I hope my readers won’t object at this point if our conversation takes an excursion into the outer reaches of American popular spirituality—yes, that’s been spelled “occultism” since about a week after Helena P. Blavatsky got off the boat in New York and translated the term out of French. Very often, the best way to make sense of a habit of popular thought is to watch what happens when it goes its length, and the spiritual fringes of a nation that was largely founded by religious fanatics is a great place to watch that process in action.
It’s a mistake to assume, by the way, that all the religious fanatics in question were ordinary Protestant Christians. That’s the impression you get from the usual watered-down versions of American history retailed by the schools and the media, of course, but like a great deal else that comes from these same sources, it doesn’t happen to be true. When European colonization of North America began, the reality wars of the late Renaissance were not yet over, and all three of the contending sides ended up with a substantial presence in the colonies before 1776.
All three sides? Yep. In one corner of the triangular boxing ring, you had Christian orthodoxy in its various contending forms. In the second corner, you had scientific materialism, which hadn’t yet openly embraced atheism—that could get you jail time in England until the 1830s, and in many other European countries was illegal until later still—but settled for the “clockmaker god” of Deism, who wound up the universe and then went somewhere else to let it run unimpeded. In the third corner, finally, you had the phenomenon that historians these days call Renaissance Hermeticism, which is among other things where modern occultism comes from.
The first two contenders are familiar enough to most people these days, but it’s probably worth talking a little about the third. One of the things that happened during the Renaissance is that people all over Europe discovered that the magic, astrology, and alchemy they’d inherited from their ancestors, and enriched with borrowings from the Arab world during and after the Crusades, were fragments of a rich philosophical and religious system dating from classical times. They got that memo in different ways—some from the writings attributed to an Egyptian sage named Hermes Trismegistus, whence the term “Hermetic;” some from the medieval reworkings of classical spirituality found in Jewish Cabalistic writings; some straight from the hose via the writings of Plotinus, Iamblichus, Proclus, and other Neoplatonist philosopher-mystics. As a result, the Renaissance was awash in wizardry, sometimes blending with one of the other two contenders, sometimes standing right out there in a tall pointed hat with moons and stars on it.
Historians of the sort who set out to make the past justify the self-image of the present—that is to say, the great majority of those who write history—have had to work overtime to avoid talking about this. There was a great deal of fluttering and squawking in scholarly dovecotes a few years back when Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs published two fine volumes on Isaac Newton’s alchemical work, which showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that the patron saint of scientific rationalism had been up to his eyeballs in Renaissance Hermeticism. There was even more of the same sort of fluttering and squawking a little further back when Frances Yates started writing a series of groundbreaking histories that took Renaissance Hermeticism seriously as an intellectual and cultural force in its time, as indeed it was. That reality is less shocking now than it was in the late twentieth century, but you can still find an embarrassingly large number of books on the origins of the modern world that pretend that it was all about rational science triumphing over religious orthodoxy, full stop, end of sentence.
Au contraire, the reality wars of the late Renaissance ended when early materialist science and Christian orthodoxy negotiated a truce so they could jointly stomp the bejesus out of the third contender. The terms of the truce were that science got jurisdiction over everything material as long as its promoters didn’t publicly disagree with the Bible, religion got jurisdiction over everything moral and spiritual, and both sides turned on Hermeticism with hobnailed boots. Ever notice that one of the few things that hardcore fundamentalist Christians and hardcore atheist rationalists agree about is that astrology is really, really bad? Now you know why.
The armed truce between science and religion in the Western world endured, despite occasional bursts of sniping from both sides, until Charles Darwin led an army of cave men across the border in 1859 and inaugurated a new round of open warfare that hasn’t stopped yet. Ever since, the promoters and cheerleaders of science have been busy rewriting history to make it look like the fighting started in Galileo’s time and never stopped. That was partly a matter of trying to justify an unprovoked invasion, of course, but it was also an annoyed response to the fact that victory kept on slipping out of their grasp. It wasn’t just Christianity that held its ground, either. Despite repeated stompings, modern occultism, the raffish and plucky descendant of Renaissance Hermeticism, flatly refused to get with the program and just lay down and die.
Occultism, as we may as well simply call it from this point on, thus has been here in European-settled North America since long before the Revolution. The first colonial governor of Connecticut, John Winthrop Jr., was a passionate alchemist; George Starkey, who made a name for himself as an alchemical writer under the nom de crucible Eirenaeus Philalethes, was born in the colonies and got much of his alchemical education there; Rosicrucians from Germany fled here all through the colonial period, bringing with them a vast amount of Christian Hermeticism, and the list goes on. Three of the original colonies—Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Maryland—embraced the idea of religious liberty long before anybody in Europe got around to it, and that guaranteed that anybody who chafed under the harsh legal prohibitions against occultism in most European countries had an obvious escape route. Many of them took it.
So the land of the free and the home of the brave also became the haven of mages, astrologers, alchemists, diviners, folk healers, visionaries, and students of strange lore. That doesn’t mean that things were always easy for occultists here. At intervals, religious authorities whipped up mobs, political authorities passed laws defining the practice of astrology as fraud punishable by serious jail time, medical authorities led crusades against people giving health care dollars to someone other than them, and so on. Occultists accordingly became very good at sticking to the letter of the law while undermining its spirit. (Some years ago, for example, when I was taught a system of spiritual healing that was part of a particular occult order’s curriculum, it came with a detailed discussion of what you could and couldn’t say and do, in order to keep from being accused of practicing medicine without a license. The medical industry is very protective of its monopoly, but there’s more to it than that: to deal with the psychospiritual roots of many common health conditions is to threaten the foundations of the scientific-materialist worldview.)
Since early on in the 19th century, though, the pervasive presence of occultism in American society has tended at intervals to produce an odd phenomenon that doesn’t really have a name yet. The word “occult” literally means “hidden”—when your doctor runs an occult blood test on a stool sample, she’s trying to find blood that’s not visible, and when a planet occults a star, that means the star is hidden behind the planet. (It has nothing to do with the word “cult.”) Occult philosophy, to give it its older name, is the hidden philosophy. Occultists deal in secrets, partly because of all that persecution down through the years, and partly because learning to keep secrets is a potent way of training the awareness and snapping awake from the shallow trance of aimless chatter that most people are in most of the time when they’re not sound asleep.
What happens at intervals, however, is that somebody takes a few basic occult techniques, decides that those are what occultism is all about, surrounds them with an ideology that combines bits of borrowed occultism with the latest hot topics in contemporary pop culture, and goes loudly public with the result. That’s the phenomenon I have in mind. I suppose you could call it Occultism Lite, as the results generally relate to the rich strong brew of trad occultism the way that a fizzy yellow light beer mass-produced by a global corporation relates to a good imperial stout from a microbrewery. The comparison’s apt, because trad occultism, like really dark beer, is an acquired taste for many people, while light beer is popular precisely because it’s so bland.
If you know your way around American popular culture from colonial times forward, you’re familiar with the results. Transcendentalism is a great example; so is Spiritualism; so is New Thought; so is Theosophy; so is the watered-down astrology and vaguely Asian mysticism that pervaded the hippie scene; so is the New Age movement; so is the generic goddess-worshiping Neopaganism that has been such a significant pop-culture phenomenon for the last forty years (though the somewhat older traditionalist Wicca from which it got some of its DNA and much of its symbolism is another matter). The formula’s reliable enough that you could just about manufacture another pop-culture phenomenon of the same type to order, and I don’t doubt in the least that there will be more of them in future years.
What’s more, while a lot of trad occultists tend to grumble about the various forms of Occultism Lite, I’m far from sure the grumbling is justified. Serious occult study is not for everyone. It takes roughly as much work to become good at ceremonial magic, say, or astrology, or Tarot reading, as it takes to become good at playing a musical instrument, and the work is of exactly the same sort: there’s theory you need to study and works in the standard repertoire you need to learn, but above all else you have to practice, day in and day out, until you’ve developed the skills that you need to get past the beginner’s level. That’s a lot of time and effort and commitment, and most people have other things to do with their lives.
The various forms of Occultism Lite don’t have that drawback, and so can reach out to people who don’t have the time and energy and passion to take on serious occult study. To extend the musical metaphor a bit, if trad occultism is like learning to play the violin so you can perform Mozart and Vivaldi. Occultism Lite is like learning to strum three chords on an old guitar so you can accompany your friends around the campfire and have a great time. That is to say, there’s a place for both, and for many things in between.
So far, so good, but difficulties tend to creep in from two sources. The first is that far more often than not, the people who get into some system of Occultism Lite manage to convince themselves that they’ve gotten hold of everything that really matters in trad occultism, and insist that everyone ought to discard all that fusty old stuff and take up whatever the Occultism Lite du jour happens to be. Some trad occultists respond to this sort of talk slyly, by picking up the basic symbolism of the Occultism Lite du jour and repackaging trad occultism in those terms. All the occult schools that suddenly started talking about Atlantis once Theosophy made the lost continent fashionable again are good examples of the type.
On the other hand, especially when there are serious differences between trad occultism and the currently popular Occultism Lite, you get occultists who talk about those differences, and get pushback from the pop-culture end of things. A good many trad occultists, being human, respond to this sort of thing by rolling their eyes and taking the occasional pot shot—yes, the phrase “Occultism Lite” could be considered one of those!—and are accordingly accused, not without reason, of being arrogant metaphysical snobs. Sometimes they’re accused of worse than that. Those of my readers who were into fantasy fiction a few decades ago may recall the lively series of novels by Mercedes Lackey about a paranormal investigator named Diana Tregarde; in those stories, far more often than not, the good people were into pop-culture Neopaganism and the villains (and a villainous lot they were!) were a bunch of old-fashioned occultists.
So that’s one source of turbulence you can count on seeing when some form of Occultism Lite seizes a portion of the public imagination. There’s another, though, and it comes out of the same odd conviction we’ve been discussing for the last several months: most of the versions of Occultism Lite that become really popular in America buy into the claim that the world is obliged to give you whatever you think you want and become whatever you tell it to be.
For all the downsides of pop Neopaganism, that’s a bullet that it more or less dodged—it’s hard to embrace the archetype of the persecuted witch, as so many Neopagans did, if you don’t give the world the autonomy from your desires that it needs in order to persecute you. The same bullet, though, went straight through the middle of most other pop-occultism countercultures. Take Christian Science, one of the classic forms that Occultism Lite took in the 19th century; the basic claim of Mary Baker Eddy is that all sickness, suffering, and limitation is pure illusion, and if you have enough faith none of those things can affect you at all. Does that work in practice? Sometimes, sure—but I know a guy who nearly died in his teens because he got appendicitis and his Christian Science mother insisted on trying to pray him back to health. His father intervened just barely in time to save his life. One of his sisters wasn’t so lucky; years later, as an adult, she tried to pray herself free from cancer, and even though her faith was strong enough to keep her from seeking other treatment, it wasn’t strong enough to spare her an agonizing death.
For that matter, I knew a lot of people when I lived in Ashland, Oregon—“the northernmost suburb in Marin County,” a local joke had it, and full of New Age true believers—who piled into Rhonda Byrne’s Occultism Lite classic The Secret and tried to use the Law of Attraction to make fracktons of money in the real estate bubble of 2005-2008. They all lost their shirts, and a fair number of them had to declare bankruptcy and let go of large parts of their preferred lifestyles. It’s a theme that runs straight through the history of Occultism Lite in America: from the Millerites standing on hilltops waiting for Jesus to show up in glory on October 22, 1844, straight through to their spiritual descendants today waiting for their spells to banish Donald Trump, it’s absolutely standard for American subcultures influenced by pop occultism to convince themselves that the world has to do what they tell it, and learn otherwise the hard way.
I’ve long wondered why it is that the United States in particular should pup so many subcultures who fall into this particular trap. All things considered, I suspect it’s rooted in one of the many ironies of our national history. It so happened that most of the people who colonized America after 1492 came from the cramped and rocky little peninsula off the western end of Asia that calls itself Europe. They were used to life on the densely textured European scale, where the same family tolerably often lived and farmed the same ground from the Bronze Age to the Industrial Revolution, and people a week’s walk away spoke the language with a different accent if they spoke the same language at all—and then they got off the boat and raised their eyes and saw, stretching out before them, a continent so vast that you could drop a couple of European countries into it and never be able to find them again.
The temptation to think that you can live your life on the same gargantuan scale is a recurrent hiccup in our national psyche. The title of a book I once read on the history of the mountain West, Men To Match My Mountains, more or less sums up the hubris involved. Thus it’s not accidental that the icons of American pop culture have included Paul Bunyan and Superman, that the fantasy of infinite expansion into outer space sank such deep roots into the American psyche, or that American pop spirituality—very much including those aspects of it influenced by occultism—should so often fall into what amounts to delusions of omnipotence, and end up finding out the hard way that you can tell the world what to do all you want, but the world is under no obligation to listen.
Traditional occultism by and large doesn’t fall into that trap, as the old occult teachings are very clear about the distinction between the microcosm (i.e., you) and the macrocosm (i.e., everything else). If these two mirror each other—“That which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above,” as the Emerald Tablet puts it—the mirroring goes both ways, and includes immensities against which the individual human being stands revealed as very small beer indeed. Students of trad occultism thus learn ways to gauge which way the current of events is headed so they can move with it, rather than wasting their efforts and their lives trying to row against tide and wind. They also cultivate a sense of scale, so they can judge which desired changes are within their reach and which ones aren’t.
That sense of scale and attentiveness to the flow of events are well worth cultivating just now, and not just if you happen to be an occultist. Next week we’ll take the discussion further, and in the process sort out another recurring source of confusion in contemporary life.
I found this amusing and oh, so true. One of my teachers – in fact the one who was closest to a traditional occultist – had this idea that if you gave enough in offerings to other organizations, you’d get more back. He also wasn’t willing to do the hard work of running the commune he founded and make it work – he wanted to be looked up to as the elder sage.
I was doing I Ching readings in the morning on the side, and when he sent in a question about what was wrong, and the reading came up “Work on what has been spoiled,” I knew the writing was on the wall.
As you might guess, it collapsed.
This is why an astrological education is profoundly necessary for any would-be occultists, or Occultists Lite. Once you have the knowhow to look back at that miserable time in your life you experienced on X, Y, and Z dates, and see what the transits were to your birth chart at the time, everything becomes clear.
Pluto transits will annihilate you. They will transform who and what you are completely.
Saturn transits will severely restrict you. You’ll be forced to step up in terms of self-discipline, while also being forced to shed that which no longer serves you.
If anything is left undone when Uranus comes along, God help you, but you are in for sudden excision of whatever it was.
Best to work with the planetary energies, not against. Planetary days and hours should be 101 level stuff, but I rarely hear anyone talk about them, even among astrologers.
Not to repeat myself, but as I read your essay for this week, particularly the part where you mentioned gauging the flow of current events so as to not waste one’s energy, I couldn’t help but reflect on my experience at council last night and my attempts to find (what I see to be) better solutions to our local needs and to induce local resilience and self-reliance. Perhaps I’m fighting against an overwhelming tide here and the city is simply going to do what it needs to do to market itself to rich people from Chicago, regardless of what I say or do otherwise. It is difficult to determine if I’m fighting the good fight or standing at the seashore ordering the tide to halt its advance.
In the past few months I’ve been logging quite a few hours studying trad astrology. One excellent source has been the _Foxfire Book_, which lays out the old time ways of planting by the signs. This level of occult study is on the modest scale. It’s very different learning how to think in terms of the Moon’s movements, say, than it is to use _The Picatrix_ to make effective agricultural talismans! That said, even studying these folk traditions it becomes clear that 1) they are only a fragment of a larger tradition, and 2) the Moon is the senior partner. To work with her energies effectively I must change, she though continues her path that she has coursed across the ecliptic aeons before I was born and will continue aeons after I’m dead. The Moon herself is an immensity against which human beings are small beer indeed!
If I were to draw on the rich astrological lore of _The Picatrix_ and think not only in terms of the phases and the Signs of the Zodiac but also the Mansions, well I’ve just entered a whole new level of complexity. Still the basic premise stands; the 7th Mansion, Aldira, existed aeons before I was born and will abide aeons after I am dead and if I want to curry his favor with a talisman I best wait till he’s on the ascendant or culminating, free of hard aspects to malefics, and have some engraving tools and sweet-smelling incense on hand! Each of the 28 lunar mansions is an immensity against which human beings are small beer indeed!
That is, even just to dip one’s toes into traditional astrology it becomes abundantly clear abundantly quickly that in terms of the work, humans are very much the junior partners, that these beings are much smarter and more powerful than humans.
In a real sense, the brands of Occultism Lite must ignore electional astrology nearly as much as the other two contenders in the reality wars because electional astrology, the study of the tides of the Sublunary world, really is not kind to the idea that humans are special. Occultism lite then has a tendency to say “You are the ocean!” and more traditional occultism then says “with study of the stars, practice of the sextant and and some charts of the coast, your ship of self may be seafaring in a few years!”
I recall reading that a simplistic history of ideas runs something like: “First there was magic, then there was religion, then there was science.” It ignores the possibility of different domains, purposes and uses. I’m not sure we can draw the line in terms of universal efficacy, but it is a big world, as you say, and we can use all the tools we can get. Problem often comes in that few of us can master even a few tools and then we cling to the idea that our path is best. We need to be less insecure and encourage people to play the role they are best suited. Part of the answer must include something like knowing my business from what isn’t my business. That requires humility and that is another tool that takes daily practice. Thanks for another interesting essay.
It’s a bit confusing. Currently I am reading a book called You Are The Placebo. Unless the author is lying,he used his mind to heal himself of a severe spinal injury that should have left him completely disabled. I also read another account from the same era (Silva Mind Control maybe?) who healed himself of an 8-weeks-to-live cancer the same way.
It involved incredible will, staying focused for long periods on mentally walking the body through a healing process.
One difference it seems to me is that they weren’t trying to take on the entire nation’s choice of president, but just their own body.
Another tip I’ve recently come across, one on youtube and also in the book, is that the way to “pray” is not what you think. It isn’t about pleading or even asking. The way the one guy put it, “The feeling is the prayer.” Rather than asking some nebulous outside force for what you want, you instead generate the feeling that it has already happened and the gratitude or joy from its fulfillment. The video guy also claimed that a passage in the Bible had been deleted that continued from one I was familiar with about praying for things. But it continued that you must “let the answer to your prayer surround you.” Which is very similar. And the placebo book goes into scientific detail about how emotions elicit metabolic and DNA changes in the body.
So it is a matter of uniting the mind with the emotions and letting the emotions carry the thing forward. Mostly, while there are emotions involved, people are praying with their minds not their emotions, and they also tend to pray from a place of despair.
Again, this is mostly about personal healing and not changing the tide of history for millions of people.
If I may, in reference to the legalities of healing outside of the medical system, a book I found extremely helpful and recommend highly is Dr. Lawrence Wison’s _Legal Guidelines for Unlicensed Practitioners_.
Hello JMG and all,
Is there anything in the United States’ natal chart that would indicate this especial recurring weakness of egocentric hubris? It seems like in every arena, whether it’s the political, child rearing, regard for the land, business, or the various occult (-lite) subcultures, “me me me!!!” seems to be the rule rather than the exception here.
Americans grow up soaking in it. I know what one of the beneficial tempering activities has been for myself personally, but I’m also wondering what the national chart on the larger scale might indicate in terms of balance and transmutation of that pernicious attitude.
I realize what a wiggly thing pinning down what “hidden” currents might nudge us towards a healthier expression of the solar on that large scale might be, but I figure if anyone has an idea, it’d be you.
Psst…there are no Vivaldi string quartets – Haydn didn’t invent the thing until Vivaldi was pushing up daisies.
RPC the Pedant
P.S.: You’re making me think of the Total Perspective Vortex…
Thank you very much for the historical sketch! Some time back I read Coulianu’s Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, but much of it went right over my head. I suppose in part he was deliberately occulting what he had to say, in part he sounded like a mumbling professor who jumps back and forth in his lecture notes (“oh yes, I had forgotten to mention that…”), but from time to time lifts up his head to deliver a grand tirade or memorable flourish.
What would you recommend as a general overview of intellectual and religious transition from the Renaissance to modernity? Is Yates still the best introduction, or are there newer and better studies?
That sense of scale and attentiveness to the flow of events sounds alluring. Please give us some insight into such a vital coping strategy. I am looking forward to.
Within occult philosophy how much opportunity is there to use the system against itself? Like in The Weird of Hali the Radiance time their assault on magic and religion perfectly to have the maximum effect. In the real cosmos do the cycles have particular points where they could be most profoundly shifted?
If you were to develop your own style of occultism lite, what would you include so its practitioners could get the most effect without too much effort, while trying to protect them from the risks and preventing them developing false beliefs?
Good analysis AGAIN, JMG. Seems people have yet to pay attention when our “friend” Philip K. Dick wrote:
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
As always, thanks,
Remembering more things I wanted to say. German church music has quite some gems of mystical texts, and they go from at least the 14th century (Johannes Tauler) all through at least the 17th (e.g. by Christian Knorr von Rosenroth) – I would include some from the 18th, too. When J.S.Bach hid words and the symbol of the cross in the musical notation of his pieces, he seems to continue a very old way of devotion. On the other hand, while I love the motets and cantatas of Schein, Schütz and later J.S.Bach, they seem much more natural to me when they are set to narrative and emotional texts than to mostly rational and intellectual verses from the Epistles.
So while I would very much like to learn more about the transition in natural philosophy and literature, I think in music it was incomplete, and then the tide promptly turned again. Mozart is already less rational and optimistic than Gluck and Haydn.
As a teenager, I often used to daydream about living in a different century. The only one in the last millennium that I couldn’t bring myself to like was the 18th. Birken’s “Hitler as Philosophe” that was mentioned last week makes me understand a little better why.
Somebody mentioned a Galileo-busting site some weeks ago. That way I discovered the Oxford Calculators and then Nicolas Oresme. Oresme and Cusanus are towering giants of “science” or natural philosophy and at the same time seem to have been deeply religious, more than required by their jobs. They and Johannes Philoponus should really be enough to shame any anti-religious scientist into silence (not to forget Newton). I feel sad when I contemplate how this heritage was lost and destroyed. The parts of Coulianu’s book that I found most interesting dealt with this kind of rich, but threatened heritage in Germany on the eve of the Reformation.
Hi, JMG – You’re talking occultism this week, so I’m going to venture a question…but if the connection to the week’s topic is too tenuous, let me know and I can save this for a Magic Monday.
I’ve been tempted to start an anonymous blog about my progress as I work through LRM and associated books. The idea occurred to me, I think, because I feel like it’s something I would want to read as I struggle through this stuff. Picture kind of a magical journal, but public.
As my sole “in the know” contact for occultism, do you have thoughts on that? I’m dealing with a lot of unknown-unknowns here. Any advice would be appreciated. I know you’ve mentioned in the past that it’s not wise to talk about whatever you’re working on at a given moment, but it seems like talking about general (vague) progress could be okay…maybe?
I’d appreciate your input.
Fascinating to read your blog, as usual. And apart from the main argument, I appreciate learning about John Winthrop Jr and Paul Bunyan; I hadn’t previously heard of either of them. Superman, incidentally, was originally Canadian (the Daily Planet = the Toronto Star), though I don’t suppose that affects your argument.
Someone I knew who had ME was very bitter about the piffle one hears about the “Law of Attraction”. It’s a cruel doctrine. There’s bound to be something in it, but not formulaically usable!
How does the battle between christian orthodoxy, occultism and scientific materialism fit in to the second great awakening in the early 19th century in the “burned over district” of central and western new york that produced many of the modern fringe religions of today such as LDS and seventh day adventists.
I have often wondered why it is ok to be employed as a scientist (here in Britain) and to still be a devout churchgoer, and for many churchgoing believers, perhaps more at the ‘higher’ end, to declare themselves happy with evolution and Einstein. Your picture seems to explain much of that – at the historical level at least.
Perhaps the level of faith demanded by ‘modernism’ has transcended most contradictions between the otherwise two-sided reality? I could go further and suggest that for many persons I have known on the ‘alternative spirituality’ spectrum, pragmatic daily life could not easily be distinguished from ‘ordinary’ others in the same class or with similar upbringing, including their colleagues at work. Having said that I do remember deaths that might have been avoided by more than one or two very nice persons despite their trying every alternative method they could sign up to.
JMG – I’m in the world building stages of writing a short story in an alternate history where the United States suffers a crushing defeat during the War of 1812 and breaks up. I planned on setting my detective noir in this alternate Philadelphia, which is the capital of a small republic including PA, DE, MD and southern New Jersey. In addition to the people of Pennwald speaking German, I had been looking for a more interesting way to set them apart from their English speaking neighbors.
I imagined that one neighbor (probably the states of Virginia and West Virginia) would be a suitably strict theocracy, and the other (probably northern New Jersey, New York and western Connecticut) would be a scientific-materialistic society. (I’m still debating whether Joseph Smith creates the Mormon church in this timeline).
My question; do you think a religiously tolerant society, built on the rubble of early 19th century America, might have allowed some forms of occultism to flourish, and if so, what modes of thought were dominant in the occult scene at the time? What books or authors might offer an insight into religious thinking of the time, on which I could build a believable ‘third way’ society that isn’t just different fur to language and culture, but also in religious/spiritual demeanor?
I see a joke forming here: a scientist, a cabalist, and a clergymen walk into a bar…
This is an excellent article JMG. Thank you! I really liked your point about astrology being decried by both the scientific rationalists & orthodox Christians.
Here is a nice music guide to the occultism lite of the 1980’s, a guide to the 20 best New Age albums… a genre that Mallsoft & Vaporwave borrow a lot from (don’t mean to keep raining into a decrepit building), but this link was handy…
John, thank you for this! That’s a great example.
Athena, I’m going to quibble about your comment, in two ways, First, astrology’s a very good way to get the kind of awareness I’m discussing — that’s why I study and practice it — but it’s not the only way in town, not by a long shot. I got the same benefits from tarot, then from geomancy, then from Ogham readings, and then from my Sacred Geometry oracle, long before I took up astrology. I know other people who got to the same place by steady work with the I Ching, or with Nine Star Ki. One of the basic rules in this game is that there ain’t no such thing as One True Way.
Second, I’m always puzzled by the kind of absolute rules about transits you’ve offered here They may well work for some people, even for many people, but — well, for example, they don’t work for me. Pluto transits don’t annihilate me; they don’t even inconvenience me to any great extent. (This is one of the reasons I see Pluto as a minor body, on a par with Ceres or Chiron.) A couple of years ago I finished up a couple of major Pluto aspects, to my natal Moon and Venus, and the results could best be described as mild. Pluto’s very weak in my natal chart, and I figure that’s why it’s weak by transit as well. Similarly, my Saturn transits are always momentous and always beneficial, because Saturn’s both essentially and accidentally dignified in my chart; a Saturn transit doesn’t restrict me, it gives me stability and strength. I’m looking forward to my upcoming second Saturn return; the first one involved some rough sledding at first, and then gave me the grounding and direction I needed to pursue the writing career I’d always dreamed of.
Mercury retrogrades are similar. I knew a guy who disbelieved in astrology because everyone kept talking about how awful Mercury retrogrades were, and they never gave him any trouble at all. A look at his chart clarified things at once — his natal Mercury was well dignified and retrograde. Since mine is in the same condition, I was able to explain to him why other people have problems with Mercury Rx and he doesn’t, and gave him some helpful tips for using that retrograde energy constructively — for example, Mercury retrogrades are the best time for me, bar none, to edit and revise what I’ve already written. Other people don’t have the same experience, though, and the moral I draw from this story is that astrology’s a very subtle science and your natal chart makes much more difference than a lot of astrologers seem to realize.
David, understood. It can take a lot of time and practice to get to the point of knowing that — and in the meantime, the tide might just turn around and start flowing back out to sea…
Violet, the interesting thing is that the kind of lunar astrology found in The Foxfire Book — excellent as it is — is itself the product of an old Occultism Lite, one of the ones that didn’t get into the delusion of omnipotence. You can get a good basic facility with the signs and phases of the Moon in a few months of study and practice; that’s why it became so widespread in old-fashioned almanacs. You’re right, though, that astrology’s a good touchstone; when you encounter something more or less occult that insists that astrology is bad or doesn’t matter or has to be interpreted in a way that means you can do whatever you want — and all of these can be found fairly easily these days — you’re dealing with a tradition that’s bought into the delusion of omnipotence.
Daniel, exactly — and in the context of the religion of progress, of course, that means that magic is supposedly much more “primitive” than religion, and therefore baaaaaad. In point of fact, they’re three different toolkits that apply to three different fields of work, and each one is best used in its proper place.
Onething, and in the right conditions that kind of thing can unquestionably work. It doesn’t always work, but I’ve watched it succeed in some cases and used it in minor ways on myself. The point, as you’ve correctly grasped, is that the power necessary to heal your own body is on a very different scale from the power necessary to overturn the historical trajectory of a big nation.
Violet, thanks for this.
Bonnie, I’ll have to make time to examine the US foundation chart and see what I can infer from it.
RPC, duly noted and corrected.
Matthias, I haven’t kept up with the latest scholarship — it’s been a long time since I’ve had free access to the kind of library where such books end up. Yates would still be my go-to source.
Hubertus, I’ll see what I can do. 😉
Yorkshire, yes, and the major inflection points happen about every 2160 years. The last one, in the late 19th century, saw some very serious work done along those lines. As for a system of occultism lite, hmm. I’ll have to think about that.
@ Onething – Being involved in clinical matters most days, I am not the least bit surprised that some people have found genuine healing in non-standard ways, including through the strong application of will, and through prayer of the beautiful, visionary kind you mention, where you surround yourself with the feeling of gratitude for the thing you pray for already being in manifestation.
However, in my experience, even if you consider only the part of the universe that is one’s own body, it contains many wills (some cellular, some microbial, some might be considered more along the lines of Jung’s subconscious archetypes), that may, but then again, may not, easily entrain with one’s own (ie one’s conscious ego-based) will. If healing is to take place, it will involve the entrainment of all, most, or maybe even just *more than hitherto*, of these other, separate, wills, joining voice into a single harmony engaging all.
Placebo effects are far more powerful than given credit for (one of the great, unsung, discoveries of “evidence-based” medicine), but unless the will(s) of other players in the drama are successfully recruited, there are no guarantees, and no power that is obliged to supply what is wanted, just because it is wanted.
As a person who grew up in Santa Cruz, CA and now lives in the Ephrata, PA area, I did indeed spit out my water with laughter reading Ashland, OR described as “ the northernmost suburb of Marin County”!! Thank you JMG for another excellent read!
I am glad of the information on the third “leg” of the triad of contending powers that carried their European bunfight over to America – elsewhere spoken of as magic, religion and science.
For myself, I have a profoundly religious upbringing, a profoundly scientific education, and next to no personal connection, outside of these blogs, conversations, and the books and practices they have led me to, with magic.
Earlier in my life I felt profoundly torn by the pull and tug between religion and science, while also being aware of how both failed me. I think I can safely say they failed me in the same way – by depicting both humankind, and other living beings, as “made” – whether by God or by random chance, which rendered us to be machine-like and/or object-like – rather than “begotten” which might signal a more organic connection to one another and to an inner animating will.
The phrase “we are begotten, not made” still reverberates through me, although I realise it was originally coined to explain what was different about Christ. To me it is the phrase that distinguishes in kind between the “making” that is depicted both in the “Paley’s Watch” idea of creation, and the in the random accretion idea of evolution, and the “begetting” which is the magic by which a pair of living beings engender an entirely new being, capable of accomplishing the same process onwards and onwards in a kaleidoscope of connectedness and becoming.
I shall be looking into the Newton histories you mention – they sound fascinating.
“Betty” Jo Teeter Dobbs?
Also still looking for local St. Louis Ecosophians who would be interested in a face to face.
John Winthrop Jr. may be encountered by students of American literature who take either a course in early American literature or a survey course covering colonial times. One of the most used anthologies for survey courses (Norton) included his “Sermon on Christian Charity” and some entries from his journals. The sermon laid out his hopes for an exemplary Christian colony that would set a standard for other nations. The journal recounted events during the passage to the New World and during his governorship. One passage included an incident in which a snake was observed attempting to eat a mouse and the mouse prevailed and killed the snake. Some of the observers interpreted this as a sign that the common folk of the colony would prevail over Satan. Interesting and in line with your observations that educated, devout persons would seek prophetic meaning in a bit of nature observation. Of course it is possible that Winthrop, being that dread creature a dead white European male, has been edged out of more recent editions by academic fashion.
Speaking of academic fashion, JMG’s mention of Ashland reminded me to look at the programming for the annual Shakespeare festival. I was amazed to see that only four works by Shakespeare are scheduled: As you like it, All’s well that ends well, a bilingual production of A comedy of errors, and Macbeth. The festival is only 36% Shakespeare!! I might find this understandable if the remainder was filled with modern works of similar reputation: Tennessee Williams, or Edward Albee or Tom Stoppard come to mind–but Hairspray: the musical; Cambodian Rock Band and a bunch of plays I have never heard of fill the remaining eight slots. Apparently the festival has decided to become a venue for premiering new theatrical works–nothing wrong with that, but it makes the name a bit inaccurate. O tempores o mores!!
This is an interesting topic. But I’d modify your apt musical metaphor to contrast violin, not with guitar, but with the ukelele. The recent surge in popularity of the “uke” really does surprise me. It’s even simpler than the guitar, as simple as “my dog has fleas,” but it’s pretty difficult to make it “cry and sing.”
I have to admit that astrology has never appealed to me. I figured that it was too much akin to Nostradamus, or to the Book of Revelations. To me it’s the least interesting part of occultism that I’ve encountered, and I tend to tune it out.
I’d like to second the question about connections to New York history. I’m also interested to hear more about the antinomian tendencies you identify as partly why post-Renaissance Hermetic occultism has suffered at the hands of a “pronomian” alliance of scientific materialist individuals, atheistic and/or agnostic secular institutions, and orthodox Judeo-Christian establishments.
As a frequent lurker rarely moved to post, I’m grateful to you, JMG, and to this essay series, as it has helped me diagnose the failures of my more audacious experiments in the past while identifying worthwhile struggles in my present.
Despite the unusual encouragement I’ve received in my life’s study of historically occulted anomalous phenomena, the universe in its magnificent design has seen fit to instruct me through the punishment of pride and arrogance, which were the curses of a privileged education and rare cultural heritage.
As Terence McKenna said, “Culture is not your friend,” but I have held his assertion lightly over the years, since surely some of it was friendly enough that good people decided to keep some committed to memory even as the old temples and libraries of ancient empires burned, and they fled into the wilderness to regrow their world in more fertile lands far from barbaric contests of succession. However, this hypothesis should be tested with impartial rigor and discernment in each case.
To that effect, your discussion-leading essays have been very useful to those of us who exercise a policy of examining the national/social-statist egregore implanted deep within our brain- and heart-mind since the earliest age.
While many ideas, personal daimons and imaginal beings are commensal entities with positive and negative aspects in various times and places, a few turn out to be inner assassins, saboteurs and agents provocateurs of our own rebellions and imperial ambitions. They must be patiently extirpated from crown to root and replaced with healthier allies to spiritual organism if we are to be free of their malevolent and parasitic influences.
However, I have lost count of the times that I have pried open the bars of reality’s cage only to discover that these obstacles exist as much to keep other things out in the process of keeping us in. As you are no doubt already aware, many of the security barriers that young mages strive to overcome are in fact safety features put in place by ancestors often much wiser than us, although a few were ruthless jerks it must be told.
It is an ongoing challenge to discern the good fences and tended gates of neighborhood to the oft-mended walls of our human prison and traps of predators that prey on those who wander too far. So I’m additionally grateful for the collected wisdom elicited by the community that our host is so assiduous in cultivating carefully on this site. There is safety in numbers, even if our names are obscured for the same reason, as it seems that the great tide of global affairs has gathered us for the purpose of anticipating and navigating this storm.
Well, winter of popular metaphor and the literal storms of summer are here, so I hope y’all’s hatches are well battened by now! What follows is a humble contribution to the conversation focused on those of us committed to reside within the homeland of modern Atlantic empire:
I beg to submit to the commentariat that Pluto’s return for U.S.A., a full rotation of the entire Kuiper Belt of objects that ring our humble solar system and mark the border of interstellar darkness beyond, full as the void may be of cosmic creativity, is an opportunity for death of some cultural habits and the rebirth of new ones from earlier ages. After all, the New Atlantis is at this point not exactly “new” anymore… Maybe we’re simply the sequel to a previous global empire that was lost long ago to its own sudden climate change?
What if it’s more complicated than that, and the constraints of our geosphere’s stores and atmospheric sinks are merely the frames of our creativity for continued growth both inward and outward? What if this is a second (or third or fourth) chance at growing into galactic maturity for those of us able to launch from the platform of planetwide civilization? There’s no need for rocket fuel if you’ve been practicing your remote view.
Perhaps we have the opportunity to imagine something better, as soon as we let go of the old daimons who no longer serve us, if they ever truly did? As a potentially fatal midlife crisis in the life of a nation, like a impulsively-purchased sports car driven too fast on an unfamiliar road by someone out of practice with slower reflexes, this juncture in the epic of historical events demands our best attention and attempts at the wisdom to survive, triumph and thrive so that we may live to be embarrassed by the entire episode.
After all, it affects the organic whole of a planetary being in whom we are intimately embedded. Even if a greater sphere of living creatures are largely unimpressed with it, the drama is still ours to bear in this moment on the world stage. So thank you for keeping politics, economy and society front and center in the sights of those of us who would rather apply our talents to other aspects of the natural world, which are more amenable to meddling than our fellow humans and their institutions. Until there’s enough peace to give full attention back to our plant and animal allies, I’m committed to dealing with the problems of humanity head on, starting with my own.
The Hermetic call of Poimandres, the demand that we be shepherds of men and women by first learning to herd ourselves, is ever resonant in your work and I’m thankful for the weekly reminder as well as the prolific production you provide as an example to the rest of us.
I hope to be able to attend the summer solstice event in Providence and look forward to meeting some of you there in person, as I much prefer face-to-face interaction than this dense alphabetic labyrinth of prose, useful though it may be to the unfurling of complex ideas too manifold for casual conversation. I will definitely be at the Red Hook event to hold forth on these subjects with those of you eager as I am to get down to business. -JA
This really resonated with me, so thank you! For those of us who would like to learn from occult practices, but have no prior personal experience there, how do we choose one? I’d like to pursue something that’s not just Occult Lite, that challenges me while still accepting me as a person. I’m just not sure how to pick a path.
@David BTL – keep at it! I spent happy parts of my childhood in your neck of the woods. It’s a place worth preserving.
When I got off the bus today after work, I saw a sticker on a pole for a “Secular Witchcraft Meetup”. Jeez… they gotta take the devil, spirits, et. al -and all the fun- out of it? I guess the world is conversing with me.
Up here in British Columbia (Canada) we are certainly seeing evidence of Western Medicine protecting its turf. Here’s a link to the website of the “BC College of Pharmacists,” where its director is sponsoring a discussion of whether homeopathic medicines and their like should be banned from sale in pharmacies;
As for the idea that ‘the world can be anything you want it to be,’ IMHO this has some roots in the inability of modern persons to live within our limitations. A lot of other things come from that as well, like people driving as fast as they want on the curvy mountain roads of BC (sometimes in a blizzard), cosmetic surgeries of many kinds, etc…
Hmmm! Fascinating. Thank you for the historical perspective, which I was ignorant of. Did the folks who used astrological planting and/or made almanacs back in the day tend to fall into the habit of saying “this is what occultism is really about!”? It wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case, to be honest. Still, lunar gardening is, to my mind, uncommonly wholesome compared to other Occult Lite traditions discussed in the essay, as it seems to focus humbly on living in an aware harmony with natural cycles, but that is quite frankly largely a matter of taste.
Perhaps then to extend the beer metaphor the almanac tradition is something like Guinness, having the properties of both dark beer while being mass-produced and, of course, being quite different than a more intense microbrew crafted imperial stout.
A lot of New Agers are coming under scrutiny. Teal Swan has an interesting wiki page; false memory syndrome, plagerism, lying and running a cult. Doreen Virtue becomes a Bible thumper and denounces everything that made her rich and she is denounced in turn. And there’s a lot more I could mention too.
What gives me hope is people like you and Damien Echols who supply strong stout not Bud Lite. Will occultism stage a comeback especially as Christianity is a turnoff for so many too? Also there are many ex atheists out there trying to find something to believe in as the religion of progress isn’t delivering…
In defense of New Thought I’m going to flip the analogy for people sleepwalking through life. I was using emotional dramas like heroin and to me New Thought is like a shot of Naloxone that gets me breathing again when I lose consciousness and turn blue. The problem with Naloxone is so many EMS are now carrying it that heroin addicts are no longer concerned with overdosing because they expect someone will always swoop in and save them at the last minute. It’s no replacement for the long journey that leads from a living death back to actual living, but the inherent simplicity is very effective for getting me back on the path when I fall off the wagon. Hopefully soon I’ll get better at seeing the speed bumps coming so I don’t fall off any more.
Okay I’m going to [/analogy] before this post gets any worse. Thanks for all your hard work.
@ Matthias Gralle
Hi! I recently completed a masters’ degree in history. Part of my thesis is in the area of Renaissance Hermeticism. Some recent works which I can suggest include:
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction (2008)
Owen Davies’ Grimoires: A History of Magic Books (2009)
Antoine Faivre’s Western Esotericism: A Concise History (2010) — a handy-dandy guide at less than 110 pages
Wouter J. Hanegraaff’s Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture (2012)
— certainly agrees with some of the themes in this current blog post
Hope that these suggestions help!
All the best!
It’s always seemed to me that, properly understood, science and religion would be 2 sides of the same coin. Assuming a priori that God exists, or even that a number of gods exists, anything powerful enough to merit the name would likely have some influence on the laws of nature, with which science is supposed to concern itself.
Mac, PK Dick is far from my favorite author, but that saying of his is a keeper.
Matthias, Germany — or, rather, the German-speaking countries of central Europe, since of course there wasn’t a nation called Germany yet in those days — was kind of an outlier in terms of the reality wars; for whatever reason, occultism kept a much more substantial foothold there among the educated. Goethe was far from unique in devoting a lot of time in his youth to alchemical studies, and the echoes of those studies in his scientific writings are easy enough to trace. How exactly that all worked out in the history of German music is not something I’ve studied, and I have no idea whether anyone else has explored it, but I’d expect to find a lot of esotericism there.
Dudley, I’d say go for it. It’s anonymous and focused on the basic steps in training, so you won’t be revealing anything that will get you in trouble, and it may be helpful for others.
Robert, good heavens — I had no idea that Paul Bunyan’s fame was limited to this side of the Atlantic. As for the Law of Attraction, exactly — it’s a partial truth at best, and like most partial truths, profoundly harmful if taken for the whole truth.
Clay, good. Check out Fawn Brodie’s biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History; she documents his deep involvement in ceremonial magic, among other things. A slightly later figure, the Theosophist and famous children’s book writer L. Frank Baum, came from the same region and is another offshoot of the same cultural scheme. Upstate New York had a lot of communes and a lot of alternative thinkers back in the day, and yes, the occult scene had a substantial presence there.
Phil H, got it in one. These days, a lot of people who are involved in religion or the various forms of Occultism Lite share the same basic worldview as their atheist neighbors — they simply find ways to wedge God or magic into the holes and corners of that worldview.
Ben, that’s quite plausible. The most likely magico-religious basis for Pennwald would be the German Christian occultism typified by Jakob Boehme on the one hand and the Rosicrucians on the other — lots of alchemy, lots of astrology, lots of Pennyslvania Dutch hexerei und braucherei, all within a broadly Lutheran religious context with heavy doses of Quaker influence. Frances Yates’ The Rosicrucian Enlightenment and Christopher Mackintosh’s The Rosicrucians are good starting points for this. BTW, if there was no civil war, there will be no West Virginia — it was ginned up by the Union side in 1863. The state (or perhaps country) of Virginia included the territory of both states until then, and doubtless would do so in your timeline as well.
Justin, interesting. That list missed all my favorites, but then I’m still something of a fan of the Windham Hill sound.
Kylee, you’re welcome. Glad to hear that someone else escaped. 😉
Scotlyn, exactly. The poet e.e. cummings put it well: “A thing of made is not a thing of born.”
Anthony, already caught and fixed it.
Rita, O tempura indeed. 😉 No surprises there; the myth of progress, with its dogma that anything new is by definition better than what it replaces, was certain to devour the festival sooner or later.
Phutatorius, hmm. That would imply that you can make music on a ukelele, and I consider that an unproven hypothesis at best! As for astrology, it’s not for everyone; if something else appeals to you instead, by all means.
Jay, it’s not so much a matter of antinomian vs. pronomian outlooks — there are strong antinomian traditions in science and Christianity, you know, and an equally strong pronomian trend in many branches of occultism. Occultism’s association with the fringes is purely a historical accident — if the occultists had won the reality wars, they’d be the ones broadcasting Carl Saganesque homilies in favor of the status quo.
Starfish, that’s a good question to which there’s no simple answer. I’ve only worked with half a dozen traditions in any depth, and there are lots of others. You might consider having a look at my book Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth for an overview, and either Learning Ritual Magic (if you like Judeo-Christian symbolism) or The Druid Magic Handbook (if Celtic nature spirituality suits you better) to get an idea of what the practical work looks like.
Justin, that’s usually the last gasp of a spiritual tradition before it goes under completely.
Emmanuel, the MDs are very passionate about making sure nobody can use any medical services but theirs; that’s what gave us the most hated part of Obamacare down here — I’ve been convinced all along that the point of the individual mandate was to deal with the rising number of people who are turning to alternative health care by forcing them to pay for MDs anyway.
Violet, I haven’t read enough of 17th and 18th century astrological and almanac literature to be able to answer that. I agree that as Occultism Lite goes, planting by the moon and similar sorts of folk astrology are a much tastier brew!
Bridge, the New Age, the Neopagan scene, and the (pseudo)Skeptic movement all came into being at about the same time, and they’re all falling apart at about the same time. Damien and I, and of course a good many others — the redoubtable Lon Milo Duquette comes instantly to mind — are going to do our best to make sure that anyone who wants a pint of something dark and strong can get it.
Aloysius, no argument there. New Thought has a lot to offer; my metaphor about the guitar was not made in mockery — knowing how to play a few chords and strum along with your friends is worth doing, too. That’s why I’ve arranged to make one of the best of the old New Thought courses available again online, for free, for those who can benefit from it.
Your Kittenship, fair enough. Which side of the coin is magic? 😉
Beats me, Your Druidness. Don’t know enough about magic to say. Maybe the magic is the little ridges on the side of the coin, holding the two halves together.
You know,Jmg, I read in a compilation of essays by Australian atheists called “The Australian book of atheism” by Warren Bonnet that, just like with America, many of the people who went there were very far from mainstream Christian community, unlike what common history likes to make you think.
It is fascinating to contemplate the vast spans of time over which humans (and other not quite humans) have been living, learning and building civilizations, the cumulative number of lives that have been lived and the 7 or so billion alive now. Also the enormous spaces of the earth, the changes that have occurred to that environment that people uncounted have seen.
How does one person living a life ever begin to feel omnipotent, or even a consciousness living through a long chain of lives? It can only be through the ignorance of not seeing the reality of this place, of living in some sheltered virtual reality full of illusions – both those made for us and those we make for ourselves.
I walk out at night and see the moon, and know that every person that has ever lived over hundreds of thousands of years has seen that same sight, and every time it provides me a reminder of scale and place and perspective. Perhaps if we could still see the milky way at night more of us could understand.
As someone who much prefers a good imperial ale to the undifferentiated lagers of the masses, I’m wondering if you recommend a good imperial ale list of quality resources for someone interested in studying the “occult”?
I have been following your discussion on Dion Fortune’s work, I am very much appreciating it, but I feel abit like a novice. Thank you
JMG quote: “science got jurisdiction over everything material as long as its promoters didn’t publicly disagree with the Bible, religion got jurisdiction over everything moral and spiritual, and both sides turned on Hermeticism with hobnailed boots. Ever notice that one of the few things that hardcore fundamentalist Christians and hardcore atheist rationalists agree about is that astrology is really, really bad? Now you know why.”
This rung a bell! Robert Anton Wilson in ‘Cosmic Trigger V1’:
The violin analogy was most helpful. Thanks very much!
Also, I wonder if the tendency towards delusions of omnipotence within American subcultures could have, in more modern times, something to do with basic industrialism, and the figurative “flat earth” that we live on, where everything material is gained cheaply and easily from the comfort of home.
If the outer world mirrors the inner world, and our present outer world is full of seemingly omnipotent technology, then it stems to reason, if you don’t actually think too hard, that the inner world should behave the same way, and give you what you want with a simple credit card swipe, or magic spell as the case may be.
So, perhaps the end of the industrial age will finally expose this particular delusion. Or maybe that’s just more wishful thinking…
What sort of clinical practice are you involved in?
I want to thank you for your comment about cholesterol testing in last week’s post. My husband is scheduled for a cholesterol test next week and will fast for a longer time before the draw based on your recommendation in order to reduce the chance he’s prescribed unnecessary medication.
@JMG – Thanks for the pointers! And yes, I meant that West Virginia and Virginia would be one state ruled by a religious order of bishops based on an Anglican hierarchy.
A quick on-line search for “planting by the moon italy” and I came up with the following, from https://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/lorto-italian-vegetable-garden Since the subject of planting by the moon has come up, I thought I’d share this, since it is a living tradition.
Whether providing food for the table or food for thought, there is always a sense of continuity and tradition in an Italian kitchen garden. And, of course, it is prepared, planted and harvested with the most meticulous attention paid both to the weather and the moon’s most auspicious phase.
Although gardening using the moon is not that well known in many parts of the developed world, it is an important factor in Mediterranean gardening. In Italy you can buy books and calendars on the subject which sport graphs and charts full of arcane symbols to represent the luna crescente, waxing moon; luna nuova, new moon; luna piena, full moon; and luna calante, waning moon.
Of course, most country people don’t need books to tell them what to do, it is part and parcel of country life. They believe that just as the moon has the power to control tides and moods (think of the origin of ‘lunatic’, or watch how your children, animals and friends behave when the moon is full). It also has the power to pull water into delicate roots, or withdraw it when the time comes for the plant to be moved or harvested, so that it isn’t too traumatised by the activity. This same logic applies to anything that grows, from hair and nails to babies, both human and animal!
Which phase of the moon to use depends on the type of plant and what you plan to do to it. Those kitchen-garden vegetables which develop underground such as garlic bulbs, onions and potatoes, are generally best planted and harvested during a waning moon, although strangely enough carrots need a waxing moon. Maybe it’s the shape. Maybe we shouldn’t go into that.
Many of the vegetables with an edible ‘fruit’ growing above ground – peas, beans, peppers, aubergines and tomatoes – are best planted and harvested during a waxing moon, but remember that if you are going to conserve the produce, by drying, freezing or making a passato (thick tomato purée), then they should be picked when the moon is on the wane.
Those other staples of the Italian kitchen garden, lettuce and cabbage, are both sown during a waning moon and harvested during a waxing one. You can begin to see why a book (or several) can come in quite handy for those of us who do not normally include heavenly bodies in our gardening plans.
Thanks for another fine essay. I have been working through the Order of the Essenes material with my kids over the past few months. My daughter has been a bit down on her luck lately, and I thought it would be a good way to get her to start reflecting on her beliefs and habits of thought. To them, I call it ‘philosophy,’ for lack of a better more relatable term, but in my mind I have been thinking of it as ‘Magic Lite,’ (and the comparison to beer has also been on my mind, oddly enough). We’re only partly through the introductory material, in fairness, and overall I have been finding it to be quite helpful. I think the author’s heart was definitely in the right place when he put the material together, but I’m starting to get a sense of some missing pieces that might make the information difficult for some people to work with. If/when the world doesn’t offer up whatever it is you happen to want, I can see guilt-tripping and self-blame coming in for not having enough faith, or not wanting it strongly enough, or what have you. Traditional occultism, from what little I know of it, seems to have some more tools for understanding why that happens and what, if anything, can be done about it.
Somewhat tangentially, I was drumming recently in a worship group made up of people from a number of different churches in our area. There was another drummer too, but he was having a really hard time finding the beat in the rehearsal. He could almost hold it down in 4/4 time, but was lost in 6/8 and was throwing the other musicians off. It was a little awkward, considering he was a pretty nice guy overall, a pastor, and was just really keen to take part in the worship aspect. I don’t think he realized how off he was, and how much it was affecting the overall music. But we were going to be publicly leading worship with hundreds of people in attendance, so I tried to give him some quick pointers for how to feel the beat in the different songs. He wound up getting defensive and in a bit of a huff said, ‘why don’t we just play what feels good?’ I’m all for having a good time with music, especially in a worship context with the goal being to offer praise to God, but at the same time, I also think if you’re going to get up in front of people you should at least be able to play in time with the rest of the group. Music isn’t just whatever you want it to be, or whatever feels good. Some people seem to think that it should be whatever they want it to be because it’s all about their self-expression, to which they’re entitled. I remember when I first started to drum, I could barely manage to concentrate on what I was playing, and it was only down the road that I gained the ability to also listen to what others were playing and perceive how I needed to fit in with the larger structure of the music.
Proponents of Occultism Lite may feel as though they’re doing the right thing, have good intentions about spreading helpful info etc, but I think it becomes a case of not knowing what you don’t know, or thinking you know but knowing so little, you can’t recognize your own ignorance. You might see a little part, but can’t step back and see the whole, and how you actually fit in to that whole. It may be up to more experienced practitioners of traditional occultism to point it out, although I can imagine how that might not always go over very well.
Lady Cutekitten & JMG,
Coins do have three surfaces, though…the obverse, the reverse, and the edge face. 🙂
I am actually more interested in the appearance of mechanistic thinking in natural philosophy, and of rationalism and voluntarism in Christianity, and in the corresponding weakening of analogical and correspondence thinking, than in esotericism itself, but I will take a look at the books you recommended.
Your Kittenship and JMG
Magic is the edge of course. And it needs to be better shaped than either face if it is to be stable. A new nickle can be stood on edge fairly easily.
At a temple in northern Beijing back in ’87 or so a co-worker and I really impressed a bunch of Chinese by easily standing almost any coin on edge on a good sized (2ft x 2ft by 3 feet high alter). We saw them trying to stand coins up on edge. Thought we’d give it a try. After about four or five tries we came up with a method the worked about 80% of the time. The times it didn’t, looking at the coin showed the edges had become rounded.
Just a silly memory….
Thanks John Michael for such an intresting essay. Two questions first why did both science and religion see magic as such a threat and second in your answer to Daniel you said “In point of fact, they’re three different toolkits that apply to three different fields of work, and each one is best used in its proper place.” What is the proper place of science, magic, and religion?
Your Kittenship, funny.
J.L.Mc12, interesting. Does Australia have a long history of odd spiritual groups, then?
Twilight, you’ll get no argument from me.
William, well, other than my own books on the subject ;-), I recommend Dion Fortune, Israel Regardie, W.E. Butler, and Gareth Knight as reliable authors on magic.
Dermot, RAW was as usual dead on target.
Sam, that’s quite plausible.
Ben, okay, good, You’re most welcome.
Trahor Fatis, thanks for this. It’s basically the same lore you find in rural America — not surprising, as it has roots in the same medieval astrological lore.
Stefania, yes, that’s basically the situation serious occultists end up in when people are messing themselves over with half-understood occult techniques…and if you try to tell them, they just get angry. What can you do?
Will, it’s a complex issue. There were class issues involved back in the Renaissance, as the different worldviews were backed by different classes; also, as we’ve seen since 1859, the rivalry between science and Christianity is just as bitter as either side’s attitudes toward occultism. As for the proper places for the three, why, I think you’ve just found an excellent topic for the next month of daily meditations…
The guitar analogy – very much a reflection of my own forecasting abilities…
Keeping in mind I may have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m wondering if anyone else here has experienced a scrambling of their near-midterm cultural/societal radar as a result of the recent US Navy disclosures re: the UFO’s. The suddenness in which these stories went from the cultural fringe to totally mainstream (receiving at least one story in every major American/British daily) is surprising. Can anyone think of a parallel to this? For the entire history of aviation until about three weeks ago, mainstream coverage of UFOs consisted of the government acknowledging next to nothing and the media treating the subject like a cute little freakshow.
In any case, I can’t help but shake the feeling that these stories signify a glitch in the matrix. While I don’t see this leading to any major shifts in the broader trends shaping our society, I feel that a wild card has been dealt.
Jmg, as far as I’m aware early colonial Australians were largely members or various forms of Christianity, however according to warrens book it was recorded that a lot of the lower class settlers in Australia were somewhat indifferent to religious orthodoxy which shows even today as according to the census done in 2016 30% say they have no religion.
That being said we also have a fair amount of fringe groups such as Scientology, the exclusive brethren, Wicca, Hare Krishna and Jehovah’s Witness.
A common “prank” that people pull when doing the census is writing done that they are followers of the way of the Jedi.
On Newton: the first modern person to spot his “other” interests was no less than economist J.M. Keynes, who got hold of some of Newton’s “non-scientific” papers in an auction in 1936, read them, and then delivered a 1942 lecture on the subject, where he talked of Newton the Magician. It took a while for this to filter through the system, but it’s now pretty much accepted by scholars that Newton the Rationalist is a hideously obsolete concept. Apart from Dobbs’ work, there’s also Cowling’s 1970s work on Newton and Astrology. There was even Michael White’s layperson biography of him, entitled The Last Sorcerer, that came out in the 1990s. White spends most of his time laughing at Newton’s alchemy and biblical prophecy interests, however, as though it was a flaw in the man’s genius).
That said, I think you’re being a bit harsh on historians here. The field has generally moved on from Whiggery.
“FEARLESS: Live A Life Without Limits” and “MADE FOR MORE MORE MORE: live the life you were created for.” These are sermons I found advertised on the index pages of two separate, competing big-box churches in the Chicago area. I did not have look very hard.
Occultism Lite of the Rhonda Byrne variety has found its current home in suburban McChurches. One the reasons I embraced ill-fitting atheism for two decades was because of the materialism calling itself Christianity I grew up with. In my experience, Christians ran the gamut of bad person example from creepy stalker otaku pervert to hypocrite Church Ladies blubbering about the Rapture (always coming next week). There were only one or two examples among hundreds who lived by Christ’s example, and for me at the time, they weren’t enough to save Christianity from its reputation. Occultist Mark Passio has a lecture series all about how unintentionally Satanic modern Christianity tends to be.
I’m glad Druidry taught me how to take a second look at my world and the Christian God. I will never be Christian, but I feel I have made peace with the human failings of Christians. Christianity has a great deal to offer to the thoughtful; though I suppose that’s no different than any other branch of occult knowledge, right?
I don’t know the answer to the 3-sided coin, your Druidship. Maybe you should meditate on it.
I wonder if science and religion teamed up against occultism because it offered empowerment outside of hierarchies.
A blogger, Paul Rosenberg I think, pointed out that in the late Roman Empire there were many would-be reformers who made good suggestions. And they would have worked–if the Romans had the will to carry them out. But the culture was too far gone. Culture eats strategy, it always does. I see this as an example of reality overruling personal wishes, even benign ones directed at the general welfare. So, what do we do? Is reform as futile now as it was in 4th century Rome?
Ooooh, which course of study teaches spiritual causes of physical illnesses?
@Onething – I am a TCM trained acupuncturist. And, apart from those who live nearby and come to see me on a reputational basis, I, like all “alternative” practitioners that are out there, frequently see people who have already tried standard medicine and been badly failed.
You may have noticed from other posts that I also hold a part-time job in a bureaucratic aspect of food production (the quality standards and certifications and auditing and inspecting aspect).
I am a person with both a job (which I hope to be able to dispense with in the not too distant future), and a vocation, which I practice as and when people are drawn to consult me (this is happening with greater frequency just now).
[quote]The temptation to think that you can live your life on the same gargantuan scale is a recurrent hiccup in our national psyche.[/quote]
In Europe, especially in Germany, the combination of fossile fuels and some once present cultural advantages, have resulted too in such a gargantuan scale. American sociologist William Graham Sumner has described this process in his essay “Earth Hunger” and William Catton has explained it further in “Overshoot”.
By using the energy of ancient woods, Germany has finally expanded its virtual size and its real population and wealth by several times without war, while having the delusion, that this energy depended, constantly entropy increasing process, is a one way road and that they can keep what was archived.
In the last years, Germany has delivered examples of omnipotence delusions, which are very competitive in the race for the greatest delusions of our time: The “Refugees Welcome” policy which results in Merkels opening of the borders and her “Wir schaffen das” (we [the Germans] will cope with this successfully, since we are so incredible rich and smart), as well as the German “Energiewende” (an now more, more epic failing project to convert the countries energy production to “renewable” – aimed to keep the benefits of using fossile energy in a post fossil world, while becoming even more wealthier, bigger and omnipotent,).
How occultism gets round the law reminds me of something I just read. There are strategies countries use when they want to keep banned weapons programmes together but have arms inspectors all over them. As well as secret archives and material stockpiles, the most important thing is keeping the personnel together. If they are dispersed, the chain breaks and they will have to start almost from scratch. So an innocent-sounding research institute is started that just happens to employ all the programme’s scientist and engineers. Even if they can’t do much at the moment, they can keep working together on other things and be ready to get back to the real work once the heat is off. I particularly like the technical term for this – to maintain a ‘reconstitution capability’. https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2019-04/news/iaea-says-iran-abiding-nuclear-deal I also recommend Arms Control Today in general for the inside story of a very interesting subject that you usually only hear about in a peripheral way.
Occultism lite it an easy prey for the “Give me!” zeitgeist, but the heavier forms also can fall for it.
Look at this horror and weep (if you are greeted with an empty page, activate scripts in your browser):
Discover How you can Easily Master Magick and Spiritual Practices like the Legendary Masters of old…
And guarantee yourself the highest levels of Abundance, Prosperity & Freedom!
This is as close to mainstream as Golden Dawn will ever get…
Mainstream is the place where religions go to die.
I might add to the above, because it’s topical, that I have seen my profession lambasted as a gateway to devil worship by members of a secretive group devoted to Catholic piety. It also stands accused of being a version of snake oil for ensnaring the wallets of the gullible*.
On the other hand, the local GP’s (family doctors) do not give me a hard time, on the contrary they are friendly and supportive. Just now they have bigger problems – too many patients, too little time, too few resources, a hospital system creaking at the seams, too little respect from the drug-selling interests that are trying to set an agenda-driven “standard of care” above their professional judgment.
Despite the background influence of New Thought, etc. I would guess that it was the teachings in the Seth books that was the biggest impetus behind the “create your own reality” movement. (Seth being the professed disembodied entity who Jane Roberts channeled). Whoever or whatever Seth was, I wouldn’t characterize him as an Occult Lite. His dictations are intelligent, wide ranging, and often highly original and deep.
But re-reading his books over the past year, it occurs to me that when talking about “create our own reality” it depends hugely on what is meant by “you”, by “create” and by “your own reality”. For example, if “you” is construed to mean the everyday and personal self, then no – we obviously are not very successful at creating our “own reality”. But if by “you” one is referring to that higher, deeper, and broader “self” of which the outer personality and ego are but pale reflections, then maybe yes, we do create our own reality. Seth is often ambiguous about which self he means.
From my own experience, I have had a number of prophetic dreams about events that happened months or even years later. So either some part of my deeper self can see the future, or that deeper self created my future reality. So I am in agreement that the shallow self of everyday consciousness is not up to the task, but that the deeper self may well indeed be what is at work here. I would suggest that Occultism Heavy, as opposed to Occultism Lite, is the work of that deeper or wiser self.
Your description of colonizers coming from crowded Europe and finding the expanses of America — and how that changed their thought processes — resonated well. I’ve had the interesting experience of living in Eastern Pennsylvania but having close relatives from Missouri through Colorado all the way to, yes, Marin County. Our “out west” relatives have always had a very different mindset from those of us here in the more crowded, rooted, traditional east, and that’s just on the scale of roundabout third generation Americans.
In the ‘90’s, my “out west” aunt (my mother’s twin) got deep into New Age stuff (she still is) and tugged my newly-divorced mother along with her from afar, introducing her to several men, two of whom believed they could manufacture a happy marriage out of pure good intentions. Twice, in good faith with high hopes, my mother married; twice these guys moved back East and really didn’t like ‘the energy” here and — for many reasons, not the least of which those well-meaning intentions being dashed by reality — the marriages each ended within six months. (This was in a span of five years — my mother didn’t marry two men at the same time, she’s not quite that unconventional!) I learned quite a lot from that involvement — it did expose me to “Occultism Lite” and the various philosophies therein, quite refreshing to a lifetime Presbyterian, but also taught me that you can’t just manufacture what you want out of good intentions and hopeful mantras.
But that Occultism Lite introduced me to Buddhism (which I greatly needed at the time), writers like Gibran and Yogananda, and opened my mind to other things, nudging me towards believing more was possible than I was taught, so it was a very helpful experience. I’m just glad I simultaneously was able to witness the limitations of such thought, so was encouraged to keep looking, eventually finding myself here.
@JMG this is kind of on-topic for this week: J K Rowling is to release a series of four e-books about historical occultism, giving the basis of the magical curriculum used in her books: //www.theguardian.com/books/2019/may/30/harry-potter-non-fiction-ebooks-history-of-magic-jk-rowling-pottermore
Off-topic: The American Conservative have re-published an article defining their view of conservatism, which would seem to map yours pretty well: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/wayback/a-recipe-for-counterculture-conservatism/
Completely off-topic: @Coop Janitor, thanks for your various comments about Beijing and beer! I’ve been meaning to respond for ages, but kept forgetting. I tried to post this in last week’s open post, but apparently it didn’t go through. As I write this, I’m in Urumqi, and raising a glass of sickly “Wusu” beer to you which is very reminiscent of the Seven Star beer of the old days. 干杯 / Gānbēi!
What JMG wrote about the reality wars made me think about my studies of William Blake and C.G. Jung.
They (and I in their wake) have seen how both literalistic scientific materialism and literalistic religious perspectives decry the imagination and polymorphous psyche, though (like JMG notes) for different reasons.
I agree with Blake and Jung’s ideas that the imagination/psyche is central to occultism, hermeticism, and gnosis.
It’s telling when supposed opposite perspectives (religion and science) both decry a third, different way (what I call the way of imagination and gnosis).
I wish General JMG all the best in his efforts to win some battles for validating Hermetic perspectives as vital and legitimate.
I would like to add a brief comment on the “law of attraction”, which is usually the principle cited in so many create-your-own-reality books these days. Even though it is often portrayed as a magic wand for the personal ego to fulfill its desires, there are much more sophisticated interpretations of it.
The one that comes to mind at the moment is found in Alice Bailey’s massive occult book, “A Treatise on Cosmic Fire”, published in 1925. She (or if you prefer, the master who dictated the book to her) portrays the law of attraction as a vast and complex cosmic law that determines affinities on the scale of planets, solar systems, constellations, and beyond. She identifies and elaborates eleven subsidiary laws as well. Compared to her lofty interpretation and explanation of this law, the usual create-your-own-reality versions described in so many pop-culture books on the shelves today are jokes. I think Bailey herself is prone to some far-fetched reasoning at times. But I do find her to be a refreshingly deep thinker or “revealer” of occult theory, and a good antidote to much that passes for Occultism Lite these days.
I wouldn’t go with a religious state in Western Va., or not without caveats and alterations…which are often the more interesting parts. W. Va. may seem religious and dogmatic to us, but they’re not: they’re rebellious, unruly, and un-ruled by anyone, including religion. They were border rebels by Scotland, they were brought over for charity and immediately moved from PA for being impossible to rule, then were unruled by General Washington straight on through to G-men finding them unruly bootleggers. Today they are unruled by media, by government, and by custom and end up using their unruly fighting spirit in the U.S. Army, as they long have, while everyone else wears a collar and lives in a carpeted hamster-farm like good domestics. That’s why they’re so deeply, gutturally, violently hated by all the “good people” on the coasts, who openly fantasize about annihilating them, their ways, and their history.
So…they are the stuff of an iron-fisted, centralized theocracy? Er…not so much. The reason they (now) have religion to us is two-fold: one, they refuse to change, so their near-total LACK of religion and Christianity looks downright theocratic compared to our now-totally atheistic, materialistic culture. Second, since they create their identity by being contrary if you’re NOT Christian, they therefore have to fight against y’all heathens BY being Christian, and hating your guts for it.
Okay, great for some purposes, but this is definitively NOT the stuff of Connecticut/Massachusetts theocratic obedience-or-else culture. (and they weren’t either, as JMG points out, they were ALSO occult/alchemist/anti-establishment Church-of-England types, but humor me here).
To point, the Appalachians, what seem to non-Christians on the outside as a single, backward, dogmatic, Protestantism, is actually an astonishing variety of Christian personalities, each forming their OWN church, with their own views that don’t agree with and feud with all the others. There is NO central church, then, now, or ever. They rise and fall as the pastors age, and very few survive even one cycle, where a new prophet or medicine man pops up to fill the void with another new religion, and the eternal religion, the inner light, moves ever on, transforming in variation forever, like a forest meadow. I don’t know how to fit this into your story, but it sounds far more interesting, and I’d leave the Anglican oppression to places that can logistically manage it, where there’s a central city with easy ability to force-project ruin on all heretics with sheriffs, deacons, armies, and travelling judges. –‘Cause we’d fight them even on the plains, as (except for this milquetoast era) Americans will brutally resist everyone, always, but it’s harder.
Go to the hills on a religious tour, you’d learn a lot of interesting stuff. Why not Perry Stone, the smallest charismatic church, in the smallest town, a bigger example of so many that you can find on YouTube to hear a message that may not survive his death. Then think about how that is similar, but different, for the scientific materialists you’re thinking of in NY. Won’t they resist science by being religious? And why shouldn’t they? I would. And both will have to resist and keep the secret magic.
Athena, I am definitely “experiencing” the current Saturn-Pluto combination in a very big way, for several astrological reasons: They are aligning with my sun by transit, Pluto is very prominent in my birthchart, and I was born on a Saturn-day.
A reliable way of assessing relative planetary strength in the birthchart is through the observation of “sect” — day or night birth: a very basic distinction, but one lost to the psychological Western astrology of the 20th century. It’s been revived via translations of texts from the Hellenistic era. If you have not yet investigated Hellenistic astrology, I’d suggest giving it a try. I was a “modern” astrologer for decades before discovering Hellenistic, and I find the addition adds a depth of perception not available previously.
By the way, I also use planetary hours quite a bit.
Re: Ashland, OR. I ran the comments past an Oregonian, with proper attributions. She said for JMG) “Yup, It’s known as the Peoples’ Republic of Ashland around here.”
And explained the diluted “Shakespeare” festival as “They’re hurting for money—running well known plays costs serious license money. They were *magnum* hosed this last year from the smoke that killed their receipts for the outdoor theater. “
JMG, above you wrote the following:
“Science got jurisdiction over everything material as long as its promoters didn’t publicly disagree with the Bible, religion got jurisdiction over everything moral and spiritual, and both sides turned on Hermeticism with hobnailed boots.Ever notice that one of the few things that hardcore fundamentalist Christians and hardcore atheist rationalists agree about is that astrology is really, really bad? Now you know why.”
With all due respect, I think that this characterization of things is somewhat misleading. The Judeo-Christian tradition did not need to form an alliance with nascent materialist science in the early modern period in order to develop a fundamental suspicion of astrology and other forms of occultism. There are in fact quite a number of passages in the Old Testament where astrology, divination, mediumship, and other spiritual practices along these lines are explicitly condemned. These condemnations are reiterated – albeit in somewhat abbreviated terms – in certain passage of the New Testament as well. That is the real basis of Christianity’s condemnation of astrology, not any early modern alliance of convenience with science.
But your idea that an alliance of convenience formed where science got jurisdiction over the material world whereas Christianity got jurisdiction over the spiritual world sadly has a lot of truth to it. This is the basis, for example, for the distinction drawn between the “Jesus of history” and the “Jesus of faith” that is very common in Christian theology of the modern and postmodern period.
In the end, though, the Jesus of history IS the Jesus of faith, so the granting of the distinction by official Christendom represents an abject capitulation on its part to the scientific worldview. The consequences have proven to be catastrophic (at least from my standpoint) – nothing less than the “death of God” in the Nietzschian sense.
Love the analysis of the lack of scale that is inherent in the core of American culture. Its not only the vast nature of the American continent that contributes to this lack of scale it is also that the American culture’s development has coincided with centuries of relative plenty brought on by the age of oil.
We never needed to settle in tight knit countryside’s because there was always other more fertile lands on the frontier; but also the automobile came along allowing development to be spread out. We never developed a “peasant cuisine” like many European countries because we never experienced long term famines and gasoline powered transport allowed products to be shipped long distance.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how the long march of the deindustrial future will eventually create a society and culture of human scale on the American continent.
As mass movements neither Hermeticism, Christianity of Science seem to be doing that hot. Occultism Lite appears to be currently engaged with demonic summoning as one of its preferred brands of radioactive lite beer. Scandal after scandal discredits the institutions of Christianity, and public opinion and legal precedent are in the midst of turning against the flagrant abuses of Monsanto and other companies that carry the aegis of Science.
I guess this becomes something of the view from the outside issue. Of course there are ethical scientists; I’ve met them and found them to be charming company. That said, the view from the outside is the by and large Science deals in evil. Of course there are sincere devout Christians, I’ve met them and found them to be charming company. That said, the view from the outside is that the Church deals in evil. And it hardly needs to be said that there are real life wizards and mages. And I’ve met quite a few and found them to be charming company, but the view from the outside is that magic deals in evil.
There is, as implied, a world of difference between the guy who reads wikipedia just so he can say at parties “Gosh! Wow! Progress!” and a real working scientist. That said, armies needs both generals and storm troopers. Comparable example can be found in the respective camps. Point being I would wager that serious occultists, scientists, and Christians are a very slim minority.
I wonder to what extent a serious occultist has more in common with the rigors of a working scientist or an extremely devout Christian. At one farm I worked at my best friend was an atheist who had worked as a scientist and we were able to get along great. She was even amenable to some of Jung’s ideas, but found the idea of reincarnation one of profound terror. Equally, her worldview freaked me out.
The thing is, that Hermetic occultists, Scientists, and Christians in North America all are torchbearers of the great intellectual traditions of the European diaspora. These are the three major intellectual and spiritual legacies of Old World Europe. I have a sneaking suspicion that all three will be forced into each other’s arms to a real extent as public opinion here in North America appears to be in the process of turning against all of them simultaneously, with notable regional differences, of course.
It is interesting to me that many people working in the subset of scientific materialism that deals with information – the digital realm – seem to be drawn to ‘occultism lite’. Lots of possible factors here, one being cultural as these industries tend to be located in coastal/urban/progressive environments rather than more traditionally grounded areas.
I think the fundamental factor though is that in the digital world, we can rearrange the bits that form our unreal reality in pretty much any way we want… just refactor that puppy, release 2.0, and voila! This predisposes us to assuming that the rest of the world should behave the same way. Don’t like reality? Just ‘rethink’ it.
Culturally this leads to an affinity for neo-paganism and similar philosophical stances. It also leads to the delusion that the same thinking that works in the informational plane will work on the material one. The result is all of the various ‘dotcom on a rocket’ ventures, Tesla, delivery drones, and other thermodynamically dubious attempts to make the material plane behave as it it were as malleable as the informational one is.
Re: alchemy in Goethe’s time:
I found the following description in “Goethe als Alchemist” (referring to the period around 1770):
“We need to accept the proposition (not being easy for us to understand, it is the more valuable), that pietism (the group of the “devout who had separated from the world”) at that time did not exclude the belief in secret hermetic teaching, but rather included it.”
Re Joseph Smith and the Mormons –
Whatever is said about the Mormons re their history of polygamy and apparent racism, they are hardly human-centric in their spirituality, and they certainly seem to accent the above/below mirroring, cosmic immensities vis a vis humanity included – they accept that there are many gods and that the universe is replete with other-than-human sentient life, each with its own array of gods. Tragic, but understandable that Smith got lynched by God-fearing Christians in downstate Illinois.
FWIW, I live in upstate NY, not far from where J Smith was doing his ceremonial magic back in the day. I’m sure the “meta-vibe” around here is not quite what it once was – California became the new New York in that respect, though I’m sure CA doesn’t much carry the torch anymore (maybe it’s moving back to its east coast origins!) – but the metaphysical resonance is still here. Lot of “UFO” activity here. I had a startling experience of that sort myself, and it was decidedly metaphysical, not atmospheric-created, not ET-oriented and definitely not military.
A recent upstate New Yorker, Whitley Streiber, has written a lot about his “Visitor” experiences, though I don’t know where he’s really coming from, and I doubt he knows where he’s coming from. He’s all over the map in his conjectures; sometimes he thinks his Visitors are saviors, sometimes he thinks they’re demonic, sometimes ETs, sometimes time-travelers, etc. His philosophy, such as it is, seems incoherent. In short, he’s no Joseph Smith. I think he’s just being played by etheric critters. But I’m not surprised he’d have these experiences in upstate NY.
I was thinking about this today. I don’t have any knowledge or interest in astrology or other forms of divination, but the only prohibitions I remember from the Hebrew Bible are against conjuring the ghosts of the dead, and against venerating heavenly bodies. In fact, the Urim and Thummim are a classical divination. I don’t recall any references to divination in the New Testament, but the Magi in Matthew 2 are clearly fulfilling the will of God by watching and interpreting the stars.
I grew up in Christian Science with a father who was a staunch convert, so I got to see many low profile examples of the success and failure of the method. I used to tell people that I learned about magic before I learned about sex. Though it wasn’t until I was exposed to, strangely, the 90s Eclectic New Age/Wiccan/Native American/Asian slurry that I started to have words and concepts to describe how, why, and when it was failing.
Unfortunately, that put me into a different kettle of problems that JMG described and I wasn’t able to think my way out of it till I was exposed to the Peak Oil movement with the concept of limits, EROEI, and a more clear description of how energy flows. Which finds me here, working on rebuilding a lot of my personal practices.
It seems to me inevitable that science would win the three-way contest. We live in a Faustian culture, The idea of progress has always been essential to it. (Look at the history of music or painting since the eleventh century.) Of the three contestants, science was the only one that could offer progress, so science had to come out on top.
Science, like music and painting, stopped “progressing” in the first quarter of the twentieth century. All it has done since then is fill in a few gaps. Its offspring, technological progress, still continues, but it will die as soon as its raw materials run out. Its actual usefulness has already evaporated. Faustian culture, therefore, is on its last legs. The stage is set for a return of occultism and religion.
Incidentally, I find it difficult to distinguish between the two. It seems to me that religion is another form of occultism, or occultism another form of religion. So popular religion is a form of occultism lite. But beyond popular religion there have always been esoteric grouplings which parallel the deeper forms of occultism, and so far as I am aware this is true of all religions, not just Christianity.
Another fascinating and complex character that came out of the upstate New York battles between, these three sides is Andrew Dickson White. He was born in Homer and as one of the co founders of Cornell University he penned as one of its founding philosophies ,”an asylum for Science,-where truth shall be sought for truths sake, not stretched or cut exactly to fit Revealed Religion.” He also penned a two volume Tome, ” A history of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. But the same person who voiced this obvious cheerleading for Scientific Materialism also amassed the largest collection of Mormon artifacts outside the Church itself, ( focused heavily on Joseph Smiths Occult activities), and the largest collection on Witchcraft in the Western Hemisphere. This witchcraft collection has been redefined in recent years to be about White’s interest in the persecution of women in history, but it in fact contains many historical and rare occult texts.
@Bonnie Henderson-Winnie, re America’s birthchart. Actually, an expert astrologer did a full birth chart of the US in the book Soul-Sick Nation: An Astrologer’s View of America by Jessica Murray. Murray attributes the US’s outward bluster, enthusiasm, and excess to Sagittarius rising in its chart and goes into deep analysis of the role of Pluto that fateful day in 1776. It has some fascinating insights, though it’s not current. It was published during the Bush II era.
@Packshaud: yeah, but you’ll also receive an official Rosicrucian Magick Blade AND Free Rosicrucian Membership Card and Certificate of Authenticity [and I’ll bet there’s even a secret decoder ring that they aren’t telling you about…]
I was composing a long(er) comment and then Violet said most of it for me in her most recent (May 30th 11:38) comment. From the outside, most visible scientific materialism is Science Lite and most visible Christian orthodoxy is Christianity Lite. In the limelight of the center of the three-cornered boxing ring they square off in pairs with each other and with Occultism Lite.
(Examples: Science Lite vs Christianity Lite—the evolution vs. Creationism debate. Science Lite vs Occultism Lite—the James Randi Challenge. Christianity Lite vs. Occultism Lite—a Jack Chick tract.)
In that same gooey center, Syncretism Lite does its thing as well. I Googled “quantum Jesus consciousness,” the most superficial concatenation I could think of of the three world views under discussion here, and the results were exactly what one would expect. (Similarly for “quantum Jesus magic.”) If you’re ever curious about how quantum entanglement and wormholes provide a shortcut to ascension to the higher states of being exemplified by Jesus Christ, Google can be your friend too.
The challenge the “Hermetic occultists, Scientists, and Christians in North America” in Violet’s scenario face, if and when they are forced into one another’s arms, is communicating with one another. You don’t see debates about the age of the earth between American Christians in monastic service orders (or community pastors) and quantum physicists (or tenured teaching biochemists). In my imagination, a debate between Steven Hawking and Dion Fortune would consist of them telling one another things like “meditate on currents in space” and “do the multivariate tensor calculus” to appreciate one another’s positions. They’re mostly stuck being the metaphorical managers at the corners of the metaphorical boxing ring. If they walked into a bar together, they’d probably have to talk about sports, or the weather.
What you are talking about here makes me think of the matter-energy-information triad discussed in
“Mystery Teachings of the Living Earth” and the IAO formula.
The mention of “cramped” Europe reminds me of an incident.
I was supervising a contract in a tiny settlement in the middle of Namibia, and I needed to speak to one of the contractors, a German guy (Namibia used to be a German colony and there is a strong German presence). He was standing on a low hill and as I walked up to him I saw him spin around in a full circle and sigh a deep sigh of satisfaction.
I looked around. There was nothing to see in any direction except parched earth and low hills disappearing into the distance.
“Why are you so happy?” I asked. “There’s nothing to see here.”
“Exactly. There’s nothing.” he replied, and spun in another circle, pointing. “In Germany, you would see church steeple… church steeple… church steeple… church steeple… It’s too damn crowded.”
I agree with most of what you said and talk at length with my European husband about how the cast frontier shaped the American worldview.
However, I do have a nit to pick. America has at least two forms of peasant cuisine.
One is the food of the Southern slaves and later the Southern poor, which is now an important cultural component of Southern cuisine. (Collard greens, corn bread, grits, etc.)
The other is Cajun food, the peasant cuisine eaten by the poor while the rich alongside them were eating Creole food. Most people outside Louisiana don’t realize there is a difference between the two, but Creole is more French and Cajun is more spice-heavy, generally.
We probably have others as well, originating with the poor of other regions; I suspect it’s more a question of whose “peasant cuisine” becomes culturally celebrated, because poor people have always eaten some sort of food.
Thanks, JMG, for the informative and entertaining read. I particularly like the image of Darwin and his caveman hordes invading Western civilization in 1859. Based on your description, I now interpret Deism (which I have always found to be utterly bizarre) as “atheism lite”. No arguments from me regarding your main thesis: makes perfect sense!
I’ve must say is you live in one weird country, bro – up here in Canada it has been a pretty boring mix of traditional Roman Catholicism (the French dominated part of the country) and straight-laced Presbyterianism (the rest of the country) for the past few centuries. A few exceptions dot the landscape such as Mennonites and a few polygamous Mormon offshoots out West, but they pretty much keep to their own. Nevertheless, Canada has managed to export some occult ‘heavyweights’ to the USA, including Manly P. Hall. However, like in nearly all areas of culture, “occultism lite” certainly crossed the border from USA and infected certain portions of our population with its half-truths and outright silliness.
JMG have you read Jon Butler’s AWASH IN A SEA OF FAITH, which provides a fascinating interpretation of colonial American religion from a similar historical and theoretical perspective as your own? I don’t recall any squawking and fluttering from the academic community when the book came out except among other graduate students, but we squawked with joy.
Dear Walt F.,
I confess I looked up “quantum god fractal Jesus” based on a google search autofill and was quite disappointed that the google images weren’t a good deal more psychedelic!
In all seriousness, the issue you raise about differences in language are paramount. Still I should note my time frame for the “strange bedfellows” scenario is in something like 15 decades. I imagine it as part of the loss of complexity in a future with a lot less available fossil fuel energy. Just as “white” is a category that lacks coherence and is an amalgamated label of disparate people’s, what I imagine the “Old-worlders” or what have you realizing that the interesting or Science, Christianity and Hermeticism have more in common than those of the new religious movements. Of course, things could also go in very different directions on the way down to dark age conditions.
To some extent we do create our own reality as we live our lives day by day. Live a healthy life and you will remain healthy, always spend less than you earn and you will always have a little cash on the side. Be generous and you will always want to help others and they just might help you when you need it. Stay in touch with friends and you will have a community. Of course none of this might happen as you expect and it can still be disrupted.
Another topic entirely. I am always amused when people say we cannot give up fossil fuels as it will disrupt the economy and society. Well it doesn’t matter whether or not we can, we will.
I know next to nothing about occultism, but sadly, I think you’re right that the occult “reality can be anything you want it to be” mentality has pervaded secular society too. That’s a large part of why I find myself opposed to the political left, despite sharing most of their values; the far-left progressives simply don’t care about the hard realities of logistics, economics, politics, and so forth. They don’t understand that you need to make compromises in order to gain political support, they don’t understand that the economy can’t simply be commanded to do whatever they want, they don’t understand that there are hard limits to resources and skilled labor, they don’t understand that policies can have unintended consequences that might hurt the very people they were designed to protect. In general they seem to believe that you can just keep throwing more money at a problem to solve it; I saw someone claim that if we spent as much money on the space program as we do on the military, we could launch a new Mars rover every week for years, as if the cost of building and launching one wouldn’t massively rise once we started to run out of the rare earth metals and/or highly specialized engineers necessary to build one. (For what it’s worth, I totally support giving less money to the armed forces and more to space exploration, I agree with that person’s overall sentiment, I just think that example highlights one of the main flaws with progressive economic thinking.)
And before anyone accuses me of being a right-wing partisan, I think the far-right conservatives are worse; they’re even more detached from reality, and unlike progressives, even their underlying values are largely in opposition to my own. Their adamant denialism of established scientific facts like climate change and Darwinian evolution is a perfect example. This sort of magical thinking is one of the biggest problems with modern society, it’s how we’ve gotten a culture where people feel like they’re entitled to choose their own facts the same way they choose their own brand of toothpaste. Don’t like what BBC is saying? Just switch to Fox News or MSNBC, where you can have your pre-conceived notions affirmed! And if Fox/MSNBC still contain too much inconvenient reality for your tastes, you can just go on the internet and read Breitbart or Occupy Democrats instead. Sites like that don’t even have to keep up a flimsy pretense of evidence-based reporting, they can just make up whatever [shale] they want.
I am curious about the difference between religion and occultism (as Skygazer mentioned.) It seems like Christianity at least has just tried to distance itself from ritual magic trappings. The difference seems to me the number of gods involved.
Chris W, it’s not a glitch in the matrix at all. The Air Force did exactly the same thing in 1952, encouraging LIFE Magazine to publish a pro-ET article a few months before the famous 1952 saucer flap over Washington DC. For that matter, do some digging sometime into the way that the USAF Office of Special Investigations manufactured and fostered the entire “Area 51” mythology as promulgated by Bob Lazar, John Lear, et al. (The best way to unravel that thread is to start with the OSI disinformation campaign against Paul Bennewitz back in the 1980s.)
The US Air Force stage managed much of the UFO phenomenon as protective cover for a whole series of secret aerospace projects — high-altitude balloons in the late 1940s, U-2 flights and more balloons in the 1950s, SR-71 flights and early spy satellites in the 1960s, stealth planes in the 1980s (remember when all of a sudden black triangles became all the rage?), and the list goes on. What’s happening now is simply that the Navy is about to test something and wants plenty of smoke in the air to keep anyone from figuring out what it is. Pay attention to the reports; in ten to fifteen years they’ll declassify something that the reports are obviously meant to hide, the way the black triangles hid the early stealth planes and those silvery disks hid high-altitude balloons.
(There are at least two other categories of things beside US military aerospace projects caught up in the UFO carnival. One is a widespread but poorly understood natural phenomenon that generates hovering balls of light roughly 6 inches to 3 feet across, which seems to be related to tectonic stress. The other is a cascade of visionary encounters, shamanic experiences, apparitions, and other metaphysical phenomena, of varieties that human beings have been having since we became human. It’s because these things so often get muddled up together with Air Force shenanigans that the entire UFO business has become so impenetrable.)
J.L.Mc12, okay, that more or less matches what I’d read. The difference is that a lot of the people who came to North America from Europe belonged to exotic religious groups of various kinds, many of them heavily involved with one or another kind of occultism. That’s one of the reasons why religion has been so huge of an issue here for so long.
Strda221, interesting. I’d gotten the opposite impression, largely from watching the rise of critical theory as a dominant theme in contemporary historiography — critical theory being of course an extreme form of Whig history, the process of pillorying the entire human past for its deviations from the 2016 Democratic Party platform. Still, if that’s losing ground at this point, I’m glad to hear it.
Kimberly, oh, there’s a vast amount of Religion Lite out there as well, and you’ve described one core expression of it with a fine degree of clarity. I have to say, though, that having an incisive analysis of Christianity done by someone named Mark Passio is a fine bit of synchronistic irony — the Passion according to Mark does indeed condemn much of what’s being done as Christianity today!
Your Kittenship, funny. I already have, of course.
Greg, that was an important part of it. As for reform and what can be done now, well, what social movement was it that salvaged everything that could be saved from the wreckage of the classical world and passed it on to the Middle Ages? Christian monasticism, of course — a movement of people who changed their own lives radically, in ways that most of the people around them considered unthinkable…
Jessi, er, most of nineteenth and twentieth century occultism explores that. There are hundreds of courses and thousands of books. Where would you like to begin?
Christophe, I hope you won’t find this an inappropriate comment, but I started expecting Germany to head down that road as soon as East and West Germany reunited. It’s an odd thing: historically, as long as the German-speaking lands of central Europe are divided, the people thereof put their energies into art and science and literature, accomplish glorious things, and avoid giddy dreams of infinite vistas; unite them, and all of a sudden the resulting nation seems to think that nothing is outside its grasp and the rest of the world has no choice but to fall in line. The transformation of the EU into das vierte Reich, a political and economic superstate run largely for German benefit, is simply one expression of that oddity of collective psychology — and, yes, it usually ends the way the Energiewende is ending right now, in confusion and failure papered over by increasingly shrill pronouncements that victory is at hand…
Yorkshire, excellent! Occultists in much of the western world used Freemasonry in exactly the same way, as a way to keep working together when overt magical practice had to be kept out of sight.
Packshaud, yep. I’m painfully familiar with that!
Jim, the Seth books were indeed influential, but there were several channels (so to speak) by which the same ideas flowed into the New Age movement. One that next to nobody wants to talk about these days is the contactee movement of the 1950s — a group of spiritual teachers who claimed to receive the usual New Thought/New Age teachings from humanoid aliens who rode flying saucers. It was hugely influential back in the day. As for your broader point, though, that’s valid — and of course the higher self is conscious of a wider range of realities, and understands the hard limits that those realities place on souls who are at the human level.
Diane, many thanks for your story! As I tried to suggest in my post, Occultism Lite has its values, and serving as a gateway to other things is one of them. I”m amused to note that my own journey eastward, from Seattle and southern Oregon via the Appalachians to Rhode Island, inspired the opposite reaction in me — I find the older, more rooted, more traditional East Coast very much to my taste.
Bogatyr, thanks for the warning about Rowling’s latest marketing gimmick. I’ll probably have to spend the next ten years telling people not to rely on those for anything but entertainment. As for the article from American Conservative, why, yes, that’s very nearly exactly what I’ve been talking about all these years — I’m delighted to see it getting a little more attention.
Jacques, Blake and Jung are two first-rate sources for this work. Thanks for your good wishes. (“Saddle up! We ride!”)
Jim, Alice Bailey’s going to be the poster child for an upcoming Magic Monday, and her version of the Law of Attraction is typically nuanced and sensible. It’s the catastrophically dumbed-down version in Rhonda Byrnes et all that’s problematic, of course.
Patricia, fair enough. I hope they can avoid another round of bad fires this year…
Nestorian, ah, but you’ve pointed out yourself that the mainstream of institutional Christianity routinely veers away from what you’d consider to be sound Biblical teaching — that’s why you’re a Nestorian and not a Roman Catholic, right? In the same way, the Catholic church during the Middle Ages and Renaissance made a lot of room for some aspects of occultism. (Valerie Flint’s historical study The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe documents that in quite a bit of detail, if you’re interested.) What happened in the late Renaissance, as the Anglican Church and then other established churches elsewhere cut deals with the rising power of scientific materialism, was that said churches suddenly came up with reasons to abandon longstanding habits of toleration of astrology and the like, since that was to their advantage at that point in history.
Garett, true enough!
Violet, this sort of thing is standard at this stage of the historical process. Over the decades ahead, as the (pseudo)Skeptic movement finishes guttering out, I expect to see exactly the sort of rapprochement you’ve described between scientists, religious leaders, intellectuals, and occultists, leading to the emergence of a broad synthesis parallel to late classical Neoplatonism, say, or Neoconfucianism in China. A lot of my work is focused on laying a portion of the groundwork for that eventual synthesis.
Dan, fascinating. That makes a great deal of sense.
Matthias, exactly. Lutheran Pietism had close connections with occultism at that time (and for more than a century prior to Goethe’s era), largely mediated by the writings of Jakob Boehme. A lot of Pietists from Germany ended up on this side of the water, in turn, and brought their occultism with them.
Will M, fascinating. It’s a commonplace of occult teachings that some parts of the Earth’s surface are more conducive to metaphysical experiences than others, and I gather upstate New York is one of those parts. Do you have a sense as to where the influence seems to concentrate?
Truly, that’s got to have been a wild ride. You might be interested to know that Dion Fortune, one of the 20th century’s great occultists, grew up in a Christian Scientist family.
Skygazer, occultism differs just as much from religion as either one differs from science. I’ll devote a post to explaining that one of these days. The very short form is that science faces outward to nature, religion faces upward to the gods, and occultism faces inward to the deeper aspects of the individual self.
Clay, that’s fascinating. I had no idea that Davis was interested in witchcraft and Mormonism; I was thinking of his book in particular when I mentioned the frantic rewriting of history to make it look as though “the warfare of science with theology” had been ongoing for centuries.
Walt, “quantum Jesus magic” has now permanently entered my mental vocabulary; thank you. One of the things that will have to happen in order for science, religion, and occultism to find common ground, of course, is that steps toward a common language will need to be taken from at least one side, and if at all possible, from more than one. I’m doing what I can…
Martin, thanks for this! You might be amused to know that one of my first and strongest reactions to being out in the countryside in Britain was delight that there were so many marks of human presence across the ages, all so close together…
Ron, the United States of America is an imaginary country, a magic kingdom conjured into being by sorcerers in three-cornered hats and maintained ever since by sheer incantation. Why do you think we have all our schoolchildren reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every day? That’s one of the spells that keeps the chimera called America afloat. This country is as mythical as Middle-earth or Oz — and if the spell ever truly breaks, the consequences will be tremendous and terrible. .
Y. Chireau, thanks for this! No, I haven’t encountered that book, and clearly I’ll need to fix that.
JillN, as long as you include that “to some extent,” you’re still sane. Of course it doesn’t always work; you can live a healthy lifestyle and still end up sick, you can sock away a little money every week and end up destitute because of a sudden expense or a shift in economic policy, and so on. The way I like to put it — and we’ll be discussing this in detail later on — is that we each co-create our own reality…and what we co-create it with, of course, is the entire cosmos.
Libertine, I won’t argue for a minute — well, except that the “reality can be anything you want it to be” attitude isn’t part of traditional occultism. It’s a self-defeating distortion of a much more nuanced (and much less crazed) occult teaching. More on this as we proceed!
Candace, it’s more than that. Religion turns toward one or more gods and the proper ways of maintaining good relations with them. Occultism turns inward, toward the less obvious dimensions of human consciousness, and the proper ways of awakening these. More on this, again, in a future post.
JMG, I like your word co-create. And hope you noticed my last sentence on this topic – of course none of this might happen as you expect and can still be disrupted.
My husband and I have enjoyed many illnesses over the years and I still maintain that we have a fairly healthy lifestyle.
>> It’s a commonplace of occult teachings that some parts of the Earth’s surface are more conducive to metaphysical experiences than others, and I gather upstate New York is one of those parts. Do you have a sense as to where the influence seems to concentrate? <<
I haven’t experienced all of upstate NY, and I’m sure there are all kinds of meta-percolating locations elsewhere upstate, but in my area I’ve found the tops of gorges to be particularly conducive to that kind of thing. Perhaps the magnetic rock strata has something to do with it. The gorge top – and I live on one – does seem to boost psychic/spiritual receptivity; the downside is that it seems to receive and amplify the moods of the collective consciousness.
Quite a few of the ancient trails – and there are literally thousands of them – seem to me to have a meta-resonance. Many of them were originally deer trails, but some were created by Native Americans, who I can easily imagine, selected their locations for more than just travel convenience.
Jasper re: West Virginia – The theocratic West Virginia scenario is straight off the Stirling list – S.M. Stirling’s new series where Teddy Roosevelt becomes President prematurely and history veers off in the the scientific-modern-planned society etc. I think they need to hear the argument you posted here! BTW, I am not reading that series; I can stand a lot in the way of dystopia, but not when the author doesn’t think that’s what it is.
The comments about science and religion being two sides of a coin and occultism the ridges on the side got me thinking. Like many others before me I grew up in the Church, rejected it as a young adult and turned to a blind faith in Science instead (I am no scientist..). I didn’t see any other option at the time. If you don’t have religion, what’s left is science.. What I have enjoyed about coming here to this site is being offered a third way, one I had no idea even existed (although there were inklings along the way). It does seem that occultism is in the space between science and religion, going back to the coin analogy. Since discovering this site some years ago, living in the spaces between the monolithic institutions and the binary ideas of our society has become a big part of my life’s journey. I also appreciate coming here because, unlike many other places I have visited, you don’t throw out any one way of relating to the world. It appears, from your writings, that science, religion and occultism can live together. Who knew? I am still only dipping my toes in the waters of occultism, having had to get past decades of parental and social conditioning first, but I am beginning to see that it might just be another very useful way of interpreting the world and learning about myself. So thank you!
@JMG: Fair enough. As I said, I know very little about occultism. I’m intrigued by your ideas about politics, society, and technology, but I’ll confess that all the occult talk is just confusing to me, I’m very much a secular agnostic humanist myself.
I actually found your blog when I was looking up a statement by Karl Rove, I wanted to find the exact quote and Ecosophia turned up in the search. Appropriate enough for this topic, the quote was about the “reality based community,” with Rove rejecting the idea of discerning reality through observation and instead proposing that he was one of “history’s actors” and thus able to create his own reality. Which, of course, he did – it just wasn’t the reality he had in mind! Sadly, it doesn’t look like he and his neocon friends learned their lesson, as we seem to be rapidly heading toward another unwinnable war in the Middle War.
And for what it’s worth, I was looking for the quote because it ended with the statement, “you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” It reminded me of a similar quote from the ancient Roman historian Polybius, who claimed that after the inevitable Roman conquest and pacification of the known world, “the main task of future historians will be to explain how this marvelous achievement was done.” The contrast between the two remarks was striking to me; as a believer in progress myself, I often find myself discouraged by the fact that humans continuing making the exact same mistakes even after thousands of years!
Thanks for the book recommendation. I don’t normally associate those qualities, in excess or no, with Sagittarius particularly, but I am sure lots more context for that conclusion is to be found in the book. I’ll see if my local library or ILL has a copy and have a look.
It seems to me that someone took three of William Walker Atkinson’s descriptions of magical laws and mashed them all up to create the law of attraction. LoA is basically half the law of polarity, all the law of vibration, and the law of all is mind. Deeper study of those laws is so valuable for a apprentice mage, but I’ve seen first hand how dangerous and self-destructive they’ve become in the new age scene.
Lite-beer is similarly dangerous, you can drink that stuff like water and get way drunker than intended.
JMG, am curious: re the ‘52 DC ufo flap and the preceding LIFE Mag pro-ET article – what kind of aircraft would the military have been test-flying over a populated area at that time, if it all wasn’t caused by temperature inversion as I’ve read some have claimed? U-2 flights?
JMG, when you mention the P of A being one of the spells that keeps America afloat, do you speak literally or metaphorically?
Kimberly, I’m going to look for that book too!
JMG said: “The transformation of the EU into das vierte Reich, a political and economic superstate run largely for German benefit, is simply one expression of that oddity of collective psychology…”
As someone insightful recently noted: “Germany basically ruins Europe now.” 😉
On a serious note, I never really thought about it until this essay, but the US went from westward expansion, to overseas empire (including fighting 2 world wars and harnessing atomic power), and into outer space in less than a century. I can see how that sort of rapid expansion and change can cause delusions of omnipotence. Can the US survive with a more sustainable view of the world and its place in it? I’m not sure, but I hope so.
“THE WORLD IS NOT YOUR B***H”
That tag made me chuckle. Archdruid is going all gangsta! Such a departure from his normally milquetoast persona. I get this picture in my mind: JMG says this scornfully to some New Ager then he puts on sunglasses and rides off into the sunset.
I think a lot of people have been vaccinated against delusions of grandeur by poverty and misery. Others learn later through tragedies in their lives. Like that yoga instructor who was lost in Hawaii for 16 days and learned to eat insects. That would teach anyone a thing or two about limits!
“the United States of America is an imaginary country…maintained ever since by sheer incantation”
Aren’t all countries like that? Perhaps some more than others.
“Violet, this sort of thing is standard at this stage of the historical process. Over the decades ahead, as the (pseudo)Skeptic movement finishes guttering out, I expect to see exactly the sort of rapprochement you’ve described between scientists, religious leaders, intellectuals, and occultists, leading to the emergence of a broad synthesis parallel to late classical Neoplatonism, say, or Neoconfucianism in China. A lot of my work is focused on laying a portion of the groundwork for that eventual synthesis.”
Yep! Precisely what I’m trying to do right now! Or to paraphrase Spengler, develop a unified morphology (or something of the kind) or science, religion, occultism culture etc… I’m encountering quite a bit of resistance though of course. A Scientist friend of mine recently denounced my ideas as ‘dangerous’…
Another example, I’m no scientist or physicist, but I do sense the power of electro-magnetic fields and what they do to our physic fields (or just general health). The trouble is if I start using these words, my scientist friends will insist I’m not allowed to describe these phenomena outside their narrowly defined quantitative definitions. I might just say I’m using these words in a qualitative sense next time rather than a ‘quantitative sense… whenever anyone tries to tell me electro-magnetic fields have no effect on us, I will simply respond, ‘well would you want to live underneath one of those Big transformer power lines…
anyway just a few ramblings from me..
I’m thinking of H.P. Lovecraft now, in a context that got to me through the theme of this week’s post.
His life was plagued by poverty. One of the things he possibly was acquainted with was those people who were always right. Suddenly, a theme in his stories became clear: the failure of progress. The slow decay and fall of the Yithian, because of their slaves, is quite interesting, observed through this prism.
It is also funny to see his insistence on how reading on the occult tunes yourself with its existence, until a point of no return occurs. I would be willing to bet a dollar that, with the extensive knowledge of the occult he had, he might very well have had a John-Keel-interesting life.
Lovecraft apparently was an atheist, or so he used to say. Close contact with his stories make impossible to not notice the unfathomable stench of the denial caused by fear.
Hi John Michael,
Yes, the spiritual origins of your country are far more complicated than most people assume. You of course alerted me to the fact that the much vaunted historical figure of Johnny Appleseed was in fact a preacher for the Swedenborg sect.
Ha! Occultism lite appears to be a fast way of making a buck for the people spruiking it! Do I smell the smell of the critique of meaningfulness (whatever that means) interspersed within the lines of your fine prose?
Thanks for the laughs about your most correct use of the word “scale” in that particular context. That idea is lost on most people, but no matter. I saw a child’s hand drawn ‘thank you’ poster the other day in a business. On one side of the poster was a children’s stylised depiction of a girl with the caption “I want to be a princess”, and the other side of the poster had a children’s stylised depiction of a boy with the caption “I want to be a super hero”. Fat chance of either happening, but looking around me I see that the idea has worked its way into the populations collective understanding of things.
Your warning is clear to me. I find it rather strange that people don’t tend to consider the cyclical nature of things that just are.
Ah, yes, the Pledge of Allegiance! Since I rarely visit your country (and have never gone to school there), I quite forgot about that incantation. When I was in elementary school, we sang ‘God Save the Queen’ in addition to our national anthem. But about a decade ago, my district school board enforced the following as part of the opening ceremonies:
“I would like to acknowledge that this school is situated upon traditional territories. The territories include the Wendat (wen-dat), Anishinabek (ah-nish-nah-bek) Nation, the Haudenosaunee (ho-den-oh-sho-nee) Confederacy, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations, and the Métis (may-tee) Nation. The treaty that was signed for this particular parcel of land is collectively referred to as the Toronto Purchase and applies to lands east of Brown’s Line to Woodbine Avenue and north towards Newmarket. I also recognize the enduring presence of Aboriginal peoples on this land.”
Doesn’t have quite the same ring as the Pledge of Allegiance!
Dear Archdruid, you commented:
“As for reform and what can be done now, well, what social movement was it that salvaged everything that could be saved from the wreckage of the classical world and passed it on to the Middle Ages? Christian monasticism, of course — a movement of people who changed their own lives radically, in ways that most of the people around them considered unthinkable…”
And here I was thinking that the period for a succesful “revival” of monasticism in the West was a few decades out yet! In my estimation, somewhere between 2040 and 2080 would be ideal, depending on the state of the particular country one is in, of course. (That is, after the coming round of hard crisises anywhere between a year to a decade or two from now has passed, but before the terminal crisis roughly 60 years after that – so in the relatively stable period in between.)
(Or am I jumping the gun here, and do you mean Green Wizardry-esque changes in lifestyle rather than full-on monasticism?)
Yours in Druidry,
Your essay reminds me of Krakauer’s book “Under the Banner of Heaven”. Joeseph Smith began as a mystic/occultist I believe before he leveraged his talents to create the Mormon church. He was run out of New York, Ohio, Missouri for his contributions to America.
Do you consider chaos magic and meme magic to be part of Occultism lite?
Did the Trump fanboy memers really make the diiference in 2016? Was it just lucky coincidences or TSW?
As always, many thanks for the work you do.
One of my favourite posts since the ‘Well of Galabes’ was launched…a whole lot of images snapped into focus with this one.
For those who have queried, I would humbly suggest that the distinctions between Science, Religion, and Magic might be looked at as concerns toward the manifest experiences of ‘Material’ reality, ‘Immaterial’ reality and ‘Inner’ reality, and that ‘Immaterial’ and ‘Inner’ realities are not always necessarily the same thing – much as JMG has suggested, I think… just another way of framing it.
Also, related to Dan’s comment – it occurred to me today that the mass psychosis that is ICT addiction and its attendant wake of social destruction, mirrors its function as a virtual ‘reality-lite’ on the imaginal plane. Kind of like a synthetic astral realm that we can create and control….I don’t see it ending well.
Regards and gratitude to all who participate in these discussions.
Thank you for your response! That makes a lot of sense, and definitely seems a project worth working towards. Something I’ve been thinking about of late is the tempo of catastrophic change and how it relates to the conditions of the lower astral. Carl Jung alludes to this in his _Psychology & Religion_ where he discusses the dangers of psychic contagion like the opening act of WWI or Bolshevism as being more dangerous than pandemics of physical diseases or earthquakes. This seemed a major focus of his work, as well as the mandala shape used to create a temenos to protect against both disintegration and inflation.
Point being, with the Delusions of Omnipotence that you discuss in this essay has a specific historical root that you discuss, and this gets me thinking along the lines of the 1960’s counterculture for several reasons relevant to the post. The first is that the 1960’s were right about when the West ran out in a meaningful sense; both Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the union in 1959, after all. The West played an extremely important part of the 1960’s counter culture with California being perhaps the crucial state. Jim Morrison sang “The West is the Best,” as well.
This of course a reiteration of the themes of Manifest destiny, but in a material sense the 1960’s marks the end of West Ward expansion, and the end of the freedom of social mobility that this entailed. With no more west what do the United States become? They become just as caste ridden as Old Europe. If I remember correctly, the poet Ferlinghetti described San Francisco as “the end of the West,” which is true vis-a-vis the compelling narrative of Manifest Destiny.
Perhaps the countercultures of the 1960’s could be described as something like an allergic reaction to the end of the American Dream that had been going strong for some hundreds of years. Hence the frenzy of the creation of communes and other experiments in *which everyone was equal*. This seems a way of circumventing the reality that the American Dream of limitless western horizon had been defeated by the Pacific Ocean.
Indeed, this helps to explain the otherwise perplexing monism of the Hippies. If we are “all one” and boundaries don’t exist then this kicks the can — psychically speaking — further.
My thought is then perhaps the reason that there as been the ongoing level of freakout is that this ploy *hasn’t worked*. With no more west there is no more American Dream as existed prior to 1959. There may be a few remote hole and corners where it is still operative, but more or less you can put a fork in it, it’s done.
The relevance is that the prevailing Occultism-lite, the Christianity-Lite, the Pop-science and the various syncretisms of the “quantum Jesus magic” variety all seem like incantations to banish this unwelcome reality from psychic spaces. The New Age, the Prosperity Gospel, and the increasingly mystical offshoots of Quantum science all deal in the idea that *boundaries aren’t real and you can have everything you want.*
This then also explains why exactly people freak out so much about Donald Trump — to “build a wall,” is to acknowledge symbolically that we have no more West to expand into and that Manifest Destiny is dead. This is to say that the New Age, the Prosperity gospel and the String Theory/Wormhole/Space Travel scientific fantasies all are different faces of the same revitalization movement gathered around the corpse of Manifest Destiny.
Christianity is filled to the brim with magical trappings. The liturgies of all the sacramental churches can quite accurately be described as magical acts, full stop.
Thank you for this excelent post!
Yes, I agree with you with the “truce” between the established churches and scientific materialism to crush the “third way” (magic, occultism, animism in the colonies, etc…). May be the reason was that thinkers of that time developed what Lewis Munford called ” the fascination with The Machine”. It was an expulsion of the “Will” or the “Purpose” from the universe, and then the cosmos was seen, for the first time, as a “Clockwork Universe”, with or without a “Watchmaker”. The universe was then dead, devoid of life and purpose, far away from the “animism” view of magic and occultism and the old cultures.
The Humanists in the XVI century were seeing where all this will go, and in the letter of Erasmus of Rotterdam to Luther “De Libero Arbitrio” he attacked the notion of predestinationism and the impotence of the Man for its own salvation; the answer of Luther was “De Servo Arbitrio” with the doctrine of the “Total Depravity of Man” that enslave the human will, it was a kind of negation of joy and life..
Erasmus was a kind of “Pelagianist”, and as the rest of humanists much more close to others forms of spirituality
In fact the whole notion of “eternal” and “universal” “Laws of Nature” has its roots in the religious doctrine of Predestination. I think Capitalism and Modern Science both needed the “push” of Reformation to develop, they would have been constrained without the new faith, at the end, as you said, both are the sides of the same coin: “The Civilization of The Machine”.
For example the theory of Big-Bang, as you know, was first proposed by the priest Georges Lemaître of the Lovaine university, with the notion of the “cosmic egg” fully compatible with the christian view; in fact Lemaître was described as a kind of “new Aquinas” because they think he reconciled the new scientific cosmology with the dogma of Creation
But I think Mr. Sheldrake is right, and the “Laws of Nature” are not “laws” but, as he call them, “habits” nor universal, nor eternal, as the life itself is…
For example: in the modern cosmological observation, it seems that the expansion of universe has changed many times from the primal explosion of the “Cosmic Egg”, and now seems to be accelerating again, but instead of thinking that may be the “eternal law of Inertia” is not “eternal” or “universal”, they invent, out of thin air”, the concept of “Dark Energy” that nobody has the slightest idea about was it is, how it works and why it change with time; It is a pure metaphysical concept
Ugh…Occult Lite is mostly atrocious and I hope you won’t dip your toe in those waters for more than a instant. There’s obviously a place for it because, well, it exists. But its mostly a wasteland with many dangers and traps. I find most of pop culture loathesome, embodying all things Lite and Fake. Oscar Wilde’s famous utterance comes to mind: “Everything popular is wrong!” Check out this Astrology Lite piece from the Guardian a few days ago (have a barf bag nearby): https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/may/30/i-dont-even-believe-in-astrology-so-why-am-i-addicted-to-this-horoscope-app
It seems as though more and more people are growing more and more disconnected from reality with each passing day! It’s especially virulent in the clueless overprivileged segment but runs strong through the entire population. They’ve almost literally uploaded their Selves to the cloud and prefer virtual reality and a well curated digital experience of life with their glowing prosthetic brain devices always at hand. Distracted from distraction by distraction.
You recently mentioned taking a fresh look at Stoicism soon and I hope you’ll follow through with that. We could so use a framework that closely comports with reality — it seems like a good fit for these times.
Maybe you should consider the Marcus Aurelius Meditations as your next book club text. It would be a welcome contribution to a much needed Stoic Revival!
Your closing admonition to serious students of traditional occultism (and other mystical and esoteric paths) to cultivate a sense of scale and attentiveness to the flow of events seems very timely and useful. May we each in our own way faithfully practice the art, craft and science of living! Paying attention is of paramount importance. Thanks for this excellent post.
I thought your analysis of the blindness of the left was spot on. But in my opinion, your analysis of the faults of the right fell short. In fact, you didn’t name them, or any values that you said are so different. Instead, you just noted that they don’t buy into climate change or Darwinian evolution, which are established science. Therefore… “it’s how we’ve gotten a culture where people feel like they’re entitled to choose their own facts the same way they choose their own brand of toothpaste. ”
What I would like to point out is that you are 100% sure that you are right, so much so that you find the need to analyze what the psychological pathology is that leaves so many people not on board.
But neither of these things are established science. If they were, there wouldn’t be so many millions who don’t find it convincing, nor so many top notch scientists who also disagree. I suspect that about Darwinism, you have absolutely no idea the scientific and detailed depth of the issues with it. I may be wrong, but I did spend about 5 years with this topic as a main hobby. It is certainly not that I feel free to choose my facts. It certainly isn’t like choosing a toothpaste. Rather I do feel free to really think for myself and really listen to arguments in great detail as I find the subject fascinating. I don’t think I have a psychological pathology. I think that I have listened, and found both theories wanting.
Also, I remain puzzled by the stance of many here, (JMG you too!) on Darwinism. If we live in a conscious cosmos, atheistic Darwinism, which insists upon random chance and utter goal-lessness aren’t really compatible. I don’t say life might not evolve slowly and as a self-learning process perhaps, but totally accidental and without goal? This is counterintuitive and flies in the face of what we actually see in biology.
Methinks a few of you here are attached to a youthful, college or high school scientific materialist worldview, but it is time you tweaked it!
I’ve seen some channeling I regard as reputable on the subject. I’m keeping an open mind with skepticism dialed up to maximum.
In some circles, when you flip a coin and it lands on its edge, it means The Gods have Spoken. I did that in a story once, but I had the coin leaning against a wall. It happens.
Seth, like Michael, is anything but Occultism Lite. In fact, they make very few references to Western Occultism at all, and there are good reasons why that is so.
You might want to read “To Rule Both Day and Night: Astrology in the Bible, Midrash and Talmud”, by Joel C. Dobin before you declare that the OT condemns astrology. Mr. Dobin is a rabbi, and I consider him more authoritative about what the Hebrew Bible says than Christian reinterpretations.
Re: American’s birth chart.
Which birth chart? I’m serious; once you get into it in nit-picking detail, it’s not at all obvious that the US was born on July 4, let alone at what time. A lot of very competent astrologers propose one chart or another, and other equally competent astrologers pick apart their reasoning.
Re: Occultism Heavy, etc.
Too true. The closest I’ve been to success in explaining the Michael Teaching to outsiders begins: Think of a table-top role-playing game,…
@ JMG “The very short form is that science faces outward to nature, religion faces upward to the gods, and occultism faces inward to the deeper aspects of the individual self.”
This led to some fruitful Cycle Thoughts today, so thanks.
My first thought was in relation to Natural Magic, which could be said to face outward to nature, where it encounters a large number of “other” inwardnesses. Also many folk religions look outward to nature, where they encounter a large number of “other” upwardnesses.
In any case, this is a lovely metaphor locating science, religion and magic in space.
But I also looked to see if there was a way to link them in a metaphor related to time, and I remembered the way (in one of my previous Cycle Thoughts) science focusses on an intense study of Fate – that is to say, it can enumerate all the things that have actually happened in the past that contribute weight and heft to this moment. In this schema, religion might be said to focus on destiny, and on the way in which future hopes and aspirations contribute directionality and impetus to this moment. Which leaves Will, in the present moment, in the inward place, for magic.
And that brings me to the coin which has been mentioned and meditated on by several in the comments above. The fact is that, by your spacial schema, Magic deals with the “here” and in my temporal one, Magic deals with the “now.” and it is only in the here and only in the now that will may act upon the world.
While here and now are “flavoured” by the past which is our Fate and by the future which is our Destiny, and also by the upwards where our spirits were engendered and outwards where they incarnated, our own small power to participate in creation is only “actionable” in the here and in the now, where magic operates Will, the layer which both joins and separates Fate and Destiny, or the inner light, which both joins and separates spirit and matter, which is, of course the coin’s edge, but also its middle, the layer which both joins and separates its two faces.
Re Darwinism and random chance: I imagine that randomness itself was written into the Divine Plan, not as a quirk, but as a necessity. If the Godhead created our universe ((and perhaps others) in order to have a divine partner, that partner must be autonomous while still being part of the Godhead. A partner that is not autonomous is not really a partner, but an appendage. Randomness, in a way, helps to assure that autonomy, I think.
I’m quite sure God likes to be surprised. When you grow a garden, you can set its parameters, but you don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out. That’s part of the fun, being surprised.
JillN, I did indeed notice it, which is why I commented favorably on your sanity.
Will, fascinating. Do you know of a good source for a map of the ancient trails? My ley-hunting sense is tingling…
Blueday Jo, you’re welcome and thank you! I know a lot of people who left religious dogmatism to embrace scientific dogmatism, and some who went the other way; it’s a matter of sheer dumb luck, amply assisted by a bunch of books on magic, that I ended up straying into a less limiting approach — and I’m glad you and others find it useful.
Libertine, you see, that’s why I don’t believe in progress. We have fancier toys than the Romans did, sure, but our government is busy making mistakes that were already old when Rome was founded, and the familiar processes of decadence and decline are well under way in our allegedly oh-so-progressive industrial society. The names change but the cycles don’t, and every time somebody insists that that’s no longer true and it’s onward and upward forever, I look back in history and find someone else saying the same thing — usually just before the bottom falls out. As for occultism, don’t worry about it; a lot of the ideas discussed here are rooted in a free mix of occult philosophy and old-fashioned common sense, and you’ll find it’s fairly easy to pick up as we go.
Varun, got it in one. Atkinson was one of the best of the New Thought authors, and he understood the limits as well as the strengths of New Thought methods; if you read between the lines in The Kybalion, you can figure out his methods for pushing the pendulum one way and then getting out of the way of the reverse swing. The people who watered down his teachings (and those of a great many other authors) into the babytalk version of the Law of Attraction presented in The Secret et al. didn’t have a clue, and that’s why their teachings so often result in disaster.
Will M, we’ll know for sure if the files ever get declassified. My guess, though, is that they weren’t testing anything at all. They were laying down a smokescreen behind which other things — including the early U-2 flights and Project Flying Cloud, a secret project to loft nuclear weapons on high-altitude balloons to take out Russian bombers — could proceed unnoticed. It could have been done quite easily with balloon-borne flares, “spoofing” gear meant to generate false radar objects, and other well-known technologies. Once that had been done and enough media disinformation splashed around, they could have tested anything they liked and had it swallowed up in the hoopla around supposed alien visitation.
Your Kittenship, I mean it quite literally. If you ever find one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, please write and tell me!
Ryan, it’s one of the great ironies of history that the rest of Europe spent the first half of the twentieth century trying to stop German campaigns of conquest, and the second half giving Germany every one of its war aims except overseas colonies and a triumphal parade down the Champs Elysees. As for the US, I hope so, but I have my doubts.
Aspirant, poverty’s a valuable teacher. One of the advantages of my time as an aspiring author is that I spent a number of years well below the poverty line, getting by on low-wage jobs and seeing what the world looks like when you’re outside the middle class bubble. As for imaginary countries, I suspect all countries are imaginary to some degree or another, but in some cases the fantasy’s not too outrageous, while in others — the US very much in the lead — the last threads of connection between the reality and the fantasy snapped a long time ago and left us to drift off into La-La Land.
BB, it’s a source of wry amusement to me that the true believers in scientism insist that electromagnetic radiation can’t be perceived by human beings. That claim was disproven much more than a century ago; there’s a huge amount of replicated experimental evidence that some people can see magnetic fields and many more who can feel them on their skins. And of course anybody with a ham radio license knows that EMR has harmful effects on the human body and needs to be handled with great care!
Packshaud, Lovecraft was a very strange cat. He wrote in his letters that in childhood he was sufficiently moved by Greek myths to build altars to the Greek gods and goddesses in the back yard and make offerings to them; he was haunted by exceptionally strange dreams, many of which got turned into stories; and his fiction is pervaded by this weird twofold dynamic in which his protagonists as often as not turn out to belong to what they think they’re fighting against. I’ve thought for years that he must have suspected or known that his family tree included at least one person who was passing for white, but there’s more to it than that; you’re right, I think, that he felt the appeal of the occult writings he satirized in his stories, and was terrified of it. That’s one of the reasons I had so much fun telling the other side of the story in The Weird of Hali.
Chris, good. It’s precisely the fact that so many people don’t want to deal with the things that just are, that produces so much unnecessary failure these days.
Ron M, you know, it fascinates me that the same people who insist on that sort of thing with regard to First Nations land claims are almost always believers in open borders. If unlimited immigration from other parts of the world is good now, why was it bad in 1492?
Brigyn, it’s not yet time for full-blown monasticism, but steps in that direction? Those are timely now. The hermits of the Thebaid were roughing out the first drafts of monasticism long before St. Benedict’s day.
Dave T., indeed he did.
Bridge, first, Chaos magic is a somewhat different breed of cat, as it originated in Europe rather than America and so draws on different cultural DNA. Second, if you think I’m saying that Occultism Lite is powerless, please read my post again. That’s not what I’m saying at all; it’s simply that it has limits that a lot of practitioners fail to acknowledge.
Tony_A, that’s a nice crisp description of the differences. Thank you.
Violet, solidly done. I trust you’ll be writing this up as an essay for publication!
DFC, got it in one. Spengler points out that the scientific thought of every great culture is simply its religious thought with the serial numbers filed off, and that’s clearly visible in the dependence of modern science on Protestant theology.
Jim, keep in mind that I’ve spent a good many years teaching magic and esoteric nature spirituality to people who, far more often than not, come out of various branches of Occultism Lite; the Guardian article, lame as it is, is far from the most embarrassing example I’ve encountered. At the same time, as I noted in my post, there are things in some aspects of Occultism Lite that can be very beneficial to people who are taking their first steps away from unthinking materialism. It’s just that there’s so much more…
Re: Germany and Europe
It is ironic, seeing how things have turned out since 2008, that the introduction of the Euro was a condition that the French established before they aquiesced to German reunification, and that it was very strongly resented by (probably) a majority of the German population (who didn’t have a say in the matter), and contested several times in court. I saw in 2008 a nostalgic store where you could still pay in DM. On the other side, since 2008 a very large minority or even majority on the right have resented the bail-out for Greece and wanted either Greece, or Germany itself, or both of them to leave the Euro zone, while simultaneously a considerable minority on the left (to which I count myself) advocated letting the banks fail instead of feeding them on Greek debt payments. The support for Merkel’s politics towards Southern Europe was rather slim.
A (Western) communist school colleage of mine demonstrated on the eve of October 3rd, 1990, to keep two Germanies instead of the one that was being created. I thought she was mad at the time, but you seem to agree with her, and it’s a bit harder to call her mad today.
An article I came across earlier today about measles and anti-vaxxers caught my attention most of all because of the language it used. It spoke of faith in progress and how people have turned on it, specifically in this article of the one percent who belong to the rich left, have been losing faith in progress. While the statistics, and arguments presented aren’t even as valuable as the manure shoveled out of a barn, they show a lot of real world examples which this weeks Ecosophian essay presents. There is a world of people who have a faith in progress, often the leftward groups, who believe science and technology will save everything. There’s also a world of people who tend to be a bit more conservative, preserving a bit more some traditional things but in reality have been bought out and trying to hold onto whatever it is they have. Then, there is a left out group who are seeing the world as it has been is not living up to the narratives they were led to believe in. That group of people have started giving up on things of this current world, and/or they have sought to change things. They are the ones who have been left out, the ones who have been forgotten. And they are the ones who will be making the future. It fits in strikingly well with the delusions we’ve seen with the believers in science and the believers in the modern Christian narrative, both who fought against the occult, trying to smother it. Now that they’ve felt they’ve won, Science and the Christian narrative have turned against each other. And there is a large middle ground of people who are seeing neither Science nor Christianity have answers which work. The occult however might present some answers that work. And Occult Lite would be a great introduction for alternatives.
I’d like to second Jim W’s suggestion of a return to Stoicism whenever your Muse allows. In particular, I’d love to see a discussion of virtue from a Stoic perspective.
There seems to be a nascent Stoic revival of sorts: the r/stoicism subreddit has over 147,000 members. Another data point is that Stoicism is now well-known enough that it was used for some argumentative points-scoring when the APA listed “stoicism” as a characteristic of toxic masculinity.
Nice and to the point: –
“-The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911: pray, v. To ask the laws of the universe to be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy. (Ambrose Bierce)”
“I’ve long wondered why it is that the United States in particular should pup so many subcultures who fall into this particular trap. All things considered, I suspect it’s rooted in one of the many ironies of our national history. It so happened that most of the people who colonized America after 1492 came from the cramped and rocky little peninsula off the western end of Asia that calls itself Europe. ”
I suspect our emphasis on the individual also has a llot to do with it. We want the universe to align with our personal goals not the goals of our whole society whcih would have to be negotiated, prioritized, and would not necessarily align with our own wants.
So maybe we can paraphrase Einstein:
A society is blind without science, lame without religion and unconscious without occultism.
Seems to be a fair description of Australia these days. Not too much wrong with our eyes and legs, problem is the lights are on but nobody is home.
JMG, Fair enough…that makes sense. Everyone has to follow their own path and do the best they can. My elitism on full display! Thanks again.
The flipside of omnipotence is the need to offload the responsibility for (and cost of) failure. The bank bailouts following the 2008 crash are a good example, as are the various scapegoats for the failure of progress and progressivism.
Sudden thought: in Christian theology, God’s willingness to allow Satan to influence matters is essentially all part of the Plan, since in a sense He had always already won. Why didn’t something similar arise in the political theology of the bankers/progressives? That the 2008 crash was the Will of the Market, and Trump is the Will of Progress?
I think part of this goes back to another New Thought platitude that predates “you create your own reality” and in some ways underpins it: “You are God.” Because if you are God, then things that offend you are not just inconvenient… they’re blasphemy.
Re ancient trails: I feel your Ley Line tingle. You can net-download state by state trail maps of anywhere in the USA of course, and I’m told Google Earth has ley line maps, and there are quite a few online maps of the major Native American trails, eg., the “Forbidden Trail”, which is now New York State’s Highway 5.
I don’t know of any one map that delineates in detail Native American trails from deer paths and those created in recent times by park services. I’ll do some local library research, and if I find one, I’ll let you know forthrightly. Meantime, we both might consult Ley Line maps and Native American trail maps, see how they match up.
A portion of the Cayuga trail runs right by my house, and I know that one can walk eastward for 40 miles in basically a straight line. I think it very well might very well might have originally been a Native American Ley Line trail. I’ll look into it via local Ley Line maps.
Re the 1952 DC flap – I’ve read that Truman himself wanted to know what was going on and consequently consulted with some military officials. Of course this could be part of a military PR hoax, but it also begs the question: what if Truman really didn’t know what the military was up to? Would it be likely that a president would have been kept in the dark?
Evolution isn’t a subject I spend much time thinking about, but this article caught my eye a couple of weeks ago and I found it really interesting. I hadn’t realized that actual scientists (not just religious people) found serious faults in Darwin’s theory and some, in fact, reject it.
The most pronounced difference between Christian orthodoxy and Christian Hermeticism is of course their different stances towards occult practices. I’m wondering if there are also consistent differences in their approach to theology and eschatology. Though I may be a tad overly optimistic in hoping for a simple answer to that question.
“BB, it’s a source of wry amusement to me that the true believers in scientism insist that electromagnetic radiation can’t be perceived by human beings. That claim was disproven much more than a century ago; there’s a huge amount of replicated experimental evidence that some people can see magnetic fields and many more who can feel them on their skins. And of course anybody with a ham radio license knows that EMR has harmful effects on the human body and needs to be handled with great care!”
Hmm… is this possible another case of ‘the cause isn’t known so the effect didn’t happen?’ (Such irrefutable logic!!!!! lol). I mean of course even if you can empirically show the effects of electromagnetic radiation… actually come to think of it, I suspect these finding were probably closed down by the electronics industry at some point…
Oh, I was hoping for something that gets a bit specific, like “stomach complaints are tied to guilt” or what have you. I’m already familiar with some of the “let’s change the energy/chi/life force flow” types and “here is an herb” types of healing (both of which I do find effective, by the way). Am I missing something that gets more psychological or spiritual in dealing with physical complaints?
I suppose if there are a lot of choices for this type, then I would love a short list of your favorites.
I’m thinking that there’s a streak of imperialism involved in Occultism Lite. In my encounters with it, I’ve seen a mishmash of Hinduism, Taoism, Zen, and a half dozen bastard sons of shamanism.
Now, yes, Occultism Heavy has a strange mix too – consider the Golden Dawn’s mix of Hebrew, Egyptian, Christian, and Neo-Platonic symbolism. But you also have to sit your butt down and meditate, and practice the rituals for years on end. It took a lot of work to create the system, and it takes a lot of work to get anything out of it.
Most of the crap I’ve seen floating around consists of filing the serial numbers off of another culture’s hard work, and using it to spice up our society’s basic materialism, with the intent of escaping work and the hard realities of a failing civilization.
In regards to American peasant cuisine, and especially apropos in light if the above discussion of Joseph Smith, I offer Mormon Funeral Potatoes. These are peasant cuisine because cattle and potatoes grow well in the area they are widely eaten.
Dice potatoes, add heavy cream and grated cheddar cheese, bake. Some folks add ham or bacon, corn flakes or potato chips. They are clearly heretics.
Also on the subject of Mr. Smith, recollect that he was a Freemason and landed himself in quite the pickle relating to Lodge matters.
Thanks, again, for another thought provoking essay. I think Idries Shah in his book “The Sufis” asserted that Sufism encompassed the occult or was essentially occult, irrespective of, and preceding Islam.
Beekeeper, thanks for that article in the Claremont Review! I have read it all the way down, since I am both a protein biochemist and a Christian.
My personal opinion is that both the origin of life and the Cambian Explosion are ill-explained by the known mechanisms of evolution. I have read many accounts for the origin of life (supercycles, RNA world, ocean ground fumes,…) and the Cambrian explosion (oxygen levels, snowball earth, discovery of vision,…) and none of them seems compelling, though all are plausible. The problem is they are hardly testable. What irks me is when people use these gaps in our knowledge to invoke God. I would rather invoke God for everything that happens, including where we think we understand the mechanism. It also irks me when people behave like they have a water-tight materialist explanation for our world.
This is connected to the problems with finding mutations that change body plans. Whatever was different in the Cambrian, compared to today, apparently enabled new body plans to arise. It is a widespread suspicion among biologists that specialist species enter into a “rut” and can’t leave it anymore. Either they survive with slight adaptations or they die out. There should be, then, more generalist and adaptable species, but these things are truly hard to test in species that breed slower than a fruit fly.
The idea that genes are symbolic instructions like a computer program is a trap that both many Darwinists and Intelligent Design proponents fall into. The best explanation for why this is not the whole truth is Lenny Moss’ “What Genes Can’t Do”.
Now, with regard to protein evolution, this is the area I know best, and I have heard the same Intelligent Design sermon that the Claremont Review article cites, but given by an Intelligent Design preacher back in 1995. It is complete shale. Protein evolution does not work in the aminoacid to aminoacid way they debunk. It works by duplication on all leves, from entire genes to alpha helices and beta sheets. Again, there is no water-tight explanation of the origin of all proteins in the first living cell, but we do know quite a bit more about protein evolution than the Intelligent Design people allow for.
In conclusion, and in answer to Onething: I consider the mechanism of Darwinian evolution beautiful, quite apart from the question of its truth, and it is clear that our host does so, too. It is the appearance of order from randomness, just like the hexagonal holes that appear when you cook rice, the waves on the ocean or ribbed clouds. The challenge that it presents to belief in a good God, which is not a challenge for our host, is that painful genetic diseases and infections are then inevitable. However, painful genetic diseases and epidemics exist in any case, whether you consider Darwinian evolution a good account of them or not, and you have to come to terms with them.
Hi John Michael,
Thanks! Hey, maybe it is just me but I see that science, religion and the occult lore all as being good tools for some purposes, but they don’t fit all scenarios, and attempts to shoe horn them in as an all or nothing source with which to provide real world answers to day to day questions just leads to odd outcomes. Well at least that is how I see things.
One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about your writing is that you accept that there are limits to most things including your own lore. The obsession about limitlessness that plenty of people fall into is just weird.
Nicely put and I agree. But as it pertains to the question of Darwinism, random chance alone, upon a genome or upon lifeless matter isn’t likely to generate the life forms. You, for example, are a surprising and autonomous being, but you are capable of acting with a goal.
Note that a self directed entity who learns as it goes but has desire and will could still give surprise.
In other words, there is a large gray area between what you suppose I mean (some kind of robotic plan) and a living form of evolution.
In fact, I am suddenly connecting this to JMG’s admonition that the opposite of one bad idea is another bad idea.
6-day creation ( bad idea in that it is way to simplistic)
atheistic Darwinism (utterly inadequate to reality)
Better idea – Don’t actually know, but a form of life unfolding that takes complexity and consciousness into account.
Sorry to continue a thread from last week, feel free to delete if not appropriate!
I have just read a very interesting study which shows that fetuses of more than 16 weeks react to music played intravaginally with mouth movements, more than they do to simple vibration. The study did not record enough fetuses to determine the exact age when they begin doing this (they pooled all fetuses age 16-39 weeks), but this is a simple question of repeating the experiment more times.
On the other hand, and relevant to last week’s discussion, it is impossible to determine with this method if they hear (but don’t react with movements) before 16 weeks.
The paper is free to read, and the sample movie should be, too, but apparently isn’t. If someone wants to watch it, I can send it to you.
Some of the delusions of omnipotence seems to be built into the language. I found myself saying “I let the time get away from me,” as if I had Time Itself on a leash! Then added “I didn’t notice it was getting on to 8 o’clock.” Which was more to the point.
Dear James M. Jensen II, What is the APA? Stoicism a characteristic of “toxic masculinity”??? The phrase is not one I use, but I would have said that part of the problem with what I think of as American regular guy culture is the expectation that a fellow can take it easy, that machines (or smiling brown people, or his wife) will do all the grungy work.
Dear Matthias Gralle, what is the basis for the electoral success of Mrs. Merkel and her party? I suppose that she or they must have policies and achievements that Germans like and appreciate.
About indigenous American cuisine, don’t forget TexMex which began as a happy combination of the foodways of the Mexicans who had settled in the Southwest, the foods of indigenous peoples, and the stews and camp breads cooked on cattle drives and ranches.
Another interesting essay, Mr. Greer.
Does “The World is not your B**ch” qualify for a framed, embroidered motto?
My index card for right now is “What is in front of you?” with the intention to determine which problems require action here and now, rather than spending mental energy on things which require action later, or no action at all.
I am not sure what to replace it with… but I have lots of blank index cards.
Right now, I am going to get off the internet and go finish a pair of wool socks.
Another place where occultism-lite, tempered by knowledge of limits, is useful is (unlike summer in Florida) suitable for the weak, sick, and old. I am limiting myself to natural magic, prayer, and the Lesser Banishing Ritual (when my throat and ability to stand on my feet allow it! So far, so good…) and even so, wonder if I’m putting any oomph into the LBR at all.
@JimW – I think Epictetus, rather than Marcus Aurelius. Marcus was raised to the purple; Epictetus was born a slave and had a very good handle on the life of the common folks. Indeed, of all classes. Get a good English translation instead of somebody who writes forsoothly; this is a handbook for living, not poetry.
Ladies and gentlemen, you may remember that I inquired whether modern college students were likely to know about the Gordian knot. A couple of readers who replied thought it unlikely. That’s not the only thing they’re unlikely to know:
Also, what’s this “8th-grade geography” foof? I had to learn all the states in 4TH grade.
JMG, please set up the Lakeland Republic in a hurry, we’ll need to retreat there!
Lady Kitten, re the ignorance of modern college students, try this one. I find it more than a little disturbing:
Onething – oh, ultimately it is Mind that creates life, and that’s an area way out of Darwin’s wheelhouse. I can imagine that there are gods, devas, angels who handle that kind of thing – then evolution and a degree of chance and randomness take charge, prbly with a nudge from Above now and then.
How about Marcus AND Epictetus, compare-and-contrast?
Angela Merkel is an incredible savvy politician, who managed to eliminate all competitors within her own party. The number of parties in the German parliament has meant that no government could be formed without her party (unless far left and far right were to unite); even the social democrats who had sworn not to enter a coalition with her before the 2017 election gave in after three months of chaos post-election. Effectively, she managed to stay in the middle and to be strengthened by opposition from both sides (e.g. 30% supporting at some point that Greece leave the euro zone, 10% supporting that Germany leave the euro zone, up to 45% supporting some kind of debt pardon for Greece).
In the end, of course, many people vote for stability and status quo if they see no alternative with chances to come to power.
Scotlyn, when I next write something on meditation, I’m probably going to have to add cycling meditation to sitting and walking meditation as an option. That is to say, thank you for this. (One of my teachers used to joke, in a typically erudite way, about a branch of esoteric Buddhism that has been neglected by Western scholars: alongside the Hinayana or Lesser Vehicle, the Mahayana or Greater Vehicle, and the Vajrayana or Thunderbolte Vehicle, he praised the Dvachakrayana, the Two-Wheeled Vehicle…
Matthias, she wasn’t mad at all. Do you think there’s any hope that Germany will voluntarily divide into two or three countries, or will we have to wait for the next big European war?
Prizm, thanks for this! Yes, exactly — and that’s one of the reasons why various forms of Occultism Lite have become so popular over the years. The next step, one that I’d like to help foster, is to make Occultism Lite function more as a gateway to serious occultism for those who are interested in the latter, and less of a barrier in the way.
James, so noted!
Patricia, zing! Bierce was good.
Christopher, yes, that’s unquestionably part of the same syndrome — but is it a cause, or simply another expression of the same underlying pattern?
Dropbear, that works! It’s equally true here in the US, for that matter.
Jim, the thing is, I get the disgust with the slimier end of Occultism Lite — that’s one of the reasons I don’t go to Neopagan gatherings, now that I’m no longer the public face of AODA and more or less obliged to show the flag. It really is pretty sticky…
James, a good point! You’ve caught the double-bind at the heart of the whole “create your own reality” schtick — you create your own reality, but the things you don’t like about your reality are always someone else’s fault!
Will M, a trail running due eastward in a straight line for miles? That’s a ley by any definition. Fascinating; I’ll look into it. As for Truman, the federal bureaucracies, military as well as civilian, have been evading presidential oversight since about a week after the first inauguration of George Washington. The Air Force engaged in several testing programs that were deliberately concealed from the White House — I’m thinking in particular of a spy balloon test that went ahead, over the Soviet Union, even though Eisenhower had flatly forbidden any such thing. (He ripped some new orifices in the assistant secretary of defense when the truth came out.)
When there was still a GDR, I read a book about how the Habsburg Netherlands and the United Provinces had developed so separately during the 17th and 18th centuries that they couldn’t stand to be united after 1815 and promptly separated again in 1830 (somebody from the Netherlands or Belgium would be better qualified to talk about this). The author (and myself as reader) wondered if East and West Germany, and North and South Korea, had already become too different to be reunited again.
In the case of Germany, those speculations seemed to have become pointless after 1989, but the maps for the Greens, Left and AfD in the recent European election show the old border as clear as can be:
I don’t know.
My own preference since before 1989 has been to create smaller units within the EU, which would also be based on historic precedent: Saxony, Franconia, Suebia, Bavaria, Burgundy or Lotharingia, Padania, Rome and Tuscany, Naples, Francia, Aquitaine, Languedoc, Catalunia, Castile, Andalusia etc. I see advantages, but no chance that would happen any time soon.
JMG, one correction – the trail I spoke of runs *southward*, not eastward, in a basically straight line for miles. I dunno if that makes a difference re the viability of ley lines.
Re presidents being out of the military loop – yes, I recall reading about JFK’s signing off on the CIA’s Bay of Pigs fiasco invasion while really not knowing a thing about what was really going on.
My dad bought me a copy of Bierce’s “Devil’s Dictionary” when I was in middle school. We laughed over it together then and I still treasure it for its sharp wit.
Though I’m a generic Neopagan, and a believer is Occultism Lite according to this article, I know that Wicca and ceremonial magick have much more powerful tools and teachings. There are many reasons why a person might not study serious occultism. It takes time and dedication and innate talent, as you point out. Others may never find the teachers they need. Still others may be focused on healing rather than investigating power.
Most religious traditions have room for both the adept and the everyday believer. Adepts take many forms. In Protestantism, ministers have studied ancient languages and read the Bible in its original languages. In Catholicism, priests are celibate thus hold an ancient magical power. Buddhism has both adepts who meditate much of the day as well as people engaged primarily in the world. All these religious traditions have a continuum between the adepts and the everyday, deacons and others who serve the church without being a full adept.
In the occult world, the adepts and the everyday worshippers seem to be either unaware or antagonistic to each other. It’s a shame; if they could find some way to unify, they could create an institutional religion that could shelter believers from long-term persecution.
“the United States of America is an imaginary country, a magic kingdom conjured into being by sorcerers in three-cornered hats and maintained ever since by sheer incantation. Why do you think we have all our schoolchildren reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every day? That’s one of the spells that keeps the chimera called America afloat. This country is as mythical as Middle-earth or Oz — and if the spell ever truly breaks, the consequences will be tremendous and terrible. .”
Some Synchronicity here. This comment is similar to today’s post on one of the dissident-right blogs:
His example that even a prison requires a similar sort of ‘spell’ is rather insightful, and so are the related comments:
“I too am a long time reader and (now) first time poster. The second paragraph is 100% accurate. Having worked in corrections for years, I can unequivocally confirm this. The instant more than a small handful of inmates decide they don’t want to follow the program it turns into a stalemate at best, and a full blown riot at worst. Negotiators are called in, tactical teams put on standby, off duty officers called in etc.. If the inmates decided to do this on a regular basis, prisons/jails as we know them would not be feasible.”
“Yeah, the prisoner example is really no different from the Government example following. Prisons require cooperation to minimize force/resources needed to control the prison/prisoners, but when the system gets out of balance, the overwhelming force of the State is applied (think Attica) and the prisoners are killed—at least until the old order is regained. There are even more horrendous examples of such in Latin America prisons where hundreds are killed by the Army that literally lays siege to the prison.”
“It seems to me that the second paragraph is obviously true. I would amend it only in that the prisoners form their own governing associations, the gangs, and they cooperate with the guards as long as the gangs are permitted to govern their members. This is all tacitly and mutually agreed to by prisoners and guards.”
Like Zman says in the essay, I’d agree that the breaking of the spell is well underway. Ten years ago I was carrying around a copy of the constitution & declaration in my pocket, and knew quite a bit of it by heart… Today, the commenter ‘Citizen of a Silly Country’ sums up my feelings about ‘America’:
“Yeah, I remember about five years ago or so (maybe more), it hit me like a ton of bricks: I want a divorce from these people. I was tired of arguing with lefties and CivNats. We were simply different people with completely different views on the the world. We couldn’t compromise because there was no middle ground. We hated each other but were living under the same roof. It was best for all if we just went our separate ways – whatever the costs.
Once you reach that point, it’s impossible to go back. Every argument just re-enforces what you already know, that it’s over.”
“Citizen, I agree. On top of everything else, we have been prohibited, by threat of banishment or arrest, from even being allowed to articulate our arguments and preferences in public.”
In going through some material, I remembered Christopher “Hareesh” Wallis’s “Near Enemies” series. Wallis is a scholar-practitioner of non-dual tantra and a recognized Sanscritist who does well-regarded translations from the original Sanskrit.
Here are a couple that may be interesting:
It’s a different path than western occultism for sure, even so, it’s interesting how much he has to say that’s similar, if not identical, to what JMG has been saying.
I guess Occultism lite is a mixed bag, from the totally ineffectual “magical resistance” to Southern conjure which is seen to be effective.
Beekeeper – Thanks for the link to the story on Darwin’s shortcomings (briefest summary: genetic randomness is real, but not enough). I wasn’t persuaded, but I found the article on Tucker Carlson in the same issue, and THAT’s impressed me. Here’s an excerpt:
Carlson and his show are the tip of the spear in a spiritual war, the most effective voice of the disaffected, despised, left-behind, forgotten America that our elites have manifestly failed. The ruling class knows this. Its leftist handmaidens know it. They can’t beat him on the field of ideas. Not simply because he’s smarter and wittier than they are, but more fundamentally because he’s right and they’re wrong. And they know it. [ “Tucker’s Right”, by Michael Anton ]
Carlson appears to be free of “delusions of omnipotence”, calling out the limits of our projection of power (hard or soft) into the world, and our limited ability to absorb the world’s poor, yearning to live in a peaceful society ruled by law (while breaking laws to get here and populating violent gangs). He’s unlikely to run for office, it seems, but here’s hoping that he inspires someone who does (or, perhaps, someone running for re-election).
John Where do you put Alcoholics Anonymous it has drawn on some of books you mention and attracted thinkers like Huxley It has provided me with enormous emotional latitude and balance. Although I know many that go far off the beam demanding that it is God’s will
Beekeeper, biologists have been challenging the notion that Darwinian selection is responsible for all evolutionary change for decades now. Stephen Jay Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium is one of several solid alternatives. It’s a lively field — despite which I still think anyone who wants to talk about evolution needs to start by reading and thinking about The Origin of Species, as a starting point. (It’s also a very well-written book!)
Spice, well, since the various mainstream Christian sects disagree about crucial elements of theology and eschatology, your chances of a simple answer are indeed slim!
BB, I suspect it’s more the influence of the industry than anything else. The effects are quite easy to quantify, which is why there are questions about them on ham radio license tests…
Jessi, I don’t happen to know of literature that connects specific psychological issues with specific medical conditions, but I suspect it’s out there. Back when I used to work as an aide in a nursing home, the other aides and I had a good idea of what a patient’s personality would be like as soon as we found out their diagnosis — for example, if you got a patient with MS you knew they’d try to get you to do things for them, whether the things needed to be done or not, because they like the sensation of being catered to. But I don’t know if anyone’s synthesized that sort of thing.
Cliff, in some cases, yes, indeed, there is. In others, not so much. Syncretism is not always imperialism — it can simply be a matter of finding things that work and going with them.
BoysMom, sounds tasty to me. Thank you — and yes, as I’m sure you know, Bro. Smith’s Masonic career is well known and discussed among Freemasons.
Robert, interesting. I wonder whether other Sufi shaykhs agree with that.
Chris, no argument there. The notion that any one set of mental tools can make sense of the whole of existence would be laughable if it didn’t cause so much preventable misery.
Patricia M, hmm! You may well be right.
Sylvia, that would indeed make a nice cross-stitched item for a wall. How about “finish the socks first” as a reminder? 😉
Patricia, that’s also a valid point, of course. The saner forms of Occultism Lite are very well suited to those who for whatever reason aren’t up for serious occult study and practice.
Your Kittenship, the Lakeland Republic will have to set itself up; politics is way outside my range of competencies…
Matthias, the problem there is that your proposal would likely result in transferring even more power to the EU, and thus to an even more artificial superstate. I’d rather see lots of independent nations — but then I don’t live over there, and it’s up to those who do to decide how they want to run their political affairs.
Will, south is also fine. It’s the straight line that’s telltale. Yes, the Bay of Pigs is another good example.
Tomriverwriter, er, did you notice that my post made exactly the same point you’re trying to make here?
Jason, thanks for this! Political power is always magical in nature, and can be dispelled in the same way that it’s cast. If people are beginning to realize that, things may get colorful in the years ahead.
John, hmm! Thank you for this.
Bridge, got it in one. As with anything else, there’s a spectrum from the really effective and useful to the total waste of time.
Edgar, if it works for you, then it works. That particular path isn’t one I’ve ever needed to explore myself; I’ve known some people who’ve benefited immensely from it and others who haven’t benefited at all. As usual, there ain’t no such thing as One True Way…
Onething & Others concerning evolution.
For at least the last 25 years it has been known and agreed upon by practitioner geneticists that mutations are not random. Mutations accumulate at higher rates at certain locations based on: folding pattern, stabilization structure, transcription frequency, and nucleotide sequence. What this means in practice is that a species mutates in the direction of selection. Think epigenetic change and Lamarckism.
The media and education system provide dangerously incomplete information on this subject.
I don’t really find Darwinism to be a beautiful theory. Unless the consciousness that underlies all reality is taken into account, and how can it not be? then it always seems a bit incoherent.
What I find particularly jarring is this problem: All the incredible and perfect life forms we see were somehow constructed out of trillions of mistakes. Copy errors are mistakes, and it is one of the many marvels of biology the mechanisms that the cell has to watch for errors and also to repair them. Huge important life function – prevent copy errors. Lots of effort and energy go into this.
And yet it is this very mistake, which mostly does injure the organism and render it unfit, that somehow gave rise to gobsmacking perfection in its millions.
Which means that there is no actual driving force toward anything. Life has no real mechanism to arise. It just happened against all odds. You just wait for enough mistakes to happen and you get an elephant.
I can see where some people might find it rather anticlimactic to have God go around in his mini spaceship and magic wand and wave his hand at the speed of a hummingbird’s wings calling forth all the millions of creatures in 6 days. He must have sat and pondered that project for many millenia.
So how as a Christian do you see all this?
“I can imagine that there are gods, devas, angels who handle that kind of thing – then evolution and a degree of chance and randomness take charge, prbly with a nudge from Above now and then.”
A fine viewpoint, but it does mess with the ‘absolutely no direction or goal’ dogma.
Thank you for the anecdote. I have heard occasional examples here and there, but they are always anecdotes like that, never a comprehensive system. If I stumble across one, I promise to pass it on. 🙂
There’s a fundamental problem with attacking Darwin as a way of discrediting evolutionary thinking. Nobody in the field regards Darwin as correct in every detail. He’s known to be quite wrong on a lot of things; some of that is stuff he didn’t know, like Mendelean genetics, and others is just stuff.
Why do people keep making that mistake? I have a suspicion that it’s because most of the people attacking him are literalists: they regard the Bible as the literal, infallible Word of God, and tend to project that idea onto other documents.
Understanding that nobody in any branch of biology regards Darwin as correct, or for that matter even very interesting, would be a major challenge to significant parts of their world view.
Darwin is interesting as the person who put a lot of stuff together, some of which had been in the air for a long time, and got the general public interested. He’s got a number of useful examples, but otherwise is completely irrelevant to modern evolutionary theory.
For example: does anyone care what Darwin thought about species creation? No. If you want to learn about what modern biologists think about that you start with the population geneticists of the 20s and 30s, that is, Wright, Fisher, Haldane and others. That’s where modern ideas start about what a species is, not with Darwin.
Re: personality and disease
I found your comment about MS interesting. You’ve just described one of my nieces.
I’d speculate that at least part of the reason for the American tendency this post is describing actually has nothing to do with the US per se and is instead coming from a level or three up from the one Spenglerian High Cultures operate on (i.e, it’s related to the mythic images that the High Cultures try to replicate). Bunyan and Superman are firmly American, but that kind of larger-than-life figure has a history here that well predates European colonization – I don’t see that much difference between them and figures like Coyote and Hiawatha.
This makes reasonably good sense for whichever deep culture I brushed, which has a strongly fractal view of spacetime; I could see “all the levels above reflect what I do, so I can act and the higher levels will reflect this and give me what I want” as a fail state of this. I’ve also heard scattered reports, usually from out west, about something that may or may not be the same thing but is probably in a similar category either way: a sensation that’s something like being simultaneously very small under the sky and expanding so that you are the horizon. (Quite a few of these experiences seem to come while driving a motor vehicle solo – especially motorcycles. My impression is that driving a motor vehicle has some sort of magical effect [trance induction?], which may have something to do with that.)
If that’s the case, the longer-term residents (who themselves would have gotten here either on small boats or through a somewhat narrow path through the ice cap, which might have led to similar experiences when they first arrived) might have had practices/advice intended to counteract this tendency; I wonder if there’s any record of such.
(The Faustian infinite expansion worldview absolutely isn’t helping here, mind. Additionally, my instinct is that there’s probably at least one other contributor, one that feels suspiciously like the usual descriptions of the Qlippothic form of Tiphareth – possibly something relating to Christianity?)
Archaic, thanks for this. Can you recommend a source on the nonrandom nature of mutation that’s accessible to the intelligent layperson?
Jessi, somebody’s going to have to buckle down and do the work at some point…
John, the MS personality is far and away the easiest to describe, which is why I used it. Diabetes has a personality type, too; so does high blood pressure; so do several other common illnesses of the elderly — but they’re not quite so easy to set out in words.
Username, fascinating. Thank you for this!
JMG said: “If unlimited immigration from other parts of the world is good now, why was it bad in 1492?”
We seem to be getting way off topic here and your question may well be rhetorical (and I fully agree with your observation), but in my mind the answer lies in two things: political correctness (PC) and the myth of progress. The paragraphs about land claims which are recited daily in Ontario public schools is the legacy of the former Liberal government which was always trying to fall in line with PC – even if it is not consistent or even logical. Respecting land claims is PC; so is keeping the immigration doors wide open. But when we put the issues within the context of ‘progress’, then I see a narrative that says something like this: “progress is inevitable and for the most part good, but there has been collateral damage on the way and in Canada it was our Indigenous peoples who have been ‘burned’ by progress in the past and continue to get burned. That’s why we have a huge reconciliation process going on and continually remind ourselves that we are on ‘their’ land. But to push the immigration doors closed even a little bit would be like turning the clock back and, of course, that is forbidden”… and all critical thought is to stop at this point and all words are to be in line with the above – unless you want to be criticized as a ‘knuckle-dragger’!
I, for one, am happy with the acknowledgement of land claims (even though it clearly was composed by bureaucrats and lawyers rather than mages wearing any shaped hat!), but would love a serious open debate about the pros and cons of current immigration policies and levels (as if any politician would have the stones to open such a debate in such a cosmopolitan country – unless the economy turns really sour, the public is looking for scapegoats and a demagogue is in power, in which case all bets are off).
Regarding mutations and evolution, I work in evolutionary biology and figured I would chime in and hope this little lecture isn’t too off topic or annoying:
Heavily used genes have the highest mutation rates, because the act of reading through them exposes them to more potential to get roughed up and changed than having them sitting packed away quietly not doing as much. So an organism that turns a gene way up because it needs the product of that gene has a higher chance of generating a new variant, including variants that are better than the original.
Genes often change copy number as well. If a gene is bad at a function, but can do it, it can get duplicated up several-fold to make more of its product, which then ups the mutation rate for that gene since it is a correspondingly larger target for mutation. I have actually *watched* this process unfold in a *single* petri dish of yeast in an experiment I did in grad school: a single cell founded a very slow-growing colony on bad growth medium, one of its million-or-so progeny duplicated the relevant gene up ~10fold and grew faster across the plate, and then one of THAT cell’s progeny invented a better version from one of those duplicates that it only needed one of and the copy number collapsed back down to one as it grew much much faster across the plate.
Regarding ‘punctuated evolution’, there are a few very fascinating things that can throw a previously stable genome into chaos and cause sudden bursts of innovation during evolutionary time, some of which are only just being understood. One is when a new ‘mobile element’ (think something like a virus, but that only spreads by splicing copies of itself from place to place within a genome from generation to generation rather than spreading from organism to organism in an environment) comes into existence or an old one evolves to be more ‘infectious’. It will suddenly ricochet all over the genome, shoving itself everywhere it can get into. This can disrupt multiple genes or change their function, and it makes the genome as a whole unstable and subject to big rearrangements or duplications caused by misfiring repair systems. Eventually the host species adapts against it and it quiets down and stops spreading, and a lot of the little things ‘die’ and start falling apart. An actual majority of your genome is composed of the dead degraded husks of these things, eventually silenced by your cells but in their heyday churning everything up in their wake, and some of their shrapnel does vital things for us.
Another is what’s called a ‘whole genome duplication’ – you go from having 2 copies of every chromosome to 4! We and many other organisms can’t deal with this but some can. Most plants simply don’t care that much if this happens to them, and while most land vertebrates can’t deal with it a lot of fish can. Over time, the genes shuffle around, some of the extra copies are lost, and you wind up going back down to having 2 copies of every chromosome but having a *lot* more genes, because a lot of genes didn’t lose the extra copies and those extra copies are free to diverge from each other and gain new functions. This happened at LEAST twice along the line that lead to all vertebrates away from our common ancestor with starfish, another time in the ancestor of all ray-finned fish, and yet another time only 50 million years ago in the ancestor of salmon! Plants can also sometimes do this when they make hybrids with other plants, a trick that animals are much worse at.
Another is something that is JUST being discovered that occurred relatively recently in the great ape lineage, and while we can tell it happened the how and why is not really understood yet. It’s more difficult to see than the other things, and so far has only really been seen in our group, probably because we like studying ourselves. Along the line that lead to gorillas, chimps, and us, but not orangutans, for reasons we don’t really understand medium sized chunks of DNA started moving around from chromosome to chromosome without changing what was in them, just shuffling the order around. Some of them duplicated when doing so, and these chunks of similar sequence in different places turn out to make the repair systems misfire, with very high rates of gene gain and gene loss compared to other lineages. Several of these unstable chunks with lots of gene gain and loss turn out to be the biggest differences between us and chimps, and new ones that have arisen within our species are also statistically associated with autism.Z
My point being, the sorts of processes that generate new things over evolutionary time and their sheer creative power are often woefully poorly communicated, and new ones are constantly being discovered.
>> A fine viewpoint, but it does mess with the ‘absolutely no direction or goal’ dogma.<<
Yeah, it does, at the root. But to return to the garden analogy, you as garden-god, set the perimeters for your garden, seed it, etc., and wait for it to grow. That, in a sense, is the only “goal”, growth. Your garden then grows, doing its thing randomly (within your set perimeters of course), and that’s the Darwinian part. Of course you as the garden-god might do some weeding now and then to make sure things don’t get out of hand to the extent your garden is destroyed. And if things do get out of hand … well, you might decide to scrap your failed garden and start over again. That’s definitely not a Darwinian perspective.
This analogy might seem silly, but, you know, as it is above, so it is below. I imagine we can discern quite a bit about divine processes by observing earthly processes.
It occurred to me that among all those trillions of galaxies out there and all their multi-trillions of accompanying planets, odds are that there exist whole galaxies without any planets at all that can bear biological life. Big, lifeless galaxies. Very anomalous, but odds are they exist, just like that tiny patch in your garden that didn’t produce cherry tomatoes. That would be an example, I suppose, of the results of the randomness set in motion by the original divine seeding.
Data point: I have MS (relapsing-remitting type, pretty well controlled, for now; no future guarantees.) I find the feeling of being catered to deeply uncomfortable. It feels embarrassing to have other people do things for me that I can do for myself. (Except dishes. My husband does most of the dishes, which I hate, while I cook. The arrangement suits me fine. Well, and I like it when he starts the water for my tea when he gets up early. Is that catering?) Overall, being capable and useful is an important part of my self-image, to the point where losing such function is one of the things I dread the most about the potential future progress of my disease. Your description of the MS (elderly?) personality type fills me with visceral horror. Could the pattern of liking to be catered to somehow be an outgrowth of, or reaction to, the loss of that piece of identity? I’m also pondering Scotlyn’s comments from last week on auto-immune diseases and boundary issues. Clearly I’ve got some meditating to do, though I’d rather think about just about anything else. (I know, an obvious directional indicator… Sigh.)
–A long-time reader and regular poster, anonymous for privacy on this one
Your comment on how “America “ is a myth Is apparently another thing you and David brin agree on.
In his book “the postman” a major theme is how the enlightenment or America is something that you have to believe in for it to work. The main antagonist called it “The big lie.”
Diabetes has a personality type, too
I seem to recall you once saying that one of the personality characteristics of diabetics tend to obsess over irrelevant minutiae while fudging more important details. Did I remember that correctly or am I just generalizing from my own experience as a diabetic and attributing it to you?
I suppose when you talk about “crushing” occultism you were referring to the “Great Witch Hunt” at the end of XVI and especially in the XVII century. In this aspect I like the interpretation of Fernand Braudel where he mention this process as one part of the economic, social, and ideological control of the peasant world to re-conquer it and include it in the new socio-economic order of capitalism and states. This was accomplish through the “Diabolization” of anything outside the established churches, the control of the state (burocracy) or the scientific narrative (included in the others two).
“Diabolization” is worse than “heresy”; you could be an heretic, belong to other “wrong” religion or sect (for example be a catholic in protestant regions or viceversa); of course they are dead wrong and not treated as equals to the “right” citizens, but you are not so dangerous for the “human race” as the witch and sorcerers with theirs “satanic” rituals that are inherently “depraved”.
For Braudel the wizards and sorceres were independent individuals of the “Old World” living outside the power estructures of the churches and the estate, with great influence in the peasants, and for this reason they must be tortured before killed as example and warning for all the dissidents (in the same vein is the theory of Foucault). For Braudel it was one unavoidable phase of the “March of the Progress” to a much more controlled peasantry.
Enclosures, money, debt, army, police and schools will finish the job, that will be repeated in all the european colonies all arounf the world.
Spengler spoke about the war between the “soul” against the “spirit of money”, he said in the “The Decline of the West” says in the vol 2 chapter 5:
“Though the economic history of every Culture there runs a desperate conflict waged by the soil-rooted tradition of a race, by its soul, against the spirit of money. The peasant-wars of the beginning of a Late period (in the Classical, 700-500; in the Western, 1450-1650; in the Egyptian, end of Old Kingdom) are the first reaction of the blood against the money that is stretching forth its hand from the waxing cities over the soil. […] Money aims at mobilizing all things. World-economy is the actualized economy of values that are completely detached in thought from the land, and made fluid. The Classical money-thinking, from Hannibal’s day, transformed whole cities into coin and whole populations into slaves and thereby converted both into money that could be brought from everywhere to Rome, and used outwards from Rome as a power.”
The “Great Witch Hunt” was a part of a much more complete attack against the “Soul” and “Blood” of the old world by the Money, and the peasant’s war (as that of 1525 in Germany) was one phase of the process that always end, in the ascending phase of civilizations, with the triumph of Money over Blood, at least for some centuries…May be we are seeing its decline (as Spengler said)
@JMG and Will M
Not strictly speaking a comment on ley lines, which I know nothing about, but your conversation has reminded me of an interesting observation made by archaeologist Barry Conliffe, which is that in the continent of Eurasia, the mountain ranges run mainly on an east/west axis – this facilitates migrations along what might be considered one’s own “climate gradient” for vast distances. He compares this to the primarily north/south running mountain ranges of the American continent, which inhibit such vast migrations by presenting two sets of barriers – one is a height barrier, one is a “climate gradient” barrier. At the very least this means that the geographically easier north/south migration routes in the American continent require considerably more cultural adaptability in learning to make use of radically different climate zones than the east/west migration routes of Eurasia.
Re making music on a ukulele: It is an unjustly underrated instrument.
Re evolution discussion,
Stephen Beuhner has gathered some interesting material in his books about the different ways in which individual virus infected and bacterial cells swap packets of genetic information (including bacteria using viruses to handle the swapping). It certainly doesn’t SEEM random – given that they seem to concentrate on swapping the most useful information including the genetics for resistance to various antimicrobials, antiseptics and the metagenes for learning resistance in environments where use of antimicrobials and antiseptics is high. This swapping also doesn’t just happen within species but between species and even genus.
Of course, whether it is the will of the bacteria/viruses driving this evolution or some other will is open to question.
I think we will have to separate the question of the beauty and of the truth of Darwin’s theory. I consider it beautiful, independent of whether it is true, while you don’t, and I don’t think we will make any headway there. The classical example of Darwin’s finches on Galapagos serves well: I consider it beautiful to imagine how one or two finches arriving on those deserted islands, riding on a wave of random mutations, diversified and filled up all the ecological niches available. It is like the board game Go or the Game of Life, where very simple rules lead to complex patterns. While I don’t presume to know God’s mind, I don’t find it at all hard to imagine that this contrast of simple rules and complex outcomes would please God, too.
With regard to its truth, I don’t like arguments of the form “I can’t imagine how such a complicated thing could ever happen on its own, so there must be a hidden cause”. The development of a human being (or any other living being) from the moment of conception to adulthood is breathtakingly complex and yet (mostly) works out fine. After centuries of intellectual effort, we now have some grasp of how it happens, but we still certainly don’t understand all of it. Somebody in the 19th century would have been just as justified in invoking a divine miracle for the development of each human being as for the evolution of species. The difference is that for practical reasons we cannot perform experiments on the evolution of species with the same ease as for development of individuals. Still, there are tons of experiments and observations that suggest Darwinian mutation and selection can explain drastic changes in appearance and even speciation.
Note that I don’t to claim to know how many phenomena Darwinian evolution explains, and that modern biology accepts several mechanisms in addition to mutation and selection (genetic drift, epigenetic markers, regulation of mutability etc.). In my personal opinion, the time scale for the origin of life and for the Cambrian explosion has not been sufficiently explained by the known mechanisms, but I don’t like to localize God to the gaps of our knowledge. As I understand it, God is present in the development of each baby just as in the development of species.
As I said before, the Darwinian explanation of inborn diseases, parasites and epidemics is a problem for a believer in a good God because they are inevitable consequences of mutation and selection. However, this problem doesn’t disappear when you deny Darwin’s mechanisms. In the 18th century, the Lisbon earthquake made many people doubt the goodness of God, and that was well before natural selection was talked about.
The article that Beekeeper linked to is not much about Darwin. I’m guessing you didn’t read that article. The author clearly was being as respectful as possible, and was abandoning belief in neoDarwinian theory because of much more modern books, mostly Darwin’s Doubt, which I highly recommend. If anything, he went out of his way to not be dismissive of Darwin himself, whom he clearly admired.
You say the mistake of criticizing Darwin gets made all the time. I haven’t much seen it. Sure, it may be a minor and I think unavoidable small aspect of someone’s book or essay, but the great majority of the good critics spend their time on molecular biology, epigenetics, and perhaps fossils. It tends to be focused on the knowledge that has come out since about the 80s.
To JMG: You complain about the distance between everyday believers and adepts. You admit that your term “Occultism Lite” is pejorative. I point out that this gap is a normal part of institutionalized religions, and suggest that if believers and adepts could find common ground, they could create an institution that could protect both from attacks by the other two belief systems.
I ‘d like to relate some experiences that had something in common with the sensation pretentious_username described: “a sensation that’s something like being simultaneously very small under the sky and expanding so that you are the horizon.”
When I was in high school, I had the good fortune to be invited on two long backpacking trips along the John Muir Trail. The trail is very well marked and was not especially crowded, so on some days I hiked alone for hours at a time, the rest of the party being strung out ahead and behind me. Toward the ends of these trips, after the pack was lightened from eating most of the food and my body was in good enough condition to meet the physical demands without strain, there were periods when I experienced feeling like a very small part of a much larger whole. Since the larger whole presenting itself to my senses was a stunningly beautiful and magnificent landscape stretching to the horizon, and an apparently healthy ecosystem, being a tiny part of it felt just fine.
Looking back on these low-grade mystical experiences, I see that they were strongly embodied. They were generated partly by a runner’s high from prolonged exertion at a high altitude, plus hours and days of immersion in the visual, aural and tactile sensory inputs of a summer in the High Sierra.
Years later I was in the throws (sp?) of an unrequited romantic passion. I lay down on my belly on a grassy field, fantasizing about the object of my desire, and the whole earth became the body of my beloved. If I had been male, I might have tried to fornicate it. From what I’ve read of romantic poetry, this experience of the beloved becoming the whole world is not uncommon.
More recently, I sat down to meditate by a creek, and after looking and listening for awhile, I began meditating on the hydrological cycle. A shift occurred in my mind. From being a mental concept it became a direct experience in my energy body. Without losing my awareness of my body, I was one with the drops of water in the clouds, the snow falling in the mountains, melting into the streams, flowing into rivers, sinking into the earth, welling from springs that fed the creek I was sitting by, flowing west to the ocean. All one thing. I saw it in my mind and felt it in my body as one process, one entity. If I were from a prescientific culture, I would probably have experienced this as communing with the god or nymph of the stream. Instead, I felt a direct connection with the hydrological cycle, flowing through me as if I were part of it, as indeed I am.
These experiences were not ego-inflating. They were experiences of profound connection to a greater whole, coming through my imagination and my flesh.
When people spent more time outdoors alone without distraction, they probably had these kinds of experiences more often. They seem to arise naturally and don’t require any particular preparation or aptitude. I would think that for hunter-gatherers, this sense of connection with the environment was so frequent that it was taken for granted. When we read stories that come from indigenous people, we will understand them better if we keep that in mind.
I’m nowhere near qualified to take on that project…. yet 😉
Based on my extensive study of the fallacies of evolutionary explanations across multiple disciplines, I find it very difficult to believe that there is any empirical evidence of the non-randomized nature of mutation – that is, evidence derived from the actual direct observations of mutations.
Whenever this line of actual experimentation is attempted, the mutations are invariably random and destructive to the phenotype of the species. The many generations of failed fruit fly experiments are Exhibit A here – nothing has ever resulted from introducing mutations other than a badly deformed fruitfly.
In all likelihood, the evidence you cite is entirely circular in nature. That is, the scenarios you cite involving alleged folding pattern, stabilization structure, transcription frequency, and nucleotide sequence at certain geographical locations is entirely speculative; and non-random mutations are simply assumed to explain the speculation in entirely question-begging fashion.
If I am wrong about this, and some form of direct empirical observation of mutations is involved, I invite you to correct me.
The linked mini-review makes decent compromises between accuracy, information density, and comprehensibility. It also came up quickly in the search engine and is not behind a pay-wall. If the article gets a little thick in places just skim until it becomes readable again. A further search of PubMed for a couple of hours but did not bring up anything more descriptive. The search was simply a slog through papers where authors were careful not to upset anyone by modifying the Modern Synthesis. However if the mini-review and references do not convince or satiate you, please let me know and I can attempt to find foundational or review papers on subjects like: Horizontal gene transfer, Host-parasite coevolution, Transposable elements, and Gene regulation.
Unfortunately I do not know of a book to recommend.
@JMG I’m not Archaic nor privy to that individual’s sources, but I’m somewhat familiar with the work of James A. Shapiro, a scientist who has done a great deal of work demonstrating the non-randomness of mutation, and the “intelligence”** if the genome, and also shares all his work THIS side of the dreaded paywall on his university page -http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu
He has written a lot of this work up in a book called “Evolution for the 21st Century”. I think his paper titled “How Life Changes Itself: The Read Write Genome” (link below) is accessible and fascinating. He also wrote a series of articles intended for the lay thinker in Huffingtin post round about 2013 IIRC… Which give a good accounting of the ideas without the technical jargon. They’re listed in his U of Chicago publications page. https://www.google.com/url?client=internal-uds-cse&cx=011384946451046217786:f8oiwuqtaui&q=http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/Shapiro.2013.How%2520Life%2520Changes%2520Itself-%2520The%2520Read-Write%2520%2528RW%2529%2520Genome.Physics%2520of%2520Life%2520Reviews.pdf&sa=U&ved=2ahUKEwi48oOupcviAhXNUhUIHf6WDlAQFjAAegQIARAC&usg=AOvVaw2DlIgOPZhKgpDe57yvlJaE
** He resists coming right out and saying the genome IS intelligent, but hints that it certainly appears to be, and has gathered much evidence to that effect.
Pretentious Username wrote, “I’ve also heard scattered reports, usually from out west, about something that may or may not be the same thing but is probably in a similar category either way: a sensation that’s something like being simultaneously very small under the sky and expanding so that you are the horizon.”
Having gone camping with my Dad each summer in almost every one of the 48 contiguous states, I distinctly remember that feeling in the West. Chickasaw, the Painted Desert, the Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park and Arches National Park are the places I remember feeling it. Oddly humbling and ego-reinforcing at the same time.
But the most startling experience I ever had of that minute/all-encompassing awareness was while driving out of the Soviet Union during the regulatory vacuum that followed the failed coup in 1991. Waking up by an unknown tributary meandering through the Volga or Dnieper basins, I thought the sky had never been that immense before, nor the land so sweepingly vast. Then, suddenly, I was standing at the center of the universe, experiencing everything that had ever or would ever matter from the edge of that little river out to the horizon. Medieval paintings with their lack of perspective often capture this sense of limitless space with a focal center on a fortified town or the garden of Eden or lines of pilgrims converging on a saint.
Perhaps topography that stimulates that experience of frail but awesome omnipotence also stimulates the drive toward limitless empire. Does Germany have places that trigger the same unlimited sense of self?
Jim W said,
“It seems as though more and more people are growing more and more disconnected from reality with each passing day!”
Reality bites. I can’t watch the Trump bashing mainstream news. I can’t watch alternative news anymore because crap has gotten so bad it affects me psychologically. Where am I supposed to turn when my society is sick and psychopathic? I can’t handle reality anymore. Ironically, I’m finding myself beginning to gravitate to reality TV for some strange reason. I am starting to get why most of America wraps themselves up in entertainment and celebrities.
Is the genome intelligent or are we just looking at epigenetics?
The “we’ve never observed evolution” argument? Really?
Ron, a good cogent response to my rhetorical question! Thank you.
Tony B., many thanks for these. You’re right that they’re not being communicated well to the lay public; I try to stay informed on the more important new trends in the sciences that interest me, and this is all new to me.
Someone, that’s a really good question I have no idea how to answer. It may be that the subset of MS patients who end up in nursing homes tend disproportionately to fall into the “cater to me” category — I could see their family members getting unbearably tired of being asked to do endless iterations of makework of the “the things on that mantelpiece need to be rearranged — no, the little cat statue should go all the way to the left, and the vase next to it — no, a little further away…” variety, and finally put their less-than-loved-one in a nursing home in a desperate attempt to have their own lives again. (I wish I was exaggerating. I knew MS patients who would hit the call button every five to ten minutes all shift to get the aide to move something or get something that the patient was perfectly capable of doing for herself.)
J.L.Mc12, I read The Postman back in the day and rather enjoyed it. He was a lot less shrill in those days.
James, that was part of it, and another part is a tendency toward certain kinds of self-indulgence. I’ve known a lot of elderly diabetic men in lodges, and all of them sugar-binged extravagantly at the snack-and-coffee hour after the meeting; one lodge I knew had five elderly members, all of them diabetic, and they’d take a half gallon thing of ice cream, cut it into five slices, and each one of them would eat a slice. They never understood why I didn’t want a slice!
DFC, that’s a large part of it, but it was a much more complex and comprehensive process, involving sweeping changes in intellectual life as well as the suppression of peasant culture. I tend to think Braudel is right to see it as a matter of economic and cultural regimentation, but a class analysis, it seems to me, is only part of the picture; there are other and, in a certain sense, deeper things at work as well…
To host & all commenters on the general theme of evolution.
There are many shades of difference between Darwinism, neo-Darwinism, the “modern synthesis” which linked Darwin’s natural selection mechanism directly with the genes discovered by Mendel, and the idea that random mutations of genes could entirely account for the variability upon which natural selection could get to work. There have been many challenges to this idea by scientists, including Lynn Margulis, who developed theories around symbiosis, which she thought a much more credible source for variation than random genetic mutations. The thing I like about her work is that it centres around the wilful acts of organisms, which might be attempts to consume another organism, or mate with it, as the source of symbiotic events, rather than genes, which do not appear to be will-ful.
James A Shapiro, however, treats the genome as if it is an organism within an organism – and has coined NGE (natural genetic engineering) to describe his discoveries about how genomes modify themselves in non-random, and possibly purposeful, ways. He credits Barbara McClintock, the discoverer of “jumping genes” as well as of “self-healing” genomes in maize, with being the giant shoulders he stands on.
While I agree that there are huge problems with the “lots of random mutations and voila – here we all are” neo-Darwinian style of explanation, it is not at all obvious to me that these problems cry out for there to be a “maker” or a “designer”. For the reason I stated above, which is that clearly, we are NOT made, and NOT designed, we are begotten. If anything, what the evidence calls out for is one, or more, progenitors.
That is to say, if Lynn Margulis was right to ascribe agency to bacterial participants in symbiotic events, and Shapiro was right to ascribe [the appearance] of agency in the genome’s processes and events, then agency and will are already all over the shop.
And, to me, the arguments between creationists & design proponents vs materialist evolution proponents look EQUALLY like efforts to avoid noticing the presence of agency and will everywhere in nature and place it “outside” nature, either in a Maker God, or in a “Random Events Generator”.
@DT I definitely recommend reading at least one of Shapiro’s papers, and then answering that for yourself! 🙂
@ David, DFC, it’s not the first time you make me think, although I have never had enough reason to reply to you. Thanks for your comments generally, and thanks for the reference to Braudel.
To all – here is a nice “segue” which links two topics of ongoing interest – evolution and pregnancy…
It appears that the evolution of the placenta may owe quite a bit to viral gene insertions arising from infections… Surprisingly, there may be a number of DIFFERENT infections that led to a convergent placental mammality in different lines.
“One of the most iconic examples of retrovirus “domestication” is the gene Syncytin-1, which originates from a retroviral envelope gene. In primates, Syncytin-1 was repurposed for the development of a multinucleate tissue layer known as the syncytiotrophoblast, which separates maternal and fetal bloodstreams in the placenta. Remarkably, Syncytin-like retroviral proteins have been reported to be expressed in the placentas of nearly all mammals, yet Syncytins in different lineages derive from at least 10 independent infections by unrelated retroviruses. These findings have led to speculation that the co-option of unrelated ERVs in different species was a driving force underlying the evolutionary diversification of the placenta.”
Someone With MS –
I was mistakingly diagnosed with MS because of fatigue issues. It turned out to be something else, but to the point, MS sufferers are often inflicted with an absolutely bone-crushing fatigue the likes of which are difficult to imagine unless one has been there. I’ve known a few MSers who at times literally can’t get out of bed. They may look healthy enough, but they feel like they’re living on the gravity-plus a hundred surface of Jupiter.
My guess is that there are MSers who simply are accustomed to having people do things for them out of necessity, and even when they are capable of doing things for themselves, the fear of triggering a massive onslaught of fatigue by motion and activity keeps them immobile – that, and deeply ingrained habit of course.
One thing that helps me when I’m dealing with my own problems of relative immobility is to remember that even if I can’t be as physically active as I’d like to be, I can always contribute to the world’s spiritual well-being via the state of my own spiritual consciousness, prayer, meditation, etc. That’s no small thing.
I wish you well.
Jmg, I can second that!
“The postman” was definitely not shrill, but I did find it somewhat preachy, for lack of a better word, it is definitely a book with a message that brin wants to share.
I’d like to read more of the history you’ve outlined. I’ve found and noted the titles of the books you’ve alluded to by Yates and Teeter Dobbs, but want to ask:
What works can you recommend on:
1) the history of occultism from the Renaissance to now, and
2) the early history of the United States.
I’m interested in histories that avoid “making the past justify the self-image of the present.”
Actually, if you could also recommend general works of history which avoid that trap, I’d be much obliged.
Christophe, as far as I know, there aren’t such places in Germany. I myself didn’t encounter any place where I would have that feeling of vastness. Even the Northern German lowlands don’t have the kind of humbling vastness to the same degree as the West of North America.
If it’s not too off-topic, I’m wondering what sort of effects the clumsily-worded incantation Ron mentions about land claims is having on the body politic here in Ontario. If the pledge of allegiance helps hold America together, surely invoking “this land ain’t my land, this land ain’t your land” before conducting any business the baizo deem important ought to matter here.
All it would take is someone watching the polls who has the motivation and resources to shake up existing power centers. The majority of Canadians have wanted to reduce immigration for many years now; even the state-run media’s canned polls show that. It’s just too useful to the powers-that-be to keep opening the flood gates ever wider. If there were moneyed interests inclined the opposite way, they could use Maxine Bernier’s new party to seize power in an afternoon. I admit it might take a major economic crisis to get our betters to break ranks like that, though.
Re: Darwin, etc.
I read it. I like to think that I know enough about the way evolutionary biology is practiced today to recognize B.S. when I see it. I not only found it unconvincing, I found it flat-out wrong on multiple points and levels.
I will simply reiterate what I’ve said before: the only way to protect yourself against this stuff is to learn enough about the subject to recognize when someone is trying to take you to the cleaners.
In the modern sciences, this may take a considerable amount of time and attention.
You might want to think about why you assumed I didn’t read it.
“As I said before, the Darwinian explanation of inborn diseases, parasites and epidemics is a problem for a believer in a good God because they are inevitable consequences of mutation and selection. However, this problem doesn’t disappear when you deny Darwin’s mechanisms.”
I always find myself surprised at this problem of not being able to reconcile evil with a good God, which is quite common. I never make any headway.
Whoever said we lived in heaven?
Christians can speak of some sort of fall to explain it, but something here is not right! For me, things only make sense in terms of reincarnation, and by the way, if you’re concerned about how there can be a good God when kids are born with cystic fibrosis, how can there be a good God if even one person is going to be in outer darkness for eternity?
It also is the case that aside from occasional earthquakes, almost all of the evil we suffer comes from other human beings. A lot of people blame God for that, too.
One lack I see more commonly in western religion than the east, is the expectation that God will run the playpen forever so we can all be happy. I don’t think we can achieve happiness until we take responsibility. Our souls are not fit for heaven until then.
Tony B et al,
re mutations. Tony, the incredible rapidity with which your yeasts found not a random mutation but exactly what they needed indicates to me that it was an episode of directed mutation. This is something I have read about – magazine articles maybe? – in times of stress, these simple organisms turn on mutations, in that part of the genome where they are likely to find a solution, and then they later turn off the mutations. Pretty staggering.
So it isn’t random at all. It’s self directed.
As to the other question about mutations occurring more heavily in certain parts of the genome, that makes sense, and it would reduce the crazy large search space, but I suspect it is still a very large search space.
Ben: A US breakup during/after the War of 1812 would have been… interesting. One comment: I am by no means convinced that the South would have been the more theocratic nation if the US broke up that early. There’s two reasons for that. First, at least one of the ancestral cultures of the American South (the Virginia aristocracy) originally cared relatively little about religion; that changed sometime before 1900, driven by some combination of the Great Awakenings and effort by Southern reactionaries to ground slavery during the first half of the nineteenth century (the latter is IIRC the single largest reason the Southern Baptists exist). An independent South in the 1820s would still have had a social order more inspired by the old Great Chain of Being, and the international pressure towards abolition would have endured, but they would have had much less domestic pressure towards abolition. (I really wouldn’t be surprised if “promoting abolitionism” was a capital crime there, though! The other flipside is that in your timeline the Southern Baptists might have collapsed in the 1890s or 1950s – they wouldn’t have had their status as regional power opposing national culture to fall back on.) Second, a split in the 1810s would have occurred *before* the collapse of the most theocratic group of the day – the socially conservative Congregationalist (read: Puritan) churches in New England. I suspect they would have still collapsed before the twentieth century after a split in the early 1800s – IIRC the Unitarians were gaining members before the Second Great Awakening proper – and that goes double if Congregationalist missionaries still had enough access to try and fail to convert the Borderer Midwest – but they might well have had enough political power to shove through more theocratic changes first. (This is even more true if you’re looking at some sort of multiple split where New England isn’t in the same country as New York/Pennsylvania.)
Will F: I’ll stay out of the discussion about ley lines in New York – I’ve never been there – but as I’ve noted before here I strongly suspect the next Awakening epicenter is going to be in Texas, probably but not necessarily in the more northern parts of the state. (Denton always gave me the impression it was built on holy ground, and I sensed something about the Piney Woods above and beyond the sipapu exit I’m pretty sure is in the area. On the other hand, there’s that piece of smut I saw once that caught my eye because the author had clearly experienced something like what I did, and it was set closer to Houston.)
(Which brings a thought from a couple of weeks ago to mind: Robert Mathieson occasionally talks about an old Indian friend who encountered incongruous greenery in the desert flanked by a pair of trees? That may have been a sipapu entrance or the equivalent – the basic imagery of “portal to Somewhere Else flanked on either side by a guardian” is one I really shouldn’t have taken as long to notice as I did.)
Onething: Evolution’s really shockingly simple – it’s just the iteration of trial and error in a context where “error” is defined as “did not successfully reproduce”. (You’ll note that nothing in that definition requires a biological substrate; I’m strongly inclined to think that the memeticists were onto something, with a decent chance that said something is roughly the same thing that occultists point to when referring to the astral plane. Which, in turn, gives us the supreme irony of Richard Dawkins making a strong scientific argument for the insufficiency of materialism – memes in the original sense of the term [and for that matter what the term turned into via memetic drift*] are not strictly material, after all. But I digress.)
I’d guess there’s slightly more to it than that and said something is “all permutations will be tested for viability” or similar, but then AFAICT higher plane influence does in fact look like HMCS Random Factor when viewed on a strictly lower-plane level so. (Which is to say that the hardline materialists aren’t exactly *wrong* when they write off magical effects as “just random chance”, just missing the point.)
* – new!meme is to the astral? plane as viruses are to the physical/etheric.
“DFC, that’s a large part of it, but it was a much more complex and comprehensive process, involving sweeping changes in intellectual life as well as the suppression of peasant culture. I tend to think Braudel is right to see it as a matter of economic and cultural regimentation, but a class analysis, it seems to me, is only part of the picture; there are other and, in a certain sense, deeper things at work as well…”
I’ve been looking into this for a while. How the english enclosures proceeded along with the suppression of the peasant ‘folk’ culture, to make the population at large the ‘proletariat’, who robbed of their folk culture can only aspire to climbing the hierarchy of civilisation (whether church or the materialist hierarchy by getting rich and joining the aristocracy).
I tend to agree that the process is far more complex than simply class warfare (although that’s certainly a large part of it), the peasantry itself I believe, or at least large parts of the peasantry are captured and inspired by the sheer outreach of the faustian dream of transcendence and the rationalisation f transience and actively help partake in the suppression of the ‘magic’ or folk culture (as well as then helping to suppress the folk culture of other countries)
This is partly why responding to the environmental crisis is so difficult. our relationship with the earth cannot be understood on a coldly rational or institutionally religious way, but must be actively experienced though a folk culture/ magic. Someone of long uprooted ancestry such as me, has quite a difficult time reviving his folk culture…
@Pretentious_user_name. “Evolution’s really shockingly simple – it’s just the iteration of trial and error in a context where “error” is defined as “did not successfully reproduce”…
I don’t think people quarrel much about the “natural selection” side of evolutionary theory (the “error” side of your definition). Breeders exist and selectiin is a critical parr of tgeir art.
The central quarrel is over who or what is attempting the “trials” (in your formulation) or introducing the “variation” aspect of the Darwinian model, the potential for new forms to appear from which the next generation is selected – by its ability to reproduce.
1. Neo-Darwinians seized on Mendel’s work which gave them the Random Nber Generator they wanted – random mutations in genes with lots and lots of time *might* gradually introduce novelty and variety into populations which can be “pruned” in later generations.
2. Some scientists question the idea that random mutations can produce novelty, since most random mutations appear to produce illness or injury if they have an effect at all. Margulis introduced and documented the idea that symbiosis (the joining of two previously unrelated organisms into one) could instantaneously introduce a new form which natural selection could then get to work on. She proposed the eukaryotic cell as arising from several symbiotic events and introducing complete novelty. And by HER account the trials in question were carried out by purposive acts of organisms. The organisms weren’t trying to “design” a better cell, they were simply going about ordinary lives, but from their purposive interactions a new type of cell arose and WAS better able ro do certain things.
I like this idea that purposive, will-ful beings, are living and interacting and generating novelty all the time, not necessarily by planning to accomplish X result, but X resulting anyway, because of the capacity of will to innovate and surprise and try new ways of doing things.
I also like that it makes LIVING an organism’s central business, not REPRODUCING (as many evolutionists begin to assume almost as a side effect of thinking about heredity).
3. And of course there is the Descartean style of religious explanation – the Paley’s watchmaker idea that has to place a maker/designer outside of the collection of will-ful beings that nature IS, in some Maker God running the trials, or at least setting them up, and of course, wiping out his mistakes with floods and such.
(There are other religious ideas that involve beings who sire and/or give birth to worlds – these make much more sense to me as, clearly, worlds are begotten, not made.)
So, what do you think is behind the “trials” which are reiterated to produce the evolution of new forms?
I am at least as interested as anybody else in seeing truly directed mutations. Thank you, Archaic and Scotlyn, for the papers! The thing is, people use “non-random” in different ways. In many cases, heightened mutability in response to some environmental stress is like bacterial movement: they swim in one direction, and when conditions are bad, they tumble a bit and then swim in the random new direction. One might say they take the decision to move in a better direction than before, but the choice of direction is still random.
In the most interesting cases, specific genes or classes of genes are particularly exposed to mutation in response to a stimulus. To me, that is more like a house owner who says to the architect: “There is something off in this room. Something needs to be changed”, but doesn’t tell the architect exactly what needs to be changed. As I am professionally interested in proteins, I see this more clearly in that this “induced” mutability does not specify which amino acid should be changed to which amino acid.
So all these non-Darwinian mechanisms are tremendously interesting; I could add the changes to each neuron’s DNA that seem to occur during emryonal development. However, I have not yet seen any experiment that shows a “wilful”, truly directed change to DNA. In addition, in organisms with a sequestered germ line, like us, one needs additional evidence to believe these changes will be transmitted to offspring.
In the end, I think one can only say that certain changes can be _interpreted_ as wilful or purposeful, but existing experiments cannot prove that.
“The “we’ve never observed evolution” argument? Really?”
Your snarky remark illustrates the fact that the dominance of the evolutionary perspective in our culture is substantially based on empty ridicule of the opposition. This sort of intellectually barren ad hominem rhetorical approach, combined with an immense tangle of logical circularities and empirically unsupported speculations cutting across many fields of scientific endeavor, is pretty much all that props up belief in the evolutionary paradigm. There is no need whatsoever for any intellectually self-respecting person to subscribe to it.
And if you want to debate substance, then yes, please show me one example of evolutionary speciation, let alone an evolutionary transition between higher-order categories of biological classification, that has actually been observed to unfold as it happened. For that is what science is based on – direct, empirical observation.
Decades ago, I remember I was reading about the reptiles that were the ancestors of mammals. I was considering to be a paleontologist, and to study the origin of man by proxy, via its older ancestors, to evade problems with Christians (yes, the Christian scientists were right about feathers not being modified scales, but I digress).
Only bones are preserved normally, and there is nothing, as far as I know, on soft tissue regarding mammals.The main features to track the evolution of protomammals are the bones of the head–skull, jaw, and specially the ones that would become the small bones inside the inner ear.
There was a general tendency in the whole group for simplification of structure of the head, with bones fusing. This left me baffled for years–why was the whole group kind of shifting into mammals? The bone fusion is very old; since fishes, the number of bones is getting smaller (in our lineage of course; fishes are still the same). I guess I brushed it under the carpet, but it always was there, annoying me.
I still don’t like the idea of filling gaps with devas, but… oh well.
To the split up of Germany. I see some lines of cultural division:
* Former GDR (culturally similar to the Visegrad Group)
* Bavaria (was always an own culture)
* Former West-Germany without Bavaria
But not seeing any kind of split up any time soon.
In the constitution there is no option for the dissolution of the Union given as far as I know.
@ Someone with MS – Firstly my very best wishes for your health and well-being.
You said this – “I’m also pondering Scotlyn’s comments from last week on auto-immune diseases and boundary issues. Clearly I’ve got some meditating to do, though I’d rather think about just about anything else.”
And I just want to be sure that you understand the trend of my thinking, because the last thing I want to do is hand people whips to beat themselves with (which is often what happens on the obverse side of the “you create your own reality” meme)…
What I am “ruminating” on is the sense that there is often a resonance around certain common themes in a society – you could think of it as trickles arising in very different places that gradually meet up, merge and flow together more and more strongly into a single stream of meaning. And meaning is only one dimension of what happens, so, you could also say that my reflections are solely focussed on one dimension of what happens to us, but, by the same token, are wilfully ignoring many other equally important dimensions that also influence what happens. ie – please take all this with a big grain of salt when applying to your own experience – unless you yourself see good reason to consider it.
To the specifics of my own thoughts they concern a resonance that I observe developing at the current moment in time, between a culture that is struggling to decide how necessary a boundary is, and who exactly it should unite and who it should divide, and individuals whose bodies are likewise in a state of cellular contention over these same issues. But a resonance is not a cause, and the takeaway should not be that people with boundary issues will get autoimmune diseases. I do not mean that at all.
However, if you do go ahead and meditate on this, please know that resonance goes in two ways. If your meditations, plus any other actions you take in this regard, lead to a healing breakthrough for you personally, I have reason to believe that that breakthrough then “hums out” as a new note of possibility that is now that much more available to the society as a whole, as it entrains itself to a slightly different aural environment.
So, with that said, do as you will, and my best wishes.
That’s fascinating about diseases having personality types. I wonder if it isn’t like… possession, almost. My family is rife with diabetes, and I recognize the type, for sure (always have ice cream and candy around, always complaining about how crappy they feel and how their meds aren’t working right, but somehow not making the connection). But not all my diabetic family members fit that type– and the ones who don’t, also tend to be the ones who manage the disease through diet and exercise, never end up on the drugs and insulin, and don’t develop the nastier complications. My grandmother and great-grandmother were like this– hard-working and self-disciplined to a degree that would stun most people.
I’m in the early stages of the disease myself, and can see (and viscerally *feel*) both of those paths open to me, and calling. I am sorely tempted to self-indulgence, even knowing well where it leads. I think a lot about my grandmother’s iron determination *not* to get beaten by disease, and wonder if I have that kind of power in me, and how to draw it out. Still wavering, still trying, sometimes failing.
Might be helpful to think of the disease process as– a thing, a being, a mind and personality to itself, much as we Orthodox think of demons, or the passions. THEN it’s not me. It’s a thing that has insinuated itself into my thought processes, and can be striven with! Seems worth the experiment… Thanks for providing a new angle on it.
@Jessi Thompson Agreed that southern and Cajun cuisines are “peasant cuisines” my fault for leaving them out. These leads me to the interesting thought about how Southern and Cajun cuisines have been embraced throughout the United States in recent years. I see this as part of the constant quest for authenticity that befalls many modern Americans.
America was the origin place of the early 2000s hipster subculture which has been compared to pioneer/settler cultures. Instead of overtaking lands the hipster culture conquered other’s ideas, lifeways and other cultural artifacts in the name of authenticity (instead of Manifest Destiny). Although through gentrification the hipster culture then took its pioneer spirit and actually settled into areas previously abandoned by the mainstream white culture.
No one argues whether we have observed microevolution, yet macroevolution and microevolution are the same process. You can’t deny one without denying the other.
Artificial breeding of new species serves an experiment that proves the theory, and this has been done many times.
We can talk about the half life of materials being millions of years and talk about the formation of stars and galaxies although we have never watched either process from start to finish. Speciation is similar in the sense that, for the most part, it takes a good long time, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know what is going on.
However if you are looking for examples:
It is famous the pont of view of Karl Popper and others about the Darwin’s theory and if we can say it is a “scientific theory” or not. Karl Popper said:
“Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research program—a possible framework for testable scientific theories”
Karl Popper pointed out that Darwinism says that the living beings that survives are those best adapted to the ambient (survival of the fittest) but the only way to know how an organism is better adapted is…..because it survives. There are no descriptive mechanism, no way to know in advance if any specie will last or not. The theory, in esence is almost tautological, and that is the reason he names it a “metaphysical research program”. And IMHO that is right: Darwininsm is “metaphysics”
Karl Marx had an ambivalent view of the darwinian evolution because in one hand it eliminates any need of teleology, but on the other hand he “smelled” the origin of the Darwins’ theory, when he said in a letter to Engels (1862):
“It is remarkable how Darwin rediscovers, among the beasts and plants, the society of England with its division of labour, competition, opening up of new markets, ‘inventions’ and Malthusian ‘struggle for existence’. It is Hobbes’ bellum omnium contra omnes and is reminiscent of Hegel’s Phenomenology, in which civil society figures as an ‘intellectual animal kingdom’, whereas, in Darwin, the animal kingdom figures as civil society.”
Darwin took, from Herbert Spencer, the term “survival of the fittest” which was a social, not biological term. In fact the darwinian theory is more a “Biological Spencerism” than the Herber Spencer theory is a “Social Darwinism”
People think of Darwin as the first who “invent” the evolution of species, but there were evolutionists long before Darwin as Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Frederick Gerard, Heinrich Georg Bronn and of course Lamarck.
If we look for example one of the first controversies around the evolution between the Lamarckism view and Darwinian view of evolution= the giraffe; the Darwinian (or neo-Darwinian) view talk about small random mutations that are subject to the natural selection; and then starting from an animal with “short” neck, like an Okapi (frequently taken as similar to he giraffe ancestors’) we would end, small steps by small steps, to the existing giraffe…..
Well, but the long neck of the giraffe does not came alone, it needs thousands above thousands of anatomical and functional changes, all very very “fine tuned” to give the giraffe the life they live now and survive.
“For rumination, semi-solid food [pulp, mash] must be forced over 3 m high from the reticulum stomach to the mouth!” (Bertelsmann Lexikon der Tiere 1992,p. 259.) For this, the giraffe is equipped with a special muscular esophagus. “The uniform circulation of blood to the different body parts makes several adaptations of the heart, arterial and venous systems necessary” (Marcon and Mongini: Die Grosse Encyclopedie der Tierwelt 1988, p. 303). To avoid bloodlessness by the movement of the head from drinking water at ground level to – seconds later – 5 m height, this animal is equipped with appropriate muscular arteries. Furthermore, it has a complicated system of valves in the veins, as well as a “wundernetz”, a rete mirabile, of blood-storing arteries at the brain base. Also, the lengths, powers/strengths and functions of the skeletal, muscle and nervous systems, etc. must be precisely in tune with each other, if the animal is to be capable of survival.”
“When standing upright, its blood pressure must be extremely high to force blood up its long neck; this in turn requires a very strong heart. But when the giraffe lowers its head to eat or drink, the blood rushes down and could produce such high pressure in the head that the blood vessels would burst. To counter this effect, the giraffe is equipped with a coordinated system of blood pressure controls. Pressure sensors along the neck’s arteries monitor the blood pressure and activate contraction of the artery walls (along with other mechanisms) to counter the increase in pressure.”
“The blood leaving the giraffe’s heart has to do more than just reach the level of the head, it has to be at a high enough pressure to pass through all the fine vessels, the capillaries, that supply the brain and other organs. To achieve this the blood leaves the heart at a pressure of 200-300 mm Hg [260-350 mm Hg according to Starck 1995, p. 206(2a)], which is probably the highest blood pressure of any living animal (Warren, 1974; Hargens et al., 1987). A giraffe’s blood pressure is so high that it would probably rupture the blood vessels of any other animal, but two mechanisms appear to prevent this. First, the arterial walls are much thicker than in other animals. Second, the fluid that bathes the cells of the body is maintained at a high pressure; this is largely achieved by the thick skin, which is tightly stretched over the body and which functions like the anti-gravity suit worn by pilots of fast aircraft.
…Another problem posed by the possession of a long neck is the large volume of air in the trachea, the tube that connects the back of the throat with the lungs. This air is unavailable for respiration and the space it occupies is consequently referred to as the dead space. The dead space has a volume of about five pints (2,5 l) in the giraffe. Since this air has to be moved each time the animal breathes, the rate of ventilation has to be increased to compensate for the reduced air flow. A resting giraffe takes about twenty breaths per minute, compared with our twelve and an elephant’s ten; this is a very high respiration rate for such a large animal.”
In rough numbers we are talking about some 25,000 protein-coding genes and due to alternative splicing 90,000 proteins, 200 joints, 300 bones associated with 1,000 ligaments and 4,000 tendons, 700 muscles, 100 billion neurons constituting the nervous system, 100,000 km of blood vessels etc. when we compare it with a “short neck giraffe” like the Okapi
We are talking also about a very big animal, with a pregnancy period 15 months, normally have only 1 baby each time (two is quite rare) and they start to reproduce around 10 years old and the life expectancy is around 25 years, so the number of giraffes and probably of their ancestors, was not in the range of millions but in the hundred thousands, so they are not bacterias and they do not have too many chances to “play” with the genome to achive the “right” result by random proof-and-error…
Some people have made some calculations to try to estimate the number of years to have such combination of “random” mutations converge all together in the same animal, and it is around zillions of zillions the age of the universe. Absurd
The other problem, which is also a problem not only for the giraffe but the major part of other genera as well, is = where are the “intermediate state” fossils?, where are the giraffes with the “medium necks”?, we have not found anyone after centuries of search, and we should see very large numbers of them, because we are talking about “small steps” during millions of years….
The evolution process is much more efficient than random, of course, completely goal-oriented, purposeful an “alive”, not random-mechanistic at all.
Sorry for the long comment!
@ Matthias Gralle
here is a list of all the bits of evidence for non-random genome events (natural genetic engineering processes) listed by Shapiro in his “Evolution for the 21st Century” – including references to the original work.
As a protein specialist, you may be especially interested in (or already familiar with) the work he mentions re the “cassette” system which seems to help with the creation of novel proteins – that is to say, a protein is modular, with different sub-domains, which are sometimes re-mixed to gain new functions. (please excuse my very much lay-person narration of this feature).
Also, as a person familiar with proteins, I wonder what you make of Stephanie Seneff’s speculations that the slow, insidious damage caused by glyphosate may arise because it is a molecule only very slightly differently shaped to glycine – meaning that if it is taken up instead of glycine, the protein made will be mis-shapen and reduced in functionality.
“In the end, I think one can only say that certain changes can be _interpreted_ as wilful or purposeful, but existing experiments cannot prove that.”
You are exactly right, which is why Shapiro only claims his evidence demonstrates non-randomness. He never claims it “proves” wilfulness. Of course, *I* (whose wilfulness and/or purposefulness ALSO could never be proven by any existing experiment), interpret it so, because of my personal inner experience of my own wilfulness and purposefulness, and my assumption that, as I am an ordinary product of this universe, there is no reason NOT to suppose that other beings experience themselves as wilful, and purposeful, even though that quality of experience can only be guessed at, not proven.
Meanwhile, I am reading a book called ‘Empire’ about the British empire, and I find there was eventually discussion and discord about the value of the whole enterprise:
“Now, working people – the value of whose labor was undercut by colonial enterprise and who provided the cannon-fodder for imperial armies – had a vehicle for their own anxieties about what was being done in their country’s name.”
So! Just as now with immigration and other policies, it was the upper classes who benefited from colonialism, and the working classes who were worse off because of it.
“You might want to think about why you assumed I didn’t read it.”
Because you said the article was about refuting Darwin, and it wasn’t. But if you just read the beginning, you might get that impression.
@ JMG – Reading your most recent essay, especially where you talked about vast wide open spaces, brought to my mind something you wrote from last October: In ‘America and Russia: Tamanous and Sobornost’ (October 31, 2018), you said,
“…That difference of time is mapped onto a wider difference, which has to do with place. One of the things that Spengler’s analysis stresses—and one of the aspects of his work that tends to offend Faustian sensibilities most strongly—is the way that specific great cultures are bound to specific regions of the world, and never quite manage to transplant themselves successfully to other lands. The home ground of Faustian culture is western and central Europe, for example, and whenever it has established its cultural forms or political control outside that region, the result is inevitably a layer of Faustian elite culture over the top of a very different cultural substrate. You can see this at work in both the protocultures we’re discussing; in New York and Saint Petersburg, the intelligentsia and the privileged classes go through the motions of European culture; away from the centers of power, in farm towns along the banks of the Ohio and the Volga, the European veneer is very thin where it exists at all, and something rooted far more deeply in the soil (and the soul) of the countryside comes close to the surface.
In his brilliant and neglected study God is Red, Native American philosopher Vine Deloria Jr. wrote at length about the spiritual importance of place. That’s something that Magian culture understood implicitly—notice the way that Magian religions inevitably orient themselves toward specific, geographically unique centers of pilgrimage—but that Faustian culture can’t grasp at all. To the Faustian mind, the landscape is a blank slate waiting to be overwritten by the creative will of the heroic individual whose deeds are the bread and butter of Faustian mythmaking. Note the way that Faustian cultures prefer to talk, not of place, but of space: not of localities with their own character and qualities, but of emptiness that, at least in our imagination, can be put to whatever sequence of temporary uses we happen to have in mind…..”.
The three ‘contenders’ you mentioned (religion, science, the occult) are all European transplants. I understand that Indigenous teachings/lore/practices (unless they managed to escape by being driven deep underground) were stamped out even more violently than European occult knowledge. I was wondering how and these Indigenous teachings might re-emerge. Also, historically speaking, did people in occult communities relate differently/better to the Indigenous peoples of North America? I apologize if I’m not making sense here, or if I’m relating apples to oranges or, more likely, apples to railroads.
Ben + Pretentious Username:
I don’t see the US breaking up if the British had decisively defeated it in the War of 1812. There wouldn’t have been any nation to break up. The British would just re-take the whole thing; i.e. we would revert to being a British Colony.
In re Germany:
I could see it breaking up at some point like B3rnhard describes, but this wouldn’t be the endgame. In a few decades these three states could all undergo their own breakups. Very likely, Germany could go through several iterations of breakups, and in a hundred or so years, have in essence reverted to the small kingdoms and dukedoms that existed before the German unification in 1871.
Also, similar breakups going on at the same time in France, Italy, Spain, etc.
I know it’s very late in the game but I’m going to add another plug for a focus on Stoicism, JMG…hope you’ll give it the full treatment in the near future.
I was given a small (beautifully leather bound and printed in England in 1915) edition of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations in 1976 and it’s been one of my most prized possessions ever since, something I’m sure I’ll leave to my son one day. Upon receiving the book I randomly opened to the following passage, which remains to this day a centerpiece of my spiritual practice. Easy to memorize and worthy of deep and abiding contemplation.
“Constantly regard the Universe as One Living Being having One Substance and One Soul; and observe how all things have reference to One Perception, the perception of this One Living Being; and how all things act with One Movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things which exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the contexture of the web.”
Thanks again for all the lively discussion this past week.
I’ve always wondered if the U.F.O. stuff is a kind of cover up for visits from beings from other planes. Claiming they are “from another planet” is a neat way of keeping people in the materialist reductionism, wok/consume paradigm and away from spiritual stuff
Grey “Space Aliens” is far easier to handle than Fae for the established narrative.. Or maybe I’ve read too much Jacques Valee , who knows
Also that bit about the US being a magic kingdom is one of the best political turns of phrase I’ve seen and it reminds me a bit of the magic soil or magic dirt phrase used on the Alternate Right
I’m not sure how much the spell will last myself , I think its toast by the mid 30’s but I could be wrong and such workings are far beyond my skills political or craft.
One the one hand, a prosperous technologically advanced society allows a greater variety of human flourishing, I’m thinking similar to a climax ecosystem. For example, the flute player in a hunter-gatherer tribe might, in our society, be a flautist in a symphony orchestra; the storyteller, a novelist or movie director; the maker of temporary shelters an architect, etc. etc. The downsides we know all too well; for anyone who can realize some specialized achievement, there are ten others who can do little more than survive half starved.
I think part of the answer is to become more powerful in our physical, mental and spiritual beings, as opposed to relying on prosthetics and artificial environments. Even if fossil fuels were unlimited, there’s something admirable about being able to regulate one’s body temperature rather than turning the thermostat up or down. Being able to communicate telepathically with your friend across the table would be more impressive than attempting discretion with surreptitiously exchanged texts. Making manipulative ads or sales pitches are skills of sorts; more impressive would be the ability to see through BS, no matter how cleverly presented.
Earlier I’d mentioned that science and religion ganged up on the occultists because they didn’t rely on dominance hierarchies. After thinking about this, I think it’s more accurate to say that anything that strengthens our personal powers also makes us less susceptible to false authorities. I say “false” because I have no beef with people who actually know what they’re doing, or who have such demonstrated integrity that you can reasonable trust their judgement in hard cases. Jefferson’s “natural aristocracy of virtue and talent” are the ones who can earn our genuine respect. Dominance heirarchies historically are anything but a natural aristocracy and would be especially threatened by anyone with a good BS detector.
Actually, the point about undirected genetic modification can be made more strongly. Living beings often respond to environmental conditions with changes in their own bodies or in those of their offspring – sex changes, body size changes, even fairly irreversible metabolic or behavioral changes. These are “purposeful”, since they happen in a certain direction, which seems to be the most adaptive one. They can be mediated by RNA editing, chromatin modifications and many other mechanisms.
The molecular machinery is all there to do “purposeful” editing on DNA, too, e.g. guided by RNA. However, I don’t know a single example of truly directed changes in DNA: when the organism alters its DNA sequence, there is always a huge amount of randomness involved, whether by scrambling, inserting, deleting, cutting and pasting or by yanking up the mutation rate. Please tell me if you know of any counter-examples, since I have spent quite some time looking for them. This does seem to be an important element to consider when thinking about population-level, long-term changes. One might say that for truly weighty decisions, living beings trust chance more than their own experience.
Dear Lathethechuck, I read the article about Tucker Carlson. The author is one Michael Anton, and the article is a lovely bit of special pleading. Carlson is “right” and his critics are “wrong”, nice bit of conflating political opinions with moral categories there. I would say that Carlson is accurate about some things, accurate as far as he goes about others and ill informed about still others. Before he presumes to give opinions about “feminism” and women, Carlson would be well advised, IMHO, to spend about a month minimum in some desperately poor inner city or rural area and see for himself what women with children are up against. BTW, the reason for not marrying men with limited earning ability is NOT because those men aren’t sexually appealing, but because most of us women are simply not able or willing to support the guy’s entire extended family.
And then there is this:
The vanishing America he so ably defends—the country of manufacturing jobs and a thriving middle class—is a commercial republic whose health and prosperity require a muscular foreign policy and strong defense. We still have interests and we still have enemies. Carlson sees this clearly in the case of China, less so when it comes to Islamic radicalism.
Michael Anton is Lebanese, apparently one more naturalized or first generation citizen from overseas who expects the USA to take up his hereditary resentments. Now, I personally have scant use or respect for Islam, but I am quite willing to live and let live and not go to war on the other side of the globe because I might not care for someone else’s religion. I like that “commercial republic” bit too. We in the USA are not Venice and not the British Empire nor Carthage either. A continental power must, I would argue, subsist by agriculture and manufacture, and live on its’ own resources as much as possible, just as China did for centuries.
Scotlyn: I’m not exactly sure where your disconnect is coming from, because I think we’re pointing at almost the same thing? I mean, I’m referencing selection as the process of independent agents (quite possibly down to the level of individual particles) taking actions with results, and some of those results entail the kind of unrecoverable failure that means the agent in question doesn’t pass on to the next generation. (It’s quite possible to have an effect on future generations on one level but not at another; an obvious example would be a famous artist who had no children.)
(I guess the issue could be the stepwise iteration of the universe? That’s self-evidently true to me, but it’s admittedly not a Faustian mindset. Or I didn’t make it clear enough that the trial-and-error actions were taken by individual agents at every scale?)
As for what’s responsible for the trials? My possibly-incorrect understanding is that the Law of Selection is one of the Deep Laws (which I’d analogize to the rules of a game as opposed to moves in said game), one that applies to every scale; if so, they presumably come from the Source. Note that selection is influenced from some of the other Deep Laws, notably the Fractal Law (roughly “as above, so below; as below, so above”) and the one I call the Law of Integration (above a certain level of complexity, agents tend to become components of a single agent on the next plane up; I suspect at an astrological level this is one of the things Neptune represents).
(Note: I’m quite familiar with the endosymbiosis hypothesis, and am inclined to think it’s correct, but I also suspect that it’s most accurately viewed as a lower-plane analogue of agriculture/animal husbandry.)
@ JMG: It makes sense that the group of people with MS who end up in nursing homes would be more heavily weighted with the difficult-to-live-with personalities than the total MS population. Still, it seems this should be true of all nursing home residents, no matter their condition(s). The fact that the MS type stood out to you and your fellow caregivers gives me pause.
@ Will M: Fatigue is such a difficult symptom to know how to approach. (My mother was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.) It’s so nonspecific- the experience could have purely physical causes, emotional, mental, even spiritual aspects, and I would expect that the experience of being severely fatigued would have effects on many levels too, no matter its cause. It’s an interesting point, that both you and Scotlyn make, that one’s personal spiritual efforts can reach outward as well as inward. Thanks for the reminder.
@Scotlyn- Thank you for the kind wishes, and for the care you take in making yourself clear. Don’t worry, I won’t take your ruminations and twist them into self-blame. (I don’t imagine that I have quite that much control over this aspect of my reality.) It is quite interesting, however, to consider how my experience and my response to it might be reflected both outwards and inwards. The fact is that in the thirteen years since I was diagnosed, I’ve spent a bare minimum of time actually thinking about my condition, since it seems both very frightening and frustratingly outside my control. Considering it from a boundaries perspective and as a possible intimately-scaled reflection of larger trends may allow me a starting point to come to terms with it. Seeing myself as a partner in a larger dance has been a fruitful perspective to take in other contexts; should be worth a try here too.
Thanks again to all who weighed in.
I did look carefully at Shapiro’s table. In all cases, some stimulus prompts an undirected and therefore, in a way, random change in DNA. One of several cassettes is inserted in one of many places. Like in my example of the house owner who says “do something about this room, paint it some other color, or put some other curtains, just change something, because it doesn’t work the way it is!” instead of somebody who comes into the room and decides it needs light colours because of the low ceiling.
Just as an example: immunoglobulin class switching is the closest thing to directed change in the table, but even there the paper Hong 2002 he cites says: “Cleaved single-strand tails will be processed by error-prone DNA polymerase-mediated gap-filling or exonuclease-mediated resection”. See the random part? More importantly, it does not affect spermatocyte or oocyte lineages and therefore cannot influence population or species level changes.
Anyway, thanks for this discussion!
@ pretentious_username Please don’t mind me too much. I do sometimes seize on a single word or phrase someone says and run away with that nugget straight back onto my own train of thought. If that seemed like a misunderstanding, I apologise.
As you can see, my train of thought has been focussed on the self-evident (to a wilful agent) activity of wilful agents in evolutionary processes, even though great effort has been expended in ensuring that wilful agency can play no part in any “officially” approved evolutionary explanation. Even though many scientists (and I only mention the ones whose work I know a small bit about – Margulis, McClintock, Shapiro) have spent a great deal of time in practice observing the actions of (apparently) wilful agents.
Now when you said “evolution is” I immediately went through your definition looking for the wilful agents that might be hiding in it, and I found them in the word “trials” – ie someone is trying something out.
But, of course, you have just one-upped me, by also locating wilful agents in the word “selection”- ie – those “independent agents (quite possibly down to the level of individual particles) who select one another from among the many, many who are born.
So, well and good. We are both thinking along the same lines… that is to say, there ARE wilful agents who try things out (trialers/experimenters), and who select one from another (choosers/selectors), and evolution is, among other things, a process arising from the interactions of those, and other kinds of, wilful agents.
However, remember that Will, and its powers, pertain entirely to the present. That is to say, wilful agents are not trying to have “an effect on future generations” or even to have “future generations”. (Well, a degree of planning may come into it for some parents, here and there, but, on the whole, not for very many). That is to say, the primary business of an organism is living. And it is in the wilful living and interacting of organisms that all events that create the future occur – triallings, selectings, matings, consumings, hidings, joinings, sharings, fightings – everything!
Now, in your comment about the famous artist who has no children (which subtly references the – IMO impoverished – idea that the primary business of an organism is *just* reproduction) – you hint at the problem I see with the more metaphysical iterations of rationalist materialist evolutionary theory. In my view evolutionary biology has made a wonderful study of Fate (ie the past history, in this case, of all organisms living on earth) that is comprehensive and documented. It then skips right over Will (whose powers only exist in the present, in organisms as wilful agents), pretending it doesn’t exist or is not important. But finally, it betrays the metaphysical component of rational materialism by positing a glorious evolutionary Destiny (future reproductive success) as the having of many descendants in future generations – making it seem that reproduction is the sole purpose of evolution, even, as in the famous philosophical work “The Selfish Gene” making it seem that reproduction is the sole purpose of organisms.
But, a commitment to that particular Destiny, as evolution’s “purpose”, in a circular explanatory fashion, confirms the metaphysically committed sort of evolution proponent in the fetishisation of DNA, and in the habit of providing every adaptation a “just so” story that references the effect of this or that innovation on an organism’s reproductive powers.
@JMG- I have to tell you that I am chuffed to have a name for my practice – Dvachakrayana – to impress with! 😉
Anyway, I just wanted to say that I have just re-read the bit of DMH where it references the ee cummings poem re the world of made vs the world of born, as well as explaining that the literal meaning of nature is “that which is born”… *smacks forehead*
So, now that I have gone and looked up the poem in question, I’d like to post it here for the consideration of others. With many thanks to yourself, for prompting me to look it up.
“‘pity this busy monster, manunkind’
“pity this busy monster, manunkind,
“not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)
“plays with the bigness of his littleness
— electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born — pity poor flesh
“and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical
“ultraomnipotence. We doctors know
“a hopeless case if — listen: there’s a hell
of a good universe next door; let’s go”
E. E. Cummings
Progress, the “comfortable disease” is becoming less comfortable.
@Jessi Thompson, and everyone else interested in the relation between disease and personality types.
This is fairly late on the cycle, so hopefully this will reach you, …
There’s already a field of study that organizes that knowledge within the current medical paradigm: Psychosomatic Medicine. It is a sort of interdisciplinary effort between physicians, psychiatrist and psychologist; its borderline heretic and I’d not be surprised if it finally punched its way into Pseudoscience(TM) any day soon.
IMHO, it is a bit hamfisted in the way it tries to make *everything* wrong with the body into the consequence of some clearly-identifiable mental/emotional cause… but the field is pretty young and they are fleshing out the rough draft of their metaphorical “cathedral”.
On the other hand, being a TCM practicioner, I am partial to the Wu-xing theory (translated as Five elements, or five movements). Which assigns one soul (with its distinct mental/emotional qualities) to each of the 5 main organs in the human body. While it does not assign specific personalities to specific illnesses, it provides a framework to reason about the imbalances of the whole being. By example, anger and frustration being the emotions of the Liver, angry/frustrated people may have a bigger tendency to develop illnesses where liver function is compromised.
JMG- I came across this library in Ireland and thought you and the commentariat would enjoy it. The Marsh Library holds the largest collection of 18th Century and earlier manuscripts on witchcraft and the occult. The library is essentially unchanged since the Enlightenment. The photos make me drool. I feel like I need to re-prioritize my life so I can be in an environment like that all day long. https://www.marshlibrary.ie/home/
The First Continental Congress met in Carpenter’s Hall which was a Masonic Lodge in Philadelphia. It’s owned by a foundation and you can still see the Masonic Seal and other symbolism in the building.
Philadelphia also has a giant Masonic Temple right next to City Hall. The gothic inspired architecture is stunning. Inside you can see original manuscripts where founding fathers signed as members.
I almost wept with joyful relief upon discovering this intelligent, literate, rare-as-rubies meeting place for polite discourse. Thanks to JMG and all of his thought-provoking commenters.
I am not sure the link below has much to do with JMG’s post, but I think it has a lot to do with why we, as humans, get into these messes. It is a lengthy review (if it wasn’t so long I would include many excerpts here instead!). The book ‘The Secret of Our Success’ wonderfully advances the view that our long passage from just-another-primate to world smothering dominance is due NOT to intelligence but to our ability to develop cultures. I suspect many here are thinking at this point “Well duh! So obvious!”, but this goes way past that. So much fascinating stuff I never guessed. Wish I had the book.
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