Not the Monthly Post

Dancers at the End of Time, Part Two: “Facts are the Enemies of Truth”

Last week, in Part One of this post, we explored the strange way that many people these days seem to have lost the ability to think clearly, or at all, about certain political questions.  Insights from philosopher Alan Jacobs and a thoughtful blogger who goes by “Jane” helped us close in on the mental dysfunction behind this odd and self-defeating habit. Our senses of meaning and value comes from personal participation in shared narratives we may as well call myths, but the mentally healthy among us balance those narratives against pragmatic concerns, and pay close attention when the world we encounter tells us our preferred narratives no longer work.

It’s that habit of balancing the mythic and pragmatic modes of experience against each other that has given way among far too many people these days. For them, the narrative is all, and if the world fails to do what the narrative demands, too bad for the world. In the musical Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote airily proclaims, “Facts are the enemies of truth;” it was unnerving, to use no stronger word, to hear Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden saying practically the same thing—and not as a joke or a reference to the musical—not that long ago.

Don Quixote offers us a remarkably good portrayal of the kind of failure we’re discussing here. As anyone who’s read Miguel de Cervantes’ brilliant satire will recall, what caused the mild-mannered country squire Alonzo Quijana to go riding forth as the most errant of all knights-errant was too much brooding on the overblown knightly romances of his day. Those of my readers who think that wallowing in pop fiction is purely a modern habit clearly haven’t made the acquaintance of Amadis of Gaul, the fifteenth century’s answer to The Lord of the Rings.  Like Tolkien’s opus, it was a runaway fantasy bestseller that spawned an immense and mostly dismal industry of imitations and knock-offs; and in Cervantes’ novel, it was Quijana’s obsessive immersion in that mighty torrent of faux-heroic pop culture that caused him to lose track of the world he actually inhabited, and go boldly forth to battle giants that didn’t happen to exist.

That is to say, Don Quixote de la Mancha is one of the first, and certainly the most brilliantly described, of what are now termed “fictionkin.”

I probably need to unpack that term for those of my readers who don’t spend enough time in the stranger corners of today’s online pop culture. I suspect everyone these days is more or less aware of the phenomenon of gender dysphoria, the condition of those people who believe they have been born into bodies of the wrong gender. (To be fair, their condition seems in at least some cases to be linked with measurable biological factors.)  Further along the same vector, and without the biological justifications, you find ethnic dysphoria and thus the controversial phenomenon of transracialism, in which people believe they are members of ethnic groups to which, according to every objective measure, they do not belong—Rachel Dolezal and presidential contender Elizabeth Warren are well-known examples of this. There’s also the equally controversial phenomenon of transablism, in which people believe that they ought to have been born with specific physical disabilities, and in some cases have been known to pay for surgeons to give them the disabilities they believe they should have.

Quite a bit further out along the same trajectory you find the otherkin.  These are people who believe they have been born into bodies of the wrong species. In some cases the species actually exist—a while back I corresponded at quite some length with a young man who was convinced he was really a draft horse, and who had a great deal to say about the possibilities of horse-drawn agriculture in a future of fossil fuel shortages—while in other cases the species in question are as elusive as the giants and dragons Don Quixote hoped to fight. If you frequent the right corners of the internet these days, you can find obsessively detailed lists of pronouns suitable for otherkin, divided up taxonomically:  “chir/chirs/chirpself” for someone who identifies as a bird, and so on.

At the far end of the trajectory—well, at least for the moment—you get fictionkin. These are people who believe they are fictional characters from books, television, anime, or what have you.  By this I don’t mean the ordinary imaginative participation that’s central to the mythic mode of experience, the sort of thing everyone who’s ever been caught up in a story knows well. Nor do I mean mere roleplaying.  Au contraire, fictionkin believe they actually are some specific fictional character, and take on the identity of that character 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They aren’t playacting; something considerably more troubling is going on.

Earlier this year a young woman posted an account of her boyfriend’s journey into this state to the Reddit sub r/relationshipadvice. It ended up being removed by the site moderators, but went viral well before that happened; here’s a copy from one of the websites that still has it posted. The short form is that the boyfriend, who was a typically boisterous, nerdy young man, went through a dramatic personality change after binge watching the anime series Loveless. He spent some weeks being very quiet and withdrawn, reading the book version of Loveless, and then snapped all at once into a soft, smiling, happy, weirdly artificial state. When the girlfriend confronted him about this, he told her that he’d realized that he was actually Soubi, one of the main characters from the anime series.

It didn’t stop there. The young man began to insist that the girlfriend call him Soubi whenever they weren’t in public. He started calling her Ritsuka, the name of Soubi’s 12-year-old girlfriend, and insisting that she roleplay Ritsuka in bed. He grew his hair out so he could copy Soubi’s hairstyle, got rid of his wardrobe so he could replace it with clothes identical to those that Soubi wore in the anime and the books, and picked up a set of fake glasses that looked like Soubi’s. All his old habits, behaviors, and personality traits went away, replaced by a set borrowed wholesale from an anime character.  The girlfriend tried to cope, and tried to cope, and tried to cope—and then the faux-Soubi tried to arrange a threesome between them and a transgendered person who was under the age of consent, not something the boyfriend would have done in his right mind, and the girlfriend finally realized she’d had enough and walked.

It’s a harrowing story, of a kind that’s familiar to anyone who’s watched another person descend into mental illness—because that’s what we’re talking about, of course. The process is exactly the one that Cervantes described so crisply in the first chapter of Don Quixote: the gradual loosening of the girders of the mind, followed by the sudden snap as the last connection to the real world gives way, the sudden burst of dazed delight that always seems to accompany the plunge into madness, the attempts to equip the new identity with all its proper accoutrements—there’s Don Quixote frantically polishing his great-grandfather’s suit of armor, right next to faux-Soubi styling his hair and putting on his fake glasses—and then the descent into stranger and stranger behavior once the pragmatic mode went silent forever:  it’s all there, a classic account of one of the common ways that people go insane.

I bring a somewhat unusual perspective to narratives of this kind, because I write fiction, and that means I spend a lot of my time in the company of imaginary people. The characters in my novels are vivid, distinct presences in my imagination, and they’re relatively autonomous—that is, they don’t just do what I tell them. When I started writing my novel The Shoggoth Concerto, for example, I knew that Brecken Kendall—the main character in that story, a mixed-race music student at a fictional state university in New Jersey—was going to befriend a small shoggoth; I had no idea where their relationship would end up, and where it did end up was as much of a surprise to me as it was to Brecken and the shoggoth she nicknamed Sho.

That emphatically does not mean that Brecken and Sho are real in the same sense as you and I. To borrow a typically neat phrasing from the Greek philosopher Sallust, characters in a novel, like the myths Sallust was talking about, are things that never happened but always are. Reading a work of fiction can be the same sort of imaginative participation I discussed in last week’s post as the essence of the mythic mode, and it can be a potent source of transformative experiences of meaning and value. That’s one of the things that fiction does, and one of the reasons why it very often functions as the mythology of our time.

A narrative doesn’t have to be great literature to elicit that kind of experience. I recall reading quite some years ago a comment by Hollywood actor Mark Hamill about the role of Batman comics in shaping his personal sense of morality and his approach to life. Dick Grayson aka Robin the Boy Wonder was the figure in whose adventures Hamill participated most vividly, and all through his youth, encountering a moral or personal challenge, his first inward question was “What would Robin do?”  If you didn’t grow up with the comics, that sounds laughable, but Hamill’s far from alone in that; Batman and Green Arrow were among the comic-book heroes whose adventures I read just as passionately in my own childhood, with somewhat similar effects. Comics functioned as the folk mythology of several generations of young Americans, and all things considered, I don’t think that was a bad thing.

Notice, though, that Hamill didn’t fall into the trap of believing that he was Dick Grayson.  He didn’t outfit himself with a Robin suit so he could wait day after day for Batman to show up and take him away to the Batcave and a life of fighting crime. He kept the mythic and pragmatic modes of experience in balance, and gained the benefits of imaginative participation in a narrative, rather than using the narrative as a replacement for reality—that is, he was sane, not crazy.

The same distinction can be found on a level reaching well beyond purely individual concerns. Whole societies can also fall on one side of that borderline or, if they’re unfortunate enough, on the other. Our society is a poor example here, partly because our history has given us a tangled and unhelpful attitude toward the mythic mode of experience, and partly for reasons I’ll get to in next week’s post.  Most other societies are saner about myth. One of the great examples of the thoughtful and creative use of the mythic mode, not to mention one that I’ve been brooding about for some time now, is the set of Lakota customs described in detail in the pages of that classic of Native American spirituality, Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt.

The very short form, for those who haven’t yet read the book in question, is that Black Elk had an intense visionary experience in boyhood, the kind of thing that marked him ever after as a holy man. When he recovered from the shamanic trance and recounted his vision, the elders listened, discussed the vision, considered its implications, and found it worthy of acceptance. Once that process was complete, the whole band enacted it in ritual form, making it part of the oral literature of their people as a resource for spiritual practice and imaginative participation.

Most traditional societies have some version of this same vetting process. That’s why Kobo Daishi and Dengyo Daishi, the monks who brought esoteric Buddhism from China to Japan, had to present their teachings to the emperor on their return to Japan, and receive a favorable judgment from the emperor’s cadre of religious experts, before beginning to teach what they had learned. It’s why any new religious movement that wanted to establish a temple in Rome had to get the permission of the stern and skeptical old men of the Roman Senate before proceeding. The mythic mode of experience can be a source of life and health and meaning, but it can also be a source of madness and disaster.  Traditional societies know this, and act accordingly.

Thus, according to one account, when a Paiute man named Wovoka announced in the late 1870s that he had received a splendid vision of a better future for the Native peoples of the Great Plains, the first reaction of the Paiute elders was to reject the vision. There was reason for that rejection, too. Wovoka’s vision had taught him that if the Native peoples purified themselves and performed a sacred dance, the white invaders would be annihilated, the buffalo would return, the ancestors would come back to life, and all evil and death would go away forever. We don’t happen to know why the Paiute elders made the decision they did, but the Native peoples of the Great Plains were no fools; they thrived for many centuries in a difficult environment and had subtle and effective ways of dealing constructively with visionary experiences. They knew better than to accept the literal truth of a narrative far more stereotyped and unrealistic than Loveless or Amadis of Gaul.

That level of clarity was difficult to maintain, though, in the years that followed, as the tribes of the plains ended up with their backs to the wall. Facing invasion and conquest by the vastly more populous and technologically advanced society to their east, they had been fighting for more than a generation in a hopeless war in which even the most overwhelming victory simply meant a brief respite before the invaders returned in even greater force. The tacit bargain every society has with the universe—we will live this way, you will maintain the conditions that enable us to live this way—had shattered irrevocably, and many people in the plains tribes were willing to turn to anything that seemed to offer them a way out of an insupportable reality.

January 1, 1889 brought a solar eclipse, and during the eclipse Wovoka had a more elaborate version of his previous vision. This time it found widespread acceptance.  Across the Great Plains, Native tribes embraced the Ghost Dance, as it came to be called, following Wovoka’s instructions to purify themselves and dance the sacred dance. Wild rumors spread, elaborating on Wovoka’s original vision, claiming that the elaborate dancing shirts they crafted for the Ghost Dance would make their wearers invulnerable to bullets. From the Paiute country all the way to the Lakota country up against the Canadian border, Native people danced and waited in radiant hope for the invaders to be annihilated and the ancestors and the buffalo to return.

What happened instead was the massacre at Wounded Knee on December 28, 1890, where US soldiers armed with artillery and recently invented Hotchkiss machine guns opened fire on a mostly unarmed band of Lakota Ghost Dancers. The Ghost Dance shirts offered no protection against the hail of bullets and shrapnel, and 153 died, most of them women and children. The last resistance against the invaders collapsed promptly thereafter. When facts become the enemies of truth, in other words, they generally come to the conflict much more heavily armed than their opponent. Don Quixote suffered only bruises and embarrassment when he mistook a windmill for a giant he could fight.  The Ghost Dancers were not so lucky.

For a great many years, anthropologists approached the Ghost Dance and other phenomena of the same kind—and there have been a great many of them, especially but not only in response to the European campaigns of global conquest between the 16th and 19th centuries—from within an unhelpful mentality of ethnocentrism or, perhaps, technocentrism:  the notion that such things were purely the preserve of “primitive” peoples, whose lack of the kind of technology Europeans consider advanced supposedly made them too simpleminded to recognize that mythically oriented actions such as putting on a sacred shirt and dancing a sacred dance wouldn’t overcome massed firepower. There’s a substantial literature in older anthropological journals on “revitalization movements,” as such things are called in that end of academe; though there are worthy exceptions, most of it has at least a trace of the technocentric arrogance just mentioned.

The cluelessness framing that easy sense of superiority should never have survived the 20th century. We have the bitter examples of Nazism and Communism to demonstrate that classic revitalization movements, dressed up in finery borrowed from the science and pseudoscience of their day, can flourish in the most advanced technological societies on the planet. More recently still, the orgy of wishful thinking surrounding the fake Mayan prophecy of December 21, 2012 had most of the features of a revitalization movement, and the adherents of that frankly crackpot belief system were drawn almost exclusively from the comfortable, well-educated middle and upper middle classes of modern American society.

What drives the collective descent into delusion at the heart of a revitalization movement, in other words, has nothing to do with the presence or absence of modern technology or a modern education. It’s the same dynamic that sent the young man discussed earlier on his plunge into madness. What personal and social factors were responsible for his adoption of a delusional identity as an anime character are impossible to guess for those of us not personally acquainted with him. On the other hand, it’s not difficult to recognize the immense psychological and cultural pressures that are driving the comfortable classes of today’s American society into the flight from reason discussed in the first essay in this sequence—a revitalization movement on the classic scale, in which participants are engaging in a series of increasingly ornate ritual actions meant to bring back their equivalent of the buffalo and the ancestors. We’ll talk about that next week.


The second Wednesday of each month is usually the day for this blog’s monthly book club post, discussing a work of Western esoteric philosophy—at the moment, The Cosmic Doctrine by Dion Fortune. This month, however, that will be delayed until the third Wednesday, so that this sequence of posts can be completed without a break. See you next week!


  1. I’ve seen some similar things to what you describe in the transgender community; people seem to become increasingly possessed and obsessed by some astral being and promptly adopt this weird, stilted, artificial mien. I’ve noticed it most keenly with people who want their faces to be surgically altered. Of course, I back away as quickly as possible.

    Point being, for many trans-people an essentially fictional character has taken over their mind, and that fictional character is “made flesh”. I wonder how closely accounts of demonic possession and obsession track with these phenomenon. Since the myths are alive in a certain sense, it seems, to me, that this is the astral equivalent of getting mugged at the greyhound station by the guy offering to sell you a dime bag of marijuana.

  2. Wowsers. What happened to the guy who thought he was a horse? Did he recover his sanity? Or, even more reality-shaking, did he come up with proof that he really IS a horse?

    The interesting thing about the blog post was that the guy seemed to be doing so much better as Subi—until he started to groom the 17-year-old.

    His story reminds me of what I’ve read about Method acting—the actor lives as his character onstage and off. But the actor turns it off once the director yells “That’s a wrap!” I’m not sure what such an actor would do if his character were into something illegal, but I wonder if Method has anything to do with Hollywood being awash with kinky sex.

  3. P.S. I gotta admit, some of those animal pronouns are pretty cute, if I do say so kitself. 😄🐈

  4. One correction: Ritsuka in Loveless is Soubi’s 12-year-old boyfriend. (Soubi is a 21 year old man.) Whether that makes any significant difference for interpreting the likely causes of the young man’s behavior is beyond my pay grade to speculate.

  5. A thought concerning revitalization movements in general:

    I really love playing chess, and since I’m very much at the beginner level I have the opportunity of losing quite a bit. There is something about playing a losing game of chess that reminds me so much of the crazed behavior of revitalization movements. After making one blunder, my heart begins to race, the opponent’s queen takes my rook, and then I might place a knight in the stupidest possible place, convinced I’m about to turn the game around.

    One blunder leads to another. Jung wrote that after a certain threshold of emotionality is crossed rational thinking just shuts down. This is one thing when the only thing at stake is a board game, it’s quite another when one’s very life is at stake. Still I think that this general principle holds more often than not: blunders often follow one another before total rout sets in.

    And so we see with the current democratic party leadership: blunders follow one another in quick secession. It is a very difficult thing to manage losing gracefully, while still playing. And it’s very, very difficult to manage losing gracefully with skin in the game. I can so understand how overwrought emotions cause people to enter into revitalization movements, it really is painful to lose and the desire to win, to triumph, and to prevail are so powerful. Accepting defeat and retreat, accepting the terms of surrender in the literal and spiritual senses take the rare quality of character that is so rarely nourished in the culture of the United States with its “go big or go home” attitude.

  6. I am a pragmatist although I also have a strongly mythological streak. Myths matter to me. Having met a number of people with odd attitudes to life over the last few years I can’t help thinking that a bit more floor scrubbing and hard gardening and a bit less sitting around wondering how we are feeling would help our mental health enormously.
    Taking on some personal responsibility for our own lives would also be good. Don’t think I don’t also suffer emotional and mental lows but I can still tell the difference between reality and fantasy, I think.

  7. Violet, interesting. I haven’t seen that in any of my transgender friends, but admittedly I don’t run with the trans community in general. The artificial expression is a very bad sign; when that shows up in anyone, in my experience, it tends to indicate serious mental illness, with or without the involvement of disembodied beings.

    Your kittenship, I have no idea what happened to him (or whatever pronoun he goes by these days). In our last interaction, he had suddenly stopped talking about horses and wanted to rabbit on (if you’ll excuse the term) about space colonization via solar sailing. So it may just have been a phase.

    As for the cuteness of the pronouns, yes, and I’m waiting for the Kek worshipers to jump on that. I suspect, given current trends in the MAGAsphere, that quite a few of them will start using the pronouns jeffreyepsteindidnotkillhe, jeffreyepsteindidnotkillhis, and jeffreyepsteindidnotkillhimself…

  8. Well, you promised madness, and certainly delivered. That was a disturbing story. I’d heard of ‘otherkin’ but I’ve never had to deal with ‘fictionkin’ (outside of harmless childhood imaginings). Honestly, it sounds a lot like that poor boy was possessed. Better Soubi than Satan, I suppose… but either way, I don’t think that body’s original soul is at the controls.


  9. Just last night I was wondering why I hadn’t heard about otherkin in a while! I’ve always had mixed feelings about them, since, “I remember being a non-human animal in a past life and feel more connected to that life than this one,” isn’t that weird all things considered, while “I am literally a dragon and you are a bigot if you don’t accept that claim,” is another matter entirely.

    One question that seems to me to cut to the heart of the issue is: “What do you expect the rest of us to do about it?” If the answer is, “Nothing in particular, just don’t bully me over it,” then more power to them. That’s what I want for myself. On the other hand you have the pseudo-Soubi, who dragged his girlfriend into his delusions, and Dolezal and Warren, who each used their claimed race for personal gain. The transablists aren’t much harder to figure out: if you’re disabled, someone else has to care for you.

    P.S. There’s one step farther than fictionkin: factives, who believe they are another actual, still-living person. Then again, both Aleister Crowley and Snoop Dogg have claimed to be the reincarnation of someone who was still alive when they were born, so I guess there’s some precedent there.

  10. Walt, fair enough — I’m not an anime watcher (comment about jerky little images on screens deleted), and my contacts with manga have been limited to a little dabbling in The Ancient Magus’ Bride, The Girl from the Other Side, and The Elder Sister-like One. To my mind, insisting that your adult girlfriend roleplay a twelve-year-old boy is, well, getting into very ugly territory.

    Violet, I suspect that’s a lot of what’s behind the current revitalization movement. At least some other cultures are a lot better at handling defeat, and other things trigger the plunge into delusion there — but here in the US, yes, that makes sense. (And it’s not just in a political sense that they’ve lost; more on this next week.)

    JillN, no argument there. One of the basic rules of classic occult training is that you have to keep grounded in the material world! Dion Fortune used to insist that everyone who lived at her order’s London headquarters or its Glastonbury retreat center had to keep their rooms clean and share in the housekeeping chores, as much to keep them from drifting off into La-La Land as for practical reasons.

  11. My own mythic delusion is that I am trans-class. I am six orders of magnitude richer than the body I was born into. According to my merely Factual bank account, I am a multi-thousandaire; but according to my own True perspective, I am a multi-billionaire.

    I routinely buy up legislatures, build cities, found revolutionary new industries; or at least I would, if the bankers let me. But instead they point to a number on a computer screen and say that it doesn’t have enough zeroes. That’s how the Man keeps you down.

    I jest, you say? Gender is fluid, race is debateable, but class isn’t artificial at all? To these reversals of nature I retort, Mammonism!

    I am not the only trans-class person out there. Econo-dysphorians, unite! You have nothing to lose but your gains!

  12. Thank you for that! Saturday’s meditation produced a “Today will be a long, hard grind. Pure hard, stubborn, routine, plain grinding through.” It threw me into a total Pragmatic mode which ignored feelings, self-talk, physical aches and pains and queasiness, and all those other obstacles & deal-killers. And when ignored, they receded into the background and nearly vanished. It was unprecedented, though there was a minor precedent back in 1989 when I had the blues and started doing minor chores as the least I could do, and found it helped. Something I’ve been doing ever since. But that was a conscious fix. Saturday was – as if something had flipped a switch in my mind.

    I journaled every petty step without comment. It only lasted a day, but I can get it back – partially – with effort – have been there once. And thank Saturn for that, before I sank neck-deep in ditziness and navel-gazing. Now I think it’s like having been hauled up by a large fishhook out of a worldwide rising tide of toxic waste just ahead of it.

  13. Just curious if your definitions of the pragmatic and mythic modes would be synonyms for the Apollonian and Dionysian modes from Ancient Greece?

  14. Or I can’t also help but think about the cargo cults that sprang up after WW2 ended in an attempt to bring back the bounty and abundance from the airplanes. And if you really think about it, it isn’t that what they were doing was nutty, they just weren’t doing it well enough for any of it to work. If they really did build good runways and really did build radios and other airport infrastructure, they actually might have attracted some of those planes that they wanted to bring back.

    I guess something something symbols vs. reality, with symbols being important but always playing second fiddle. I wonder what a world would be like where symbols were the important thing and reality was second fiddle?

  15. May I make a public service announcement? I’ve spent the last couple of days shivering, aching, and feverish. This hasn’t happened in years so I suspect this year’ flu shots are particularly potent. (Probably to make up for last year’s being such duds; I think they were 30% effective or some such dismal figure.). So if you’re getting a flu shot you may wish to schedule it for when you have a couple of days’ down time.

    For those who’ve never had a flu shot reaction, it’s just like having the flu, only not as bad and not as long (I’m fine today, for example).

  16. Nineteenth century China went through a series of convulsions reminiscent of the Ghost Dancers. Resentment against the growing corruption of the Qing dynasty and increased presence of Westerners with their drug peddling, unwanted goods and religious proselytizing found outlets such as the Taiping Rebellion whose leader was convinced (or at least claimed) he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ. The later Boxer Rebellion also had its ecstatic element where Boxers went into trance states claiming invulnerability to western bullets and other weapons, and also stating millions of soldiers would descend from Heaven to help them clear out all foreigners. Both movements failed and ended in blood baths. All of this was eventually followed by the overthrow of the ossified Qing dynasty and many decades of violent turmoil.

    Whether the current crop of delusional movements will lead to similar chaos here in the West remains to be seen. Looking forward to the next posting.

  17. Dear JMG,

    Thank you for your responses. Is the sort of situation you describe going on what Jung would have called the inflation of the ego by the unconscious? I wonder what Jung would have said if he were watching American culture now, and am very curious your and other folk’s take on the matter.

  18. Interesting how people can get so absorbed into a fictional reality to escape in some way. I believe I have seen this type of behavior in others I’ve known that had troubled lives at home or other ailments. This story feels similar to some multiple personality disorder stories, however I’m not too sure about the idea of a soul changing with the changes in a body. Any thoughts?

  19. JMG,

    This is interesting; I usually know where you’re going, and here I’m not sure, but I’ll add some thoughts that (I hope) are along the same lines.

    I’ve seen a lot of friends grow more distant in recent years, and while some of that might be the usual process of growing up, I’ve also seen a lot of people grow increasingly isolated in a media bubble. I was frustrated to see a lot of formerly moderate and apolitical people do this when “conservative” talk radio and Fox News took over middle America in the 1990s, becoming increasingly angry and paranoid conspiracy theorists.

    As I’ve always cared about issues like the ecology, inequality and labour rights, I was labelled an extreme leftist, although I never embraced the term – I’d prefer distributist, or “moderate anarchist.” Now I’m seeing the same thing happen to my more left-leaning friends over transgenderism or reparations or Trump Derangement Syndrome, and have been labelled an extreme right-winger.

    In many of these cases I can point to the moment that people of either party are driven away: when I point out that they are doing the same thing their opponents are. Evangelical friends of mine have dreamed for years of living in a country where “prayer in schools” was no longer illegal, and they would be free – I pointed out to them that no one can stop anyone from praying in school now, and that what they are really talking about is the federal government passing laws forcing everyone else to pray the prayers of their church.

    I said this (online) to more Democratic-leaning friends who were very amused, as they were comfortable thinking of evangelicals as buffoons. They got upset, though, when I pointed out that by forcing people to bake cakes for gay weddings, or use transgendered pronouns, they were effectively doing the same thing, passing laws that force other groups to affirm their metaphysical beliefs.

    Also, you note that people have always lost themselves in fantasy, yet the phenomenon seems to have worsened in recent years – to me, and clearly to you if you’re writing about it now. Do you think it’s the fact that we spend time mostly looking at screens rather than reality? Or is it more that the landscape around us has become so ugly and demoralised? Or that people’s old dreams for their country and culture are no longer tenable?

    Finally, must revitalisation movements be so destructive? I’d love to see a movement to revitalise grass-roots democracy in the USA, or self-sufficiency, or more traditional classical education, or any number of other things that have been lost; I accept that some people will take these things in directions I would not approve of, but believe that returning to such principles will probably be better than any alternative. Does your definition of “revitalisation” mean it must be utopian to the point of delusion?

  20. Three things: BDSM, improv, and Richard Sennett.

    BDSM subspace is a trance-like state of detached bliss. Many report the role as innate, discovered early in life. (Masochistic pain can reportedly also lead to a similar state of psychic detachment.)

    In _Impro_, Keith Johnnstone talks about evoking trance states in improv theatre. This doesn’t sound like method acting: participants are suddenly possessed by outside characters. “A girl puts on a Mask and is transformed. She seems to illuminate the room, but instantly removes it. . . . ‘I couldn’t do it,’ she says. ‘But it was marvellous.’ ‘It felt wrong.’ ‘You mean you didn’t like the thing you had turned into.’ ‘That’s right.’ ‘That means you can do it, the experience was _real_.’

    Masks lose adult reason – often language itself, and have to be taught words one at a time. The loss of language is apparently common in subspace too, where the inability to safeword is a danger. Johnstone describes masks in non-Western cultures to summon up gods.

    Here is Sennett in _The Fall of Public Man_ (which I didn’t finish):

    “. . . in an age wherein intimate relations determine what shall be believable, conventions, artifices, and rules appear only to get in the way of revealing onself to another . . . With an emphashis on psychological authenticty, people become inartistic in daily life because they are unable to tap the fundamental creative strength of the actor, the ability to play with and invest feeling in external images of the self. . . theatricality has [a] friendly relation to a strong public life.” (p. 37)

    “The open-floor office plan brings the paradox of visibility and isolation to its height . . . People are more sociable, the more they have some tangible barriers between them . . . the masks of self which manners and the rituals of politeness create . . . have ceased to matter in impersonal situations or seem to be the property only of snobs; in closer relationships, they appear to get in the way of knowing someone else. And I wonder if this contempt for ritual masks of sociability has not really made us more primitive culturally than the simplest tribe of hunters and gatherers.”

    This is 1974, _before_ everyone had to turn themselves into a brand they sell in a constant world of unstable work (Sennett deals with this is _The Culture of the New Capitalism_), before self-presentation on social media. The problem is not that people do not perform; it is that the division between private and public has collapsed. Sennett is not alone. The Habermas was very concerned about the blurred boundary between “lifeworld” and “system world” corrupting both. Sennett again:

    “When some one person is judged to be authentic, or when society as a whole is described as creating problems of human authenticity . . . social action is being devalued in the process of placing more weight on psychological matters. As a matter of common sense we know that good men perform bad acts, but this language of authenticity makes it hard for us to use common sense. The desire to authenticate oneself, one’s motives, one’s feelings, is . . . a form of Puritanism. For all the liberating of our sexuality, we are within the orbit of self-justification which defined the Puritan’s world. . . . Narcissistic feelings often focus themselves on obsessive questions of whether I am good enough, whether I am adequate, and the like.”

    If this is right, then perhaps we need to put on _more_ roles, more “identities,” in order to create room for intimacy and private selves. The social requirement to collapse the distinction between actor and act is destroying the possibility to be an individual. Perhaps that boyfriend was not entirely mad to put on a mask: but not knowing how to do it, he became lost.

  21. On a more general note, I feel like we’ve fallen into a very dysfunctional binary when it comes to misfits: either they are wretched degenerates who are destroying the fabric of society (so abuse them at your pleasure), or they are the virtuous heralds of a glorious new age of enlightenment (so you’d better get with the program or else).

    Speaking as a misfit myself, I like to propose a third option: we’re the inevitable exceptions who don’t flourish well under the current social institutions and conventions (so don’t try to change us but don’t change society for us).

  22. @JMG,

    Another enlightening post – I never would have guessed that it would be Biden of all people who would be caught saying ‘We choose truth over facts,’ but he is running against Sanders and Warren, and when in Rome….

    I am still convinced that if he gets the nomination, Biden will just end up being the Romney of the Democrats. That is, in 2012 the Republican base had spent four years champing at the bit for a chance to take on the man that half of them saw as evil incarnate; they managed huge turnout in the midterms, but then the party ran an old, boring man with shady business dealings, the base wasn’t all in, and we got four more years of Obama.

    Well, now the Democrats are on the verge of doing the same thing, but with the added bonus of the Ukraine scandal. Some of us saw impeachment coming a mile away, but who woulda thunk the Democrats would pick such a comically bad reason for it?

    So the idea is: spend several months airing your own front-runner’s history of graft in front of the nation, and then the big, bad orange man will go away?

    If that’s the level of pragmatism that prevails today, then you’ve got to give the Ghost Dancers credit where credit is due.

    Even so, I don’t foresee the Democrats ending up in the route scenario that some commentators here are talking about. They’ll probably lose in 2020, but history has shown that Americans will tire of the party in power and hand the White House over to the opposition pretty reliably every eight or twelve years, no matter how many times the opposition has jumped the shark in the intervening period. So I’m predicting a >95% chance that Democrats win back the Presidency and both houses of Congress in either 2024 or 2028.

  23. Hello Mr Archdruid. Do you think some of this has to do with the large cohort of baby boomers longing to live in the past? I am personally on the cusp of being a boomer and even I am sick of them, er us. The constant hyperbole, the unwillingness to adjust to the current realities. Maybe someone should explain to them that the “Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World” is a marketing slogan, and in things like music it is impossible to a definitive greatest. They would also be served to acknowledge there is some great music of all kinds being made currently and that some of the 60’s and 70’s stuff is dreck.

    Where you can see the boomers in action is the really weird cult of abortion centred around upper middle class white women long past their sexual active years. That abortion clinics mainly serve poor and non whites and that most upper middle class sexually active women have access to birth control means nothing to these old biddies. Hopefully when these people die off the rest of society will be able to have reasonable discussions about abortion.

  24. “When he recovered from the shamanic trance and recounted his vision, the elders listened, discussed the vision, considered its implications, and found it worthy of acceptance. Once that process was complete, the whole band enacted it in ritual form, making it part of the oral literature of their people as a resource for spiritual practice and imaginative participation.”

    This is fascinating. My first thought upon reading it was that I wish I lived in such a culture. My second thought was that, in a certain sense, I did. I was raised in a traditional Catholic household, and the Church has a very similar method of investigating private visions, whereby they are declared “worthy of belief.”

    Thinking that immediately raised the question– What would happen if the Tribal Elders turned out to be a group of corrupt, selfish, predators who spent a century or more downplaying or actively opposing the supernatural entirely, while at once forcing a brutal regime of sexual repression onto their people and indulging in the worst sorts of sexual abuses themselves? Wouldn’t the immediate result be a breakdown in the traditional safeguards, and the proliferation of all sorts of visions of the Ghost Dance sort? Hmm. Would it, maybe, look like the world we live in?

    And if that’s the case, where do we go from here?

  25. Hey hey JMG,

    This worries me. I suspect that what you are getting at is not the increasing frequency of these personal delusions, but rather the likelihood of of a society wide delusion like Cargo Cults, The Boxer Rebellion (also not bullet proof against a technologically superior invader), and of course Wotan:

    “But what is more than curious — indeed, piquant to a degree — is that an ancient god of storm and frenzy, the long quiescent Wotan,should awake, like an extinct volcano, to new activity, in a civilized country that had long been supposed to have outgrown the Middle Ages.”

    I generally think that I have a pretty good bead on this Long Descent that we are going through, but this makes me wonder what is coming down the pipe. I am very curious to hear your thoughts on the matter.


  26. I am thinking some will believe what they want to believe … despite everything… because believing a certain way or in a particular thing has a benefit/pay off for them of some kind.

  27. John,
    Utterly amazing. I got caught in a completely dysfunctional conversation three days ago with a professional associate. Fundamentalist Christian, insists peak oil, global warming and the moon landings are all bunk. Then it hit me : we are seeing something which looks an awe full lot like capitalism’s reaction to socialism in the 20th century. The same condescending “if you believe that your an idiot” kind of smiling false politeness. The whole idea that this will boil over at some point and lead to open conflict does not occur to these people and I can only conclude that you are very much into something and I’m looking forward to the next instalment.

    And today is Thursday in Sydney. I’ll be going past the climate activist “change or die” group on the way to work. The divisions on this point are just becoming more and more obvious. At some point it will eventually boil over.

  28. Wow! That’s a scary situation. I only have a minor in psychology, so this is poorly-educated speculation, but I would guess the young man’s psychotic break was a form of dissociative disorder caused by some type of serious trauma. I’ll venture further afield and guess the trauma (that had probably been suppressed to the point of him not being able to remember it) also occurred in the anime, so it reminded the boyfriend of the trauma and brought it to the surface as his own memories disguised as the fiction.

    Any time that something suppressed comes to the surface, it’s a dangerous transitional state that can either cause great harm or great healing, depending on how it’s handled as it rises to the surface. This sounds like the cage holding the inner demons (trauma) broke while no one was watching, and now the demons are at the controls.

    If you create a fictional self and project all the bad things that happen onto the fiction, it makes the pain easier to bear because the fiction acts the same way a hot pad does; it’s a protective layer that adds a bit of insulation. But you can’t walk around wearing it forever, you eventually have to tend to your burn or it may get much worse.

    Our current society is not generally good for mental health. There is evidence to suggest that all the things that cause “deaths of despair” can be caused by trauma of one sort or another. Where this is going, I have no idea.

    *All of this relates to dissociative disorders, and I would not paint with a broad brush to speculate someone like Elizabeth Warren, for example, has a dissociative disorder. Even in extreme cases like those seeking amputation of healthy limbs due to mental states (usually a phantom-limb type sensation), there is usually something else involved that has nothing to do with dissociation. I think this man is dissociating because his personality and identity both changed drastically. And again, I’m really not qualified to speculate like this 🙂

    Jessi Thompson

    PS This is my second attempt to post this comment. Please make sure ot’s not an accidental double post 🙂

  29. Lots of thoughts are coming off of this essay, which has touched a nerve, and a relevant datum is this:

    I’ve written about a certain community cursing me. And, with the help of many, many folks here I was able to pull through to the other side. That said, this community has been, so far at least in my experience, a real harbinger of things to come. It was into the whole social justice stuff before anyone else, it was into neopaganism before anyone else, etc.

    And while I was at that community about half of the folks there had those horrible artificial expressions that have been discussed. In a certain sense, it was — and I write this with the strange dread of a ghost story — all the same expression. As if one being possessed everyone who wore that hideous, stilted, inhuman, smirking grin.

    Once people donned that expression permanently their lives often fell apart. Some went full bore crazy, others died, others got seriously ill, others were revealed to be liars, thieves, and extortionists. Others had a slow grind of overwhelming poverty, immiseration and inability to set firm boundaries. Others were forcibly kicked out of the very land they had spent the last few decades paying for

    During that period I struggled to meet my very basic needs, and so I was a bit overwhelmed myself to correlate this expression with the dire fates that so many I saw experienced. Upon reflection, everyone I know who became possessed of this spirit seemed to dissolve to the very extent that they were possessed.

    This seems to me the stuff of fairy tales, enchanted kingdoms, secret curses, and the light of dawn shattering the structures of the old world like so much dew and mist. The thing is, this is no literary device; these are all things that I saw with my very own eyes, and they shook me to the core.

  30. Examples like the Ghost Dance and Boxer Rebellion come from societies under existential stresses. This suggests the possibility that stress on a society makes society wide revitalization movements of great intensity more likely – and that given our own society’s predicament. we are likely to see some spectacular examples of revitalization movements over the coming decades.

    That could be very dangerous., depending on what form they take. Do you know of any positive exampels of revitallization movements? Or does the delusional nature of this type of movement mean they are always maladapted to actual conditions, and therefore do more harm than good?

    And this might just put a cat among the pigeons, but Louis Riel’s behavior during the Northwast rebellion bears some of the hallmarks of this kind of thinking. I don’t remember too many details, from when I was learning about it many years ago, but I do remember his religious visions and my general impression that he was not entirely sane, as well as that he failed and got a bunch of people killed. I’m not talking about the earlier Red River Rebellion, just his actions during the Northwest Rebellion.

  31. I like this kind of conversation. A post that sets off the imagination and responses carrying it in different directions without extreme policing. This seems to be missing in modern discourse but it may have always been missing in the different collective mythologies that are loosely adopted by members of groups.

    Anyway, a couple of things spring to mind. What is the guiding mythology of what has been described as the highly-educated ‘woken’ class? (They might be called upper-middle class liberals, but class terminology wasn’t really updated beyond the first draft – I wonder why?).

    I’m going to try and make a start from the word liberal: Politically – generous, free, open-minded, unbiased, permissive, lenient, lax, soft-hearted, progressive. Related to quantity: abundant, ample, luxuriant, profuse, lavish, prolific, rich, overabundant, plenteous.

    It seems like the liberal myth is inevitably going to run into serious problems when confronted with limits and scarcity.

    My second musing is about mythology. Mythical stories involve serious hardships and challenges leading the ‘hero’ to learn which beliefs and attitudes pass the acid test, and to change him or herself accordingly. In fact it seems to me they are stories of values, beliefs, behavioural dead-ends, learning and change. In other words, resurrection. This may be just one kind of mythical story, but I find it hard to understand, even going back to the more unadulterated fairy tales of my childhood, a myth comfortable self-satisfaction and stasis. What is mythological about being wonderful and staying wonderful? That sounds more like decadence than myth.

  32. John
    It sounds like you are expecting us to double dog down on some sort of fantastical project in the service of the God of Progress.

    Which form do you think it will take?
    a) Space – maybe a combo of space tourism and militarization of earth orbit. (mars colony is probably too much)
    b) Robots and AI- replace workers and soldiers with autonomous robots (wait a minute isn’t that the plot of every bad sci fi robot movie?) while telling everyone you are creating fully automated luxury communism.
    c) Nanotechnology – once we get our self-replicating programmable assemblers going everyone gets all the material goods they want.
    d) VR- reality sucks, everyone would be way happier in a photo realistic computer game.

    If I was in charge we would double dog down on some Airships,
    A fleet of giant colorful solar powered Koi-shaped airships.
    (maybe if I am really lucky, I will see self replicating, robotic, Koi ships with a powerful AI that has a desire to explore space and only exists in VR)

  33. I think you surprised all of us with that third essay. I’m curious what about it broke Reddit’s rules, as it doesn’t seem to describe any illegal activity (beyond the discussion phase anyway), it doesn’t compromise anyone’s privacy, and it seems like it would pass the publication test as a “Dear Dan Savage” letter (a sex and relationship advice column that is syndicated nationwide).

    This may be stating the obvious, but I feel like the Internet plays a large role in the “otherkin” phenomenon, by allowing such folks to find each other and live in a virtual community of other otherkin. This the myth becomes stronger and the reality (enforced by interacting with friends and neighbors who refuse to recognize one’s “otherkin” identity) grows weaker.

    Along the same lines, the Internet (and now TV) “echo chamber” effect prevents us from engaging with conflicting myths, and the increasing absence of hard-labor engagement with the natural world (gardening, splitting wood, animal husbandry, foraging etc.) in most people’s lives allows us to ignore the pragmatic aspects of being a human while also removing a former “common ground” of human experience.

  34. Soubi was also disfigured by an abusive tutor by the name of Ritsu, namely by having their ears cut off. I really hope they didn’t take the delusion into that territory.

  35. Lady Cutekitten,

    I heard that they added the swine flu to the shot this year. Swine flu shots have been problematic before, so that might be the reason. I also know someone who took the senior citizen flu shot which has more stuff in it and she said she would never do that again.

  36. What is being said is both real and disturbing, but I also think that some of this disassociation from reality is also deliberately manufactured. If all the energy is spent on say, trans rights, or abortion, or even the evils of guns, then all the energy that could used to improve the lives of everyone in the society, which also means reducing the wealth and power of the rich, is taken.

    To restate, this insanity is enabled and supercharged by those people who are either trying to keep or get money and powers. For example:

    It is not neoliberal policies and corruption, but racism and Russia that kept Hillary Clinton from office. AKA the Deplorables any Putin.

    It is not the increasing poverty and the stresses of staying alive that is causing all the mass shootings have mainly just in the last two decades, but the all the guns that American society has always had.

    Our society is suffering horribly because of wealth maldistribution, corruption, government dysfunction, and so on. However it does favor the elites who do have the bullhorn of media, which they as a class control. So outcomes the spin, the propaganda, which eventually starts to make society disassociate from reality.

  37. @Lady Cutekitten, I’ve had a similar reaction this year; I’ve had the real thing and each year I get the jab there’s an inevitable reaction which I’ve put down to my immune system going ‘oh no, not this again”. This time was relatively extreme – although a fraction of the real thing as you said.

    The Uk astrological forecast that was published here many months ago did mention some vulnerabilities in the throat/nose if I recall and disturbingly this morning, a major hospital in Nottingham announced that it had slipped into a critical situation because of the large number of patients it is dealing with. This has been happening in the winter months more frequently lately but I don’t remember one quite so early.

    Forewarned is forearmed and I have made a point of urging some of the people I work with to get themselves immunised this year. If it turns out correct it may save a life or at least a very bad couple of weeks, if it’s not – no harm done.

    As to the main substance of this post, it is a younger person’s thing to do of course. In my time, I’ve been very fond of Dr Who. The infamous time travelling, shapeshifting alien travelling around in a time machine shaped like the kind of Police Box that was a rarity the year when the program started, and these days is more associated in the public mind with the fantasy than the Police.Slightly ironically the BBC now has the shape trademarked so the Police would have some trouble reviving the concept even if they wanted to.

    So, I regularly followed the weekly adventures, read the comics, was absolutely terrified by the Daleks, and even got my Granny to knit me a very long scarf that I still own. I’ve claimed to have completely changed my appearance a few times, (which has been helped by the fact that I have in fact, completely changed my appearance a few times). However, I grew older, and it’s harder to deploy the imagination to such a lovely extent. These days it’s more with a sense of nostalgia that I sit down with my family to watch the show. In short, I grew out of it.

    One of the things that’s changed in our collective culture since that era was that there is simply a lot more extremely beguiling fantasies around in all kinds of media. As a child I was paddling in the shallows but our children are now swimming in a deep ocean of commercially driven myths, and there is a kind of evolutionary arms race going on. Stories and characters that don’t sell enough are ruthlessly done away with. So I wonder, how much of what’s going on is down to the fact that the myths are getting stronger? Also, will some or maybe most of the otherkin and fictionkin simply grow out of it in time?

  38. I like seeing you work out in detail where this is going, because I’ve been saying to friends for a year that I think most climate activism is a Ghost Dance. The fact they *like* Thunberg and still call her Joan of Arc is chilling, because a thing you didn’t mention, perhaps to do so next instalment? is that the Ghost Dance did have one intended effect: scaring the bejeebus out of American troops, who wrote back to their superiors that the Indians had gone mad, and should be dealt with swiftly to prevent the madness from continuing to spread to other tribes like rabies. When you are not actually bear proof, don’t poke the bear in his nethers (cough, Hong Kong).

    My G-G-G-G-uncle and his wife wrote a very interesting memoir about their captivity by the Sioux in the Sioux Wars (A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity) wherein they transcribe the conversations the captured Elders were having with Little Crow, where they denounce the raids as not approved by the elders, and not the Dakota way. Little Crow admits it is so, but it is what the young men have asked him to lead them in, and they are all dead anyway, might as well go down swinging. He was so smart and so beaten down to a sense of no way out, it’s heartbreaking to “watch”. 90% of the captives were (by modern scholarship, which this memoir supports) Christian Dakota converts or, primarily, “half breeds” (hence the ability to transcribe Dakota conversations to English). They were kept – with sound reason, as it is what they end up doing via letters smuggled out – to stop them betraying the warriors to the Americans to stop the bloodshed and plead for mercy for their people (which Lincoln gave, as much as he could to avoid more retaliation from settlers).

    In our society, the half breeds and attempt to cut all communication and familial feeling between sides are metaphorical roles rather than ethnic and physical, but I think a lot of Ecosophia readers know what the parallel is, having spoken at some point to True Believers. The way that war ends with the person of Gabriel Renville being installed as chief by the Americans I think also had some telling parallels for the future, but I’ll see what you instalment 3 says!

  39. Exactly! Delusional and defenseless…You can still surprise me after all these years reading your blogs and your books, opening a new window of understanding in what I thought was a solid concrete wall! Chapeau!!!
    That said I fear for the consequences of all the excesses. Is like the blind belief in progress is making them belief that nothing can turn back, that they will always be not only tolerated but cherished, as if they couldn’t see that in many parts of the world, just being a straight woman is a liability if one aims to have a public life.
    The signs are there, as somebody is writing in the walls “Islam is right about woman”. All can be lost, and will be if they annoy all the others enough!

  40. dear god, the anime loveless boyfriend! reminds me of this superb description of insanity by irish poet michael hartnett:

    from ‘The Man who Wrote Yeats, the Man who Wrote Mozart’
    by Michael Hartnett

    I was confronted once again
    by a mind which lives by that
    intangible, subordinating rule,
    the mental scaffolding of which
    rests on shifting ground:
    the compulsion to believe
    what is provably untrue;
    and seems to us to be
    something not quite right,
    something not quite sound.

    …maybe he was mad
    and was dancing to a lie,
    a dance so furious
    that it does not stop when its music does.

    And I knew this lie: it is a brake
    than holds a frantic flywheel back
    which, if it’s loosened, spins the cogs inside the head
    at such a frightening rate
    it cuts to fragile tangles
    and to quivering springs
    the fine machinery of the brain;
    for I have seen a wounded mind retreat
    away from windows that could see the street
    when its lie has been exposed
    and move to the dead corners of a house
    and hide in the remotest room
    to where no contradictions come
    and an endless talking flows
    between it and its cherished lie,
    a broken doll in tawdry clothes.
    And if anyone intrudes
    and tries to comfort and confront
    there will be silence in the rooms –
    for after contradiction silence comes.

  41. I haven’t watched much anime either. For instance, I don’t recognize the three titles you named. (There are so many!) But last week I researched Loveless online via fan wikis and message boards to see if the fiction held clues to our Soubi Quixote’s changes.

    The issue of young adults getting into fictional identities to and beyond the point of madness hits rather close to home. From the early 80s to the mid 90s my creative and social life revolved mostly around writing and running live action role playing games, of the type now known on the U.S. east coast as “ILF” (the group that runs the annual Intercon) or “theater-style” games. Those early games ran for an entire weekend (the present-day versions have evolved to a few hours long) and had twenty to two hundred players.

    This was the first era of D&D alarmism, including the case of James Egbert III, Mazes and Monsters, and the theories of William Dear all raising the specter of role players losing touch with reality. These narratives were based on speculation that turned out to be false, with no actual known cases. We couldn’t know that for sure, but it was clear that even if such cases were real, they had to be extreme and rare. Still, it gave our hobby an aura of ill-defined danger, and we were aware that we were messing with (in the terms we understood them then) significant psychological influences and had to be a bit careful.

    More recently, I’ve been reflecting on what we experienced in terms of what I’ve been learning from your blogs and books and related materials. The ILF style of game doesn’t allow players to show up and declare “I’m the vampire ninja dragon prince of Asgard, traveling icognito as Kilmonger the Wizard.” The player characters are written for the game, so that their goals, resources, and stories intersect and there are conflicts and challenges to play out. At the start of the game players are told, “this is who you are, this is what brought you here, these are your goals, and these are the resources you have available to you.” We certainly didn’t want to give the players new permanent identities, and we didn’t, but for some of them whose only existing identity was “in school to be a…” or “employee of…” it was a chance to try out having a sample identity that was fully defined (if necessarily minimal) and in the present. We attracted a lot of young people on the fringes, of adult age but not fully adult, who seem mundane in retrospect compared with the young adults on the fringes today, but our Soubi Quixote prior to his change would have fit right in.

    The point of all this is, the experience seemed to do many of them a lot of good. We could see changes in the ones who returned for successive games, changes that were the opposite of withdrawal from reality. I’ve mentioned before that a shocking number of them ended up marrying one another (in their real life selves, not in their game roles).

    Is that something like what’s going on, when a young person assumes (vetted, tested) mythic identities in rituals of growth or passage? Seems like a lot of people are DIYing that process and the results often aren’t good.

  42. So what is the equivalent of the ghost dance for us? I saw a billboard today that said “Techology will save us”. Is that it – what those of us frantically scrying on our little black screens looking for answers are hoping for?

    I also walked around London today and saw beautiful ornate old buildings side by side grim utilitarian new ones. But a glorious future is just around the corner? As long as Trump is impeached and Brexit is abolished..

  43. Thanks Onething (and how are YOU feeling?). I remember getting a swine flu shot during the big swine-flu panic (I was in high school) but can’t remember if I had a reaction or not. But I knew there was something different about this year’s!

    Sonkitten had no problems this year.

  44. What is the difference between wanting to be a fictional character or thinking you are Jesus Christ or Napoleon? Everybody wants to be JC.

  45. You weren’t kidding last week when you said the third example you were saving for this week was far more terrifying.
    This gives me more illumination on what went wrong in Japan during the Taisho and early Showa periods. Ask the Japanese what went wrong, and they typically mention Japan’s victory over Russia in the late Meiji period, which empowered the militarists. The Meiji period was a time of grand modernization, in which Japan attempted to replicate the successes of Europe, and they did a remarkable job, to avoid getting colonized and to enjoy the fine life of the west. A mythology arose in which Japan was superior to all of the countries around it that had fallen to colonization. They, in particular the powerful militaristic clique within the government, believed that Japan could liberate Asia from the colonizers. You can see this in Indonesia, where they had a campaign to rid the language of all western influences. A similar campaign was also rigorously carried out in Japan. But they were also terribly hamfisted about the whole thing, with poor control over their troops, who went around abusing people. Look at what America’s troops do abroad…
    My husband tells me about Gen. Yamamoto, for whom he has a lot of respect. He’d been to New York. He’d seen the overwhelming technical superiority of this country they were quickly turning into an enemy. But in Japan, the militarists running the show, who remind me quite a bit of the Neocons, believed in Japan’s spiritual superiority. Not even two atom bombs could snap them out of it. A lot of people think it was the threatened invasion by Russia that finally did it.
    My husband says the average Ichiro in Japan never believed any of this nonsense. Neither did Gen. Yamamoto, but his sense of honor compelled him to carry out the commands of the ruling faction, while for the average dude, it was duty to their mothers that compelled them. They all feared a barbarian invasion.
    Still, among the things the militarists did was to reorganize the eclectic Shinto shrines into a hierarchy for the purpose of spreading official ideology, and they also took control over education, so everyone knew what they were officially supposed to believe.
    I think right now if you take a look at American society, where the “free press” has been transformed since the Clinton years (Telecommunications Act of 1996) into a Neocon propaganda organ that supports wars abroad, you get an idea of how the average Japanese was probably responding to an eerily similar situation. Japan had plenty of dissidents. One key shrine, Tsubaki Taisha that opposed the wars and that the militarists couldn’t very well crush without destroying the basis of the mythology, was simply defunded and ignored. The secret police rounded everyone else up.

    Has anyone heard if they’ve released Max Blumenthal?

  46. AI–you might consider that the upper middle class women past their child bearing years may have daughters and grand daughters with whose rights to self determination they are concerned. For that matter, in these days of certain paternity, parents and grandparents of boys need to have an equal concern. A young man who impregnates his girlfriend may have his plans effectively damaged by child support.

    And those same older women may be motivated by personal experience: an ill-timed pregnancy scare is never forgotten–trust me on this. Nor are these reserved for the young. I was in a long term relationship, with three children, the last time I feared that birth control had failed again. It was a false alarm, but one does not forget the sheer panic of feeling that your life is veering out of control. Nor does one forget friends and relatives whose lives were derailed by a pregnancy. My sister was 16 when a 19 year old boyfriend convinced her that he was on the ‘male pill.’ No sex education in those days, so what did she know? That was in 1965, well before Roe v. Wade. When I was older, I heard from my grandmother about her youngest sister’s abortion–in the 1930s, illegal but provided by an understanding family doctor. One evening after he was beginning to show signs of dementia my father told me how hard it was to get up the nerve to buy condoms in a small town where everyone knows everyone. The lack of other alternatives in the early 50s pressured him into a vasectomy when he was only in his twenties. He had been one of nine children and didn’t want to go down that road. IMO there is only one thing to be said “If you don’t believe in abortion; don’t have one.” If you are a man who doesn’t believe in abortion; don’t plant anywhere you don’t want a crop.

    As for the reproductive health clinics serving poor women–do you mean that upper class women should not concern themselves with the rights of those outside their class? Besides, whatever your class, access to contraception does not guarantee that it will work 100%–there is no 100% effective method. I once read of a woman who became pregnant after a hysterectomy; placenta implanted to intestines and baby was delivered by C section. I envision a soul at the reincarnation boarding desk saying in a firm voice, “You don’t understand. I have a ticket and I demand it be honored. No, a different accommodation will not do. You will just have to make it work.”

    On a note related to the essay–I had a friend who believed that his original soul had been replaced by a “walk-in” when he almost died of a severe infection while traveling. Part of his reasoning was that he had been gay but changed to heterosexual. I don’t know anyone who had known him before, so no ideal if this was a delusion similar to the man in the essay or an actual occult possibility.

  47. Regarding your reply to Jill N, in Zen I’ve heard of followers approaching the master and asking what the essence of enlightenment is, and the master tells them to go do the dishes. Lesson: enlightenment is never divorced from reality.

  48. Two things:
    First, I’m totally gonna steal those pronouns for my Twitter bio.

    Second, I am having flashbacks from my psychotic break in 2015, when, triggered by starting to read Galabes, combined with quite the skeptic mentality at that time, and large doses of DMT, basically caused my worldview to whiplash into a purely mythological thought, and an identification with Mercury/Hermes, with parts of Jesus Christ and Quetzalcóatl thrown in there.

    With that I just want to offer my deepest, most sincere, -ahem-


  49. Owen asked “I wonder what a world would be like where symbols were the important thing and reality was second fiddle?” It exists and you’re on it right now. So am I. And every gamer and VF fan on the planet, let alone the ideobloggers, lives in that world today. So, they say, do magicians, which I doubt, since magic washes no dishes nor does the laundry.

  50. They’re also dabbling in magic, which isn’t going to help:

    I think we should all be looking at 21st-century society and trying to figure out how to fix it so people don’t have to go to such lengths to deal with it. Rednecks OD on opiates, salary-class women put on their white armor and ride to the defense of Hillary Clinton, romantic teenagers decide they’re really dragons, and all of them are miserably unhappy. This is a sick society.

  51. Dusk Shine, no question, it’s a disturbing narrative. It’s also a very familiar one, to all of us who have been watching US culture since the 2016 election!

    James, I’ve noticed that people who say they remember having been a nonhuman animal in a previous life tend to be very sane about it all; they know there’s a difference between this body and that one, and they cope with it. I wonder if the whole transgender thing would be less awkward if more of the people involved were to consider the possibility that they’re remembering their last incarnation — which may well be a lot of what’s going on.

    Paradoctor, funny. I forget who it was who pointed out that poor people in the US act as though they’re temporarily distressed millionaires, so maybe our whole society is transclass.

    Patricia M, delighted to hear it. The pragmatic mode really does have a lot going for it; that’s one of the things the Stoics figured out.

    Joshua, nope. Apollo and Dionysos are both mythic beings, and the modes named for them are both mythic patterns of dealing with the world. The pragmatic mode deals with experience as it presents itself to us, without positing either a mythic order (the Apollonian vision) or a mythic disorder (the Dionysian vision) underlying it.

    Owen, the cargo cults are another good examples. Edgar Rice’s John Frum He Come is a good and highly sympathetic account of the profound existential stresses that led to the rise of a cargo cult in Vanuatu — well worth reading.

    Your Kittenship, thank you. I’ve never had a flu shot and don’t plan on ever having one, but for those that do, this is doubtless worth knowing.

    Jeanne, excellent! Yes, that’s another of the many, many examples.

    Owen, I don’t do video, so I’ll pass. Do you know if there’s a text version?

    Violet, I’m not quite sure how to characterize it. Certainly a lot of people’s egos have been submerged by an archetypal upwelling, but I’d have to read a lot more Jung to be confident about the exact nature of it.

    Emily, my take is that the soul as such doesn’t change, but the soul is not the personality.

    Brian, I’ll be discussing what I see as the causes of the flight into delusion next week, but one very important part of it is your last comment: people are having to face (or not face) the fact that their collective dreams and hopes and visions for the future don’t work any more. As for “revitalization movements,” remember that that’s a piece of sociological jargon, and thus something of a term of art. Not all movements that attempt to bring about some kind of revitalization qualify.

    Geof, fascinating, Thanks for this.

    James, that makes a great deal of sense to me.

    Wesley, it’s quite possible that that will happen. On the other hand, notice what happened after 1860 and 1932. In the wake of a sufficiently dramatic shift, it can take a while for the other party to regain its footing.

    A1, I’m also a tail-end Boomer, and yes, I’m also profoundly weary of the endless posturing of our generation. You’ve got to remember, though, that the Boomers are one of history’s leading examples of a failed generation — a generation that could have stepped up to the plate and accomplished great things, and crumpled instead. The achievements of the Civil Rights movement were mostly the work of the generation before ours; the Sixties, for all its promise, turned out to be a flash in the pan; our generation sold out, knuckled under, and cashed in its ideals at a bargain rate. Now, as the guy with the scythe whistles a spectral tune and begins to bring in the Boomer harvest, a generation that convinced itself that it really was the most important in all of history (see Charles Reich’s The Greening of America or any of its rehashes, such as Marilyn Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy, to see this delusion in full flower) is having to deal not only with the end of life but with the abject failure of its hopes and dreams. No wonder so many of us are so shrill about our past!

    Steve, good. As for your final question, that’s the big one, isn’t it?

    Tim, I’ll be discussing that as we proceed. For what it’s worth, I think we dodged a very large bullet and will get by without a civil war or major rebellion — though there’s still a chance of that. There are other forms of revitalization movement, fortunately.

    Kiara, of course! In particular, until the dance shirts turn out not to be bulletproof and the buffalo and ancestors pull a no-show, Ghost Dancing is emotionally profoundly uplifting: you’re happy, you’re hopeful, you know everything will be all right, and the fact that you’re deluding yourself doesn’t become an issue until later on.

    Moggy, good. You’re right, of course, that it can be found on both sides.

    Jessi, I’m not a psychologist either, but your take on things seems reasonable to me.

    Violet, that’s one of the things that was behind the ’70s-era terror of cults. Quite a few of the alternative religious groups of that era had exactly the same features: the cultivation of a collective personality, the disintegration of those who adopted it, the rigidly identical facial expressions, the lot of it. Yes, it has quite a bit to do with the realm of myth and magic, though not many people realized that at the time!

    Pygmycory, Louis Riel was included in a number of books I read about leaders of revitalization movements, and of course his mental condition was far from healthy by the time of the Northwest Rebellion, so I think you’re on to something.

    SarahJ, I’ll be talking more about class next week. As for your two points, excellent! Yes, exactly. What does myth become in its decadence?

    Skyridder, no, actually, that’s not what I expect, preclsely because the dream of technological progress has failed; sure we have some new toys, but the Utopia of the tech-geek has turned out to be a Potemkin Village propped up by sweatshop labor and pyramid schemes. I’ll discuss what we’re getting in next week’s post.

    Mark, Reddit mods in many subs tend to reflexively ban things that don’t follow whatever version of political correctness they’re into. I don’t know what might have motivated the mods to delete this post, but it may have been seen as fictionkin-phobic, or otherwise supportive of the heretical belief that the real world does in fact matter.

  52. JMG – it’s essentially a video documentary of Randy Stair who descended into a similar state of madness.

  53. @Lady Cute Kitten and anyone thinking of getting the flu shot, to avoid an overreaction of the immune system, take a lot of flavonoids (curcumin, quercetin, ellagic acid and ferulic acid) one hour before the vaccination. They can block the ability of the adjuvants to trigger a long-term immune reaction. Also take fish oil one hour beforehand. Bring a cold pack with you and place it on the injection site as soon as you can and continue cooling the injection site throughout the day.
    Any of the following things can also help avoid abnormal immune responses: Vitamin E high in gamma-E helps dampen immune reactions. Vitamin C and astaxanthin are also anti-inflammatory. Make sure you are not deficient in zinc or vitamin D3. The latter modulates your response, so you are not under- or over-reacting. The source I have here (probably Health Freedom Alliance) from more than a decade ago, which disappeared shortly after that, says to get 20,000 units a day (5,000 for children) after the vaccine for two weeks. (If it is summer and you are getting lots of sunshine, you probably won’t need it.) Drink very concentrated white tea four times a day. Pop parsley and celery in a blender with water and strain. Enjoy twice a day. A multivitamin-mineral daily, containing selenium and the B vitamins is recommended.
    Avoid all immune-stimulating substances for the time being: mushroom extracts, whey protein and beta-glucan. Avoid corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, canola and peanut oils, which suppress immunity and increase inflammation.Avoid all mercury-containing seafood, which induces autoimmunity and makes people more susceptible to viral infections.
    My source also recommended chlorine dioxide if you are taking an attenuated vaccine, and said a reputable source can be found at (I’ve never tried this. I always use lots and lots of garlic to kill viral infections.)

  54. Violet, may I ask if your community-of-the-curse is still going, and in which previous posts you have told the story? For personal reasons I’d like to know more, but don’t want to threadjack.

  55. So then, are we to consider MAGA to just another, rather uninspiring Revitalization Movement?

  56. I guess the moral of the story is don’t make attempts to bring back the good old days when they’re gone but move forward no matter how unpleasant it is.

    So far all we’ve seen are people just going off at random but you are right, someone will come along and tell people this is how we can bring back the good old days and he’ll have a 5 point plan to do it. It’ll be an absolute void of madness plan, but people will want to believe.

  57. This is Carl Jung in Man and His Symbols:
    “If we could see our shadow (the dark side of our nature), we should be immune to any moral and mental infection and insinuation. As matters now stand, we lay ourselves open to every infection because we are really doing practically the same thing as they. Only we have the additional disadvantage that we neither see nor want to understand what we ourselves are doing under the cover of good manners.”
    from the chapter: The Soul of Man

    It seems to me that the obsession with purity of thinking on the one hand, and descent into mythological madness in part stems from our inability to accept ourselves as human beings. We are desperate to imagine that we are angels and our opponents are demons, without accepting, that actually, we are all the same, with the same biological and intellectual limitations, but with different ideas about how to get where we want to go.
    Our own dark natures we cannot bear to examine, because then we would discover we were not angels. And if we drift into a dream-like trance and become fictional characters in our own minds, we are even less likely to have to face the difficulties, shames, and dread darkness that lurks in every human psyche. It’s a perfect solution, really, what better way to avoid the responsibilities of dealing with our own normal human problems than becoming a fictional character, which, by definition has already been written. As human beings we have to wrestle with the contradictions of the human condition every day – nothing is certain. As a fictional character, the ending has already been revealed. There is no ambiguity, no moral decisions to wrestle with, just a Plan to follow to the ultimate (happy?) ending, right down to the appropriate facial expressions..
    Blindly following an ideology has this advantage – it allows us to cease wrestling with ourselves, and encourages us to project our pain onto some Other instead.

  58. John Michael Greer

    Tamer revitalizations I guess take place in people that are simply looking for meaning in their lives. Rejecting your family’s religion for example.. this behavior could lead to ‘seeking out revitalization’. Revitalization occurs after you find another ‘ true source’ to replace the good feelings and confidence your old belief system provided.

    Seeking other religions, cults, or the occult, for spiritual revitalization may or may not be healthy depending on the choice i guess but I believe this is actually very normal behavior.

    Outside of this I understand that people can experience profound loss and meaninglessness on an existential level. Having no biological parents, being raised in group homes, experiencing extreme abuse in childhood, being born with fetal alcohol syndrome, being cruelly rejected by your peer groups, coming to extreme conclusions regarding your inability to function, watching your tribe got methodically wiped out by American cavalry units ect.. would fit i think into the extreme trauma category. These types of situations would cause a much more severe break from reality for those people seeking or being forced to seek revitalization. Desperation enters the mix as you described in the ghost dance phenomenon. My personal experience working with populations in social services reflects this idea that you need trauma for the break to happen on that extreme level. Simple changing of spiritual disciplines will not do, or finding morals and values within fictional work simply will not do, you must change on a mythological level lol.. like becoming invincible, or becoming an anime character.

    The fact that there are communities now to support these types of transitions are disturbing. I assume this is what helped lend the boyfriend confidence to walk this very strange path that eventually led him to the kind of deviance you can get arrested for… or where his new persona intersected with reality in a negative way.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that even though I don’t know him (the boyfriend) I would expect some sort of massive trauma in his background. And if there wasn’t significant issues or mental health history in his life then one conclusion to explore is that our culture has become so meaningless that it is perhaps traumatic or even extremely traumatic to consume it raw. And in consequence our search for revitalization can involve a massive unhealthy break from reality, not just a cute little search for a new belief system.
    I do not love the idea of homeschooling or the social issues that come along with it… however these conclusions are forcing me I think i need to start teaching myself and my children more vigorously the value of my grandparent’s culture. That is hunting, wild crafting ect.. Fighting absurdity with authentic experience ?

  59. @JMG,

    About the possibility of the Trump election ushering in an era of one-party dominance like what we saw in 1860 and 1932 – I think that a big difference is that, back then, the winning party held onto both houses of Congress for 14 years. After Lincoln, we didn’t get a Democratic majority in either house until 1874, and after Roosevelt, we didn’t get a Republican majority until 1946.

    This time around, the Democrats won the House back after only two years of President Trump, so it looks to me like it’s shaping up to be a normal cycle. In any case, Trump didn’t ride into office on the sort of overwhelming majority that Lincoln and Roosevelt, or even Nixon and Reagan had. The 2016 election was a squeaker.

    It seems to me that what we’ve got is a country where one out of seven adults voted for Trump and really likes the man (it seems from what you’ve written before that you live in a town dominated by these people.) Then you have another one who dislikes Trump, but voted for him anyway because at least he isn’t a Democrat (i.e. the kind of people that my town is full of). Then there are two more people who hate Trump with a passion, and three others who can’t be bothered to vote at all.

    So I think that the Trump supporters aren’t so much the wave of the future as they are one current out of many in our society. Through a combination of timing (since a party in the White House usually changes after eight years) and luck (because the Democrats ran a really bad candidate) the deplorables won in 2016. But this doesn’t mean they’ll just keep on winning; eventually it will be time for one of the other currents to come out on top.

    None of this should be taken to diminish the experience of the working class men and women who figured out that conventional politicians didn’t care about them and rallied behind Trump because they heard him offering something different. I’m only saying that, for every one person who experienced the election this way, there’s another who held his or her nose and voted for Trump, two who voted for Hillary, and three others who sat the whole thing out.

  60. @JMG,

    How do you think that a Twilight’s Last Gleaming scenario might play into all of this? The idea being that, since you talked about the Ghost Dancers and the Boxer Rebellion, and both were movements within nations that absolutely knew they were in the throes of defeat, it might take a dramatic defeat to get Americans desperate enough to embark on a similar mass flight from reason.

    Another thought: while identifying as otherkin may rightly be considered bizarre, it also seemed, at least after reading the post you linked to, like a pretty low-risk activity. That is to say, the boyfriend did it while living in a society willing to indulge his insanity and help him feel special, just like the clueless protesters you talked about at length in your last essay: the social milieu in which they move is dedicated to taking care of their needs and helping them feel empowered.

    Or to speak metaphorically: our society has gone out of its way to provide parachutes to those who take flights into unreality.

    So how long until the parachutes run out, and the falls start hurting more than they have hitherto done?

  61. Funnily the revitalization movement of the Ghost Dancer is not that delusional at all. It is successful in a very practical way too.

    No, the might of white was overwhelming. Even a second wounded knee happened. There the transformed social warriors, in a way following the path of Che Guevara, were crushed by the imperial forces of FBI and such.

    What happened to the Indian nations then, so that even the last Mohicans, according to James Ferimore Copper went extinct, yet still exist as en entity.

    The Indian nations gather regularly, in a ghost dance spirit, at their many pow-pows. There they use a uniform of dance regalia, dance routines and create dance music. A lot of preparatory rehearsals are done, as a means to conserve and revitalize a lively Indian self-awareness, social cohesion, through celebrating a tradition that never, was but now is.

    And indeed, it helps them survive in an almighty white supremacist culture, keeping their distinguished feature and their Indian identity alive. The ghost dance works.

  62. Dear JMG

    Thanks for a (as usual) interesting essay! While I’m quite OK with you’re assessment of Rachel, I feel I need to stick up for Elizabeth Warren on this one. And defending her is a pretty rare event for me.

    Hers is an Oklahoma thing. While I’ve never lived in Oklahoma, I have lived in both Kansas and Texas and I’ve known great many Oklahomans over my life. (I would love to hear responses to my comment for all quarters.) For white families with histories of Oklahoma residence that extend deeply into the 19th Century, claims of Cherokee lineage is exceedingly common. I would say that, whether true or not, Warren’s claim to such Native American heritage is as honestly made as it is long standing. I am perfectly comfortable with the notion that these stories have been passed around her families’ dinner tables since long before she was born and that somewhere along the line a “we” was substited for a “they” and poof – family history was made. Remember, she was completely and utterly gobsmacked by the DNA test results she received.

    I say this because of stories told by a professor I had in college. It’s killing me that I do not remember his name but he stands out as one of the handful of teachers I’ve had who made/continues to make a life-long impression on me. He was from Oklahoma himself and of 100% Cherokee ancestry, having grown up on a reservation there. While I majored in Classical History, I had to take some American History. I enthusiastically took his class on History of the Indians in North America. No doubt such a class would be re-named today, but back in the 1980s, that was the title. Without going into pedantic detail, the tribes that were relocated to the Oklahoma Territories (the Five Civilized Tribes among them) were culturally quite different from the tribes that occupied the plains. The Cherokee especially, were seen by all as quite “advanced”. As dreadful as it was, the Trail of Tears did not strip them of cultural artifacts such as education, literacy and organization. They remained culturally intact and reestablished many of the institutions in Oklahoma that they built in their original homelands. It is for THIS reason that is quite common (not 100% but still common) for contemporary un/under educated white male settlers to the Territories to have actively sought out Cherokee women as wives. Marrying into prominent Cherokee families was actually an act of social climbing for these poor whites, seen as a way to provide a future for their children with access to institutions not available to the larger white communities.

    Of course, this gave way as time marched on, but my dear professor offered this as his explanation as to why so many white families in Oklahoma still claim the “Indian” legacy. While the advanced status of the Cherokee was long forgotten, some relic of family pride in achievement persisted still. Even if Warren’s claims to Cherokee ancestry were not borne out with prominent DNA, she comes from a state where this heritage was seen as bragging rights and it became part of her family history, whether or not it actually happened.

    With that said, I do not think Warren was gaming the system or even intentionally fibbing. While delusional at best, when it comes to her assertion of Cherokee ansetry, I believe that she came by that delusion honestly.

  63. You might recall that rather bizarre song-and-dance number performed by Rachel Bloom on Bill Nye’s show that I posted a while back (don’t worry, I won’t post an actual link this time) as an example of urban wokesterdom going off the deep end. This week’s post made me realize that what was so weirdly train-wreck fascinating about it was what a total “Ghost Dance” it was. There really is no other explanation that makes sense for why Bill Nye and his people thought it would be something that would go over well. (Spoiler alert: It very seriously didn’t go over well.)

  64. JMG – holy smokes! I know we have contemplated the over-population of humans as the repository of the selves that were other species, lost to the destruction of the environment. Do you think this has anything to do with the loss of the soul, and the attack on its very existence?

  65. @ Bridge

    You know it’s time to run for the hills when the silly skits from Monty Python have become our new reality.

  66. @pygmycory nice Canadiana reference! Riel totally would qualify as a fizzled revitalizer – Dumont was the pragmatic leader, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say the Metis wouldn’t have made it without him, worth a study. I think there are some sleeping myths and concepts (Two Row Wampum Belt) to awaken for the future of survivable nations in post-Canada out of the 300 years of fur trade history before Canada decided to be “civilized” 😉

  67. Archdruid,

    That’s probably one of the more disturbing articles I’ve read in awhile, but your train of thought makes perfect sense. One thing I’ve noticed is that there doesn’t really seem to be any barriers in western society, everything is a free for all. The internet makes that problem worse by allowing some of the most unstable sub-cultures to develop simply by allowing people of common interest to find out they are not alone. I think the isolation of classical cultures allowed for many of the more absurd impulses of a group of people to be contained through social shame and stigma. Now, no more shame and no more stigma because there’s someone out there who believes the same thing, thus it must be valid.

    I wonder if the gathering of like-mindedness allows minor spirits to gather and manifest upon the physical plane. Even minor egregors, or mental constructs like the fictional character mentioned in the article. The vulnerable among us make perfect hosts for these beings…



  68. JMG,

    Interesting post. A couple of comments.

    I’m also a tail end boomer, 2 years older than you, more or less. A similarly aged coworker has a sign posted outside her cubicle: “I may be getting old, but I’ve seen all the beset bands.” To me, that sums up the desires and arrogance of our generation.

    Flu shots? We both get the shots annually. My wife received the 65 and older shot this year and a pneumonia vaccine at the same time. No problems for either one of us. I do remember, though, that once upon a year I would get a mild case of the flu every single time I got a flu vaccine. I dunno why that stopped.

    To the meat of your post, it appears as if the practical, hands on things, are disappearing for whatever reason. I was discussing that with a coworker, and she told me this story.

    “Jack’s house was being afflicted by severe flooding. Ignoring the evacuation order, he prayed that God would rescue him and climbed onto his roof. A large log floated by, but he ignored it, praying again for rescue. The water kept rising. Someone came by in a boat, but Jack said he didn’t want their help because he was waiting for God to rescue him. The water kept rising, and a helicopter came by. The rope ladder was within easy reach, but Jack waved them away, continuing his prayer. Then the house collapsed and Jack drowned.

    At the Pearly Gates, St. Peter asked Jack why he was there. Jack said that he drowned because he was waiting for God to rescue him. St. Peter replied that God had sent a floating log, a boat and even a helicopter, and that He expected Jack to accept that help.”

    We’ve sorta got to do things to help ourselves sometimes, don’t we?

    Said another way. Miagi: “Wax on, wax off. Don’t forget to breathe, breathing very important.”

    Or, as you’ve mentioned a few times recently. “Master, what do I need to do to become enlightened?” “Chop wood and fetch water. After enlightenment, chop wood and fetch water.”

    Our society has forgotten how to do the mundane things that we need to do to remain functional.

    I look forward to your next post in this series.


  69. JMG,

    Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress:

    John Steinbeck once said that socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. This helps explain why American culture is so hostile to the idea of limits, why voters during the last energy shortage rejected the sweater-wearing Jimmy Carter and elected Ronald Reagan who told them it was still “morning in America.” Nowhere does the myth of progress have more fervent believers.


    Managerialism. Remember, liberals are the people fighting against the working-class demands for universal, concrete material benefits, on the pretext of where are we going to get the permission slips it is government’s Constitutional prerogative to write, and what about people’s ability to accessorize via “choice” (among brands of the same private money-printing finance cartel) as an end in itself. In fact and in deed, they are concerned about their “earned” prerogative to decide how and whether their serfs live or die (as professionally and indirectly as they can manage), lest they themselves become proletarianized and forced to live on the other side of the boot.


    My guess is surveillance. “You can’t manage what you dont measure,” and the managerial class seeks a fully managed society subordinated unto themselves, as tightly monitored as nuclear weapons.


    I’m telling you, it’s just an act. Democrats play loony and incompetent in public to avoid having to deliver on their cynically deployed “aspirations” to universal, concrete material benefits. In their ascendance to and enjoyment of their cushy upper-middle lives as the Managers of Civilization, they are perfectly efficient, rational, calculating in their ability to serve their betters, keep their aristocratic hierarchy stable (complete with designer pronouns!), and make themselves needed through disempowerment of their inferiors, even if it means “pragmatically” descending along the anacyclotic cycle to oligarchy, which is fine by them as long as they have a high station within it.

    “Progressive” is just another word for never having to arrive at the destination and deliver. They aren’t leftists outside of the carefully constrained polarity presented by the rich-people’s press. They’re hucksters looking to dictate the terms of the org chart, not flatten it.

  70. so, @Viole, when you noted”weird, stilted, artificial mien” of many trans people. as a MTF transsexual, I have some opinions.

    first off, not all trans men and woman come off that way. those who do would tend to have transitioned later in life. they have a lot of learning to do as far as presenting as male-typical or female-typical (if they even want to do it).

    you may well have met trans people before or seen them in the media who didn’t come off that way, because they happen to pass.

    I wish I could go into detail and nuance here. I have given you a simple version because it would take some time to go into and I also feel tired right now. I agree with you more than you might, though, despite what it may sound like.

  71. also @John Michael Greer, about this chirpself pronoun thing: I feel pretty sure that a bored teenage came up with that. the number of people who really take that seriously would fit into a closet. just saying. with all the ridiculousness in the world, no need to go out of your way to make the world seem more ridiculous than the reality.

  72. “…the phenomenon of gender dysphoria, the condition of those people who believe they have been born into bodies of the wrong gender. (To be fair, their condition seems in at least some cases to be linked with measurable biological factors.)”

    There are those who believe the own limbs are not theirs, and others convinced that their spouses have been replaced by doppelgangers. These too can be linked with measurable biological factors(brain damage), but these phenomena do not give the subjects license to rule the world, holding everyone else hostage to their delusion.

    “…a while back I corresponded at quite some length with a young man who was convinced he was really a draft horse, and who had a great deal to say about the possibilities of horse-drawn agriculture in a future of fossil fuel shortages…”

    I wonder if he believes he can pull his weight along side a Percheron.

    What I find quite interesting in Don Quixote is the character Sancho Panza, who thinks of himself as a realist, with peasant practicality. Yet he is quite as deluded as Quixote, in his aspiration of becoming a governor. At one point, through an elaborate ruse, he is made to believe he actually has become one, but finds the (pseudo)reality of the office very bothersome, not at all what he thought it would be, and promptly abdicates without ever knowing he has been tricked. Don Quixote himself forswears knight errantry at the end of his life, though at that point he seems to have regained his senses.

    The pessimistic philosopher Miguel de Unamuno considered Don Quixote to be a work of pessimistic philosophy.

  73. “A1, I’m also a tail-end Boomer, and yes, I’m also profoundly weary of the endless posturing of our generation. You’ve got to remember, though, that the Boomers are one of history’s leading examples of a failed generation — a generation that could have stepped up to the plate and accomplished great things, and crumpled instead. The achievements of the Civil Rights movement were mostly the work of the generation before ours; the Sixties, for all its promise, turned out to be a flash in the pan; our generation sold out, knuckled under, and cashed in its ideals at a bargain rate. Now, as the guy with the scythe whistles a spectral tune and begins to bring in the Boomer harvest, a generation that convinced itself that it really was the most important in all of history (see Charles Reich’s The Greening of America or any of its rehashes, such as Marilyn Ferguson’s The Aquarian Conspiracy, to see this delusion in full flower) is having to deal not only with the end of life but with the abject failure of its hopes and dreams. No wonder so many of us are so shrill about our past!”

    Slightly Off topic (delete this if you want to) if you but small correction here. British Socially Conservative Author Peter Hitchens will argue the Boomers were very revolutionary. In cultural/institutional ways rather than economic. Instead of focusing their revolutionary energy on changing the economic system, they focused their energy instead on making the world fit their abstract cultral liberal/postmodern ideals instead. these ideals were moneyed power friendly and could therefore be implemented much more successfully.

    For example, New Labour in Britain trashed many of the Constitutional norms British Government, he will also point to the trashing of traditional marriage as an example of this, making marriage something entirely subservient to the state (wreaking family life) and also putting more and more kids into state care so their parents can work in call centers etc.”Why Nationalize the railways when you can Nationalize Childhood!” (Many Blairites were Marxists in their youth) Its also no accident at all the many of the neo cons were Marxists in their youth, they simply took their revolutionary ideals and turned them in more moneyed power friendly directions.

    Any off topic, just a comment.

  74. SpiceisNice, well, the girlfriend was worried that he’d carve the word “Loveless” on his chest, so I’d be concerned about that too.

    JBird, I think that’s unquestionably part of the picture. For example, watch the way that the corporate media fixates on the sufferings of a whole series of “poster child” groups unrelated to the major issues facing our society.

    Andy, that’s an interesting point. I’m far from sure that the myths are getting stronger — I caught the trailing edge of Tolkien mania, for example, and used to sign school yearbooks in Elvish — but it’s certainly true that for most people these days, the alternatives are bleaker.

    SaraDee, thanks for this. How the endgame will play out this time is a fascinating question, and not one I’m sure I can answer at this point — though I have some guesses.

    Elodie, spot on. Blind faith in progress — in the words of Hillary Clinton, “We’re not going back, we’re going forward” — is a stunning vulnerability; those who are convinced they can’t lose are all the more likely to crumple catastrophically when they do lose.

    Idleworm, thanks for this! Yes, very much so.

    Walt, I never did LARPing, but I played a lot of D&D and similar games back in the day, and it had much the same effect. You don’t start off as a angelic ninja dragon billionaire; you start off as a first level fighter or magic user or cleric or thief, and you spend the first dozen games or so frantically trying not to end up as monster chow while learning to parlay your very limited range of abilities into a ticket to survival and a few gold pieces. It definitely functioned as a ritual space in which you could have relatively safe interactions with myth, and I think a lot of young people benefited from it. (If the fundamentalists had had the brains the gods gave geese they would have created their own RPG, set in Bible times, with the player characters as Hebrews contending with the various hostile pagan powers of the day, and collecting Grace Points which could be exchanged for healing, supernatural strength, and the like. It would have been wildly popular, and they wouldn’t have lost anything like as many of their young people.)

    Bridge, you’ve just named the thing that’s driving people crazy. Progress is over and the glorious future they were promised is never going to arrive: that’s the thing many, many people are trying not to notice right now.

    Jake, no difference at all. We should probably start talking about such people as transjesus and transbonaparte…

    Bridge, yep. It’s a source of wry amusement to me that so many things that were preposterous parodies in the heyday of Monty Python are news stories today!

    Patricia O, yes, that’s a very similar situation — and no, I don’t know what’s happened to Max Blumenthal. As for Zen masters, yep — they tend to be very sensible about such things. “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

    Churrundo, by all means have fun with the pronouns! As for your experience, I’m glad you came out the other side of it. Not everyone does, of course.

    Your Kittenship, I know. It’s gonna be ugly.

  75. JMG, such genius and insight as usual. Also, I love the comments. Rita, I hear you. I wasn’t able to relax during sex until I had my sterilization in my early 30s. Sex always had an aspect of the terrifying because of potential pregnancy and I’m not one who enjoys that form of terror. How awful for the woman who gave birth without a uterus; I hope that story wasn’t true.

    A relative of mine married into money. To show off their wealth, she and her husband bought a huge, cavernous McMansion in an elite neighborhood. When asked why she opted to live in such an ostentatious manner by her dismayed, middle class mother, she replied, “Because I can.” I think she nailed the reason people in our culture so regularly go off the rails. They do it because they can. Petroleum wealth has allowed untold numbers of emotionally fractured, psychologically stunted people to construct extravagant bubbles around themselves.

    When Tennessee Williams wrote The Glass Menagerie, there were only a few Lauras in every batch, most likely because the average parent didn’t have the money to support a hikikomori (Japanese term for an antisocial adult child who lives in a dream world while parasitizing his/her parents). You don’t have to sponge off of your parents to be a Puer Aeternis. My relative proves that with her giant house, within which she is dwarfed, like a tiny princess in a fairy tale. I’ve noticed that some run away to identify solely with their conditions or chronic illnesses. I have a friend who tends to wallow in his autism and depression. Another regularly marinates in the fact he is gay and was bullied for it as a boy. I’d love to hear your speculations as to why, but it is extremely easy to detach from reality in this culture and it is tacitly encouraged from every corner. If one is not regularly walking around the neighborhood because one eschews cars or is elbows deep in the soil because that’s how gardening happens, there is a epidemic paralysis that burrows in and begins to roost. It’s part laziness, part greed, part denial, and part despair. When it takes the form of trying to become a human Barbie, as in the curious case of Valentina Lukyanova, it’s fed by surgeries and meticulous Photoshopping and having been told you’re pretty from babyhood onward. Michael Jackson is the ultimate outcome: he cut off his nose to spite his face and became a ghoulish mockery of his former self before OD’ing on painkillers. Puer Aeternis does not age well; Lukyanova, who has at times claimed to be a time-traveling alien, is starting to chip at the edges. Her “perfect” body is slightly more ropy at 35 than it was at 25 and her nose and eyes look ever-so-slightly haggard. The situation will not improve unless she achieves genuine time travel. All of the above is assuredly a phenomenon of the well-moneyed: you don’t get to chop off/inflate your body parts via surgery or take extraordinary amounts of time and money to vacation and nevertheless complain to your psychotherapist unless you’ve got someone rich to fall back on.

  76. Owen, fair enough.

    KevPilot, no, because it’s pursuing its goals in a straightforward practical way — by trying to win elections and change attitudes. A pragmatic political movement is not a revitalization movement.

    Owen, no, not at all. “Going back” is the ultimate sin to believers in our current revitalization movement. They want to go forward to a shining future where the world behaves the way they think it should behave and no one is ever allowed to disagree with them again.

    Blueday Jo, yes, exactly. You might find Jung’s essay “Wotan” particularly interesting along these lines.

    Ian, “fighting absurdity with authentic experience” strikes me as an extremely hopeful (and helpful) strategy. I’m far from sure, for what it’s worth, that it takes profound trauma to cause someone to bail out on reality — the human mind is subtler and more potent than that, and can run off the rails all by itself.

    Wesley, well, we’ll see! I’m hoping that we can avoid a Twilight’s Last Gleaming scenario by retreating from empire rather than having it torn out of our hands, but yes, if the latter happens, a revitalization movement is a real possibility. As for the date for the arrival of a shortage of parachutes, that’s a very good question to which I don’t have a definite answer.

    Hubertus, I’m far from sure there’s a direct connection between the Ghost Dance and today’s powwow culture, but I’ll look into it.

    KevPilot, I think you’ve misunderstood me here. I’m not suggesting that Warren was gaming the system or intentionally fibbing. Transracial people sincerely believe that they belong to the ethnic group they claim to belong to. It’s very often an important part of their identity, and it’s a shattering experience for them to be told that no, they’re 1/1024th at most. The fact that Warren didn’t just claim to have the traditional Cherokee great-grandmother, she claimed to be Native American tout court — as the data on her Harvard admission and her submission to the Pow Wow Chow cookbook show — suggests to me that she built her identity around an assumed Native identity; the fact that she could draw inspiration from her regional culture doubtless fostered that, but doesn’t explain it away.

    Mister N, exactly. There’s a very strange off-at-an-angle quality that creeps into such things.

    Coboarts, I don’t see any of this as involving soul loss. Madness is a different thing.

    Varun, that’s certainly a factor. All the more reason to keep up those daily banishing rituals!

    DJSpo, exactly. “Wax on, wax off. Don’t forget to breathe” — that’s good advice.

    Jonathan, thank you!

    Ria23, I’d encourage you to get out a little more and meet some otherkin. I’ve done so — for a while there, it was hard to avoid them in the Neopagan scene — and there are a lot more of them than you seem to think; many of them are also a good deal more serious about it. Minimizing what’s going on does not help things, you know.

    Kevin, yes, I wondered if anyone would fall into that trap. Gender dysphoria exists; it very often seems to correlate to odd variations in chromosomes; and for some people who have it, surgical transition can be helpful. That doesn’t mean that biological men with intact male genitals are within their rights to go around demanding that lesbians have to have sex with their “girl penises,” any more than it means that female athletes who take testosterone pills should be barred from competition but “female” athletes who are biologically male and have their muscles doped with testosterone from their own testes ought to be allowed to compete with biological women without further ado. Here as always, there’s plenty of room for constructive middle ground between the wackjob extreme views.

    BB, the Boomer generation changed things, no question, but every generation does that. I can’t speak to British conditions because I don’t live there. but here in the US the main impact of the Boomer generation seems to have been a widespread adoption of the sort of fashionable amorality that resulted in our current corporate kleptocracy and the behavior brought to light by the Epstein affair. That was hardly what my generation claimed it was seeking back in its idealistic youth!

    Kimberly, that’s one of the downsides of empire: the torrents of unearned wealth that flow into the imperial state have ghastly effects on the psyche of those classes that participate in the largesse. Basically, we’re all hikikomori here, parasitizing off the client nations that actually produce the wealth we fling around so freely — unless we step back, wake up, and walk away from Omelas…

  77. If the fundamentalists had had the brains the gods gave geese they would have created their own RPG, set in Bible times, with the player characters as Hebrews contending with the various hostile pagan powers of the day, and collecting Grace Points which could be exchanged for healing, supernatural strength, and the like. It would have been wildly popular, and they wouldn’t have lost anything like as many of their young people.

    Heck, I’d play that one now.

    Another possibility would be an angel-vs-demons game similar to In Nomine (which, sadly, I’ve never read or played). What I’m imagining is basically an espionage game where every session you got sent on a new mission, sometimes to confront demons and their agents directly, sometimes just to help someone get their life back together — and sometimes they would turn out to be an invaluable asset many sessions later as the pieces start falling into place.

    You’d also think Christians would have jumped on the “Middle Ages as medieval people believed the world to be” genre. Maybe they would have if they hadn’t capitulated so much to Progress.

  78. My nephew always had his nose buried in books or video games. Always thought he was college bound. But then he upped and joined the Marines. We all protested but he was so proud and… when it came down to it, could I really tell him that dedicating the best years of your life as a virtual warrior for the elite was any more honorable than sacrificing your brain matter directly? I knew better.

    That’s some pretty dark mid-life ruminations, but It seems that “kids these days” are gravitating to ever more grotesque virtual narratives or violent real world ones in search of meaning amidst the wreckage of dead malls and broken promises of yesteryear. I can’t blame them. And in this natural search for meaning in youth, algorithms pick up on their slightest inclinations and feed them what they want to hear. The endorphin feedback loop quickens with each click.

    I’m not sure what I’m trying to say except that I generally agree with this little series of yours and I think you’ve touched the Zeitgeist; I have a slightly different take (i.e. not especially political in nature), but I think we have equal opportunity for violence and (not creative) destruction at this time in history and I’m desperately searching for the wisdom to offer a third way out of the chaos for my children.

  79. “BB, the Boomer generation changed things, no question, but every generation does that. I can’t speak to British conditions because I don’t live there. but here in the US the main impact of the Boomer generation seems to have been a widespread adoption of the sort of fashionable amorality that resulted in our current corporate kleptocracy and the behavior brought to light by the Epstein affair. That was hardly what my generation claimed it was seeking back in its idealistic youth!”

    oh yes I know what you mean. The boomers abandoned too many of the ideals that might actually have made a constructive difference, in favour of claiming all traditional morality was the source of all social lill.. leading to the amoral corporate kleptocracy of today.

    For me, perhaps the biggest failing of the boomer generation, apart from anything else was their failure to build a new system of morality to replace the old traditional christian values. postmodern man finds satisfaction in the only thing left to him… power!

  80. Greetings all!

    Dear JMG

    Would you consider violent Muslim extremists (Islamic jihadism) as people who lost the habit of balancing the mythic and pragmatic modes of experience against each other? After all, for violent Muslim extremists the narrative is all, and if the world fails to do what the narrative demands, too bad for the world, (I am paraphrasing you here!).

    Furthermore they all seem to favour their version of “truth” over facts. This is especially valid when you consider the overwhelming rejection by ordinary muslim folks of their ideology.

    When you write: “The short form is that the boyfriend, who was a typically boisterous, nerdy young man, went through a dramatic personality change after binge watching the anime series Loveless. He spent some weeks being very quiet and withdrawn, reading the book version of Loveless, and then snapped all at once into a soft, smiling, happy, weirdly artificial state”

    It reminds me of similar dramatic personality changes reported in many jihadists who can murder while smiling and in an apparent happy state. I always found that aspect of jihadism very unsettling.

    Furthermore, it is also apparent that violent islamic jihadism resembles a revitalisation movement. After all, Jihadists attempt to bring in a “revitalised islamic society”, whatever that means and to paraphrase you once more, in which participants are engaging in a series of increasingly ornate ritual actions meant to bring back their equivalent of the buffalo and the ancestors.

    We can continue the parallel when you write: “it’s not difficult to recognize the immense psychological and cultural pressures that are driving the comfortable classes of today’s American society into the flight from reason discussed in the first essay in this sequence.”

    Similarly, throughout many Muslim societies there are immense psychological and cultural pressures which are driving some young persons from the mainly comfortable classes to embrace jihadism.

    You bring further insights into jihadism when you write: “The mythic mode of experience can be a source of life and health and meaning, but it can also be a source of madness and disaster. Traditional societies know this, and act accordingly.” because the majority of jihadists DO NOT COME from traditionally inclined layers of society, but from fairly modernised strata of Muslim societies, many of them either fairly well educated and / or from not very religiously inclined or practicing families (many exceptions also exist though!)

    We already know from Nazism and Communism that modern industrial societies are badly equipped to deal with such grand scale delusional movements.

    The question that arises is what factors from within society can make revitalisation movements steer towards a mythic mode of experience that can be a source of life and health and meaning instead of becoming a source of madness and disaster? Still more paraphrasing!

    Thanks for this post. I think I have learned more about the mechanics of jihadism here than anywhere else!!!!

  81. @KevPilot: And, more importantly, when Warren was informed of the error, she simply acknowledged and accepted it, no longer promoted it, and moved on in a manner very unlike those politicians who, when caught in a mistake, double down on the incorrect information and refuse to admit to having been mistaken in the first place. It might seem odd that her opponents can’t similarly let go of it, but I guess that it’s a case of turning the error into propaganda.

  82. November 7th 2019

    Dear JMG,

    I recently changed churches as everyone younger than the rank Baby Boomer fled the flock in the past ten years. The Church I find myself in now, in a neighboring town, is the same denomination of Christianity but the baby boomer ranks in their congregation are few and far between. It sports a lot of Gen-X parents and their kids, even a few millennial parents. There are also lots of young people – much to my surprise.

    When I correlate my religious experience with other institutions I’ve experienced, it seems whenever the baby boomers get a super majority hold over a school, town, fire-department, library, etc. the first thing they do is drive it into the ground. MY QUESTION IS WHY DO BABY BOOMERS COLLECTIVELY DRIVE AWAY EVERY GENERATION THATS NOT OF THEIR COHORT? IT’S LUDICROUS. I’m not longer a Democrat because that party seems to have become the party of Baby Boomers.

    In my opinion, The Don Quixote moment in the United States started with the baby boomer generation. I look at those in the younger generations acting out gender/world/race/body/ableism/dysphoria and have to conclude we have been gaslit our whole lives by the older generation. Judging by what I see in Church the younger Gen-xers are far far better parents than the boomers ever were. The millennials also seem to be good parents, those that are having kids.

    No offense JMG, or any other boomer on here, but I hate the baby boomers. I hate the Beatles. I hate just about every change baby boomers bought to our culture. Gen-xers are predominantly the parents of Gen-Z and I have to say the sustainability of the US rests on Gen-Z’s shoulders and Gen-Z gets it.


    Doll on a Windowsill

  83. KevPilot – Thank you for that explanation of Elizabeth Warren’s claim. It makes very good sense.

    For readers who want a good feel for that, I suggest a series of murder mysteries starring Alafair Tucker, a WWI-era Oklahoma farmwife for whom this is a lived reality – relatives on and off the Cherokee Nation. The author based the stories on the life of one of her foremothers, IIRC.

  84. Dear Archdruid,

    Sallust (aka Sallustius or Σαλούστιος) wrote several books in the Greek language, but he was a Roman, not a Greek. As you know, educated Romans of the antiquity were bilingual.

  85. @Ian Dumcombe

    Hi. What social issues come along with homeschooling? I thought that had been debunked and evidence actually indicates quite the opposite?

    Genuinely interested in what you’ve learnt about the topic as I have a 2.5 and a .7 year old and am concerned about what is the best arrangement for their school years.


  86. 1. “If you frequent the right corners of the internet these days, you can find obsessively detailed lists of pronouns suitable for otherkin”

    John, these are the wrong corners of the internet to frequent! 🙂

    2. “a transgendered person who was under the age of consent”.

    This phrase perfectly sums up the problem. According to today’s myth a person always knows what gender they should be, even if they are under the age of consent. Shouldn’t there be a minimum age of consent for gender change?

    3. “The mythic mode of experience can be a source of life and health and meaning, but it can also be a source of madness and disaster.”

    I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that the narratives of the social justice culture are closer to the latter.

    4. “When facts become the enemies of truth, in other words, they generally come to the conflict much more heavily armed than their opponent.”

    Never bring a myth to a fact fight.

    5. And so, the Democrats doing the impeachment song and dance are akin to the Ghost Dancers? Seems to be the case. I wonder if the outcome will be a political “wounded knee”.

    6. The horse guy was right about one thing: there is a big future for horses in agriculture. Once the petrochemical agriculture dies out. “In our last interaction, he had suddenly stopped talking about horses and wanted to rabbit on…”; to that I can only say “oh deer!”; for some reason this post about madness is ripe for puns; and so are the comments!

  87. @JMG

    Re the transgender phenomenon: It seems to be my impression, from reading old books, that a lot of societies were fairly tolerant of people who cross-dressed, and men who, for instance, developed a feminine alter-ego which they used at bars and clubs, and the next day went back to work or with their families as male, without ever considering the possibility of becoming a woman all the time, and in fact the vast majority of human societies would never have indulged that desire if they had had it.

    Personally, I only know two transgenders, and neither of them well, though I can see clearly enough that both are psychological wrecks who, among other things, have all the marks of growing up in a society that’s way too indulgent. But as you seem to know many transgenders much more closely, I am curious how you think these people would be handling it – apart, perhaps, from those with “odd variations in chromosomes” – if they lived in a culture that was fine with feminine alter-egos and cross-dressing for the nightlife but didn’t accept, much less encourage, the sort of “all intents and purposes” transition that is the norm today. (And that also didn’t have a medical industry that was thrilled with the prospect of making money off of any solutions that involved lots of drugs and surgery.)

    I’m not suggesting that such an approach would actually work for everyone, I’m just curious as to how people would react if it was still the norm and if the more extreme version was still the subject of Monty Python sketches.

  88. “the torrents of unearned wealth that flow into the imperial state have ghastly effects on the psyche of those classes that participate in the largesse”

    The more you can do for yourself, the better off you’re going to be when that torrent ends. Can’t do everything yourself but every little bit helps.

  89. It’s nice to see the conversation turning towards biological appropriation, transracialsim and even fictional appropriation.

  90. I see this Facts are the Enemies of Truth in both the left and the right in this country, particularly among the educated classes.

    On the Left, aside from the increasingly boundary-less-ness of gender/personality, there is the concept that if we just open up the borders peace and harmony will reign – never mind, sending such a message, the border and the country would be entirely overwhelmed with refugees, and assorted monsters, the system unable to manage. If that collapse into “truth” or “wokeness” is not enough, we are just going to turn this fossil fuel economy into a renewable economy with the ease of changing a wardrobe, which assumption is well beyond the collapse of the imagination, a boundary-less-ness of faux-physics.

    On the Right, it is a fact-less belief kin to religiosity that the economy is the great hand of God steering the righteous unto wealth and total global domination, that it is His or It’s will that we mine more, drill more, industrialize more, and the blessed billionaire/corporate job-creators will lead us unto the promised land where milk and honey flow perpetually like nuclear fusion, and consumerism will be as never-ending as linear Time.

    A mutual blind march toward economic and ecological collapse, it seems to me. Meanwhile if I mention limits of any kind to these true believers, I am treated like I am mentally ill.

    I just keep repeating, we need to change the economy to focus on food production, mandating cover crops and soil retention, plant diversity as pest control, water clarity, opening up land access around metropolitan areas to small scale, regenerative, sustainable family agriculture, tax pollution, automation, AI and rentier income and less income from labor, pull back on the war machine, empower citizens over corporations, banks and billionaires, bring an end to conspicuous consumerism.

    Which maybe I am delusional that this society is capable of that. But at least I am not limitlessly insane 🙂


  91. We live in extraordinary times, too extraordinary for the naked apes that we biologically are. Take, for instance, the six degrees of separation, the idea that all people, all 7.5 billion of us, are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other.

    Mr Greer, you know James Howard Kunstler, who was interviewed by Swiss author Piero San Giorgio, who knows French journalist Eric Zemmour, who talked with then future French president François Hollande in a televized debate in 1996. François Hollande knows the mayor of the town where I live, near Paris, and I know the mayor. We are exactly six handshakes away from each other, Mr Greer, and yet we live on separate continents.

    You, and all your American readers, are certainly a smaller number of handshakes away from all current and past US presidents than you would expect. Certainly less than six, because François Hollande, a now former French president, has known several of them, and there is probably a less circuitous route between you and them than a former French president.

    It’s not merely funny, it may also be one of the reasons why new concepts seem to appear out of nowhere and spread like wildfire across the planet.

  92. I would like to warmly recommend Hannah Arendt’s essay “What Is Authority?”, linked to last week by simpolism.

    In my understanding, Arendt argues that authority, the ability of the few to induce the many to do or not do certain things without having to resort to physical violence most of the time, comes from one of two sources. The first one is the typically Roman way: great respect for the foundation act of the nation and emulation of the Founding Fathers’ intentions. She argues this was continued by the Roman Catholic Church taking the incarnation as the new foundation act; and more surprisingly, by modern revolutions, which each tries to craft a new foundation act. Of all revolutions, only the American one succeeded in creating lasting authority.

    The other potential source of authority is to induce the many to feel fear of long-lasting or eternal punishment in the afterlife. Arendt argues, surprisingly again, that this political use of metaphysical speculation originated with Plato, was continued by other Classical political philosophers, and that the Christian church only adopted and perfected it in the 5th century when it took over authority from the Roman state (having heretofore left the matter open to speculation, but usually preaching either universal salvation or extinction).

    Arendt was a philosopher, not a historian, and I am not sure about the historical correctness of all the points, but it sure got me thinking. I suppose there are more ways for the few to influence the many, such as the mimesis of the rich and powerful that occurs in a successful society. Nevertheless, it is evident that all these forms of influencing the many have broken down over the 20th and 21st century: respect for the Founding Fathers, fear of hell, and mimesis of the rich. Arendt’s points were very relevant to last week’s discussion and may be so again for next week, but I think they may even explain some of the individual-type insanity discusses in this week’s post.

  93. John–

    I have to admit that this week’s post disturbed me at a fundamental level. There are any number of ways in which I have been profoundly disappointed with reality (e.g. politics failing to be the noble endeavor it ought to be, my inability to fully understand the processes and mechanisms of the cosmos) but I’ve never gotten to the point where I would make a complete break from reality and descend into one of my own making. I( mean, I’ve always thought I’d have made an excellent dilettante scholar of lower nobility (perhaps a baron), which is no doubt why my fantasy stories have taken the form they have. But I’m not one and now amount of wishing will change that.

    One of the key aspects of my present spiritual path that has been (repeatedly) shown to me is a certain drawing into myself and withdrawing from “out there,” but with respect to where my energy is directed (self-development rather than trying to change the world) and not a drawing into a fantasy world within my own mind. I have a hard time comprehending how one could get to that point. The inability to handle the delta between “ought to be” and “is” must be severe indeed in those cases.

  94. I am transgendered and have had the op, hormones and been living as my real self for over 15 years and I hope you don’t mind if I have my say on this subject. The term transgender can cover a whole spectrum of behaviour. At one end of this spectrum are men who who cross dress and but consider themselves men and have no intention of changing I their gender to. Some of this behaviour may be sexually motivated, and in other cases they may be expressing their feminine side or have mild cross gender desires. However at the other end of the spectrum you have transsexuals (TS) who feel strongly that they are in the wrong body and are prepared to have the op, hormones etc in order to live in the gender to which they belong. The term transsexual/transexualism is a bit old fashioned and I don’t like it. The reason why I am using it, is that it is important to distinguish between those whose cross gender desire is so strong that they are desperate enough to change their body in order to conform with what they know themselves to be, and those who are just cross dressing for whatever reason, but have no reason of changing their bodies.

    Now Transexualism is real and does not occur as a result of a mental illness. It has existed in every society. Different societies might interpret it in different ways. If I was in Rome I might think of myself as possessed by the Goddess Cybele and become a Galli. Catullus wrote a poem about it.

    If I was born in India I would be a Hijra. I think there is some mythology involving Krishna which explains their existence. I haven’t looked into this stuff for quite some time. It should also be remembered that this isn’t just a male to female thing. It goes the other way as well from female to male.

    There is a danger that people who have some cross gender desires may end up thinking that they are transsexuals . I have known many cross dressers. Most of them are firmly men and would never change that. But some who are towards the Transsexual end of the spectrum have thought about it quite seriously, but sensibly have decided that it was not for them. But there are a few who make a mistake and for whatever reason, go on to have the op and hormones etc and end up regretting it.

    Transgender has suddenly become very trendy amount the woke middle classes and people are fed an ideology that they can be whatever they are. There is a big danger that people will take a consumerist attitude to having the op and taking hormones and think that it is my right to have what I want and to have it now. This increases the danger that more people will go all the way and have the op and regret it. Of course people who are transsexual should have the right to have the op, but this is something you have to think about very carefully and only do after you have exhausted every other possibility. If you’re doing this because you have some cross gender desires and it’s become trendy, and it’s your right to have what you want straight away, then you are heading for disaster.

    There are also people who have mental health conditions which mimic transsexualism. This is why it is essential that people thinking of going all the way need to have psychiatric assessments to rule out this possibility. There a lot of pressure from SJW’s to remove any psychiatric barriers, which I again consider dangerous and could result in people having op’s which they bitterly regret.

    The danger for Transsexuals here is obvious. If you get large numbers of people having the op and then regretting it, then it will end up getting a bad name and it will not be possible for genuine transsexuals to get the op and hormones they need. I think that kind of have what you want, when you want it activism from SJW’s is seriously against the interests of transsexauls

    The other danger for transsexuals over this side of the pond is that they are thinking of bringing in self identification for gender recognition certificates. This is what you need to change your gender legally. At the moment you have to have lived in your new gender for two years and get medical confirmation of your gender dysphoria, before you can get this. Under self identification you would not need to have lived in your new gender for any time and would not need to get any medical confirmation. Therefore Roy the Rapist, who is one hundred per cent bloke and has no intention of taking hormones, having the op or changing any aspect of himself can ruck up and get a gender recognition certificate and become legally a woman.

    There s a lot of prejudice against transgendered people already. Having rapists getting gender recognition certificate is likely to make this a lot worse. This is just not in my self interest. I am beginning to think that transgendered people are being used by the left as pawns in a cultural war and it is beginning to worry me.

    The really ironic thing about it is that transgendered people already have all their legal rights and protection from discrimination over here. That was all cemented into place by the gender recognition act in 2004, P v Cornwall county council in 1996 and the Equality act in 2010. I had thought all this campaigning for rights was all over and we could all go home and get on with our lives. Then all of a sudden all the left wing press and activists have suddenly gone mad kicking up a fuss about the transgender issue. I smell a rat.

    Transgendered people get a lot of prejudice form some feminisst and the right. However I am now beginning to fear the left as well. I just wish they would f— off and leave us alone to get on with our lives. Sorry if I sound angry, but they are really getting me worried.

  95. Thanks, JMG: Interesting, fascinating thread of discussion! I’ve personally only seen this very marginally, and have been happily busy, painting away! so have not commented for a few weeks, but related to this topic – and transracialism I wanted to share my family’s funny story:

    So factually, we’re a proud mix of Standard American Mutt. My paternal Grandmother was super proud of her Irish heritage, paternal great-grandfather was possibly Jewish, possibly German? Yugoslavian? Russian?, great-grandmother was probably Cajun French, (we think, not sure) there are gaps and we actually just don’t know. My maternal grandparents had a lovely romantic story of how they were sweethearts back in Germany when they were young teens and serendipitously found each other again in California, years after their parents and families had fled at the onset of WW2.

    Only to find out through the years and some practical genealogical searching, (ships logs, birth and death certificates…) that apart from the gaps – they’d all either lied, reinvented themselves or were mistaken. With some downtime at work, my sister trawled through ships records for the family names, to find that our proud Irish side were actually English, birth and death certificates revealed they were not Irish workers IN England, but had been in England at least 3-4 generations) , maternal grandparents were (Grandfather) Romanian and (Grandmother) of Swedish stock, but were settlers in Maryland around the 1600’s! But most amusing to me – my uncle has always had a love of German culture, food, music, etc. and declared himself part German, (that’s where those gaps have come in very handy LOL), My cousin has always had a fascination with Native American culture and at one point simply decided she IS part Cherokee, (not Cajun French), My brother, OTOH IS Cajun-French and nothing will shake his convictions on that; My younger son at around age 8 developed an intense interest and love for Russian history and culture, He asked if maybe those gaps in our family tree were maybe Russian? I laughingly told him of our unique ability to choose, So he was a Russian, (he’s 19 and has outgrown it now). After 17 years in Hong Kong, Hai-AAAAHHHH! I am personally, honorary Chinese. 😉 At any rate – none of us are ever going to take a DNA/ancestry test because it would spoil everything!

    I always thought it was just another little pecadillo of my nutty family, but my husband said something that shed some light on it that may be interesting to this group: He’s incidentally a Dutch and English WASP who’s family are well documented on both sides from 1642. No wiggle-room for him. He said: “America has always been the land of opportunity and reinvention. Especially in the Wild Wild West. That’s why so many immigrants in the 19th C suffered the hardships to come out here. It was a chance to make a new life for yourself and even reinvent yourself and many people did. That’s not even taking into consideration the magical reinventions wrought by Hollywood and the then-burgeoning film industry. He’s right. This “wild wild West/limitless possibilities/be-whatever/whomever-you-want-to-be” is actually a part of our national psychology and optimism. (I daresay the same is probably true for any other “New World” countries).

    2nd, as the offspring of these ‘reinvented’ immigrants; it has come to my attention that most people, not just me, long to just KNOW their roots. My husband is super lucky, not because of the fortunes of his ancestors, ($ is long long gone), but because he knows where he came from. Perhaps that also ties in with belonging to a place a certain land that we have discussed here before? As a college student, I spent a summer in Ireland and when meeting Irish people, they would kind of roll their eyes and say something like “Oh lemme guess – another Irish American searching for your roots?” That struck me – it really is a thing – this yearning to know our roots – the flip side of reinvention and the “ability to choose”.

    Perhaps the seeds of this particular mania were set a hundred years ago. Hmmm. Food for thought?

  96. An event similar to the Ghost Dance happened to the Xhosa tribe in South Africa in the 1850s.

    Nongqawuse was a 15-yr-old girl who claimed to have seen the spirits of two of her ancestors. The spirits told her that the Xhosa people should destroy their crops and kill their cattle, amongst other things, and the spirits would sweep the British settlers into the sea. Whereupon the grain and cattle would return more bounteous than before.

    Her uncle, a diviner, believed her and conveyed the prophesy to the paramount chief. He investigated and was convinced, and decreed that the destruction and slaughter should begin on a certain day. With predictable results. Tens of thousands died in the ensuing famine.

    Not all the Xhosa people believed the prophecies. A small minority, the “stingy ones”, did not burn their crops or kill their cattle. Nongqawuse blamed the failure of her prophesy on their lack of faith. She herself survived and went to live on a farm, dying in her late 50s.

  97. I had the test done and it turns out my DNA is 17% Indigenous Americas (16% Colombia and Venezuela and 1% Andes). It amuses me greatly that I’m more Native American than most of the Americans obsessed with their Indian ancestry. 🙂

  98. The only other thing I wanted to say, (and I haven’t gotten through all of the comments so forgive me if this has already been pointed out) but Helllooooo?! Disengaging with reality? We’re having this “conversation” in a VIRTUAL living room. I do worry about my Gen-Z kids and their contemporaries who have grown up with this fake social media and internet relationships, fake, (virtual) reality and well, too much choice for a cohesive society. It IS changing us and not for the better! I do see some of this mania on both sides of the political aisle and IMHO it is partly, (largely?) because politics nowadays may be the only thing we en masse engage in, pay attention to. When I was a teen, people would get just as or moreso worked up over who was the greatest guitarist of all time, (Even people who hated pop-music knew 867-5309 and could laugh at the jokes), who was the best baseball or football team. I would struggle through the super-bowl, (I’m not a sports person) but was grateful afterwards to be able to discuss/engage with sports-loving friends. They would do the same with me struggling through the Oscars. but with the internet – we can pick and choose and ignore what doesn’t interest us, but we lose that connection of discussing it afterwards. We also kinda lose a bit of reality?

  99. @A1 & JMG In regards to boomers and nostalgia. As a student of history and in my efforts to better connect with the place I live I am a member of a facebook group that focuses on my city in the 1940s-1970s. My city was deeply ruined by deindustrialization, riots, white flight suburbanization and intergenerational poverty in the 60’s and 70s. The members of the group are all baby boomers who lived in the city back in the 40s-70s. I’d say 95% of them no longer live in the city and many haven’t been back in decades.

    The posts they make are nostalgia for the “good old days” when you took the bus downtown to see a movie in one of the theaters and get hot dogs at the department store counter. This nostalgia is the myth that they hold on to. Their myth is the media generated “Leave it to Beaver” narrative of post-war America. A narrative which ignored rural poverty, lower class life and the Jim Crow south in favor of the white picket fence suburban “ideal”. This myth frames all the posting they do in this group. Any mention of the city in the present is met with comments like “if you walk downtown you need a police escort”, “shame the current residents don’t respect the city” etc. The subtext beneath all these comments and mentions of the “good old days” is a subtle jab at the change in demographics that now lives in the city.

    With the ideas JMG has laid out here with mythical versus pragmatic thinking what I’m starting to discover in their “good old days” posting is these boomers stuck with the mythical concept of this city. It is much easier to operate with a passive nostalgia for a place then to actually stick it out in a dying city surrounded by crime and poverty. In the 60s it was easier to talk about the myth of “the good old days” and uproot to the suburbs with the rest of the white people then to try to implement solutions in a deindustrializing American city of the 70s. So now these boomers can sit online and lament a once vibrant downtown that they participated in killing by fleeing to the suburbs.

    Today in this city there are people from all backgrounds who aren’t mired in the “good old days” thinking who are operating in a pragmatic mode looking for solutions to the years of problems and neglect that hollowed out this city.

  100. I’m somewhat reminded here, in relation to revitalization movements, of the code of Handsome Lake ( ). He was a religious leader of the Seneca people who had a terrible struggle with alcoholism before receiving some visions and bringing the new codes & teachings to the Iriquois people. I forget where I first came across it, but I read about all this in the book Teachings of the Longhouse by Chief Jacob Thomas. In this instance though, the revitalization seemed to have worked and the code is still practiced, sometimes called the Longhouse Religion.

    This has been a fascinating article. Thank you. I look forward to the conclusion.

    @Violet: I read your story in the latest issue Into the Ruins and really liked it. I’d encourage other readers to check it out, and Into the Ruins in general of course. I especially liked the idea of a Hermetic Christian safehouse up in the remnants of the burbs. I won’t give any other spoilers away…

    …and one other comment in regards to stories & narratives in general: in reading the other entries to the deindustrial fiction anthology Love In the Ruins it was really interesting to see the overlap of themes between different writers who I’m guessing didn’t discuss their story ideas with each other beforehand. It’s fascinating to see this form of fiction grow & evolve, and that different writers are tapping into some of the same tropes. I suppose these might become the tropes of a new subgenre of fiction over time.

  101. …speaking of Into the Ruins, I wanted to pass along that Joel Caris is hosting a Fall sale for the magazine. Now is a good time to pick up issues from the first three years at a discount and free shipping. Check it out!

    “For a limited time, all back issues (#1-13) of Into the Ruins are on sale for just $10 with FREE U.S. shipping! (The just released Issue #14 is also available at the regular price of $12, also with free shipping.) This is the perfect opportunity to either take the plunge if you have not already checked out the magazine, fill in any holes in your collection, or gift one or more issues to a friend or family member.”

  102. @John Michael Greer: not pretending that otherkin exist or that people can’t get in some strange headspaces, indeed. during the ’90’s I knew neopagan and neopagan-adjacent people who met regularly (they didn’t live together, or at least, not all of them did) convinced that their families belonged to ritually sex-abusing Satanic cults which practiced human sacrifice, which they knew about via recovered memories. (I don’t deny the existence of recovered memories, by the way.)

    I would like to add my own ideas, as a transsexual, into the mix:

    1) people transition for different reasons. Ray Blanchard has broken MTF transsexuals into two groups. some trans women who transition later and have a lesbian (sometimes asexual, sometimes bisexual orientation). they commonly belong to the autistic spectrum. they tend to have male-typical jobs.

    other trans women who transition earlier and usually have a heterosexual orientation. they pass better than the other group. they do female-typical work. most trans women (but not all) fall neatly into one of these two groups. they exhibited feminine behavior and interests since childhood.

    I can ID which group a trans woman falls into right away. trans men, I suspect, fall into a simple pattern.

    although, I urge you all not to take my (possibly poor) paraphrase as gospel and look into Blanchard’s theory yourselves. self-identified members of the “trans community” loathe Blanchard. loathe in the most literal meaning of the term.

    2) given present knowledge, we can’t know why people transition. at all. I firmly believe this. I don’t believe in the materialistic explanation of “oh, trans people have different brains”. I have a genetic condition that means that I developmentally I did turn out quite male, even though I have XY chromosomes. I suspect that my decision to transition has a lot to do with but OTOH, most genetic males with the condition don’t transition. (some do transition.) and I loved to play with macho action figures. had typical masculine interests (up to a point). still do (up to a point).

    what I mean to say here: we can’t, at present, say, “people transition because of X” or “Y”, especially since it differs from person to person.

    I have a lot to say here but I will stop now. unfortunately a lot of what I say needs context which I can’t provide even in a lengthy comment.

  103. @Kimberley Steele, what you say rings true to me since it describes my own life. my problems exist orthogonally (as far as I can tell) to my transsexuality. I have known many people in a similar sad path. (see what I wrote in my previous post regarding that dysfunctional group.)

    psychiatric diagnoses and pop psychology, I believe, aid and abet this. pharmaceutical advertising for psych meds acerbates this, in part. I respect neurology and even psychology. psychiatry, specifically DSM-based psychiatry. the DSM has some legitimate neurological problems in it, like Alzheimer’s, but mostly pseudoscientific “diagnoses” that have hurt millions of people, because them believe in them.

    pop psychology plays a part as well. therapists, I believe, derive their ideas as much from pop psychology as from their formal training.

    identity politics and pop psychology have a strong, unrecognized, relationship with one another.

  104. @Violet, being psychic beings, humans can reach out and contact various spiritual realms all over the multiverse, upper, lower, near, far, and like a radio, they can “tune in” and “channel” the signal from there, and do. Perhaps must. The signal does not erase the radio, but as you can see, what you channel does have effects. Naturally all the spiritual riff-raff would love for you to listen to “their” channel, give them strength and platform, or in Christian terms, to “wage a battle of good and evil, angels and demons, the higher and lower,” played out here on earth, in mankind. Why? Because for some reason we are an open being who is _capable_ of it. Of personal choice.

    So sadly, yes, if you choose to channel the evil and not the good, usually by mistaking the evil and good, it will then cause more chaos and disorder, or you can choose to channel a force which causes more unity, togetherness, and order.

    “if he was one of the enemy, he would look fairer and…well, feel fouler, if you see what I mean.” – Sam Gamgee

    So these are REAL things we’re dealing with. And yes, you probably can get the voice on the radio to visit in person and come inside your house and head, if you try, but there are other magical barriers and hurdles that guest must transit.

    However, Christianity itself being so far gone into scienceism and atheism no longer believes in spirits and magic forces, angels and demons, and “that is the devil’s best trick of all” as Kaiser Soze would say. If they were Christians – a religion completely based on magic and miracles – this would be urgent and second nature to them. Almost none are.

    P.S. pick the good. It has better results. You know a tree by its fruits.

    “Everybody wants to be JC.” Good Lord, why?

    KevPilot, I agree with you on Warren, however, when you start job-claiming, you’re required to be 1/64, which means you must now check and know with certainty. As a lawyer she would know that. As Harvard, they didn’t care, and displaced a real +1/64 Native from their rolls, stranding them to a death of desperation on Pine Ridge. Even the Cherokee said that in their public statement (and P.S. a Cherokee nation that like the Iroquois that is as un-racially pure as Americans after 200 years of captive slavery and intermarrying). “Indian” can be a nation the way that you can emigrate to Bulgaria and be a Bulgarian. Strangely it’s the “non-racists” who believe in this unhistoric “racial purity”, in both mythologized history and in actual personhood, and that it is required to follow all the stereotypes or else. Anyway, the Cherokee tribe said, “Sure, it’s a mistake, we get it, but what have you ever done for the native causes like Keystone?” Silence. If she thought she was an Indian it was very odd because she never went home, never once acted like one. Tree and its fruits. She could have saved herself with that when it all happened, but even now it hasn’t occurred to her. That’s why people object.

  105. Hi JMG and all – I read Wotan by Jung. Does America have a “Native Wotan”? Can it inspire European descended Americans? Or are we centuries away from that, still? It seems like no one is inspired by Jesus, fer sure.

  106. Dear JMG,

    Well, the whole evil of the cult business makes sense why new religions would have to be approved by community elders! Indeed, I wish that there were more elders to discuss my own religious experiences with. As I discuss in my response to Ria below, I’ve struggled for the past decade with intense, visionary experiences with almost no human guidance. While I feel that I’ve managed decently, it would be a huge relief if there were more older people who knew the gods that I work with intimately who could give basic feedback. When that has occurred it has always been an immense sense of relief. It’s nerve-wracking to be in a psychic position where two worlds of different substances collide — that is, my body — and to have very little human guidance or feedback for navigating. I’m not complaining, mind you, my life is wonderful, but some of the challenges I experience seem a little gratuitous, that is, they could be laid to rest so easily with a few more discussions with some stern, skeptical elders who know the pantheon I worship better than I do.

    That is to say, for the sincerely religious, community elders are an enormous boon and blessing that can save a lot of grief. If one loves the gods, that means making all sorts of sacrifices, and sacrificing what may be delusions is certainly something healthful and good to do from a devotional standpoint.

    Dear SarahJ,

    The basic situation is this: I was part of neopagan community for many years, I got more or less kicked out right about the time I started reading JMG, I left to work on organic farms where I read, read and read some more, my politics shifted towards more conservative, eventually the community found out and then uncanny and horrific things began to occur right when they would gather for their seasonal celebrations. Horrific nightmares and real physical harm would occur during these times.

    This lasted for about two years, that is, until, I upped my magic game enough to stop the nightmares, and then upped my divination game enough to find the causes of the issue. Then I mentioned it on the last open post here, and to my great delight and gratitude something like a dozen plus people began to pray on my behalf. The curse couldn’t survive that, and it popped.

    Point being, I understand now that I had joined something of an informal cult. Moral of the story is this; if you leave a cult you’ve got to get skilled in magic as fast as you possibly can. You’re very life may depend on it.

    Dear Ria,

    I’ve also known many genuine, extremely talented, compassionate, rich, and deep trans people. All even go as far as to say that these remarkable transpeople make up a larger fraction of the trans community than the normal population. The problem is that while 1/3 of the trans people I know may be outstanding people in the good sense, maybe 40% are the way I described in the comment you respond to.

    Also, I’ll confess that I really don’t take a biomedical conceptual approach to transgenderism. Frankly I think that transgenderism, especially trans femininity, is a condition often directly related to shamanism. At least it was for me. It was in no way the experience of simply thinking or feeling I was a girl, no, it was an experience of falling out of myself into the land of the dead, walking in that world for three days before being reborn with a new identity, gaining strange spiritual powers, having tremendous visionary experiences, dredging the bottoms of my conscious awareness and needing to give up parts of my body in order to return to the light world. Since that time I’ve had certain intuitive and spiritual powers conferred to me. My soul came down and walked with me as a friend, friendly spirits took an interest, and the underlying spiritual reality of actuality became more visually accessible.

    Basically, what I’m describing is a classical shaman experience of initiation. I’ll add that my own will had very little to do with the process; I was confronted with a baffling experience that I had to navigate alone, and had to walk a thin and narrow bridge in which death lay to every side.

    And so to my mind, given the harrowing nature of my transgender experience, the metaphysical basis of transgenderism, the biomedical model, is hopelessly shallow. Transgenderism has been the worst and most trying ongoing experience of my life, but it has been worth it because it opened up a relationship with my soul, who gently led me towards life. This is a somewhat sad situation for me as well, there is hardly any space in American society for someone with my gifts, and so I’ve been forced by prevailing circumstances to live an extremely marginal and liminal life.

    I have no plan on “hanging my shingle” as a shaman, and don’t even use that term to conceptualize my identity. Still, the fact remains that my experience of transgenderism, if recorded by a sympathetic anthropologist, would undoubtedly be considered one of shamanistic initiation, and they would clearly view the strange path of my life as one of a shaman in modern America rather than a trans-person.

    What I described as the stilted, and artificial miens of many — but certainly not all or even most!– trans folks I know carry it. Still, a large enough fraction do that I tend to shy away from trans-community now.

  107. @JBird4049 – We spend a lot of commentary here on the elite and the destructive influence their self-serving control over our national discourse via their control of the media has had on our society.

    But I can’t but wonder how the attitudes of ordinary people have contributed as well. I read a statistic recently that fully fifty percent of school children live in a single-parent household or a household where only one biological parent is present. That’s way down from nearly 90% when I was of school age. I just have to wonder whether absence of a father figure during a child’s formative years may be causing some of the effects noted by JMG in his post.

  108. My best friend and I had a very similar experience to this back in 2008 when I was still an extremely sheltered early 20s Christian fundamentalist who was just beginning to ask the hard questions about my spirituality. Mine involved a woman with DID (24 different personalities) who had some deep wounds in her past including major childhood abuse, whose personal mythology involved a pantheon of vampires, werewolves, a multiverse in which every book that had ever been written was pretty much literally true in some plane of reality, and an eschatology that involved the old gods and armies of sundry magical beasts rising up to do battle against a nameless evil to bring about a new eschaton of creation in a climactic “final night.” I was apparently a werewolf chosen by Fenrir to lead his army in the final battle, my friend was a reincarnation of Elendil from Lord of the Rings… and it got ever more elaborate. I was a scientifically minded biology student but I… well… dived right in, I remember even in the midst of it kind of feeling like Sancho Panza, knowing it was probably all crazy, but so yearning to be a part of something other than the nihilistic vacuum I’d been slipping into over the previous year as my childhood faith had slowly slipped away with nothing to replace it. It was a funhouse of online conferences with a broad network of people who were in on the delusion (where I got a good strong dose of the otherkin and fictionkin world), visits to goth clubs in search of 300 year old vampires she’d been communicating with who never showed… combined with actual uncanny paranormal experiences that, as much as I wish I could, still can’t be denied or explained away…

    The snap out of it moment came when I finally for some reason started to google the names of all of these werewolf packs and vampire clans who were supposedly lurking all over the place and every link turned me back to the same roleplaying game… How something that small was my snap back to reality I still don’t know but I’m thankful it did. The fact that I, a hyper-rational 23 year old losing his Christian faith and teetering on the brink of materialist atheism could so easily fall down the rabbit hole into Wonderland still terrifies me… and I often think about how bad things could have gotten…

    My friend also snapped out of it at the same time as I did (and is now another regular commenter here), and the bad Llewelyn books, garbled bits of occult philosophy, and introduction to rudimentary ritual fed something that we’d both been thirsting for… and it set us out on a quest that eventually led to saner branches of occultism and we’re both firmly on the path now largely because of this episode and have a powerful unbreakable bond largely rooted in that shared trauma that’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t been through it. The break with the delusional friend was rough, my friend wrote her a long letter explaining why he couldn’t be part of this anymore and she was furious and hurt… By the time we re-connected years later, she was dying and seemed to only remember our friendship, the delusion had faded away like a mostly forgotten dream. I held her hand as she died, and I’m still in contact with her husband.

    The strangest thing is the selective amnesia that came over everyone who was involved. Her husband who was completely in on the delusion remembers a perfectly ordinary friendship, and he’s still friends with one of the otherkin who was part of it all (and who I’d introduced to them), she doesn’t remember anything about that year and doesn’t even remember who I am. It’s like an enchantment was lifted and nobody but me and my friend even remembers there was an enchantment in the first place.

    So yes, I’ve experienced the flight into mythic thinking you’re talking about first hand… and it really is like getting sucked into a waking dream… it’s so easy to do, even if you’re perfectly sane otherwise and it really can happen to anybody.

    Beyond the psychological dimension what’s going on from an occult dimension in situations like this. You mentioned in a comment further up how many Otherkin wind up in some form of magical spirituality, and the friend in my story despite obviously not being in the right psychological state for it was involved in magical practice her whole life (albeit sporadically and of the watered down Llewelyn Books variety), which would suggest that at the very least there are some potent thought forms involved and on top of that some external spiritual forces as well. And there’s that bizarre group enchantment effect (with only the two of us fully remembering all of the insanity that happened). I’ve always had a thousand questions about just what happened and why, how to process it, and what lingering effects it might have had, but more often than not I just try not to think about it. The only noticeable long term effect that I’ve been able to pick up on is a transition from being quite prone to visionary experiences before to struggling with even the most rudimentary visualization exercises after, which I’ve taken as a reflexive shutting down of those faculties on behalf of my subconscious. And then of course there’s the friend, who is now dead… how much of this stuff gets sloughed off with the death of her personalities, and how much follows her to the next life (considering that we’ve got heaps of unresolved karmic snags to work through when we meet again, it’s not a purely academic question either)…

  109. JMG:
    The poor think of themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires; so yes, the entire society is indeed trans-class! The irony is that this delusion supports the class system. The true solution is class consciousness. “To live like Republicans, vote like Democrats.”

    But Truman said that when Democrats still believed in democracy, and Republicans still believed in the Republic. There are been other reversals; for instance, color coding. Nowadays it’s the Democrats who are the Blues, and the Republicans who are the Reds. Who decided that? I wasn’t consulted.

    Can we run the trans-class paradox elsewhere? If taken seriously, would transgenderism support sexism? Would transracialism support racism? The logic being; you have a choice, so don’t complain.

    Jenner said he’s a she, and the media applauded. Dolezal said she’s black, and provoked a big argument. I say I’m a billionaire, and everyone laughs. So to society, sex (which is a billion years old) is a convention; race (which is 19th-century colonial psuedoscience) is debatable; and class (a construct) is solid reality. That is reversal of plain truth; a kind of perversion.

    And as for “chirpself”… oh dear. I believe that there is such a thing as a “twit signal”, which signals that the writer is a twit. They exist for the benefit of the human collective. Examples include “wymyn” and “Commiefornia”. But “chirpself”?! I never expected the twittering to be that explicit.

  110. What a sad story of someone sinking into madness. I suspect that there are at least several influences that have been active on society over a length of time to cause such apparently wide-spread displays of delusion. One that occurs to me is that I associate pragmatism with being an adult. This includes taking on responsibility, dealing with reality, assessing situations and making decisions on a course of action. So much of current trends and behaviour appears unbelievably infantile to me.
    For instance, there is a lot of noise about Artificial Intelligence. So far I do not see any discussion of what I think are some pretty fundamental questions: “what is this supposed to achieve? Why would we want this?” Smart homes – the whole idea is based on not having to think and make decisions. How stupid is that! This is being childish and not wanting to have to think.
    For decades people in western societies have been constantly exposed to the expectation that everything is possible for them. Any grown-up knows that this is patent nonsense. There are limits – shock, horror. People have been pushed into thinking of themselves as purely individuals and neglecting the part of our nature that makes us social animals and in need of community to be fulfilled and happy.
    The belief that every technological development is progress and that we can all be anything we want seem to be crashing into reality. Hah, recently someone was being a bit too woowoo for me and said “everyone has their own truth (it was German “Wahrheit”)” My mouth, that occasionally lives a life of its own, snapped back “yeah, until reality bites them in the bum”. Priceless facial expression.
    Another aspect occurs – being “grounded”, as in sensible but also connected to the earth, is what prevents us from “going off with the fairies” maybe literally, and I think it gives sanity.
    Hm, a bit rough, but I am still mulling over what you wrote and other commentators are saying.

  111. As for us Boomers; most of the counterculture was indeed a flash in the pan, but a few genuine golden nuggets emerged. Like your own Druidism… perhaps.

    A thousand flowers bloomed; 900 of them wilted, but the other hundred cover the land. For instance, some of the songs are keepers. It’s a wasteful process, but that’s Nature’s way.

    Part of the problem is found in the name: Boomer. We had to survive the Cold War, both physically and psychically. Not a trivial task. The young-uns don’t understand, and I hope they never have to.

    We were literally promised the Moon; we didn’t get it, but we did pioneer the Internet, which you and I are conversing on. Surely that’s worth something.

  112. I wonder if some of the identifying as fictional characters as so on is something that happens normally in childhood, but has gotten displaced to adulthood. I went through a year-long phase of insisting I was James the Red Engine, ie. an anthropomorphized steam train, and trying to wear red whenever possible. I was three, and grew out of it.

  113. Hi JMG,

    What happened to the Otherkin that WERE on the neo-pagan scene? Did they leave for other religions? I’ve never met an Otherkin, at least not one who admitted to it.

  114. It’s a little funny to me that after I read this, I came across this article:

    In particular, this stood out:

    “Anton Ernst, who is co-directing the film, told The Hollywood Reporter they ‘searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean.'”

    I don’t even know how the magical/spiritual dimensions of creating a simulated likeness of a dead person, essentially playing a role said person would have stood against, come into play here, but it can’t be good. What really gets me is that they can’t accept James Dean’s death as a limitation on what they want – the facts can’t trump their “truth” of James Dean being perfect for the role.

  115. Longtime anime fan here.

    Emotionally intense RPGs have been a staple of anime fandom for decades. Fans would adopt the personae of characters in their favorite OTP (one true pairing), maybe put on a costume if they were in meatspace and have at it. I’ve lived through this powerful experience. What exactly was happening? A competent psychologist probably could have explained it to me had I not been too shy to discuss it in his office.

    But what was really happening? Was I dabbling in archtypes? Projecting my animus? Participating in the collective raising of entities? I’m not sufficiently well-read to have the vocabulary to describe it. At no point did I ever believe I was really Duo Maxwell from Gundam Wing. I could put on or take off that persona like a costume.

    But what if I had been more mentally fragile? What if I had been deep in an online community that encouraged and reinforced the fantasy? (Online anime fandom in the ’90s and early noughts was still relatively sane.) Falling into a fandom is a lot like falling in love. Eventually I met another anime, and then another and another, taking on new characters and leaving off old ones until I saw a pattern. And once I saw the pattern, it no longer had such a strong hold on me.

    I wasn’t any of these characters, but I saw something in them that resonated with me. My guess is that poor “Soubi” will move on after a couple years when he suddenly decides he’s someone else … and then someone else … until he no longer needs whatever protection this mask gives him.

  116. Oh, and I just went to YouTube and looked up that video of Rachel Bloom and Bill Nye.

    Holy Tezuka, DO NOT WANT.

  117. Nowadays it’s the Democrats who are the Blues, and the Republicans who are the Reds. Who decided that? I wasn’t consulted.

    Well, back during the eighties, I remember it was reversed, and red was for Democrats and blue was for Republicans. Perhaps on account of the Cold War and Republicans in the establishment media trying to imply that Democrats were more like the despised communists? Though I think the current color-coding will remain in place now that the 2000 election made it pass into popular parlance.

  118. @paradoctor: class doesn’t exist in every society/culture. race doesn’t exist in every society/culture. (“race” as distinguished from Us versus Them, which every society/culture has.) sex, however, exists in every single culture that has ever existed. I don’t mean the physical idea but the social idea. so it would make sense, would it not for what we in the west call transgenderism to exist in larger numbers and for it to exist in many cultures (though not all cultures).

    to sum up: class and race don’t count as fundamental in the human condition throughout cultures and throughout time. sex, though? fundamental.

    again, about “chirpsexual”, a) either a 15 year old wrote it and/or b) they meant it at best half-seriously.

  119. since the existential category of “transgender” is being discussed at length:

    I really think it bears noting that transgenderism is just as much of a mythical category as Hijra or Galli.

    Certainly, when I went to the “gatekeepers” I was expected to alter my own narrative to closer fit the prevailing mythos.

    Simply because there is Science behind Transgenderism doesn’t mean it is any more factual. Science is, as an institution, on final analysis, belongs more to religious sentiment than a dry expression of truth.

    Point being, it’s been my very repeated experience that transgenderism is extremely heterogenous. It is a basic category for misfits rather than a medical diagnose. In this category you have folks who have cross sex identification (I’d estimate about 20%), you have others who are simply stark raving mad and or hope for salvation in a new identity (I’d estimate about 20%), you have others who are undergoing or have undergone some sort of religious initiation (I’d estimate about 10%) and then you have those who are simply there for the fashion or the party (I’d estimate about 50%).

    Of course these categories are not really self-contained, but I think that it’s useful to have them to think in terms of. Point being, they are extremely heterogenous. The person who transitions to find New Life in Trans ( has a different feel than the person who simply has a cross-gender identity who, more or less, simply becomes a member of the opposite gender with an unfortunate medical history. The more initiate type trans people are very different than the formerly discussed category. On my end I don’t even care what pronouns people use for me since my primary identification is not with my gender, but with my spiritual life. The fashionistas in my experience pretty rarely actually medically transition, and are usually the shrillest and least nuanced in their opinions.

    Unfortunately for me, the entire trans issue has blown up over the years and become, as Anon writes, a pawn in the culture war. A pawn that increasingly looks undefended and being used in a nasty gambit. This is frustrating; in 2011 I was hitchhiking through the Southern United States chatting with the people who gave me a ride about my gender identity, and most people *got* it — they understood that I’d had a spiritual experience that had marked me permanently. They might not have respected me as a woman, but they respected me as a person who was committed to living my spiritual gnosis, and the most skeptical and surprising people could connect with me on that point.

    Those sorts of conversations were possible to have until trans went big in 2013 and the whole thing turned into a fashion statement. This was an enormous personal loss for me; the conversation lost its nuance, people no longer were able to challenge me. And the challenges I got were the richest part of the conversation. Now people had to smile and nod and people were transitioning for entirely aesthetic reasons and the whole thing turned saccharine and toxic.

    Upon reflection, the past six years have seen the entire trans movement transform into something more reflective of collective madness than personal gnosis, personal healing, or a personal seeking for salvation. the personal part may have been stupid, crazed, inspired, or misguided, but at least it was a personal choice. Now it is collective through and through, with no space for the personal, odd, terrible and numinous parts. This shift has driven me, personally, from the trans community. In a real sense, I can’t even have a meaningful conversation with a someone into transgenderism for the sake of fashion.

  120. GP:
    “This nostalgia is the myth that they hold on to. Their myth is the media generated “Leave it to Beaver” narrative of post-war America. A narrative which ignored rural poverty, lower class life and the Jim Crow south in favor of the white picket fence suburban “ideal”.

    Sure, the television programs of that era didn’t tackle ‘rural poverty, lower class life and the Jim Crow south’, but just maybe for the people in your group what they remember isn’t a myth, maybe it was their reality; maybe ‘Leave It To Beaver’ was pretty close to the kind of home life they had. My childhood was remarkably similar to that ’50’s/early ’60’s kind of family life in a lot of ways: no divorces, very large close extended family, spent lots and lots of time with the elderly family members (who taught us youngsters how to behave and kept us in line), family always had dinner together, stay-at-home mom, knew all the neighbors and the adults kept an eye on all the kids. It wasn’t perfect, for sure we didn’t have a lot of money, but all in all it was a really good way to grow up and I’m far from alone in having been raised this way. Are you saying that because we were unaware of/not protesting/not watching TV programs about ‘rural poverty, lower class life and the Jim Crow south’, the life we actually lived can be written off as something we’ve duped ourselves into believing? That we think we lived that way because we saw it on TV – those of us who had TVs (not all of us did)? Of course I know that not everyone had the same kind of childhood I did; some had an easier time of it, a lot had it much, much worse, but a rotten childhood isn’t automatically more real than a good one.

  121. @Violet: wow, didn’t know about your own transgenderism. what did you physically do for those three days? write a memoir or something! seriously! I would read it.

    I know what you mean about shying about from trans gatherings. I have found them awkward and uncomfortable. I made it point, because it seemed important, to go to the annual Trans Day of Remembrance. then the political (Social Justice) element crept into it more and more and I no longer go.

  122. @Chris – the reason people won’t let go of Warren’s one flight into nonreality is that any old stick will do to beat one’s opponent over the head these days. Not to mention the glee with which people are being routinely hauled up before the lynch mob of public opinion for having done something in their teens which wasn’t even in bad taste then, like their choice in costume party makeup, many decades later. How much less will said mob forgive a current error?

  123. @Doll on a windowsill – oh, Goddess, yes, Gen-Z gets it. For one thing, they have no conscious memory of a world that is not in crisis. One would have to go back to the 17th Century and look up the records of people born during the Thirty Years War to even get a handle on what that must be like. Or to the experiences of conquered or otherwise oppressed people born into the ongoing hard times of, say, Jim Crow, or reservation life.

    For the latter, if you can find this radio broadcast on line, treat yourself to an entire year of Native America Calling, which discusses everything from treating rez-life pathology with traditional ceremonies and diets, to scholarships and high technology, and everything in between. For the former, read (or reread, as I just did) Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, with special attention to her early life in Stamps, Arkansas. The stories that spoke to the people there and their condition were the Bible. The Beatitudes in Luke 20-26 were everyday reality to them, as real as the conditions they lived under.

  124. James, the “Secret Agents for Angels” in particular strikes me as a heck of a good game. (Mind you, I’m a fan of the old TSR game Top Secret, so that kind of game appeals.) A Christian RPG company could easily license a good general rules system like GUMSHOE, plug in the necessary details, and go for it. For that matter, why hasn’t the Mormon Church come up with an RPG set in the past described in the Book of Mormon? They’re really missing their opportunity.

    Brian, I don’t know the young man in question, but I know some young people who’ve gone into the military because that’s one of the few opportunities in today’s society to confront genuine challenges, instead of going through the motions and everyone gets a trophy for participation. (The academic scene is especially into that.) I wonder if reflecting on that would help you.

    BB, exactly. They could have done it, but “I got mine, Jack” became their ideology instead.

    Karim, hmm! Yes, that makes perfect sense, and looking at Daesh in particular as a revitalization movement really helps clarify what was going on. Thank you for this.

    Doll, it’s quite simple. First, too many people of my generation have an overwhelming sense of entitlement; they see themselves as the people who matter, the ones who know what’s right, and so they tend to hog the limelight and shove everyone else out of positions of power. Second, too many people of my generation are well aware at some level that our generation messed up catastrophically and left a half-wrecked and bitterly impoverished world to the generations that come after us, and they chase off members of those younger generations so they don’t have to face the consequences of our generation’s monumental failure.

    Horzabky, thanks for the correction.

    H, interesting. That’s not the way it appears in the translation of Cervantes I have.

    Polytropos, oh deer indeed! 😉 Yes, the impeachment charade is another round of Ghost Dancing on the part of the Democrats; it’s impressing nobody who’s not already firmly on their side, it’s not going to remove Trump (that takes a 2/3 vote of the Senate), and yet there they are, going through the motions. This is, what? The fifth or sixth thing that has seized the Democratic imagination and convinced the true believers that they can make the results of the 2016 election go away — and all the while they’re neglecting nearly everything that could bring them victory in 2020.

    Wesley, good heavens, yes. In early 20th century America, for that matter, dressing up in drag was a fairly well-accepted thing; even a city as provincial as Seattle was in those days had a nightclub where all the “ladies” were guys in drag, and straight men would go there to drink and watch the show. I think you’re right in pointing out that the medical and pharmaceutical industries have a huge stake in this — they love nothing better than a condition that requires people to take medicine for the rest of their lives — and cultural fashion is always an issue, too. There have always been some people who’ve lived as the other gender, so I assume there would be some of those nowadays as well, but the emergence of transgender status on the present scale — yeah, it’s a fad ably promoted by the medical industry.

  125. “If the fundamentalists had had the brains the gods gave geese they would have created their own RPG, set in Bible times, with the player characters as Hebrews contending with the various hostile pagan powers of the day, and collecting Grace Points which could be exchanged for healing, supernatural strength, and the like. It would have been wildly popular, and they wouldn’t have lost anything like as many of their young people.”

    umm…. have you ever been exposed to Christian pop-culture? Veggie Tales? Christian rock music? Mandy books? Frank Peretti novels? The Noah’s Ark game for Nintendo consoles? Sigh.

    If they got into the RPG business, a handful of kids would play out of a sense of obligation to their parents, who bought them the set. And then it would become a punchline for the next twenty years.

  126. @JMG: so you picture pharmaceutical execs getting together and talking about how they can keep the trans craze going? I have an open mind when it comes to fringe ideas. that one, though, sounds like something out of a Jack Chick pamphlet.

    people latch on to things. a NY Times magazine article came out that popularized Asperger’s. a few years after, people, who did not have Asperger’s claimed to have Asperger’s or thought they had it. I knew two people like this. my sister, who worked in NYC as a consultant, told me similar stories.

    this happened without any pharmaceutical company pushing meds on anybody. it happened by itself. for whatever reason, people learned about Asperger’s (who didn’t have Asperger’s) and said, “that explains everything”.

    no social engineering involved.

  127. Dear Justin,

    Thank you for the kind words regarding the story!

    Dear Jasper,

    Thank you for meditation. Honestly, I’m not quite certain what comment of mine you are responding to, but I think an interesting conversation can be had nonetheless!

    given your comment, am I correct in my understanding that you’re a Christian? I’m not sure if I can conceive of the world quite as you describe it with entirely coherent categories of “good” and “evil”, angels and demons, higher and lower. I do believe in evil, but is evil the opposite of good, or an unbalanced form of good? This I mean as a serious question. Water is good, relative to thirst. But drinking water excessively until one drowns and dies is evil. So is water good or evil? Water must then be neutral and excesses on either side are evil and a general dynamic self correcting balance must be good. And perhaps water is a significantly better than its absence, but it is not an unalloyed good. It is its own thing, with its own life and is good or evil based on human interpretations. Is water good of its own accord? Well, I certainly think that water is mighty, wise, and much more mature than I am. I would posit that rivers and seas are better in every way than I am. But they are not, from my perspective, unalloyed good. They are their own beings, with their own agendas and needs and inner lives. And so the good and evil you write of is rendered incoherent by two things:

    First, my very limited place in the cosmos which renders my perceptions only valid for an ape of my capacities.

    Second, the presence of beings for whom I am unable to make meaningful value judgements. Is that river my friend? Well, he’s done me quite a few favors and I’ve cleaned up garbage by his banks, so I’d say we’re friends. But that doesn’t mean he’s perfect; he’s better than me, certainly, immensely so, but has his limitations as well. The river may have done things which I might consider evil, his but perhaps that’s in keeping with his nature, which is, better than if he didn’t exist at all. I certainly feel blessed by my relationship to him, even though undoubtedly people have drowned in him.

    With the same logic, moving inwardly, the high can be evil and the low can be good! Carl Jung wrote in his incredible _Red Book_ that it is the low within us that teaches us mercy. And from that perspective, is not the low within us a source of strength and beauty? It can also be a source of baseness — the low then must be balanced, perhaps not against the high, but against itself. And the high perhaps must be balanced between inspiration and hubris. And then these must be balanced against each other once they are balanced against themselves.

    And for this reason, it seems that human moral appraisals are extremely muddled. That is to say, they are all the more important for that reason, but I am not sure that things can so easily be divided into good and evil, as your comment implies. I agree by “your fruits you shall know them,” but a really good hawthorn berry would be a very bad orange or banana.

    Dear Ria,

    Thank you for your kind words! I had a similar experience with trans social spaces too, for what it’s worth.

  128. Hi JMG,

    This is a fascinating series, thank you. Isn’t Cervantes novel a quintessential representation of Faustian culture? It’s often described as the first western novel, published in 1605. In our modern musical version Don Quixote sings “This is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far”…to dream the impossible dream!

    The otherkin terminology is new to me since I don’t wander around in those cyber regions, but the concepts are familiar. The extremes that everything’s gone to in our present era are pretty crazy and eminently mockable. Merciless satire is just where my mind goes! I’ve been working on a song called Pronoun Blues…in all likelihood exclusively for my own amusement.

    These delusional contingents of the Good People sure are cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Their descent into madness is so obviously tied to their “feeling the immense psychological and cultural pressures” prevailing in these times. I keep sensing that the upcoming Saturn/Pluto conjunction in Capricorn has a deep bearing on their fate.


  129. Hi John Michael,

    Hmm, apologies in advance for being largely dismissive, but the people so described are mostly empty and searching for meaning to fill the void. I’m unsure that it may be the correct word, however the word: ‘Purposeless’, comes to mind.

    There is only so much energy available on this here planet, and if humans take the majority of it, things can get a bit weird and that is also part of the story. It may be that the Draft horse guy actually has to live with memories of once being a Draft horse. But does he do any physical labour to learn to accept and adapt to those ghost memories? I’d be willing to guess that he does not.

    I tend to have this feeling that as people do less physical work and produce things for themselves, and they spend more of their time on activities that involve abstractions, then this world is what you get.



  130. Dear Ria,

    To answer your question, physically during those three days I went “through the motions” and “walked” like a ghost. I remember being very disassociated, as if floating through my life, and it was painful. Something had withdrawn from my body, something essential to living fully. On the third day, the whole thing became unbearable and I enacted the ritual I received in the vision and brought myself back into conscious awareness of my life.

    Interestingly, I would later learn that at the time of the ritual my rising sign and the placement of my ruling planet were *precisely* the same as in my natal chart, which I had no idea of at the time, and only discovered it about ten years after the fact. So I feel that I was led in an uncanny way into that experience by forces greater than myself.

  131. @Beekeeper Excellent point. I do think that much of what they reminisce about was their actual lived childhood experience. Much to think about.

  132. @PatriciaOrmsby et al, re: flu shots–

    There seems to be a mythology about vaccines that fits very well into this discussion. Its possible to make a good case for vaccines in general, in terms of risk vs. benefit for society as a whole. Some, of course, work much better than others.

    So it’s possible that the very strong convictions against vaccines of any sort, held by many, are an example of following a mythic belief and excluding pragmatic information.

    In the past, on this blog and others, I sometimes try to provide information about vaccines that I consider to be informative and neutral. I have often been surprised by vehement opposition to things that I have said (Not here though! Any differing opinions expressed here have been remarkably restrained, and well thought out–Face it, you guys ALL rock, whether you agree with what I think, or not!).

    So I am interested in hearing about the ‘view from the inside.’ If there is anyone who believes they are a convinced ‘anti-vaxxer,’ I wonder if they would be willing to say whether they feel they are participating in a mythic belief; What does it feel like?

    If you are convinced in that way, following is (what I would consider to be) a neutral, public-service, informative posting about Flu Shots and Vitamin D.
    Do you, as perhaps a self-described anti-vaxxer, feel that it is neutral, fair and informative? If you are unconvinced about vaccines either way, what do you think?

    Thanks in advance for anyone who cares to respond, and thanks JMG for this series of posts–It has provided me with a pragmatically useful Mythos to explain many odd behaviors of some of the people who live around me! 😉

    –E. Goldstein

    Flu Vaccines and Vitamin D

    The contents of the flu shot often (but not always) differs from one year to the next, as the manufacturers are trying to guess which strains of flu will eventually show up in our area. They don’t always guess correctly.
    Oddly, flu vaccines could be considered one of the most naturally-sourced of all medications, since they attempt to use killed viruses to prompt the body to create its own antibodies, which will prevent the live viruses from making you sick when they finally show up. Natural, killed viruses used on our own natural immune systems to produce natural immunity. If you feel ill after the flu shot, it may mean that the shot has worked, since many of our own immune responses make us feel ill.

    That said–You are right on target, Patricia Ormsby, with the Vitamin D usage. Vit D is one of the things that allows us to have immune resistance to viruses. In Summer, with 20 minutes of skin exposure to sunlight per day, you don’t need a Vit D supplement at all. But in the Northern Hemisphere, most of us need a Vit D supplement from about Oct 1 to March 1. Without it, we cover up skin for winter, Vit D level goes down, antiviral immunity doesn’t work as well, and we start catching colds right around October.

    For about 5 years, I decided not to get the flu shot as a way to test the effectiveness of Vit D against the flu–on myself. I weigh about 200 lb, and took 5000 to 6000 units of Vit D per day. This amount took me to the target blood level of 50 to 60 ng/ml.
    I’m in health care and constantly exposed to all sorts of infections including the flu–but in those 5 years, I never got the flu, or a cold. I _did_ get strep throat once, but that’s caused by bacteria, not a virus. So,you may want to take 1000 units of Vit D per 33 lb (15 kg) of body weight each day. If possible, get a Vit D blood level drawn to confirm you are near a target range of 50 to 60 ng/ml. Tweak the dose up or down a bit if needed.

    No guarantees, but Vit D in the Winter may be good enough to prevent flu. At least, it seemed to work for me.
    Oh! and 20,000 units a day is probably too much for long-term use, and may result in kidney stones. In the US, there is a 50,000-unit prescription Vit D that is sometimes prescribed once a week, but I have seen inconsistent results for flu prevention with this dose. Lower-level, daily use more closely mimicks what happens to us in Summer with sun-generated Vit D, so I trust that dosing method more.

  133. Due to an earlier post, I discovered the art of Margaret Brundage. There’s a gorgeous book that reproduces all of her lurid Weird Tales covers.

    The reason I bring it up is that in writing a review of the book, I did a bit of research and discovered this great quote from Robert E. Howard that fits into some of what you’ve discussed. This is (according to Wikipedia) from a conversation with Novalyne Price when he discusses his ideas for ‘Red Nails’. Margaret Brundage gave him a cover for the ages for that story.

    Here’s Robert E. Howard:

    “You see, girl, when a civilization begins to decay and die, the only thing men or women think about is the gratification of their body’s desires. They become preoccupied with sex. It colors their laws, their religion — every aspect of their lives.”

    Teresa from Hershey

  134. James and JMG, It’s likely that development of Christian RPGs has been attempted, but ran afoul of a problem that tends to arise when an organization with a pedagocial agenda, and usually no knowledge or experience of how games work, sets out to develop a game supporting that agenda. (I experienced this as a consulting game designer, though with computer games rather than tabletop RPGs, on several different projects.) It comes down to them expecting the game to force players into specific correct choices and behaviors, which makes for a poor game.

    I can imagine a conversation between a game designer and some Mormon Elders going something like this. The designer shows them a system where all the player-characters follow generally godly paths but that still leads to complications, dangers, setbacks, and difficult choices that are the basis for the adventure. “Oh, no,” say the Elders, “We want to show that following a godly path leads only to good outcomes and success.” “Okay,” says the designer, “then maybe the players have to choose between godly actions and sinful actions, where the sinful choices are tempting because they have advantages in the short term…” The designer wouldn’t get to finish that sentence. “Oh, absolutely not, making sin look attractive defeats our whole purpose here. Are you sure you’re a game designer, and not Satan in disguise?” So they end up designing the game themselves, and it turns out about as fun and interesting as solitaire rock-paper-scissors where the opponent always chooses rock because the developers’ goal from the start was to show the superiority of paper.

    Of course it would be possible to design a great RPG in those settings that expressed their mythic content well. But if a significant segment of the conservative D&D alarmists were objecting to the exercise of creative imagination in general, rather than just the specific content of D&D, which I think you (JMG) have hinted was likely the case, then they wouldn’t approve of a Christian RPG either. (Similarly, it’s not hard to find conservative Christian rants against Christian rock.)

  135. @Violet

    I read with interest your shamanic experiences of transgenderism (ist?). If JMG will allow me to very quickly toss in a few things in I can suggest some things to help further your progress and allow for better down-to-earth responses to whatever life throws at you – including dealing with Left-leaning Paganist cults who like hexing people they disagree with politically.

    I suggest getting Bill Bodri’s Meditation Case Studies – ISBN: 978-0998076454

    He covers many things that can come up during spiritual practices. He discusses Transgenderism in relation to spiritual practices.

    Here’s one example. The bit about Shamanic reasons for many transgender issues can be due to chi channels and the type of chi that’s raised to clear out a constriction or outright blockage. Example: Ramana Maharshi. He dressed as a woman, talked and walked like a woman and meditated on the Divine Feminine. Ramana Maharshi meditated so well on The Great Mother he grew female breasts. Chi flows where mind goes. If anyone disputes that Will can not effect matter they haven’t seen photos of Maharshi.

    And now back to our regularly scheduled Blog Programming…

  136. I find useful the Marx-inflected social science definition of myth as something that resolves a contradiction (conflict or tension). For example, the tension between consumption and pollution is resolved by the myth that eliminating plastic straws will help the environment.

    Four major contemporary myths spring to my mind, each with a pre-2008 neoliberal variant and a post-Occupy social justice variant. Each resolves multiple contradictions. This is just my attempt at an off-the-cuff sketch of a few.

    Progress. What is the meaning of social life in an unjust society? Progress gives our actions meaning. We may make sacrifices, but in the long run it raises us all up. Neoliberal: Spreading democracy and the American dream. Social justice: Securing equality and returning to nature.

    Identity. What makes people good or bad? Everyone has a coherent, authentic identity. Neoliberal: Good is giving people market choices that satisfy authentic preferences arising from their identities. Social justice: Bad is a result of oppression that denies individuals the freedom to realize their authentic selves. Privileged identities are inherently oppressive.

    Freedom. How do we reconcile diverse individual interests with society? Freedom allows people to achieve their individuality. Neoliberal: Freedom is negative freedom of choice and from restraint. Social justice: Society (patriarchy, white supremacy, normativity) programs people, suppressing their natures (particularly sexual); we are free when those pressures are removed.

    Rationality. Why are we better than they are? Because we are rational. Neoliberal: The aggregation of market choices produces maximum rationality. Social justice: Bad people choose hate over reason. Both: Credentialed people are more rational.

    Although by the definition above a myth isn’t necessarily false, I think all of those are. Some responses:

    Cycles. What is the source of meaning? Repetition with variation. Rhythm. Rhyme. Ritual. Day/night, birth/death, seasons. David Attenborough wasn’t kidding. We gain a sense of meaning not from feeling that we have transcended the cycle of life (progress), but from affirming it. Repetition is a key element of plot and story (the myth of progress is one such, derived from the Christian myth of the Second Coming).

    Multiplicity. How do we reconcile the bad we do with the good? We are neither coherent nor individuals. Friends and loved ones are part of who we are. We are deeper than we ourselves can see: performing authenticity places a false coherent limit on who we are. When Johnstone puts on a Mask, possession by it (or by a spirit or deity) expresses the latent multiplicity within (the good and the bad), and allows us to see our multiple and self-transcendent (e.g. archetypal) selves.

    Role. How do we act in society? We want freedom in particular (when we are prevented from something specific), but not in general: it feels oppressive, overwhelming us with choice and the constant need to prove who we are. Having a role frees us from that burden, allow us to simply be. (Although authority gets my back up, my observation is that despite what people say, they crave hierarchy.)

    Empiricism. How do we separate truth from false, what works from what doesn’t? Jonathan Haidt argues that the faculty of reason evolved to justify interests, not find truth. A chain of reasoning is like a game of Telephone: it too easily detaches from reality. Empirical reality isn’t everything, but empirical science is the anchor that brings reason down to earth.

  137. @Doll: I thought you might find it interesting that the latest fashionable disparaging/ dismissive reply on Twitter is “Okay, Boomer”. So of course some Baby Boomer went off about how that was “ageist”, and boy-oh-boy, did he ever get ratioed!

  138. Dear JMG
    All these poor people you’re describing, who want to be something different or someone else, who prefer wonderful fiction to drab reality… what’s driving them? I wonder. Might drug use have played a role in the rise of this widespread craving to go over the edge?
    You never mention it in these two essays, so far, and I found only one comment where the subject is so much as touched upon – Jeanne Labonte, but thinking of people freaking out in the course of history, religions, cults, sects, shamans, berserkers, and what have you, they always seem to need some potent substance to make the switch to ‘a different reality’.
    Which reminds me of Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan, and there is that intriguing book about the roots of Christianity, by John M. Allegro, ‘The Sacred Mushroom & The Cross’.

  139. Did anyone else sign up for Nano? I was out almost as soon as I was in because of the flu shot reaction (you have to update your word count daily). If you did, I hope you have fun and win whatever little prize they give.

  140. The thing about Quijano bothered me enough to look for an explanation.

    Wikipedia to the rescue:

    At the outset of the work (Chapter 1 of Part I) we are informed that there is confusion about what his name is. Some (imaginary) authors, the text says, disagree about whether his name was Quijada or Quesada, although by reasoning (“conjeturas verosímiles”) one could arrive at the name Quijana. At this point, Quijano is not even mentioned as a possibility, nor is Alonso. In Chapter 49 of Part I he tells us that he was a direct descendant of Gutierre Quijada. His “real” name of Alonso Quijano is only revealed (invented) in the last chapter of Part II, and with the stated purpose of demonstrating the falseness of the spurious Part II of the pseudonymous Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, in which work the protagonist is Martín Quijada.

    Now, something on transition surgery. This — and perhaps also many forms of abortion — will not be possible a century from now, who knows how much sooner, because antibiotic resistance will make complex surgeries impossible.

  141. Thank you, JMG, for the Wotan essay recommendation. I am still coming to terms with Man and His Symbols, which I am also reading at your recommendation from a few months ago. The local library system finally disgorged its only copy from some basement somewhere, and there is a lot going on in that book for me to get my head around. I read the Wotan essay this morning, and would like your comments on my interpretation.
    What I think I am reading is that Jung believed that the German nation has a collective shadow side represented by the Wotan archetype under a veneer of civilisation and Christianisation. In other words, an unresolved conflict between the Dionysian and Apollonian impulses. Writing in 1936 Jung appears to be waiting to see how this drama plays out in Germany. His metaphor of the water course I find interesting. The dry watercourse still has water running underground, but unseen. At any time the water could well up from underground and overwhelm the banks of the watercourse, causing a flood. Theoretically, though, the water can be let out from underground in a measured way and then you can have a river running smoothly within its banks.
    I have been having difficulty with the concept of how to acknowledge/integrate the shadow side into a healthy human psyche, and this metaphor was very helpful – the wild, creative, dark waters of our shadow side are necessary for a good life, but it’s best if they run between the riverbanks..

  142. I had an odd dream this morning, where I was in a virtual reality world, and wasn’t able to find the way out. I couldn’t find the exit, and often the layout of the place was misleading and led me around in circles missing the route out.

    Of course simply taking off the headset didn’t occur to me in the dream.

    I woke up feeling strangely tired and didn’t really feel alert until after midday.

  143. @GP and Beekeeper

    Beekeeper, thank you. I’m tired of having my childhood dismissed as a fantasy just because it wasn’t “gritty” enough to be “real”. Naturally my childhood wasn’t quite as idylic as LITB but it was much closer to LITB than the lives being lived now by the people who live in my old neighborhood. A childhood like the one you describe wasn’t the whole story, but it was part of the story, and no, you certainly were not alone.

    GP: I agree nostalgia is partly rooted in myth but you might consider that some people can remember a tiime and a place where things were pretty nice. Nice for regular working class folks Nice for ordinary people who were willing to work and save and pour their heart and soul into building families and neighborhoods. Take nostallgia with a grain of salt, but don’t be so quick to dismiss it out of hand. There’s a reality there, underneath the hyperbole and the exageration.

    As far as blaming boomers (my generation) I don’t think we’re greedier or more self centered than any generation that came before us (nor less so). I do think we managed to change American life drastically by turning our backs on church (at least traditional relilgion) families, marital committment, sexual morality, drug use, and on and on. We were anxious to change life but we didn’t know what we were replaciing things with. We didn’t take time to be sure that the old institutions/norms/attitudes were replaced with something better – just replacing them was enough for us. Some of the change was forced on us (and your generation) some was instigated by us, heedless of the consequences. To me, that is our legacy.

  144. Helix asks, “I just have to wonder whether absence of a father figure during a child’s formative years may be causing some of the effects noted by JMG in his post.”

    I don’t know. But I do know this.

    On army recruit course we could always tell the guys who’d had an absent father – whether he’d left entirely, worked too many hours, or was around but just didn’t care, all of which were much more common than actual abuse.

    They were all kind of lost, sad and angry, rebellious, and spent more time in self-pity than action to improve things. Nobody had to ask their family background, it showed.

    I see a similar thing in many online discussions involving young men, and it is equally obvious.

    As for the person with the relative joining the Marines, you can think of “warrior for the elite” or the like, but you can also think: he’s joining a community. Junger wrote a very perceptive book about this called Tribe, which he talks about in the TED talk below; like most TED talks it provokes thought, feels a bit warm and fuzzy, but provides no real solutions or list of things to do.

    Nonetheless, people need people, and people who are in groups which give them a sense of community and common purpose tend to be happier and psychologically more resilient than people who are not. When you find yourself wondering why people voluntarily join groups which have very restrictive rules – whether the military, orthodox judaism, or whatever – remember too the sense of community and common purpose. People seek this, and for some the military is an obvious place to find it.

  145. Owen, true enough.

    Know Brainer, why do you find that positive? That’s not a challenge, it’s an encouragement to you to contribute.

    William, when times are crazy enough it’s hard for anyone to be sane. Paying attention to where one’s meals are coming from, though, is tolerably sane under any conditions!

    Horzabky, I know some people in France, so we may be even fewer degrees apart, depending on who else knows people in your circle. Still, point taken.

    Matthias, interesting. I haven’t made time to read the essay yet, but I’ll consider it.

    David BTL, good. It was meant to be disturbing, and to raise exactly that sort of questions.

    Anon, thanks for this. I agree wholeheartedly about the problems with reducing gender to “whatever I happen to say it is,” and Roy the Rapist is certainly one of those! You’re right, too, that the entire transgender issue has become a football in a political game. I hope you and other transgender people don’t get hurt as a result.

    Caryn, that’s fascinating. My family experience is very different — my paternal family has always had a fairly clear idea of its origins, and those were confirmed and documented by a genealogist great-aunt. I can tell you which three small valleys in the southwestern Highlands my paternal line comes from, though we haven’t gotten it down to which of the valleys! My mother’s family has a traditional story about descent from the illegitimate child of a farmer’s daughter and a Lakota farmhand; I have no idea if that’s true or not, but it was never presented as meaning that we were Native Americans, just that I had a great-great-grandfather who was. (Other than that, my mother’s family is mostly Welsh and English.) But the world’s a wild place and I know not everyone shares the same kind of experience.

    Martin, thanks for this! I’d read something about this back in the day, but lost most of the details.

    Yorkshire, fascinating! You’re certainly more Native American than I am — even if the old family story is true, if I did the math right, I’m just a little over 3% Lakota.

    Caryn, sometime when you’ve got some spare time go online and find a PDF copy of an old issue of Weird Tales magazine from the 1920s. The conversations that went on in the letters column were just as hyperspecialized as anything you’ll find on an internet forum. The internet is a little more convenient, but fringe cultures have had their own ways to meet and talk about odd things since records have been kept!

    GP, that’s a crucial point. The flight into myth can be, among other things, a way to avoid dealing with pragmatic realities.

    Justin, thanks for this. There’s an equivalent in the Pacific Northwest, the Indian Shaker Church — no relation to the more famous Shakers of “It’s A Gift To Be Simple” fame. It was the same sort of thing you’ve described. A native visionary, Joshua Slocum, died in 1881 and then revived, having visited Heaven, where he was told to found a new religion. It’s still very much a living presence on reservations in the Pacific Northwest; members swear off liquor and tobacco (the latter was not a sacred herb to the coastal peoples) and follow a strict moral code. It played (and still plays) a very important role in the survival of Native cultures in the region.

    Ria, fair enough. Since I don’t have gender dysphoria — I remember fairly clearly my last incarnation, in which I was female, but it’s always been clear to me that that was then and this was now — I haven’t really studied the matter closely; I figure that the basic rule of courtesy applies to transgender people as much as anyone else: i.e., if it doesn’t affect me it’s really none of my business. It’s become a subject of discussion at this point because some trans activists are trying to get an extreme version of their ideology enacted into law — which is something that affects all of us.

    Dana, curiously enough, I discussed that very point in an earlier sequence of posts.

    Violet, I know the feeling. I wish we had some.

    Eric, fascinating. May I very strongly encourage you to consider writing an account of your experience? Change the names if that would be helpful, but there aren’t enough good clear accounts of that kind of thing by former insiders, and there need to be more.

    (If I ever get around to writing my fictional autobiography of Pharaoh Horemheb, the man who commanded the army under the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten and then undid Akhenaten’s attempted religious revolution when he took the throne, it’s going to be framed as exactly that sort of flight into the absolute elsewhere, followed by a slow, bitter reawakening to reality. But that’s fiction, of course.)

  146. JMG, this series has been a mindblow, and I’m looking forward to its conclusion. I don’t have much to add, except to note that, well, I trust it didn’t escape your notice that the DailyWire staffer who posted the video of Joe Biden unwittingly paraphrasing Quixote, Ryan Saavedra, happens to share a name with don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra? Makes one want to go looking for where Jung defined “synchronicity”…

    (And on a smaller scale, I just saw a reference to Sallust in a 150-year-old children’s book my housemate dug up somewhere, and had just been intending to look up who or what that was.)

    SaraDee, thanks for the mention of the Thrilling Narrative. I may have to go find it.

    Justin and Violet, I consider Violet’s The Ghosts in Little Deer’s Grove possibly the best thing Joel’s ever published in Into the Ruins, and I say this as someone whose work he’s published. To the point that I wonder if I should order a few extra copies of the issues it’s printed in, so I can lend it out to people when I gush about it. Thanks, Violet.

  147. Hi JMG and all,

    A very stimulating post- thank you!

    It seem to me that an enterprising egregore could do very well in this sort of environment, especially if it’s far along on its way to being capable of actions independent of its generators.A lack of pragmatic mindset and strong hunger for the mythic in an individual sounds like egregore dinner to me.

    On those lines- I’m currently about halfway through Mark Stavish’s book on egregores. I almost didn’t buy it because the fellow who wrote the foreword and is referenced a couple of times so far in the book gave me seriously bad vibes the two times I shared company. I have great respect for Mr. Stavish’s work, though so I got it. I think I was expecting more “Eureka!” moments, but honestly am ending up having more “Yeah, sounds about right -sigh-” moments. Looking forward to reading themore practical material in the second half now 🙂

    Have you read it? What do you think?

    Thanks as always,

  148. There have been times when there was a very strong anti-fiction bent to society, and I wonder if we might see that again as a backlash against this sort of insanity that matches itself to fictional characters.

  149. Mister Nobody:
    William Shatner, he of ‘Star Trek’ fame, went to town about the O.K. Boomer thing. It was great – and Shatner’s not even a boomer.

    Christopher L. Hope:

    I think you’ve hit it square on the head: “We were anxious to change life but we didn’t know what we were replaciing things with. We didn’t take time to be sure that the old institutions/norms/attitudes were replaced with something better – just replacing them was enough for us.”

    Canadian writer Donald Kingsbury said, “Tradition is a set of solutions for which we have forgotten the problems. Throw away the solution and you get the problem back.” Boomers didn’t stop to think about the reasons behind traditions (or ‘the way things are done’) and discarded them because they saw them as old and tired. Maybe we’re now getting some of those problems back.

    Oh, and it’s easy to mock those hokey old TV programs – yes, they were hokey – but there really were some places kind of like Mayberry and moms sort of like June Cleaver.

  150. Christopher L. Hope:

    “Nice for ordinary people who were willing to work and save and pour their heart and soul into building families and neighborhoods.”
    Thank you so much for that. I wish I could have said it half as well.

  151. A thought on madness, parasitism, etc from one wasting away in hikkikomoriville – and noting that there are residents celebrating their centennial – living independently in ordinary apartments, not in a nursing home or assisted living center. And realized at last the extraordinary life spans here were not Florida’s Fountain of Youth, but the same process that allowed my cat Spot to live to be 20. Which is old for a cat. But I rescued him from a life on the streets, gave his a nice warm home, cat food, veterinary treatment, shelter, protection, and freedom with a tall walled yard that dogs could not get into; everything a cat’s heart could desire.

    Domestic animals – pampered pets, if treated well – live longer than their free-lance counterparts. [Not the overweight lap dogs I see here in such abundance; nor, probably their owners, who scarf down the oversized portions of food on offer. I mean, a “regular” serving of oatmeal – a *cup and a half*!?!?]

    But the question arises now – what, within this context, can one do to stay real in this age of madness? Where the decor is regularly changed to reflect the childhood of the residents they hope to attract? (On tap this decade: Midcentury Modern. The Boomers are coming! The Boomers are coming! OH well, it means we’ll be treated to the music of their adolescence as well. “One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small, and the ones that mother gave you don’t do anything at all….”)

    Odysseus nearly escaped this trap, I believe. The land of the lotus-eaters?

    Advice freely welcomed.

  152. JMG:
    This is probably way off topic so please delete if you think it’s out of place. Or maybe this is just feeding into one of the myths of our time.

    Pictures of a scowling Greta Thunberg are being placed in Israeli cafeterias to shame people out of using plastic utensils:

    Put down that spork, Greta is watching.

  153. Good luck on your Horemheb novel! I was introduced to him – and his queen Mutnojdme – through a fascinating, and very irritating novel by Kerry Greenwood. Fascinating, because she did her research; irritating, because she threw her own prejudices into the reign of Akhenaten, turning it into a sort of Egyptian Taliban, for which she gives no evidence whatsoever, though she carefully documents everything else! But it truly deconstructs the rosy lens through which so many Christian writers of the past have seen that reign.

    Don’t expect character continuity when it comes to Nefertiti, alas.

  154. This past August I was made aware of a minor modern version of the Ghost Dance. An acquaintance of mine, a Wiccan and a fanatical SJW, committed suicide, after a long spiral into alienation and despair, in which she broke ties with anyone who didn’t match her dedication to the SJW cause.

    The Wiccan part matters because she was the leader of an activist group within the UU church I attended in Phoenix, and she provoked a fairly sizable schism within the church. I was peripherally involved, and looking back it seemed to be a time of strangely altered consciousness for the lot of us – the schism blew up out of nothing and no one seemed to have control of it. What I’m saying is, I suspect she did a working to affect the outcome.

    I also suspect, but will never be able to prove, that she undertook anti-Trump workings. She was certainly in the target demographic for the Magical Resistance, and her final breakdown was reportedly rapid and provoked by an utterly minor occurrence. (A UU minister selling a self-published book at the General Assembly* about how SJWs are taking over the organization – which, come one, if that ruins your day then you’ve got bigger problems than you’re admitting.)

    Magic or not, it looks to me like a case of a person who cannot reconcile ideology and reality, and chooses ideology with bitter results.

    *What’s General Assembly? The annual national conference of the UUs, in which they engage in the most boring and irrelevant activities yet devised by humankind.

  155. @Jez


    From personal experience: I grew up with a neighbour who was a childhood friend. He was home-schooled in elementary school. He moved out of town before high school but I did meet up with him again in university. He seemed to be living an somewhat dangerous life at the time and indicated he had issues in high school and wasn’t able to relate to anybody except adults. He was young though when he told me this and his opinion may have changed. For perspective this took place from 1990 to 2000.

    I also know of another family in the same town that is also homeschooling their children currently. This set of children are being homeschooled in an already isolated environment in the bush so to speak. There are issues with the extended family concerning their education and it has also become a point of contention. But again this is perspective and I haven’t talked to the children themselves.

    From another standpoint as a professional counsellor I think it’s important that children grapple with the world without heavy parent intervention if possible. Independence is important ect. and I am aware that a lot more happens in school than academics. The idea that bullies can also be teachers is something I consider. Complex social interactions are going on at school that are not possible in a home. I can say that I am positioned professionally in favour of public education as opposed to homeschooling for the average child in an average community let’s say. I’m also talking more from experience as a social service worker that has to meet government standards for the people I support. For example supporting youth who have been admitted to mental health wards and helping them reintegrate into school environments is one of my jobs.

    All that said perhaps a question to you is what kind of world do you think you need to prepare your child for?

    I’m not sure where you are situated or what the schools are like there. Currently I live in a Canadian city and recently a 14 year old boy was stabbed to death in front of his mother basically on school grounds. I also recently spoke to a music therapist from Missouri who informed me there have been 14 children killed in St Louis over the last year from gang shootings. Situations like this can drive people to become fearful and take their kids out of school to protect them.

    It looks to me like the academic literature can take you either way. However I would urge you more to find the experiences of the people in your area.


  156. JMG,

    I’m the “best friend” Eric Singletary was referring to in his harrowing account of the still-more harrowing events of 2008-2009. I’m thankful to him for writing that as a comment here, because otherwise I most certainly would have had to, because this essay hit home as few do, but a blog comment is simply not the right medium for me to tell that story: both because I seldom know where to stop writing in personal comments, and because that year remains acutely painful even at a decade’s distance. (Though I very much played Don Quixote to Eric’s Sancho Panza, I was in truth more like the girlfriend or the 17 year old transgender person to our unstable friend’s Soubi, drawn in to a much larger delusion out of both a romantic craving to be part of something Larger and Meaningful, and what is more, sheer desperation: for the previous three years, I had been struggling with diminishing hope and only the tools that someone in his early twenties year old raised as a fundamentalist Baptist is equipped with—i.e., not many—against a case of demonic possession afflicting my wife, and our friend was the only person I’d ever met who claimed to have real belief in and convincing experience with the horrible supernatural entities I’d been battling, and claimed to be able to do something about it—restoring a hope I’d pretty much abandoned. Suffice it to say, it did not end well, and several hospitalizations, institutionalizations, and at least one suicide attempt later, we are no longer married.)

    At any rate, it’s been my goal for some time to write up a proper account of all that happened, especially as it affected my own spiritual development (from fundie Baptist with a taste for the supernatural, to Druid who was tossed headlong into the Neopagan scene by a hurricane of crazy, found gradual stability and then climbed out of the Neopagan pool in a hurry as its waters grew increasingly more toxic, and eventually found a weird little home as a polytheistic Anglican Druid). It’ll probably be a while before it’s all written, but I’ll be sure to drop you a link when it’s done.

    -Scott H.

  157. @JMG, BB, Doll, A1 & al,

    Wow! We’ve had racism. We’ve had sexism. We’ve had ethnocentrism. Now we have “generationism!” It’s good to know we now have yet another outlet for our hatred and scorn.

    Reminds me of The Living Years song by Mike & The Mechanics:

    Every generation
    Blames the one before
    And all of their frustrations
    Come beating on your door

    I know that I’m a prisoner
    To all my Father held so dear
    I know that I’m a hostage
    To all his hopes and fears
    I just wish I could have told him in the living years

    So we open up a quarrel
    Between the present and the past
    We only sacrifice the future
    It’s the bitterness that lasts

    So don’t yield to the fortunes
    You sometimes see as fate
    It may have a new perspective
    On a different date
    And if you don’t give up, and don’t give in
    You may just be O.K.

    I have a few thoughts on statements like Doll’s “I have to say the sustainability of the US rests on Gen-Z’s shoulders and Gen-Z gets it.”

    The thing is, the Boomers “got it” too. We got it when our friends and classmates were dragged off to Vietnam, coming home in body bags or so damaged that many of them soon enough ended up in one. We got it when JFK was gunned down in broad daylight in Dallas. We got it when MLK and RFK joined him in the following years.

    The boomers made their fair share of mistakes. By far the biggest one was thinking that when we finally ended the Vietnam fiasco we had solved the major problem, and we could then just get on with our lives. What we didn’t understand is that the fight against wrong never ends.

    But we did some good things too. Infant mortality and world poverty dramatically decreased during the Boomer’s tenure. Primary education of girls worldwide, college enrollment of women in the US, and opportunities for women in the workplace dramatically improved. Much of this was carried out by efforts of Boomers. We were the first to consider renewable energy as a mainstream option and acted on it. The information revolution was almost entirely brought about by the Boomers. Since you’re reading this online, your actions attest to your view that this is a good thing.

    The generation before us was dubbed “the greatest generation” by Tom Brokaw. It was indeed a remarkable generation. They endured the Great Depression and fought WWII. I won’t say they won it, because the Soviets did more — and suffered more — than anyone else, but the Greatest Generation fought with bravery and valor, and played a vital role.

    But… the Greatest Generation also brought us Vietnam, the assassinations of the 1960s, which permanently soured the outlook of the Boomers on public service, and the “Reagan revolution”, which ushered in the corporatization of America. They created suburbia, an unparalleled infrastructure disaster: and a major burden on energy resources as well as a source of social alienation.

    I am not trying to blame my parents’ generation for the world’s problems. Some of these were simply unintended consequences. Others were acts carried out by monsters who were in no way representative of their generation. And so it is with us.

    The point is this — the world’s civilizations have had problems ever since there have been civilizations. Every generation has its own problems to deal with, has its moments of triumph, makes its mistakes and finds that even its achievements sometimes have undesirable consequences. Every generation has to fight to correct the world’s ills, and this is a fight that will never end.

    So all you folks who hate and scorn us, you’re on deck. Fight the good fight. And know that your victories will be temporary, there will always be another fight, and your kids will feel exactly the same way towards you as you feel towards us. Come back in 30 years and tell us how you fared.

  158. @Emmanuel Goldstein

    Back when I was a kid, I was vaccinated for polio, whooping cough, diphtheria, smallpox and one or two other things. Since these are all deadly diseases, these vaccinations make sense to me.

    But for Flu! Flu, really? Again, while growing up, once or twice every year, I would come down with a “three-day flu.” So did nearly every other kid in my elementary school. No one ever died, no one had to even go to the hospital.

    The downside to this was three days of an occasionally queasy stomach and emergency runs to the bathroom. This was far outweighed by the positives of being an unscheduled vacation from school, being able to kick back in bed, read a good book, and be pampered by the parents for those three days.

    So why all the paranoia about flu? Unless, as the Archdruid suggests, it is foisted on us by the pharma companies.

    Antoinetta III

  159. Paradoctor, of course the same logic can be applied. It’s not just that people can choose, either. If anyone can be a woman just by deciding they are, then all the protections and set-asides that women fought so hard to gain over the last century and a half have just been repealed, because any biological man can waltz right in and have them for the taking, just by saying “I identify as a woman.” That’s causing the implosion of women’s sports right now; women who dope themselves with testosterone to cause muscle growth are banned from competition, but biological men who have been supplied with testosterone by their own testes from puberty on are supposed to be allowed to compete without handicap? In retrospect, I suspect the adoption of extreme transgender ideology will be recognized as one of the worst setbacks women have suffered in modern times.

    Stormer, it may be rough, but yeah, that’s the situation we’re in.

    Paradoctor, no, the Druid revival emerged in the mid-18th century and had its great flowering in the 19th and early 20th centuries; the emergence of pop-culture Neopaganism nearly drowned it, and we had to do some fast bailing (and draw some very sharp decisions) to keep it from being Boomerized into infantility. (And remember, I’m saying this as a Boomer. I’m not impressed by my generation.)

    Pygmycory, that makes a lot of sense!

    Your Kittenship, good question. I suspect they got upset that no one took them seriously, and retreated to their own spaces.

    Jean-Pierre, I suspect you’re seeing the wave of the future. I’ve thought for some time that sometime soon, the necessary software will be developed to enable old movies to be digitally taken apart to such a degree that new movies starring James Dean, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, and so on can be manufactured, with all new dialogue and scenes, because the actors and actresses have been transformed into digital models that can be made to follow completely new scripts. The collapse of Hollywood’s celebrity culture will follow promptly.

    Materia, thanks for this. Roleplaying is great, so long as you don’t lose track of it. Any child who’s ever played at being something he or she isn’t has done it, and benefited from it; from there you go on up through endless iterations to the Imitation of Christ and its equivalents in other faiths. That’s one of the ways we learn to be human. It’s when we lose track of the difference between roleplaying and the real world that things get ugly.

    Jo Robear, thanks for this.

    Methylethyl, no, I haven’t. What’s wrong with Christianity that it has lost its imagination? That wasn’t the case in Dante’s time…

    Ria, parodying what someone says and using the parody to try to discredit them isn’t exactly courteous, you know; since you’re new here, I’m not going to toss you out the door, but please don’t do it again. As a rule, respond to what someone else says the way you’d want that person to respond to what you say. With regard to the medical and pharmaceutical industry, you might want to read this article and this one. The corruption of American medicine by corporate profit-seeking is an ugly story that too many people are pretending not to notice.

    Jim W, Cervantes’ novel is more a blistering parody of the Faustian spirit, but yeah, the musical catches the Faustian vibe.

    Chris, I’m not going to argue. A friend of mine who used to be a social worker before deciding it wasn’t an honest job likes to point out that many people get addicted to drugs or drink because it gives them something to do with their spare time. I suspect inventing new genders may fall into the same category.

    Teresa, thanks for this. I wonder if Howard read Giambattista Vico in translation, or encountered Vico’s ideas at second hand. For a kid from rural Texas he was very well read.

    Walt, no doubt. Somebody would have to knock some sense into them, or simply create the game and get it on the market, then pitch it to the churches.

    Geof, interesting. I’ll want to think about that.

    Ronald, I’m far from sure drugs are necessary. People can get really strange without chemical help.

    Packshaud, thanks for this!

    Blueday Jo, sounds to me as though you’ve grasped Jung’s point.

  160. Finding myself suffering from a soul curdled by long hours in the office battling the demons that are released from the heat of contractual friction (and playground personality conflicts that still baffle me at the age of 32), I feel inclined to point out, as biliously as possible, that all this discussion of gender seems to have overlooked the fact that it is a human construct. Part of our mythos of an understandable and divisible cosmos that is so vital for a large segment of the population to be able to get out of bed in the morning. This was revealed to me in reading a long in-depth article on female Olympic athletic regulation regarding gender (which I have lost the link to, but was from the start of the hoopla two years ago). Not only did the article touch on the history of the disgusted horror of the Victorian scientists who discovered “intersex” people existed, and the history of the Greek solution being applied to ensuring all female athletes were honest (nude review by the all-male officials), it had a third disturbing element. There were extensive interview comments from female-sexed female-gendered athletes about the unfair advantages of being an intersex female athlete, that struck my logic-circuits as undoing core arguments of the feminist mythos, i.e. that there are no differences between women and men. It had never struck me before, having no interest in sports, that the sexes were segregated to ensure fair competition, due to the physical performance mismatch. That was one of my major breaks with the failed liberal narrative, post-Trump. It also made the encounters with LGBTQ acquaintances discussing “death to the cis hetero patriarchy” not long thereafter very hard to resist turning into a misanthropic social experiment by bringing up the human-centric construct of gender.

  161. Chuck, he and quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli wrote a book on it, synchronistically titled Synchronicity. It’ll be waiting for you at a library someplace nearby, I’m sure!

    Bonnie, Mark’s a first-rate occultist and he knows his stuff. I haven’t read that particular book, but I’m not surprised you find it useful.

    BoysMom, dear gods, I hope not!

    Patricia, I wish I had some to offer.

    Beekeeper, yeah, “Little Greta Is Watching You” kind of works.

    Patricia, thank you. That sounds like a fascinating novel! Still, I tend toward a more nuanced take on Akhenaten. I see him as a visionary, so caught up in his grand insight that he couldn’t process what a disaster it was when put into practice — and my Horemheb was one of the many young men who was caught up in the vision, the grand hope and the excitement, and only very slowly realized how wrong the man he admired had been. As for Nefertiti, she’s a fascinating figure, in some ways even more interesting than her husband; I have a very particular and ultimately very tragic sense of her personality and destiny. But we’ll see whether The Shoals of Heaven (the working title of the book) ever really catches fire for me.

    Cliff, ouch. That’s got to have been harrowing to watch. May her soul somehow find peace.

    Mo Drui, thanks for this. Please do write your account!

    Helix, do you think it’s somehow inappropriate for me to critique my own generation, or to comment on events that I personally witnessed that involved it?

    DJSpo, fascinating. I’d heard the name, but not the rest of it.

    Architrains, when you say that gender is a cultural construct, are you differentiating between gender and sex?

  162. Owen, interesting content, but hoo boy, I gotta say that that video you posted about Randy Stair may be the most toxic link I’ve ever clicked. I stuck in there watching the video because it was bizarre and fascinating to watch the kid’s mind descend into its deeply warped state, but since Stair was creating video content the whole time that was happening, and that was sampled in this video, it was almost too real to watch that from, as it were, inside. This is a kid who made cartoons that very purposefully emulated the photos of the Columbine shootings, and had vivid fantasies about shooting others and himself.

    Then you had the narrator, though—pseudonymous and represented by a silhouette of someone blowing their brains out—who trawled through all of Stair’s video content, put together this video… and reached what I consider the wrongest conclusion he could have reached: namely, that we should try to stop future mass shootings by making fun of previous mass shooters for being different and not living up to society’s expectations (show of hands, who thinks making publicly fun of outsiders for being different will stop outsiders from going on shooting rampages?). He proceeds to demonstrate this point by making fun of Stair for being different—among other things, not cisgender enough.

    Add to that the comments below the video, which are literally cartoonishly anti-Semitic (see: Spongebob retouched with giant hooked nose), and when I got up from the computer afterwards I felt like I’d gone into a different and very sick place, and might easily end up with bad dreams down the line.

    ‘Course, I haven’t really ever gone to 4chan; maybe things are even worse there.

  163. Helix, as a Y child of Silents, I suspect most of us younger generations would cut the Boomers a great deal more slack if they would just shut up about how amazing they are.
    No, the Beatles weren’t great. No, no fault divorce isn’t great. Let me go on record as a heretic here: women in careers is not great, in fact, it really sucks. College for all is far over-rated and over-priced.
    We’re faced with a society to raise our kids in that is absolutely shattered, if we even dare have children, with schools that not only do not but cannot educate so that our only option if we want our children to be literate and numerate is to teach them ourselves, and crushing debt from the college your generation, as our counselors and advisors, told us we absolutely had to have to be successful.

    Believing you is on us. Making the best of it is on us. I doubt while Boomers are bragging about spending their kids’ inheritance and how generally awesome they are that we’ll be nice and polite about it, though. Y’all got some nitwits with big microphones (and bumper stickers, etc) who really need to learn that just because you can be a donkey doesn’t mean you ought to, and while they aren’t all of you, you let them speak for you all far too much of the time.

  164. Helix-

    As a millennial, I should make it absolutely clear that there are many things I am thoroughly appreciative of the boomer generation for (Rock music, fights against racism/ sexism, sexual freedom- just to name a few things). I also have many boomer friends/ colleagues (my own parents are ‘just’ boomers) and greatly admire many people of that generation (including a certain archdruid 😉 ). However, the fact of the matter is, the boomers have also left quite an enormous mess for my generation, and those long after me, to deal with, so think its only fair I can express just a little frustration at this predicament.

    (sorry JMG sorry for this off topic rant, I just need to let off a little steam)

    Good day to you Helix !

  165. Something troubles me reading through this.

    When I was growing up, my conformist, lower middle class world had a good deal of certainty. We were told who we were, what mattered, what was right and what was wrong. We knew our neighbours, believed in science and in progress and we knew, mostly by the absence of a language, which parts of our social world and our own personal inner worlds to turn a blind eye to, or to not notice at all. We read, watched and heard very similar media, music and stories.

    I’m struggling with what I want to say here. Something like this: It seems to be inevitable that trust in all the things that rested in collective adaptions to a particular time and place, including identities born of them, would be radically undermined or even dismantled by rapid change. An influx of new language and ideas was bound to bring instability and uncertainty along with new possibilities.

    The damage we have done to the physical world and the crises we have created for ourselves have co-occurred with and profoundly influenced this flux in what we thought we knew, especially in how we have responded, but they were not synonymous with it, even if they evolved interdependently.

  166. For Akhenaten-fiction, I very much recommend Judith Tarr’s “Pillar of Fire.” I found its sensitive treatment of Akhenaten’s visionary experience and fallout in a narrative with (at least a lot of) historical accuracy to make for a great read. YMMV, my daughter couldn’t get into it, but it’s one of my favorites.

    I thought Helix’s comment was in response to Doll and in that light I thought it was well said. I’m not a boomer but this whole “let’s blame somebody for our problems” shtick is less useful than, you know, standing up in the face of what we have been given and rising to the occasion with the best we’ve got. Every generation has idiots and not-totally-idiots. I’m less brazen than Doll. I’d hesitate to both wholesale hate one generation and laud the entirety of another. They’re ALL made up of humans, after all.

    Antoinette, a stomach “flu” isn’t influenza. Influenza makes you feel like you’re seriously going to succumb and die. If you’re unlucky and your strain causes an immunologic cascade, well, you were unlucky and the succumb and die part could become reality. You know if you’ve had the real flu. It’s miles removed from a cold.

  167. Jmg, out of curiosity, what do you think of that website “” where you found the fictionkin story?

  168. Doll on the Windowsill

    “No offense JMG, or any other boomer on here, but I hate the baby boomers.”

    A book you might appreciate.

    A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by
    Bruce Cannon Gibney

  169. JMG

    I am breaking my sworn vow to Never Talk About Transblah On The Internet in order to second many of the things said by the first “Anon” commenter, but coming from someone who made the journey in the opposite direction to hers.

    My own thoughts about the subject are far too long and nuanced to go into here, but broadly: these days I’m scared by the “Trans-activists” and don’t want anyone to imagine that I’m in agreement with them. And yes, the numbers have become crazy large – a fashion dynamic has crept in. And of course it has become such an excellent opportunity for self-righteousness.

    I’d also add a historical point to “Anon”s comments about the UK Gender Recognition Act. Even *before* it was passed, my own experience was that it wasn’t hard to legally change gender – a letter from a psych got your passprot changed and then everything else was changed in line with it. The only thing that the Gender Recognition Certificate added was a fake birth certificate that would enable you to get married. As I could have married my boyfriend anyway (if I’d had one) this hardly mattered to me.

    Prediction: “peak trans” in ten to fifteen years, then it will rapidly collapse under its own weight and numbers will return to near-historical levels.

  170. Re the generations and their discontents

    To some extent, there is a dynamic of “the sons paying for the sins of the fathers” in that each generation is forced to confront and deal with (though whether successful or not is another issue) the consequences of the choices of the generation(s) before–karma, in essence. In the current schema, I’m an Xer, a group defined generally by apathy and “meh.” We stand in the crossfire of the Boomers and Millennials muttering, to a some extent, “a pox on both your houses.” I don’t feel that way personally, but I do see that as the general case.

    But the Boomers were dealing (however unsuccessfully) with the actions of the Greatest Generation, who themselves were victims of the choices made by those earlier adherents to American Progressivism who thought that entering into a purely European conflict so that we could remake the world in our own image was somehow a good idea. But the Progressivists were themselves born of the excesses of the Gilded Age and the horrors of the Civil War, which were in turn consequences of a whole chain of failures, including the decision to embrace imperialism in the form of Manifest Destiny and ultimately rooted in the Founders’ failure to address the contradiction of human slavery at the birth of the American republic. (Admittedly, I’m working very loosely here, and there’s much more going on than what I’ve summarized, but the dynamics are there.)

    I’m sure that Xer apathy will be castigated in the future as well, just as Millennial SJW-ness will be the cause of much head-scratching and bewilderment. We take what we’re given and do with what we can, sometimes well and sometimes not. I suppose it’s good we come ’round again, ’cause we sure aren’t going to manage it in one try.

  171. @Natarena,
    Thank you for the information on Max Blumenthal. I was afraid for him because none of the sources I’d read mentioned he’d been released. Apparently they are still fixing to prosecute him, so there is a lot he is not allowed to say.

  172. Hi JMG: Thank You for your reply, but I think I haven’t made my point clear: Yes, no doubt people with off-beat interests found ways to communicate and congregate long before the internet, even if they were far far away from mainstream interests or personalities. My point was that the mainstream of Western society today spends arguably more time interacting, communicating and congregating in virtual spaces than in physical IRL (in real life) ones and that affects us in insidious ways we have yet to truly grapple with or fully understand it’s ramifications. Concerning for us as a whole, but Wow! Really concerning for the younger generations who have never known life without it. Yes, I can see a collective ‘madness’ along the lines of the Ghost dance, (horrible painful tale, BTW) creeping in and settling down; but again in slower, stealthier, more insidious, less obvious way. Less obvious and therefore harder to ‘combat’ or hold back/keep in perspective.

    As for the back and forth of the Boomers, (I am personally at their tail-end at age 58, so kind of in / kind of out). I dunno – yes we’ve screwed up. I just don’t think if the humans who now just happen to be born in Gen-X or Z or thereafter, if they were to change places with us, would they have done any better? I agree with Helix, above – we all deal with the problems and issues we were dealt at the time, and frankly in some ways we all screw up. We do the best we can at the time and we are selfish greedy pigs, (a.k.a. humans). I’m grateful for outspoken proponents of younger generations pointing these things out to us, but they should also beware that their turn will come too. So maybe a self-awareness like that will be able to guide them on a better path. I am one of those who hopes and works for my children being better than I was. 🙂

  173. I also just wanted to thank those commenters in the transgender, (transsexual?) population for sharing their insights and perspectives with us. I know very little about this and it has been helpful.

  174. I have often thought it a great tragedy that America, television/advertising, capitalism, and technology all matured together, like dysfunctional quadruplets. I used to think this was coincidence, but I’m now doubting that assumption.

    These stories of delusion all scream WANT to me. JMG, last week you spoke of the erotic mode. Can we see these descents into madness as imbalanced “victories” of desire? In other words, the breakdown of the mythic causes the erotic to completely override the pragmatic?

    If that’s the case, the will would seem to be implicated, but in a grossly unhealthy way.

    A million thanks for regularly blowing my mind.

  175. I suppose I find it positive because it is refreshing to find a place where you can discuss and question subjects with civility. Certain topics, like the ones mentioned here, in other parts of society, depending on your circle or job, etc., cannot be questioned or the hammer of the thought police will come down. The attitude is that if you are a white male hetero your opinion or thoughts count very little.

    I do have in-laws who are transgender, and I love them. And I had an elderly neighbor who I was close to who turned out to be transgender. She is almost 80, and was an “early adopter” and got the old switcheroo. I had no idea until she said it to my wife and I because of something she was going through we were helping her with and she needed us to understand that detail. Of course, I then had a better understanding of certain “attentions” she gave to me as a younger man. I’d had gay men hit on me many times, and now I realized how this was similar, when before I couldn’t place it. I’m not offended it but it did put things in a different context.

    Anyway, as Dave Chapelle said in a recent comedy bit, if somebody is willing to have a body part surgically removed (oh, he said it different) they must be serious about it…

    But more to the point, I find within all these questioning, non-binary, non-specified, weisms, there is a certain degree of narcissism. I agree there is a spectrum of gender…Effeminate men and butch women have been around forever. But I think now the number of people experiencing this seems to be predicated on attention seeking. I think transgenderism is on the rise in part just because it is fracking trendy in certain scenes. And it is a way they can be even more morbidly self-introspective than this culture already encourages.

    Yup, that morbid self-introspection is one of the contagious mental diseases in our atomized society. Feelings are great guideposts but they make poor masters. I know from experience what is like to live based on feeling rather than principle & it can be quite destructive. But our culture has elevated feeling above principles or actions. “Let’s look at that nasty thing inside of us and talk about it for awhile. How does it make you feel.” Well, I’m feeling quite sick of that attitude myself. I do see that there is a shift away from this, but it is still very unbalanced. I guess so unbalanced that if you feel like you are a character from an anime series than you actually are.

    It’s great to be a part of this conversation.

  176. @JMG re: “… then all the protections and set-asides that women fought so hard to gain over the last century and a half have just been repealed…”

    In places with captive and pre-discredited populations – prisons, mental institutions (such as exist) etc, those protections have already been thrown into the dumpsters. We have male guards running rampant among female convicts, knowing that nobody’s going to take the word of a (sneer) felon – you know they all lie about everything, right? – over them. Sorry – I follow stories about such things with a cold shudder. You won’t cure prison sexual abuse* by reverting to the women-in-charge-of women model the Victorian reformers (!) fought so hard for, but you’ll cut it way, way down. When you mention it, someone cites the job equality laws. Well, safety is a Bona Fide Qualification in my eyes.

    *For a good view of that, the musical Chicago presents a laugh-a-minute view of Big Mama.

    As a lifelong feminist, I say that, since captive populations attract predators the way sugar attracts ants, and the men whom Onething say are always watching women for an opportunity, aren’t generally looking for an opportunity to please them, but to “get them some,” certain safe spaces should be permitted.

    BTW, the same is true of boys in the same position, though I’d suggest male-female pairs of guards and counselors for them, house-parent style.

    Pat, ducking more rotten tomatoes.

  177. @Emmanuel Goldstein,
    I don’t call myself an “anti-vaxxer,” and don’t know anyone who does. The term seems to be applied to anyone questioning vaccine safety, for example, as the result of seeing someone hurt by a vaccine. I’ve heard of people who refuse to vaccinate their dogs against rabies, and perhaps such people actually exist, but from what I’ve read recently about Internet trolling, I wonder if that is what is actually going on as a means of discrediting anyone who questions vaccine safety by association. Recently, people are using the term “safe vaxxer,” and I suppose that is where I would fit in. Japan’s vaccine schedule seems reasonable to me, but America is really overdoing it in my opinion: two close friends and my brother have suffered serious reactions to vaccines there. I became concerned that in a panic, forced vaccination could occur, so I downloaded and saved information on how to minimize risks if that were to happen or whenever I decided I would like the protection a vaccine could offer. There are people who question the degree of protection afforded by vaccines, and I think that is a valid question.

    Regarding vitamin D, ideally one would test their level and try to optimize it. Where testing is not available, such as where I live, it’s more or less “seat of the pants.” I supplement November to February and whenever rainy weather continues too long. And I’ve been fairly conservative about it, with 5,000 units a day, except December, when I was taking 10,000 units a day. Well, last year I mistakenly doubled the dose for not paying attention to the label, and for the first time in many years did not get sick at all, so I was probably being too conservative before then.

    My husband lost control over his blood sugar a week or two ago, and I realized we’d had lots of rain this year, so I started handing him 10,000 units a day of vitamin D (which I’m doing now too), and he quickly regained control. There are multiple benefits. Still, if you are supplementing vitamin D, ideally you should be testing your levels. Otherwise, you should be aware of possible signs of overdoing it.

  178. Are there any readers of Edgar Cayce out there? According to the channeling sessions which dealt with Atlantis, there was once upon a time a kind of inter-species mixing. Some humans had wings, some had hoofs or donkey ears, etc. And so it happened that the human-humans thought the lesser of the animal-humans, and perhaps because they were in the majority, prevailed upon them to be their servants and slaves. To the rescue came the healers, who set up clinics where the animal appendages could be removed. And so the animal-people all got plastic surgery, if they could afford it. I’m glad I don’t live in that reality… way too complicated.

    “Sex, death, and the anguish of space time.” These are the thoughts that humans are occupied with, according to Carl Jung. I never had time to think about these things when I had a full-time job, and got all my news from Facebook.

    I wonder if this conversation is heading toward magical path-workings, and the rules governing their use. Such as: only work magic on yourself, or on another who has given you permission. Since magic is focused intent, don’t do the work in fear or anger. Remember that what you send out will come back to you. Leave room for the wise solution you haven’t thought of yet.

  179. “So to society, sex (which is a billion years old) is a convention; race (which is 19th-century colonial psuedoscience) is debatable; and class (a construct) is solid reality. That is reversal of plain truth; a kind of perversion.”

    ParaDoctor, I think there is some logic to it. You can say “I feel like a woman”, and no one who accepts the basic possibility of transgenderism could prove otherwise with certainty. But if you say you are a billionaire, that still implies possession of certain tangible and auditable resources. Of course, it’s possible that this just reflects my own insufficiently advanced mentality that does not readily accept the possibility of possessing a vast fortune on the inside. 🙂 And I suppose proving that can also be easier said than done…

    It is interesting that race is more contentious, though. The charitable explanation may be that it has no obvious biological basis, unlike transgenderism (in many cases, though evidently not all). I am not sure that is the only reason, though. The thought occurs that groups rallying around racial identity are usually much more strong, wide-reaching (within their communities) and cohesive than ones that rally around being women (a much, much larger and more disparate grouping, after all), and therefore are more likely to effectively, and sometimes ruthlessly, police access to their identity. But that is really just a thought.

    There is a similar case that is more famous among Russian-speakers like myself. A certain prominent liberal journalist with two ethnic Russian parents who had sent him to an elite mathematics-focused school with a well-known unofficial policy of preference for Jewish students declared that he considers himself Jewish on the grounds of spending a lot of time around Jews (on top of the school’s demographical bent, his mother divorced his father and married a Jew when the kid was 11). He was, however, an atheist, and very outraged when no rabbis, how ever liberal, were willing to acknowledge him as a Jew if he did not at least convert. Naturally, respecting existing traditions of ethnic co-optation was beneath his elevated sense of human dignity.

    There is a certain cult of Jewish intellectual and moral superiority among Russian liberal intellectuals, which may help explain this on a subconscious level (my superficial impression is that nowadays, at least, this cult is a lot more widespread among ethnic Russians rather than among any other groups; actual ethnic Jews, including the one whose blog I had originally learned this story from, tend to be variously embarrassed or annoyed by this nonsense, and not very accepting of the journalist in question).

  180. Here is a synchronicity for you. Over on Zerohedge, stories have been popping up regularly on the furor in Thuringia, a state in the literal heart of Germany, and the location of Kyffhauser mountain. It appears that German Nationalism is stirring again with the recent election successes of the AfD, which is a right leaning political party. Wotan rising?

  181. @JMG: I’ve definitely thought about it. As Scott mentioned in his comment above I’m sure it’d probably take the form of an extended blog post first with both of our accounts, which would at the very least be therapeutic to get the whole thing out there, and I have heaps of journal entries and e-mails from that time period to sift through as well. But at some point it probably does deserve full length treatment as a case study in thought forms and collective madness, which would require a deep dive into the relevant psychological and occult literature as well as some of the stories of similar cases (so many of which ended in murder or mass suicide)… The human mind is such a rickety, ramshackle thing isn’t it?

  182. John–

    Apologies if this strays too far, though I see it as pertinent to the issue of divesting oneself of actual reality for a far more comfortable fantasy:


    Time to Start Ignoring Moody’s

    Moody’s continues to collect economic data, which makes sense, because that is their business. They also continue to make predictions about the 2020 presidential election, which makes less sense, because that is not their business. In view of the excellent week that the market had in response to news of a possible thaw in the trade war with China, their latest prediction is particular rosy for Donald Trump. Not only do they see him winning, they expect a landslide.

    This is, to be blunt, utter nonsense. In fact, one of their three models has Trump claiming 351 electoral votes. Recalling our rundown of the 14 swingiest states in 2020, 351 EVs would require him to sweep all 14 (including the several where he is badly lagging every major Democratic candidate), and then to somehow find another 20 EVs. Colorado, New Mexico, and Washington, perhaps? Virginia and Oregon?

    There were a lot of lessons to be had in the 2016 election, and one of them is that pocketbook issues don’t matter as much as they once did. They do matter some, but they’re clearly not decisive. It’s possible that this is a permanent sea change in American politics, it’s also possible that it’s a temporarily blip caused by a “culture wars”-centered candidate like Trump. Moody’s gets a lot of attention because they’re a big name, and they write very official-looking reports, and they’ve had some success predicting presidential elections in the past. But as long as their model is based more on the politics of the 1970s than it is the politics of the 2010s, they are simply not worthy of that attention

    That last paragraph jolted me hard. Trump as a “culture-wars centered candidate”? As a non-pocketbook issue candidate? Really? Trump was fundamentally an economic candidate: economic nationalism, deep-sixing the TPP, withdrawal from foreign quagmires, jobs for the working-class and neglected fly-over country. What 2016 election did these folks witness, I wonder, because it sure wasn’t the one I saw.

  183. Dear Emmanuel Goldstein,

    Thank you for that very informative mini essay about vaccines. I did not know that the viruses contained in the flue vaccine were killed viruses, and I also didn’t know that the human immune system reacts to dead viruses in the same way in which it reacts to live ones. Does it make any sense to speak of viruses as being alive or dead? I ask because I once heard a microbiologist say in a lecture that she herself thought viruses were dead entities.

    My objection to vaccines, and I have never taken a flue shot, is lack of transparency of vaccine manufacturing.

    Are you willing to answer the following?

    What companies make vaccines?

    Where, as in precise geographical locations, are the vaccine factories, if that is the best word, located?

    Which govt. departments of which countries, such as FDA, for example, supervise said manufacture and how often is that supervision exercised?

    What chemicals and elements besides the dead viruses are contained in the liquid that gets injected into a living human. Specifically, why is mercury, a heavy metal and a known poison, a necessary component of a vaccine.

    Mr. Goldstein, it is not just science in which the public is losing confidence. Many of us outside the right wing echo chamber retain little or no confidence in and respect for business. The famous “profit motive” might have made a lot of financiers rich, but it has done nothing for us working class folks. From where I am standing, the flue shot is an expense I don’t need. Herbal cold remedies are cheaper and only used when needed.

  184. Dear Geof, one small quibble with your otherwise useful schematic: the SJW contingent is almost entirely high urbanite and has very little interest in getting back to nature. I think the SJWs are in their own way also believers in the God of Progress.

  185. I’m compelled to comment here. I’ve read many of Mr. Greer’s books and followed his blogs for several years. His work has helped me find my own spiritual path. 

    I can say that without a doubt, transitioning was absolutely essential to maintaining my mental health and pursuing my inner growth.

    As a small child, and even my parents now agree, that my energy and interests were that of a boy. While I didn’t insist that I be called male pronouns, my entire inner being knew that was my identity. After the especially awkward puberty and early adult years, I realized that transition was an option. 

    For those who are not aware, embarking on this path requires jumping through several medical hoops. 

    First I had to find a counselor/therapist. I would have to convince them that transitioning was best for my mental health while expressing that I had other psychological issues. (schizophrenia, etc)

    That therapist then will write a letter which is taken to a doctor who will hopefully write a prescription for the appropriate hormones and be willing to provide follow up care. This cycle gets repeated when any surgeries are considered. Depending on income, where one lives and various other factors, all of this can be hard to achieve. It’s not something that is generally just achieved in a matter of days.

    What I just described above hopefully debunks some beliefs that people transition for “attention” and such. Possibly this happens but everyone I know in my local community did this out of sheer need to live an authentic, peaceful life. 

    There’s some evidence that gender dysphoria is a result of insufficient hormones being provided to a fetus at certain developmental stages. Maybe it’s an environmental factor similar to what may be causing increases in autism. I’m no scientist and I haven’t researched it much to be honest.

    What I am certain of is that for the vast majority, choosing to transition is a danged difficult decision and the process itself is no walk in the park. Many lose their friends, family and careers. Many reboot themselves to the point of moving away and never revealing their pre-transition past. I personally feel that is a bit extreme but I’ve been fortunate overall regarding my own journey. 

    I’ve always viewed transition as a medical decision that’s really no one else’s business but my own. I’ve been really peeved with how it’s become a political tool for both sides. Particularly the outrage camps. 

    I think that as this society decays, people use the personal decisions of others as a means of distraction. No different than fretting over how the neighbor doesn’t mow his grass as often as someone thinks he should. Does it affect their life? Not in the least.

    Regarding this otherkin business, well, I just don’t know what to think about that. Comparing it to the transgender community seems to be a bit of apples and oranges.

    At any rate, that’s a bit of my perspective at year 36 of this life. I appreciate JMG for having this place of thoughtful discourse. A note: I have not yet read everyone’s comments on the essay so this isn’t a direct response to anything posted here. Good day, everyone. 

  186. Dear Chuck Masterson,

    Many thanks for the kind words!

    Dear Happypandatao,

    Thanks for this! Certainly my own experiences were a lot less focused and a lot more chaotic than those of Ramana Maharshi. Only relatively recently have I began formal devotions to my patron goddess, which has transformed my life for the much, much better.

    The chi channels seem real to me. As posited in an earlier comment, I’ve noticed people drawn to transgender identities for several reasons. In my own case I wish I had found a way to enter into a more spiritual consciousness in a manner that was less chaotic and messy.

  187. Since the topic of generational conflict has come up, I want to throw my two cents into the discussion: I think the combination of a massive sense of entitlement and throwing away all their dreams has permanently scarred most Boomers. (NOTE, I’m talking from a Canadian perspective, although Anglo-Canada, culturally, is closer to the northern US than the northern US is to the south, so I suspect this is applicable across the US as well. I don’t know enough Boomers from the US to say for sure though). The sense of entitlement has created massive issues because the world doesn’t work the way that they think it should, and in particular it has given them the consequences of their actions, a state many of this generation find intolerable; meanwhile, the emotional scars from refusing to take any of the actions they said they needed to take (admirable exceptions aside) has scared many of them, deeply.

    And so they engage in the typical tactics to cope with pain. I’m convinced this is what’s motivating the articles which flood the mass media about how younger generations are “entitled”; outside of the privileged classes, most of my peers aren’t. In fact, a sizable chunk of our income goes to supporting elderly relatives; we have lower incomes; and yet when we ask for basic services which existed in the 1980s, or even for that matter last year*, we do so at the risk of having an angry Boomer yell at us.

    We are the first generation to be poorer than our parents. The cost of everything from rent and utilities to basic foods has gone through the roof, and house prices have skyrocketed. This is great for those who own houses, but for my peers, it means that quite often even if we have a full time job, which is not a guarantee given the job market distortions which systematically favour Boomers, we can’t afford a place to live.

    Then, as several of my friends have found, a lot of people refuse to treat us as adults, instead insisting on treating us like overgrown children. This is very convenient, since it allows the Boomers to ignore our complaints and frustrations as “millennial temper tantrums”**

    Many of my peers are frustrated with this state of affairs. In particular, we are tired of being blamed for the problems in the world, especially when it comes from the people who made the decisions that lead to this state of affairs. Many of us are following idealistic paths of some form or another, and are getting tired of the bitter cynicism coming from people who could’ve made a difference, but chose not to do that, instead cashing out for one last orgy of conspicuous consumption.

    Well, we’re the ones who have to pay the bill, so it makes sense we’re frustrated, especially when the people who cashed the cheque are yelling at us about how it’s our own fault we aren’t having lives even better than the ones they had. This is the perfect situation for generational conflict to occur, and so of course it’s happening.

    I don’t think inter-generational conflict is inevitable, and certainly not on the scale we see today, and although I haven’t looked into it, I doubt Boomers were as frustrated with previous generations as we are with the Boomers. I also doubt that 30 years from now, my generation will be viewed by people born five years from now as my peers view the Boomers.

    *Fracking bus service getting gutted for a train which doesn’t work. Anyone who relies on public transit where I live can tell stories of how the train has ruined things for them.

    **Yes, I’ve had this phrase thrown at me, only once though. The specific context was informing someone who was interviewing me for a job that I could not take the job because the company demanded I be free whenever they wanted to schedule me. As I had prior commitments (I do a fair amount of volunteer work), this was not tenable for me. I dodged a serious bullet there.

  188. This amusing story seems relevant here. It’s Christian rather than Druidic, but I’m sure you can handle that.

    A very pious man is listening to the radio when an announcement is made that terrible rains will affect the area in the coming days and that the situation looks so serious that significant flooding is to be expected. All those living in low-lying areas are advised to leave. Shortly after the broadcast, there is a knock at the door and the pious man opens it to see his neighbour. “Have you heard?” asked the neighbour, “there’s going to be a terrible flood, we have to get out of here!”
    “I have no fear,” replied our pious man, “God will take care of me.”

    In the night the rains came lashing down and the river quickly overflowed its banks. Water started running through the streets. The next morning outside the man’s house, a bus pulled up and the driver came to the door of the pious man’s house. “Quick, grab a few clothes and something to eat, the water’s rising fast, you can ride along in the bus to safety.”
    “No thank you,”the man said, “I have faith in God, He will provide.”
    “Suit yourself!” said the man from the bus and the bus drove off.

    Soon enough though, the waters rose to several feet and the pious man was forced to abandon the ground floor and move upstairs. The next morning the water was lapping just below the window ledge of his bedroom. As he looked out at it, a rubber boat pulled up and a man in the boat said, “You can’t stay there, the water’s going to go up another ten feet they say. Quick climb into the boat and we’ll take you to safety.”
    “No thank you,” replied the pious man once more, “I have been praying and I have complete faith that the Lord my God will save me, so there’s no need for me to go in your boat.”
    The man in the boat tried to insist but the pious man would not be moved. In the end the boat went away.

    By early evening the water had reached so high that the pious man had had to climb out of a skylight and onto the roof. There, whilst clinging to the chimney, a helicopter came overhead and dropped a rope ladder down towards him. A man in the door opening of the helicopter shouted down, “Quick, climb the ladder, the water is going to rise up above the roof of your house soon!”
    But the pious man stuck to his guns, “No,” he shouted back, “I have faith in the Almighty. I know that he will save me!”
    Once again, it was hopeless, the man was not to be moved and so the helicopter flew away to help other people.

    In the night, the waters did indeed rise over the top of the pious man’s house and, with nowhere left to go, he was drowned. As a very pious man, his soul ascended directly to heaven. Once there, he was greeted by St. Peter.
    “What is this, am I dead?” asked the pious man.
    “Oh yes my son, you drowned,” replied St. Peter.
    “But, but …” stammered the man, “I prayed and I prayed and I had faith that the Lord would save me, did He not hear me?”
    “Well yes, of course,” replied St. Peter, “which is why He sent you a bus and a boat and even a helicopter, so that you might be saved!”

  189. Dear JMG,

    Is perhaps the elephant in the room that so many folks in our day and age have underdeveloped and very weak identities?

    I think of the young man whose descent into madness you outline. Among the folks that I’ve known to fall into a similar mess, they’ve had very flimsy senses of self and very few tools to orient themselves with their lives.

    This brings us into the element of bad faith and the like; who are we actually besides the choices we make? What happens when the culture that predicated those choices falls apart? What then happens to the identity?

    It seems clear that at points when the structures that provided context to one’s sense of self erode, the sense of self is in extreme danger of falling apart, of being coopted by something, no matter how strange, odd, or ludicrous. And so without a way of constructing a meaningful sense of self, the revitalization movement, no matter how absurd, becomes a tempting option. Rather than being a broken little something, a shade circling like a dried leaf, one can have context and meaning based on ritual actions, one can belong, one can be a part of something rather than a part of nothing.

    When identities are shattered there is a tremendous existential threat to the integrity of the self. I’ve experienced this first hand several times. It is truly terrible to see one’s beliefs as just so much straw, and to feel oneself choking on that straw. To find oneself as light as feather in a psychic underworld.

    Carl Jung wrote of this in his book _The Undiscovered Self_. He posited that one needs a counterbalance in religion to withstand these blows to personal integrity of self. And this is, of course, why the stabilizing heaviness of religious conservatism forms such an immense treasure-house of values. If the only available religions are cults of the destructive kind, revitalization movements, or feverish delusions, than these will inevitably form the ballast no matter how psychically putrefying they may be. If you find yourself in the deepest dark of night how do you recognize you for yourself?

    And this is where we find ourselves today; folks are radically deinvididualized on account of the stunting implications of prosthetic technologies. Many people have but the flimsiest and most unstable ways of creating a sense of self. Most people I’ve known have at their disposal one little thing to base their identity: they have a job, they have a hobby, they have aesthetic considerations, they have a thought that they believe. If they lose that job, or that hobby, or become unfashionable, or change their mind *how can they find themself in the deepest dark of night?* There is the terror of things going wrong in the outer world, and then there is the immeasurably greater terror of losing one’s inner bearings. All of the sudden those hands are only *questionably* yours, the world starts to spin, “what, here?” and only the silence of the void answers.

    In this sort of inner peril, it is sensible to grasp at anything, the nearest thing to stave off the black flood of the occult. Much better to have something at hand that is stabilizing: a religious practice, a banishing ritual, divination, a book of philosophical maxims, scales to practice on the piano, a garden to tend, a tree to sit by, a potted plant to talk to, menial labor under the open sky. That is a whole diversity of inner and outer practices to create a robust ecology of the self, rather than the fragile monocultures we see so much of today.

  190. @Caryn: no problem! transsexual and transgendered overlap but mean different things. transsexual has a specific meaning but transgendered, actually, could mean pretty much anything (or nothing). unfortunately, this far less specific and definable label has overtaken transsexual as a way to describe transsexuals, which confuses the general public… a lot.

    go and find a “Transsexual 101” or a “Transgender 101” and read it/them. although, if you read the latter, you might end up more confused.

  191. JMG: re “Helix, do you think it’s somehow inappropriate for me to critique my own generation, or to comment on events that I personally witnessed that involved it?”

    Of course not. Critical self-examination is essential to development and self-correction. What I object to is the absence of context. You claim “that the Boomers are one of history’s leading examples of a failed generation — a generation that could have stepped up to the plate and accomplished great things, and crumpled instead.” Perhaps we’re worse than, say, the generation in charge at the end of WWI, who laid the groundwork for WWII, a war that claimed perhaps 70 million lives and laid waste to an entire continent?

    Of course we made mistakes. We “elected” George W. Bush, for example, evidently with some help from the generations both before and behind us. We abandoned traditional churches, but noone seems to want to examine why that happened, rather than just putting it down to gross immorality. We’re castigated for not coming up with a new ethic. OK. Let’s hear it. What should that have been? If you want to be judgmental about it — and it appears that some of the people here do — at least be balanced about it.

    To me, there are exactly two ethics, and these were laid out in the new testament – Love you neighbor as you love yourself, and love you god with all your heart. In practical terms, the first boils down to the golden rule. As Rabbi Hillel stated eloquently, “That which is hurtful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the whole Torah. The rest is just commentary.” As for the second, I do not pretend to comprehend God, but one thing I’m sure of is that if this world is his creation, this commandment is unequovical about our duty to take care of it. This is the basis of my ethic, and I’m pretty sure that most of my generation agrees with it. Not everyone lives up to it, which is unfortunate. But more to the point, not everyone embraces it, and at bottom, that is the problem. You can’t control what people believe, and in our country, you can’t control what they do as long as they stay inside the law.

    I’ll go back to my original point. The ills of society are with us always. They were here before we arrived and they will be with us long after we’re gone. Every generation must fight the ills of its own time. And take it from the biggest mistake our generation made — the fight never ends and the odds are long. And you children will revile you regardless, because they’re going to inherit the ills your generation leaves behind. But you must take up the fight nonetheless, or leave the field open for those who are in it for themselves.

  192. I just want to add one thing to my prior comment: as much as I’m frustrated with the general forces playing out between my generation and the Boomers, I freely admit my peers would almost certainly not have done any better. It’s too easy to picture myself as having sold out, and once you start down that path it is incredibly hard to get off of it….

  193. @Helix and everybody else on that discussion:
    I love how everybody frames things as Boomer v. Millennial or GenZ and completely forgets about GenX. This has real consequences. GenX is ending up as collateral damage because everybody is tuned into the big generational shift as being from Boomer->Millennial and all the effects that will have on society and government.

  194. @ DT

    re the generational conflict

    We Gen Xers ought to be used to being forgotten by now, I suppose. There was that semi-famous incident not too long ago when a news channel was discussing the various generations and even had a graphic listing them, from the Silents to Gen Z.

    Gen X was left off the list, of course, which went right from Boomer to Millennial. Many feel that incident summarizes our situation very well.


  195. Dear Violet, your post of November 8, 2019 at 12:04 pm could be the introduction to a very fine book that I would certainly read. 🙂

  196. @DT: Well then, I guess it’s a good thing that we Gen-Xers are well-accustomed to being treated as though we don’t exist/ don’t matter! 😀

  197. @ Christopher Hope and Beekeeper

    Christopher L. Hope:

    I think you’ve hit it square on the head: “We were anxious to change life but we didn’t know what we were replacing things with. We didn’t take time to be sure that the old institutions/norms/attitudes were replaced with something better – just replacing them was enough for us.”

    There’s a marvelous book on exactly this subject: ‘The Lost City: Discovering the Forgotten Virtues of Community in the Chicago of the 1950’s’ by Alan Ehrenhalt.

    It was a stunner, all about what the boomers threw away. Yes, there were problems. But there were real pluses as well.

    I read it and realized that just as history is written by the winners, memoirs are written by the whiners.

    People who are content and happy don’t tear down their social structure, they don’t complain, and they don’t write books about how terrible their lives were. Since unhappy people write those memoirs, it’s easy to forget in the avalanche of bad press that most people have terrible lives.

    Think of the daily news: if it bleeds, it leads. Yet how many of us see car crashes, burned houses, and riots on a daily basis? Not too many of us, thank God, yet the daily drumbeat of horrible things makes us crazy.

    The entertainment media is the same. You would believe that every single kindly old grandfather is a pedophile.

    Teresa from Hershey

  198. @ Doll on a Windowsill Wow, that’s a lot of hating…guess we know who your deplorables are! JMG has opined that hate is a normal, healthy human emotion but this seems way out of balance to me. I’ve always noticed that hate that is held and nurtured becomes poisonous very quickly. It seems clear you’ve been repeatedly hurt and outraged by people of the boomer generation but to embrace bitter hatred toward every boomer is probably not that helpful. Your apology rings hollow and the comments about Gen X and Millenials being superior parents doesn’t match my observations at all…is plugging kids into devices good parenting? Maybe that’s not so prevalent in your neck of the woods but that’s all I see around here. I know boomer bashing is popular these days and much of the criticism is well deserved, but blaming and shaming is a road to ruin. And isn’t forgiveness a central tenet of Jesus’ teaching?

  199. Daniil:
    A vast fortune on the inside? That’s right! Don’t you have one, too? The whole world is trans-class, if you count spiritual wealth.

    The trouble with inward spiritual wealth is getting it physically out. At one point in the play, “Santa Claus”, by e.e.cummings, Santa and Death were chatting. Santa said, “I have so much to give, but no-one will take.” Death replied, “Mine too is a problem with distribution, but it is the other way around.”

  200. I had to laugh at Kimberly Steele’s comments about “Because they can”. It reminds me of the punchline answer to one of my favorite joke questions: “Why do animals lick their genitals?” Darkly funny as it points toward uncomfortable truths about human nature.

  201. Dear patricia, Max Blumenthal happens to be the son of Clinton consigliere Sydney Blumenthal, so I suspect there is a bit of making an example and how could of one of our own turn against us? involved in his prosecution. I rather think there is more going on here than support for Venezuelan aristos, although that is a factor also.

    Speaking of Christian popular culture, check the new book shelf at your public library and you will undoubtedly find example of the genre Christian romance, mostly put out by Bethany Publishing. I have not read any of it, but I doubt it is any worse than other parts of the romance genre.

    Dear Antoinetta, nowadays, if there two parents, both work, and it is in most jurisdictions illegal to leave children younger than 13 at home alone. Furthermore, officials of the “helping” professions tend to be clueless martinets altogether lacking in common, or any, sense.

    Dear Boysmom, why is women in careers not a good thing? I am asking as the mother and sister of two very high achieving professional women who are both basically asexual, no long term intimate partners and no marriages for either. I would assert that people who are not temperamentally suited to marriage and child rearing ought to do neither. I would not want to see women or men forced by social or religious pressure into marriages in which neither partner could reasonably expect to find happiness. I think it a major weakness of the pro traditional family movement of the present day that that movement makes no allowances for people of any gender who are single and chaste by choice. I am not seeing a whole lot of difference between conservative “everyone must be married” and SJW “everyone must be getting it on”. What about mind our own business and keep our long noses out of other folk’s bedrooms?

  202. This is written in response to Anon Two

    I agree with everything you said. I found getting a gender recognition certificate to be as easy as falling off a log. Yet trans activists and SJW’s insist that getting the certificate is extremely difficult and fraught with bureaucratic difficulties and this is the reason why they need to bring in self identification. It just seems to me that this is a lie. Don’t get me wrong, there may well need to be some tweaks that need to be made to the recognition act, but not for the reasons we have been given by the SJW’s

    The one thing that stands out to me about this campaign to change the gender Recognition act, is that it will not cost anything. Middle class tax payers can boast about how virtuous they are without having to fork out any money. There are plenty of things that you could do to help transgendered people. You could provide more counselling services and you could provide more funding for gender clinics to deal with the big backlogs they face. But oh no they do not do this, because it would cost them more money and middle class tax payers want to keep the money for themselves, but sound progressive by doing something that doesn’t cost anything.

    I think there is a real theme there. The Liberal Elite keep Parroting about how virtuous they are because they introduced Gay marriage. Yet they have introduced swinging cuts to the welfare state, removed legal aid in many areas of law so that the poor can’t get access to justice, cut the Police and introduced loads of other policies that have helped to impoverish parts of the working classes and the under classes.

    You will notice that Gay Marriage does not cost middle class tax payers any money. Now I was all in favour or legalising Gay Marriage and if I was in change I would certainly introduce it. But you see what’s going on here. They will only introduce progressive measures that do not cost them any money.

    Now contrast this with the period after 1945. In many ways the people of that time were had some pretty appalling attitudes in relation to things like race, homosexuality etc. However the middle class we’re prepared to make larges sacrifices to bring in the NHS, the modern welfare state and legal aid. All these measures were extremely expensive and done at a time of great austerity and rationing. In 1947 for instance they had bread rationing, which never happened during the war when the bombs were falling and the U Boats sinking every ship in sight. I am sure there were some in the middle classes who where reluctant to have their taxes taken away like this. However those higher up in society where prepared to make sacrifices to help those lower down.

    It just goes to show that a lot of this virtue signalling is hollow and false. By the way I should add that when I transitioned I went through hell and back, with groups of youths harassing me and threatening to beat me up, throwing stones at me. Of course the police and authorities did nothing about it. However if someone misgendered me on social media I am sure the Rozzers would be round there at six in the morning kicking their door in. If the middle class liberals really wanted to do something to help me, they could have sorted out the violent thugs who were making my life hell. There was fat chance of that happening. They seem to have more sympathy for criminals than for the law abiding citizens whose lives are made hell by their activities.

  203. @DT…. I hear you about Gen X. That’s my generation… albeit, I would be a tail end Gen Xr. We’re kind of caught in the middle, sandwiched between the generations. My wife and I are feeling that a lot right now. We have grandchildren via our millenial children, and between us our parents have either just entered retirement, as my dad and his wife just did at age 64… or with my wifes parents, who are older in their mid-to-late 70’s… just feeling a lot of familial pressure between the needs of our kids (like babysitting) or the needs of our parents (like helping with various things that are getting harder for them… not so much my folks as my in-laws). I imagine that same kind of pressure is being exerted on a lot of other Gen Xrs all across the country, in addition to the other pressures due to this stage of catabolic collapse.

    It’s really strange how everyone is idolizing the 80s in pop culture these days too. It’s like some kind of fetishized wish fulfillment fantasy to return to the glorious days of unfettered consumerism.

  204. @Anon,

    I am so glad you shared all that. I 100% agree with you and all your concerns.

    I think the “woke” left is playing some sort of game where they can trot out the “most marginalized” person and put them on display as proof of their benevolence. It’s a very dangerous game that’s damaging all the participants, mostly because they are too busy virtue signaling to actually listen to their marginalized “friend”.

    It’s really sad, too, because it’s driving people away from the left and leaving a political vacuum in the space where labor unions and the working classes used to be.

    And you are right, some feminists are anti-trans, some others get accused of that when really they are also just afraid of things like rapists in the bathrooms, etc. Trans women have different concerns than feminists, and feminism isn’t marginalized enough to get the “woke” left’s attention anymore. So there’s a lot of room for potential conflict there. Most of it could be cleared up by actually listening to each other.

    Jessi Thompson

  205. BoysMom:
    I had to check first, but according to the minds over at Wikipedia the Silent Generation was born from roughly 1928 to 1945 which would make me also a child of Silents, born as the Boomer generation was winding down. Other than dissing the Beatles who were kinda great (I didn’t listen to them until long after they broke up; my Big Band/Classical music-loving parents forbade that kind of music in the house when I was small), I am so totally in agreement with your take on no-fault divorce and the other social plagues you list, including university education. I would argue that the appetite for college is at least as much a product of the post-WWII, pre-Boomer GI Bill as it is a Boomer thing; even well into the 1980’s my Boomer friends could get decent jobs without college.

    As one of the late cohort of Boomers I’d like to say in our defense that Boomerhood includes anyone born between 1946 and 1964, that’s about 70 million people in the US, which is an awful lot of people to lump together. I’ve never heard anyone, Boomer or older, brag about spending their children’s inheritance even as a joke – and that includes a few people I know who actually have a substantial amount of money to leave their kids – so I wonder how widespread that sentiment really is. Being a first-rate jerk transcends generations.

    Doll and Kevin L. Cooke:
    I’m going to predict that whenever the current generations are approaching Social Security age and they’ve got a track record worth scrutinizing, there will be a book about how Millennials/GenX/GenZ screwed things up for whatever generation comes after them. As for hating the Boomers or any other group of tens of millions of people, is the hate making your life any better?

    That was a beautiful comment.

    Emmanuel Goldstein:
    Your explainer about flu shots and vaccinations was excellent and very, very helpful. I’ve never gotten a flu shot, but my husband gets it every year, does no preparation nutritional or otherwise, and has never had any reaction. He’s also never gotten the flu.

  206. @JMG – This is a bit off topic but relates to a topic you cover from time to time. The short version of the story is that my wife and I have been fostering a trio of little kids, with the hope that we would get to adopt them once the parent’s rights have been terminated to all three. Things are far along in the legal process. The other day, before the most recent court date, I had what I can only describe as vivid imagining of how devastated the oldest child if he would have to move to another house. He was severely neglected by his bio-family and had to leave his previous foster home due to a messy divorce. He has been with us 10 months, his younger sisters for 4 months. When I went to the most recent court date, I found out that circumstances have now arisen where the children being removed from our house is a (unlikely, but real) possibility.
    My question to you comes in two parts:
    1 – Was the universe trying to tell me something, or was I just letting underlying anxiety get to me?
    2- Is there any meditation or spiritual exercise you can recommend trying to figure that out?

  207. Antoinetta III: the 3-day kids’ flu you mentioned is not the real thing. Influenza lasts more than a week and involves high fever. And it kills about 30,000 people each year in the USA alone – mostly old frail people. That’s why they offer the vaccine, even though it’s only partially effective. They used to recommend it mostly to old people, but in recent years found that it is children who spread it around, so it’s more effective to vaccinate everybody.

  208. Cutekitten:
    I’m doing NaNo, and I started a couple days late due to previous commitments and a sudden financial issue. I’ve almost caught up (just in time to fall back behind again), but my story has gone off on a tangent I wasn’t ready for.

  209. DT wrote: “everybody frames things as Boomer v. Millennial or GenZ and completely forgets about GenX.” – perhaps because these “generations” seem to be squeezed into shorter and shorter spans of years. If humans reproduce at age 20-40 then “a generation” is about 30 years. Not a decade. Moreover, people are born all along, thus there are no clear breakpoints between “generations” in the population at large.

  210. Violet (12.04), thank you for this comment. It is beautifully articulated.

    I was trying to say something similar earlier in the conversation. I was feeling that there has been, in some cases, a lack of compassion for those whose identity unravels. Yet this unravelling, no matter where it leads or how ridiculous the attempted solution may seem, whether it be a new construction, an external identity group, a regression to a former place of security, a combination of these or something else, that the unravelling itself may be natural, and necessary in times of threat and change.

    It seems that identity is co-constructed within relationships and a context. I think Jung in his concept of individuation may have been suggesting that we need to find and construct an identity that transcends the original conditions in order to be able to adapt to external challenges rather than be destroyed by them. It may be that some of those who might scoff at the effects of such unravelling have not had yet their own identity tested by truly outrageous fortune. I hope that if they do face their own darkest night (after night….) that the road rises to meet them.

  211. Violet said-

    “Is perhaps the elephant in the room that so many folks in our day and age have underdeveloped and very weak identities?”

    Completely agree! Many of us living in western countries have completely lost all sense of ourselves, our culture, our history our identity. If you don’t know know you are, your extremely vulnerable to manipulation, you’re like a child wandering the street, desperately asking people to tell you who you are, whats going on on or what anything is worth. The best we can all do for ourselves is at least get on from grip of who we are!

  212. Inspiration, if of the embarrassing sort, for us perspiring writers:

    I can’t think when I have the flu—Mr. Grant was typing away after a heart attack. 😳. (I don’t know if I could think after a heart attack or not; thank God, I’ve never had one.)

    There are several South Africans out there blogging in English. They seem to be a hardy breed, in general.

    I think I’ll spend the weekend in Reality, playing catch-up. It’s the South African thing to do. 🙂. See you on Magic Monday!

  213. This post was certainly as spooky as you suggested last week. I’m not an expert in mental illness so I’m speculating here, but the boyfriend in this post seems to have had some sort of mental breakdown. Something more than a flight from reason seems to be going on. Since we don’t know the particulars of the boyfriend’s descent, I’m less sure the dynamic is similar to the delusions we currently see in the political sphere. The flight from reason, although it can lead to disturbing behavior, I still don’t think qualifies as a mental illness.

    That said, I know several people who qualify as fleeing from reason. They all come from the “comfortable classes” (which makes sense since they have more to lose by confronting reality), and your posts have made me wonder if there is any common denominator to their respective situations. What I’ve noticed is that all of them are dependent on others for financial support to maintain their lifestyles. Whether it’s adult children (in their 50s) relying on parents, parents relying on their children, or financial dependence on another person, the people I know who have this delusion all have this trait in common. They are all very good at rationalizing the support they receive and are content to let it continue. You might think their situation would make them grateful for the assistance and sympathetic to others who are struggling financially without someone to help support them, but that is not the case. The flight from reason seems to include a thought process along the lines of: “I’m entitled to my lifestyle, and the struggling racist deplorables deserve their struggles.” I’m not suggesting everyone I know who receives assistance is ungrateful, but the grateful ones have a grasp of reality.

    I’m curious if anyone else has noticed this type of behavior. I’m looking forward to seeing how you tie all of this together next week.

  214. JMG
    Re-vitalization? There seems to be some headline appeal s to such myths going on both sides of the Atlantic these days?
    I wonder about Nationalist myth-making, which really took off in the 19thC, concomitant with the enormous disturbance of industrial change and accompanying social distress. (Not that any of his was new but it was ‘industrialized’). Very high mortality rates especially in many expanding urban environments did not prevent population expansion, (e.g. England x3 from 1750 to 1850) and mass migrations to urban living often under dire and indeed brutal conditions.
    Social disturbance comes in many forms including those associated with legacies of war, extreme violence, colonialism and industrial change; or perhaps more simply, any ‘psychic’ upheavals. So what adds up in modern America? Something apparently needs to give? In a world full of advertising (targeted myth-making) such as the USA where ‘entertainment’ and more profoundly, ‘personality’ can depend on brands, the gap between pragmatic perception and idealized myth is presumably all the more painful?
    Phil H

  215. Varun
    I think you put your finger on much in current culture … compared with … “classical cultures [which] allowed for more absurd impulses of a group of people to be contained through social shame and stigma.”
    Shame and hypocrisy are out there in plenty still but don’t seem to have the social value they had of defining a public dedication to ‘morals’. I always thought that hypocrisy and the need for deception helped strengthen any majority who did not need to be hypocrites. Some behaviors could be moved to the edge of being outlawed – sometimes a beneficial evolution.
    Phil H.

  216. Thank you so much for this post – one of the most troubling I have ever read on this blog, and mostly because, I recognize myself as one of those who has a rich inner life, coupled maybe with a tendency to withdraw anyway, when interaction with the real world seems harder. It’s a mighty warning to me personally anyhow to keep engaging with reality, even when it seems hard. One of the things which really spoke to me about ” collapse now and avoid the rush” was the fact that, to ignore the realities of limited fossil fuels and also the complete precariousness of our modern just in time delivery systems and our time limited successful modern agricultural farming practices – to ignore all this and live as if everything was fine- meant I was burying my head in the sand like the proverbial camel – and to be honest I was depressed for about two years, before I came to grip with the reality that food and fuel insecurity was not just something my mother and grandmother talked about during the war years and during the rationing years that followed in Britain, but that it might also affect me and would probably affect my children. But I honestly think that, in all likelihood, everybody alive at this time is now subconsciously aware of what lies around the corner and is reacting to that unspoken fear, in one way or another- and perhaps some of us are choosing – yes, a flight from reason, because they literally can’t come to terms with it. I also agree with those who mentioned the real benefits of physical hard work. It has in the past really helped me with anxiety. My mother also was a great believer in ” guarding our minds” and used to quote to me the Bible verse summarized as ” whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things” and ” the Devil finds work for idle hands”. Playing fantasy games would have run totally contrary to her Christian views. Unfortunately I do think modern Christianity, in becoming divorced from its Jewish agrarian roots ( not true so much in medieval times obviously), is actually now a part of the problem for our society and not a help – and I say that as a Christian. We need to be physically connected to nature, to our food, to the natural world to the cycles of life and death, to adjust and accept that we do not live in a Disney world, however much we might like to – To respond to Violet’s interesting comment about what is good. I would argue – in an extension of my own point, that water gives life and kills just like God – and is still good. The fact that our culture runs away so emphatically from engaging both with life and death is to my mind part of it’s sickness.

  217. JMG is it worth paying for Chris Martenson’s premium membership at Peak Prosperity? I just ask because the topic of baby boomers came up a few comments back and he seems like a baby boomer who has tried to overcome his baby boomer short-comings and keeps failing to notice his own entitlement complex.

    You both do great work but The druid clobbers The CEO hands down.

  218. Ooh, generational conflict.

    To aggrieved boomers– y’all reap what you sow. You sowed generational discord in your youth. It’s within living memory and we have the records. ‘Never trust anyone under 30!’ et cetera, et cetera, ad nausium. Sure, every generation rebels against its elders to some degree, and no, I wasn’t there, but based on what survives? Your youth culture was massively rebellious and outright hostile to a degree not seen before or since.

    It wasn’t enough just to punch up, though. Gen X were quiet, apathetic, really into music– and there weren’t quite as many of them, so they didn’t rock the Boomer-dominated cultural boat. So you gave them a free pass. The millennial, though– oh, well. Being the children of Boomers, we were a mini demographic boom ourselves. Rivals! So as soon as my generation started trying to find itself in the public sphere, you started to denigrate us. Negative press about millennial started before the first of us had graduated university; possibly before any of us had left high school. The Baby Boomers defined us by projecting their own shadow forward in time: lazy, entitled, narcissistic? Look in a generational mirror.

    And the retort. The oh-so-hateful retort that is “fullscale generational warfare” (to quote a national press rag)? Not the rallying cry of “They wrecked the world, take their pensions” ; not “Into the ovens with the oldsters!”; nothing really hateful, just dismissive — “OK Boomer”.

    We’re lazy? “OK, Boomer.” You raised us that way.
    We’re entitled? “OK, Boomer.” We learned that from you.
    We’re narcissistic? “OK, Boomer.” You taught us that, too.

    The baby boomers, collectively, sowed the wind with generational division and hatred. Now? You have to admit “OK, Boomer” is a very mild whirlwind.


    Sorry about this. It’s a demographic thing; you’re outnumbered on either side. The birth rate was lower for the silents and early-breeding-boomers who sired Gen X.

  219. @Jade Dragon:

    I never read Cayce, but JMG wrote a book called Atlantis where he says that Cayce might have seen, not the past, but the future of humankind, and that the collapsing civilization he saw was actually our very own.

    Entertain the thought of implanting things that look as animal parts being the next big fad… Imagine going on a rich enclave and seeing clones of Jocelyn Wildenstein–or the infamous artistic, not real, Rodrigo Braga’s Dog-Faced man–everywhere.

    I’m not linking images here, you can find them with the names. Friendly reminder that curiosity killed the cat.

  220. I think Violet has hit the nail on the head about how weak our identities are these days.

    May I share a story? I don’t think it’s off topic today, though its not directly illustrative of . It’s about the time I was close to being transgendered. I was finishing my graduate degree (losing an identity) and very, very deeply depressed. I fell asleep every night to the same fantasy: I wouldn’t sleep, but rather enter a coma and wake up as a woman. As a woman, people would care about me (sorry, ladies– they do!); my career prospects would be immeasurably better (sorry, ladies– they would!) ; and, of course, I wouldn’t be the same loser who I hated. I drempt my life as this woman many times. For months.

    Fortunately, I did _not_ see a therapist for my depression. Because I’ve heard from other people in similar straits that the standard thing in these parts is for the therapist to push you towards transition now, not away from it.

    It wouldn’t have helped, though. Yeah, I was a queer little boy who played house and liked barbies. My first ambition as a child wasn’t to grow up to be an astronaut of fireman, but “mommy”. Yeah, when one of my brothers came out of the closet, my fathers reaction was supportive confusion– “I always knew I had a gay son. I just thought it was Dusk.” Plenty of ammo, in other words, if I wanted to justify that I’m really a woman!

    Plenty of background to confuse myself and get tied in knots if I allowed it. Because I am not trans-gendered, even if some parties online were sure I had to be. As it turns out, I didn’t want to be a woman, you see. I just didn’t want to be me. Because I did not want to be me, I could very easily have been driven to decide I was actually a woman. Or to decide I wasn’t human, but, indeed, a horse. Or that I was the embodiment of a fictional character. (You can see all these things happen in odd corners of Tumblr.)

    Of course, after going through the process of transition, buoyed by a supportive community that was sure this would fix what ailed me– and then still being mired in depression? Well, I’d have killed myself.

    (I’m pretty sure that stories like mine, but actually played out, are part of the reason for the immense suicide rate in the transsexual community. Only part of the reason, mind you.)

    What actually happened? Well, it was a different sort of spiritual awakening than Violet’s, that is for certain. I thought religion was bunk, but read about psychological benefits of devotion… so I started worshiping, just for that. I didn’t trust religion, so I picked a made up pantheon from the then new, fresh and popular reboot of My Little Pony. I prayed, and gods answered wearing the faces of pretty pony princesses. I don’t pretend to understand how that works, but– Princess Luna is the Mistress of Madness, and with one beat of her mighty wings she swept all thought of womanhood from my mind. She swept out a lot of cobwebs, as it happens, and I am 100% certain saved me from death. (Princess Luna saved me from death; Princess Celestia saved my life. It’s a diarchy.)

    Oddly enough, given the topic of gender, I have been slowly coming to the realization that my personal worship was stacked entirely to the divine feminine — and the yang defficiency is starting to make itself felt. Sadly I used that as an excuse to slack off devotion (also I was, I feared, becoming something of a ‘god botherer’ in constant prayer)…

    … I’m going to guess now that that was a bad idea, and that what I should have done was find a god or two. Does anyone (Violet and JMG especially) have any comment on that previous sentence?

  221. @Temporary Reality, I have a friend who certifiably had the “new influenza” strain that came out about ten years ago and was an instant hit worldwide, and he climbed a mountain with it, complaining the whole way. I had it too, apparently, and it was like a bad cold for a few days. I subsequently spent 4 hours face to face with a student who certifiably had the new flu (tested) but I did not catch it. Part of what I posted above about precautions when vaccinating would apply to what to do when ill to minimize the risk of an immune cascade. I have more detailed information on hand regarding that if anyone would be interested.
    I’ve been vaccinated twice against influenza, and each time I came down with something indistinguishable from influenza. Granted, I have never confirmed that I actually had “influenza” proper.

  222. “What’s wrong with Christianity that it has lost its imagination? That wasn’t the case in Dante’s time…”

    I don’t think it’s that Christianity has lost its imagination. It’s that somewhere in the… 70s? the evangelicals decided that they needed to be hip and relevant, and that the way to do that was to rip off current secular culture and paste Christian themes onto it. The results were as atrocious as you’d expect. In addition, such efforts also run into the problem of committee-approval. If you want to sell to the “Christian” market, your product has to get the approval checkmark from all the important churchlady busybody types… and by the time it’s cleared that vetting process, and had everything even remotely, potentially offensive removed, it has the personality of oatmeal. It’s a good thing the Bible was grandfathered in, because it’d never pass…

    Christian art and imagination is alive and well, IMO. Just not in the “pop culture” space. My denomination (in typical snail-like fashion) is just starting to come to grips with being *in America* and there is some really interesting art and architecture just beginning to emerge from that (some hideous stuff also, but time will shake out the chaff). No RPGs yet, as far as I know 😉

  223. SarahJ, I think you’ve touched on something very important. I’d like to suggest one way of taking it a little further. A lot of people had very specific ideas about which way the world was going to change; it’s the fact that the world did something very different, I suggest, that has people so disoriented. More on this next week.

    Temporaryreality, thanks for the recommendation! As for the whole Boomer issue, among the reasons I tend to bring it up now and then are a) I’m one of them, and b) I get just as tired as BoysMom about hearing the endless litany from Boomers about how wonderful the Boomers are, how their music was better, blah blah blah. No we aren’t and no it wasn’t. I promise I’ll stop poking at my generation if its other members stop praising themselves quite so vociferously!

    J.L.Mc12, it’s not someplace I’d go if I didn’t want to keep tabs on what the Manosphere is up to, but it’s tolerably well written and provides a good look at certain trends in today’s society.

    Anon two, thanks for this. It may peak in the US considerably before then, depending on what happens in our domestic politics, but we’ll see.

    David BTL, oh, granted. I simply like to puncture the overinflated collective ego of my own generation from time to time.

    Your Kittenship, when they hatch they become abominable snowmen… 😉

    Caryn, no, I got your point. I disagree with it. Having done a fair amount of research into pre-internet subcultures — science fiction fandom, the occult scene, and others — I think the impact of online interaction is massively overrated. People spent just as much of their time interacting with others through similarly secondhand media before the internet — they just had to wait a little longer to see the answer to their latest contribution to the APA, the fanzine, or the round-robin letter bundle than we do today. (And when mail was delivered 6 to 8 times a day, as it was in many large cities in 1900, the turnaround time wasn’t necessarily that much longer…)

    MizBean, in some cases yes, I think we could be looking at victories of desire; in other cases, the motivation is some other mode. Human motivation is complex! (You’re most welcome, btw.)

    Know Brainer, thank you. I think you’ve touched on a crucial point — the overemphasis on feelings in today’s society. It’s one of those pendulum things: sometimes society pays too little attention to feelings, sometimes too much.

    Patricia M, yep. There’s a lot of rebuilding to be done.

    Jade Dragon, I’ve read Cayce, though he’s one of the visionaries who I tend to think got the astral plane and the physical plane mixed up! As for magic, I limit how much I say about that here, since a lot of my readership is kind of unsure what to make of “that occult stuff.” Those who know their way around the traditions can easily extract the appropriate lessons, though.

    David BTL, it was quite amusing to see the Republican show up and have various people say, basically, “Get out of our echo chamber!”

    Dana, good heavens, I didn’t think of that, and I should have. Of course — not Wotan, but die alte Barbarossa, Kaiser Friedrich I, who sleeps in the Kyffhauser surrounded by his knights. If that’s (the mythic image of) what’s stirring — oh my.

    Eric, rickety, ramshackle, and capable of weaving the most astonishing mythic tapestries out of the oddest materials, yes.

    David BTL, shoot-the-messenger logic at its finest, “We must ignore Moody’s, because it’s telling us something we don’t want to hear!” But the insistence that Trump’s election had nothing to do with pocketbook issues makes perfect sense, so long as you’re committed to pretending that neoliberal policies really did make everyone prosper. Delusional? Sure, but that’s the name of the game at this point.

    Kerry, thanks for this. One of my friends is a F-to-M transgendered person and went through an experience similar to yours. (He also passes so well that I was utterly gobsmacked to learn that he was born in a female body.) The difficulty is that these days some transgender persons (all the ones I know of are biologically male) don’t go through the complex process you’ve described; they simply decide that they’re female and expect everyone to treat them as such, even when this involves such absurdities as competing in women’s sports with bodies that have the musculature you only get from testosterone. Do you think it would work to return to legal definitions of transgender status that require some screening and the sort of process you’ve outlined?

    Will J, this corresponds pretty much exactly to my view. In particular, it’s rich to hear members of my generation — soaked as so many of they are in an overwhelming sense of entitlement — criticizing other generations for being entitled. Projection much?

    Hereward, highly relevant.

    Violet, exactly. One of the reasons I’ve been at such pains to pass on the basics of a certain mode of Western esoteric spirituality is that that’s historically been one of the ways that people who wouldn’t or couldn’t accept the sense of self provided them by the cultural mainstream could create a richer and more personalized sense of self, one that can navigate challenging psychological conditions. My hope is that it will do the same thing when the source of the turbulence is collective rather than individual.

    Helix, yes, I’m well aware that a lot of Boomers become very irritable when I talk about the way our generation — especially but not only here in the US — cashed in its ideals and lost our society its best (and quite possibly only) chance to avoid a very difficult future. No, George Bush had nothing to do with it; I’ve talked about the core issues involved here, here, and here, in case you’re interested. As for claiming that there are only two ethics — well, you’re welcome to that belief if it makes you feel comfortable; I don’t see how so simplistic a pair of formulas offers much to help deal with the complexities we’re discussing, but no doubt your mileage may vary.

    Ben, 1) that’s impossible to know in advance. 2) If you have a religious practice, prayer is a classic and useful way of bringing the attention of the higher levels of being to bear on the situation.

    Ryan S, I’d suggest that the young man in the story is an extreme form of the same flight from reason you’re seeing in the people from the comfortable classes — a difference of degree but not of kind.

    Phil H, good. In America, where the fragile national culture we had was swallowed up by corporate marketing departments before it could really get established, there’s not much outside the fake-identity industry but a fall into very strange places — which I think we’re going to see much of as things proceed.

    Naomi, many thanks for this. I think you’re quite right that most people realize at some level just how fragile our current situation is and how difficult it could become. Still, I also recall how worried I was about being really poor until it happened — that’s something most writers go through, as I’m sure you know — and I discovered that it’s bearable, and learned how to handle it competently. I suspect that dealing with the hard realities of life would be very healing for a lot of people these days — and “Collapse now and avoid the rush” is meant, among other things, to encourage people to have that experience. As for Christianity, well, I look at it as an outsider, but it does seem to me that it’s become very detached from the earthy realities we inhabit. Oliver Cromwell could say “By the bowels of Christ, gentlemen!” and no one took offense; can you imagine the reaction now? I’m reminded, though, of one of C.S. Lewis’ useful comments: “God likes matter. After all, He invented it.”

    Smoking Shorts, I didn’t find it useful, but then I’m not into (what seems to me the futile idea of) wealth preservation through investment, which iirc is one of his major themes.

    Dusk Shine, thank you for this, and thank you again for being so open about your — would Equestriolatry be a suitable word? I still find it somewhat bemusing, but it’s a useful reminder that the inner worlds that human beings encounter are what they are. With regard to finding gods, well, it’s always helpful to work within a single pantheon. I’m not even remotely qualified to offer advice, as I have zero knowledge of the MLP franchise, but I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find something suitable somewhere in there.

    Methylethyl, I think the problem crept in long before the 1970s. To the best of my knowledge, John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is the last first-rate work of imaginative English literature to draw its imagery and ideas entirely out of the Christian tradition; by the time you get to George Macdonald and CS Lewis, good as they were, both had to borrow non-Christian myth and legend to make their stories work. Tumnus the faun, pleasant though he is, is hardly a Christian figure — and of course Lewis’ greatest work of fiction, Till We Have Faces, draws its theme straight out of Greek mythology. I’ve read attempts to do purely Christian imaginative fiction, and — well, most of them weren’t as bad as the stunningly hokey Left Behind series, but they were pretty dismal. And yet the Christian tradition used to be a blazing source of inspiration to writers, and it still has extraordinary raw material for the imaginative writer — thus my wondering what’s gone wrong.

  224. Just tonight I remembered that I’ve actually watched someone lose touch with their pragmatic mode, albeit I watched from over the Internet.

    Several years ago, in the mesozoic — back when YouTube still had video replies — I was lightly involved with a community on YouTube that was into alternative philosophy and spirituality. I was drawn in by the discussion of Spiral Dynamics, a popularization of Clare W. Graves’ “levels of existence” developmental personality theory. Of course, we all naturally thought we were all at the highest or second-highest stage (of those achieved so far; two higher stages had been tentatively described but I don’t remember anyone claiming to be there).

    The main proponent of Spiral Dynamics was a guy who I’ll call Patrick. Since Spiral Dynamics was my main interest, rather than the continental philosophy that other prominent members were into, I gravitated toward his videos. One of the things he stressed was the need to reintegrate the insights and emotional needs of earlier, more myth-centered levels of development and to get past the rigid dogmatism/rationalism binary of contemporary culture. I ate this stuff up, and to some extent that’s still what I’m trying to do.

    Anyway, he and another prominent member — let’s call him Kevin — set up a group channel for having discussions and interviews with other members of the community, as well as prominent critics. It went great for about six months or so.

    About that time, Patrick declared that he was transgender, and wanted to be called let’s say Patricia. A lot of us tried to be supportive, but pretty soon she started uploading bizarre videos that made no sense. I don’t mean by that that they were weird: I mean they were the video equivalent of gibberish, with no discernible meaning that I could make out. All of this was still ostensibly in the name of transforming consciousness.

    That weirded us out a bit, but it was what happened next that brought the matter to a head: Patricia locked Kevin and everyone else out of the group channel and started using it to upload her videos. Kevin soon got the channel back and threw Patricia out, but that effectively destroyed the project.

    A little bit after that, Patrick/Patricia stopped presenting as female and started making videos begging to be cast in an upcoming blockbuster movie in a lead (male) role. Not long after that, radio silence for about a year when an update video came out, in which he (IIRC, he’d started using his old name again, and in a more recent video he definitely had, with to my knowledge no change since) apologized and seemed to be doing OK.

    Fast-forward to tonight. I just checked his channel again and he hasn’t posted anything for several years. Most of his last videos seem to be in gibberesh style, and a couple of update videos show him seeming… a little off, and promoting some kind of business venture. I admit I’m a bit worried he has self-destructed since.

    In his case, heavy use of psychedelics seems a likely factor. He and Kevin used to do ayahuasca together, and talked about it in some of their videos. I think Kevin at one point mentioned that Patrick had started doing it more of it, on his own, with no one else there to stay sober and help him if he needed it.

  225. Walt,

    I agree with you wholly about the problems with mainstream Christian media. Moreover, so does the Babylon Bee!

    A successful Christian RPG would have to be more than Narnia-but-even-more-moralistic. I think it could be done, though, and could even be something non-Christians could enjoy.

  226. One last comment for the night: it seems to me that what’s almost-but-not-quite being said here (apologies if someone else has already made it explicit and I missed your comment) is that Boomers tore down the old system but assumed that something better would just naturally arise to take its place, because Progress.

    Certainly that’s the logic of a number of left-wing ideologies. I remember from when I was an anarchist that there was a split between “revolutionary” and “evolutionary” approaches: the latter advocated incremental change and “building the new world in the shell of the old,” while the former thought anything but preparing for one big fight was pointless.

    Needless to say, the evolutionaries always sounded much more sensible to me. Implement your ideals as far as you can now in order to (a) prove your ideas work, (b) provide immediate benefits to those involved, and (c) make the transition easier, and less prone to regression, when it finally came time to make the last push and do away with the old regime.

    At the time the revolutionaries struck me as just thoroughly wrongheaded, but now I would mark a lot of them as political LARPers. I mean, a lot of us evolutionaries were basically LARPers, too, but the revolutionary philosophy is just perfectly suited for the utterly lazy, or those who just want an excuse to join the “black bloc” and smash windows.

    Unfortunately, unlike my anarchist comrades, the Boomers actually got the chance to tear down the old system, but they didn’t replace it with anything coherent. In fact, if David Chapman is right, they actually tried to replace it with an intentionally incoherent counterculture, one that tried to champion both extreme individualism and extreme social and cultural unity, and even then they were blocked by the re-emergence of Christian fundamentalism as a rival Boomer counterculture (which fell into the same trap in a different way).

    One thing this implies to me is that had Boomers managed things more carefully, the Religious Right would have been a dead letter. Attitudes about sex would have been less dysfunctional (not caught in the binary of “the summum bonum of life” vs. “the worst sin imaginable”), so the AIDS crisis in the 80’s could have been much less of a panic and the LGBT community might not have had to wait so long for widespread acceptance. We might even have continued down the path of sustainability in the 80’s and avoided collapse, though that’s probably too much to hope for.

    If nothing else, we wouldn’t have ended up with Trump vs. Clinton.

  227. @Nastarana,
    Thank you for the further information on Max Blumenthal. How utterly fascinating! I sure he will be okay. Perhaps similarly, I have one liberal relative who seems even more upset at me than at his Trump-voting brother. I espouse liberal ideas to some degree, and agree with him on many issues, but he seems to see me as a turncoat and as more of a threat than the hopeless life-long deplorables, with their clear (from his point of view) nonsense. The fact I’ve been to Russia and like that country doesn’t help either. He’s taken Russia-gate seriously and won’t let go of it.

  228. Re JMG’s ‘Equestriolatry’


    I actually know this guy.;aggregationId=101&albumid=101&filter=7&ff=138993508

    When young he came to her whistle and carried the lassie who rode him over hedges and ditches with the best of the gentry ‘huntin’ crowd.
    Like Bucephalus he is more than myth.
    Could carry those searchers of the mind for old pantheons beyond idealised nobility?

    I read stuff I don’t understand about Mediaeval poetry and transnational ideology, quote: “… Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of ritualized social passage and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s understanding of animals’ roles in the production of social identity […] the productive play of becoming-animal in both the Old French and the Middle English romances …”
    Phil H

  229. I usually stay outside exclusively North American discussion, and the labels put on certain birth cohorts are certainly very North American – I haven’t seen them (or equivalents) used nearly as much in Europe or South America. However, the generational discussion seems to offer a strangely adequate example for last week’s theme. It surely is mythical thinking to place a billionaire’s son and a homeless woman’s daughter born on Dec 31, 1999 into category Y, while the single child of two PhD parents and the eldest daughter of high school dropouts born on Jan 1, 2000 are lumped into category Z? As if heads “model Y” got screwed on babies’s necks until the fireworks, and heads “model Z” afterwards.

    That myth has some pragmatic usefulness for understanding and predicting people’s behavior, but it gets mixed up with the effects of age, and on the other hand gender, wealth, education, birth order, religion, urban vs. rural and maybe other variables are just as important as the birth cohort.

  230. @Emmanuel Goldstein
    Since you asked… 🙂

    I do not consider myself an anti-vaxxer, but as a sharer of available scientific evidence aimed at countering what seems to me to be the Myth of The Immaculately Fabricated Miraculous Vial, I often get called one.

    Emmanuel, you state (possibly accurately) that a case can be made that vaccination in general can be shown to be good for society as a whole. And perhaps that is the right case to be pitching to those who fund public healthcare. And of course, managerial bureaucrats tend to think in precisely those terms – “the greatest good for the greatest number must trump even the severest of individual harms if they occur only to the few”

    But you must realise that no individual person experiences themselves as a “society as a whole” nor do they weigh up risks and benefits as if they were deciding anything FOR “society as a whole.”

    Each of us weighs up the decisions that are within our power to make with regard to risks and benefits to us and to our families and those we care about personally, in whatever terms we see, value and understand them.

    So, when a person suffers an adverse vaccine effect, or sees their child suffering an adverse effect, the last thing they are going to think is “hurray, my suffering is worth it. Look at all the sickness in others that was prevented by my partaking in the vaccination campaign that hurt me personally”. They are instead going to say, “wait, what? Wasn’t vaccination supposed to be good for ME? Good for MY child?” For that person, it so happens the harm was 100% and the benefit 0%. Why wouldn’t they decide the campaign promises were a lie? Especially if the NEXT thing they encounter is the severest form of gaslighting to try to convince them that whatever “happened” to them wasn’t the vaccine that changed everything for them.

    So, right now, in my experience, it is those for whom the promises “lied” who are most interested in learning about and discussing the science. In order to understand what did happen. Which, by the way, convincingly shows that a substance designed to stimulate the immune system MAY do so both in intended (beneficial) and unintended (harmful) ways.

    The reason I am increasingly of the view that the mythic mode is all on the other side, is that pro-vaccination advocates, by and large, are extremely reluctact to become conversant with the evidence. They do not want to get drawn into discussions about immunology, autoimmunity, atopy, the different kinds of evolutionary pressure different types of vaccines bring to bear on the virulence of pathogens, the toxicity of heavy metals, or any other relevant evidence contained within the extensive scientific literature.

    Instead they want to stick to mantras “vaccines safe” “good for the greatest number” and conduct anti-heresy inquisitions against the “selfish” the “spreaders of misinformation” and the “hesitant to comply” which, to me, betray a religious concern with the quality of people’s faith in the continued rule of “experts” more than any interest in informing them with evidence – the hallmark both of science and of the “practical” aspect of the issue.

  231. I’m not sure how this fits into the picture, JMG, but when I was young I expected that humanity would progress in a positive direction. I think this was the prevailing belief. Knowledge would continue to solve problems. Technology would give us all more time to do the things we wanted to do. It was predicted that the working week would drop to two or three days. It was a time of full employment in my country.

    I expected that the future would bring more leisure, more time to pursue interests, relationships, and to enjoy. Ironically we already had more free time than ever before, and far more than we have today. I was lucky enough to be a free-range girl-child, ranging in big and small groups of children across wide areas, exploring, building, climbing, running, imagining, making up games and negotiating rules – without adult supervision beyond being home at mealtimes unless previously arranged. I expected freedom would broaden for everyone. Prosperity would increase and would be shared, though not without struggle.

    It was believable because my parents had lived through war and the depression, and both sides of my family had fought for a better life. Relatively recent mass political actions up to that point had achieved serious change. It seemed natural to believe in ‘people power’ and that the innate evolution of humanity was towards what we describe as ‘humane’.

    I’ve been a bit disappointed to be honest.

  232. @JMG

    With regard to the fulminations around Kaiser Friedrich I at Kyffhauser, also bear in mind that Franco has recently been exhumed and reinterred, as a few years ago was Richard III. There is a lot of messing around with archetypal forces in Europe at the moment.

  233. It is not very productive, though inevitably natural, for the shapers of perception, our leaders, our artists, and our musicians, to tell us that our society is in Springtime, when it is in fact in Autumn. Many sit blissfully in the reverie of the optimism of Spring and the dreams of Summer, and carefully avoid seeing the Autumn leaves. The tragic aspect of the matter is that the short lifespans of people, compared to the longer lifespans of civilizations, means that, for many, the mode of thinking that is most prevalent and useful in one season is the only mode of thinking useful at all, for it is all they know. But the world turns.

  234. packshaud,
    You know, I do believe that JMG’s future world scenario is much more plausible! To be fair, I once contemplated marrying my cat, and I was only partly joking. Anyway, I’ll take your word for it, I’m a clever cat, I know my limits.

    Ok, I will stick to transactional analysis.

  235. @Teresa from Hershy
    Thanks for the link to the book about communities. Sounds interesting.

  236. @ Dusk Shine

    Re gods and goddesses

    In a way, I am somewhat envious, as you have names and forms with which to associate. While I *think* of my patron as Gaia/Ge, the chthonic earth deity, she has refused to give me a name, saying in so many words, “Do not put me in a box.” I often refer to Her as Whomever She May Be. The first time I encountered Her, I did ask “Who are you?” only to be met with “Why do you need to know?” Perhaps the dealing with that lack of definition is simply part of my path, as it does run counter to my underlying (overly-intellectualized, mathematical) approach to things

  237. @Dusk Shine:
    Well, there’s Discord, of course; I expect there are definitely some things you could find there, though naturally you’d need to be careful.

    As for personal worship being stacked towards the divine feminine, that did make me wonder about mine, which has been a pair of goddesses for many years. I don’t _feel_ like there’s a problem there, but I’m wondering why, assuming I’m not just missing it. Possibly avoiding that is Sekhmet’s doing; she _did_ inform me that I should start worshipping her at that level just before I really moved away from my parents for the first time. And while I’m not inclined to deny her femininity, some of her traits might well be thought unfeminine by some cultures (though of course the views of the traits of goddesses often seem to be considered differently than those of mortal women). Whereas I believe, from what I recall you saying, the Celestia and Luna you worship are more… thoroughly feminine, I suppose it might be called?

    (And related to your not-actually-transgenderism, concern about that sort of thing led me to think up an expanded button test.
    The button test, for those unfamiliar, is a thought experiment in which one encounters a button that will change one’s sex; the question is whether one presses it. It occurred to me, though, that many people might, indeed, press it not actually because that was a particularly appropriate change but just because it was _a_ change. So, the expanded button test:
    Two buttons. One of them will give you a body of the opposite sex of average quality, however you personally measure quality of bodies of that sex. The other will give you a high-quality, again according to your personal quality judgements, of the same sex. _Which_, if either, does one press?)

  238. JMG:
    Friedrich Barbarossa is not the only one. Denmark has Holger Danske who sleeps beneath Kronborg Castle at Helsingør and who will, according to the legend explained by the tour guide, awaken to defend Denmark if it is threatened. Another European legend has it that there is an army of knights beneath a mountain in the Czech Republic who will arise and, under the command of King Wenceslas, he of Christmas song fame, protect the Czech people in their time of peril. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that there are more such heroes waiting beneath mountains or castles in Europe

  239. Hopping onto the “Christian fiction” train: JMG, I won’t dispute that works of purely Christian imagination after Pilgrim’s Progress are of lower quality. However, I consider Pilgrim’s Progress to be rather exceptional in that it excludes extra-biblical sources of content (the extended allegorical form itself is not really biblical), and this surely has to do with Bunyan’s opposition to the established church. The authors of Beowulf, of the Chant de Roland (and Orlando Furioso), the Nibelungensage, the Arthurian and Grail cycles; Dante Alighieri, Chaucer, Spenser all drew strongly upon pre-Christian traditions or on fantastical stories independent of Christianity, and I consider all of them devote Christians. Even Paradise Lost is chock full of references to Classical myth. It would never occur to me that a modern Christian author should make the attempt to write fiction based entirely on Biblical (or patristic, or hagiological) sources, and I don’t think it occurred to Tolkien, C.S. Lewis or Charles Williams either.

    I do know one genre of fiction that excludes extra-biblical references, and that is popular, usually anonymous theater (nativitiies, passions, miracle plays etc.). Ariano Suassuna’s modern miracle play “O auto da compadecida” is based on the popular tradition of the Brazilian Northeast and wildly popular among both the general population (through TV adaptations) and among critics.

  240. I’m a boomer (South African, born 1948) and I’m not apologizing for it. For me, the biggest change is how crowded the world has got in my lifetime.

    In primary school we sere set “The view from my window” as an essay topic. My first sentence was “The view from my window is green.” and I went on to describe how from my second-story window I looked out over vineyards, fields, and trees stretching to the blue haze that marked the horizon and the sea.

    It’s still a bit green today, but mostly it’s the red roofs of endless residential developments that stretch to the blue haze of the sea. And it’s all around. Whenever I drive out of the city, which is seldom, I see more new developments that I never saw before and don’t know the names of.

    Where did all these people come from? My mother was the youngest of six children, my father the youngest of three. So I have many cousins I have lost contact with. But in my generation my impression is there were only two children per family on average — about replacement rate. Yet somehow the middle class people I’m talking about have multiplied enormously.

    Parenting was different too. For one thing, the world was safer for children, and for another, I don’t think parents were as concerned about their children’s prospects as they are today, and left them to their own devices.

    Both my mother and my father lived through the Great Depression and WW2. They seldom talked about either event. I gather from the odd remark and photo that my mother’s family really suffered in the depression and lived as poor whites. My father was from a farming family and better off. In WW2 he volunteered and set off to war six weeks after getting married, serving in North Africa and the Italian campaign.

    Both events left their mark. Firstly, they should never have got married, being totally incompatible, but when the world is going to hell I guess it’s any port in a storm. And second, given the unprecedented decades of post-war peace and prosperity, I don’t think they believed that any child needed help and support compared to what they themselves had lived through, and preferred the company of people who had experienced the same events as them rather than investing time in their own families.

  241. For what it is worth, I think the phenomenon of the transgender person who declares themselves to be female (It seems like this is more common than the reverse, or at least more visible) and expects society to act like they are a woman in all respects is a consequence of a society that has no real mechanism for fitting people into social roles. As long as you don’t break the law and have money in your bank account, you can do anything you want in late-stage industrial society. We have a socially constructed category of “woman” and “man” that mean increasingly little other than “oppressed victim, typically with vagina” and “oppressor, typically with penis”. In a society that values being “oppressed” more than just about anything else (plus the access to women’s sports, spaces and bodies), I can see why a few very depraved men do this sort of thing.

    On the other hand (I wholeheartedly approve of this sort of thing, under the present absurd framework):

    A year or so ago a story made the rounds of a young Albertan man who legally changed gender to save on his car insurance. I wonder how common this is – men who quietly have legally become women for some economic advantage but do not abuse women by demanding access to their spaces or sports. I know when I was in university there were plenty of women-only scholarships…

    Here in Canada the procedure of changing your gender legally is to fill out a form at our equivalent of the DMV. I imagine in a sane society the process of changing ones gender would involve at least a year, and probably at least some time isolated from society, at the end of which they return in their new gender.

  242. @JMG – I don’t count myself as a member of any religious tradition. I meditate under the big oak tree in my back yard in at least once a week, to hear what it has to say, and that’s about it. I’m not well versed in the art of prayer.

  243. Thank you for both parts of “Dancers at the End of Time”.
    I connected them to the following dots:
    1. “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” from Jonathan Haidt. The mystic mode is the elephant in that book and the technology or pragmatic mode is the rider of that elephant. Thus the observation now is, that a growing number of people are rather elephants which lost their riders.
    2. The decreasing amount of available net energy and other resources may be an important reason to shift to mythical mode and abandon pragmatic mode, because many people don’t see solutions, except acting “good” according to their mythical ideas. It is as if they want to impress and convince the Gods of the technological progress. It seems, they are hoping that these Gods thus will help and send more energy and technological solutions. (Thus this reminds me to J.M. Greers book “After Progress: Reason and Religion at the End of the Industrial Age”)
    3. The articles mention National Socialism in Germany and Communism in Russia as historical examples of collective shifts to an overwhelming mythical mode. However, both can be seen as results of a serious reduction of the net energy available per person. This shortage of net energy and other resources in Germany and Russia was artificially created by World War One and its outcome. The Versailles Treaty resulted in a heavy reduction of the available net energy in Germany, while in the less industrialized Russia, the War alone reduced the available net energy enough to bring Lenin and Stalin to power. We now face similar trends as results of geological facts and growing consumption in China and elsewhere.
    It seems that William Catton was right, when he wrote in “Overshoot”, the we should have better analysed and seen National Socialism as a grave and tragic precursor for the 21th Century.

    While reason would call for reductions in the need of net energy and other resources, especially here in Germany, the “good” and “progressive” people and parties do everything they can to increase the need for net energy and resources, by increasing the complexity of the system and by inviting ever more “refugees” from poor countries (with very low environmental and carbon footprints!). My explanation for this irrational, destructive policies is, that most of the politicians and their voters have shifted to “mystical mode only” – perhaps combined with some degree of an erotic mode (think of the erotics of power).

    Let’s hope, that at least some reasonable solutions can be found, to mitigate the results of this modern collective madness. Until now, to me “Dark Age America” was of some help: Strive to help in preserving and spreading knowledge, which can help in making the next dark age less dark.

  244. @JMG and All:

    Yeah, this has been a harder-than-most essay and subject to digest. The illustration stories of Soubie and the Ghost Dancers very painful and honestly – I’ve been walking around for the past few days ‘seeing’ people’s words and actions differently and wondering / doubting what is rational and what is madness.

    Apologies for being so corny, but I want to say a big fat Thank You in appreciation for this blog and discussion space unlike any other. I do sometimes ask myself why I keep coming back here – After all, I’m a liberal, still believe in traditionally liberal goals and values, I don’t always agree with the methods of SJW’s or “Woke” culture, but I understand where they’re coming from, what they’re trying to achieve – so I have some empathy for them. I’m a Boomer! so same there, and I have experience life in the Welfare Class, Working Class, & 1% Salaried Class, I understand them, even if I disagree or disapprove of their actions and rationale. I’m not an Occultist or even particularly religious – so why am I drawn to these discussions?

    In another group of (SJW) friends I talk to regularly, we discuss “anti-racism” (a whole ‘nother discussion and not pertinent right now); The biggest hurdle is simply listening to other people tell “their truths”, (meaning what they experience think and feel from their perspective) without interrupting or trying to fix it, deny, deflect or take over – just to listen and really hear them. And allowing oneself to be uncomfortable, just accepting that some other’s perspectives feel like accusations, some accusations sting. They usually (but not always) sting when they have a grain of truth we recognize in them.

    So, I continue to apply the same principles here, I’m not inclined to agree with everything, (a lot of things! LOL), but I appreciate the civil, thoughtful and intelligent discourse that provides a space wherein I can truly HEAR you; and even the criticisms of Liberals, intellectualism, formal education, etc. I can understand and also empathize with. Reading things I disagree with is uncomfortable sometimes, but accepting that discomfort, I think it is helping me to see the big picture more clearly. To understand much more fully and informs my actions and path. & I learn so dang much here!

    Also: @ Violet, Thanks, your contributions are always superb, but that comment on identity was mind-blowing. It is great in describing possible/probable fault-lines or problems of weak identity, (how we got here, what the problem is) – but what is a strong, resilient or stable self-identity? How do I get one of those? ( On sale at Amazon? Not likely, LOL) I’m also walking around pondering that.

    Anyway – Carry On.

    @Doll, I hear you. I don’t have very satisfying answers to your concerns/ hate of us Boomers, but I suppose, hearing is at least a start?

  245. @JMG,

    Equestriolatry is as good a word as any, I suppose. I’m certainly not offended. It’s supposed to bemuse; I have a take-things-too-seriously personality at times, and as I have mentioned before, I deliberately set up my religious experiment in a way that nobody (myself included) could possibly take it too seriously. Even undeniable, physics defying miracles would have to be met with a certain bemusement, given the source.

    As for mixing pantheons– I suspected you’d say that. The dynamic, creative male principle in that franchise can only be represented by… Discord, Sprit of Chaos and Disharmony. Since when I started this, he’d just been introduced in the show as Pony Satan, that didn’t seem an option, but luckily it’s an evolving “mythology”. Turns out even the spirit of chaos acknowledges the magic of friendship these days. (And, honestly, anyone who deals with little boys would have to admit that a Spirit of Chaos and Disharmony is a pretty good expression of at least one aspect of the divine masculine!)

    I suppose my whole story is also an example of the unfettered, out of touch, and extremely atomized individual our society creates. Hence the recognition I could have ended up no better than the poor, possessed boyfriend in the main post.

  246. @ Helix So all you folks who hate and scorn us, you’re on deck. Fight the good fight. And know that your victories will be temporary, there will always be another fight, and your kids will feel exactly the same way towards you as you feel towards us. Come back in 30 years and tell us how you fared.

    Thanks for your thoughts on generationism. In my view, while it’s highly appropriate to think critically about each generation and its impacts on our always-evolving societies and cultures, isolating and over-blaming (or over-praising) a particular generation has limited value and leads to a lot of division and alienation.

    JMG, you’re hypercritical of the boomers and seem quite bitter about their failings. Sometimes I feel concerned that you’re fanning the flames of generational conflict and wonder what good that does? I know you relish your role as an agent provocateur in this forum.

    The generations need to work together…its a continuum! I reckon in 30-40 years a lot of boomer souls will be the grandchildren of Gen Z!

  247. This all makes me very sad. Like many I had a very traumatic childhood. When I was very young, I was convinced I was a horse, then I was convinced I would become a horse. Later I was a boy, refused to wear dresses, had a boy’s haircut, never wore make-up, and rejected all female gender roles. I had vivid dreams and fantasies when I was young that my “real” parents would come rescue me. Basically, I lived in a fantasy world where I was always something else. In my teens I became anorexic, I hated my body. I went for years refusing to let anyone take a picture of me.

    As an almost 50-year-old woman the greatest gift of my life has been learning to accept and love myself, in this body. Who I am in this life, my parents, my upbringing, the traumas and difficulties, looking in the mirror and seeing the reality of the reflection in the mirror and seeing me and being OK with it, being more than OK with it, loving every line and wrinkle and the fat and recently my gray hair. I know my path isn’t for everyone, and I fully support people’s rights to live how they choose. I am a big fan of gender bending and cross dressing, and really miss the 1980s where it seemed everyone was playing with elements of “drag” and questioning gender and sexuality. I am still very masculine in many ways, it’s just who I am. I was also big into the punk scene, and loved it because we wanted to be different and not accepted, I never wanted a seat at the corrupt table, and still don’t. But this doesn’t seem to be an option anymore, where is the freedom to try things on and play and experiment and figure out who you are? I work with someone who is transitioning her 2-year-old?!

    Anyway, I just see these young kids taking all this so literally, sucking all the fun out of it, and trying to force not acceptance, but obedience, which is the exact opposite goal most of us misfits had. I’ve been so very confused!

    Your essay has helped shine a light on some of what’s going on, thank you.

  248. @The Smoking Shorts Club, Regarding PP. I have a subscription, and attended one of their conferences a couple years ago and spent an evening at dinner with Chris, as well as a lot of time with what I think is his young new girlfriend. I find the content useful, and found Chris to be a lovely person, but yes, someone caught between a few different worlds/realities? I’ll just say I am suspicious of people who end up divorcing life partners at this stage of life after so many years. I fully admit I am being “judgy”. I went through a terrible time with my husband about 17 years into our relationship, it resulted in a separation, affairs, and was really tough emotionally. But here we are 22 years in, stronger than ever before by working through it, and I feel like it’s all made me a better person in every way.

    That said, I think part of me keeps my subscription precisely because I have been disappointed. After attending the conference I realized the community really is made up of a group of really great people. I came away energized and feeling more optimistic about the world.

  249. Hi Jim W and all,

    Jim, your song Pronoun Blues… sounds like great fun.
    Would you be willing to post the tabs?

    (a nickname that I share with 90,000 other residents of a lovely town on the western edge of North America)

  250. @Caryn and JMG re past subcultures and the Internet: Based on my own experience, I have to take a middle position. Perhaps the disagreement is really over whether time spent is the most relevant measure. (“People traveled just as much before automobiles and planes” is very likely true in terms of time spent, but certainly not in terms of distances traveled.)

    Time was, the main reasons for going to SF conventions included the opportunity to watch classic or obscure SF films that were rarely if ever shown in theaters or on TV; shopping for fan-specialized merchandise that wasn’t sold in any regular stores; having conversations on topics that were of no interest to anyone else in your regular school or work or family life; and publishing 140-character-or-less messages among your fellow outcasts (by wearing hand-lettered* buttons). And after the con, you had to go home. (Okay, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”) Cons were liminal spaces. Even if you spent a lot of time back home writing fan letters or APA zines, home wasn’t the same as being at a con.

    All those things can now be done 24 hours a day, and you don’t have to go home because you’re already there. Welcome to PermaCon. How many of the “registered guests” of PermaCon are suitably prepared to live full-time in a liminal space?

    And by the way, what does that leave to do at an actual SF con? There’s still the time-honored core activity of badgering your favorite authors in person with fan theories, autograph requests, and soliciting advice on how to write; and cosplay has become a much bigger part of the scene. But that still leaves plenty of time for things like lengthy earnest discussion of which shades of makeup are socially acceptable for costuming as a Dark Elf.

    (*The Calligraphic Button Catalog, which for decades was the quasi-official summary of several overlapping subcultures in the form of a printed list of a few thousand aphorisms, slogans, references, and in-jokes, still exists online. Note the categories “ANTI-BUSH” and “ELECTION 2004,” like a stopped watch revealing the time of death.)

  251. JMG & al,

    I think we’ve about beaten the boomer thing into a dead horse, so I’m just going to thank everyone for weighing in on the conversation. I’ve certainly come away with a much better understanding of the various different views on this topic.

    JMG, thanks for pointing me to the “Alternatives to Nihilism” series, which I found to be a very insightful and inspiring series. I confess to living abroad for most of the 1970s, so I have only second-hand knowledge of the trends you cite. I did return the the US in time to see Reagan very publicly rip Jimmy Carter’s solar panels off the roof of the White House, which I viewed as a very bad sign. And as you pointed out, the country never looked back.

    I’m still of the opinion that the crucial failure was one of leadership. My sense was that the VietNam war soured the anti-war ranks — which included some of the “best and brightest” — on public service. How could the country have embarked on such a horrific and unwarranted venture in the face of widespread public opposition but for a government staffed by monsters who saw themselves — apparently with good reason — beyond popular recall? Any doubts were put to rest by the assassinations of the 1960s, in which any leader of stature who posed a credible threat to the public narrative was systematically gunned down.

    I believe I’m correct in thinking it was largely this same contingent (anti-war) who were exploring the alternative and more frugal lifestyles during the 1970s. While it’s true that they did not follow through on these explorations, the lack of leadership in that direction certainly didn’t help, and their unwillingness to mobilize politically sealed their downfall. As you’ve mentioned elsewhere, being right is not sufficient.

    But as I said, I wasn’t here. I just got to witness the aftermath. It wasn’t pretty, and grows uglier by the year.

  252. Dusk Shine:

    We’re lazy? “OK, Boomer.” You raised us that way.
    We’re entitled? “OK, Boomer.” We learned that from you.
    We’re narcissistic? “OK, Boomer.” You taught us that, too.

    Where to start with this?

    None of us is the creation of our parents alone, our attitudes and behaviors are affected at least as much by our peers and by forces outside the family over which parents might wish they had some control, but do not.

    How about a personal example? My family is almost perfect for this. My parents were born in the mid- to late 1930’s, solidly Silent Generation. They married young and had their first three children in rapid succession at the end of the Boomer years. I’m the oldest. When I was almost 20, Mom and Dad had two more children, born in the early 1980’s, siblings who are in the same general age cohort as my own children. This sort of thing isn’t all that unusual in our family.

    All of us had exactly the same parents: very religious, very conservative, extraordinarily frugal, same parenting style – we even grew up in the same house in the same neighborhood. If you think we all turned out similarly, you’d be very wrong; the difference is stark.

    It never occurred to us three oldest (Boomers all) that Mom and Dad would pay for our college, we didn’t expect to be given a car, didn’t expect any help buying our first home – and we didn’t get any either, we worked our butts off. As a teenager when I announced that I no longer believed in God, Mom said fine, but I still had to go to church every Sunday with the rest of the family, so I did. Rebellion was not an option in our house. We had a lot of chores and responsibilities too, just like most of our friends, and we all got part-time jobs at 16. Mom and Dad were strict and we had a healthy fear of crossing them.

    The two youngest siblings, one late GenX and one early Millennial, expected college and graduate school money from Mom and Dad and a car for commuting. Later they demanded help with a down payment on a house – not just any house, but one that was far nicer than anything Mom and Dad could ever afford. At one point we oldest kids realized that our parents (then in their late 50’s/early 60’s) were afraid of our youngest siblings, because the pair of them would scream and act unhinged. Eventually the second youngest stole a great deal of money from Mom after Dad died and the youngest tried to cover it up, money that Mom and Dad had spent decades saving up, little by little, to live on when they got old. These two siblings were not impoverished people, they had graduate degrees and excellent jobs.

    Are Mom and Dad fully responsible for the reprehensible behavior, attitudes and self-centeredness of the youngest two? If so, why aren’t we all that way? They were our parents too. Or were the youngest two influenced by forces outside our family? I can tell you that I raised my own sons with my parents’ values and they are worlds apart from my siblings even though they are almost the same ages. The biggest difference I can think of is that my siblings went to public schools – very good ones, by the way – and my kids were entirely homeschooled.

    Last, but not least, at what age are your personal issues no longer your parents’ fault or the fault of your parents’ generation? If you’re an adult, you have agency; you can do something about being ‘lazy’, ‘entitled’, or ‘narcissistic’; you don’t have to stay that way unless you want to.

    I’m all done channeling my mother and grandmother now.

  253. @Moshe Braner: the generations are still around 20-30 years long, and while people are being born every year, there are some historical landmarks so huge, they leave their mark on those to follow. And y’all, FORGET the marketers/demographers definitions which count birth years as the turning point. The turning points are *experiences*.

    Silents have no conscious memory of a world before the start of the Great Depression. Boomers have no conscious memory of a world in Crisis – either Depression or WWII. Xers have no conscious memory of a world before the rash of assassinations in the ’60s, starting with JFK. Millennials? They have no conscious memory of the pre-Reagan years, therefore remember none of the old safeguards against the Greed is Good era. “Gen Z”? That one’s even easier – no conscious memory of a world not at war with an abstraction called “Terror” that we are still at war with, and the resulting push toward a surveillance state.

    And yes, the Xers have been the redheaded stepchildren of the family – as the Lost were before them, but without a Gertrude Stein to give them a name and a memory. And without a hopeless bitter war to give them a measure of respect and glory; the Boomers had that instead.

    How do I know all this? Well, my beloved daughters were born in 1966 and 1968 respectively, and yes, they are and were caught between young “Gen-Z” children and aged (Silent) parents. As a mother and grandmother, it behooves me to care, and to understand.

    And the rest of you bashers of this generation or that, quitchabitchen … we have all had our faults (and virtues), and *endless rounds of “Ain’t It Awful” and “She did it, Mom!” are mere variations on the massive fingerpointing and circular firing squads so much in evidence.

  254. I found a lot of food for thought in this post and especially the comments on it about identity.

    My wife and I come from the Silent Generation, the only generation without a single US President to our credit, and we produced relatively few major politicians, too.

    We are also the last pre-psychotherapy generation. When we were growing up, hardly any child ever went to any sort of psychologist or psychiatrist or psychotherapist. This week’s comments have gotten me to wondering just how significant a divide that may be between successive generations.

    But more to the point, in sharp contrast to what seems to be the case now, neither my wife nor I took our identity from any sort of wider community to which we belonged. My own family strongly rejected belonging to any wider community on principle. My wife’s family’s feelings were less strong about communities, but the end result was almost the same. Instead, each of us shaped our own personal identity from the history of our own family–a quirky history in each case–and from the stories and physical relics that had come down to each of us from our various ancestors in the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s. And the same seems to have been true, to judge by what we heard and saw as we each grew up in our extended families, of our parents and our grandparents.

    (This sort of identity-formation in terms of family history may sound like a mark of aristocratic privilege to some here. It wasn’t. Our immediate families were lower middle class, and always had to count their pennies and watch their expenses with care; their parents and grandparents were and had been even poorer than our parents were. I am the second ever in my family and forbears to have gone to college; my wife was the first in hers. We both went to the University of California at Berkeley, which was absolutely free of charge to every state resident in our days. If it had not been free, neither of us would ever have been able to get a college education–our families were that poor.)

    In contrast to this background, I spent my gainful years working as a professor at a very expensive Ivy-League university, where my undergraduate students were, with very few exceptions, from upper-class families, often from old-money families. Very few of these students, insofar as I got to know them, had any sense of their own families’ history and backstory. A certain fraction of them, once I got curious and started asking, did not even know both the first and the last names of even one of their grandparents. Maybe one-third of them had no sense of even one grandparent as a person, of what their lives had been like and what their characters were. Very many had grown up with divorced parents, and had little sense of even the non-custodial parent as a person, much less any sense of the non-custodial parent’s family. (One very gregarious student mentioned once that, of all her school friends from her pre-college years, she was the only one whose parents were still together. And she did have a good sense of her family’s history for a few generations and of the individual characters of her various close relatives.)

    The contrast between their various senses of self and my wife’s and mine was absolutely breath-taking, once I came to see it in its details.

    These differences between our generation and theirs, I think, may have been due to several new developments in their parents’ generation (mostly Boomers): (1) high geographic mobility, due to the changing demands of career and employment; (2) high frequency of divorce, with the divorced parents’ careers taking them to separate parts of the country; and perhaps also (3) the rise of widespread psychotherapy that focused on children’s developing their personal identity within the (unexamined?) norms of currently fashionable or acceptable forms of community, in place of family-based forms of identity that a child usually develops within a functional family.

    Absent any such organic form of identity, I suppose that a child will have to shape an identity for themself on any other available basis, and the most widely available bases these days are all on-line.

  255. Dear Temporaryreality, Many thanks for the kind words!

    Dear SarahJ, thank you for your response! While I’m not able to define the the unravelling of identity as unnatural, that said, I think it is something horrific that most people who live in an intact culture are able to go through life without experiencing. It may be important to have one’s identity crushed in order to have certain types of spiritual experiences, but I think lots of people would be better off going with the flow and not having their sense of self brutally upended.

    Dear BB, part of the issue, I think, is that, upon final analysis, we aren’t really anything. If I look at who I am I see choices I have made. That is very different than seeing an essential identity. I’ve had many professions, interests and hobbies. I’ve even had different names and gender identities! Certainly, there exists a continuity of the self, but at certain points of my life I filled my time with sewing, other times drawing, other times getting high, and yet other times in ecstatic prayer. And so, who is this me who is in these different activities!? Is it one or many? Am I always essentially drawing? Praying? Getting stoned? None of these things are me, I’ve poured myself into these things but “I” transcend these activities. Am I the thoughts in my head? The stirrings in my chest? These things happen, but I could also equally identify with my center of gravity or digestive process or need to sleep.

    All of these things form parts of how I do or have oriented myself in space and time, but they are all impoverished regarding who I am, since none of these things can fully contain me in space and time. “I” overflow these containers! What is more real; my waking life or my dreams? The time I spend waiting for something to happen and the time the thing comes into actuality? The time spent reading or the time spent dancing or the time spent weeping on the floor?

    Point being, the thing about the nature of identity is that it is fragile because much of identity doesn’t hold up well by itself. How do you circumscribe all of the complexities of a life? Here come the social structures the reinforce identity and they work well enough for most people most of the time. But I seriously wonder if the problem of identity is bigger, much bigger, than simply the time period we happen to live in. It seems something deeply fraught with dangerous paradoxes regardless. Reflection is perhaps exceedingly dangerous stuff.

    Dear Naomi, thank you for engaging with that thought experiment! I wonder though, if we shift the focus from water in general to a specific waterway how that changes the conversation.

    We all have family members who are difficult people. Maybe every once in a while thy get mad and have a toxic vibe, or punch a wall, or get drunk and say the wrong — and infuriating! thing at the very worst time. And yet most of the time they are decent, and they are always there for you no matter what.

    To my mind the river is like that, the river, my friend the river, my uncle, the river, is by no means perfect. Sometimes he overflows his banks and causes problems, he may have been involved in some untimely human deaths back in the day. But he’s…family and I love him even though I know he isn’t a paragon of moral virtue.

    Dear Dusk Shine, Thank you for sharing your story! Transgenderism is really lousy therapy and it’s a disgrace that so many shrinks push it on gender nonconforming people. My mind always goes immediately to eugenics, I find the whole situation so egregious and ugly.

    As for worshipping your pantheon, my thought is why not address the gods you worship in prayer and ask them how to proceed? If you feel that they are indeed wearing the masks of these thought forms it may be appropriate to ask them if they have different names that they may wish to be called upon by. You can also ask them what appropriate offerings to give, and divine the answer with your oracle of choice.

    Dear JMG, that makes a lot of sense — I for one am very appreciative of all of the work that you’ve done getting those ideas into circulation. As for the social turbulence, here I can’t help but think of the Péladan quote “society is an anonymous enterprise for living a life of second hand emotions.” This is a workable arrangement when the emotions are basically workable. But in todays psychic climate of radical imbalance, that can be a death sentence. Interesting the parallels between now and WWI. It’s always emotionally wrenching for me to read literature written in the early 20th century, knowing that the ardent optimism was about to get shattered by the grim pragmatics of Pyrrhic warfare.

    The Victorian age had in many respects a similar hubris as ours, and came to a very, very messy end in the trenches. I wonder to what degree WWI could be considered something of a convergence of revitalization movements? Certainly, it saw the rise of Bolshevism, but I think here of the calvary corps that were mowed down by machine gun fire, and the insistence that everyone would be home by Christmas, the jolliness with which folks marched off to die. Dare I say that the whole mad battling for a few yards of trenches seems from my perspective over a century later like a grim ritual action? Of course there were the pragmatics, and the movements of the chess pieces, etc. But there was also here zeitgeist, which was the last gasp of a way of viewing the world which could no longer survive as it had in the prevailing human and spiritual ecology of the day.

    And likewise after The Great War the Victorian certainty and optimism was really truly dead. People don’t write like William James anymore because they no longer can imagine the world as he could, with an essentially Victorian optimism. To my mind, our techno-utopias live a much more hole-and-corner type existence compared to the sort of buoyant idea of a mechanistic universe that humans could apprehend, that The Great War more or less shattered permanently.

  256. JMG: And yet the Christian tradition used to be a blazing source of inspiration to writers, and it still has extraordinary raw material for the imaginative writer — thus my wondering what’s gone wrong.

    1) With the change from Catholicism to Anglicism and Protestantism, you lose a lot of stories and myths. Losing the Deuterocanonical books is bad enough, lose the oral traditions and the non canonical New Testament and what’s left isn’t much to work with.

    2) Given the shrunken sources, it’s only time before the notational space fills in.

    3) A declining culture (which the Christian culture is) and distrust of artists leads to strictures on expression – hence the ham fisted storytelling of Left Behind. Being unable to vary from the urtexts leads ham fisted storytelling.

  257. About those Baby Boomers:

    I agree with the sentiments some people have expressed here that Baby Boomers are a category that’s way too broad. To begin with, they were born in between 1946 and 1964, so at the front end you have people for whom the 1960s was the defining cultural experience, and at the tail end you have people who were five when Woodtosck happened and who graduated high school in 1982.

    My own family, for instance, didn’t really get effected by the ’60s culture at all: my father’s parents were on the tail-end of the Silent Generation; they married and had their first kid in 1962. And my mother’s parents came of age in the late 1970s.

    Also, I don’t agree with Dusk Shine’s assertion that the Boomers are responsible for sowing generational conflict. The thing is, in any generation of youth you’re going to have some people who rebel against their elders in some way or another. The reason there was so dang much of it in the ’60s was, at least in my opinion, squarely the fault of the older generations’ failure to inspire memesis.

    So these youths saw the authority figures that they were supposed to trust beating up civil rights protesters, repeatedly escalating the war in Vietnam after promising not to, sending young men to die in said war even though they lacked a clear plan for victory, dumping previously-held norms of political civility, banishing their own traditional religion from public life, and finally imploding in the Watergate scandal.

    Nor was the sexual revolution the product of teenagers discovering that they liked to get naked with one another – teenagers have always done that, but in the ’60s they had the institutional support from much older generations: people like Alfred Kinsey, Hugh Hefner, the scientists who created the birth control pill, and the lawyers and judges who worked hard at getting rid of any laws that stood in the way of sexual freedom. (It is interesting to note that when the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the two dissenters, White and Rehnquist, were the two youngest men on the court).

    Basically, what happened in the ’60s and early ’70s in terms of cultural shifts was the work of the elders. The young were just along for the ride. Sure, young people made a lot of light and noise, as they always do when they’re caught up in big events, but I think that most of the youth culture just ended up demonstrating the same point I made while commenting on our host’s essay about Greta Thunberg a few months ago: that when the youth seem to be in charge, it’s because a movement has lost its way, and that youthful enthusiasm, no matter how sincere, is no substitute for steady, pragmatic leadership from the elders.

    And that’s the kind of leadership that America in the 1960s and 1970s didn’t have.

    As for JMG’s frequent talking point about how the young boomers in the Appropriate Tech scene cashed out their ideals for an orgy of lavish consumption in the 1980s: I have no doubt whatsoever that it happened: idealistic youths often do that as they get older and more worldly. On the other hand, I am rather skeptical of whether a big enough portion of that generation was dedicated to resource conservation in the first place in order for their abandonment of it to be the generation’s defining event.

    In any case, the leaders who embodied that transformation – Carter with his knit sweaters, versus Reagan sending his workmen to take down the solar water headers from the White House roof – were both much older men, whose own formative experiences came long before before the baby boomers started making a stir. All these generations seem, to me at least, to be far too interconnected for a single one of them to qualify as America’s failure point – though if I am missing some nuance in your thinking, I would appreciate being set in the right.

  258. Dusk Shine,
    As I understand it Boomers began in 1946 which makes me a bit old. However I do remember the arrogance of many and certainly not even most complaining about the raw deal they had been handed. I used to look at them and think they were mad. When my parents reached working age there was a Depression and when they reached householding age there was a war. They handled it all with grace and fortitude. They just got on with it and I never heard one of them complain. They were very good at enjoying themselves probably because they were glad things were so much better. There must also have been a great deal of underlying sadness at the people they had lost.
    I always thought the bit about the music was just a joke. Still do.
    Certainly our parents came out of their morass as confident (perhaps a tad overconfident) and complete people but so many who followed didn’t.
    Also please remember it is the loud voices which set the tone. Not necessarily the majority.

  259. I agree with Methylethyl re Christian creativity. Somewhere along the line we had to be relevant and therefore we became banal. Such a great loss. Some better attempts have been made but are often treated with suspicion.
    I like C.S. Lewis’s writings. He was enchanted with Northernness and knew a great deal about myths and legends from cultures other than the Bible. Why wouldn’t he also use these as inspiration?

  260. Regarding the Kyffhaeuser: I am not sure if it makes any difference to the myth, but the original version was that Emperor Friedrich II., Barbarossa’s grandson, was waiting to come back and save the Empire (upper case because of its almost religious connotations). That makes much more sense, since after Friedrich II’s death, chaos broke out, his male descendants were exterminated to the last boy, there was no emperor for decades, and for centuries no emperor came even near wielding the power of the Ottonian to Hohenstaufen ones. Barbarossa went missing in Anatolia, which would make it strange for him to be waiting beneath a mountain in Germany. However, Friedrich II. makes a poor match for somebody to save _Germany_ as opposed to the Empire, since he hardly spoke German, avoided staying in Germany any longer than he had to and usually lived at his cultured court in Palermo surrounded by Arabic- and Italian-speakers.

  261. @Wesley

    “All these generations seem, to me at least, to be far too interconnected for a single one of them to qualify as America’s failure point – ….”

    Couldn’t agree more.

  262. There is a pretty good Mormon RGP. Helpfully it was written by an ex-Mormon as part of dealing with some of his baggage growing up in the temple. Dogs In The Vineyard.

    The player characters are ‘God’s Watch Dogs’ teenagers given a poncho, a ‘Book of Life’, a pistol, a brief initiation, and the duty to travel from town to town laying down judgement on the sins in each town on behalf of the Great Temple in Bridal Falls. It isn’t the real Mormon Church, but a fictionalized version in the settler days. It is a fantastic game where the God given duty of the layers is to lay down wholesome loving law, but the game mechanics for settling conflicts always pushes for escalation.

    The author of the game commented that it was written to dig at parts of the self image of the Mormon community he grew up in, but that through playing the game he was able to make peach with old hurts, and find the healing it took such that he was able to be lovingly present at his father’s funeral.

    Recently I was thinking of some of the general category rolls I use to define my identity to myself, and how powerfully they affect my life. It seems that if we don’t have such a persona ready at hand which can match the challenges we face then there is a draw to come up with something very different as a hail mary pass.

  263. @Dusk Shine,

    For what it’s worth, knowing little about FiM and nothing of its cast of characters, after reading your comment I made a list of what characteristics I would look for in a Pony-milieu character who would balance your pantheon toward male. Besides (obviously) “male,” the list included “initially presented as a villain,” “trickster,” and “half-blood/outsider.” Then I looked at a list of the actual characters, and there he was. So, I think the attention you and others have turned toward Discord is apt.

    Based on what you posted, though, it doesn’t seem to me you “should have done” any different than what you did. You didn’t misstep, you found a sound path and now you’re ready (perhaps a bit anxious) to progress along it.


    I asked the present powers here Betwixt (whose forms and correspondences I’m only beginning to learn) whether you needed any further aid against the curse, and whether you needed any further aid in general. The answers were no and yes. I think the latter refers to some worthwhile and challenging present or future endeavor of yours rather than some additional threat. I hope that makes sense, and isn’t too presumptuous.


    Holy cow what a comments thread! Insight and perception, so many dimensions of perspective, from all sides. Thank you all, and especially to our host for consistently setting up such promising foundations for understanding.

    It occurs to me that two main motifs here have been identity (crises of, individually and socially) and identity politics (an excess of). Probably not a mere verbal coincidence.

  264. Hi John Michael,

    Your quote:“the fact that their collective dreams and hopes and visions for the future don’t work any more.”

    I tend to feel that that particular story applies to hardcore doomers too. I’ve travelled through a few Third World countries and the contrast between the average persons life between such places and First World countries was not lost on me. Also, the realisation dawned upon me that we can fall a long long way and still live and love and eat and still have to go to work on a Monday morning.



  265. @Walt F & JMG:

    Yes, Thank You for articulating it that way. My concern is not that odd or fetishistic ideas or groups/ activities existed or were accessible – it’s that we spend sooooo much more time online, than in real life, regardless of any special interest. When a participant is done with a con, (convention?) they or We; ( I’m having a pronoun grammar issue today, so I’ll just stick to ‘we’, lol) went home. We had to go to the bank, store, car wash and interact with other real humans. We went to work and we went to visit neighbors or friends close by, geographically because they were all available in an immediate way. It’s those peripheral interactions we lose. Most of us in first world society do far far less of that these days. We shop online, bank online, log on to Tackle and hire someone to wash the car. & yes, as you, (Walt ) point out – we can actually ‘con’ or engage in our own interest group 24/7 if we like, and so most of us do, far more of our time there than we did or would have pre-internet-olden-days.

    I think this affects us. That’s just my opinion, I’m OK with disagreement.

  266. @JMG: Oh, yes, I’m differentiating between gender and sex, but….hmmn…are you pointing out that sex is just as much a human construct, despite being science-based instead of culturally based? I suppose the more succinct version of my argument would be that either is a construct designed to help tiny brains make sense of an unintelligible universe, but one – sex – is more factually verifiable than the other. Especially as far as medication, treatments, and which list of symptoms/diseases a doctor should be looking at goes.

    I suppose it might be evil to want to see the look on someone’s face if I could actually crack open their perception to the vast Chthulinoid nature of the universe. That desire to take the sanity of others might just be a symptom of fighting a running battle with a chosen profession that has triggered/worsened my anxiety ever since I entered architecture school in 2006, though.

    To speak a bit to the Generational war in the comments, I feel that the older half of the Millennial cohort is sometimes astounded at how different the younger half is from us. Largely along the line of smartphone market saturation, but I digress. Us oldsters were largely imbued with what I can only describe as a “Thomas the Tank Engine” work ethic, believing that if we work hard and follow the rules, the Fat Controller will reward us (with praise). My life experience with my Boomer parents and in the public school system jived with that. Then we found out in college that sometimes the Fat Controller is only interested in keeping his favorite engines around, and you’re hallucinating a bat flying at your face at 3am on your 48th hour awake trying to finish a design in a way that will garner (purely subjective) praise (and a subjective grade that keeps your GPA high enough to stay in the program). Being acculturated to that kind of working style, you then realize in the real corporate world the Fat Controller is not a benevolent god at all, but might actually be an unskilled manager who lets you burst your boiler (i.e. end up in ER for panic attack treatment after months of overtime), with not a word spoken about the circumstances. The other Fat Controllers constantly grumbling amongst themselves about how lazy and entitled the younger generations are and that “work doesn’t mean what it used to” doesn’t help your failing mental health much.

    I think, quite honestly, I don’t know anyone my age (32) who doesn’t sound like they’ve slipped into some sort of mass clinical depression over the last decade of their lives. I have trouble understanding it, when we are obviously doing well, with promotions and praise still coming our way. Everyone older than us and younger than us is working themselves to death, leading to guilt if you’re not giving 150%. The happiest coworker I have is an unmarried 27yo female that was a qualified Olympic swimmer in her college days, has been to more countries in the past two years than I have in my whole life, and is currently doing all – ALL – the drafting for our studio. However, she – like most recent graduates – was taught to use 3D modeling as a crutch for 3D thinking, and has hardly ever produced a “readable“ drawing in the past four years of her career without guidance/redlining. One of the Fat Controllers intentionally pushed her to cry, in the office, on her birthday of all days, two years ago, and she remains to this day largely protected by the massive quantities of endorphins her exercise regimen must give her. She works little overtime, comparatively. I….think I’ve lost my point somewhere in the data dump/rant.

    I *should* be working on writing specs this Saturday afternoon, not sociology essays.

    I think, if I blame my Boomer parents and their generation for anything, it is the deadly life philosophy (and wider cultural imperative) of “follow your Dreams.” Doubleplusungood if spiced with a dash of “Save the World.”

  267. Re generations and mythologies

    To some extent, this is retrospective, as I wasn’t born until later, but the thing that always impressed itself upon me about the 1950s (or those snapshots I had of it historically) was about how certain everything seemed. There was Agriculture and Industry. Things were *ahem* booming and we were defeating diseases, feeding the hungry, bringing peace to the globe (ok, not Korea so much). But the apparent triumph of Science and Progress was all around. It makes sense that this would implant itself into the culture and following generations, I suppose. I occasionally catch one of those old classroom films or newsreels from that era and it is a fascinating peek into another culture, almost another planet.

  268. Ever-enlightening and instructive Archdruid, among all the variables at play in this Dance at The End of Time, as mentioned by at least a couple of other posters in this comment stream, is the effect of various chemical agents on our personalities and mental functioning. Things like lead in the paint on our walls and in our air, radioisotopes from nuclear testing wafting hither and yon, endocrine disrupters from numerous sources (food, water, medical), psychotropic drugs; yee gads, the list goes on and on.

    In my particular case, I’m a DES son. My mom was prescribed DES (Diethylstilbestrol) as an anti-miscarriage drug, having lost her first child to a late-term miscarriage. Years later, the medical community came to the shocked realization that DES not only didn’t protect against miscarriages but caused measurable harm to the infants born under its influence, primarily to the females. My sister, six years younger, has suffered some of the negative effects of DES exposure. Males seem to have fewer issues. My most-noteworthy effect, at least visibly: the 2D:4D digit ratio on both my hands is atypical for males, with noticeably-longer index (2D) than ‘ring’ (4D) fingers.)

    Many chemical agents have been identified as deleterious and have been cut back on or eliminated, for instance the ending of atmospheric nuclear testing and the removal of tetraethyl lead from motor fuels. But numerous other disrupters are still out there; some of them have depressingly-long half-lives.

    Trying to quantify the societal effects of these numerous chemical disrupters is, as far as I can see, pretty easy for some of them (lead, for instance), a bit harder for some (DES), and very difficult or impossible for others. Where these disrupters stand importance-wise in the breakdown of societal and individual lives is probably not something we’ll ever figure out. But in some cases at least, the substances are having more-obvious deleterious effects. Many of the disrupters directly and negatively affect neurological functioning (lead, DES, and radiation just to mention a few.) And what of the interactive effects between different disrupters?

    I will say I am in awe of this gathering of folks who contribute to the comment streams here; such diverse depth of experiences and thoughts that I would never have even imagined! Thanks to all!

  269. Hi John Michael,

    I’m finally getting a chance to read your fine blog.

    This quote was a goodie: “Paying attention to where one’s meals are coming from, though, is tolerably sane under any conditions!”

    I have this understanding of history which suggests to me that any civilisation – or any group of people for that matter no matter how big or small – who don’t look after their soils (or oceans) and replace the minerals taken by the process of growing or harvesting food are (forgive the pun) toast – all other considerations to the side.

    Maybe I’m biased in that view, but a bit of care for country wouldn’t be a bad idea… Incidentally, your dodgy politician who claimed native heritage for personal advantage that she was not a part of, could well have taken a different path and chosen to promote the ideas and concepts that she believed to be of value in the local native cultures that she was aware of. She may find that such ideas and concepts worked in her local area because they’d been tested and refined over time, but no – to me it looks as though she chose a different option.



  270. Also, as another generational data point, if I had stood in the voting booth 30 more seconds in 2016, my vote would have gone to Donald Trump. Not because I could believe in any of his policies any more than those of Clinton, but just out of misanthropic spite for having to choose between two differently scented plates of [goodness me!]. I decided I didn’t want the blood on my hands if my desire for *any* kind of change off dead center resulted in the kind of Civil War I thought it might. So I voted for the more unchanging/status quo of the two.

    Still, makes me worry the Millennial pump is primed for Fascism, if anything simply out of revenge for bringing us into this sorry world and training us for life in a civilization on the way up, not down.

    I overheard a Gen X/Boomer discussion at Barnes and Noble earlier today on the merits of whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden were more full of [golly!] than the other, while I was trying to peruse the model train magazines to stave off a pre-Saturday-office panic attack. I refrained from marching over and unloading this bit about my voting history on them, so I’m probably still a little raw. That’s what I get for abstaining from reading the news these days, I guess.

  271. I tried to read Don Quixote a few years ago but I had trouble getting into the story. I don’t think I relate to madness well. With the perspective you provide i think I’m up to try it again after I finish with the fall of the Roman Empire.

  272. Some time in the past I read of an idea ( I can’t remember whose or where) that parents tend to raise their children in accord with what ‘people like them’ can realistically expect the from the world. This wasn’t believed to be conscious or deliberate.

    Relating this to my upbringing, (as I did), my parents were not particularly affectionate, coddling or encouraging, despite being devoted to meeting our needs. There was little sympathy for scrapes, sorrows, pain, or problems. They actively discouraged any ideas of us being ‘special’, and strongly disapproved of indulging children.

    Our family myths were of us being tough and resourceful, of being able to endure. At the same time there was an expectation that we would think for ourselves. We were pretty harshly punished if we were caught disobeying their rules but their was no expectation that we should agree with them. We were allowed to be angry.

    I think this arose from their understanding of the characteristics of working class people like themselves who were least able to manage during the depression. They concluded that unquestioning conformity was not an advantage, could foster helplessness in hardship. On the other hand we certainly learned to conform outwardly. Actual respect for the powers-that-be, whoever they were, was a judgement call we were entitled to decide for ourselves.

    This bore no resemblance to upper middle class parents I’ve seen engaging their children in socratic dialogues about things like vegetarianism, which has always struck me as a very superficial version of such an attitude – a faux version in fact.

    This is indulgent, but my own upbringing is the one I know the most about. I’m still thinking about upper-middle class liberals, but from the perspective of how and why I’m different, despite my liberal beliefs.

  273. MacDonald has always been a favorite (in spite of that Victorian only-the-good-die-young-from-TB fetish). Lewis, too. Did they incorporate myth because they ran out of Christian inspiration? I don’t know. Lewis, at least, seemed to regard Christ as the fulfillment of mythology, so the fit was natural. Modern writers, in the West at least, don’t seem to aspire to that anymore. They shoot instead for being the “Christian Nancy Drew” or the “Christian Harlequin Romance”. There’s a recent-ish Russian novel titled “Laurus” by Eugene Vodolazhkin that is fantastic by being unapologetically Christian in the weirdest possible way: magic, miracles, monasteries, holy fools… and it had to come out of Russia, because the churchladies would have their knickers in a twist before they finished the first chapter. In the US, you can’t *sell* a Christian novel to the secular public, and you can’t sell it to the captive evangelical crowd without passing the churchlady test. Catch 22. But I’m not sure what malaise was going on in the space between Bunyan and the Holy Rollers.

  274. @Architrains and others:

    To a first approximation, sex is indeed biologically based and binary, whether in terms of chromosomes (XX:XY) or in terms of external and internal genitalia. But that is only to a first approximation.

    There are also a significant number of people who have other chromosomal arrangements than those two “common” ones; and in addition there are still many other people whose external and/or internal genitalia exhibit the characteristics of both sexes, or in other cases, lack the characteristics of either sex.

    And these things are different from, though not wholly unrelated to, whether the other person in question “feels” male or female or some third sort of thing, or whether they present as male or female or both or neither.

    Footnote: Any society or social order truly worthy of respect will acknowledge these “inconvenient” biological facts, and also accomodate the “inconvenient” people who happen to exhibit them. A social order or society that feels threatened by such individuals, sometimes even to the point of punishing or exterminating them whenever they are discovered, is not one that I can respect. ‘Nuff said …

  275. James, ouch. Even at a distance, that must have been harrowing. As for psychedelic drugs, granted — I’ve long appreciated Dion Fortune’s comment that those loosen the girders of the mind but give you no way to tighten them up again, so you end up rattling through life like a cheap automobile…

    As for the Boomers, yes, very much so — it’s one of the constant delusions of revolutionary generations that they so often think all they have to do is tear down the existing system and something wonderful will replace it.

    Matthias, thanks for this. Since the myth of national unity is still potent among Americans, we’ve got to cook up some way or other to differentiate among ourselves!

    SarahJ, got it in one. That’s what I call the myth of progress — the secular religion of our time, the belief that history has an inherent slant toward whatever we happen to want. It’s because that has failed — because most of us have watched most aspects of life slide the other direction over the years — that so many people are so disoriented. The phrase “I believe I was promised a jetpack” has been used for that, in a half-humorous way.

    Phil K, an excellent point. Something’s definitely in motion there.

    Jbucks, true enough.

    Beekeeper, indeed there are. There are half a dozen hills in Britain under which Arthur and his knights are said to be sleeping, for that matter. It might be interesting to compile a list, and map the distribution of such hills.

    Matthias, hmm. It’s been quite a while since my last really deep plunge into medieval literature, so other than a nod to Bernard Sylvester and the anonymous authors of medieval miracle plays, I’m not sure what to say.

    Justin, I suspect there’s a lot of that going on.

    Ben, you might want to ask the tree for advice and help, then. I mean that quite seriously.

    Christoph, of course that’s a core part of the background for all this. The reason both the Democrats and the pre-Trump GOP threw the working class to the wolves was to help the middle and upper middle classes to hold onto their lifestyles in a time of unadmitted but pervasive decline; if the populist insurgency succeeds, I suspect life may get a lot less comfortable for our comfortable classes over here…

    Caryn, thank you for this. I’m glad that people who disagree with me about important issues are still willing to hear what I have to say; I try to do the same thing in other forums (I lurk in some very odd places).

    Dusk Shine, just out of curiosity — as I just noted to Caryn, I lurk in some very odd places — I looked up a MLP wiki to see what other ponies might be an option. Do you include the Pillars of Old Equestria in your headcanon? If so, Flash Magnus, Rockhoof, and Star Swirl the Bearded might all be options as well.

    Jim W, you’re probably right that my feelings about my generation are tinged with a lot of personal bitterness. It was a very difficult experience to watch people who I’d respected, and who seemed at one point to take seriously ideals I shared, turn their backs on those ideals the moment it became fashionable for them to do so. I’m not so much interested in promoting intergenerational strife, though, than in encouraging members of younger generations to look at Boomer pretensions with the critical eye those deserve — more, to recognize what went wrong, in the hope that they can do better. (It would admittedly be hard for them to do worse.)

    Tude, thank you, thank you, thank you! You’ve helped frame some of the things I’ve been trying to put into words about the current trans business. As for transitioning a 2-year-old, um, I think the term for that is “child abuse.” A trans child is like a vegan cat — you know who’s actually making the decision.

    Walt, fair enough. I also remember science fiction cons back in the pre-internet days — I gafiated from the scene in the mid-1980s — and yeah, that seems like a good description.

    Helix, I think you’re right that a failure of leadership was an important element in the whole thing. What I found most difficult, though, is that so few people even tried to put up a fight. I’ve long felt that if even a minority of the appropriate-tech crowd had stuck to their guns, maintained their point of view in the teeth of the Reagan-era “Morning in America” drivel, and transformed themselves into an enduring subculture, they could have hit the ground running when the peak oil business heated up and could be a significant cultural force by now. One of those things…

    Violet, that’s an excellent point — and a harrowing comparison. I’m currently reading a lively book on exactly that subject, Manners and Morals in the Age of Optimism 1848-1914 by James Laver, which does a good job of showing just how different a world it was.

    Godozo, granted. I wonder if Christian novelists will manage to regain their confidence again, or if it’s all downhill from here.

    Matthias, hmm again! My mistake — or, rather, John Crowley’s mistake; he used the second coming of Friedrich Barbarossa as a plot engine in his splendid fantasy novel Little, Big, and referenced the Kyffhauser in that context. If it was Friedrich II, the Stupor Mundi, that would have made for an even stranger tale.

    Ray, fascinating. That sounds like a lively game. It occurs to me, with regard to your final comment, that that’s another virtue of RPGs — you learn to think of yourself as having the various characteristics — what is my strength? What about intelligence? And so on — and skills, if it’s that kind of game. Self-knowledge through dungeon crawling…

    Walt (if I may), no argument there. This has been a helluva comment thread even by the standards of this blog, and those are pretty high normally. (I have the best readers!)

    Chris, that’s an excellent point. The twin myths of progress and apocalypse both constantly disappoint those who believe in them.

    Caryn, fair enough. I get the impression that a lot of people spend much more time online, and do much less in person, than I realized. Getting old, no doubt.

    Architrains, no, I’d argue that sex is a biological construct rather than a cultural one, though as with most things in biology there’s a vague area in place of a precise border. (Most trees are obviously trees and most shrubs are obviously shrubs, but where exactly do you draw the line?)

    David BTL, oh yeah. The sheer confident certainty of it all…

    Bryan, that’s a giant-sized can of worms if there ever was one. The one thing I’d point out is that it isn’t new. Women three and four centuries ago were using toxic cosmetics; lead poisoning goes back a very long ways. There are many more such issues now than there were, granted, but any examination of the phenomenon could do worse than to start with data from the past and work forward from there.

  276. Chris, exactly. Among the few inescapable lessons taught by history is that if you don’t take care of your topsoil, you won’t remain on top of it for long.

    Architrains, thank you. You get today’s gold star for most creative unprofanity.

    Piper, one piece of advice I find helps with older books: don’t try to read too much at a sitting. Before 1900 or so, it was a very common form of family entertainment to have one person read aloud from a book, and books were generally written with that kind of rhythm and pacing in mind. Read a section after dinner, put it away, and read the next section the next day. You can get through Proust that way!

    SarahJ, interesting. Thanks for this.

    Methylethyl, if I were a Christian, I’d give Christian fantasy a shot just because the mythology is so vivid. With saints and angels on one side and an archipelago of human and unhuman evil on the other, how could you run out of story? I’ll keep an eye out for Laurus — it sounds like great fun.

  277. Dear Patricia Matthews:

    I’m not sure if I agree with you about Boomers not having the experience of a world in crisis. The Cold War was terrifying, hiding beneath school desks in anticipation of a nuclear attack is pretty frightening for kids, and too many of the young men (mostly Boomers) packed off to fight in Vietnam came back pretty traumatized too. In school we were forever being frightened by talk of the Soviets and Communists who would take over the world and enslave us all. It might not have been the same as the Great Depression or WWII, but those years weren’t without their own threats.

  278. @David BTL: re “The thing that always impressed itself upon me about the 1950s was about how certain everything seemed.”

    I think it was “certain” because the people at that time had just come through WWII, a unifying event. It really was a case where the entire country was mobilized and committed to a single national goal, which was defeating Nazism and Japanese Imperialism.

    But that unity of purpose had a regimented flavor. I suppose this was natural, given the regimentation of those in the armed services, which was the focus of that effort. The certainty of the rightness of their cause and its easy penetration of society that was dedicated to supporting that cause definitely carried over into the post-war years. (Well maybe unless you were black.)

    But that regimentation demanded a certain amount of conformity long after the unity of purpose was no longer required. I can remember being denied entry into even middling-level restaurants well into the late 1960s because I wasn’t wearing a tie, or was wearing trousers not of the right material. I certainly wasn’t sloppily dressed, but there was a code and I was not conforming to it. (I’ve had conformity issues as long as I can remember.)

    I keep coming back to Vietnam and the assassinations of the 1960s as the seminal events that broke our confidence in the goodness of our country and the rightness of our cause. The JFK assassination and ensuing cover-up was so transparent that even a 10th grader could see through it. No matter. The authorities showed themselves to be so contemptuous of the population that they didn’t even feel the need to make up a decent lie to cover their tracks. And Vietnam was a hideous adventure in a part of the world that had already struggled for three generations to rid itself on one colonial power, only to have the US march in its footsteps. Those who promoted this obscene action had no problem portraying those who objected to it as virtual traitors, creating ill-will between those who opposed the war and those who felt it their patriotic duty to support it. This ill-will still reverberates today.

    These things shattered the confidence that characterized America in the 1950s. I knew in my heart that America had lost something it would never recover the day Kennedy was shot. And the decades since have borne this out.

  279. It seems to me that a lot of this generational finger pointing could be stopped by a reasonably good knowledge of history. Boomers were certainly not the first generation to pull down institutions without sufficient consideration of what should replace them–Burke made the same point about the French Revolution and the Continent wide enthusiasm for change on the part of the youth of the time–Shelly, Byron, etc. among the English. It is easy to look at old, corrupt, seemingly indestructible institutions and think that _anything_ would be better. Then you get a Reign of Terror, or Stalin’s purges or a generation that seems to have flipped from war protesters to war mongers and learn better.

    Those interested in Akhenaten might enjoy the mystery series by Lynda Robinson. They are set at the court of Tutankhamun with the tensions of the religious reforms and counter reforms still in play. Very well written. I think she does well at conveying the state of mind of a teenager who finds himself, not just a king, but a living god, yet must learn to grow into the role while having to completely overhaul the religious beliefs he had been brought up in to keep his power. If you enjoy Egyptian history in general, another series, by Lauren Haney is set in the reign of Queen Hatsheput. Haney does a wonderful job of making her pagan characters convincingly religious. Many historical novels make religion only skin deep–the Christians, if any, swear by St. Josephs balls and cross themselves when they hear bad news, the pagans swear by Thor’s hammer and may pour an occasional libation, but that’s about all. Haney makes me feel that her characters really believe in Ra and Amun, Anubis and company.

  280. JMG: re “I’ve long felt that if even a minority of the appropriate-tech crowd had stuck to their guns… and transformed themselves into an enduring subculture, they could have hit the ground running when the peak oil business heated up and could be a significant cultural force by now.”

    Actually, here in central Virginia, there are quite a few people who are indeed pursuing sustainable living. Our feeling these days is “It’s only a matter of time.” Of course, as you point out, the more time that slips by, the tougher the transition will be.

  281. Re: Kyffhaeuser.

    JMG, it’s not a mistake you made, nor for that matter Crowley. The myth was transferred from Friedrich II to his grandfather quite some centuries ago, and the 19th century monument there shows Barbarossa.

  282. Hi all,

    This is very long and mostly about vaccines and Vitamin D. If you find those topics tiresome, you may wish to skip it.

    First, apologies to Patricia Ormsby! I did not mean to imply that you (or anyone else here) is an ‘anti-vaxxer,’ unless they want to self-identify in that way. I started with the Vit D information which was intended for you, and inserted material above it.
    Vitamin D levels at about 50 to 60 ng/ml in blood are thought to be optimal; Over 100, no known benefit; over 400 ng/ml you get toxic effects.

    Thank you for the account of 10,000 units Vit D helping your husband control his diabetic blood glucose! _That_ is worth trying again! For dosing estimates in others, how much does your husband weigh, and how many days did he take 10,000 units for his blood glucose to get under control?

    ‘Safe vaxxer;’ sounds good to me. Generally, one-size-does-not-fit-all with vaccines. There are people with risk factors that should exclude them from getting certain vaccines. Like any other sort of prescription medicine, there is a risk that taking the medicine may harm you or kill you. This is supposed to be explained to people before they receive a vaccine.
    Some vaccines, like smallpox vaccine, are no longer given because the one-in-a-million risk of a life-threatening adverse reaction from getting the vaccine is actually thought to be higher than the risk of getting smallpox by general exposure.
    Any vaccine on offer anywhere today is thought to be far less risky than the risk of catching the disease and dying from it. This does not mean that you won’t have a reaction, just that, on average, its unlikely. It’s a risk and benefit decision.

    Re: Overdoing it– I think this sort of thing is exactly what John is talking about, with abandonment of pragmatism to follow a myth. In the case of vaccines, it is occurring on both sides of the debate. ‘Anti-vaxxer’ is likely a snarl-word used by people who are alarmed by the phenomenon of parents not giving any vaccines to their children.
    I think it may have been Scotlyn who pointed out last week that there seems also to be a ‘Pro-vaxxer’ meme (not Scotlyn’s words) out there that wants to force everyone to get every sort of vaccine– So you have two opposing myths with vocal proponents, causing distress for a lot of the rest of us.

    Re: Forced Vaccines– Thus far in medicine (unless you are talking about people in insane asylums), people have control over their own medical care. Anything your doctor says to you is a recommendation, not an order. You don’t have to do what a doctor says. Forced vaccination would be a very, very bad sign, should it occur.
    If a person does not want to get vaccinated, or even if they do, it is possible to self-quarantine if they get into the middle of some sort of outbreak. Quarantine is the traditional social means to restrict the spread of an epidemic. It is certainly a good idea to learn how to quarantine oneself, as you have Pat, in case of epidemic.
    Also worth noting–I knew a pharmacist years ago who kept running into nurses that were forced to get a flu vaccine every year, or lose their jobs. Many of them had good reasons not to get a flu vaccine. They had to bring a signed form to work to prove that they had gotten the vaccine. She would fill in the blanks on the form with the vaccine lot and expiry, hand the form to them and say, “I simply don’t have time to vaccinate you today. Why don’t you take this form home and fill in your information? Then when it is convenient, you can bring it back some time and get your vaccine.”
    It is possible, though expensive, to tell by blood testing whether someone has immunity against some vaccine-preventable diseases. Mostly though, the health system depends on paperwork to document that vaccines have been given.

    Degree of Protection: Vaccines rarely provide 100% protection. If they work, they increase the odds in your favor, usually by a lot. If they fail, its likely because they failed to cause the body to generate an immune response, or that there was a bad match between the attacking virus and what was in the vaccine.

    @Antoinetta III –
    The 3-day flu may or may not have been a strain of influenza. Some strains are mild. Others, like the ‘Spanish Flu’ that occurred at the end of World War I, killed millions.

    That said, there is definitely an element of promoting flu vaccines for profit. When I worked in the United States, the large pharmacy chain that employed me gave all of us a daily quota of flu shots to give, and we were forced to announce over the store intercom that flu shots were available, every 30 minutes throughout each day, from Sept to Feb. This was probably not a good idea…

    Working in Canada now, the flu shot is available in limited supply and purchased by the Canadian Government. Only Provincial residents who are elderly, have a risk factor (like COPD), or caregivers for them are eligible for a free flu shot. It is possible for those ineligible to buy a flu shot commercially. My store gets an allocation of public shots, and when they are gone, they are gone, so I have an incentive to be sure that people who get the shot have risk factors that mean they really need it. Either way, the profitability of giving these shots is low and limited.

    Good question about live viruses vs dead viruses. The manufacturers treat them with heat or medicines to break them into fragments, and these pieces, when injected, seem to cause the body to generate immunity against the real thing.
    In flu vaccines as well as others, there are also ‘Live Attenuated Vaccines,’ meaning that the virus being injected is still barely alive but crippled. These can make you sicker than killed virus vaccines, but in some cases it is thought to be necessary to cause the body to create immunity.
    Again, these things are supposed to be explained before giving the vaccine to provide a patient with the tools to make an informed decision about whether to get a vaccine or not.

    Vaccine Manufacturing Transparency:
    All vaccines I know of are made by one or more major companies. The vaccines in your area may be made in a different place from the ones in my area. Easiest way to tell is to ask your pharmacist for the ‘Package Insert’ from a vaccine vial. The insert tells you a lot of info, including who makes it and usually where, as well as listing every ingredient.

    You could also look up the package insert online. Most of them are PDFs. Fluviral, for example, is made in Canada by GlaxoSmithKline in Mississauga, Ontario.
    It _does_ contain Thimerosal as a preservative, which has some Mercury in it.
    Not all flu vaccines, or other vaccines, have mercury compounds. It is possible to find out which ones do not, and your local health professional should be glad to tell you whether any vaccine has mercury, latex, or any other ingredient.

    Supervision: FDA supervises vaccine production in the US, and Health Canada does it in Canada. They enforce a group of regulations known as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). I am told that representatives from these groups are assigned to the facilities, and that they are very strict.
    I worked for several years in a pharmacy factory setting with a GMP-level cleanroom. The clean room manager would supervise cleaning of every hood and every surface in the cleanroom, including the ceiling, with a series of scrubs of detergents, alcohol and bleach, three times at least once a week. He would then lay out five petri dishes with growth medium exposed to the open air of the clean room and leave them there all week, inspecting them every day. If there was a single bacterial colony on any of them at any time in the week, all medicine production stopped and that day’s entire batches were discarded. The staff would clean the clean room three times again before beginning production. In three years that I was there, we had to discard and re-clean only twice.
    Because we were only meeting the standards of GMP without actually taking out a manufacturer’s licence, we were not subject to FDA inspection–But it gives you an idea of what kind of oversight there is, out in the industry.

    re: Herbal Remedies: Anyone reading this site’s material knows that the kind of highly manufactured disposable supplies that make this sort of manufacturing possible will likely become unavailable in our lifetimes. Now would be a good time to get educated about which herbs and natural treatments can take care of most of the illnesses we all encounter. I’m certainly studying up on it!

    Thank you for your comments! Yeah, I would say I agree with most of your points.
    The people who steer vaccine policy have a top-down view, and use that perspective to try to make risk vs. benefit judgements for society as a whole.

    As an example (from memory and thus maybe not 100% accurate),
    Tetanus is not that infectious, but widespread. Most people who contract it are unvaccinated, and get it from a dirty puncture wound. Most people who die from it are elderly, or under 5 years old.
    If someone gets a tetanus infection their chances of survival are 50/50. The death is slow and agonizing.
    The incidence of a life-threatening reaction to a tetanus vaccine is about 1 in 1 million. And there _are_ cases of people dying from the vaccine. But because the risk of dying from a tetanus infection is so much higher, the vaccine is released for public use, with warnings.

    That said, if your child is the one who dies from the tetanus vaccine, there is nothing that I or anyone can say to make this into a good thing.

    I think all of us make decisions every day that carry a small amount of adverse risk. Consciously or not, we all make risk/benefit decisions. We make decisions for our children, and do the best we can. So if someone decides not to vaccinate their child, I think the rest of us should try to respect a parent who goes with his/her gut on that decision. If the child gets vaccinated and is that unlucky child who dies, it is the parent who will live with that for a lifetime. If the child does not get vaccinated and dies when they might have avoided it–same thing.
    Hopefully, those who refrain from vaccination will be prepared to self-quarantine if there is an outbreak. I am thinking here of the recent Measles outbreak south of us in Washington State.

    And, about going with your gut– Anyone reading here knows that we are all affected by more than just the physical plane of existence. I would like to think that those people who are most likely to be harmed by a vaccine are the ones who feel in their gut that its not a good idea for them personally to get a vaccine.

    If you personally believe that you should not get a certain vaccine, or not get it at a certain location or at a certain time–Don’t get it. No need to justify saying ‘no.’ Maybe there’s a good reason. I can’t prove this, but my gut tells me it is true. 😉

    As said above, yup, I believe there is both a ‘pro-vaxxer’ meme and an ‘anti-vaxxer’ meme running around out there, causing mischief.

  283. @ David BTL

    Re generations and mythologies

    The old newsreels are of course biased since no one has an interest in touting their failures. That said, the 1950s did make amazing advances in fighting childhood diseases such as polio as well as measles in the early sixties. Immense amounts of suffering have been prevented from those advances. Penicillin had just prevented untold deaths in WWII. In that context, the progress reasonably looked amazing to people at the time. Things were booming economically for many in all classes, including the working class. That’s why the plight of the working class the last 40 years is contrasted negatively with the post WWII era. Finally, peace may be the goal, but didn’t North Korea invade South Korea?

    It does make sense that this would implant itself on following generations, but unfortunately the low hanging fruit had been picked and continued progress has been much more elusive. Under the circumstances, though, I’m less inclined to be dismissive of the certainty portrayed in the 1950s. In hindsight, they just happened to be wrong.

  284. Something that has always struck me about UMC liberals (in general) – a peculiar inability to be self-critical or self-reflect. It is also rare for them to laugh at themselves, to be the butt of their own jokes, or even to playfully tease each other. Mistakes, foolishness, misunderstandings, missteps, embarrassing faux pas, catastrophic mis-directions, misconceptions, malice, hostility, deliberate wrong-doing, bigotry, and bias – these all belong to ‘other’ people. In-group members admitting to any such are likely to meet with embarrassed pity and recommendations about psychotherapy and medication.

    It seems like a part of the picture…

  285. @Bridge in regard to the “Technology will save us” there are a few points I would like to add to that.

    That they are being so on the nose is a really fascinating. JMG has already brought up Potemkin village and it is a very apt description of what is going on. This would almost be an example of people having a sense of ‘double think’ (two counteractive points of view being held at once), in that they believe that the future is growing and is going to to delivery the digital utopia that is endlessly promised, but at the same time the need to be spelling it out in public is to acknowledge that little voice in the back of their head that it is not going to happen. We don’t see billboards saying “The wind will continue to blow” because we have no fear of the wind ever stopping.

    It was in the last years of the Soviet union that the amount of pro-communist rhetoric from the party officials escalated rapidly, those that pushed it the most were the ones that were well aware that they were pushing the ideals of a utopia in the midst of a crumbling society. Billboards like “Technology will save us” are just one of many ways these same ideas are being presented today. I mean, yes technology is important (I’m thinking JMG’s point of view on it in Chapter 6 of Dark Age America) but it isn’t going to be the internet powder AI based VR headset they are thinking. I remember seeing a billboard once saying “The energy problem is merely a technology issue” that was in relation to ‘green tech’, that they had to push this idea to the public rather than just going out and doing it does raise questions about its real viability that I’m sure most of us here are aware of.

    I know a lot of people that are involved in computer technology and it has been fascinating over the last few years seeing them wake up to the idea that the future isn’t going to be the bright one promised. Folks basically fall into two groups, a small few who realize that a lot of their work today is going to be useless in years to come and that they are barking up the wrong (tech) tree (a dark age doesn’t care for the intricate details of Java Script), they are the ones that looking to change this skills into more practical/physical means and they look to have a brighter future ahead – I am one of them. And then there are the others that are trying desperately talk the talk and to make everything look as shiny and modern as possible in the face of the realities of what they are really working with; essentially they are trying to use incantations and invocations without being aware of this and without any clue as to how they work. To do that blindly is to unleash a world of pain all the while thinking they are the virtuous ones. True virtue does not know itself.

    How long until we start seeing billboards that say “Happy motoring will return soon!”?

    The invocations thing is probably more real that we think, wake up every morning and repeat to “Technology will save us”, then re-read “Enlightenment Now” and hope that it all somehow works out in the direction they want.

  286. Hi JMG

    Many thanks for this fascinating article!

    I think part of the process you described IMHO are related to the “tradition grinding machine” of the Progress that cause a profound loss of roots: cultural, ethnic, sexual, family, etc… Not only in the western countries, but in any place where Progress (market, money, etc…) are distorting the traditional way of life

    For example, 77% of Nigerian women are using skin lightening products (similar percentage in Ghana and other African countries):

    Even the colonial rule could not harm so profoundly the traditions and the conformity with their own skin color; it was the new big cities, the market economy, the triumph of Money over Blood (Spengler) that make people so unhappy with their (“backward”) traditions, the (“backward”) culture, the (“backward”) skin color, etc…
    Curiously in the western countries you must not to be “too white” (`à la E. Warren) and in Africa too black skin is not a good think

    The same in South Korea, a country which is world leader in plastic surgery, specifically the “double-eyelid surgery” (blepharoplasty) that makes Asian people more similar to westerners:

    It seems that to have western-looking eyes give them more chances to have a high middle class job, because this is a sign of “beauty”, “modern”, “efficient”, “global oriented” people, the brownish double-lid eyes people are “backward”… This surgery is also surging in Taiwan, Japan, etc…even in Vietnam…(marketing is more powerful than napalm).

    I think this explain why in the Japanese comics and cartoons all the characters have very big round eyes, the opposite of the kind of Japanese eyes in the real life, and all the characters have Japanese names and live in Japan; so why they design them so differently to the Japanese anatomy? I think it start with the cultural devastation with the defeat in WWII and expand through the world with the global markets. Now is a global phenomenon.

    I think this process can explain part of the “ethnic dysphoria” or “fictionkin”, there is a lot of people that have lost any cultural or emotional center of gravity (the “city nomads” of Spengler) and look for another identity, running from the “horror vacui” of bond destruction and loneliness. Rationality cannot stop this.

    I think also this process of “loss of identity” is sustained by the way modern societies treat children. We have invented a new process of child care giving the “sacred” care of our children, from few months of live or even before, to “strange” caregivers, that have no special emotional bonds with them (only “contracts”), that, in many cases have devastating consequences if the “attachment phase” do not proceed well (for all the mammals human, of course, included), this is quite dangerous “experiment” we do that any tiger, whale, monkey mom will never do at any price.

    The loss of “attachment”, as children, make more easy the loss of “attachment” to the family, kin, group, tradition, culture, and prepare the individuals for a more (in appearance) rational/abstract approach to the world in a reinforced loop that so hugely sustained and benefits the march of Progress (Civilization).

    The civilizations, as super-organism, model theirs creatures cultural and emotionally, so they (the civilizations) can grow stronger.


  287. @Tude
    Thank you for sharing your personal story. You could have been speaking of me! I think my development at various life stages was very similar to yours. Finally learned to love myself some time in my 40s, still boyish.
    Except at 25 I left America and have lived in Japan since. That is a collectivist society, not individualistic, but everyone here has a role, and the role of the visibly foreign, like me is to be distinct as long as it is principled. They tell us we are an important mechanism of change: “See what the gaijin are doing. Let’s do that!!” It is very hard for them to initiate change on their own, because of the massive responsibility they would face. Something always goes wrong.
    But over the years I become less and less able to relate to what is happening in the United States. I see changes happening there very quickly and people experiencing a sense of crisis that I can’t share. It looks like hardship for everyone.

  288. I “read” mostly by audio book. Decline and Fall is about 120 hours and I listen mostly during my commute. This allows plenty of time for reflection between sessions. I’ve been mulling the comment “Nations are impressed by what they fear.” In reference to invasion and conquest. I have a hard copy of the book but it is abridged so it’s trouble to reread interesting points. I started reading this book in July and expect to finish after the new year.
    Listening to books is not as active as reading but it allows me to read much more than I otherwise would. Although most of my free time consists of staring at dots on an electronic screen…

  289. @Scotlyn in your reply to Emmanuel,
    Very well expressed! I note there have been many instances recently of censorship of prominent voices questioning vaccine safety, such as Dr. Joseph Mercola and Sayer Ji. Rather than debate them to debunk their arguments, as they should if they think they can, they declare such views a danger to society, presumably because they would lead to confusion, and shut them out entirely. This would suggest a lack of confidence in the arguments of those advocating mandatory vaccination or claiming that vaccines are sufficiently safe.

  290. @JMG – most of the time, the oak helps me chill the frack out, unwind, sort shale out, etc, and I thank it for that. I hadn’t thought to ask it for help.

  291. Subsequent to the publication of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther in a revised edition in 1787 (orig. pub. 1774) there was a cluster of suicides (around 1794) committed by young men who emulated the character. At the time, this was referred to as Suicide Contagion. People have long identified with the prevailing tides of propaganda/cultural currents/fictions. During the 1940s a great many American GIs learned a great deal about fighting the war they were dispatched to take part in via regular reading of war comics. It is often through dialogue with propaganda/culture/fiction that we encounter a seeming true interaction with self. A lot of times, this encounter is banal: a generation of young people immersed in JDM car culture in response to the Fast and the Furious film franchise, and sometimes it is something more sinister like listeners of some forms of “extreme music” burning churches and committing internecine murder(s) while adhering to “trve kvlt” mythos. It would follow that the #MAGA fad is an expression of a cultural wave that installed a telemedia character into high office. The fact that the narrative carries particular weight with a great many people (referred to in certain circles as “low information” individuals) does not preclude that this fad, while taking up considerable column inches, is not really all that interesting. It is dangerous (perhaps) but it is also not much different than large groups of people adopting a tonsorial style in response to watching the Sopranos/listening to the Ramones/reading Philip Roth. The issues surrounding the depths to which persons may embody seeming cultural identities are often those of externalization—there is little “hiding-in-plain-sight” when it comes to people as disparate as yuppies and freight train hopping folk-punk adherents. For Quixote, it is likely more invigorating to be seen acting as a knight-errant than it is to be sitting at home taking part in fantasy campaigns at a D&D gathering.

  292. @ Bellinghamster. “Jim, your song Pronoun Blues… sounds like great fun.
    Would you be willing to post the tabs?”

    If I ever reach a sense of completion with it, I’ll be happy to send the tabs. Lyrically, It’s satiric social commentary (scandalously un-PC) and I enjoy skewering all points of view, musically it’s just a straight up mid-tempo blues. I’d encourage you to launch your own version of it…it’s a fun theme to play with. I have a fondness for hamster-y nicknames…went to freaky Hampshire College in the early 70s and we were known as Hampsters. Thanks for your comment!

  293. @Patricia Mathews: I’m surely not qualified to offer you advice, but perhaps the Roman Stoics would be. In his book “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy,” author William B. Irvine offers a couple of chapters considering several Stoic philosophers’ musings on banishment and connecting them to the modern-day experience of banishment to a nursing home. You might find something of value there.
    Best wishes-
    –Heather in CA

  294. Millennials don’t seem to understand that the generations of the future will condemn them just as roundly as they are condemning Boomers. In fact, all of the generations born between 1945 – 2045 will be lumped into a giant mega-generation of hated, greedy ingrates who trashed the bounty they had and complained they didn’t have more.

    Generation X (mine) were vile, opportunistic grifters who contentedly sucked up the scraps left for us by our parents. We lacked the cojones and the energy to question the status quo… They called us slackers, after all! We invented living with our parents at a ripe old age! Heck, I’ve done it many times, and my Gen X contemporaries who feel they are superior to me because they’ve not been forced to live with their parents out of circumstance should have a competent accountant assess exactly where they would be in absence of huge parental gifts flowing their way their entire adult lives. If they lacked parental wealth, they ought to examine the ways in which they sold their souls/sanities in order to keep their leased cars and multiple mortgages. Mine was a generation obsessed with physical comfort.

    Millennials are bitter that they could not follow Gen X’s example of siphoning off the last of their parents’ wealth. They gave it the old college try… literally, by jumping from university to university in search of more debt. Their music IS worse than any other generation’s music for one reason: autotune. They brought us internet porn and Clinton II’s multi-billion dollar attempt at the White House. They will have much to answer for, so just like me, it is best if they collapse now and avoid throwing stones at other generations.

    As to Christian pop-culture: Seems to me that goth music and culture appropriated Christianity and it’s mirror, Satanism, long ago, colonizing its Plutonian imagery and its preoccupation with death. Goth’s tentacles are everywhere, from horror movies about evil nuns to Norwegian metal music to my size six Demonia combat boots.

  295. Hi JMG and All,

    Since this thread features identity issues and collapse now and avoid the rush, thought I’d mention Linh Dinh, an author and blogger over at The Unz Review, for anyone who might be interested.

    A Vietnamese-American tail end Boomer, sometimes professor, and jack of all trades, he’s travelled extensively in this country and around the world. Always in the poorer side of town. He has quite a few hard-won observations. He’s currently working at a recycling plant in Vietnam, with no plans to return to the USA. He’s flat broke, and so far as I can gather, okay with that.


  296. I have been thinking a lot about this series of essays, looking forward to next week’s installment. A couple of reflections:

    The last time I experienced such a clear phase of economic and institutional decline was England in the late 70s, when I was a late teenager. The post-WWII socialist economy was in obvious decline at that point, along with other fraying things – a few post-imperial echoes here, the ongoing crack-up of the class system there. For my parents generation it was a fearful time. They had been through a very rough time in the 30s and 40s, had worked hard to rebuild in the 50s and 60s (with major social programs and state ownership under-girding much of it) but by the 1978-1979 “winter of discontent” the wheels appeared to be coming off. Fear and anxiety stalked the land and from that came the various extreme reactions: an upsurge in extreme and emotional politics (Socialist Workers Party, National Front, etc), street demonstrations, a lot of rebellion and nihilism in youth culture (punk rock), etc. Pretty great time to be a teenager actually.

    But then of course came the reaction with Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979, ushering in the neo-liberal era (although that wasn’t really clear until the mid-80s). In 1979 most people who voted for her probably just wanted law and order and stability. Now I’m a late boomer, and I don’t have any illusions about the extent to which my generation sold-out. But it was my parents generation that decided, pragmatically, that enough was enough and gave assent to Thatcher. In England, at least, that historical pivot point of 1979-1980 makes most sense from my parents generation’s perspective, since a lot of the extremist noise was coming from young boomers themselves. But, really, the dividing line wasn’t between generations, it was between a bunch of noisy extremists and the sensible middle of the country who got tired of the street fighting and the trash in the streets and wanted law and order reimposed.

    So back in the present, we have the same dynamic playing out to some extent. The old economy and institutions are breaking down, anger and fear is leading to extremism, all turbocharged by social media. I see my own children trying to figure this all out. Fortunately the seem to be behaving normally. My daughter is a social worker, and can occasionally spout a bit of SJW dogma, but mostly she’s just too busy working hard to earn a living in a tough profession to get too carried away with it. And my son is a shellfish farmer who works seriously hard and has absolutely no time for intellectual flights of fancy. I’m just waiting for the reaction from the pragmatic middle of the country to continue to gain traction. Because so much of today’s craziness is confined to the online and political world, we’re not seeing the gut reaction that comes from seeing violence on the streets. But if it gets to that stage, as it probably will in a year or three, we may see a more substantial realignment of people wanting stability and an end to extremes.

  297. JMG: re “As for claiming that there are only two ethics — well, you’re welcome to that belief if it makes you feel comfortable; I don’t see how so simplistic a pair of formulas offers much to help deal with the complexities we’re discussing, but no doubt your mileage may vary.”

    Perhaps I could have said it better as “To me, there are exactly two BASES for my ethics.” As Rabbi Hillel stated, “…the rest is commentary.” But of course, there IS commentary — quite a lot of it. And Hillel did go on to encourage his acolytes to learn it.

    I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic.

  298. Mr. Greer, I think this article might have some relevance to your topic:

    The article is mostly about propaganda and how it works in our time, but there is also discussion of willing suspension of belief on the part of the propagandized.

    Then, too, if the leadership of society and country is known to be lying, why my own personal reality is just as good as theirs.

  299. Helix, how many of them have been doing so continuously since the late 1970s? Most of the people I know who have gotten into appropriate tech have done so in the post-Reagan era, and especially since the mid-1990s.

    Matthias, thank you. That’s good to know — not to mention a classic example of the way that myth rewrites history: the king under the mountain must always be a great warrior king, and since Friedrich II (astonishing as he was) didn’t fill the bill, Friedrich I took his place in the mythic imagination.

    (Hmm. Has anyone really studied this phenomenon of warrior kings under the mountain and traced its origins and diffusion? It’s a fascinating theme and begs for elucidation.)

    SarahJ, that’s a good point, and it has a lot to do with why the left can’t meme — it’s hard to be genuinely funny if you can’t laugh at yourself.

    DFC, that makes a great deal of sense. I see I need to reread Spengler sometime soon and review what he says about the fellaheen-culture of civilization.

    Dan, show me somewhere that things aren’t going awry!

    David BTL, no argument there! At this poiint I don’t think any significant number of people anywhere in the industrial world is willing to deal with the hard realities of our predicament; the right is just as delusional as the left where that’s concerned.

    Ben, talk to it and see what it suggests.

    Tobias, that would follow only if there were no actual grievances motivating the populist insurgency — and I would suggest that you spend some serious time in flyover country, talking to the locals, if you believe that that’s the case.

    Phil K, I’m typically enough American that I didn’t know that. (I know where a few German states are located, and a few of the biggest cities, but I’d fail any kind of geography test.)

    Ottergirl, thanks for this.

    Mark, that strikes me as very likely. The question in my mind is just who will succeed in harnessing the energy of the neglected center.

    Helix, are you at all familiar with Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics? It’s generally considered the most influential work of ethical philosophy in the Western tradition, and it presents a complete account of ethics in which neither of your two principles has any place at all. (The idea that love, compassion, or caritas are virtues was foreign to the entire classical ethical tradition.) If you want to say that the two principles you’ve cited are the basis of your own ethics, I have no objection — you have the perfect right to pursue whatever ethical code works for you. If you mean to suggest that those are the only two principles on which anyone’s ethics can be based, on the other hand, you’re quite simply wrong, in the most objectively demonstrable sense, and I’d offer Aristotle as exhibit A, to be followed by a long, long list of other examples. If you mean to claim that your two principles are the basis for the best ethics — why, then we’re on our way into the realm of circular reasoning, because “best” admits of many definitions, and each of them derives from a given system of ethics!

    Nastarana, interesting. Thanks for this.

  300. Mark (12.58)

    In my country, neoliberalism was imposed without warning by the left. I don’t think the general populace could have foreseen this. It was confusing (to put it mildly) to have the main right wing party defending some aspects of social democracy against the (purportedly) social democratic party that was dismantling them.

    My point is that neoliberalism seemed to ‘arrive’ reasonably simultaneously in western nations, whether via democratic mechanisms or despite them.

  301. “As for the Boomers, yes, very much so — it’s one of the constant delusions of revolutionary generations that they so often think all they have to do is tear down the existing system and something wonderful will replace it.” John: Couldn’t the same be said of God, around the time of Noah’s flood?

  302. I will admit, being an adherent of Native American spirituality, that I had a moment of dislocating intellectual and spiritual disquiet when I unconsciously equated “bringing back the Buffalo and the ancestors” with “Bringing back representative democracy and Middle Class Prosperity.” Both of the latter I am old enough to remember, but for anyone born after 1980, absolutely IS part of a Mythic History. For many of them, events as remote and abstract as the War of 1812 or the Raising of the Pyramids.

    By the way, I do very much recommend “Black Elk Speaks.” But before anyone veers dangerously “Dances with Wolves,” gets a smudge bowl, a designer fringed jacket and go haring off to Pine Ridge Reservation – and likely earn a well deserved beat-down – they should absorb Dee Brown’s excellent “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” for a dose of unfiltered history and some grim perspective. Heartbreaking and hits like a sledgehammer.

    As for Mythic Mode – part of it I would lay at the feet of our educational system, especially in the states with committed ideological leanings at either end of the faux-political spectrum. We do not teach anything resembling History in American schools until college, but rather a Cliff’s Notes, Classics Illustrated, America for Dummies version of American MYTHOLOGY. Leaving our young people to suffer very unpleasant collisions with reality of cognitive dissonance with anyone who’s had a classical education.. or read a primary source. Part of the unfortunate need for safe spaces and trigger warnings in our higher educational institutions.

    As for my friends on the Left, I am becoming increasingly excused from their good graces for not signing up with the screed that EACH AND EVERY TRUMP VOTER is a irredeemable racist, misogynist, bigoted, authoritarian, proto-fascist. Pointing out that a lot of those folk voted for Obama … twice, fails to twitch the needle in the least. Mentioning that a vast swath of Americans have little use for either party, betrayed by Republicans, and abandoned by Democrats, kicked to the curb nearly 40 years ago. As very aptly described in the rather brutal “Donald Trump and The Politics of Resentment” – which I often quote – usually to denunciations of JMGs awfulness. But being disenfranchised, bankrupted, and made generally miserable with fading opportunity of every kind, is very fertile territory to nurture resentments and hate of every kind. The GOP has been hitting those buttons for decades. It’s Demagoguery 101, ask any fist year political science major. Dems for their part have done little about it, but embrace further divisive identity politics.

    But when was the last time you convinced anyone of anything by screaming at them and calling them nasty names?

  303. JMG, thanks for your comments. You’re barely a boomer, straddling the line with Gen X. Someone upthread mentioned the sharp differences between those at the leading and finishing edges of a generation, which is undoubtedly true. But even halfway through the differences are substantial. I was born in 1954 so I’m just eight years older than you but I think we experienced our twenties very differently.

    Another comment upstream mentioned that there were no Silent Gen Presidents and I’m beginning to wonder if Gen X might follow suit. The Greatests ruled the White House for eleven election cycles, 1948-1988. Then came the Boomers in 1992 to rule the roost for eight election cycles and I fervently hope this is their final act in 2020. In with Slick Willie, out with Orange Julius…whew, that’s not too impressive. Enough already! Tulsi G is on the early leading edge of the Millennials and I think an eight year Gabbard Administration would get the Millennials off to a good start for their 30-40 year shot at running the show.
    Aren’t they now the largest generation?

    Thanks to so many of you for your insightful comments. I really love this space.

  304. Emmanuel Goldstein – Thanks for the vaccination data. I always read the package inserts these days. And I remember my doctor recommending Prilosec for acid reflux with no warning nor limits, only to find out from either Consumer Reports On Health or fro the AARP (both good sources) that meds like that had a nasty way of eating at your bone density. For which I am now on a semi-annual injection of Prolia, having shattered my right wrist in the sort of fall that previously had only left bruises and hurt my pride. Though I had discontinued the stomach acid meds ages ago, returning to Tums and the occasional dose of baking soda and very rare use of Pepto-Bismol and watching the acid content of my food.

    Yes, people – do read them. But do not be terrified by the “rare side effects may include…” and a long list of nasty symptoms which mean you can’t tolerate the medication. It’s there for in case you turn purple and start wheezing, fainting, or seeing pink elephants, at which point most people know to call for help. Look for the other items on the long list.

  305. @DFC re “We have invented a new process of child care giving the “sacred” care of our children, from few months of live or even before, to “strange” caregivers, that have no special emotional bonds with them (only “contracts”), that, in many cases have devastating consequences if the “attachment phase” do not proceed well (for all the mammals human, of course, included), this is quite dangerous “experiment” we do that any tiger, whale, monkey mom will never do at any price. ”

    Yes, we (think think we have) (re)-invented this practice, and yes, it has the results you mention. But handing babies over to nannies, nursemaids, servants, slaves (if you go back far enough) and the like have a long, long history. Sending them to brutal boarding schools at the age of 7 (well-documented in the British Empire) …

    And yes, it did produce adults who were prepared to step into the Imperial machinery, whether Roman, medieval, British, or whatever with the necessary attitude therein.

    “Everything old is new again in the same way, in a different way…”

  306. Heather in CA – thanks! Have Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius (oh,my, how he hated being Emperor! Probably why he was such a good one) – not Seneca – and I’m feeling my own way into being Real. It’s not a nursing home; it’s independent living in most of the buildings, but like living in the Mariott Hotel. Same oversized food portions, same strange temperature variations in the hallways and common areas, verging on freezing cold, same isolation from the weather and temperature outside unless you go out and seek it, same putting up with Management’s view on what’s important ….

    Real is learning the limits of this existence, living within them, and staying healthy, strong, and as much in touch with reality as possible. Dragging my laundry down to the laundromat on the second floor and sitting there babysitting the machines (other apartments have washer/dryers; I chose one more minimal.) That’s real. Finding skirts you want that are Size 14 (“We only sell skirts in the Plus Size Department, quoth the SprawlMart clerk) and taking a needle and thread to the waistband and 5 minutes later, one would never know…. learning to order half portions of food (at the same price) and stay out of the Size 14 category (at 5’0? You bet. It helps that horrible examples, both bipedal and caninem abound on this campus.)

    And, bless them, I am getting treatment for all the ailments that made it very hard to do for myself when I was living independently back home!

  307. How about a Two-Minute ❤️ Love for Emmanuel Goldstein for his great explanation of vaccines? 👏

    Back on the phone after a weekend in Reality. My poor little SJW has spent 6 weeks, more or less, Reality-time, trying to get General Nuisance to return her phone, and of course the more insistently she demands it back the more he and the rest of the local yokels think it might be a weapon. He just rated the thing “classified until we figure it out or until I die, after which the next man can worry about it.” Whatever else you may say about Nuisance, at least he ain’t a micromanager. (Science fiction writer Larry Correia once opened a book with something to the effect of,”Today I achieved the American Dream. I threw my boss out the 15th-floor window.” I don’t remember if the fictional boss was a micromanager, but I wouldn’t be surprised.).

    The above SJW vs. Nuisance scenario has made me wonder if anyone has conducted de-phoning experiments here in Fantasyland, and, if so, how long did the volunteers last without their phones?

    It occurs to me that the crime rate could be cut considerably if it were possible to sentence people to X years of no-cell-phone. I don’t think surveillance technology is quite there yet, but give it another 5 years.

    Nano-nano, fellow writers! (For you young sprouts, many moons ago, in the Elder Days, the late Robin Williams played an alien who greeted people with “Nano-nano,” pronounced “Nanoo nanoo.”). I bet neither Mr. Williams nor his writing staff ever thought their throwaway gag would be the name of a writing contest. Keep typing and save your flu shot for the end of the month!

  308. Oh Wise and Tolerant Archdruid, Friend to Shoggoths, Tentacled Horrors, Bookbuyers, and Tentacled Horrors Buying Books, a humble request. Since I’ve scrupulously held to the one-kitten-a-month limit, may we add a Lord Cutepuppy on the same terms?

  309. Dear Kimberly Steele, My two girls are gen X and millennial. The 80s were a frightening time in which to raise children for anyone who wasn’t rich. Simply staying live and keeping your kid fed and clothed was an accomplishment. I recall buying a sewing machine, which I could hardly carry, for $4 at a yard sale and making my own and child’s clothing from 2nd hand fabric. I could go on, but you get the picture. I think kids growing up in that decade just never had much stability.

    By the 90s, things had become a bit easier, but schools had declined further and the inflation in college tuition, rents and utility prices had begun. For many of us, you could finance your own comfortable retirement OR get your kids started in life, but not both.

  310. November 10th 2019

    Dear JMG and Mark,

    I don’t see the middle being reclaimed here in the United States until the Democrats have had their rear ends handed to them again by a Trump 2020 reelection.

    (How do I italicize my text here?) When Trump wins again, I think what will happen is the top 20% of Americans will quietly switch to backing the establishment portion of the GOP. I expect that will go for them about as well as things went for Louis the 16th. The SJW/PC/LGBTQQ/NPC/ or whatever variety of alphabet soup causes they support will likewise cease being viable fads and political movements around that time. I would bet a few of them might try to form a communist party that might succeed in upsetting the status quo in the most liberal states.

    My gut says recapturing the middle is not going to be about Democrats or Republicans, its going to be about shunning USSR style communists. It’s like the US needs some novocaine right now, or sedative, to be told a piece of bad news that it doesn’t want to hear.


    Doll on a Windowsill

  311. Architrains,

    November 8, 2019 at 12:43 am

    I couldn’t really understand what your overall point was, but what does it mean that gender is a human construct?

  312. JMG, Jean-Pierre: I haven’t read all the comments yet, but this very theme of recasting the ‘greatest movie stars of all time’ was addressed by Robert Bloch in one of in short stories in ‘Tales in a Jugular Vein’ (1965); I don’t have the book & don’t recall the name of the story; but it was a memorable enough tale about how some stars seemed to stay forever young…

  313. Re: RPG’s and Evangelicals as well as Otherkin

    Such a Christian RPG actually existed . It was called Dragonraid and came out in 1984. You got powers from memorizing bible verses ‘word runes” and fought Evil as a Lightraider.

    It was never popular as it simply didn’t mesh well with what people wanted in RPGS. Some people still play the thing or did as of a few years ago as a church activity. I’ve never played it myself.

    Also by and large the Evangelicals at least at that time didn’t want people to have contact with the mystic realms at all other than maybe in prayer and that was thought dubious.

    Evangelicals or at least many churches today are far more into materialism especially prosperity gospel. Anyone with the most basic knowledge of the Bible would reject it but our society is faustian after all.

    There are mystically inclined ones , often serving as exorcists and being rather knowledgeable in their form of demonology, too knowledgeable for my taste. Ones that actually “Christian” if you will also exists are are some of the best people I know.

    Also note LDS people play D&D all the time, at one point half my group were Mormons . Interestingly Jehovah’s Witnesses have no issues with moderate play either. Not only did they make an issue of the Watchtower on the matter but I am told Gary Gygax was a a JW convert from Catholicism. His co founder Dave Arneson was also Christian his whole life

    This of course was never considered by the antiu D&D crowd who have screamed Satan and run of going LA LA LA can’t hear you.

    As to the Otherkind, I used to play a sort of D&D with an Otherkin girl years ago in the 80’s

    IMO he weirdness of our society has really gotten into the Otherkin and Furry subcultures. Most I’ve met were normal enough at least in public but now , not so much.

    This has a lot to do with intersectionality and cultural marxism I’d guess.

    Also I’d like to second what Jessi Thompson suggested. I used to participate on an Otherkin forum as non kin simply because they used to have a really good occult and metaphysical discussions. Huge numbers had suffered sexual abuse far more than the general population or so it seemed to me.

  314. Beekeeper,
    Good point about the Cold War being a time of anxiety. Even in far-off South Africa, which had no TV at the time, we used to see newsreels featuring the mushroom clouds of the latest bombs, as Americans vied with Soviets to build the biggest. And worry over the intentions of Mao’s China with three million brainwashed Red Guards waving their little red books and threatening the running dogs of imperialism, namely us.

  315. Forgot to mention the Berlin Wall. I’m old enough to remember the Soviets building it, never mind knocking it down. It was a vivid demonstration of power and brutality, with concrete blocks (later replaced by panels), barbed wire entanglements, and Vopos (Volkspolizei) shooting anyone daring to cross. We were very conscious that the massed tanks of the Warsaw Pact could sweep into Western Europe at any time from behind the Iron Curtain and start WWIII.

  316. Phutatorius, you’ll have to ask the deity in question what his intentions were; I don’t happen to know. 😉

    Samurai, no argument there — I read Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee not long after it was first published — yeah, I read mostly adult books then; I was that kind of kid. Harrowing stuff. As for the “Every single Trump voter must be everything we hate” schtick, that would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Do they realize just how visible they’re making their own troubled consciences and their own inability to face themselves?

    Jim W, oh, granted. As a very late Boomer I got to see the seamy side of things, much more than anything else. I used to wish that I’d been born ten years earlier — but these things happen for a purpose, and somebody had to pick up some of the things I did and carry them across forty years of manign neglect.

    Your Kittenship, the problem is that then I’d have to make room for the noble houses of the Cuteotters, Cutebirds, Cutetarantulas, Cutenightmarishhorrorsfromthedawnoftime, etc., and we’d end up as a cute animal picture site. For now, at least, His Puppyship will have to exercise his poochitude in a different play area.

    Doll, do you know basic HTML? You italicize your text here by using standard HTML code — the letter i between angle brackets to start, and /i between angle brackets to end. There’s a cheat sheet here that gives the details.

    PatriciaT, that sounds like something Bloch would do! At this point I’m pretty sure it’s just a matter of time.

    Simon, thanks for this. Good to hear that at least some of the denominations are good with imaginative gaming!

  317. Simon,

    Now that you mention it, I vaguely remember Dragonraid being a thing. I never played it, but I’ve seen references to it. According to what I can find about it, it failed due to a combination of not appealing to secular players, who after all could just play D&D, and being rejected by many Christians for being too much like D&D.

    I still think a Christian RPG could win a significant niche, perhaps as large of one as the more successful OSR games, and appeal to both Christians and non-Christians. The key would be to (a) make it a good game, and (b) have it take Christian mythology as a background assumption, not something that the players are beaten over the head with, or thinly disguised by hokey fantasy allegory.

    A game set during the Babylonian Exile could easily do this: just make a game set in the Babylonian Exile where the PCs are Hebrews or Hebrew sympathizers. That would pretty much be it. Don’t embellish it, don’t whitewash it, and don’t make the PCs into morally-pure superheroes. Reward the players for completing their tasks while keeping the commandments and punish them any time they take the easy way out through sin — something akin to World of Darkness’s Morality system could work well here.

    An Arthurian game, one that doesn’t compromise the tales’ Christian themes, is another possibility. I could see it draw in non-Christians who appreciate the lore not being watered-down to suit secular sensibilities.

    One video game I’m particularly fond of Darklands, an RPG set in medieval Germany, with the conceit that pretty much everything medievals Germans believed about the world was true. So you went around fighting folklore monsters and trying to stop diabolists from summoning demons. I think that could be a great tabletop RPG.

  318. @JMG,

    About wishing that one had been born at a different time – I used to do that, too, but learning to see history as cycles has helped break me of it. We’re all part of a wheel, and the most sensible thing to do is to hold tight to what you have – once I started focusing on the opportunities that come from being born when I was, the though that I might have come even a few years sooner or later began to seem quite dreadful.

    Obviously believing in reincarnation can affect one’s perspective here quite a bit. When I was younger, I never gave serious thought to that, but now? Sure, the modern Mormon church rejects reincarnation, but plenty of 19th century Mormon leaders believed in it, and of late I have been leaning more and more toward the older, more eclectic version of my religion….

  319. RE: DFC and JMG, RE Whitening

    There is a saying in China (paraphrasing, because I don’t remember it exactly) that even an ugly girl can get married if she is white. It’s an old saying, predating colonialism by centuries. I don’t think that it has anything to do with genetics. I think it is about status.

    People who work for a living in preindustrial societies spend a lot of time outside, working the fields, collecting wood, tending the sheep, or whatever. People who live higher up on the hierarchy don’t have to deal with such things. So, well off people are sheltered from the sun and working stiffs get tanned.

    Pretty much across the board, having lighter skin than the rest of your people means that one is high enough up on the hierarchy to spend most of their time in doors.


    PS You see it in modern times with weight and body size. In times of scarcity being plump means that one has resources. In times of abundance being thin means one has self discipline.

  320. A lot of people in this thread apparently have strong opinions on the matter of transgender identities, and as a trans woman myself, I feel compelled to chime in. It seems like modern trans activism is seen in a negative light here, including by some trans people, and while there are certainly some valid critiques to be made, I think it gets more flak than it deserves.

    A few people mentioned how they believed themselves to be transgender at some point, but ultimately decided not to transition and came to terms with their assigned birth gender. I’m happy it worked out that way for them, but it’s not like that for all of us. Some of us will never be happy with our assigned birth genders or with our unaltered bodies. For me, transitioning medically and socially was a necessity. It didn’t solve all of my problems, and I still struggle with depression and anxiety and OCD, but it did make me feel significantly more comfortable with my body and my identity than I did before, and far less dissociated than I was before. Easing the immense burden of dysphoria was a necessary prerequisite to fixing any of the other problems with my life.

    Part of the issue is that people seem to be confusing gender dysphoria with something that I’ll call, for lack of a better term, “gender role dysphoria.” True gender dysphoria is nearly impossible to describe to someone who hasn’t felt it. It’s an overwhelming sense of wrongness, partially about one’s body (similar to body dysmorphia), but also just about one’s state of being (loosely similar to depression and dissociation). It likely has some kind of biological basis; the prevailing theory is that it results from some kind of mismatch between the body’s hormones and the brain structures designed to receive them. For people with gender dysphoria, hormone therapy actually serves a dual purpose: First, simply taking estrogen (or testosterone, for female-to-male transsexuals) alleviates the sense of wrongness, often within a matter of days, well before it causes any physical changes. Second, it changes the body in ways that alleviate the dysmorphic aspects of gender dysphoria. Genital surgery helps to further alleviate body dysmorphia, although not all trans people want or need it; some are more dysphoric about their genitalia than others. But at any rate, telling people with gender dysphoria that they “need to accept themselves for who they are” or “need to learn to be comfortable in their natural body” is beyond unhelpful. And trying to prevent them from getting the hormones or surgeries that would actually help them is cruel.

    Gender role dysphoria, on the other hand, occurs when people feel dissatisfied with their assigned birth gender because they don’t match up to societal expectations of how that gender should behave. Feminine boys and masculine girls may feel gender role dysphoria, even if they don’t feel gender dysphoria. This might lead them to believe they’re transgender, even if transitioning would probably be unhelpful or even actively harmful for them. One of the reasons that gender therapists exist is to distinguish between people with gender dysphoria and people with gender role dysphoria, although they don’t always do a perfect job.

    Trans activists are aware of these nuances, they just believe it’s better to err on the side of leniency, especially since society as a whole is strongly biased in the direction of discouraging people from transitioning. In the activists’ view, people without true dysphoria will quickly realize that hormones aren’t right for them (since they don’t have any chemical imbalance to cure in the first place), and quit before the hormones change their bodies too much. Maybe a few people will transition for the wrong reasons and regret it later, but that’s preferable to withholding treatment from all the people who really do need it. That doesn’t mean that they want to force every tomboyish child to take testosterone and become a trans man! It just means they want actual trans men to be able to reliably get testosterone without having to jump through dozens of bureaucratic hoops.

  321. @ Patricia M “Real is learning the limits of this existence, living within them, and staying healthy, strong, and as much in touch with reality as possible.”

    Words to live by from a practicing Stoic…thanks for this, Patricia. I still vividly remember the jolt of awakening I experienced upon reading my first passage in Meditations: “That which is evil to thee does not subsist in the ruling principle of another.”

    That was in 1975 and that small volume, a lovely, leather bound edition from 1915, remains one of my most precious possessions. Oddly, the dear friend who presented the gift now suffers from acute Trump Derangement Syndrome.

    I have no doubt that Stoic philosophy will remain central to my spiritual practice for the duration of this walkabout. Glad to hear you’re adapting successfully to your new living situation.


  322. @All, Kind of a jump on the bandwagon/ side notes to the “dangers uncertainty of each generation”, I do remember hiding under my flimsy metal desk from a possible nuclear bomb, but I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in So. California and that made far less impression on me than the scourge-du-jour of serial killers and random abductors. That scourge may not have even been on the radar for some folks living in other parts of the country, but children and mostly young girls and women gone missing from hitch-hiking to just walking home from school, bodies and body parts found in camp grounds, by the side of the highway, in shallow graves etc. were a DAILY thing in the San Diego area newspapers. (My Grandma read them to us in her attempt to warn us to be careful and keep us safe). It was the “Mass shooter” scourge of the day and it was terrifying. Even as a 4th grader, I reckoned if a nuclear bomb hit us, this desk is not going to do anything, and we won’t see it coming and we won’t see the aftermath, so why worry!? Or maybe it was just too big for a 4th grader to wrap her brain around, but some creeper grabbing you on your way home from school was a real threat. It happened to one girl in my school, and to two girls in the school the next town over. A number of times, my Grandpa followed us in his El Camino all the way to school. He thought we couldn’t see him.

    I know those creepers too have been around forever, but like that San Francisco song above implies – every anti-establishment ‘revolutionary’, flower child, outcast and freak in the universe seemed to descend on California in those decades and the creepers found an easy way to hide amongst them in a target-rich environment. It was bad.

    Incidentally – that’s one reason we helicoptered our own children to the extent we did, (generally speaking). We all react to the problems of our time, eh?

  323. And apologies for being off topic, JMG: Please post or not – If not I’ll save this for Open Post, no worries: but I have a plea and question for you and those commenters knowledgeable and adept at Magic:

    What the heck is a Grimoire? What is my son getting himself into? Is this a real thing? Or is it like Occult practice and worship’s equivalent to New Age/ pop-spirituality? IOW: a fad?

  324. Re: Generational Expression

    I was born in 1963 and identified as Gen X. Boomers had risen to managerial class by the time I hit the workforce, and the sexual revolution had moved on by then too. My cohorts looked around at the state of the world and we didn’t believe it all would last very much longer. So we became very frugal and back-to-basics, somewhat noncommittal, and we liked to coast and couch surf, and some of us were called Slackers. The idea of Slack, the way I learned of it in the Bay Area, came from the Church of the Sub Genius. It was a kind of subversive idea of inserting some “slack” into the rigid roles and identities we were all supposed to perform unquestioningly. Each generation has their own pressures and outlets.

    There are planetary and astrological influences on generation expression, to be sure. Although Pluto has been demoted and devalued, it still seems to synchronize pretty well with generational movements. Pluto in Cancer generation: the Silents, Pluto in Leo: the Me Generation, Pluto in Virgo: concerned with recycling, etc.

  325. Sarah, you say “neoliberalism seemed to ‘arrive’ reasonably simultaneously in western nations”. My sense is that neoliberalism evolved somewhat over the years, so depending on when your country hopped on the train it may have looked a little different from what I saw getting started in 1980s UK. Back then, the “left” that Thatcher was fighting was a real working people’s left that favored and promoted working people’s economic interests. Thatcher implemented economic reforms that were undoubtedly neoliberal (deregulation, denationalization, business gets to do whatever it wants, etc), and the casualties were working-class jobs and communities. But I don’t think Thatcher would have been at all comfortable with what neoliberalism became. She would have hated the present day cultural priorities of corporate Democrats. She was very British, suspicious of Europe, not an enthusiastic globaliser, and quite like Trump in outlook and manners.

    Doll, I think you are right. I don’t see how the Democrats or old-style Republicans recapture the center now. The pre-Trump Republicans tried to hold the center promoting cultural issues and patriotism, but the bloom seems to be off that rose now. Democrats sold out the store to big business in the 90s and tried to gloss over that with cultural issues too. That culture war stuff works while the economy is believed to be working for most people, but as economic distress mounts it’s going to be chaff in the wind. The center will coalesce and hold again, but as JMG said the key question is who leads that. Somebody has to articulate the situation and a way forward in a way that makes sense to a majority of people. And then the actual policy prescription needs to work for a while. It could be Trump if he wins in 2020. If a corporate Democrat wins I just don’t see how they get the toothpaste back in the tube. If a more left wing Democrat wins I don’t see the policy prescriptions working or even getting off the ground. It’s going to be interesting, for sure.

  326. Re evil – there are actually two different ways to use the concept. One is that if something bad happens, maybe a tsunami, that is an evil which occurred but no one and no thing was evil. It does not make the water or the ocean bad. This confuses things, because the other definition of evil, the more religious or spiritual one, has to do with intent. Evil events are perpetrated by someone with an unjust intent. This particular type of evil dos require a lot of thought and a lot of spiritual and consciousness growth to overcome the tendency to do, and even the desire to do. It is probably via reincarnation and other methods of acquiring sincerity and compassion that we learn to overcome being perpetrators. It is probably not possible for animals to really learn as the evils they do are required to survive and do not involve malevolent intent.

    I tend to hammer on this point because these two types of evil require different coping mechanisms and the second one is IMO one of the most important lessons we need to learn to graduate, pivotal really, and we also tend to hide quite a bit from our own tendencies toward evil and our own perpetrations of it, especially when we have others who carry out the evil for us.
    Mot of humanity is confused about the difference between good and evil, thus our presence here.

  327. @Caryn

    The word “grimoire” comes from Latin “grammatica,” meaning “grammar,” by way of French “grammaire” (the standard form) or “grémoire” or “grimoire.” Originally all these words simply referred to what we might call a grammar book, but in the Catholic Middle Ages, where priests were often called on to drive out evil spirits, but had only a by-rote knowledge of Latin, it was helpful to have small books with Latin rituals for driving out those evil spirits. Out of ignorance, such small books often were called “grammar” books.

    In Medieval Catholicism, the role of exorcist was not reserved for highly trained priests, as it is now, but was simply one of the lowest clerical orders, lower than a deacon. And in a pinch any layperson might take on the role of exorcist (or the role of lector, for that matter). In the 1400s and 1500s small and thin booklets in Latin for use by such laypersons were printed in the hundreds of thousands, and flooded Europe. (You didn’t have to understand the Latin even slightly, you just had to read the booklet aloud.) Early books had such titles as “Conjuration of Evil Spirits.” Later examples of the same genre are the “Little Albert” and the “Big Albert” in French, the “True Spiritual Shield” and the “Long-Hidden Friend” in German, the “Book of St. Cyprian” in Portuguese and in Danish, and so forth. And as the years went by, these booklets grew in size by the addition of many other folk rituals and charms, until some of them became volumes of several hundred pages.

  328. This one caught the Zen Basterd’s eye (my FB Altered Ego) – “Paradoctor, funny. I forget who it was who pointed out that poor people in the US act as though they’re temporarily distressed millionaires, so maybe our whole society is transclass. ”

    I recall a news story from some years ago, where a quite evidently financially distressed wage class person is being interviewed and was asked why he supported the relentless lowering of taxes for the wealthy, even though it shifted more tax burden to him and folks like him, and reduced the amount and quality of government services they had access to.

    His response was rather telling…

    “When I’m rich, I don’t wanna be taxed either.”

    I was stick by his absolute certainly. WHEN. Not “if”. Gods bless the cobber and his unshakable optimism. I do hope he makes it someday, despite the discouraging statistics. But good GODS, is that an example of the mythic mode? And not a sign of any pragmatic thought worth noting.

  329. I’m not sure if this is on topic, and it’s a late-day comment anyway.

    The thing that keeps occurring to me, though, is that people on the Left and Right– or, what’s more accurate, the various, shuffling groups that cluster around the Left and Right– tell the exact same story about themselves, and justify it with the same sorts of fallacious logic. The story goes something like this: Our People are under attack. The attackers are Them, the Bad People. Them have all the power. We have none. This is our last chance; it is the 11th hour!

    In every case, Our People and Them, the Bad People, are monolithic groups. We are always innocent, and the emphasis is on our rights; They are always evil, or else they owe us something, which we may have to take by force. Our People might be American Blacks, Women, the Transgendered (cue the Litany of Social Justice Sacral Victims.) But it might also be, for the New Right, Rural Americans or the White Working Class or for the Old Right, the Rich, Business Owners and (God help us) Job Creators. And there are more specialized Right-Wing narratives emerging for various other groups. E. Michael Jones, for example, has made a career out of re-making the mythic history of the Social Justice warriors with American ethnic Catholics cast in the role of the oppressed racial/gender/etc groups, and a sinister cabal of Jews and WASPs (but especially Jews) in the role his opposite numbers assign to White Males.

    And the storytellers on both (or all) of these various sides pepper their various kampfs and manifestoes with the same kinds of incomplete facts. For evidence that They control all of our society’s institutions, we’re given examples of Them controlling some of our society’s institutions. For evidence that They are oppressing Us, we’re given evidence of some of them harming some of Us. Evidence that They are truly a They and that Us are truly an Us is never really supplied– groups are considered to be monolithic, and contrary examples No True Scotsman’d out of existence. No True Catholic would work with the Jewish Neoconservatives. No True African American would be a cabinet-level member of the Trump Administration. And so on. I remember learning on Day 1 of my Introcuction to Logic Class in college that all X are Y does not and cannot mean that All Y are X. All philosophers have big noses. Socrates is a philosopher. Therefore, Socrates has a big nose. This is a valid syllogism. All philosophers have big noses. Socrates has a big nose. Therefore, is Socrates a philosopher? Who knows. In American political discourse today, though, Some X are Y is always presented as meaning that All X are Y, and then that All Y are X. Some powerful people are white males. Therefore all powerful people are white males. Therefore all white males are people in power. Some Communists are Jews. Therefore, The Jews are responsible for Communism. Repeat, repeat, repeat, ad nauseum.

  330. Hi Mark,

    I was born in 62. I had just finished training in journalism as that industry started to be reformed. Up to that time, print journalism was a left-wing enclave with a surprising number of writers from genuinely working-class backgrounds. It was not remotely trendy. Our union’s most ardent desire was to achieve pay parity with primary school teachers.

    In 1987, journalists in my city were sent to workshops in a swanky, inner-city conference venue to learn how to think and write according to the new ethos of ‘infotainment’.

    Just one little snippet. We were divided into groups and given canned scenarios to practice writing in the new style – present-tense, rigidly inverted pyramid in form, and pitched at twelve year olds with ADHD.

    In my group, chortling amongst ourselves, we competed to produce the most ludicrous and melodramatic copy. I remember feeling a kind of horror as the spoofs that won our informal contests were often held up to the class as exemplars.

    This was modernisation.

  331. @Caryn

    Originally a grimoire was simply a small and thin exorcism booklet, the reading of which aloud (by a baptized Christian) would suffice to drive any evil spirit away from any person or place. Such booklets were printed in Latin by the hundreds of thousands in the 1400s and early 1500s, and flooded all Catholic Europe.

    In those days, as in the early Church, exorcism was not reserved for a relatively few well-trained priests (as it is in the modern Roman Catholic Church), but was a thing that anyone–even a layperson–could freely do when circumstances seemed to require it. There were also professional exorcists, who formed one of the lowest of the ordained clerical orders, and who needed little more skill than the ability to read Latin text aloud, even if they did not understand what they were reading.

    Later those small exorcism booklets began to grow in size, as opportunistic printers and authors added many charms, spells and magical rituals to them; but they continued to be aimed at the popular market. Examples are the “Big Albert” and “Little Albert” in French, the “Book of St. Cyprian” in Portuguese and in Danish, and “The True Spiritual Shield” in German. At that time they began to be called “grémoires” or “grimoires,” which are non-standard variants of the standard French word “grammaire,” a grammar book.

    Eventually sensationalist forms of these booklets were also printed to be sold “under the counter” by pedlars to guilble countryfolk. These would often include rituals for summoning spirits as well as banishing them, usually with the aim of satisfying the purchaser’s baser desires. The appearance of such books seems to correlate roughly with the rise of prosecutions for witchcraft and with the Catholic Church’s moves against laypeople working as exorcists.

    Not knowing which grimoires your son is interested in, I’m not sure what to say about his interest. If you could mention the titles of his books, I might be able to say more.

    Grimoire magic seems to have become newly fashionable among occultists in recent years, along with summoning “demons” as magical servants. Alas!

  332. @ Patricia Mathews

    Yes, this kind of sociopathic child education, as you mentioned, in the english upper class, with the erasure of empathy and of the “attachment to life”, it is similar as the methods used in Sparta (the agoge); some nine years ago I wrote a post exactly on this subject, sorry, it is in spanish, but may be you can machine-translate it if you are interested (anyway I am not too much proud of the way I wrote it):

    Rudyar Kipling said that his education was based on a “calculated torture”; and you had to “keep the penalties for yourself, never complain, never show any weaknesses”. Ah!, the British phlegm…

    But there is also something “dark” about this, in the extreme, for example in the battle of Somme where those many thousands young british soldiers just jumped calmly from the trenches where they could see clearly that all the previous waves of his comrades had been reaped by German machine guns…After all it is not strange that Freud talked, about this as the “Todestrieb” (Death Drive, Thanatos) as a kind of basic human instinct, but may be it is more cultural than biological, as Lewis Munford would say, what we saw was really a kind of “machine” which parts are human bodies, shaped and greased by a quite special kind of culture.

    I wrote also another post about the influence of the “attachment” in the society and the assault of the Systemic to the “Lebenswelt”, (the “world of the life” as called by J. Habermas):

    @ team10tim

    OK, today when poor people are “whiter”, it is a sign of status to be tanned by the sun, the opposite in the past; but in Nigeria (or in general in Africa) this whitening process is not related to be more time indoor or not, but to belong to another complete different ethnicity (or race), the same thing apply to the eye-lid or the shape of eyes of the asian people, the desired changes are extreme and are well outside of the traditional “models” of their own culture.
    For example: do you think is there any relationship between the Michael Jackson’s childhood and the way he changed his skin and face? (I know this is, in fact, a very extreme case)
    There are many examples of other cultures where the mass media have made huge changes in what is to be “beauty” and it is related of what is “progressive” (the wave of the future) far away from the (destroyed) traditional models


  333. Ashara,

    You make some great points, and differentiating gender dysmorphia from gender role dysmorphia strikes me as a great idea, one I’d like to see get some traction. (I would say I myself am affected by the latter to an extent, no doubt in part due to my Asperger’s syndrome.) If taken seriously, it could dissolve the “truscum vs. tucutes” issue.

  334. @JMG,

    I’m honoured you’d take the time! My gut says that the Pillars, like the ‘element bearers’ the show centered around, are Heroes. One doesn’t venerate Perseus at the same level as Zeus– but I suppose one doesn’t ignore Perseus, either. Certainly there’s useful mental fodder there. Thank you.

    @Walt F,
    Well, that’s 2 votes for Discord. It’s eerie how well the fellow fits your prescription. As a bonus, I think he’d help balance out the two sky gods;he always struck me as somehow chthonic. May I ask where that list came from?

    That is just too much like good sense. Thank you.

    We both commented at the same time, but yeah! Discord is the obvious choice. Going to wait and see if I get some kind of sign on that, though. No idea how I’d approach it. I mean, Princesses were easy. “Dear Princess Celestia…” I think I’ll follow Violet’s eminently sensible advice and see if I can get a read on things from the existing members of my strange little pantheon. (“My Little Pantheon: Friendship is Religion”(tm)) If Discord is a good fit, it’ll come to me.

    As to your own self– if you don’t feel like there’s any imbalance, well, then I bet there probably isn’t. Your situation differs enough that you really can’t draw the parallel, because, yes, the princesses I worship are very much feminine aspects. That-which-I-worship-as-Celestia is very much the Mother Sun; That-which-I-worship-as-Luna is no less feminine, but holds the opposite archetype.

    I do like your addition to the button test, but… at my bleakest, I’m not sure which I’d have picked. A more ideal male body wouldn’t have been as appealing to the part of me that wanted to not be me. Which is a good tell that masculinity is something I view as core to my sense of self.

    @David, by the Lake,
    I think we’re both getting what we need, weather we want it or not. The divine is presenting itself in a way that is an antidote to ourselves. (I’m too serious; you’re too analytic. Either way, we’ll learn a bit in this incarnation.)