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

Wednesday, August 13

a failure to communicate?

On 28 April this year, I received the following email letter from Daniel Pinchbeck. I have added some links to assist readers in parsing the deep semantics. Apologies for the multiply nested block quotes, but it couldn't be helped; stay sharp as to who's saying what. As to the "short comment" referred to in his first sentence, I'm retrospectively guessing Pinchbeck meant my 12 June 2006 post titled A Little Levity.
Hi Christopher,

A friend sent me a link to your short comment on my work. I had an opportunity to check out your blog, which is great. I have launched a web magazine, Reality Sandwich, and would love to have you as a contributor. We reassign rights back to authors and sometimes take material that has appeared in other places, such as blogs. I think you could contribute some great stuff to our site and find an enthusiastic readership. The work we run tends to be more fully developed as an essay or article than the typical hyperlinked blog post.

Please check it out and let me know what you think - would be interested to hear more of what you think of my books (especially "2012") if you get the chance to read them.


I was fairly mind-blown to get such a missive, for reasons that should be obvious if you've read much of Mystic Bourgeoisie. But never a fan of brevity (as you, the Valued Readers, can well attest), I replied at some length -- all of which is replicated here verbatim, right after this picture of my correspondent...


Oh my. I expect you found this:


I am known in many quarters online as RageBoy, a title given me by Esther Dyson a dozen years ago, and that I once happily embraced. It's like an albatross these days. I can't get rid of it, so I accept my fate with a wry shake of the head. My readers have come to expect a certain slash-and-burn style of rhetoric from me. Of course, that's no excuse, as it was I who made them come to expect it. At any rate, I'm sure your ears are not tiny, as I so uncharitably hinted there.  

Note: I can't resist interrupting to interpolate a big LOL!
More substantively, thank you for your invitation to contribute to Reality Sandwich. The site looks great, very high production values, etc. However, are you sure you want me mucking up the place? Mystic Bourgeoisie is pretty much diametrically opposed to many of the ideas and beliefs RS -- and much of your work -- seem to represent. While I am no fan of the Dawkins/Dennett axis, I am more vehemently opposed to the occult, the archetypal, the shamanic, in short, the spiritual bling that has come to be such an "outward and visible sign" of some sort of zeitgeisty-goodness salvation. 

(btw, re 2012: I knew Jose Arguelles in his pre-Harmonic Convergence days. He was crazy as a shithouse rat even then. I am now amused to see he has become a Mayan Time Lord [note: see e.g. here]. Too much Dr. Who, if you ask me. But that's another thread.) 

I just read your piece, Enlightenment Reason or Occult Conspiracy? If I may briefly comment on a couple grafs...

Can someone pursue Enlightenment ideals while simultaneously exploring occult conspiracies? If we avoid becoming obsessive or dismissive, it seems possible to hold contrasting myths or models of reality in our minds at the same time. We can study the Mayan Calendar, extraterrestrials and Gnostic cosmology while fighting for social and environmental justice, campaigning for political reform and so on. Whether or not our corrupt system can be changed, we could learn a great deal by joining any valiant effort made in that direction.
Surely, you and I both are too infected by postmodern memery [sic] to buy into any unalloyed membership in the Enlightenment Project. I once encapsulated all of 20th century philosophy thus:

  1. Says who?
  2. You and what army?

Well, perhaps that's beside the point, but I think you'd have to agree there just aren't that many people who believe in the ideals of the Enlightenment. I mean, if you don't count the neocons, who believe that stuff bigtime! But let's do take them seriously, as the nightmares they have wrought and are still wreaking (in the Iraq and such as) outweigh the most fevered dreams of an, oh say, Aleister Crowley. As to the efficacy of what you suggest above, just imagine how much cred a political reform effort would be able to garner after the first mention of Annunaki invaders! Nuff said. 

Reason, by itself, may not be enough to get us out of our planetary plight. If spiritual forces operate within our world, then meaningful social change requires, along with political reform, initiatory processes and shamanic practices that could, perhaps, open our minds to new myths of reality.
Granted, I am reacting to but a single word of the above: initiatory. It is impossible for me to hear that trope w/o thinking of Traditionalism. For what I think of that lot, allow me to quote from my post...

Ken Wilber would like you to suck his dick

First off, he says...
The disaster of modernity was that it reduced all introspective and interpretive knowledge to exterior and empirical flatland: it attempted to erase the richness of interpretation from the script of the world.
Since this occurs in the chapter titled "Postmodernism: To Deconstruct the World," we can assume Wilber is talking about modernism, not some vague "modernity." But by whatever name, with the "empirical flatland" remark he seems to confuse it with positivism -- which would have come as a great surprise to, oh say, Ezra Pound or T.S. Elliot. I'm going to guess he came by this definition of disaster by way of Rene Guenon's Traditionalist sonata for violin and three hankies,The Reign of Quantity & the Signs of the Times -- or something in that general area of dyspeptic Perennialist nostalgia.
(emphasis added.)

Bouncing off that, I will end this with a quote -- I just yesterday re-read this -- from Umberto Eco's 1995 piece on UR-FASCISM in The New York Review of Books [PDF]. 

The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition. Traditionalism is of course much older than fascism.... One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements. The most influential theoretical source of the theories of the new Italian right, Julius Evola, merged the Holy Grail with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, alchemy with the Holy Roman and Germanic Empire.

I think Evola is a good example of what happens when otherwise smart people mix "the occult" and politics. But this could turn into a much longer discussion. 

Perhaps instead of writing something for RS (not out of the question if I haven't sufficiently warned you off here), you and I could publicly debate these sundry matters. In no case, however, would I promise to be either Enlightened or Rational. 



I never did hear back from Mr. Pinchbeck or his Reality Sandwich.

btw, for more background on the man, you might try Vanessa Grigoriadis's 7 September 2006 Rolling Stone article, Daniel Pinchbeck and the New Psychedelic Elite. The sub-slug reads: "How a cynical son of beatnik parents combined drugs, the devil and the apocalypse into a modern movement." I understand Pinchbeck was not amused by that piece. Either.



It appears that Reality Sandwich has published an article by Gary Lachman titled An American Fascism? It's from his forthcoming book, Politics and the Occult: The Left, the Right, and the Radically Unseen. Not only does this article fill the bill for my above-proposed "much longer discussion" of "what happens when otherwise smart people mix 'the occult' and politics," but, more devastating for me, appears to scoop the book Mystic Bourgeoisie, once upon a time, was to become. Gary Lachman, btw, was the bassist for Blondie (Call Me!). But forget Richard Gere and Lauren Hutton; Lachman knows his stuff and has written a handful of very decent books on tightly related themes. So now I guess I have the perfect excuse to give the fuck up on this godforsaken project. (Though I probably won't.)