprisingly frail, the frames of thin gold, the ovals of shine, perched on a beautiful desk. It was in this house that Emerson wrote his famous transcendentalist essays like ''On Self-Reliance,'' which posits that the individual has something fresh and authentic within and that it is up to him to discover it and nurture it apart from the corrupting pressures of social influence. Emerson never mentions ''self-esteem'' in his essay, but his every word echoes with the self-esteem movement of today, with its romantic, sometimes silly and clearly humane belief that we are special, from head to toe.
Romantic, check. Silly, check. Special from head to toe, check. I'm not quite sure how clear it is that "humane" should make the list. Emerson's worshipful tribute to a mawkish völkisch notion of Nature and his paean to a PlaySkool-pantheist faux-Hindoo Oversoul found substantial reverb in some of Friedrich Nietzsche's less savory notions, the subsequent elaboration of which would wreak havoc on the century to come.



Monday, October 9

hitler for highbrows

For reasons that I hope will become clear, I love this guy -- perhaps because all the right sort of people seem to hate him so much.

Before Carey left to become a lowly book reviewer, he was the Merton Professor of English Literature at Oxford University. Having mentioned the people who hate him -- and the horse he rode in on -- let me mention one right off: - David Womersley, who is himself Thomas Warton Professor of English Literature at Oxford. For as this review on The Social Affairs Unit website is prefaced, Womersley "is left unimpressed by John Carey's What Good are the Arts?"

...Carey shows, to his own satisfaction at least, that many of the claims made over the centuries on behalf of art -- that it embodies a keener insight into the human condition, that it exerts a lenifying or civilizing influence on those who are devoted to it, that it is fully appreciated only by those who have laboriously acquired the mental and sentimental equipment to do justice to it, that it can connect us to the divine – are at best self-serving mysticism, at worst class-inspired deception.

Now, as self-serving mysticism and class-inspired deception are the chosen beat of Mystic Bourgeoisie, this bit of upper-crust sneerage was, suffice it to say, enough to make me buy the frickin book.

But first, excuse me? Lenifying? Though my 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary is no more than two feet from where I'm typing this, I'll be damned if some smarmy Oxonian is going to make me get up and heft one of those weighty tomes. Instead, I google lenifying. The first hit tells me:

Verb: lenify

  1. Cause to be more favourably inclined; gain the good will of - pacify, conciliate, assuage, appease, mollify, placate, gentle, gruntle

"Gruntle" ought to be a clue here. As in: I was gruntled to discover that Dr. Womersley's above-cited write-up was the second hit. Clearly, we are being told that, had we closely read our Bacon and Dryden, then -- and only then -- might we be qualified to parse the good don's review. If I may be permitted: what an asshole!

Writing in The Washington Post (January 29, 2006), Michael Dirda says about Carey leaving Oxford for the Sunday Times...

Now even for public intellectuals, this isn't a typical career move. Carey's biographical note further indicates that he's also been "a soldier, a television critic, a beekeeper, and a bar tender." Of course, we've all done lots of things in our lives, but to mention them on a dust jacket suggests that these previous jobs are somehow important to this book. And they are. What Good Are the Arts? is in fact an intensely argued polemic against the intellectually supercilious, the snooty rich and the worship of high culture as a secular religion for the spiritually refined and socially heartless. Anyone seriously interested in the arts should read it.

Let me repeat and savor that line: "a secular religion for the spiritually refined and socially heartless." Ah, I think I hear music! (Possibly the Kyrie from Palestrina's Missa Aeterna Christi Munera.)

Yes, well anyway, we've already encountered Carey in these very pages, though I doubt you'll remember. Let me quote myself, for example, from The Will to Power (my blog post, not Nietzsche's notebooks -- though those come into it). In The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939, John Carey writes of the modernist literary elite's withering contempt for humanity at large (p. 12):

The old, the sick and the suffering suggest themselves as particularly ripe for extermination. Nietzsche affirms that "the great majority of men have no right to existence, but are a misfortune to higher men." He blames the corruption of the European races on the preservation of sick and suffering specimens. The breeding of the future master race will entail, he warns, the "annihilation of millions of failures."
This leads Carey into a discussion of the eugenics movement....
As in so much else, Nietzsche was the trendsetter in this area of early twentieth-century progressive thought. In The Will to Power he contemplates the establishment of "international racial unions" whose task will be to rear a master race -- a new "tremendous aristocracy" in which "the will of philosophical men of power and artist tyrants will be made to endure for millennia." Meanwhile, there are certain people, such as chronic invalids and neurasthenics, for whom begetting a child should be made a crime. In numerous cases society ought to prevent procreation by the most rigorous means, including, if necessary, sterilization. The prohibition of life to decadents is, Nietzsche urges, vital.

Good heavens. No wonder people don't like John Carey.

One person who particularly doesn't like him is the anonymous coward who wrote the following Amazon review of The Intellectuals and the Masses. Titled "Intellectual hatchet-job," here it is in all its verbatim glory...

When I adjudicated secondary-school debating competitions, there was always one dependable red flag that signalled a crumbling argument: the comparison with Hitler. Hitler was the teenager's favourite: if you could infect your opponent's argument with just a touch of Hitlerism, the crowd was instantly on your side and your opponent now had to climb a mountain of odium to win them back. The biggest and most facile cliche was always the favourite amongst the weak speakers for knocking down an argument with one brute blow. All that was required to make it work was the unthinking presence of a large crowd.

With this in mind, it is disturbing to discover that an Oxford Professor of Literature is able to do no better. Carey has written an entire book that appeals to the masses (for its dishonest nature similarly requires an unthinking audience for its success). It confirms from on high the masses' most vulgar sterotypes about some of our most well-respected intellectuals and writers: their snobbery, elitism, wilful esoterica and even their supposed personal problems. Given this fact, it's no surprise that a comparison with the lowest common denominator of villains crops up - yes, Hitler.

The most objectionable aspect of the book is that instead of examining the validity of the selected writers' ideas on their own merit, Carey focuses mainly on their personal shortcomings. In attempting to appeal to a not especially bright readership, Carey certainly knows what he's doing: after all, once you are made to think that Nietzsche was resentful and unfulfilled, that H.G. Wells had sexual problems, that Virginia Woolf was annoyed by bland banter because she was approaching madness, and that Wyndham Lewis had similar thoughts about art and culture to Hitler, it's difficult to warm to their ideas, whether right or wrong. The chapter on Lewis and Hitler is particularly funny since on the basis of the incidental similarities Carey finds between the two, thousands of other writers could be accused of Nazism.

Why would an academic take on such a mission? Why write an entire book deliberately quoting the top writers out of context and classifying them as maladjusted fools? Why stoop to such such low-bred ad hominem attacks? If the Professor feels that literature suffers from a lack of popular appeal, demonising some of its finest luminaries is hardly going to help.

One reason I quoted that in its entirety is a little number that was described in a 1994 Wired article titled Meme, Counter-meme, and has come to be known as Godwin's Law. To wit: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." Godwin's Law is now enshrined on its own Wikipedia page. Back in the day, Godwin and I traded email occasionally, and I have no reason whatsoever to think ill of him. He had a legitimate point. In the Wired piece he says that such offhand comparisons...
trivialized the horror of the Holocaust and the social pathology of the Nazis. It was a trivialization I found both illogical (Michael Dukakis as a Nazi? Please!) and offensive (the millions of concentration-camp victims did not die to give some net.blowhard a handy trope).
However, the article ends with this...
In time, discussions in the seeded newsgroups and discussions seemed to show a lower incidence of the Nazi-comparison meme. And the counter-meme mutated into even more useful forms. (As Cuckoo's Egg author Cliff Stoll once said to me: "Godwin's Law? Isn't that the law that states that once a discussion reaches a comparison to Nazis or Hitler, its usefulness is over?") By my (admittedly low) standards, the experiment was a success.
Unfortunately, this "law" also creates a convenient excuse to discount discussion of the genuine protofascists, fascist apologists and outright Nazis that have inhabited our history, literature and "spirituality" for at least a century and a half.

Would the shocked-just-shocked Amazon reviewer have found Carey's chapter on Wyndham Lewis and Hitler quite so funny if he'd bothered to notice that Lewis wrote a book titled Hitler in 1931 in which he explicitly praised der Führer and National Socialism? Had he actually read The Intellectuals and the Masses, it seems strange that he would have missed Lewis's Hitler, as Carey mentions it by name on the first page of that chapter and quotes from it in several places. In introducing one such quote, Carey writes...

[Lewis's] depiction of Hitler similarly stresses the Führer's rigorous, clean-living masculinity. The "celibate inhabitant of a modest Alpine chalet -- vegetarian, non-smoking, non-drinking," Hitler "has remained the most simple and unassuming of men." His myrmidons, the Nazi storm troopers, have, Lewis assures his readers, been much misunderstood in England. Far from being armed roughs and hoodlums, they resemble a "picked police force." Legality is their watchword. The mere sight of them is enough to allay civilized fears.
These hefty young street-fighting warriors have not the blood-shot eyes and furtive manners of the political gutter-gunmen, but the personal neatness, the clear blue eyes, of the police. The Anglo-Saxon would feel reassured at once in the presence of these straightforward young pillars of the law.

Hitler, Wyndham Lewis
Chatto and Windus, London, 1931, p. 65

Whew, huh? No reason to be alarmed -- long as your Anglo-Saxon papers are in order. Nothing to see here, move along...

But who was Wyndham Lewis, exactly?

Percy Wyndham Lewis is credited with being the founder of the only modernist cultural movement indigenous to Britain.
OK, so that doesn't make much sense. There was really only one "modernist cultural movement," and it started in England, sure. But saying it was the only one indigenous to Britain is like saying... Oh, never mind. It's just stupid. Why am I not surprised, though? The quote comes from a loving tribute to Lewis on OswaldMosley.com -- Mosley having been the founder of the British Union of Fascists. Reading further, we learn that...
Lewis was an extreme individualist, whilst rejecting the individualism of 19th Century liberalism. His espousal of a philosophy of distance between the cultural elite and the masses brought him to Nietzsche, although appalled by the popularity of Nietzsche among all and sundry; and to Fascism and the praise of Hitler, but also the eventual rejection of these as being of the masses.

So, summing up, the good news is that Wyndham Lewis ultimately rejected Hitler and Nazism. The bad news is that he repudiated them because they were... vulgar.

Me, I'm sticking with John Carey. And, because I'm out of time, Roger Kimball will just have to go fuck himself.




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