Monthly Post

The Kek Wars, Part One: Aristocracy and its Discontents

Every month or so since the 2016 presidential election campaign hit high tide, somebody has asked me to say something about the weirdest and most interesting aspect of that campaign: the role played in it by a diffuse constellation of right-wing occultists who united for a brief time under the banner of a cartoon frog. A fair number of my readers have probably encountered cryptic references to Pepe the Frog, the ancient Egyptian god Kek, a Euro-pop song from the 1980s titled “Shadilay,” and an assortment of online forums collectively known as “the chans”—,, and the like—in connection with Donald Trump’s victory. Those of you who haven’t, well, you’re in for a wild ride.

When the first flurry of requests for a post about what I call the Kek Wars came my way, I decided to wait a while before responding. My thought was that after a year or so, the losing side would get around to dealing with the fact that it lost, the tantrums would subside, and it would then be possible to have a reasoned conversation about what happened and why. One of the more interesting features of the 2016 election and its aftermath is that the tantrums haven’t subsided. That’s not quite unprecedented—as we’ll see, it has some very specific and revealing precedents earlier in American history—but it’s a good indication that something out of the ordinary is in process.

Even though the leftward end of American politics is still busy melting down over Trump’s election twenty months afterward, I think it’s time to go ahead and try to have that conversation. In order to make sense of what happened, though, we’re going to have to cover quite a bit of ground that has no obvious relation to cartoon frogs and internet forums. We’re going to talk about magic, but magic always has a political context.

Magic is the politics of the excluded. It’s also, in an inversion of a kind typical in such situations, the politics of the excluders. We’ll get to the latter point later in this essay; for now, let’s explore the way that magic becomes the default option for those denied access to the political process.

When most people have at least a little influence on day to day politics, and have some chance of getting their needs heard and their grievances addressed, they tend to neglect magic. This is true even if their influence is limited and others have a great deal more than they do. For example, the golden age of African-American folk magic was between 1900 and 1945—the period when Jim Crow laws were most savagely enforced across the American South, and various devices were used to deny African-Americans the civil rights they had theoretically been granted after the Civil War—and built on magical traditions developed by African-Americans during the era of slavery. In those eras when African-Americans had some access to political power—between 1865 and 1900, in the wake of Reconstruction, and from 1945 on, in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement—their interest in magic waned.

This makes perfect sense if you understand magic the way that operative mages do. (Operative mages? Those are people who actually practice magic, as opposed to speculative mages, who just theorize about it.) In the words of the great twentieth century mage Dion Fortune, magic is the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will. If you are denied access to any other source of power, you can still exercise power over your own consciousness; what’s more, if you do that and get good at it, you’ll find that some of the techniques you use to shape your own thoughts and feelings will also shape the thoughts and feelings of others, with our without their consent or knowledge. Magic thus becomes the logical fallback option for those who are denied any other way of pursuing their goals or seeking redress for their grievances.

Periods in which magic becomes popular, then, are periods when more people than usual are excluded from whatever mechanisms their societies provide for seeking redress of grievances. It’s important to realize that this isn’t a way of talking about familiar dichotomies such as democracy vs. autocracy. Competent dictators make sure that the people they rule have a variety of channels for making their needs and wants known, and quite often go out of their way to see to it that needs and wants that don’t threaten the regime are promptly met.  That’s why the Nazi Party created a whole series of new national parks and introduced paid vacations for most non-Jewish Germans, and why Mussolini’s regime in Italy forced employers to give regular wage increases to their employees. Majorities in both countries remained loyal to the regimes in question precisely because they knew they had at least as good a chance of having their nonpolitical grievances addressed as under democracy.

It’s equally possible, for that matter, for a democracy to make it impossible for the majority to influence the political system or make its wants and needs felt. There are various ways of doing this, but the most popular in recent centuries was given a useful label by Margaret Thatcher’s famous slogan “There Is No Alternative.” If the political establishment of a representative democracy decides that only one set of policies is thinkable, and all major parties sign on to that set of policies, it’s usually possible to shut down any discussion of alternatives even if the policies in question have disastrous consequences for most of the population.

This can be done even if there’s social mobility, so long as you make agreement with the policies in question the requirement for access to influence and wealth. Educational systems are the usual venue for this filtering process. Whether you’re living in the Chinese Empire and aspire to influence and wealth through membership in the mandarinate, or living in the British Empire and aspire to influence and wealth through membership in the imperial civil service, or living in the American empire and aspire to influence and wealth through membership in this or that corporate hierarchy, the same rule applies: your chance of fulfilling those aspirations depends on your unswerving allegiance to whatever set of ideas your superiors want you to have, which are in turn those that maintain your superiors in power.

As I’ve already hinted, this has been the case now for quite a while in the United States, and the nations of the industrial West more broadly. Among the privileged classes, their lackeys and hangers-on, and those who aspire to either status, the approved range of political, economic, social, and cultural attitudes is very narrow and very rigidly defined. Those who have influence and wealth can get away with violating those norms from time to time, so long as none of their rivals decides to use their strayings as a weapon against them. Those who aspire to influence and wealth, though, have to watch their every word and action, knowing that these are being watched by their rivals and superiors as well. Those who succeed in passing that test, who have talents and skills their superiors value, and who also have a larger than usual helping of old-fashioned luck, can hope to enter the lower circles of industrial civilization’s aristocracy.

Yes, I know that’s not a word that sees much use in that context, but it has more than a little to teach. As the term itself implies—it comes from the Greek words aristoi, “the best,” and krateia, “power, rule”—an aristocracy is a group of people who believe that they rule because they’re better than everyone else. The sense in which they consider themselves better is subject to all the usual historical and cultural vagaries, of course, but as an aristocracy ripens, those vagaries give way to an interesting uniformity.

Consider the meanings of the words “noble” and “gentle” in today’s English. Originally, those words meant simply “belonging to the upper class.” Similarly, consider the meanings of the words “churl” and “villain” in today’s English. Originally those words meant nothing more than “belonging to the lower classes.” Those details of linguistic history express the standard pattern just mentioned. Every aristocracy comes to believe that it’s morally superior to the people it rules. Aristocrats inevitably think of themselves as the good people, the morally virtuous people, and they just as inevitably work out an ornate code of virtue signaling that’s used to communicate their notional goodness to others of their class, and to exclude the rabble.

This matter of exclusion is of high importance. Every aristocracy is defined by who it excludes, but tries to excuse that definition in terms of what it excludes. Exactly what criteria are used as a basis for exclusion varies from culture to culture and from age to age. Not much more than a century ago, the US aristocracy was defined strictly by gender and ethnic markers—the highest circles of power were restricted to heterosexual men whose ancestors all came from northwestern Europe, whose cultural background was overwhelmingly Anglo-American, and who went on Sundays to the Episcopalian (or, more rarely, Methodist) church.

As times changed and the American aristocracy caught onto the dangers of excluding too many of the talented, the criteria of exclusion changed. Over the course of the twentieth century, political and cultural markers replaced ethnic and gender markers to a certain extent; while most of the people in the highest circles of power still bear a close resemblance to their equivalents in 1900—look at a group photo of the US Senate sometime—a modest trickle of women and ethnic minorities have been permitted to rise into those same ranks, so long as they embraced all the right opinions and shed all but the thinnest cosmetic veneer of whatever ethnic culture they or their immediate ancestors might have had.

The quest for ways to shut out the rabble has had far-reaching impacts. Consider the way that painters, sculptors, composers, and other producers of fine arts in America devoted the entire twentieth century to a heroic effort to drive away the large audiences their equivalents had in 1900.  Back then a gallery opening or the premiere of a new opera attracted the attention and patronage of the general public, and artists deliberately courted success along those lines; Giuseppe Verdi, one of the two supreme opera composers of the late nineteenth century, earnestly advised the man who became the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York to ignore the critics and pay close attention to box-office receipts instead.

What happened? In America, at least, the fine arts became a means of exclusion by which the aristocracy defined itself as different from the rabble. Paintings that any educated person could appreciate became the kiss of death for an artist’s career; what brought the prestigious shows and the financial rewards were objets d’art that looked like a dog’s breakfast the second time around, because no one outside the circles of the elite even pretended to appreciate them. In the same way, young composers were taught to avoid writing anything an audience might enjoy listening to: no melody, no tonality, nothing that would appeal to anybody outside the narrowing circle of the cognoscenti. We can’t have the rabble enjoying our music!

During the twentieth century, maneuvers of this kind ensured that only the privileged classes and their lackeys and hangers-on paid any attention to the fine arts, and so allowed the privileged to use talk of Andy Warhol’s artworks, John Cage’s music, and other products of the same kind as caste markers and signals of their status. Mind you, at this point the quest to drive off the audience has reached such a pitch in art schools, conservatories, and the like that it’s succeeded in driving off most of the privileged classes as well. Painters, composers, and the like are creating works these days solely for each other and a tiny audience that mostly belongs to the academic scene. We’ll probably have to wait until the student loan bubble pops, and takes most of US higher education with it, before artists remember that art is an act of communication, not of exclusion, and that it’s their job to reach out to their audience—not the audience’s job to struggle to wrestle some drop or other of meaning out of an opaque and unappealing product.

That’s only one of the many ways that the American aristocracy and its equivalents in other Western industrial nations have closed ranks against the rest of their societies. The dramatic popularization of magic over the last four decades, I suggest, is a straightforward response to that closure. People turn to magic, again, when they have no other way to pursue their wants and needs or to get a hearing for their grievances. It’s because the privileged classes of the Western industrial nations shut themselves into a self-referential bubble that the gospel of positive thinking got dusted off and put back into circulation, that magic-centered religions such as Wicca rose to unprecedented levels of popularity, and that the venerable traditions of Western occultism have had a heyday unlike any they’ve witnessed since the end of the Renaissance. That has had consequences we’ll be discussing later in this series of posts.

For the moment, though, I want to concentrate on the other end of the equation, and talk about the inmates of the self-referential bubble just mentioned. Retreating into such a bubble is a common occupational hazard of aristocracies, and it’s the most common way for an aristocracy to arrange for its own replacement. I’ve unfortunately lost track of the name of the historian who described the long rhythm of Chinese history as the tramp of mailed boots going up stairs, followed by the whisper of silk slippers going back down; it’s a perfect image, and not only for the history of imperial China.

Every aristocracy begins as a set of tough, capable individuals who come to terms with some reality the previous ruling elite has ignored too long, and use that reality as a battering ram to break down the doors of the status quo and take power from the overly delicate hands that previously held it. As long as the new aristocracy stays in touch with the world outside its own circles, and provides the people it rules with effective ways to seek redress of grievances and communicate their wants and needs, it retains power—but when it retreats from that necessary interaction and closes its ears to the needs of those under it, it writes its own death warrant.

The managerial aristocracy of contemporary America followed exactly that trajectory. It took power from an older aristocracy in the crisis years of the Great Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt spearheaded a not-quite-violent seizure of power and broke the grip of a failed social and economic orthodoxy. There Was No Alternative until FDR created one, and in his wake a new cadre of bureaucrats and intellectuals seized the levers of power and turned the established certainties of American life on their heads. The bare-knuckle international slugging matches of the Second World War and the early Cold War were grist for the new aristocracy’s mill, and when it was in its prime, it had the common sense to pay attention where necessary to the grievances and wants of those outside its circle.

Fast forward to 2000 or so, and the members of this same caste had fallen into the same trap as the elites of the pre-New Deal era, and embraced a social and economic orthodoxy just as toxic as the one their predecessors overthrew. What’s worse, they made the same mistake as their predecessors, and convinced themselves that the policies that furthered their own interests at everyone else’s expense were not only the only alternative, but the only moral alternative.

The policies in question? There were a galaxy of them, but the threefold core was metastatic centralism, economic globalism, and unrestricted illegal immigration. The fantastic proliferation of federal regulations since 1932 choked out small businesses and transferred wealth and power to big corporations and government bureaucracies; the elimination of trade barriers encouraged the offshoring of millions of working class jobs that, despite endless claims in the mainstream media, were never replaced, and were never intended to be replaced; the tacit encouragement of unlimited illegal immigration created a vast underclass of noncitizens who had no rights worth mentioning, and were employed at starvation wages under inhuman conditions, thus driving down wages and working conditions across the whole range of working class jobs.

I’ve discussed the consequences of these policies more than once in the past, but they bear repeating. In 1960, an American family of four with one working class income could afford a home, a car, three square meals a day, and all the other requirements of a decent lifestyle. In 2010, fifty years later, an American family of four with one working class income was struggling to avoid living on the street if they weren’t already there. This didn’t happen by accident, nor was it the product of impersonal economic forces. It was the result of specific, easily identifiable policies carried out by a bipartisan consensus and backed to the hilt by the privileged classes across the political spectrum.

The good people, the morally virtuous people, thus enthusiastically supported policies that plunged tens of millions of Americans into destitution and misery. In the usual fashion of aristocracies, furthermore, they insisted that the policies that benefited them were the only moral options, and that anyone who objected to them could only be motivated by deliberate evil. For those inside the self-referential bubble of elite culture, it all seemed so straightforward: the sufferings of those people whose interests aligned with those of the privileged were all-important and had to be addressed, while the sufferings of those crushed by policies that benefited the privileged were their own fault and didn’t matter anyway.

This sort of thinking doesn’t come easily. It takes, in fact, a fairly systematic use of the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will—that is to say, magic. That’s why, while people outside the privileged classes were reading Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, taking up Wicca, and dabbling (or more than dabbling) in classical Western occultism, people within the privileged classes were embracing their own varieties of magic. That’s why Fortune 500 corporations encouraged their high-end employees to take up mindfulness meditation and various other bits of mildly exotic spiritual practice that had been carefully stripped of all their original moral and religious content. It’s why a great deal of similarly sanitized spirituality found its way into general circulation among the well-to-do.

Some cultural critics have dismissed these things as a slightly less chemical form of tranquilizer, and while there’s a good sharp point to that jab, it’s not the whole story. The magic of the privileged exists to convince its practitioners that nothing can possibly be wrong with the world, that everything is as it should be, and that any remaining problems can be counted on to go away in good time once the right reforms get put into place and the right people get elected. It’s a tool that assists the comfortable to stay comfortable by excluding unwelcome realities.

Here again, though, the magic of the privileged becomes more popular as the number of unwelcome realities to exclude goes up. That happens, in turn, when the number of people whose needs and grievances aren’t being addressed by the existing political order goes up. Thus a society in the face of certain kinds of crisis experiences a double upsurge in magic: among the excluded, as a way of changing things, and among the privileged, as a way of hiding from the need to change things.

It was when those two kinds of magic collided that the Kek Wars broke out. We’ll talk about that next week.


  1. Once again, you speak the truth when you say that both sides in the ongoing bare-knuckle brawl between the American lower- and upper-classes are using magic. Though I wouldn’t have come to that conclusion myself, framing it in the perspective of changes of consciousness in accordance with will makes a surprising amount of sense; Donald Trump used a kind of magic to sway the disadvantaged lower-class Americans to his side of the ring, and the liberal elites that oppose him similarly used spells to conjure up illusions of systemic racism and oppression where there was either significantly less, or none at all.

    As for your points on the failing aristocracy, all I can say for now is that the trends you’ve outlined of the elites putting pillows over their ears and singing over the concerns of the people they rule over appears to be continuing at full tilt across the western world. Though the arrival of Trump has pumped the brakes on it somewhat in the USA’s playing field, Canada, Germany, and Britain are not so lucky as of yet; hopefully, these nations can snap out of their current trance and start pursuing saner policies in future.

  2. Past commentaries on Bill Shakespeare come from many and various corners of thought and privilege. One that has stuck with me is that when Bill’s plays were performed live, the audience was from among the peasants – who in turn cheered enthusiastically. Now, it would seem, if Bill’s stuff is considered at all, it is in some effete University course or in a high school class quickly forgotten.
    Luke 1:52-53 – a matter of project and effort rather than some ephemeral hope.

  3. Well, this was a lovely birthday present! And a pick-me-up since my plans for the Army fell through recently. Your points about modern art are quite prescient. One of my friends lives in lower Manhattan and is a part of the modern art scene. I went to a showing in June to show support, and I couldn’t understand any of it. And judging from how others were dressed up compared to me, I suppose that was part of the whole point.

    But coming back to art being about meaning, I have been thinking a lot about one of my favorite classical paintings, Regulus, by Turner. It’s to me a beautiful painting that continues to evoke feelings years after first seeing it.

    Anyway, I was also wondering if you had read “Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump” by Gary Lachman? I found it rather interesting and this post reminds me of it.


  4. Wow this is a lot, and it hits very close to home.

    You write in regards to social mobility:

    “Educational systems are the usual venue for this filtering process…your chance of fulfilling those aspirations depends on your unswerving allegiance to whatever set of ideas your superiors want you to have, which are in turn those that maintain your superiors in power.”

    In first grade I determined, very quickly, that school was a prison and I wanted out. I came up with a decently articulate critique. What did that get me? Being placed in the “special” classes for 7 years and a battery of psyche testing. According to their tests, my understanding of science of all things was, at first grade, about equivalent to the average high school senior, which may not be saying much given the state of education. Did that matter one whit? Nope. I clearly didn’t subscribe to their value system so utilizing whatever contributions I may have made to society was not on their radar. My talents, which were recognized and quantified, were funneled by the institution of the school itself in directions away from the mainstream. Later in high school I managed to claw my way up the ranks to honors classes. Did I make it to advanced placement? Of course not. My history teacher Sophomore year stated the case clearly; “on second thought, you have thinking problems.” He never defined what those problems may have been. I imagine they were not thinking his thoughts.

  5. Ethan, well, it had to start somewhere! I note with some relief that Italy seems to be moving in a saner direction now.

    Bruce, an excellent point — and the thing is, Shakespeare’s plays are great entertainment, not just fine literature. The guy knew how to play to the crowd, and that’s part of why he’s still remembered while the highbrow masques of the same period are utterly forgotten. As for the quote from Luke, well, yes — I wonder how many people who consider themselves Christians have taken the time to realize that the gospels really do mean what they say…

    Daniel, happy birthday, and I’m sorry to hear that your Army plans fell through! That’s got to be a major disappointment. With regard to art, Sara and I have a membership in the Rhode Island School of Design Art Museum, which has quite a lovely collection of unmodern art; you have to go through three rooms of ugly modern crap before you get to the real art — I tend to think of this as like the Christian notion that unless you’re really good, you have to pass through purgatory before you get to heaven. Apparently I haven’t been good enough!

    Yes, I’ve read Lachman’s book. I’m probably going to post a review of it on my Dreamwidth account fairly soon; it has some good points, but it also makes some pretty obvious mistakes, and there’s a lot of guilt by association — though that’s pretty much inevitable these days.

  6. Violet, I had an equally wretched time in the public schools — all things considered, my internment there was the most miserable experience I’ve ever been through, and I know it’s gotten much, much worse since my time. The system in my day kept on trying to suck me in, but I knew other people who got systematically filtered out the way you did. This is one of the many reasons why I wouldn’t inflict US public schools on a rabid dog.

  7. If I may add a forth policy, closely related to the metastatic centrism: deliberately unintelligible rules and regulations. That seems like the simplest way to describe a large amount of the rules and policies the IRS in particular has. This transfers wealth and power into the lawyers who can figure out what on Earth is being said.

    As someone starting a small business here in Canada, I have to say, blaming the entire industrial world for the problems within the US isn’t quite fair. Dealing with the Canadian rules and regulations is fairly straightforward (register, let the authorities know I’m a business, register for export so they can track our exports, etc), but the IRS is already proving far to hard to deal with (I want to compensate the writers for the Green Wizard Magazine, and thus, since some are American, I need to deal with the IRS). I’m amazed any small businesses can get started in the US these days….

  8. John–

    I am really looking forward to this series of essays, I have to say. It is a challenge to maintain one’s awareness of what is occurring while simultaneously maintaining one’s sanity. I’ve stopped listening to public radio during my ride into work, just as I deleted my PW account, in order to moderate my exposure.

    The monotonous chant of “Treason!” coming from all (approved) quarters, every minute of the day in the wake of the summit does have certain elements of invocation about it. Given the resistance within the bipartisan establishment, this incident brings to mind your earlier prediction (was it the Ares ingress?) re the conflict between the head-of-state and the legislature/bureaucracy. If any event fits that bill, I’d suggest it was Helsinki and Trump’s efforts to come to terms with Russia.

    I suspect our wild ride is going to get much wilder before we’re through.

  9. Thanks for the response, JMG. It really is appalling. Here is a related data point, which I’ve been noticing and been finding frankly horrifying, like being in a horror film, and may be of some interest:

    You write: “The magic of the privileged exists to convince its practitioners that nothing can possibly be wrong with the world, that everything is as it should be, and that any remaining problems can be counted on to go away in good time once the right reforms get put into place and the right people get elected. It’s a tool that assists the comfortable to stay comfortable by excluding unwelcome realities.”

    This magic is wearing very thin, at least here in suburban Massachusetts. Monied people walk around with fear in their eyes, scowling, blaring the utmost hostility at every passerby. This is especially pronounced with young families. It has gotten to the point when I see a family with strollers, I turn around and walk in the other direction or cross the street. I have never been around so much psychic toxicity in my entire life. It is really bad. Often I get the distinct impression that parents hate their own children as well, there is so much repressed nastiness overflowing. This is to say, unwelcome realities seem to be returning, like chickens come home to roost, and with interest. The aristocratic magic is, from my perspective, losing big time. I’m beginning to contemplate where to move. This sort of nastiness cannot end well.

  10. “This didn’t happen by accident, nor was it the product of impersonal economic forces. It was the result of specific, easily identifiable policies carried out by a bipartisan consensus and backed to the hilt by the privileged classes across the political spectrum.”

    Understanding this is a complete game changer for the way one thinks about the world and power structures. Once this understanding sinks in, “there is no alternative” can be seen for the lie it really is. It also takes away the excuse that nothing can be done to change the system, which is terrifying to the privileged classes. When your complicity in the suffering of others becomes more than a matter of impersonal economic forces, you are faced with the choice you have presented: go to great lengths to convince yourself that nothing is wrong and nothing needs to change, or work for positive changes that will challenge the core of your privilege.

  11. JMG- thank you for addressing a subject I have been somewhat mystified by – the reemergence, or manifestation? of Kek. I have always been interested in the ancient Egyptian myths, as they seem to be some of the roots of Christianity. I must admit that in the last several years my interest in the occult has grown in an inverse relationship to my feelings of economic and social disenfranchisement, so what you are saying rings true to me. I am not a member of any of the traditionally oppressed classes, being a middle aged formerly – middle class white woman, but I have realized that in current America, I don’t matter to anyone except my friends and family. If I may rant a little here, I believe that the only value I have to the powers that be in this country is in how much money they can extract from me, by whatever means they can use. My feelings towards most people outside my circle these days is one of wariness and distrust, but I pretend to be kind of a lighthearted airhead, “Oh! silly old me!”, and people don’t take me seriously, which is fine with me. If they knew what I really thought…

  12. “Among the privileged classes, their lackeys and hangers-on, and those who aspire to either status, the approved range of political, economic, social, and cultural attitudes is very narrow and very rigidly defined.”

    And here is the explanation I’ve long understood but haven’t been able to articulate about why my Harvard Business educated brother and his wife regard me as an embarrassment, despite my many accomplishments. I don’t subscribe to the ‘approved range… of attitudes,’ and that’s just MORTIFYING to them.

  13. I recently ended up drinking coffee at a table next to several of what I took to be Portland’s top landlords, developers etc. They were in a near panic over the explosion of the homeless population in and around their fancy condo developments. But they kept twisting themselves in knots as they discussed this problem ,as they seemed to be staunch members of the democratic party elite and prescribed to the “everything is fine “mantra. In their minds this problem just stemmed from the city not providing enough services to folks with addiction and mental problems. At no point did they seem to show the slightest inkling that there were economic forces at the root of this that they had helped to create. As you said , they really seemed to think that all that was needed was a few tweaks to they system.

  14. Thanks. This really resonates.

    Here’s an interesting article documenting in detail the experience one family had living on the same money in London during the 1960s and the 2010s (just to give an example of JMG’s claim):

    I see you formed your etymological source, ‘krateia’, on the pattern of real Greek words like ἀλήθεια (truth) and σοφία (wisdom). However, in fact the word is κράτος, ‘kratos’. (e.g.

  15. Bruce: ‘Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry moutain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough places plain.’

  16. John Cage is my absolute favorite composer to talk about:
    writing music with a machine gun,
    a chance composition ruined (saved?) by a presidential address,
    the story of the first performance of 4 minutes and 22 seconds (which is the sound track to my life;-) and on and on. But you are so right, his music, as music, just sucks.

    But I think that classical music has been getting better to listen to sense the 1970’s. I find Phillip Glass’s work to be very soothing to listen to.

    But for me, Karl Orff’s Carmina Burana might go down as the best work of classical music in the 20th century, and it is a work that deliberately did not try to be innovative / cutting edge.

    And for everyone’s enjoyment, please let me suggest that this song by King Missile – Sensitive Artist – be the theme song to go with todays post.

  17. “Magic is the politics of the excluded.” I have never thought of it this way and your examples are helpful. Your pointing out the rituals of the privilege is something I’ve experienced. My first “real job” out of college was working for a financial services firm. It was very clear that there was a certain way to speak if you wanted to be promoted. Not allowed: sarcasm, saying anything or anyone was “wrong”, doing your job quickly and efficiently (processes are set-up intentionally to slow people down). There’s a whole category of corporate-speak that varies by company, I’m sure!

    The response to Trump has passed from not handling it well, through hysteria, to now violently in opposition. There was the Maxine Walter’s speech, then kicking Sarah Sanders and her family out of restaurant and the employees chasing them down the street, then attacking a person for wearing a MAGA hat, and just a day ago Rep Cohen calling for a military coup to oust the President. Now there is a group of protestors #OccupyLafayettePark screaming 24/7 saying they won’t let Trump sleep until he resigns. Oh, and they said they will have the election declared illegitimate and then Hillary can be sworn in because she got the most votes. So in other words, “I want to rewrite the rules so I can get what I want, and I’m going to scream until I get what I want.”

    Is it possible all the screaming is because they are possessed by demons and the demons are resisting being exorcised?

    The Resistance keeps saying Trump is making the country look bad, but they look like such thugs. The screaming, the dressing in all black and covering their faces, the calling other people names.

    IMO an intervention needs to be made before more innocent people get hurt. This group obviously is out of control and is unable to regulate their own behavior towards others. But of course Trump can’t do anything because if he did, he would look like the Hitler they are accusing him of being!

    I can not wait for part 2!

  18. If there is to be a contest for most miserableness endured in the public schools, I want in.

  19. Mr. Greer,

    Once again you have put your finger on, and named, a phenomenon I had a vague sense of. I have noticed a similar return to mysticism (or occultism if you like) in the American branch of the Roman Church. Since roughly the twilight of Mr. Clinton’s presidency there has been a trend of young Catholics returning to the traditional forms of the sacraments (Tridentine liturgy, ancient music, monastic chant etc.) But the return to the sacraments, not a return to a 19th century Catholicism as others have argued, is the key aspect I see.

    The Sacraments, of course, bear a striking resemblance to a discipline of hyper-formalized occult practices. This is to say nothing of priests, especially ones who belong to ascetic religious orders, who bear striking resemblances to practicing mages. Obviously, the crimes committed by the Church toward perfectly benign practitioners of other occult sciences cannot go unmentioned. Nonetheless, it is a mistake often made to conclude the Church does not believe in magic– it does, but it does not lightly suffer threats to its monopoly.

    To piggy back off your point, the return to the mystical aspects of the sacraments I think, in part, was fomented by the resurgence of anti-Papism– on both elite ends of the Left and Right of the American political scene. Anti-Papism has a long and storied history in the United States, of course. Furthermore, given the conduct of many of my fellow Catholics, I will not for a second deny that is more than understandable that Catholics would be regarded with suspicion. I digress.

    Democrats, obviously, cannot stand the proposition that, in addition to black and brown lives, unborn lives matter, too. Heck, I witnessed a situation recently at a dressy cocktail affair where a perfectly nice liberal Catholic, under duress and after much cajoling, confessed that she regarded abortion as an unspeakable evil, but she also observed that the law allows for many things she regards to be unspeakable evils. So, she said she respected the separation of the law’s sphere of influence and her’s. She may as well have slapped someone. This is to say nothing of the working men of Irish, Italian, Cuban and Mexican descent who in no uncertain terms have been told they are dangerous, boorish, political irrelevancies and that their creed is *deplorable*. You know, the peons who pick up the trash, put out the fires, grow food, and get oil out of the ground.

    Republicans, on the other hand, cannot stand the idea that the primary concern of the powerful should be the raising up of the lowly and dispossessed. Obviously that could be reachable through avenues other than social democracy. But, let’s get serious: they haven’t the slightest inclination, nor incentive, to pursue such things. As you perspicaciously point out, a politico like Speaker Ryan has more in common with Satanists and Neitzche than St. John of the Cross.

    It is true that this elitism has infected the upper ranks of the American Church, too. Witness how porcine and wealthy bishops are happy to give money to elite politicians because the bishops get to keep their estates, private and diocesan, tax-free. Naturally, this is nothing new. The history of the Roman Church is vitiated with Episcopal scandal. Indeed, the ironic resistance of most of the USCCB to even offer, let alone return to, the ancient practice of the sacraments is a pretty good indicator of just how in-bed the episcopacy is with the local party elites.

    Politically speaking, then, for those of us who believe that the deposit of faith most perfectly resides in the traditions of the Roman and Orthodox Churches, we have nobody to go to other than our local priests and each other. Most of us, in my community at least, have disengaged from public life altogether other than stocking our parish food pantries and keeping our family crisis shelter open. We moved to affordable housing in denser urban communities in Midwest to keep within walking distance of one another. We home school as much as we can. It may amuse you that one of the other dads and I calculated that we could employ 2 full-time PhD’s to privately tutor our children for what a university gives two adjunct professors in a semester. Perhaps there is a community out there willing to remunerate and house a wise and learned Druid in exchange for the education of their children.

    My point is that people like us were once a solid base for the Democrat party. No longer. Our mystical practices are too embarrassing now. Which in the end could be a good thing. When the wheels start to come off industrial society, familial and community ties are going to be the key to maintaining whatever vanishing measure of comfort still possible.

    For my part I pray a return to ancient tradition hopefully will force us to treat other mysticisms with unqualified respect– not hostility or, worse, condescending formal “tolerance”. In other words, I hope we behave like Christians.

  20. The last quote at is a funny example of modern aristocratic exclusionary behavior – promote irresponsibility while being practicing none of it, let the suckers who believe you kill themselves (this doesn’t need to done conciously – it’s just adaptive, and shows benefit from being INcoherent, or “rationally irrational”). Comment #11 (differently) relevant to Ecosophia readers.

  21. You probably have seen this Taleb’s Intellectual Yet Idiots, and sharing anyway in case you haven’t I love when two thinkers I follow have similar ideas!

    “The IYI thinks this criticism of IYIs means “everybody is an idiot”, not realizing that their group represents, as we said, a tiny minority — but they don’t like their sense of entitlement to be challenged and although they treat the rest of humans as inferiors, they don’t like it when the waterhose is turned to the opposite direction (what the French call arroseur arrosé). “

  22. I left a longish comment, before I posted the article link. Not sure if it went through because the internet hiccuped when I decided to sign in with my Twitter account (so people could contact me outside this ecosystem if they wish).

  23. Wednesdays have fast become occasions to look forward to. Wow!

    As a side note, I am an “abstract” (i.e., non-representational) artist, by choice. However, I, too, dislike most of the self-indulgent mess that passes as “High Art” these days. In a related vein (synchronicity?!), I just pre-ordered a copy of Hilma af Klint’s “Notes and Methods,” a notebook of the woman who was very possibly the first “abstract” artist as we currently understand the term. For art lovers, her beautiful work is an eye-opener. Non-representational, but attempting mightily to communicate and to teach (symbols teaching occult truths…). Interestingly enough, she moved in this direction under the influence of spiritism, Blavatsky and Theosophy, Rosencreutz, and Rudolph Steiner and Anthroposophy.

    I’m also a public school “survivor.” I’m from a loving working class family, and was born on the autism spectrum with sensory issues, so I lived with mutual incomprehension at home, school, and among my peers.

    I’m glad to have escaped the “good old days” with my wits about me.

    Discursive, rambling? Sorry! Rushing this during lunch hour at work. Great entry, and I can’t wait for the follow-up!

  24. So I just searched up John Cage.What the frack? My daughter could have written that shale, and she’s 12! How could someone sit and listen to that for an hour?

    This reminds me of what you wrote earlier about the counter culture using folk music…

  25. Has this newish political group called the Justice Democrats, shown up in your neighborhood yet? I just ran across their existence yesterday. If so, your cursory impression? Thank you!

  26. @Ethan: I don’t think I’d say that the illusion is the racism and oppression: People in my part of the country still pine for the days of good old fashion lynchings if you get them drunk enough to be honest.
    I think the illusion is about who is doing the oppressing, and what effect on that the policies proposed will have. “Punishing companies that exploit undocumented migrants is the real racism.”

  27. Because there are no coincidences, this article is making it way around the internet today when your post went up – Everyone is Smart Except Trump

    Sharing some gems for those who don’t want to click through –

    “The Seedier Media never have negotiated life and death, not corporate life and death, and not human life and death. They think they know how to negotiate, but they do not know how. They go to a college, are told by peers that they are smart, get some good grades, proceed to a graduate degree in journalism, and get hired as analysts. Now they are expert, ready to take on Putin and the Iranian Ayatollahs at age 30.”

    “Trump’s voters get him because not only is he we, but we are he. We were not snowflaked-for-life by effete professors who themselves never had negotiated tough life-or-death serious deals. Instead we live in the real world, and we know how that works. ”

    Its a well-written smack down of the media and the elites.

  28. This past weekend, I attended the wedding of the son of friends. The announced theme was “A very Potter Wedding”. Oh boy…. Is she going to enter riding a unicorn?
    Aside from a few minor touches of Potterisms (“Muggles please turn off your phones”), the wedding was a Jewish reformed ceremony under the chuppah. The Rabbi intoned words which have linked couples for centuries, he explained various blessings for the benefit of us gentiles, and the newlywed couple crushed the glass together, symbolizing the past being removed to make way for a new future together.
    The wedding ceremony was magic, in Dame Fortune’s sense. It created a new family, and it placed that family in a larger social group. I had not expected to experience it that way, and I don’t think they chose the theme with that in mind, but there it was.

  29. Wonderful! As always, a well-thought out and presented argument – I’m looking forward to next weeks offering!

    Bruce’s comment above reminded me of my own years in higher education, we were asked to write a paper on the motivations of various authors – my assigned author was Poe. When my paper came back with the highest score in the class I was quite surprised since I was expecting something a bit different…I assumed it would be a reprimand instead.

    I offered no lofty artistic motivations, instead arguing that he had a family to feed and the spookier stuff was immensely popular with the common folks of the time – so he wrote the way he did for the money. The prof loved it, the rest of the class was stunned – apparently they never considered that artists might have to eat too.

    I should probably mention I was an older student than the normal age university goers, who had already had to earn my own keep in various factories, restaurants, etc through the years – while my classmates were primarily young, rich and sheltered by the magical practices described so well above.

    Great meditation points in this as well – thank you for that!

  30. This is…timely. We are dealing now with the first case of Trump Derangement Syndrome in the family, my aged father has developed the amazing ability to detect Trump references in any comment which disagrees with him in the slightest, and flies of the handle at same with the slightest provocation. He is in process of moving to the small town where I have spent lo these many years actively building social capital, here’s hoping he doesn’t spend it all for me as everyone here knows he’s mine…

    Thanks, as always, for your well-considered elucidation and patterning.

  31. When you started talking about the current aristocratic class in the U.S., which generally consists of the top decile of income, the term that came to mind was meritocracy, a term that Americans find more palatable, if for no other reason than its connotation of social mobility in contrast to the rigid class structure of a society with an acknowledged nobility. That written, it has the same denotation as aristocracy, rule by the best, and has the issue of being of mixed Latin and Greek origin, supposedly a no-no for a neologism. That has not stopped the term’s being accepted. Neither has its modern origin in the book “The Rise of the Meritocracy” by Michael Young, which was a blistering critique of the idea, or at least of its execution in the U.K.

    The best examination of the creation and maintenance of the current ruling class and its functionaries and hangers on in the U.S. is “The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy” by Nicholas Lemann. It describes the agenda and effects of elite colleges and universities relying on the SAT for admission. The idea was that the pre-Depression and WWII elite failed and that the people who took over during those twin crises were looking for a way to select the people who would replace them, perpetuating their ideas. It did that, but it also had unanticipated effects. One the author described was the rise of an Asian-American identity uniting the children of East Asian immigrants as the SAT allowed them to rise in American society. It’s a fascinating read, one that I should summarize on Wikipedia, as its current article is just a stub.

    Another effect is the rise of credentialed expertise, which is perceived as being under threat. It’s not a surprise that one of the (literal) demonstrations against this threat is the March For Science and the elevation of its celebrity spokesman, Bill Nye to that of a progressive icon. The flip side is that mentioning him makes my conservative friends livid. Using him to advocate for science is that polarizing.

  32. Ethan, I don’t think it’s accurate to say there is little to no systemic racism and oppression in America; it’s just that the policies of the neoliberal consensus have little or nothing to do with addressing that oppression, despite the rhetoric.

    I find myself increasingly worried that some very important liberal critiques regarding social power and economic justice are going to be thrown out with the bathwater when the current elites are finally dragged out of the jacuzzi. It’s similar to JMG’s fear that science may not survive due to being tarred with the brush of elitism. An understanding of the ways that wealth and power are divided between various segments of society is a useful thing, even if it can be misused. If it incorporated an understanding of class-based discrimination like the kind that JMG has so helpfully provided in his posts on American politics, it could even be a powerful tool for those opposed to the elite agenda.

    I think I’ll need to give some thought to what magical strategies could be deployed to pry the valuable parts of social justice theory out of the hands of the aristocrats.

  33. Your point about the bipartisan consensus being the path to power and wealth in the US rings true. For the past 25 years at least I’ve seen the available niches in the middle class be winnowed down to the point that people now talk (with a straight face) about expecting every student to get a college degree. My dad, a public high school guidance counselor for many years, wryly commented on his retirement a few years back that he was “sad to retire just a few years before every student would be proficient in every subject and ready for college.”

    The farcical push to make everyone fit in the mold of university studies and now learn computer programming belies the truth that working class jobs don’t offer a decent life. Rather than embrace policies that would make it possible to earn a decent living without college degrees, the elite are pushing people into a debt trap based on the false promise that a degree will lead to prosperity.

    People see through that, and I think that’s a big part of the Trump takeover of the republican party. What’s been surprising to me is how quickly the establishment has rushed to line up against Trump and other pols who support him. Seeing republican pundits and strategists urging people to vote against a republican president and those who are campaigning to support him is a little dizzying for me. It makes great sense in the context of this post, though. If the shibboleths of the elite are being challenged (with some success, it seems) then the elite line up to fight back.

    Still, I have a hard time making sense of it all. The dems and the traditionally anti-establishment left are fawning over the FBI and the CIA, defending the WTO and NAFTA, and pushing for more war in the middle east and a more aggressive military posture against Russia. Is this a case of “what you contemplate you imitate” for the dems, or is this just part of the major tectonic shift in politics you’ve been discussing?

  34. I loved your article. I read it slowly as if I was partaking of fine wine. It just rang so true.

    One passage really caught my attention. You wrote:

    “Those who succeed in passing that test, who have talents and skills their superiors value, and who also have a larger than usual helping of old-fashioned luck, can hope to enter the lower circles of industrial civilization’s aristocracy.”

    I was recently a member of the lower aristocracy. And I don’t deny the “luck” part of the equation.

    However, something fascinating is happening in the aristocracy. I saw it increasingly in my last few years as I was approaching “aristocracy exit.”

    It appears that the “upper” and “middle” aristocracy are each (respectively) questioning the propriety of aristocracy membership on the part the “middle” and “lower” aristocracy, respectively. For instance, my own membership in the lower aristocracy was repeatedly challenged by “middlers” who made demands for more work, less salary, less benefits and so on. I wasn’t the only one being offered “downward mobility.” I know other “lowers” and “middlers” whose right to remain in the privileged class was being challenged as “unjustified” by those who were elevated above them by even the tiniest notch on the financial food-chain. Everyone was being pushed from above to expect less compensation as prerequisite to entitlement to deliver more work. Overall, the current feeding frenzy of greed has now evolved to the point where the aristocracy beginning to feast upon its own members.

    In any event, some middlers wanted a large bite of me but being close to retirement anyway, I advised them to file my job under “management: gastroenterology, colon.”

    I am now happily retired and enjoying the show.

    I am waiting for the time where Jeff Bezos will be a trillionaire employing Bill Gates and Warren Buffett at minimum wage – and complaining about overhead.

  35. Another interesting post – can’t wait to see where this goes next!

    I’m hoping that future posts will give me some insight into what I can only describe as the derangement I have been seeing since 2016 among a large portion of my friends, family, and co-workers on the (purportedly) liberal side of the political spectrum. As we’ve discussed here before, things have gotten Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole weird. I increasingly feel estranged from people I used to consider reasonably sane, who now seem to be in the grip of a mass delusion, and with whom any attempt at rational discourse that deviates from the orthodoxy is met with inchoate fury. (Or maybe I’m the crazy one – I wouldn’t know if I was, would I?) If there is an explanation for this strange state of events, magical and/or non-magical, I am eager to hear it.

    Regarding the current aristocracy, one thing I’ve thought for a while is that a lot of what falls under the loose umbrella of “political correctness” is in fact a sort of status-signaling language code that serves as a replacement for the old “proper manners” codes of the upper classes. You can now spot an improperly-educated or otherwise lower-class person by such things as their use of the word “Oriental” rather than “Asian”, “mentally retarded” rather than “person with developmental disability”, “minority” rather than “POC,” etc., rather than by their use of the wrong fork – and it applies even if the person meant no harm/slur. Things like discussing economic issues in terms of class is untoward, and shows that you have not been properly schooled in the understanding that all oppression is now based on race and gender (you’re clearly the sort of person who a century ago would have drunk from the finger bowl). If you really want to signal your aristocratic status, be sure to refer to the second Monday in October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” and indicate your preferred pronouns in your email and social media signatures (she/her, he/him, they/them – even if your name and appearance are obviously in line with your preferred pronouns and nobody is in danger of calling you by the wrong ones). Any actual commitment to the fate of the downtrodden, however, is unnecessary – and in fact, is often rather a bit uncouth in it’s own right. The correct language will place you in the right social position in a more elegant fashion than actually doing something like going out and helping the poor people or demanding that workers get their fair share of days off or pointing out that the electronic device one uses to signal one’s virtue was made under egregious labor conditions that nobody wants to talk about (probably similar to talking about sex 100 years ago). Be sure to express concern about cultural appropriation of Black hairstyles and Asian food, but whatever you do, don’t talk about the fact that the shampoo girl doesn’t have health care or job security, or mention how the illegal, underpaid labor that grew the bok choy is both exploited and being used to undercut wages.

    Of course, I need to put in the mandatory disclaimer that I’m in no way suggesting that people use deliberate slurs or disrespect people’s identity. But the fact remains that this sort of ever-evolving language means that anyone who doesn’t keep up with the very latest fashion in the euphemism treadmill can be labelled and dismissed as “the wrong sort”, no matter the actual substance of the thoughts or positions expressed. And make sure you don’t express the wrong opinions – so gauche!

  36. Dear Country Girl, There are a number of organizations, similar to Justice Democrats that have come into being since the last general election. Our Revolution is another, so is Democratic Socialists of America and I think there are more. I think these represent a kind of ongoing negotiation between the Democratic Party and its backers and disaffected folks who used to but no longer reliably vote for whomever the Party has selected.

    They all say they don’t take corporate donations. You can believe that if you want to. Be that as it may, I think the negotiations involve how much of what do we have to promise these losers to get them back into the fold.

    So, noises are made about Medicare for All, free tuition at state sponsored colleges, “affordable housing” and even sometimes “no unnecessary wars”, nothing about rent controls or taxing wall street transactions to pay for Medicare for All. Not a word about closing overseas military bases. Nothing about give up already the ridiculous anti-Russia hysteria.

    As for everyone smart except Trump, we have heard it before. Back in the early part of the Baby Bush admin. it was us hillbillies can so do international affairs. IMHO, the vote for Trump was primarily an anti war vote and if he can stave off the neocon war machine, he wins again. Probably, I think, the Dems. will run Sanders in 2020 so he can lose and then all us malcontents will have learned our lesson and gratefully ask to be taken back into the fold. Not on your life, IMHO. From what I am reading, us Demexiters have exited for good. I know I have.

  37. “Every aristocracy begins as a set of tough, capable individuals who come to terms with some reality the previous ruling elite has ignored too long, and use that reality as a battering ram to break down the doors of the status quo and take power from the overly delicate hands that previously held it.”

    Last summer I was out for a hike in the forest during a party near a big tumbling creek with several friends around my age (late-30s to early 50s) and I noticed a cluster of chanterelles just down-slope of where we were walking. Without hesitating I scampered down the steep slope in my flip-flops (I wasn’t expecting the hike…) to collect them. When I asked my MD friend if he wanted to join me he replied, “my pay grade doesn’t allow me to scamper down creek banks that steep.”

    All I could think of was how my herbalism is steadily finding its ascendancy as his antibiotics become more useless by the day…

    Piggybacking on commenter Danae’s Bucky Fuller quote from last week,

    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”

    Yeah…that’s what we herbalists are up to. Among others.

    Carry on!

  38. @PamelaB:
    Lovecraft’s stories would be so different if he was not paid by every word…

  39. Thanks Violet for dredging up miserable childhood memories.

    Public schools made me hate institutions and private school made me hate religion. A University job made me hate higher education, a corporate job made me hate corporations, and starting a small business made me hate government bureaucracy. I just worked really hard to try and restore some faith in banks and lawyers and now they are doing their level best to ruin it for me. These are systems that were developed for workers, consumers, taxpayers, students, clients, and parishioners but it’s not easy to find something designed for actual human beings.

    Also the whole backed-into-a-magical-corner thing definitely applies to me, although I never thought of it that way before today. It’s the most consistent option I’ve found for coping with people driven insane by the voluntary Procrustean plastic surgery of modern living.

    Please keep the class war stuff coming. People need to know that they are not crazy and they can stop trying to make sense of conventional wisdom/art/religion/etc.

  40. How would you explain gentrification from the perspective of political economy?

    It seems like a good example of where economics and political science both provide empty responses. According to economic doctrine, people being priced out is just part of the economic order, there is nothing that can be done and the people coming have a right since they have money. From the political science perspective, everyone who moves to a poorer neighborhoods is immoral and invasive unless you’ve somehow been grandfathered in.

  41. Country Girl, The “Justice Democrats” want to reform the Democratic Party.

    That’s impossible.

    That is like trying to reform alcoholics who don’t accept the fact that they have a drinking problem.

    The Democrats think that they have an image problem. They think that they are just not getting their message across. They don’t understand that their message is the problem. As long as the current crop of Democratic mandarins (Clinton, Feinstein, Schumer and, yes, Warren) are calling the shots – there is no hope for the Democratic party.

  42. Dear @Anonymous Millenial and @JMG,

    I am not a traditionalist Catholic, but I participate to a very traditional leaning subculture of the church where we you see stuff like the Rosary, discursive scripture meditation, and a fair bit of Latin. I was about to make the same point about the relationship between magic and the sacraments, but Anonymous Millenial’s comment has stated it very nicely. St. Augustine’s formulation (which is echoed in catechisms everywhere): “outward sign of invisible grace”. In this blog’s definition: hyper-formalized pre-approved magic. Then there are sacramentals, which are prayers, objects, and other devotions which are approved (or at least, not condemned) though less formally defined. By the common definition around here, sacraments and sacramentals definitely fall under the “magic” banner, and I have no objections to that.

    As for AM’s liberal Catholic friend’s lament about abortion and how the law allows for many other unspeakable evils, remember that it is a tactic for both parties to hold some evil or other to the head of their electorate as a demonstration of how evil the other side supposedly is, and why you should vote for them. As JMG has pointed out in various blog posts over the years, it’s abortion for the Republicans, environmental desecration for the Democrats, with absolutely nothing substantial happening with regards to either issue since actually solving the problem will prevent you from holding your base hostage come next election cycle.

    Regarding Andy Warhol, he was a master troll of the modern art world. When he died, it was revealed that his home was full of classical art pieces. Not really a huge surprise since he was a traditional Eastern Catholic himself. Incidentally, (and @JMG I know video is not your preferred medium), one of the best commentaries I’ve come across on contemporary art (and art in general) is from Eastern Orthodox artist Jonathan Pageau, check out his Youtube channel.

    Our devotions and practices might be weird, but that’s how it is; we do eat Our Savior every time we take communion. Jesus has warned us repeatedly that we are never going to be all that respectable, so getting pushed outside the mainstream is more of a regression to the historical mean. Even in time periods where the Church dominated public life, the saints were often thought of as weird kooks by their superiors (bishops, abbotts, etc.).

  43. Just when i thought that JMG surely must have nothing original left he comes out with this pearler !

    Fascinating that this is bubbling up all over the ‘excluded’ corners of the web at present. Occult writer Gary Lachman has just put out a book called ‘Dark Star Rising’ and Longsworde in this blog post states that Universities are actively recruiting Magicians to engage in magical combat against real or perceived foes.

    Crikey, where has Kansas gone ?

  44. Interesting analysis, and I’ll have to think it over further. On a personal level, I was most drawn to Wicca, as well as meditation, when I was losing my religion and somewhat in despair. I had come to think of Magic as something humans do when our other ways of explaining the world don’t make sense anymore. I guess in some ways it was a time in which I felt powerless. (These days, things still don’t make sense, but in middle-age with children and multiple obligations, I no longer have time to feel adrift! There is some wisdom in Voltaire’s advice to “tend your garden”).

    I believe that even in corporate America, people are aware that their lifestyles are out of alignment with the universe somehow. Those who still have religious beliefs seem to have an easier time, while those who don’t seem to spend a lot of time doing yoga.

    Will you be discussing what makes one type of Magic more effective than another?

  45. I’m not part of the aristocracy, by a long shot, nor do I aspire to be (I’m getting a bit too old to maintain dreams of upward mobility) That said, I rather like Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings (not necessarily all of them) I find them delightful. I don’t try to “understand” them I just appreciate them. Pollock was once asked about the meaning of one of his paintings. He replied along the lines that one does not ask about the meaning of a beautiful flower bed.

  46. Love it as always when you bash the modernist orthodoxy in art: not all things modern per se, but the way it’s used with extreme prejudice to suppress other modes of art. Your class analysis casts a light on the matter that I might never have considered. I know from long years of schlepping my portfolio from Kauai to Amsterdam that among the first skills that gallery managers and other “fine art” professionals must master is a standard vocabulary of spurious put-downs for nonconforming art. The result of course is the withering of the Western artistic tradition. It’ll be quite a job to resuscitate and conserve it, if indeed that can be done.

    The unquestioning belief by several of my friends in the Russiagate story quite frightens me. Are their minds mere putty in the hands of mendacious media? You can dislike Trump, which I do, and still not think him a “traitor” for meeting with Putin. Why do people want to believe palpable nonsense?

  47. John, thank you, it’s dissapointing, yes. Was goijg to save my questions/observations for the next Magic Monday. Looking forward to your review of Lachman’s book!


  48. Will, so noted! I simply wanted to point out that many of the problems I’m discussing are common to other parts of the Western industrial world; by all accounts, for example, the torrent of regulations coming out of the EU are just as onerous as those we’ve got in the US.

    David, and not one of them realizes that Trump deliberately used his statements at Helsinki to distract his opponents from Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. As the bellowing about treason winds down, he’ll do something else to send them haring off on some other unrelated trail, and by the time Kavanaugh’s nomination comes up for a vote of the Senate it’ll slide through easily.

    Violet, that’s fascinating, I didn’t think we’d get to that stage anything like so soon! The thing to remember is that anger is usually a secondary emotion; people get angry because it’s easier to be angry than to deal with a primary emotion such as fear, grief, or shame. When the people you meet are overflowing with brittle anger that has nothing to do with the realities of their situation, you know that beneath the anger they’re terrified, or grieving, or ashamed, or all three.

    Kwo, got it in one. Excellent!

    Danae, protective camouflage is a good idea! The Taoist philosopher Chuang Tsu wrote about how useful it is to be seen as an irrelevant eccentric, and of course he was quite correct…

    Michelle, yep. One of the ways that you can tell that an aristocracy is in crisis is that the mere existence of attitudes they don’t approve of is treated as an existential threat.

    Clay, I’ve heard similar conversations from similar people. The thought that they, personally, might be responsible for the problem, because they’ve driven up rents to absurd levels, is anathema to them.

    Monk, hmm! I’ve seen krateia cited as a word more than once, though I’ve lost the sources at this point. Of course it’s derived from kratos, just as sophia derives from sophos. (Oh, now I remember: enkrateia is the common Stoic term for self-mastery. But I recall seeing plain krateia as well.)

    Pogonip, there’s a lot of us.

    Jim, thank you for this. I’m still waiting for modern composers to remember that tonality really is the thing that makes a melody make sense, and melody really is the backbone that allows a piece of music to go somewhere and do something.

    Denys, Trump will go out of his way to avoid any kind of intervention, because the Resistance is alienating people right and left; they’re his best public relations. Have you heard of the #walkaway Twitter phenomenon? People are bailing out of the Democratic Party and posting the reasons why — of course the Dems are loudly insisting that it’s all, get this, Russian bots. (Poor Boris Badenov is working double overtime at this point.) The angrier and more preposterous the Resistance gets, the worse the blowback is going to be come election time…

    Onething, no, not a contest, but the reality needs to be acknowledged.

    Anonymous, I’m delighted to hear that there’s a return to the sacraments going on in American Catholicism! You might be interested to know that the Catholic Mass is cited by a number of very widely read occult authors — Dion Fortune is one of them — as an exemplary ritual of theurgic magic. And it’s very good to hear that mysticism more generally is getting more attention. Such things are far more practical, in every sense of the word, than the supposedly pragmatic engagement-with-the-world stuff that has turned most of American mainstream religion into a form of unbelief decked out with rituals no one takes seriously any more.

    And I know a lot of people who regard the Catholic hierarchy with grave suspicion but have no such feelings toward individual Catholics, or local Catholic parishes…

  49. Hey hey JMG,

    I believe it was Voltaire:

    History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.


    History is but the pattern of silken slippers descending the stairs to the thunder of hobnailed boots climbing upward from below

    “Silken slippers and hobnailed boots”


    PS I don’t know if Voltaire got it from China or if it is original to him. It sounds Chinese to me too.

  50. @JMG re. your reply to Anonymous Millenial and suspicion of the Catholic hierarchy:

    Pope Francis has been billed in the media as being on the “liberal” side of the culture war, and he’s no traditionalist, but he has a strong reputation for practicing and promoting traditional popular piety. He’s even somewhat friendlier than his predecessors to the traditionalist group Society of St. Pius X. If anything, I believe this is why some well-known Doctrinally Orthodox ™ conservative clergy have been rather scandalously trying to undermine him and trying to insinuate that he is a heretic. In fact, he was somewhat controversial among the Jesuits for promoting traditional popular practices over the intellectualism that the modern Society of Jesus have become (in)famous for, but they quieted down when the said practices started doing its magic (pun intended, heh heh) and started attracting people to the vocations.

  51. Re: Slippers and boots quote–
    It might have been Voltaire. Here’s a reference I found on another blog:

    “History is only the pattern of silken slippers descending the stairs to the thunder of hobnailed boots climbing upward from below.”
    ~ Voltaire
    Quoted by Claude M. Fuess in his essay “Saving America,” p. 381 in “Practical Cogitator: The Thinker’s Anthology,” compiled by Charles P. Curtis.
    Copyright 1945, 1962. All rights reserved.

  52. Don’t know if any of you saw this, but there are reports that Trump is instructing US diplomats in the region to begin direct peace talks with the Taliban. The establishment media has been so fixated on the Helsinki story they completely failed to notice. If Trump can negotiate an end to the Afghan civil war and the withdrawal of American troops, we will doubtless see the usual chorus of denunciations from Hillary, McCain, Brennan and all the other shills for the Deep State and the soi disant Resistance.

  53. John—

    Pertinent to the discussion of aristocracy here and a conversation I had earlier today re the desire for and openness to wealth/power/status.

    Is aristocracy necessarily dysfunctional or otherwise inherently “not-good”? I believe you’ve touched on the role of the wealthy in some of your novels (Retrotopia and WoH:Kingsport come to mind), but I have some kind of internal hang up with coming to grips with my own desires (for wealth, for influence, for power) on this score. Likely, it is not dissimilar to the issues of Ares and whatnot I’ve mentioned in earlier posts. Of course, from a magical perspective, seeking to avoid wealth and power will tend to result in one having neither — so where is the balance point?

    I suppose one key point to bear in mind is that, even if there can be a functional and beneficial aristocracy, this one we have now isn’t. And so seeking to be a member is probably not the best long-term strategy.

  54. Archdruid,

    Weird story. I’m from the middle class, kinda the upper part of the middle class, a child of privilege if you will. However, for whatever reason, I’ve never managed to make it in middle class jobs, something about how my brain is wired. I’m currently working a blue-collar trades job and LOVE it. My relationships are much the same, I’ve always tried dating people who aspire to be part of that middle class culture, even if they could never afford it. Now I date a blue-collar woman who has no such aspirations, and I couldn’t be happier.

    Anyway. Recently two really good friends of mine flew in from Seattle. Both are highly paid white collar workers, who I’ve known for more than 10 years. They helped me through some really dark periods in my life, and have given me plenty of advice that helped me navigate choppy waters. Both have always wanted me to join the aristocracy, and always encouraged me to head in that direction. I tried for a time, but gradually realized that I’m not interested. The self interest of the aristocracy doesn’t appeal to me, because I was raised to believe that wealthy ought to be servants of the public. The form of aristocracy advocated by my friends is self-indulgent. They turn charitable events into virtue signaling, conspicuous consumption exists at every level, they fetishize European culture (both are dual citizens of Europe and the US), and on and on. That’s what they wanted me to embrace. I find their culture pointedly boring with all it’s scientific materialism and consumerism, and don’t get me started about the Europe thing. I’m Indian and we have history with Europe, enough said.

    Before they flew over I told them about my girlfriend, and I was very exited to for everyone to meet. Events did not go as planned. One of my friends (who I shall refer to as the wife) was snarky and insulting to my girlfriend to the point of offense. The wife looked down on my girlfriend because my girlfriend was blue-collar. Both the husband and wife spent three days hardly saying two words to my girlfriend, where I was expecting them to pepper her with questions about her life. I was too confused by their behavior to understand what was going on, until they left. Needless to say I haven’t contacted them since. This behavior is apparently acceptable in their world, it sure as heck isn’t acceptable in mine.

    I haven’t completely cut off contact, but my reasons for that are less than friendly.



  55. Try movie soundtracks, Brother Greer. That’s where the composers who weren’t writing for the snobs mostly ended up.

    And I’m pretty sure they understand quite a lot about magic, at least the sort that invokes emotions in theater goers.

  56. Will J,

    “Deliberately unintelligible rules” are not primarily designed to give more work to lawyers. They have a far more sinister purpose. Rules are (deliberately) drafted with broad and vague language so that they can be read to mean almost anything. That, in effect, gives limitless enforcement power to the State.

    Before I retired I ran into that over and over again. Some State official would adopt an improbable, but possible, interpretation a vague rule, so as to fashion a result that benefitted the State. You could challenge it in court but weak willed judges would back up the State. In essence, by making laws more and more vague,a legislature transfers more unfettered power to State actors.

    There used to be a doctrine called the “vagueness doctrine” which limited the enforcement of vague laws in criminal prosecutions but, more and more, it is only invoked to benefit the rich and powerful.

  57. This post certainly connected with me as well on a deep level as something I felt but had never articulated. There are a great many items for discussion as well!

    I was wondering art, music and it’s relation to the aristocracy and started pondering if some symbols of today’s aristocracy are tattoos, piercings, Beyonce and the other current pop music. If these indeed are symbols of our current aristocracy, it’s rather ironic considering what once passed for villains and curls and low class now passes for its opposite. This would indeed be a great example of how magic works, and I also sense a connection to Ring-Cosmos and Ring-Chaos here..

  58. This reminds me of something Kunstler said in his Long Emergency, those recovering from the death of this society might find a new religion.

    I’ve long assumed god’s have little power here unless humans call to them. I have long called to the triple goddess, and others, in service. I assume that has worked out well. I assume it would work out very well the more people offered such service, in concert, consciously. Though I see all around me how ugly that can become too.

  59. @ JMG and @Jim

    Please do give a listen to the most recently released concerto by Alma Deutscher; she is just a young girl, but is well on her way toward reminding people that original pieces of classical music are meant to be beautiful.

    I’ve listened to this a few times, and it doesn’t have as strong a structural backbone as some of the pieces by the old masters, the mood at a few points seems to change a little too abruptly, to me, but in terms of capturing the essentials and having some darn fine melodies it’s very strong composition by the standards of the last 100 years; made more impressive by the fact that it was composed, down to each note, by a 9 year old.

    That being said, some times her status as a wunderkind is used as a soothing balm for the privileged; so be it, at least we get a few more beautiful melodies for the cannon out of the deal!

  60. Re: Gospel quote from Monk, Bruce– ‘Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry moutain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough places plain.’

    I remember Alan Watts comment: “… and this is exactly what the real-estate developers are doing to California…”.

  61. Rita, nicely put. The sad thing is that some of the people who have been taught to produce that offal had real talent, and could have become artists if they hadn’t been pushed into the role of professional uglifier instead.

    S.T., oh my, yes. The habit of proclaiming one thing and living the opposite is far from new.

    Coffee/Denys, yes, it went through, and yes, I follow Taleb fairly closely — the guy knows how to think, and his IYI essay was even better than most of his work.

    David, that’s just sad. It invites dozens of lethal ripostes.

    Mark, I’m willing to bet that you do abstract art because that’s what you want to do; you’ve got the necessary talent and training that you could do fine representational art if that was what you wanted to do. Am I right? By contrast, a great many people who do abstract art these days do it because that’s all they can do…

    Jason, yep. Your twelve year old daughter would probably write music that’s considerably better, because she likely still has an unspoiled sense of melody — most young people do. Cage was a con artist, and a very good one, who figured out how to cash in on clueless aristocrats.

    Country Girl, I haven’t seen them yet. The name makes me want to walk the other direction, though, because “justice” on the Left these days generally means “I get to bully you because you belong to the wrong gender/ethnic/etc. category.”

    Coffee/Denys, thank you for that. Definitely a welcome change…

    Peter, oh, no question, the old ceremonies are magic in the most literal sense of the word. Btw, did you mean to write “Dame Fortune,” or was that supposed to be “Dion Fortune”?

    PamelaB, thanks for the story! That’s great.

    CLK, sorry to hear that. You can always tell your friends that your dad’s not really with it any more… 🙁

    Vincelamb, I deliberately avoided the word “meritocracy,” and not just because it’s got mixed roots. Every aristocracy, no matter how inept and effete, is convinced that it’s a meritocracy, and goes to amusing extremes to justify the notion that all the little gimmicks that keep the plum positions in society in the hands of their own class are just reflections of how great they are.

    Steve, partly it’s the tectonic shift I’ve discussed, and partly it’s revealed the dirty little secret of the mainstream Left: their supposed opposition to war and the like is purely for show. They’re just as deeply enamored of American empire as the GOP.

    Mike, fascinating! If that’s going on generally, it’s another sign that the aristocracy is on its way out. When the aristocrats turn on each other, doom is generally near at hand…

    El, exactly — virtue signaling is class signaling. As to where the rage, the bullying, and the frantic intolerance are coming from, I’m still working on that; I thought I knew what was going on, but twenty months after the election and they’re still at it — hmm. Something deep and weird is going on.

    Tripp, oh, the poor little dear. Do you think his pay grade would have been bruised if he’d slipped and fallen on it? 😉

    Aloysius, stay tuned. I’m just warming up.

    Tom, it’s one of the back-burner consequences of the peak oil crisis we’re officially not having. In the 1950s and 1960s, the well-to-do fled urban neighborhoods for the suburbs because gas was cheap and the freeway system was new and functional. Now gas isn’t cheap, traffic is ghastly, and we’ll never be able to afford to repair the freeway system we’ve got, so the well-to-do are moving back into the cities and the suburbs are turning into slums. The neighborhood I grew up in, part of the south Seattle suburbs, was middle class and mostly white in the 1960s and 1970s; now it’s a Hispanic and Asian suburban slum, while in what used to be the rundown inner city neighborhoods, you pay $3000 a month for a studio apartment.

    Carlos, one of my fond hopes is that as Christianity becomes a minority religion in the US — it’s within a percentage point of that right now — Christians here will stop trying to control everyone else’s behavior and go back to doing what Jesus told them to do. I’ve considered writing a post titled Now That You’re A Minority Religion: An Open Letter to America’s Christians in the hope that a few bits of helpful advice from a member of a different minority religion might at least get some people thinking.

    Obnubile, fascinating. I really am going to have to do an online review of Lachman, aren’t I?

    Bluebird, that’s a huge question — it’s rather like asking what makes one kind of art more effective than another! — but I’ll be addressing some points that bear on that issue as we proceed.

    Christopher, well, if you like them, then by all means. I honestly can’t tell the difference between a Jackson Pollock painting and a well-used dropcloth.

    Kevin, people believe palpable nonsense when that allows them not to have to think.

    Daniel, I’ll look forward to it.

  62. Hi JMG

    To your point: “This didn’t happen by accident, nor was it the product of impersonal economic forces. It was the result of specific, easily identifiable policies carried out by a bipartisan consensus and backed to the hilt by the privileged classes across the political spectrum.”

    I would add two specific examples that support the point.

    The first is the work of Princeton University professor Martin Gilens. His analysis, called the Gilens’ Flat Line, proved that America is an Oligarchy in which the masses can rarely expect policies or political redress meeting their needs. The following presentation is a discussion of his findings from 2014. Starts at time stamp 10:40.

    The second is rare moment of truth that squeaks out from time-to-time. In this video from early 2018, US Representative Beto O’Rourke (TX) discusses “Call Time” and “Dues”, which are the mechanisms of control used by the aristocracy to maintain their hegemony. Starts at time stamp 3:05.

    In the rare opportunities for political discourse, both of these examples are used in discussions with ideologues of all stripes. Though not meant as thought stoppers, there is little that can be said in defense of such practices, politics and policy. Hope some practical examples helps to underscore your points.

  63. Team10tim, thanks for this.

    Carlos, well, that’s promising.

    E. Goldstein, thanks for this also.

    Dragon, yep. If Trump negotiated world peace his enemies would start shrieking about how they wanted their wars back.

    David, every human society is at least somewhat hierarchical; hunter-gatherer bands have a central core of experienced elders who make all the decisions, and the same principle applies straight up the ladder of social complexity from there. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wealth and power; anyone who claims there is, is either angling for wealth and power, or is jealous of those who have them, or both! We all have some wealth; we all have some power; the question is whether we use those to help other people develop their own strength and their own resources, or whether we use them to rob other people of their strength and their resources. One of the reasons I put Janice Mikkelsen in Retrotopia and the Chaudronnier family in The Weird of Hali: Kingsport is precisely that it’s possible to be rich, either from one’s own efforts (as Janice Mikkelsen is) or as a result of hereditary wealth (as Martin Chaudronnier is), and use that condition constructively. The problem with our aristocrats isn’t that they’re aristocrats; it’s that they’re arrogant and clueless.

    Varun, please pass on my sympathy to your girlfriend; that’s got to have been pretty grueling for her to go through. My wife has had her share of similar experiences — she comes from the bottom end of the middle class, “lace-curtain respectable” in the language of an earlier day, and as your basic middle-aged earth mama hippie chick, she inevitably fields nastiness from the self-starved minions of the conventional wisdom.

    That is to say, yeah, I’ve seen that sort of thing way too often. I tend to back away from too much interaction with the well-to-do, precisely because I don’t want to let myself or my wife in for nastiness of that sort.

    BoysMom, true enough!

    Prizm, hmm. Do well-off corporate flacks get tattoos and piercings, or is that purely for the lackeys and hangers-on?

    William, oddly enough, we’ll be talking about that. Gods have more power when we don’t pay attention to them than when we do; when we ignore them, we just don’t notice how mindlessly we carry out their will.

    Ray, thanks for this. I’ll give it a listen some time.

    Prolenomore, thanks for this!

  64. Mike,

    Interesting! Such a thing doesn’t work often in Canada: our courts have, fairly regularly, told the government that a law is too poorly drafted and needs to be redone. Meanwhile, the long trials time prompted the courts to say it needed to be fixed, and when the government didn’t act, they said basically “fine, but if you don’t give people trials in a reasonable time, they walk free.”

    It seems our courts still have a spine, which seems far better than the alternative that’s being shown in the US. Oddly, our Supreme Court is much weaker than yours, which makes the spineless courts that much weirder…


    I’ve talked to a friend of mine from Australia who’s said their working class is suffering the same as the American equivalent, by much the same method, so you’re right it is quite widespread.

    Canada does seem to be doing better than the rest of the industrial world in a number of ways, and I think I know why: it’s impossible to run the country without the co-operation of the Quebecois elite. Given that a wide range of things that don’t appear at all in English media regularly appear in the French equivalents, I’d say it makes sense to view the aristocracies as separate entities.

    Our English elite is similar to the American, and indeed I’d say it might make sense to view the Anglo-Canadian elite and the American elite as a single entity. The fascinating thing though is that the Quebec elite seems to function as a moderating influence in Canada, and keeps us from going down the same self-defeating path the US is on, over the objections of our English elite….

  65. Hmm! This is a VERY interesting topic for me, JMG! When I was working for the mega-pharmacy-corp, Walgreens (left in 2015), my supervisor was a nice guy, but profoundly sad. He once told me that he had been made to sign lots of legal papers to get into his District Supervisor position, and said it in the same way that someone would say “Yes, I sold my soul, and I regret it.”

    Do you think that, at the highest levels of the current aristocracy, that those people are willfully and knowingly engaging in magick to keep control over their piece of the domain, or are they possibly doing these things instinctively? Maybe its both or something else entirely.

    That the rules and regs are designed to let the elites skim and scam the money away from us, resonates for me. Pharmacy wages have been losing against inflation for decades, yet more is required of us at work. Lately, we are subject to mandatory Continuing Education (CE) in certain topics, which cost hundreds of dollars on an ongoing basis. I found out recently that, to maintain my Geriatrics certification, I will have to do 25 credits a year at $16 to $20 each, plus $100.00 a year for the credential, plus $260.00 a year for the sponsoring organization, plus $400.00 every 4 years to renew. None of this pays for my annual and semi-annual licensure renewals with government, which are extra and increasing. Everyone wants a larger and larger piece of me, yet I make a little less each year. It is not enough to be good at what you do anymore, even if you are very good at it. You have to have credentials that increase in cost and complexity each year.

  66. Hi John,

    I couldn’t agree more with the general perspective you expressed in this week’s post. However, I do have one question regarding the following statement:

    “… magic is the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will. If you are denied access to any other source of power, you can still exercise power over your own consciousness; what’s more, if you do that and get good at it, you’ll find that some of the techniques you use to shape your own thoughts and feelings will also shape the thoughts and feelings of others, with our without their consent or knowledge.”

    So, I take that it’s still “magic” even when you evoke changes in your consciousness without any accompanying motive such as manipulating events, influencing other individuals or inducing social oe political change? And what if you discover the use of personal will to be a rather limited tool in this regard? Perhaps my question is more directed at understanding the term “magic” because I’m not well-acquainted with with the cultural or ideological context within which it’s used among actual mages, obviously notwithstanding the cartoonish tropes of sorcery and pulling rabbits out of hats. I’m guessing that magic may stil be magic even though it has no particular intent to be or operate as such.

  67. A good easy to mull over for the next four days while on the Grand Ronde River (and not the Willamette Valley). Thank you.

    The silken slippers-hobnailed boots quote is usually attributed to Voltaire.

  68. JMG: Interesting. According to the dictionary, the derivation is κράτος > ἐγκρατής > ἐγκράτεια. κράτεια is a word, but only in Homer, and it’s an adjective.

    David, Steve: When I read the following headline in the Guardian – ‘Trump’s surrender to Putin greeted with outrage by Democrats and Republicans’ – I thought, the Dem-Reps! JMG sees the future again…

    Violet: That’s really interesting – can you describe the toxicity a bit more? I’m wondering if I’ve encountered it myself…

    JMG: I’d be very interested to read your letter to Christians…

  69. Re Christianity as a minority religion: see the references to the Old Strong Religion in the far future depicted by Cordwainer Smith. It’s socially underground, deep, powerful, infinitely far from being official – and in an eerie kind of way, unconsciously indispensable.

    Re magic as a way of imposing the will: I wasn’t happy with your definition at first but on second thoughts I suppose it connects with the old control-of-demons theme! A way of ensuring that people don’t see the obvious. E.g. financing government by public borrowing = inter-generational theft. Obvious, but since the alternative is raising taxes so that we pay for our own services, and since that degree of honesty is not popular, the demons are easy to persuade.

  70. A bit off topic for this week (though most interesting essay and I’m looking forward to part 2!), but on topic for current events:

    I’d be interested to hear your take some time on what game Putin’s Russia is playing with regard to meddling in US politics, social media, etc. As the issue has become politically weaponized and used for distraction it has become increasingly difficult to get a sense of what is actually going on. It seems to me that their interventions are supporting extremism on both sides and lending credence to false stories (thus weakening our ability to discern facts), perhaps with the goal of fomenting chaos and political paralysis/collapse that will weaken the US as a global superpower. My clearer-thinking friends tend to agree with that interpretation. Do you see covert Russian intervention as a significant force affecting the trajectory of the US over the next 5-10 years, or is this just a continuation of the same intelligence/counterintelligence game that global superpowers have been playing for centuries, now hyped up in the media because Democrats see it as a scandal that could sink Trump?

  71. “El, exactly — virtue signaling is class signaling. As to where the rage, the bullying, and the frantic intolerance are coming from, I’m still working on that; I thought I knew what was going on, but twenty months after the election and they’re still at it — hmm. Something deep and weird is going on.”

    Recently near the university in Berkeley I spotted a flier – no doubt one of many posted thereabouts – whose authors declared their opposition to “fascism,” that they would not tolerate it, and enjoining the masses to show up for some demo or other where they could scream at one or more of their favorite bêtes noires.

    Why a flier? Nobody uses those any more. Students are all engrossed in their phones. I suspect some kind of organized manipulation is going on there, made to look like traditional student activism.

    All over this area – SF east bay – signs planted in lawns brandish a list of slogans like “Hate Has No Home Here; All People Are Legal; Science Is Real,” and so forth. The real meaning, of course, is “We hate Trump and despise his Deplorable supporters.” Naturally, these signs are generally to be seen in front of mansions.

    C.S. Lewis wrote that, from a devil’s standpoint, the ideal road to hell for a human being is a long winding gently sloping one with no sharp turns and absolutely no markers or sign posts.

    To the privileged, Trump is a gigantic sinister neon clown sign, with a huge honking red neon nose, and it tells them: “Yes Dorothy, we are indeed on the road to hell.” This to them is the first glaring signal that they’re not going to get the future they feel they deserve. On a subconscious level, they correctly perceive Trump’s ascendancy as an existential threat to their class. I fancy this has a good deal to do with Trump Derangement Syndrome.

  72. Hello, JMG, I hope you won’t mind me linking to a powerful poetry recitation I heard this week. It is a video of under 5 minutes, and can certainly be listened to without any need to watch. The poet is Stephen Murphy, who is Irish, the poem is “Before you push the chair”.

    Its main theme is suicide, and depression, which is the dark underbelly of the society of the excluded you speak of here. In reciting, he uncannily touches on so many of the themes commonly discussed here.

  73. Long time mostly lurking (from Finnish countryside). I have just been sending gratitude for the multitude of brilliant sparks these articles are. They set me on fire burning through some very interesting chunks of questions of my own and on my own. I have gained a lot of light and warmth out of these articles through years. But just want to say this particular article is so absolutely brilliant – my mouth waters waiting for next installment(s). And the comments: completely awsome, a blessing and heart-warming intelligent community. A double-whammy treasure.

    Concerning the aristocracy: the belief in an apocalyptic event that seems currently popular in the highest aristocracy – such an interesting symptom of knowing the truth and wanting to build a cement bunker 500 metres deep into the ground to hide from it.

  74. With regards to aristocracy and education, in my country a common slur wielded by middle and upper class people against the lower classes is “uneducated”.

    A couple of years ago I have made a conscious decision to stop using it as such. I am over-educated myself (I hold a MS degree), and could not avoid noticing that a lot of “educated” folks I come across are inept fools (“Intellectual yet Idiot” as Taleb puts it). Conversely, I’ve come across many lesser educated folks, working class and tradespeople who have attended trade school at best, demonstrating high competence and intelligence.

    _Anecdotally_, the correlation between education and intelligence is pretty weak while the correlation between education and competence is even weaker, and finally the correlation between education and moral/ethical behavior is absolutely zero.

    That said, education highly correlates with one thing: sophistication. Highly educated idiots act with high sophistication in their idiocy, while the extremely intelligent but lesser-educated folks are very simple in how they demonstrate their smarts.

  75. Great essay! I’m already looking forward to the rest of the series.

    I’d like to add market fetishism to your list of core policies of the orthodoxy. In the American context, the most glaring example is how working people have been convinced that unions are detrimental to their interests, or how an increase in the minimum wage will ‘distort the market’. Internationally, I think of the neoliberal dicta of deregulation and privitization that are the driving parts of the wealth pump you have so eloquently described elswhere. It is incomprehensible to me how the deregulation part of it has not come home to roost in America.

    As for the magic of the priviliged, it is worth noting that a number of Japanese Zen schools accommodated really well to that nation’s militarist imperialism in the first half of the twentieth century.

  76. Don’t forget that the aristocracy has its own magic; it’s just working less well these days. Two examples that comie up a lot in these (wonderful) comments are “meritocracy” and “Democrats”.

    I would argue that both are spells meant to justify the haves in their own minds and in the minds of the have-nots. Meritocracy is pretty obvious, but “Democrats” implies that the two main parties are meaningfully different, an illusion that is more transparent by the day. One antidote I propose is to look not at where the parties disagree (mainly symbolic issues, their magic) but where they agree (everything of substance).

    On public schooling, I recall John Taylor Gatto’s book recounting Bismarck’s institution of compulsory public schooling in Germany as a method of conditioning children to the (then-emerging) life of regimented employment in factories and offices. I suppose that the system did that well enough; now about those basic skills … A good antidote is to get a McGuffey’s reader (a few bucks on the web), look through it, and realize that this was a schoolbook for millions of 12-year-olds who were not destined for the professional classes. Nowadays I think that most college grads would struggle to digest the prose and poetry contained therein.

    On modern art, I generally agree. The best stuff is a concept (e.g, a painting of a soup can drives home the lesson that our true modern art-form is our advertising); once you’ve gotten the joke, you’ve little desire to see the piece again.

    One exception I’ve encountered is Kandinsky’s geometric work. I studied his work in college, using books and slides from the library, but I never understood it. About 10 years later a big exhibit came to town. I took the day off (to go on a less-crowded weekday) and went to see it. I was bowled over to realize that the actual canvases (the larger ones especially) represent worldly objects, but convey a 3-D quality simply from the arrangement of overlapping forms. You can tell what the perspective is, and also the vanishing point (the latter will often be the name of the piece). Kandinsky shows that we can be manipulated into feeling perspective. The perspective doesn’t start at the surface of the canvas going in; rather, it begins at the vanishing point, coming out of the canvas to encompass the viewer. That’s magic you can be fully conscious of (Kandinsky’s theoretical work backs it up) and feel its effects all the while.

  77. Getting us hooked and leaving us desperate to know the next part of the story – invented by Scheherazade, perfected by JMG 🤨👏 😜
    I am very eager to read next week’s blog post!

    On the topic of truly horrible modern art, check out these ‘works’ by Damien Hirst, best known for plonking dead sharks in noxious liquids and getting twerps to pay tens of millions of dollars for it:

    He has put out a collection this year that is somewhat better….and it may be better because it is suspiciously similar to the work of one of Australia’s most noted Indigenous artists, Emily Kame Kngwarreye….

  78. @ Will

    “deliberately unintelligible rules and regulations. That seems like the simplest way to describe a large amount of the rules and policies the IRS in particular has. This transfers wealth and power into the lawyers who can figure out what on Earth is being said.”

    When there was an influential class of scribes who had a quasi-monopoly on copying books and creating documents, writing systems were deliberately made too complex to be easily learned by those who didn’t have much time on their hands, and not too much money either, aka the rabble. That’s why the ancient Egyptian and the Chinese writing systems are so complex, and even French orthography. Languages like Finnish, Hungarian and Somali, which were put to writing only recently, by nationalists who wanted the whole people to be able to read and write, have much simpler orthographies.

    Laws, regulations, contracts and income tax returns will become transparent in the USA when the power of the lawyer class fades away…

  79. Yes, the #WalkAway movement is awesome! People have written these long screeds to @Jack at Twitter saying that the Russian bots are at it again and he has to do something to get rid of the #WalkAway hashtag and all those people posting. So people started posting videos saying why they are walking away :- )

    So the longer the Resistance goes the more it will be destroyed? I’ll hold on to that thought every time I get nauseous reading what they saying or doing. Will it take some of the mainstream media with it? Especially the horrid 24/7 news channels? They keep losing viewers and yet nothing stops their yammering.

    Tying back to last week and the Cosmic Doctrine – “You never oppose the evil which you mean to destroy. You make a vacuum around it.” Is this why Trump never talks about the protestors? He asks like he has zero opposition and everyone loves him.

  80. The amount of propaganda of neoliberal values like open borders, mass immigration, decisions made “on pure rational grounds” and the like get quite heavy-handed nowadays. Add to that the fact that the internet is a place where private bloggers and dissenting voices are increasingly shut out and not findable via a Google search, and the thought arises how this all will end? Especially, I have found, that online searches which have only marginally to do with dating, get a plethora of results where every stop is pulled to heavily promote online dating and dating websites. Critical voices about how inefficient and unfulfilling the whole procedure of online dating is for many people are very few to be found.
    By the way, recently I have come to the idea that the kerfuffle about the recently relatively high election results for the German AfD, “Alternative für Deutschland” (Alternative for Germany) has happened because the establishment simply cannot get its mind around the possibility that there are people who prefer certain policies do this out of cultural, non-rational reasons which have nothing to do with practical or material considerations. For example, that would be the case if some people do want to remain among themselves in their own culture irrespective of the advantages or the disadvantages of allowing widespread immigration.

  81. Hi John,
    I have a memory of you writing about the very real difference in the perception of reality that existed at different moments in the past, as compared to our current mainstream view. I think that art can very often presage new ways of apprehending the world, and so can seem to be unintelligible. What’s popular is just what’s popular, neither necessarily better nor worse than what isn’t.
    Here’s a great article about the hysteria you talk about .
    I think perhaps Mr Trump is particularly good at magic storytelling – he seems to offer solutions, but behind the scenes carries on as before but with a vengeance – more foreign interventions, more carbon less renewables, more transfer of wealth upwards etc.

  82. In Europe, the “establishment consensus”, which J. M. Greer has described, consists, among other things, the promotion of an European identity and the association of national identities and nationalism with backwardness. These things came to mind to me because a friend of mine was involved a few weeks ago with a youth project about refugees and immigration. A year ago in the context of that same project, a Polish participant intoned his national hymn, or something similar, and a certain amount of panic ensued among the supervisors.

    The mass hysteria about Donald Trump and the sphere of political correctness and social justice warriordom on university campuses is markedly less pronounced in Europe than in the United States, but it exists in Europe, too.

  83. Violet,

    I don’t live in Hillary country so I am surprised. Is it possible that the reaction is to your appearance or something?
    Today, sitting in a coffee shop, 3 people came in and I noted a new feeling of defensiveness in myself. It is true that I am a bit of a fuddy duddy about things like green hair and little bits of metal all over the face, but I felt like it would be safer not to engage them. They appeared likely lgbt and due to all the hoopla going on recently, it just doesn’t seem safe to talk much to them. They might be perfectly nice of course, but when I have seen (mostly on youtue) the quickness to take offense and the aggressiveness, it makes me wary.

  84. Denys,

    Your post was spot on for me. I have even thought about the demonic angle, not so much in individuals as a kind of group possession. Also, I think it is dangerous to let people of this caliber run amok without pushback. All they get is approval. Whoever is running this place is playing a really dangerous game. Their awareness is extremely low and if no one lets them know how badly they are out of line, they will not figure it out. Where are the adults?

    One thing I have noticed lately is that projection is going full force, so when they say that Trump is making the country look bad, what they mean is that THEY are making the country look bad.

    As persons of low awareness, that is all they can do, as low awareness by definition means they are only aware of their own inner state, and that unconsciously, not consciously.

  85. Hoo boy – I’m glad this subject is getting its time in the sun! When I was young I had a very memorable dream about a moon-sized cyborg frog and spent some time trying to find out what entity it was. I couldn’t find much on the ‘frog king’ in mythology besides the Grim’s fairy tale, though your depiction of Tsathoggua has a similar cast. Naturally, when I happened to have a front-row seat to the meme wars of 2016, I was glued to it. I’m looking forward to the discussion!

  86. Rita Riptoe,

    “Years ago a friend took me to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. My reaction: “There is nothing in this building I want to steal.”

    Funny. My standard is in the same vein. If I see a piece of (expensive) modern art and think “I believe I could do that” then I would not pay 50 cents for it.

    I am a bear of very little artistic talent.

  87. I think we’re experiencing the dying gasps of the last privileged Westerners. I’m working with a clueless 20 something who’s jetted all over the world to experience various things, and what is striking is how caught up someone his age is in the War Against Change. He finds my views of cyclical history very upsetting, and he’s constantly blaring feel-good, bright-sided (in the Ehrenreich sense) folk music from his laptop–it kinda seems like a kid w/a blanky sucking a thumb, rocking back and forth convincing himself that everything is okay. One thing that comes through so loud and clear w/so many of these late Millennials/early iGens is just how frail, helpless, sad, and tragic they are. I suppose it was always destined to come to this, considering the trajectory of the path we embarked on in 1980, but watching it unfold is not pretty.

  88. Fred N,

    Could you give me some examples of systemic racism and oppression in America today?

  89. Saw this in my local news. Apparently, Boris Badenov is working triple-overtime these days! Also, if you protest a gas pipeline coming through your county, you evidently hate America or something. (Double bonus points for the “ex-CIA-officer”‘s claims being repeated without evidence or even real skepticism.)

  90. This post has me thinking about a lot of things. Hence this one might be a bit Pisces 11th House.

    * I don’t remember where I read this, but in ancient China, evidently when the peasantry had some real problems with something higher up the food chain, there would be a scare of some sort that would seem to have supernatural causes. This would generate hysteria, and it would soon effect the middle classes, and then from there go up the chain of minions until it reached the elite. This was perhaps a magical/mystical way of the people finding ways to spook the elites into acting in better accord with the will of the majority. I wonder if some intelligent poor Chinese mage figured out how to create the correct egregore to drive policy.

    * Intriguing that lay economist Charles Hugh Smith describes Keynesian economics as a Cargo Cult. And Mr. Taleb certainly has had some interesting things to say about the fantastical underpinnings of all contemporary economics. A form of magic indeed–he even says that astrologers would probably make good economists, though I’m pretty sure that a double-pointed jab.

    * This might be unrelated, but on, there is an article about how the villains in Marvel Superhero movies are changing. Gone are the cartoon evil baddies, but villains who actually have causes. Killmonger is quite sympathetic in BLACK PANTHER, and Thanos is worried about overpopulation.,]

    * Something related to your Dion Fortune posts–I don’t remember where I read this either, but evidently she commented that a Cabalist must have written the Lord’s Prayer. (Actually I think it was in the book “Jesus for Pagan Eyes” by a man who is both an ordained Episcopal minister and a Druid.)

  91. (Apologies for double comment)

    Re: Tatoos, I don’t see it as really being a class thing. A large portion of the workforce in the warehouse where I work has tatoos…as did a similar portion of the student body at the college I went to. I tend to see them more as part of the continuing collapse of 1950’s morality in society-older Evangelical Christians, and older people in general, are more likely to have a problem with tatoos. Younger people don’t care.

    As to sacraments, my home city has a nationally known Evangelical university, and I can attest that sacramentalism, and Catholic/Orthodox theology in general, are becoming more popular among conservative Christians. The last church I went to benefited from this-it was breakaway Anglican, and very Anglo-Catholic, but most of the parishoners were students of the above- mentioned Evangelical college who’d been raised Baptist or something.

  92. JMG
    Back in the formative days of British 18th Century, our elites in England deployed what were known as ‘Church & King’ mobs against more serious political / religious alternatives, combining perhaps magical symbols with instruments of street power. Rabble had its uses, for example against Joseph Priestley’s New Church Temple, 1791. Priestley was both symbol and in part reality of dissent, and not surprisingly departed for America.

    I see interesting comparisons. Although Trump seems somewhat less elevated than Priestley as a person, he is the elected President of the Republic and will probably remain so for a term or two. Here is Prof Stephen Cohen:

    “A New York University Russian Studies professor emeritus said the critical reaction to President Donald Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin is “like mob violence.”
    “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Professor Stephen Cohen said. “The reaction by most of the media, Democrats and anti-Trump people is like mob violence.”

    Phil H

  93. @ Varun

    I am saddened to read of your experience with your friends (former or otherwise). For what it is worth, my wife is herself a self-described “street girl” who left school after 10th grade, later obtained a GED, and carved her path through life on sheer will and determination. She’s an intuitive artist and forging an entirely new path for herself after having escaped the corporate world. But our differences in background and perspective frequently arise when we discuss our journey together, particularly the spiritual aspects, as we come from such different places. She hasn’t had to deal with the kind of snobbery that you’ve described, but she is aware of her “outsider” status in the art world and knows that the more pretentious scene is not her gig.

    @ JMG

    Re wealth and power

    I understand what you’re saying about the issue being what one does with the power and wealth, not merely the possession (or desire to possess). I struggle, I suppose, with the notion that there is a limited amount of both in this world and by seeking an out-sized portion for myself, I am necessarily taking from someone else. Perhaps that is where I err. Or perhaps I am, deep down, afraid of being wealthy and powerful. An interesting thought.

  94. “The magic of the privileged exists to convince its practitioners that nothing can possibly be wrong with the world, that everything is as it should be, and that any remaining problems can be counted on to go away in good time once the right reforms get put into place and the right people get elected. It’s a tool that assists the comfortable to stay comfortable by excluding unwelcome realities.”

    I’ve found that many of these people don’t even think privilege exists, or that they may have benefited from it. And those that do accept that it exists get very uncomfortable, because it creates doubt in them that they may not have gotten where they are on their own. That they may have benefited from the oppression of others, of others being held back.

    From a comment: “Trump’s voters get him because not only is he we, but we are he. We were not snowflaked-for-life by effete professors who themselves never had negotiated tough life-or-death serious deals. Instead we live in the real world, and we know how that works. ”

    Trump’s voters are nothing like him, for the most part. They weren’t born wealthy. They aren’t famous. They can’t get away with saying one thing while doing another, or saying the complete opposite the next day. They’ve (probably) never stiffed employees out of money, or had multiple bankruptcies yet is still wealthy. They aren’t millionaires. But he’s convinced his base he’s one of them. This sort of thing is described in Michael Church’s Three Ladder Class System:

    “That said, these ladders often come into conflict. The most relevant one to most of my readers will be the conflict between the Gentry and the Elite. The Gentry tends to be left-libertarian and values creativity, individual autonomy, and free expression. The Elite tends toward center-right authoritarianism and corporate conformity, and it views creativity as dangerous (except when applied to hiding financial risks or justifying illegal wars). The Gentry believes that it is the deserving elite and the face of the future, and that it can use culture to engineer a future in which its values are elite; while the upper tier of the Elite finds the Gentry pretentious, repugnant, self-indulgent, and subversive. The relationship between the Gentry and Elite is incredibly contentious. It’s a cosmic, ubiquitous war between the past and the future.

    :Between the Gentry and Labor, there is an attitude of distrust. The Elite has been running a divide-and-conquer strategy between these two categories for decades. This works because the Elite understands (and can ape) the culture of the Gentry, but has something in common with Labor that sets the categories apart from the Gentry: a conception of work as a theater for masculine dominance. This is something that the Elite and Labor both believe in– the visceral strength and importance of the alpha-male in high-stakes gambling settings such as most modern work– but that the Gentry would rather deny. Gender is a major part of the Elite’s strategy in turning Labor against the Gentry: make the Gentry look effeminate. That’s why “feminist” is practically a racial slur, despite the world desperately needing attention to women’s political equality, health and well-being (that is, feminism).

    “The Elite also uses the Underclass in a different process: the Elite wants Labor think the Gentry intends to conspire with the Underclass to dismantle Labor values and elevate these “obviously undeserving” people to, at least, the status of Labor if not promoted above them. They exploit fear in Labor. One might invoke racism and the “Southern strategy” in politics as an example of this, but the racial part is incidental. The Elite don’t care whether it’s blacks or Latinos or “illigals” or red-haired people or homosexuals (most of whom are not part of the Underclass) that are being used to frighten Labor into opposing and disliking the Gentry; they just know that the device works and that it has pretty much always worked.” — from

  95. Much as in previous aristocracies, the pleasures of entry aren’t necessarily financial. Indeed, at least here in this northern client of the Empire, an electrician or plumber’s ticket is worth more in dollars than a PhD in the hard sciences. Which decreases the social cachet not a whit. Just as the lack of an income to go with a Baronettecy or WASP-ancestry did not remove their cachet in their day. That graduate degree opens doors to high society that are locked-and-barred to mere tradesmen, even if the holder is, in fact, living in what the middle class imagine as poverty.

    Which reminds me of an interaction with my then-manager, one of those ‘too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash’ PhD-holders. I said something outside the diffraction-grating-thin overton window of the elites and was called to account… sort of. I was told, in effect, ‘I’ve seen your resume, I know you went to the right schools, that you aren’t one of Those People. So I know you had to be joking.’ (I had not been.) I was then warned to be more careful, as some of the managerial colleagues would not appreciate such humour. That I might honestly see things differently from the collective groupthink of the educated class just did not, perhaps could not occur to them. Strong magic, that.

    The magic was eventually broken when my trailer-trash ancestry was revealed. I am one of “those people” after all. How deplorable.

  96. ‘you’re in for a wild ride’

    I get a kick every time you bring up Kek, and it’s neat to see someone non-anonymously talking about Chan culture without heaps of derision. Looking forward to the next post in the series, although of late it seems that ‘meme magic’ has either dried up or been derailed by the Qanon phenomenon/psyop.

  97. Forgive the double comment, but — will a later post include the reason you chose to label this conflict the “Kek wars” rather than going with the name given to it by those who fought in the struggle? (I had only seen it referred to as “meme wars” elsewhere online.)

    If you have enough material to go on at length– and I think you do– this could be another book-worthy series of posts. It is off to a great start, anyway, if I may say so.

  98. Thanks again for a great discussion. I have been pondering some of these things and not getting anywhere for along time. Living in a place where political correctness is mandatory,I find I have hardly anyone to talk to in a rational, exchange-of-views kind of way. Keep it up.

  99. JMG
    Speaking of Stephen Cohen, – my comment above- I am a little belatedly absorbing a 2016 book
    ‘Frontline Ukraine’ from Britain’s Richard Sakwa, Prof of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent and associate of the Russia and Eurasia programme at Chatham House and a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. Among many vital things, he details the essentially criminal rise of oligarchs. A characteristic of oligarchy is that oligarchs fight and betray one another, very rapidly. This seems to be a process of struggle in disordered times when control of economic interests is up for grabs perhaps in this case among the remnants of a previously embedded ‘aristocracy’.

    Sakwa also has this to say about the build up to the 2014 confrontation and America’s role, as deduced from cables 2009 onwards revealed in Wikileaks: “The cables expose a shocking lack of appreciation of Russia’s legitimate security concerns or or of its historic and economic links with Ukraine. Instead, the logic of Euro-Atlantic security [NATO] expansion became a hermetic project: nothing could affect the rationality in which it is embedded. It was this logic that visited discord and conflict upon Ukraine, and has brought Europe to war in 2014.”

    The present strategy of ‘mob attack’ in US politics alluded to by Stephen Cohen, is cover for very powerful forces at work of which symbols are powerful tools.

    Phil H

  100. I didn’t vote for Donald Trump and I have a very poor opinion of him but it is fun to watch him take a sledgehammer to the neoliberal order.

  101. John Cage is one of the great American composers of the 20th century. I don’t think you need an art degree or have to like everything about modernism to enjoy his music. To me even his dissonant pieces are a lot more soothing and enjoyable than the shrill antics of a mezzo-soprano singing in harmony. He was part of a tradition of American philosophy and spirituality, a very multi-talented individual whose diverse activities make him a model of a green wizard, at least for me.

    How was he a green wizard: through practice of composition, writing, print making, mushroom hunting, as a green thumb with a large collection of house plants that was almost a garden. Boy scout. Radio programmer. Through his artistic use of the I Ching. And he was a great listener. Everything was music for him.

    I have to disagree with the idea that John Cage was a con artist. I think he was a person who pursued his unique quest to erase the traces of his “self” in his compositions through the use of chance operations. In doing so of course, all his pieces sound like “Cage”. I think his sonata’s for prepared piano are incredible. And other famous pieces like “In a Landscape” touch an inner stillness.
    Great recording of In a Landscape here:

    One of the good things he did for music was bring a greater appreciation to the works of Erik Satie than they previously had by holding concerts of Satie’s music and working on getting some of it republished.

    In his later years he “returned to harmony” . Yet I think the whole move started by Schoenberg and Webern towards dissonant music and twelve tone & serial composition was a necessary opening up of the audio spectrum. Making a strange dissonant noise was just as important as playing a major chord. Composers such as La Monte Young & Terry Riley further traversed into the territory of Just Intonation -which revealed whole worlds of sound that had been ignored by many in the Wester Canon of composers for a very long time. The influence of eastern mysticism is not to be ignored. Zen and Suzuki for Cage, and Hinduism via Pandit Pran Nath for Young & Riley.

    The controversial 4’33” was a way to focus the audience on silence and the sounds all around them, and not just a cheap gimmick.

    This piece, one of his “Chess Pieces” is a good example of a minimalist harmony, and a very nice duet between accordion and harp:

    This is another very soothing piece of Cage’s music, from 13 Harmonies, played on electric guitar:

    I do agree that art has become a closed loop and too self-referential. That being said, experimental and noise music have escaped the academy. Industrial music took the basic toolkit of the experimental composers and brought it down to a DIY level that encouraged anyone who wanted to to participate.

    And the Velvet Underground, via the influence of Andy Warhol, have gone on to influence a huge swathe of rock bands since their debut. It seems like in rock music people are perfectly happy with dissonance and distortion. In fact they expect it. And love it. And the members of the Velvet Underground had connections to La Monte Young & Riley — so there is this whole swath of underground rock music influenced by their Minimalism -and no one needs a degree to enjoy it.

    Speaking of tickets: I go to the symphony several times a year, as well as few rock concerts as the occasion permits (most recently Krautrocker’s “Faust”). I was especially excited about a Philip Glass premiere. It was sold out. A lot of people in my generation (Gen X) don’t necessarily go the symphony. Most of the people who keep it funded are elderly. And the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra caters to their tastes playing crap like Bruckner -but also a lot of good stuff from the musical Canon. I think Cage will receive his place in the Canon, especially when people in my generation, who are fans of his, start buying the tickets and having more influence on the programs.

    In any case, for those who want to know more about the amazing life of John Cage and his incredible range of works, I reccomend the biography “Begin Again” by Kenneth Silverman.

    A superficial reading of Cage based on exposure to just his most noisy/infamous pieces would be a shame as he has a lot to offer to listeners, in my opinion.

  102. JMG – I find myself looking forward to these Wednesday postings. Thank you for pointing out the self-serving nature of much of the traditional left’s beliefs. It’s a challenge to shift away from the easy magic on offer. I can’t help but conclude that your willingness to point out the self-defeating direction of the left is to help them offer something of more use, hope and vitality as they move forward: rage ain’t gonna do it, as fun as it is. Thanks also for Handbook of Druidry which I read recently, especially the section on telluric and solar energies…what a way to look at the world!.

  103. I’ve been pointing out that “magic is the politics of the disenfranchised” for 35 years now, usually in in reference to the heavy metal scene, where “Hail Satan” is often a political statement, not a credo. Once I was talking about this to an employee who is a transwoman of Cree Indian Descent. She said, “you mean like this?” and pulled a silver pentagram necklace out from under her shirt. I said, “exactly”….

  104. Dear David by the Lake,

    ‘Demexiters’ is what we call ourselves at Caucus99%, an online gathering of refugees from Daily Kos. I didn’t invent the term. You would be most welcome there. The pretensions of HIllarycrats receive very short shrift indeed.

    About wealth and riches, I suspect that it is not wealth itself that is morally corrupting but luxury. Contemplate sometime the famous equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius and remember that this guy ruled about a quarter of the civilized world of his day. His counterparts in Persia, China, India and Southeast Asia I think would never have dreamed of allowing themselves to be portrayed in tunic, cloak and sandals and with no retinue in sight.

  105. JMG: “In those eras when African-Americans had some access to political power—between 1865 and 1900, in the wake of Reconstruction, and from 1945 on, in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement—their interest in magic waned.”

    Apropos of your observation, I recently came across an interesting piece of history. The Reconstruction period (1866-1877) which began the reorganization of Southern states after the Civil War, was a first attempt to help newly freed black people to find a place in their society. That was probably a good reason why we can find the first two American black senators, as elected by Republicans: 1870 (Hiram Rhodes Revels) and 1875 (Blanche Bruce). The third black senator for that party came in the second period you mention (after 1945) with the election of Edward Brooke in 1967. What’s especially interesting — and perhaps telling for the other party? — is that the Democrats didn’t elect their first black senator until 1993 (Carol Moseley Braun).

  106. I always appreciate your thoughts on art. During the years I spent in a writing program, I watched people recoil from the notion that they might accidentally entertain someone with their writing, like it was poison to suggest such a thing.

    A fellow writer once gave me feedback because the way my chapters ended made him want to keep reading, which he felt was low-brow genre trickery. I rarely LOL…but LOL.

    Fortunately for me, I enjoy writing about critters with tentacles way too much. The odds of me running up against that crowd again are slim to none.

    Your comments on mindfulness meditation are interesting. I spent some time reading through prior entries in which you discussed the different kinds of meditation, including the comments on your Whatever Happened to Transcendence post. I’ll be back with questions on Magic Monday, but for now, I appreciate the fact that your words kicked a new window into the wall of my brain.

    I’m always up for positive remodeling.

  107. “Gods have more power when we don’t pay attention to them than when we do; when we ignore them, we just don’t notice how mindlessly we carry out their will.”

    That is surely one of the most counterintuitive things I have ever heard you say. That makes it sound like I have power over them if I am conscious of them. That makes it sound like most people are only puppets and the gods are driving humanity to obliterate the biosphere, and particularly God/Allah/YHWH – even though His people talk to him a lot. Our mutual acquaintance Harry L once told me they were worshiping the demiurge. I kind of assume our elite are being played by something like it

    Very confusing. I am eager to hear more about it.

  108. Thank you, Justin Patrick Moore! You just saved me spending the entire afternoon trying to say what you so eloquently put.

    If one discounts the games and machinations of the “investment grade” contemporary art world, one finds that most artists are serious explorers of the spiritual, psychological and material worlds. Their reports from their journeys are often incomprehensible to those who haven’t been there yet, but isn’t that true of all explorers — our esteemed host and thoughtful commenters included? Mostly they are just asking you to listen/look/read and try to go where they have been. It’s easy to be dismissive; much harder to spend the extra 30 seconds in front of a strange painting that might change your life once you’ve tuned into its higher vibrations.

    I have been a professional artist (musician) for almost 50 years. My work is easily accessible, but structurally intricate. Though I’m primarily a jazz musician, my models include the classical canon, and I couldn’t do what I do without the profound explorations of Cage, the minimalists, the serialists and others mentioned by Justin.

    One doesn’t spend a lifetime doing something that is financially insecure and often socially difficult unless the spiritual rewards are deep and rich. There is not a hairbreadth between a practicing artist and a practicing mage — they are accessing the same realms, using many of the same tools. There are scammers in both worlds (as JMG has often pointed out), but isn’t it self-limiting, or even self-destructive, to let that cut you off from the infinite riches available to the receptive observer?

  109. I remember you mentioning somewhere on a podcast or something, that there are certain times where it becomes very fashionable to be “evil”. It think you cited laveyan satanism as an example. Would such times by any chance coincide with times like these, where the suicidal stupidity of officialdom is loudly hailed as the supreme manifestation of moral goodness by everyone who has obviously reached a level of ineptitude where they can no longer even chew their own gum without help?

  110. Why are we so obsessed with Russia when China hacked the US military, are militarizing the South China Sea (where 1/3 of trade passes through), killed all our CIA assets in China, and have operatives in every state? The DOJ has press releases of three more Chinese operatives they’ve arrested and not covered any news I’ve seen,

    As far as I can tell Russia’s involvement in our election was putting social media fake accounts and running Facebook ads. That’s it right? The media covers it breathlessly as “hacking our election”, but nothing needs to be hacked to be on social media.

  111. @ Scotlyn: I found the video you posted really powerful and moving. And it reminded me of the ancient Celtic bards and the power of the spoken word, and the way they could call up tremendous energies with a poem. If someone hurt or offended a bard, the bard could compose a satire on that person and cause his/her downfall. That was the power of poetry in ancient Celtic culture. It occurred to me that the young man in the video had composed a kind of satire on our modern culture (satire in the ancient Celtic sense, not the modern one). So thank you for sharing that.

    About John Gray: I watched part of a youtube vid of his Water Music and I had to laugh. I do think there’s a place for that kind of experimentation, and it does make its way into popular music where it becomes a lot more palatable. But it reminded me a lot of the artists in The Big Lebowski, for example where he goes to his landlord’s experimental dance/interpretive dance performance, not to mention Julianne Moore’s character. I love how the Dude just moves through these utterly absurd scenarios with no ruffling of his feathers at all.

  112. Another way of thinking about the beauty of music is to give foreground to timbre and rhythm over harmony. The characteristics of a sound can be endlessly interesting and absorbing while having nothing to do with traditional harmony. Some of what Cage, and those who followed him did was to point in that direction.

    There is also the question of using art music as a way of investigating the properties of sound and music as a scientist would, only applying those findings in the world of art.

    For what it’s worth, Stockhausen, the other giant of 20th century art music, did concede that his music opened up more if you had a knowledge of music theory. He also stated that you could have no musical education and still fully enjoy his music just from hearing it.

  113. I’m with Justin. Cage’s music isn’t generally my thing (Cage’s I Ching-influenced visual art > most of his music > his mesostics, imho) and I’d say he was something of a showman, but I wouldn’t call him a conman. From Cage came Pisaro and the rest of the Wandelweiser group, which can be pretty glorious in its quiet way. Riley’s 1968 version of “In C” is some of my favorite headphone music for walks around the neighborhood. The work of Steve Reich is pure pleasure, to my mind. So is Stuart Dempster’s.

    Justin has some good points about dissonance in rock music. I’d add that movie soundtracks are often pretty seriously weird if you listen closely, and people like them fine. The use of found noises has made its way into pop music, and not only the artsiest pop music — “Blank Space” makes fine use of a pen click. And then there’s sampling.

    For more on the connection between experimental music and magic, I’d gesture first to the work of musicologist Phil Ford. And free jazz pianist Kenny Werner is right up front with connection between music and spiritual liberation:

    What I’ve found in the modern experimental music world is that by showing up and looking dorkily cheerful and enthusiastic, I tend to be embraced by people at the center of it though I’m not much of an aristocrat. I’m a dumpy, scruffy Gen-X woman who grew up on the poverty line and entered the lower middle class. I bear my class markers openly, and I have no formal art training and no great expertise. One might think I’d be chased off as someone who brings down the value of the cultural commodity, but exactly the opposite has happened. Overwhelmingly these folks are purely delighted to find somebody else who’s genuinely interested in the sound of a couple hundred ping-pong balls falling on a garbage can lid. I’m finding that most of these avant-garde sound artists are just a bunch of sweet, broke art nerds with day jobs who enjoy way a cactus spine goes “plink”. (Or, in the case of Harry Partch fans, the sound of a marimba so big that its soundwaves can crack plaster walls.) It’s like walking into a Daniel Pinkwater novel.

    But people outside that circle of craftsmanlike nerdery sure lose their composure over art as a commoditized marker of aristocracy. The disconnect is striking. There are certainly people who think I’ve been getting above myself because I enjoy me some avant-garde percussion ensembles. None of these people are artists; most of them are aristocrats or would-be aristocrats. They don’t even particularly like percussion ensembles or modern art in general. But — or so it appears — they like to imagine that someday, eventually, they will become such kings of cultural capital that they will be able to pretend to like it, and on that blessed day they’ll look the part a whole lot better than I do. Or they believe that they will never manage to become such cultural nobility, and who am I to dare to reach beyond my station — beyond their station — without being appropriately intimidated?

  114. I tend to share your views on modern art, JMG. So much so that every time I see a Cézanne I shudder. Not because I dislike Cézanne but that I know what comes after him!

  115. When I was in musical college, a new kid from the Ukraine came in who could sightread eight part Bach fugues like they were nothing. His English was not great, so when our advanced music theory class went over tone rows, he didn’t get it. He could sightread Schoenberg’s Six Little Pieces perfectly, but he had no idea how they were constructed. For all you non-music theory dorks, tone rows are a primitive method of constructing a melody by randomizing the twelve tones of the chromatic scale. He was kind of strange looking, so nobody would talk to him. One day, I overcame my shyness and introduced myself to him after class. I ended up informally teaching him tone rows, which I said were “like math, but for people with their heads up their #$$3$”. We had a pleasant friendship after that.

    On John Cage and Stockhausen: sorry, they’re boring and neither could write a melody. Timbre before melody and harmony is always the cart before the horse. Covering up an inability/refusal to write melody and harmony with lots of clever instrumentation and orchestration doesn’t transform one into Rimsky-Korsakov. The opposite, popular music with its brain-drilling autotune and jackhammer I-vi-IV-V ostinati, is basically all about timbre. It’s just not as contrived as the high art stuff. Mostly, these two extremes of the Western music spectrum (art music versus pop) prove JMG’s statement “the opposite of a bad thing is another bad thing.”

  116. But its just Nietzche geneology of morality all over again. The paragraph about the Aristocracies sounds alot like Nietzche’s theory of how our current form of ethics and morality, all Christian and advocating for the weak, came to be after those Aristocracies fail due to slave revolts.

  117. Isn’t part of the reduction in non-aristocratic living standards since the 1970s also due to energy scarcity?

  118. Will, it could well be the Quebecois elite that’s keeping Canadian politics less toxic than ours. It’s always very inconvenient for an aristocracy when it has another, rival aristocracy looking over its shoulder and snickering.

    E. Goldstein, I don’t think they realize that they’re doing magic. I think that they realize they’re doing all kinds of things to maintain their power, and some of them happen to be unrecognized forms of magic. Thanks for the data points about pharmacies; yes, that’s the sort of thing I hear across the board.

    Will, yeah, that’s surreal enough that it’s practically dada.

    PHRR, if you’re changing consciousness in accordance with will, it’s magic. That last phrase, though — “in accordance with will” — is important. Magic always has a purpose; it may be frivolous, it may be pointless, it may even be half-conscious at best, but there’s always a point to it.

    MK, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Monk, fair enough; my knowledge of Greek is purely secondhand.

    Robert, you get this afternoon’s gold star for working in a reference to Cordwainer Smith; I shudder to think of what the minions of political correctness say about him these days, but the guy was one of the truly great SF writers. As for the definition of magic, hey, I can’t help it — that’s magic as mages understand it, which I know is not the way popular culture or contemporary educated culture understand it.

    Mark L., come on. Every major country in the world has its own troll farms — Russia’s aren’t even unusually large or busy — which promote its country’s interests online. The Russian troll farms were no more active in the 2016 election than those of a dozen other countries, but they tended to support Trump (who wants to normalize relations with Russia — you know, the thing Democrats used to claim they wanted to do) while most of the others supported Clinton (who wanted to keep US tariffs low and continue to permit unrestricted illegal immigration). That’s the sum total of the reality behind all the frantic attempts to find Boris Badenov under every damp rock — well, that, and the desperate desire of the losers in the last election not to face up to the fact that they blew it big time.

    Kevin, that makes sense. In the more fashionable neighborhoods of Providence, stickers went up on telephone polls saying TRUMP HATES YOU. It’s as though people were so desperate to prop up their narrative about what was happening that they had to make sure that it was yelled back at them from every available surface…

    Scotlyn, no, I don’t mind. If you’d like to post a link to the text of the poem sometime I’d be happy to read it.

    Kristiina, you’re welcome and thank you. No question, the current fad for concrete bunkers is a good sign that the aristocracy knows that it’s running short of time — though they’ll have to do something less futile than pouring concrete if they want to come through it intact.

    Candace, yes, I read that! You may well be right; this and my Dreamwidth journal are the closest approximations to social media I engage in, so I don’t have any exposure to the kind of mob politics that article talks about.

    Carlos, the equivalent gets used sometimes here, but by and large the US is a less polite society than yours, so labels like “moron” are more common in our discourse. Yes, of course it’s an equally class-based insult.

    Jay Dee, the thing is, there’s also a downside to unions. I’ve never belonged to one, but I know people who did who were desperate to get out of it — the union officials demanded a big chunk of each paycheck but never did anything significant to benefit the workers, and were pretty clearly in bed with management (in one case, quite literally). An honest union is a good thing to have, but that’s not necessarily the kind you get these days.

    Mailinglists, well, I did discuss the magic of the elite in the post, you know! We’ll be talking later on in this sequence of posts about the way that elite magic and the magic of the excluded interact, either to prop up the existing order of things or to bring it crashing down. As for Kandinsky, I don’t really enjoy his work but I recognize his skill and vision; he had quite a solid background in occultism, and put it to use in making sense of art.

  119. About public schools – my experience was the exact opposite of yours. I enjoyed it most of the classes, I had friends from all social strata (no segregation, almost no bullying). Teachers were quite understanding if I didn’t care for their class – I was reading other books under the desk. At the worst, they would confiscate the book until the end of day.

    The secret I think it’s one (or all) of these:

    – I was from a small town with a culture of respect for education. My friends that didn’t care for school still liked to talk about books or history.

    – This happened in a communist country far away. Few rich people and they would never flaunt it since they acquired wealth by being capitalists which was officially illegal.

    – Small school. This might be the most important reason. With a couple of hundred kids spread in two shifts (no full day schooling like in US) I never felt like just another cog in the machine.

    I think my experience was similar to what Mark Twain and others describe – the small town schools in US long ago.

  120. Mindfulness meditation without the Buddhism always cracks me up. Buddhism has the eightfold path. Meditation is one of the eight folds. Our secular meditation friends are missing out on the other seven.

  121. Hi JMG,

    With regards to the likely reaction from his enemies if Trump declared world peace, I wouldn’t be suprised if it were exactly like you say.

    An example from my workplace in the UK: I have a colleague with whom I get on well, but with whom I am wary of entering to deep a politics discussion, as he does practically begin frothing at the mouth at the mention of your current president.

    Anyway, this guy is in my view a somewhat earnest and literal-minded but nonetheless educated and smart left-winger, yet after Helsinki this week he actually went so far as to bemoan the impact of Trump’s words and actions on the US’ military industrial complex and its network of hundreds of overseas bases. What, he said, happens to that if they no longer have Russia as an enemy?

    He then sheepishly mumbled something about “not that I’m a supporter of the military industrial complex”, but the inability to have any perspective whatsoever was clear. It struck me as quite insane, the fixation with Trump being 100% wrong, evil and stupid literally no matter what, even if you have to set at naught a fairly fundamental position.


  122. Hi JMG

    As always it is a pleasure to read you, even if sometimes I do not share your point of view (but this is not the case), anyhow, vive la difference!

    Your post reminds me the Toynebean pass from the “Creative Minority” to the “Dominant Minority” and the set -up of the “internal proletariat” that augurs the end of their rule; and of course also the degenerative process of societies well described by Ibn Khaldun (the end of the “asabiyyah”) from where Toynbee took a part of his ideas
    Also I hope, mainly for aesthetic reasons, that the next archetype of the american psyche will not be “Pepe the Frog”! (you know, Wotan The Wanderer is a much more beautiful figure with his blond hair and winged hat )

    On the other hand to give you more ammo to your tesis, I enclose a link to a report made by people from CitiGroup (so, insiders) talking about the economy of the anglo-saxon countries (US, UK, Canada) as “Plutonomies” (economies where the impact of the very rich people is overwhelming):

    This report was published at the end of 2005, but was quickly retracted, because the obvious political implications (for the rabble) to describe the american society in this terms, the hypocrisy must go on, it is in fact the foundation of the legitimacy

    It is worth to read, and seems to be writtied by people I suspect with a kind of somber cynicism. You know, at end all the cynics are great moralists, because the real inmoral people does not talk too much

    Some paragraphs of interest:

    “Plutonomies have occurred before in sixteenth century Spain, in seventeenth century Holland, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties in the U.S”

    Well, you know how end all of them…

    “What are the common drivers of Plutonomy?:
    Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions”

    I like the phrase ” cooperative governments”

    Also the technology is a way of concentration of wealth, firstly between countries (in the old times) and also inside countries,

    Marx would say that the “plutos” have increased, in a exponencial way, the “reserve army of labour” by offshoring production and mass immigration, breaking the back of the unions as Thatcher and Reagan promised, because everyone know that the strikes in front of closed factories are useless.

    And then with the increase of the “reserve army of labour” we see the Ricardian “Iron Law of Wages” (David Ricardo, 1817) that says ; “in an open market the salaries tend to a pure subsistence level”. This is the “race to the bottom”, which is the modern term for this dynamic of the globalization, well known in the begining of the XIX century

    With the Big Offshoring, the huge profits of the plutocrats were recycled in the country as loans to the hoi polloi, because the debt slavery is the best way to maintain a docil proletariat, and the procedure was the old “Enclosure acts” making very expensive things that were relative cheap before, so making credit needed. To accomplish this they inflate a bubble after another, mainly in things that are needs (or perceived as needs) as houses, health care, child care, college etc..

    If you compare an american family in 1970 with the similar family of 2010, as Elizabeth Warren did, the big differences in the cost of life are the huge inflation of “fixed costs” the costs that you need to have a livable life, as mortgages, healthcare, child care, taxes, cars, etc…All the rest of discretionary expenses (consumer goods) are way cheaper now than in 1970 (due to the offshoring of production to low wage countries), and this cheaper goods give the people a feeling of “wealth” when, in fact, they are mere debt slaves and the financial stress of the modern life is awesome and this sense of scarcity and fear is the real poverty; so why people are surprised by the opioid epidemics? The opioids are not for pleasure, they are pain killers and stresss relieving substances, the main cause of drugs addiction

    Returning to the “plutonomy report” it give an explanation for why the anglo-saxon societies allow plutonomy so well, they say:

    “Perhaps one reason that societies allow plutonomy, is because enough of the electorate believe they have a chance of becoming a Plutoparticipant. Why kill it off, if you can join it? In a sense this is the embodiment of the“American dream””

    This phrase remids me the phrase of Steinbeck when he said: ““socialism never took roots in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporally embarrassed millionaires”, and there are profound reasons for that (I would say profound religious reasons)


  123. @JMG (7/18/2018 11:39 PM)
    Yes and yes. I’ve always felt that one should not break artistic rules until one can follow them (that way, the artist gives his or her audience a *context* within which to understand the deviations from “how it’s done.”). Artistically, I’m also a both-and rather than an either-or guy. I love everything from the cave paintings to hieroglyphics to The Masters all the way through to a lot of the urban street art I pass on the way to work each day.

    Since I’m also a conceptual artist, I understand that many (most?) won’t give a murine derriere about my “concepts.” So I always try to create even my most abstract pieces using well-known Gestalt and compositional principles so that there will be *something* that a viewer can take away from it. I don’t believe in making an audience feel small or unwelcome because they feel like they don’t know “the secret handshake.”

    @Danae (7/18/2018 2:11 PM)
    That is my m.o. to a great degree as well! First, of course, I try to treat everyone with respect, whether I like them or not. I also play up my “I’m just an eccentric, garrulous old man” side. It is a useful (and sometimes powerful) position to be in to have people underestimate you…. And to become effectively invisible.

    I’d like to add my voice, as well, to the chorus here of those who find it nearly impossible to have a rational discussion concerning any current events. At this very moment, I am on another social media break: I am just bone tired of navigating the histrionics, and feeling like my every relationship is on the line. I’m not proud to say this, but as a survival mechanism, in person, I just nod and smile knowingly, and let them make of that what they will. There are a handful of us at the office (I work in IT for the executive branch of state government) who can actually have a conversation about anything at all.

    I was an early #walkaway (I thought I was the only one). I found myself disgusted at the hysterics (my sister in Seattle texted me the morning after to say, “Don’t call or text me for a week. I need to process.” What???) and at the horrible invectives slung at people like my relatives and immediate ancestors, and at the people I rode with on public transportation….that I left the Democratic party and registered as Independent.

    I really does feel like millions of people are undergoing a convulsive breakdown of some sort, and it’s not abating as quickly as I hoped….

  124. @Victoria Minard – I’m so glad you found echoes of the Celtic bard style of satire in the link I posted, and that “a kind of satire on our modern culture” (I couldn’t agree more).

    @JMG, knowing your own feelings on the matter of videos, I did make bold to ask the poet/bard if he posts transcripts or publishes his poems in book form, before I posted the video here. Apparently he does not post transcripts, but is in process of publishing a book. In view of the fact that he expressed a strong desire to be paid for this, as he has a young lad he doesn’t want to “feed on fresh air” (a view I know you will have sympathy with) I have put myself down for the notify list for when the book is published, so as to purchase one. I’m looking forward to the chance to read this particular work slowly and meditatively. I’m afraid there is no transcript available online.

  125. Ozquoll, well, extracting money from the clueless rich is a recognized art in its own right; it’s a pity that Hirst has to pretend to be the other kind of artist in order to do it. You’re quite right that a shark in formaldehyde with a title so pretentious it sets off parody meters isn’t art, and the only kind of artist who produces such things is a con artist.

    Coffee/Denys, the thing that fascinates me about the Democrat reaction to #walkaway is that it’s the same logic that lost Hillary Clinton the presidency: if you see evidence that what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s absolutely unacceptable to learn from that or respond to it — no, you’ve got to shout the evidence down, insist that what you’re doing is working just fine, and double down on it. The #walkaway people are a 100-decibel warning siren trying to tell the Democrats that they’ve turned their backs on their base and adopted policies and habits that are alienating people they need, desperately need, in order to reverse the GOP gains of the last decade — and the Democrats just scream “Russian bot!” at them, just as they screamed “racist!” at all the people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and Donald Trump in 2016. If they keep it up they’re going to hand Trump a stunning victory in 2020.

    Booklover, that’s part of it, but another part is that the proponents of mass immigration are lying about the economic consequences. Flood a nation with immigrant laborers who will work for much less than the prevailing wage, and the law of supply and demand will drive down wages and working conditions. That’s what happened here in the US, and I suspect that the core reason for Merkel’s decision to throw open the EU to immigrants was that the privileged classes in the EU would love to break the power of the unions and drive down wages to Third World levels, in order to increase their own share of national wealth to the kleptocratic levels we see here in the US.

    Nick, that was a discussion of differences in culture — the way, for example, that seeing things in linear perspective is purely a Western thing. Sure, art can presage new ways of seeing things, but it can also serve as a system of class markers and a way to exclude people, and I’d like to suggest that the latter is a better description of what’s going on in the modern fine arts.

    Booklover, thanks for this. I’d gotten that impression, but it’s good to have it confirmed.

    Christopher, fascinating. I’m still doing research, but I think I’ve figured out what pattern of archetypal powers is constellating in America right now.

    Shane, oh, there’ll be privileged classes in the future, too — there always are. But you’re right that a particular class, and a particularly vertiginous kind of privilege, are coming to an end around us.

    Tolkienguy, poor Boris and Natasha! They haven’t had a day off since 2016…

    Richard, most ancient societies paid close attention to spooky omens, because when the peasants started freaking out about two-headed ghosts or whatever it was, you knew there was something more broadly wrong. We’re not so smart these days. As for the Lord’s Prayer, a lot of occult groups on the Christian end of occultism — which is huge, btw — teach detailed Cabalistic analyses of that prayer and encourage their members to use it in their prayers daily, usually right before or right after their daily Bible reading.

    Tolkienguy, thanks for the data points.

    Phil, the funny thing is that the mobs aren’t following orders. You have the privileged and their hangers-on shrieking in outrage, and outside their tightly sealed bubbles, nobody cares. According to the latest Gallup polls, the fraction of Americans who think Russia is a big problem for us is less than 1%…

    David, there are certainly zero-sum aspects to the world, but not all wealth is subject to so strict a limit, and power isn’t subject to that at all — you can very easily have a country, for example, where the institutional gridlock is so extreme that nobody has the effective power to do much of anything, and you can also have a country where liberty and an effective system of representative democracy mean that there’s plenty of power to go around. Power is the ability to make changes in response to your wants and needs, just as wealth is a supply of the things you want and need — and both of those are subject to expansion that isn’t at other people’s expense…

    Thesseli, oh, granted, and one of the reasons I excite such shrieks of outrage is that I talk frankly about the reality of privilege.

    Dusk Shine, yeah, I’ve had similar experiences. That’s one of the reasons I tend to give the privileged a fairly wide berth when I can.

    Iguanabowtie, I doubt that’s accidental. If the chans are busy talking about the latest crumb from Qanon, they’re not going to be organizing memetic warfare…

    Dusk Shine, I call it the Kek Wars because it wasn’t the first memetic war, and it certainly won’t be the last! As for a book, I was actually thinking about that; thanks for the encouragement.

    Katherine, thank you! Welcome to the conversation here; as you see, we don’t permit the usual sort of online bullying.

    Phil, good. Yes, exactly.

    Greg, and there’s always that!

    Justin, well, there we disagree — and I’m not basing my opinion of the man on a superficial encounter with his worst pieces. I think he was using the fashionable conceptual jargon of the time (mostly lifted from Existentialism and Zen, which ran in a pack in those days) to pull an Andy Warhol on the music scene, and succeeded. 4’33” was a great prank, exactly equivalent to Warhol’s famous Brillo box, and it must have been hilarious to watch sophisticated audiences earnestly trying to get something out of it.

    “Soothing” is not something that concerns me in music. I expect music to go somewhere and do something, and in Western music, tonality — hated, despised, supposedly unbearably restrictive tonality — is what makes that possible; it’s as essential to Western music as grammar is to language. (And musical languages other than Western have their own equally “restrictive” guiding principles, of course — their own grammar and syntax.) Most modern music is the equivalent of writing a novel in an invented language and then not providing a dictionary, when it’s not simply the equivalent of generating a book-length sequence of random letter-groups in a meaningless alphabet and insisting airily that the object in question raises profound questions about the nature of meaning, or some such self-important twaddle.

    The current problems with the classical-music institutional framework are another matter. That’s something I’ll probably be addressing in a later post — and also in a couple of novels featuring shoggoths, but that’s a different matter. 😉

    Leonard, exactly! We desperately need a functional political left in this country, one that isn’t simply a stalking horse for the privileged classes; we don’t have one of those now, and one of the things I’d like to do is encourage people to reject the existing faux-leftism and do something that actually aligns with the historic values of liberalism.

  126. Every time you do a political post, I end up thinking back to the months just after Obama was elected. In my extreme naivety (this was the first presidential election I’d really gotten involved in), I was shocked when Obama began upholding the status quo of bank bailouts, drone bombings and empowerment of the security state.

    I was further shocked when most of the commenters on the liberal blogs I frequented at the time began shouting down anyone who questioned things like the drone bombings and the invasion of Libya.

    Slowly (perhaps shamefully so), it’s become clear to me that the mainstream liberal vision is of people of all races, sexualities, and creeds, placidly walking into CostCo to buy their cheap foreign-made goods, and god help anyone who criticizes the infrastructure that enables that vision.

    The other thought that came up in response concerns the UU church I went to for most of a decade. Some years back I was asked how the UUs could attract more working class people. I had no answer at the time, but later I had the thought that what the UUs lack is a set of concrete images – such as Jesus on the cross, Odin riding to Ragnarok, Shiva dancing the destruction of the world.

    Being largely a derivation of Protestantism, the UUs have a severe allergy to imagery of that sort. What they have instead are appeals to vague concepts like the Spirit of Life and the Moral Arc of the Universe and the 7 Principles. Things that are appealing to upper middle class intellectuals who dwell in abstraction and dislike untidiness in their universe.
    But without a unique set of core symbols, ones not derived from the traditions they believe they’ve supplanted, they’ll never have anything to offer working class folk. I also don’t see any cultivation of the visionary imagination that Theodore Roszak speaks of, so they’re not going to be able to create that core set of symbols, and they’re going to fade away as America declines.

  127. JMG, there’s definitely some corporate flacks who have been tattooed. It’s not that I have anything against tattoos either but since I’ve returned to the USA I’ve noticed a prevalence of tattoos amongst people. It’s definitely a sign of fashion but I also can’t help but think some of that fashion is because they can say “In with those people’, meaning the child and villains.

  128. @ Monk, good question. The closest I can come up with is the same ugly feeling in the pit of the stomach that happens when something comes over a crowd, and they begin to howl and boo, as if collectively possessed.

    @ onetime, point well taken!

    Re: fine art, class and accessibility: Some happy news, especially for those who live close to close to Boston. Today, on my third scouting to the Boston Commons regarding the fall equinox ecosophia party (details will emerge shortly!), I was delighted to see that there are annual free Shakespeare performances in the park. This year there will be a run of Richard III, From July 18th – August 5th. Information can be found here:

    For what it’s worth I am definitely going to try attending the August 4th matinee — I love the theater, and usually can’t afford to go.

  129. I could never have have had the insight or the chutzpah to have come up with Duchamps Uriinal. Yet walking around Tate Liverpool, I came across a three dimensional sculpture, a solid black, rough hewn shape entitled “The darkness of a cave”. Most people, high born and low, passed it by, but after some reflection, I realised the artist had created the shadow left by a cave, if you took the darkness within, and somehow kept it, while removing the cave.

    I was so pleased to have worked it out. I explained to the people I was with what it was I had discovered, and both they, and anyone else within earshot looked at the work with different eyes. They “got” what was right there in front of them, just as I had, and enjoyed the artfulness of it.

    Please don’t assume that ordinary people lack the wit or finesse to appreciate fine art. There are many kinds of art. If I go to a disco, I really don’t want to hear John Cage. If I have the occasion to take a girl out on a first date to as posh a restaurant as I can afford, I really don’t want the soundtrack to be Ted Nugent.

  130. Your description of rabble-containing mechanisms seems quite plausible, the commenters have filled in the details, especially Denys. For myself, though I don’t particularly appreciate the modern shibboleths like abstract art and experimental music like some of your readers do, I very much enjoy reading Latin and Greek prose and poetry, which were the most important touchstones of an elite education less than a century ago and nowadays are seen as just a rather bizarre oddity.

    This reminds me of an old post of yours where you said that the only selection system that can’t be gamed in the long run is one based on utterly useless knowledge, like Latin and Greek for the British imperial civil service or the Confucian classics for the Chinese one. During certain periods, these two civil services were very efficient. Why do you think that knowledge of certain branches of art and music is a bad criterion for elite selection, compared to, say, SAT scores? Because there is no prescribed canon of 20th century art and no prescribed reactions to its major works?

  131. Hi John Michael,

    It would be funny if it were not true! Hey, over the years I have had people criticise my taste in music, all the while extolling their own more classical tastes as being the superior choice of people with refinement and err, better taste. In fact they were quite mean about it really, and the air of moral superiority was palpable. What perhaps they did not realise is that by my very social station and age – I am excluded from their entertainments. Do people teach an appreciation of classical music to kids these past few decades? Nope. And their attitude does nothing to build any bridges of understanding. i.e. They’re not trying to sell the benefits of that form of entertainment to me. In point of fact, I have looked into their souls and saw that my exclusion was as entertaining for them, as much as the enjoyment of the music itself.

    Hehe! Stop it! You’re making me laugh and giggle at the sheer silliness of the goings on with the aristocracy! 🙂 Even Blind Freddy knows that Alaric I would have imposed cheaper obligations upon the population of Rome. That incidentally was a theme of Robert E Howards Conan stories when the character came to power. The cabals of deposed aristocrats and their sorcerers were a familiar theme and thorn-in-the-side for the King.

    Of course there are alternatives. Why would they ever pretend otherwise? But fighting the dominant messages is a tough and ongoing task that requires steely nerves and determination. I’ve noticed that even crims get sucked into the narrative.



  132. To Mark Taber; I’m not the only one who employs “protective camouflage”. My sister in law, who drives a school bus, says that little old ladies can “get away with anything”. To JMG- in the “Kek Wars”, I am on the side of Kek. Is it magically dangerous to “Praise Kek”? I want to do what I can to throw some sand in the gears of the status quo machine. I understand the practical aspects of walking away, and withdrawing support from the aspects of American society I find offensive, but I would like to do more. While not an operative mage, not having any training, I have had a lot of encounters with synchronatic weirdness, and have been almost accused- on more than one occasion- of being, well, “witchy”. Is there some “practical magic” that can be used in fighting the oppression of the elites? I read that Dion Fortune died right after WW2. I am presuming she succumbed to exhaustion after fighting the Nazis. I’m sure I don’t want to destroy myself in such a fight, truthfully.

  133. JMG wrote,

    “Leonard, exactly! We desperately need a functional political left in this country, one that isn’t simply a stalking horse for the privileged classes; we don’t have one of those now, and one of the things I’d like to do is encourage people to reject the existing faux-leftism and do something that actually aligns with the historic values of liberalism.”

    Amen to that! Wondering if you, JMG, might briefly outline what you see as the historic values of liberalism and what a functional political left might focus on.



  134. In re, the Ctrl-Left hysteria. Paul Craig Roberts has published two articles on the aftermath of the Helsinki summit:

    Roberts argues that this hysteria is being deliberately manufactured, in order to make a plausible pretext for either assassinating Trump, or forcibly removing him from office in some other way. I agree. I see a classic South American junta on its way. I truly think that the Neo-Cons (in both parties) are deluded and crazy enough to try to overthrow the U.S. Government to achieve their objectives.

    Will this backfire? Of course, but they seem ready to take that risk.

  135. @Home School Coffee
    Re: China and 80-year-cycle

    Let’s look at the possibility of a war with China using the 80-year cycle as described by Strauss and Howe, and later by John Xenakis. Here’s Xenakis’ sketch of how the cycle has worked out in China for the last couple of turns (last updated in 2008).

    The last Crisis era was from 1934 to 1949 – the Communist Revolution. The last Awakening was 1965-1989, ending with Tiananmen Square.

    Adding 80 years to 1934 gives us 2014; adding 40 years to 1965 gives us 2005. Since the four periods are never exactly 20 years long, this strongly suggests that China is in another Crisis Era, and heading to a Crisis War. It’s not imminent: the financial crisis that precedes a crisis war hasn’t happened yet.

    Crisis wars are always fought across an existing fault line, and they always have the enthusiastic cooperation of the people. China’s machinations in the South China Sea and elsewhere suggest that the leadership is looking for an external war, but the last two Crisis Wars have been internal: The Taiping Rebellion and the Communist Revolution. This seems to be a pattern with China.

    Everything I hear is that the populace is simply fed up with the Communists and the current government. (Of course, this might be one-sided, partial and biased, but it’s the best I have at the moment.) So that’s one fault line. I don’t hear a lot of anti-US sentiment, which suggests that, while the government may be looking for an anti-US and Japan war, the people aren’t. That suggests that a foreign war between China and the US isn’t in the cards.

    Of course, things can change overnight; remember Pearl Harbor. And Trump may provoke the financial crisis with his trade war; that could generate a lot of anti-US sentiment. So while I think the next Crisis War will be in the next 10 years or so, it will be internal. However, I’m not going to bet the farm on that.

  136. Archdruid and David,

    I passed your sympathy onto her, she appreciated it.

    The whole incident left me thinking. The aristocracy is a decayed institute, it is wholly populated by people who think they have skills to survive the real world, but it is slowly dawning on them that they don’t. So they seek to attract as many outsiders as possible to supplement their skills. The thing is, an operative mage has all the skills needed to be an aristocracy – they are studious, focused, strong willed, capable of communication, and have a broad range of very useful skills. These things are prerequisites for become a good mage. So whenever the aristocracy spots a useful person they attempt to co-opt that person with promises of wealth and power, provided that the person plays the game according to the existing rules.

    Remember your own brief brush with the TV agent a few years ago? He promised to make Star’s Reach available to the mass market, if you would allow him to change the story completely. Similarly, I was offered a chance to join my friends, provided I gave up my life. Promises of glory, grandeur, and wealth.

    What they don’t realize is the self same skills they desire can see through their half-a**ed promises. The moment a mage can start convincing the people that the promises are false it the moment that aristocracy crumbles. Strange thing is that this aristocracy is mindful of that, because mindfulness is one of the spells they practice daily, but they don’t have any of the other spells to actually do anything about it.



  137. Scotlyn, Thankyou for posting Stephen Murphy’s words. They are strong stuff, and they need to be said and heard. I know of a young man who might still be alive if he had heard them.

  138. Hi John Michael,

    I was reading through replies and have just a couple of quick data points:

    – Two weeks ago I encountered a very angry bloke who was complaining bitterly that another persons husband (who was known – but not well – to both of us) that he wasn’t working hard enough as he was working a job in a mail room. I said to the angry bloke that he didn’t need to work hard because they didn’t need the money. I was quite intrigued at the blokes anger as such things are usually about them and not the person spoken about.

    – Hey, as well as moving to inner urban areas, I hate to be the one saying this, but they’re moving into rural areas too. I wonder what the future holds for them as they are rapidly approaching an age when they need more care than these rural areas can provide. And the waste of the land is not lost on me.


    – I would have thought that it was obvious that Gods would have their own goals – and we may not be involved in those plans. A God that concerned itself with wombats for instance would probably enjoy the happy antics of clueless humans hell bent on fouling their nests and reducing their numbers. Given that wombats can consume plant stuffs that would surely poison us humans, well less humans, means more wombats. And that would probably make for a happy wombat God.



  139. Berserker, good. Glad to hear there are some who got it back before I did. 😉

    Petrus, exactly. So you can see the same tide that shaped the history of hoodoo having equivalent effects on the political sphere.

    Dudley, is your tentacle fiction in print? Now that the plot and most of the prose of The Weird of Hali is finally worked out, I’m letting myself begin to read Lovecraftian fiction from after the classic Weird Tales era (the inspiration for my tentacle novels), and would be interested in seeing yours. More generally, I fielded the same advice, but fortunately I have to earn my living with my writing, so couldn’t afford to indulge in that sort of snobbishness.

    William, have you read Jung at all? He covers this in some detail. Human beings can’t control the gods, but if we’re conscious of the way their powers manifest in our lives, we can direct those powers toward their higher manifestations and away from crasser and more self-destructive ones. If we’re not conscious of them, then we’re their puppets, and how they manifest will have nothing to do with our preferences. As for God, YHVH, and Allah — three different deities, as far as I can tell — well, of course; if their followers stopped talking to them quite so much and listened to them instead, things might be rather different.

    The thing to keep in mind, though, is that gods do not care about the things we care about. If you read mythology, you’ll find that they destroy worlds all the time, and bring new ones into being — thus the myths of the Apocalypse, Ragnarok, the five worlds of Mesoamerican myth, the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction that play so large a role in the mythic history of the Indian subcontinent, the annihilations of the peoples of Ireland in the Book of Invasions, etc., etc., etc. They know that a new world will come into being on the far side of the bottleneck, and you and me — why, we’re going to die in an eyeblink anyway, so why should it matter whether we die individually or en masse?

    They have their own concerns, which are not ours. If we enter into creative relation with them, we can seek the things we need through that relation, and sometimes get them; if we pay them no attention, then they are perfectly willing to return the favor…

    Observer-observed, I have no complaint if people want to produce artworks that I find opaque and uninteresting. I do complain when people who produce the kinds of artwork I find meaningful — representational art, tonality-based music, and the like — are stigmatized and treated as though what they’re doing is contemptible…and as I’m sure you know just as well as I do, it’s not just the producers of investment-grade art that do this.

    I spend a fair amount of time in art museums when I can; one of the pleasures of moving to Providence a year ago is that my wife and I are members of the local art museum, and will be visiting others as time and her health permit. (She has, by the way, a BFA in art history and is a classically trained violinist, and her opinions of modern art, and also of John Cage, are far harsher than mine.) There are unquestionably paintings that have changed the way I see the world, but none of them were nonrepresentational, and the only modern ones were from outside the official art world — I doubt you’ve heard, for example, of Elton Bennett; few people from outside rural southwestern Washington have. I find I get more out of one square inch of an eighteenth-century French landscape in oils or a Japanese sumi-e scroll painting than I get out of the entire collected works of any given modern artist you’d like to name.

    The paintings that speak to me are the ones that make the effort to communicate with me in representational terms. The same thing, mutatis mutandis, is true for me of music. It’s all very well to speak of the infinite riches to be found in such things, but you know, I spent many years trying to find anything but boredom in abstract expressionist paintings, serialist music, and the like, and I’ve come to the conclusion that such things seem to be, shall we say, a solitary vice enjoyed mostly by the producers thereof.

    Sven, why, yes. Just as Puritanism mostly succeeds in making Satan look considerably more appealing than God, the shrill moral fervor of today’s mainstream — always, to be sure, defining as “moral” those things that concentrate more wealth and power in their own hands — mostly serves to make the things they hate look better than they deserve.

    Coffee/Denys, it’s simple. China wants to maintain the global-economy status quo. Russia prefers economic nationalism. Since our managerial aristocracy depends for its power and wealth on the flows of money generated by global trade, Russia is their bete noir.

    Justin, I’ve listened to Stockhausen, at rather some length, and found his work profoundly unenjoyable. I’m far from sure he was the best person to ask about what people outside the circle of the cognoscenti were able to enjoy. Offer two free concerts on the same night: one of Mozart, one of Stockhausen. Which do you think would get a turnout worth noticing? This isn’t accidental, and it isn’t because the average listener is an ignorant clod; it’s because Mozart made his music approachable and interesting to the ordinary listener, and Stockhausen did the opposite.

    Elizabeth, fair enough. If — may I call them “sound geeks”? — get excited by the sound of ping pong balls dropping on a trash can lid, more power to ’em; what they enjoy is not what I enjoy, but it takes all kinds to make a world. As I noted in the post, it’s the use of such things as means of exclusion that I find worth pointing out. It’s rather like the snobbish end of foodie culture — “Oh, you use ordinary salt? I simply can’t bear to use anything but hand-harvested Himalayan pink salt,” blah blah blah. That’s a different world from that of the people I know who are just into exotic subtleties of taste. (And of course both of those are different from my world, where an ordinary bacon cheeseburger and a beer are good eating.)

    Lainie, I get that. That’s one of the reasons Josephin Peladan is one of my eccentric heroes — he saw what was coming, too, and tried heroically to turn things into a less self-defeating path.

    Kimberly, thank you. Yes, exactly; tone rows were one of the gimmicks used as a way to keep tonality from creeping back into music, and they had exactly the same effect as removing the grammar from a sentence: something like “exact sentence removal same has grammar effect a from the as the it and.” (Now imagine an entire book written like that. A Schoenberg piece has that effect on me.)

    Lain, no, it’s not just Nietzsche over again. I’d encourage you to reread the post and note the differences; I’m rather a Nietzsche fan, a well-thumbed copy of The Genealogy of Morals is fewer than fifteen feet from where I’m sitting right now, and the point I’m making is not the same as his.

    Joel, excellent. Yes, and the behavior of the aristocracy since then can be seen in large part as an attempt to hold onto its wealth in the face of the general decline.

  140. “The magic of the privileged exists to convince its practitioners that nothing can possibly be wrong with the world, that everything is as it should be, and that any remaining problems can be counted on to go away in good time once the right reforms get put into place and the right people get elected.”

    …and then it hits me like a brick. Nothing is going to be done about the problems of our age while this magic is in place. Absolutely nothing, except for token gestures! This is the key to everything! I actually lost sleep tonight over it.

    John, please tell me this magic can be disrupted in some manner. Maybe competent operative mages can do a collective ritual? Or maybe each of us can do something about it individually?

  141. Morfran,

    It is situations like you describe that are baffling me. Also, it is alarming the extent to which nonAmericans are caught up in this. The antiRussian propaganda is so over the top as well. It is like we have returned to the 1950s, except back then it was the Soviets who were talking often about the Americans or American capitalists and here in the US we mostly ignored the Soviets. Having had numerous friends who grew up in that era in the Soviet Union, they recall for me the frequent discussion on TV or in the papers about what we were doing. We were very much on their minds but they were not much on ours. Therefore, I am wondering if I should take this new obsession with all that the Russians are doing as a sign of our nations having switched places in the relative power and influence in the world.
    I am just constantly wondering how people like your coworker do not see it, and I also have a feeling of sheepish embarrassment.
    Of course, I do understand from a sort of spiritual point of view, by which I mean a consciousness point of view, that what has happened is that a certain demographic has gone into a lower state of consciousness than before. Of course, all of us are unconscious – life it but a dream – but there are more and less lucid states within the general dream state.

  142. J. M. Greer, thanks for the reply! I do already know about the economic implications of mass immigration; I wanted just to point out that there is a second, cultural factor which the elite doesn’t get. By the way, today’s headline in the German newspaper “taz” was: “Help! My buddy has cast a ballot for AfD!”

  143. Really interesting essay on the anti-liberal backlash in Eastern Europe by Ivan Krastev here:

    I particularly like this observation:

    “One of the crucial problems with communism was that its ideal was a society that never existed and that nobody was sure ever would exist. One of the central problems for Westernizing revolutions, on the other hand, is that the model they aim to imitate is constantly morphing before our eyes. The socialist utopia may have been eternally unreachable, but at least it possessed a comfortingly unchanging quality. Western liberal democracy, by contrast, has proved shape-shifting and protean to an extreme. Because Western normality is defined not as an ideal but as an existing reality, every change in Western societies brings a new image of what is normal. Just as technology companies insist that you should buy their latest model and make it difficult to rely on the previous one, the West insisted that only Europe’s latest postnational political model was worth buying.”

    This “protean” quality of Western liberal democracies is I think what underlies the terrific fear that liberals and leftists have felt since Brexit and the election of Trump. By definition, a society that can swing to the cultural left so rapidly can also swing equally rapidly to the right, or indeed in any wild direction. This is why, as John Gray, has observed, liberals tend to veer between their usual implacable faith in the future, and gibbering panic. They perceive, at an unconscious level, that their model of inevitable progress is false, and that what they have created is a society that is uncontrollably, dangerously, mutable.

  144. @Will J,
    sound like, based the Quebec example, federalism is still alive and well in Canada such that different regions get representation in the federal government. As JMG has noted, federalism is deader than a doorknob in the US, which is why we’re having so much conflict and headed for secession.

  145. JMG
    Somebody could write a book (they probably already have) on the influence of earlier original modern art work, including entirely abstract design and even the more notorious splodges and dribbles, on everyday layouts, from wall coverings to advertising and televisual motifs. (This can be distinguished I guess from the back-referencing ‘faux-nostalgie’, of soup tins or pop-comics specifically seen as I remember in American dominated art markets.)

    And non-commercial hybrid art, hybrid variously between ‘concepts’, texts, and abstract graphical design, can still be seen very much alive in dangerous city borderlands. I remember thinking in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 1970s that the most significant modern artwork I was seeing was the marking of boundaries on motorway and rail bridges and other public walls of teenage gang territories. These days there are still artists who die while projecting personal ambition along London’s railway lines. Some of this non-commercial hybrid stuff has reminded me of the complex ‘squared’ work from South American earlier civilizations, where perhaps totemic and religious reference was squeezed into a short-hand format – dense, often ugly, and seemingly intensely ceremonial.

    What fragmented color and line, free of obvious regularity, representation or conceptual reference, looking more like rags from an artist or house-painter’s working clothes or the stray accumulations from work reaching the studio floor, might mean I am not at all sure. Old buildings perhaps have more obvious content when they retain the modified shapes due to countless hands or residues, palimpsest, although similarly they are barely intelligible except by an artist’s eye. I remember wooden structures in a watermill at the end of its current 200 year working life, worn to the shape of work, hands, rope and cereal grease: kind-of unknowable.

    Phil H

  146. Chris,

    “They’re not trying to sell the benefits of that form of entertainment to me. In point of fact, I have looked into their souls and saw that my exclusion was as entertaining for them, as much as the enjoyment of the music itself.”

    Most excellent. You were using your 3rd eye glasses.

  147. Hi John. I don’t mind disagreeing. I understand your points on the use of art taste to create a sense of elitism and to exclude others. I get what you are saying about foodies too, and I definitely see that as a realm of exclusion based on perceived superiority of taste.

    Contemporary art music does have its own vocabulary and sonic grammar based on solid music theory and what is becoming a new common practice for many musicians. As I mentioned before it is often based more on timbre and rhythm. It also has its own restrictions. And I also believe restriction is a necessary tool in creating great art. By putting certain boundaries in place things hold together and make a form. Learning the new sonic language could be said to be exclusionary, but so is learning the language of magic and occult practice. Listening to music might require study or dedication but so do a lot of other things, and I don’t mind devoting myself to the study of music. It’s similar to the way I devote myself to meditation and other practices.

    For what it’s worth I grew up in a lower-middle class home. My dad is a welder and my mom didn’t originally complete high school though she was an avid reader. Later she went back to school got a nursing degree and worked in hospice. I went to college for just over a year before dropping out thinking, “I can learn what I want to on my own, or outside of school”. I was exposed to experimental music through programs on the local community radio station and by finding recordings at the library, for which I am forever grateful.

    I’ve always been interested in different types of sounds and electronic music. This started when I was a kid and really enjoyed the soundtrack and incidental music in Doctor Who. Thank you Delia Derbyshire! I offer no apologies for enjoying this music & there are plenty of other sound geeks who do.

    Thanks for your comments & those from Elizabeth & Observer observed.

  148. Hi John

    Excellent post. Your exploration of how the privileged classes use magic is fascinating and definitely one to think about.

    I have a few observations to make, from my position within the bottom end of the top 20% (I work and socialise with reasonably affluent middle class professionals in the finance sector). The first is that there is a growing tendency to escapism among many, with the main conversation these days the antics of the beautiful people on Love Island (a British tv series).

    This is at the same time, in the real world, the growing issues popping up, global warming, trade wars, geopolitics, rising inflation and so on only get worse. Trump bashing is popular, although only a mild version of what happens in the US, but there is little awareness of the deeper processes at work, of which Trump is only the public face.

    A the same time, the tendency to laugh at President Trump has diminished and there is a growing awareness that he is no fool and looks increasingly likely to win the next presidential election.

    The NATO threat, something I predicted in my FI blog, before the summit has triggered some interesting conversations in Europe.

    Overall, the general picture is denial, European elites simply don’t want to think about the implications or the possibility of a Trump de facto withdrawal from NATO and European security. You can see that with the mass denials that Trump even uttered the threat, although it seemed pretty clear cut to me!

    Among the masses, there is a opinion, among the Left, that it would be a good thing if America militarily withdraw from Europe. The tensions with the Russians are perceived to be the fault of the Americans and Europe would be a more peaceful continent without the Americans.

    This is NOT the opinion of those in eastern Europe, in particular Poland and the Baltic States, who for historical reasons, are terrified of the Russians. The rest of the population don’t appear to think about the issue at all.

    My own view, for what its worth, is that the future military threat posed by Russia is unlikely to happen although I understand the nervousness of those near the border. It is the threat from the Muslim South that is the bigger threat, given the worsening dynamics of global warming, resource depletion, population surges and growing scarcity of water, arable land and food. The likelihood that broad swathes of North Africa and the Greater Middle East will be uninhabitable within a generation strikes me as high and that a mass armed invasion of water rich Europe is very high.

    This is where the real threat lies. President Macron appears to understand this and said as such in a speech last year. The few times I have raised this prospect with fellow Europeans, blind panic and denial tend to be the responses. Very few Europeans even want to think about such an alarming subject.

    I have one question, that is it looks increasingly likely that at some point that the economic recovery will peter out and we will lapse into another economic crisis. Given that the limits to growth BAU model indicates that key per capita economic trends will peak around the year 2020, do you think that the crisis will erupt from the developing world and over the next decade or so, grow to engulf the core of the industrial civilization?

    I was thinking of the recent Haiti riots, and if the next oil supply crunch/global economic crisis, erupts, will it be poorly developed states like Haiti that implode first into chaos over the next decade or so. I’m trying to get a sense of how the LTG BAU scenario will likely play out in the real world over the next 12 years or so.



  149. @ Nastarana

    Re political refugees

    As a refugee from PoliticalWire myself, I’ll certainly consider it 🙂 I was never officially a party member of the Democratic Party, but generally voted for Democrats since my first ballot back in 1992. I find myself in a strange situation now, having realized 1) how my values and the Party’s have diverged over time, and 2) the implications of this phenomenon that is Trump. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t care for the man, and I didn’t vote for him in 2016; but of the two major candidates, I am relieved that his opponent lost.

    I find myself in agreement with only about a third of what he is doing, but it is an extremely important third. And, most importantly, it is a third that no one else is willing to do (with the possible exception of Sanders, to some degree). So if he actually does manage to maintain a tariff wall, induce domestic production of goods, provide material benefits to working-class Americans who’ve been getting shafted for decades and/or begin withdrawal of our troops from this over-extended military empire of ours, I may have to consider supporting him in ’20. I write these words and I ask myself in amazement, how can this even be possible?

    @ JMG

    Re zero-sum and non-zero-sum

    I understand what you’re saying and that does make sense. Once again, I need to listen to my wife better 😉 as well as a certain deity with whom I speak on occasion. Both have said similar things, but they do so in different languages than I understand, and it appears to take me reading or hearing a concept in “math” or “philosophy” -speak to finally get it. I need to expand my comprehension skills, obviously. (“Getting out of my head,” as my wife puts it, would help.)

  150. @Elizabeth: Stuart Dempster is awesome. I love his recording “Underground Overlays in the Cistern Chapel”. For those who don’t know Dempster is a great trombone player. On this album, he plays mostly solo, though sometimes with nine other trombonists. It was recorded in a large empty cistern somewhere in Washington state where there is extremely long natural reverb. He uses the reverb to create amazing overtones &, yes, harmonics. Wonderful drone music.

    @Observer observed: I probably should have also mentioned Sun Ra and free jazz. The The way jazz, new/contemporay music, and electronic music have all merged together in the world “sound geeks” has helped to create what Alvin Curran calls the “new common practice” so prevalent in the musical underground.

    On restriction. I recently read these words from the late Holger Czukay of the German band Can. “Inability is often the mother of restriction, and restriction is the great mother of inventive perfomance.” Czukay and fellow Can member Irmin Schmidt were students of Stockhausen’s. They took new music, free jazz, and a healthy dose of rock & roll to create some very innovative music. The quote comes from Archdrude Julian Cope’s book “Krautrock Sampler”. Julian is an amazing musician in his own right. He is also an occultist & druid. His books photographing and writing about the megalithic monuments of Britain and Europe are fascinating.

  151. @ JMG and @ Joel

    Re the attempt to retain wealth in the face of decline

    The tactic shifting of costs onto others is certainly alive and well. In WI politics, we are seeing this in the “dark store” phenomenon, where “big box” stores have been using a legal strategy to reduce their tax assessments (essentially by asserting that the value of their commercial property is impaired by the fact that the property isn’t usable for other purposes, so their value for tax assessment should be based on that of a vacant property.) As local governments in WI operate under a fixed tax levy, tax assessments are used for distributional purposes — and the effect of these assessment reductions is to proportionally shift the tax burden onto smaller businesses and residents.

    Similarly, in the energy industry, the most contentious issues revolve around the payment of the fixed costs of infrastructure. Consider the continuing fallout in my former state of SC, with the abandonment of the V.C. Summer nuclear plant

    Another good example is the issue of transmission cost allocation, probably *the* most contentious issue in my industry. That is, who pays for the cost of the high-voltage transmission lines which form the various interconnections (Eastern, Western, and Texas) of the national grid? To their credit, regulators and industry actors attempt to define “beneficiary pays” principles, but the definition of how these costs are distributed is a perpetual and unresolved issue. Infrastructure costs continue to rise, usage is flat or declining, and distribution of these fixed costs is increasingly important. Right now, the rise in fixed costs is being offset by a decline in other costs due to cheap natural gas and falling prices for batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines, but that cannot last forever. Eventually, the piper must be paid.

  152. JMG – Totally agree with your observations concerning the direction of art. As someone with a firm grounding in classical ballet, and as a former professional dancer, I am shocked and disappointed by the number of stark, abstract, and soulless ballets being produced now. It saddens me greatly. Beauty, it seems, is passé.

  153. Would your webmaster be able to make the up-voting of comments happen? I’d love to be able to give a mark for the comments I love without having to comment to do it.

    On a different note – Every time I go to leave a comment and see “Troll Bingo Cards”, I wish that they actually existed. I have set of the logical fallacy cards and they are fun to do with my kids when debating topics.

    And on yet a different note – Stopped using Twitter to sign in. It apparently signs me out nightly and I can’t subscribe to comments via email. So updated the Gravatar thing which took about 30 minutes for me to figure out how to do. Ugh technology.

  154. Re: modern art and the gods:

    Last week I read Hermann Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund. It got me thinking on the tension between the intellectual, word based understandings of Narcissus, and the image-derived understandings of Goldmund.

    More broadly, this can be perhaps be understood as a tension between Mercury, god of intellectual disciplines, and Venus, god of love and beauty. In Hesse’s work, the two parts of this polarity are able to get along as well as the gods in Botticelli’s allegorical painting, Primavera (

    My thought is, with the ugly modern art created by con-artists (who are, of course, under the rulership of Mercury) there is a word-game, inside joke quality that is Mercurial, tricksy and clever. It seems to me that the aristocracy, as it stands, is heavily defined, or even possessed by unbalanced Mercurial energies and actually deeply fears Venus. Hence the high-priced ugly art, the ugly surroundings, the worship of Progress, the doctrines of Science, the fear of poetry etc. etc.

    I genuinely wonder, why this may be? Why is there this apparent widespread fear, at least among the well-to-do, of beauty, harmony and pleasure?

  155. JMG, Booklover Re: european immigrants

    I don’t doubt that the reason so many German corporations supported the reception of the refugees in 2015 was their wish for lower wages. On the other hand, I don’t think Merkel ever decided and executed a bold policy move in her entire political career. I wasn’t in Germany at the time, so I may be wrong, but it was my impression that Merkel had a rather traditional low-immigration attitude right until the summer of 2015, and it reappeared soon afterwards. The crisis in 2015 was precipitated when hundreds of thousands of refugees were already on European ground, and I think Merkel’s famous “welcome” was not much better planned than the permission to cross the Berlin wall on the night of Nov 9, 1989.

  156. I must admit the Russiagate thing got a bit less funny now that a real, breathing human being (Maria Butina) was actually thrown in jail, how ever temporarily, for acting an unofficial lobbyist – in other words, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is ever so slightly worrying, considering I have some distant relatives in America and know some other people here who want to visit it at some point. Who knows what they might do there that could possibly put them in the narrative firing line? Hopefully this is the high point of this hysteria.

    That aside, I followed the US 2016 election with great interest while it was happening and reading more about it, especially about some underreported aspects of it, is always very fascinating to me. So I am really looking forward to the rest of this series!

  157. P.S. Re: Cordwainer Smith and political correctness… good grief. I remember first discovering him not long ago and thinking that the godson of Sun Yat-sen would have probably been considered an anti-Chinese racist by that set, among other things. I take it that you are more fond of him than you are of, say, Asimov?

  158. JMG,

    Please delete if this is out of place. In your response to William H Duncan you wrote, “have you read Jung at all? He covers this in some detail. Human beings can’t control the gods…” Where in Jung’s writings does he cover this topic? (BTW, I just bought The Red Book and Memories, Dreams, and Reflections). Again, my apologies and thanks.

  159. JMG: “Human beings can’t control the gods, but if we’re conscious of the way their powers manifest in our lives, we can direct those powers toward their higher manifestations… As for God, YHVH, and Allah — three different deities, as far as I can tell — well, of course; if their followers stopped talking to them quite so much and listened to them instead, things might be rather different…”

    If these three “gods” are quite different beings, then what understanding might occur with regards to angels or “angelic beings” that appear in association with these related religions? Does each of these gods have its own set of messengers and enactors, since I’ve heard it said that angels don’t have any free will, and that the word “angel” itself should be taken merely as a kind of job description? It is interesting that at least two specific entities — namely, Archangels Michael and Gabriel — appear as important figures in all three of these religions… But is their service only to the gods (with some deep matrix or morphic resonance play a part in all this, distributing “grace” as certain affinities might influence and allow for it), or are they intermediaries between the gods and us?

    Your comment (about becoming more “conscious of the way their powers manifest in our lives”) reminded me of the words of the recently deceased Christian mystic Bernadette Roberts, who said that one had to “make oneself more relevant to God” in order for spiritual attainment to manifest.

    As Carmelite nun for a number of years who became a more independent contemplative, she had her own interesting theological understanding of the meaning of the second “person” of the Trinity — that “Christ” was not other than the human nature that God created for itself, a level of Being which we are always striving to attain… and that “Christ” is not the name of any human being, but refers solely to God’s eternal oneness with Man.

    I appreciate your thoughts and responses, Mr. Greer. (And, can you recommend a particular book by Jung?) Many thanks.

  160. NemoNascitur, that’s why I specified that I was talking about US public schools. There’s nothing inherently wrong about public schools, and in fact the US used to have one of the best public school systems on the planet. It’s what has been done to it over the last half century or so that I’m trying to discuss.

    Chris, yep — and mindfulness meditation, if I understand correctly, is only one of the meditative disciplines traditionally practiced by Theravadin monks, and normally fits into a system of practice that also includes study of the sutras and the like. All by itself, eviscerated of its spiritual content and meaning, it’s just a way of evading unwelcome realities.

    Morfran, excellent. This is where it becomes clear that actually, a lot of people on the left are fine with the military-industrial complex, because in the final analysis, all those bombs and drone strikes and corpses are what maintain them in their comfortable lifestyles. They just don’t want to admit it to themselves.

    DFC, thanks for this! That’s a very useful collection of data points, and “plutonomy” is a keeper.

    Mark, thank you. I’m a literary artist rather than a visual artist, but the same rule applies; nobody is obliged to spend time on one of my books or your paintings, and so (for example) I try to make my prose interesting and my arguments make sense, so that readers who don’t have the “secret handshake” can still get something out of the book and, what do you know, maybe even end up figuring out what I’m doing on deeper levels.

    Scotlyn, understood! I certainly appreciate the poet’s predicament — of all the arts, that’s got to be the worst paid these days. Let me know when the book comes out.

    Cliff, two direct hits. Thank you! Mainstream liberalism has turned into the fantasy that everyone in the world can become a middle-class American — except that then, of course, where would they get their cheap products from overseas sweatshops and their cheap services from the exploited poor? So it’s riddled with hypocrisy right down to the core. As for UUs, I suspect that’s part of it. I know a lot of people who are involved in the UU church; many of them are really fine people; but every UU service I’ve ever attended ended up making me think that Unitarians are people who’ve gotten into the habit of meeting in a big building every Sunday morning, but have forgotten why. The lack of potent visual emblems is part of that, but to my mind it’s a symptom rather than a cause; the heart of the problem, as you’ve suggested, is that in place of the blazing reality of spiritual experience, they put a collection of nice abstract sentiments. (Of course I haven’t attended every UU church in the world, and maybe I’ve just been unlucky in the congregations and ministers I’ve seen and the services I’ve attended, but that’s what it’s always seemed like to me.)

    Prizm, interesting. Thank you for the data point.

    Violet, delighted to hear it.

    Paul, maybe you wouldn’t have the chutzpah to hang a urinal on a wall in an art museum and claim that it’s art, but that just means you probably shouldn’t try to compete with the top rank of put-on artists. Assume for a moment that Duchamp hadn’t done that. Can you imagine a Monty Python skit that focused around somebody hanging a urinal on the wall in an art museum and claiming that it’s art? So can I.

  161. @Onething We are the adults and its time we did something about it! Its become clear to me that I’ve abdicated my responsibility calling out the left on their behavior. I tend to not want to push back at people who are pushing me and will give in just to make peace.

    Counter protesting is not the answer here. Shame can be effective. I think isolation can work too. My new phrase for them is “You can’t possibly mean that.” Should work against anything they bring up they want to do.

    “Trump is a traitor!” – my response: “You can’t possibly mean that!”

    A little shame, pointing the finger back at them, and then they have to supply reasons, which they can’t do without consulting CNN/MSNBC/NPR

    Breitbart is keeping a running tally of assaults to Trump supporters if you want to keep up with it.

  162. Hi again JMG

    I don´t know what is your opinion but this speech of Peter Navarro about “the China’s war of economic aggression to the US”, for me it sounds like a declaration of war, because as he said at the end, if you negotiate with the chineses to remove 25 strategies of “economic war” with US, you still have 25 unacceptable ones

    This is the document that Peter Navarro is talking about in the video:

    IMHO Trump is not retreating from Empire at all, he is trying to rule it on the cheap, to avoid that the imperial rule cost too much money to the american taxpayers, and be the “provinciae” of the Empire who pay for the imperial army and bases (and Mexico pay The Wall), today they are paying using the $ as reserve currency, which is a huge advantage (allow the growth of the twin deficits: current account and public deficit without destroying the currency), but he wants much more from the “allies” in order to avoid unrest of the “internal proletariat” .
    He knows perfectly well that with the huge private and public debt, a retreat from the empire will ruin the $, the economy and the country, and probably sparks a similar situation as the dissolution of the Soviet Union

    On the other hand I consider the summit Trump-Putin in the same optic as the Nixon visit to Beijing in 1972, but changing the countries.
    In 1972 the perceived survival threat for the US come from the at that time almighty Soviet Union, China was a regional power not a threat for the global US power, and China had big differences with the Soviet Union, for example in 1966 China and the USSR almost went to war after the incidents in the river Amur border, and after that in 1979 with the punishment operation of China against Vietnam after the vietnamese invasion of the Cambodia ruled then by the murderer Pol Pot

    Today I think this US administration and a good part of the MIC consider China the bigger threat to the US empire, and Russia a regional power with not enough economic, industrial, technological and demographic means to contest the US hegemon in larger parts of the globe (except, of course, in her tiny sphere of influence, that could be easily addressed)
    It is the same strategy followed by the British Empire when they make an alliance with France before WWI against Germany, despite the many many wars and colonial incidents between both countries in the centuries before

    Of course the US must stop to punish and threat Russia in her sphere of influence and in the economy, and all of this will not be good news for the new NATO members in the Eastern Europe, as for Taiwan was not good news the cooperation between US with China from 1972 onwards

    In the long term China is the bigger threat to Russia, when the Himalayan glaciers retreat as then the amount of water in the big asian rivers, the increase in temperature and droughts and the scarcity of arable and not poisoned land and food start to be felt in China, the chinese Lebensraum will be Siberia for hundreds of millions of people, and I think Russia will not be glad, and may be they could be contained but only if China is not a global superpower/hegemon

    In any case, always is better to have the big enemy/rival far away from your border


  163. The article by Krastev was really eye-opening for me (thanks, Phil Knight!).

    “The combination of an aging population, low birth rates, and an unending flow of outmigration is the ultimate source of demographic panic in Central and Eastern Europe… Immigration anxiety is fomented by a fear that unassimilable foreigners will enter the country, dilute national identity, and weaken national cohesion. This fear, in turn, reflects a largely unspoken preoccupation with demographic collapse. Between 1989 and 2017, Latvia hemorrhaged 27… Bulgaria almost 21 percent… About 3.4 million people left Romania in the decade after 2007—numbers usually associated with a war or some other catastrophe. Three-quarters of these Romanians, moreover, were 35 or younger when they left… Panic in the face of a nonexistent immigrant invasion should be understood as a distorted echo of a more realistic underlying fear that huge swaths of one’s own population, including the most energetic and able young people, will leave the country and settle permanently abroad. The magnitude of the post-1989 migration out of Central and Eastern Europe explains why there has been such a deeply hostile reaction to the refugee crisis across the region even though hardly any refugees have relocated to it (as distinguished from transiting across it)… Across Europe, the areas that suffered the greatest hemorrhaging of population in recent decades have been the ones most inclined to vote for far-right parties.”

    This is certainly true in Eastern Germany, and it might also be true in parts of “fly-over” America, though I would prefer the opinion of somebody living there.

  164. “…I do complain when people who produce the kinds of artwork I find meaningful — representational art, tonality-based music, and the like — are stigmatized and treated as though what they’re doing is contemptible…”

    I *love* it when you say things like this. You do realize you’re telling the story of my life? Moreover, your class analysis of elite manipulations of the art establishment makes me feel as though you’ve handed me a potent ideological weapon that I probably would never have developed on my own.

    “…my wife… (She has, by the way, a BFA in art history and is a classically trained violinist, and her opinions of modern art, and also of John Cage, are far harsher than mine.)”

    I’d love to hear them.

    You might enjoy the work of the man who taught me how to paint. It’s absolutely nature-centered; humans, when present, are generally a minor feature of the landscape.

  165. Scotlyn,

    The poem was very good and I thought, didn’t that art form come from American blacks?

  166. No, not in print yet, but I’m working at it. I’ll be sure to drop you a line when I get there!

  167. @ Onething. Quite! And I have long felt a degree of embarrasment at the resentful fixation so many people I know on the (shallower end of the) UK Left have with American presidents and American power generally; like a mirror image of the equally embarrasing sycophancy that much of the British establisment has towards the US. It has always seemed dysfunctional. But this Trump thing is as you say positively alarming. My whole office team were at it the other day, perhaps understandably as Trump was in the UK, but I really didn’t feel up to raising a moderating voice in the group in the way I had, a little bit, in private with said colleague.

    @JMG – I supoose it must come down to something like that in the end, at least unconsciously. During the same anguished rant my colleague also insisted that Trump just “doesn’t get America”. The implication seemed to be that what Trump didn’t get was the role America was supposed to play for all of us, even those of us supposed to be against US imperialism. In some ways a strange version of your “war against change” narrative?

  168. Matthias, an excellent question! I think that modern art and music failed to serve the same role in the American imperial system that the Confucian classics played in the Chinese imperial system, and the Greek and Latin classics in the British imperial system, for three reasons. First, there wasn’t an established body of irrelevant works to serve as a yardstick — half of what makes a classics-based system work is that every student has to wrestle with the same texts, so that within a generation or so every possible gimmick has been done to death and the teachers and examiners can get past that to actual differences in talent and temperament. Second, modern art and music weren’t irrelevant enough — they were by and large all too relevant, drawing heavily on contemporary fashions and fads, and so didn’t have the serene irrelevance that makes a classics-based system so useful. Finally, of course, they played a very small part in the filtering process. If the main thing that determined who got a corporate job and who didn’t was personal reactions to Andy Warhol and John Cage, that might have worked, but those were minor status signals; the main issue was SAT scores and a capacity to suck up to the rich, and those are guaranteed to give you a collection of servile toadies.

    Chris, Blind Freddy is as perceptive as usual! The thing is, giggling at the absurdities of the aristocracy is a very good habit to cultivate, especially when the aristocracy in question is working overtime to hand the rest of us a good collection of tumbrils and piano wire…

    Jacques, that’s raw material enough for a post of its own. I discussed a certain amount of it, though, on the old blog here.

    Michael, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. My read is that the reaction to the Helsinki summit isn’t deliberate, it’s Trump Derangement Syndrome on steroids, and Trump is the deliberate one — he intentionally whipped up the frenzy, and is still whipping it up, to distract the left from his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. If I’m right, expect Trump to launch a new twitterstorm every time the yelling starts to die down, so that by the time the nomination actually comes before the Senate, the left will have done nothing significant to organize opposition.

    Varun, glad to hear it. The thing to remember is that “mindfulness meditation” as practiced in Fortune 500 corporations doesn’t actually develop mindfulness — it teaches the practitioner to let thoughts flow past unanalyzed and unchallenged, and so fosters effective mindlessness instead.

    Chris, I suspect the Wombat God is going to be very happy indeed down the road a bit…

  169. Today in downtown Berkeley I saw a woman who looked like a zombie walking around in torn clothes and with dirt and make-up smeared all over her face. I saw an old man of at least sixty years old shirtless with his hand down his pants fondling himself in a doorway along a busy street. I also saw a middle aged man walking around disheveled, talking to himself and highly agitated. Everyone else seemed like total strangers. Is this how things are now? Have we always cared so little for one another?

  170. > I shudder to think of what the minions of political correctness say about [Cordwainer Smith] these days

    If you’re curious, the standards of polite discourse that I try to hold myself to probably qualify me as just such a minion, so I guess I’m qualified to comment:

    Scanners Live in Vain seems like a good exploration of the magic of the excluders. A typical haberman is unaware of the pain of separation by someone else’s will, but their rulers, the scanners, are there willingly, and are allowed to cranch back into something like full humanity every once in a while, to keep some connection. The alternative from the end of the story is interesting, too.

  171. Ailuromancer, I know — I lost sleep over it at first, too. The thing is, it was never possible to make the modern industrial way of life sustainable, and at this point it’s no longer possible to prevent the Long Descent into the deindustrial dark ages of the future — that possibility went whistling down the wind when we collectively turned our back on the promising early steps toward sustainability at the beginning of the 1980s. The tasks that matter now — making the descent less chaotic and devastating, preserving as much as possible of the worthwhile achievements of our time and of previous eras, and doing what we can to make things easier for the successor cultures that will build on our ruins — don’t require the assistance of the aristocracy, and in fact their involvement would just turn it into another gimmick to prop up their power, the way climate change activism has done. It really is better to leave them in their trance and get to work without them.

    Booklover, got it. Thank you.

    Phil K, thanks for this.

    Phil H, I’ve seen the same thing in a lot of US cities — if you travel by train in the US, you get to see the grubby end of the country, and that includes a lot of slum areas. What new arts will come out of that is a fascinating question, and I’m sorry I won’t live to see it.

    Justin, fair enough! I certainly don’t require anybody else to agree with me about art or music; I’d like to see more tolerance from the art scene for those who prefer traditional artistic modes, but as I noted earlier, that’s probably going to have to wait until the baleful influence of the academic industry is removed by economic forces.

    Tripp, nobody talks about archdruids. It’s been a source of quite some amusement to me that some of the ideas I’ve launched into circulation have become very widespread, to the extent that people quote phrases I’ve coined, but it’s never with attribution, of course!

    Forecastingintelligence, thanks for this. It interests me that the people you know are starting to realize that Trump has a good chance of winning reelection; that’s not something his enemies on this side of the pond have noticed. As for your question, my guess is that the next big economic crisis will come out of China, and that one of the things the current US administration is trying to do is get a firewall in place so that we don’t get swamped by the economic troubles on the far side of the Pacific. But we’ll see…

    David, it takes a lot of work to unlearn things — more, usually, than it does to learn them! As for the ongoing efforts to push costs off onto everyone else, yeah, we’re going to see even more of that as things proceed — and the result will be that people start doing without things when the costs become too onerous. I don’t think anybody’s factored that in yet.

    Silent H, thanks for this! I’m no judge of ballet — I’m to dance what tone-deaf is to music — but I’m sorry to say this doesn’t surprise me at all.

    Denys, I don’t think upvoting of comments is a feature WordPress has, but I’ll ask. As for Troll Bingo Cards, you know, that really would be fun! A set of Trump Derangement Syndrome bingo cards might also be entertaining just now…

    Violet, that’s an immense issue, and it’s not just limited to the privileged. Our entire society has come to hate and fear beauty. Why? I don’t have a clear answer to mind; it deserves serious thought.

    Matthias, gotcha. That makes sense.

    Daniil, I know. I hope she gets out of the current mess without too much trouble. As for Cordwainer Smith, from my admittedly biased perspective, Asimov wasn’t fit to clean his typewriter! There’s more raw imagination and sense of wonder in your average Smith story than there is in Asimov’s collected works. Of course both of them were male and light-skinned, and both are now dead, so by definition they’re evil incarnate among the politically correct; what’s more, both of them had the attitudes and opinions of their own era rather than ours, which is of course equally unforgivable. Bah.

    Will1000, his volume The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious covers a lot of that, but please also pick up Civilization in Transition when you have the chance, and pay close attention to his essays “Wotan” and “Flying Saucers.”

    Petrus, see my response to Will1000 immediately above for some Jung recommendations. As for the relation between the Middle Eastern desert gods and their angels, presumably each has his own set of subordinate spirits; it was a standard belief in late classical Neoplatonism, for whatever this is worth, that each god or goddess is at the apex of a cascade of spiritual beings that express that specific divine energy at different levels and modes of being.

    DFC, did Britain’s retreat from its empire, at a time when it had colossal debts as well, cause it to collapse? Not at all; it came through in much better shape than it would have done if it had clung to its empire to the bitter end. (See the history of Spain for a grim example of how that works.) The point that a lot of people forget is that after a certain period of time, an empire begins to cost more than it brings in, and an imperial society that retreats from empire when that time arrives can benefit sharply from that process. It’s quite possible that Trump’s successor will simply default on the US debt, the way Russia did in 1998; countries do that all the time, and it’s often a good strategy to get out from under unpayable burdens. No, I think that we’re seeing the opening moves in a ragged but functional retreat from empire, and thank the gods for that!

    Kevin, thank you for pointing me to Bill Martin’s gallery; I’d seen some of his work before, notably “Rock.” I’ll ask Sara if she’s willing to pop on here and talk about modern art and John Cage. As for your experiences with the nose-in-the-air brigade, I get that; as a writer of genre fiction and as teacher of occult philosophy, I’ve fielded the same kind of putdowns repeatedly. There’s art to be made out of that experience, too. The main character of my as-yet-unpublished novel The Shoggoth Concerto is a music student who wants to compose music in the standard Baroque forms, and one of the running themes of the story is the unceasing crap she gets from most of her fellow students and many of the professors as well, for wanting to do something other than the same fashionable avant-garde stuff as everyone else.

    Dudley, I’ll look forward to it. I can recommend Lovecraftiana magazine, by the way, if you’ve got short pieces in mind; they did a very nice job with my story “Walpurgis Night,” and will be getting more from me.

    Morfran, hmm! That makes a lot of sense. “Trump just doesn’t get America” equals “Trump doesn’t act out the role we’ve assigned to America”…yeah, I can see that.

  172. Tude, of course. I’m wondering why you’re just noticing it now.

    Joel, nope — you didn’t immediately attack Smith for being white and male and well-to-do, and try to insist that the Underpeople are a dog-whistle for people of color, and go through any of the other gyrations that people in the social-justice end of science fiction use to assail those who are by and large much more talented than they are. (Cough, cough, RaceFail 2009, cough, cough.) By my metric, you thus haven’t shown a trace of political correctness.

  173. @Onething,
    I don’t think you can generalize the queer social justice warrior to queer people in general. In fact, many queerfolk are put off by the social justice warriors, and those of us who are white and male are suspect in many SJW eyes.

  174. Re: the role of middle-class magic. It’s probably not an accident that in the popularisation of yoga and Buddhist meditation, the bits that got imported were those that helped people accustom themselves to things as they are, and the bits that didn’t make the cut were those that demanded that people change themselves or the world?

    For example: mindfulness meditation got imported and popularised, but right livelihood didn’t, despite it being one part of the eightfold path of Buddhism. Yoga postures are taught in classes, but the yoga ethics of radical nonviolence and non-theft have not made the cut along with them.

  175. The discussion about the gods and how they are able to influence even when forgotten is fascinating. I’m wondering in part how much using a language which may invoke the gods can help them communicate with us on a subconscious level. Particularly in English with the Norse gods. We invoke their names on a daily basis, with most days of the week having a Norse dirty as it’s namesake. Wikipedia has a list which is rather huge of all the English words which have been rooted in it connected with Old Norse. Realizing this, I’m not surprised now how Heathenry has become quite familiar to many people.

  176. If the political establishment of a representative democracy decides that only one set of policies is thinkable, and all major parties sign on to that set of policies, it’s usually possible to shut down any discussion of alternatives even if the policies in question have disastrous consequences for most of the population.

    This can be done even if there’s social mobility, so long as you make agreement with the policies in question the requirement for access to influence and wealth. Educational systems are the usual venue for this filtering process.

    So basically, the reason so many people have neglected their civic duty to participate in voting is because they’ve accepted the idea that the government’s way is the only right way, which they’ve probably learned through school? I could definitely buy into that seeing as so many people have bought into a lifestyle of believing someone else is in control and there is nothing they can do about it. One of my biggest peeves recently since I’ve started working in the health care industry and dealing directly with members of the Medicare population is how so many of them just accept that their health care support (or frankly lack there of) is out of their control. The reality is they have a lot of voice about it if they chose to get political but so few are able to either admit that or even realize that they could have a say.

    Also, considering how when I was in school and attempted to voice my own opinion about things, especially when in classes dealing with civics and government, and was quieted or shot down by the teacher, I do realize most people would learn from that situation that what they think and feel doesn’t matter.

    Honestly, how does one manage to utter that you matter in society in one breath then shut your opinion down in another and not expect a rebellion to happen? That does take an incredibly strong magic to make them blind to such realities.

  177. I agree art has tended twoards the “modern”, and that people are dismissed for tastes that are too pedestrian. I also agree that this serves as a marker to identify those who belong and those who don’t. It doesn’t trouble me much. I expect aristocracy to set up these little tests, because, after all, the aristocracy can’t admit everyone. There has to be some class to look down upon.

    What troubles me is the way in which aristocracy is “joined” not in the literal sense so much as in the adoption of the values and priorities of the aristocracy by those who are not really members, and never really will be.
    The aristocracy encourages the adoption of their worldview even while excluding most from the benefits of that worldview.

    The lower echelons of the salary class ape the opinions of the aristocracy, even though they are not part of the aristocracy. The lower salary class, in fact, have more in common with the wage class than the upper reaches of the salary class, and many of them probably came from the wage class themselves. The same holds for uppper reaches of the wage class, they adopt the values most beneficial to the aristocracy not the values that would benefit people just a rung or two below them.

    I’m not concerned with whether or not someone can appreciate a particular work of art so much as I’m concernd that people struggling to get by are uncricically adopting the neoliberal economic view, which is actively harming them. I’m concerned that much of the wage class adopts the Imperial view of waging war relentlessly even though the harm falls disproportionately on the their (our) class.

    What I’m seeing on the ground is not so much the exclusion of people from the aristocracy based on their affinity for certian types of art, but rather, the “inclusion” of virtually all of the salary class and much of the wage class in a shared worldview that can only benefit the ariistocracy. At each level people tend to status-signal in the hopes of entering the class or step above them. They status-signal by adopting and parroting the views of the aristocracy. The exclusion from the club isn’t nearly so important (imo) as the way the aristocracy encourages adoption of their worldview even by those who’ve been mocked and sent away as unworthy of joinng the club.

    There is of course much evidence that some members of the wage class are rejecting the aristocracy’s views. Trump, Brexit, tariffs, and vauge discontent with endless war. I’m afraid I’m not seeing much discontent from the salary class, even at the lowest levels. It’s as if, in order to be a good person, one must express agreement with the views of the aristocracy. For those of us who don’t, well, we’re deplorable.

  178. Dear John Michael Greer,

    Thank you for another fascinating read; I very much look forward to your next post.

    Your brief mention of Joséphin Péladan in the comments section prompted a mini-surfari… and I found this website about his work by artist and esoteric scholar Sasha Chaitow
    I mention this since I would guess that many of your readers may find it as interesting as I did.

    As for the financial/ sociological dynamics of post WWII modern art dealing and collecting, I can recommend THE ART CROWD by Sophy Burnham (yes, of angels fame). If you look it up, you will find a paperback published by in 2000, however that is a reprint through the Author’s Guild’s back-in-print program. Originally THE ART CROWD was published by a large commercial publisher and made a brief, strange splash. Both the contents and the publishing history of this book are quite unusual and provocative. (Burnham’s other sociological book, THE LANDED GENTRY, also rewards close reading.)

    @ Mark who mentions Hilma af Klint in his comment
    Thank you, Mark, for prompting another surfari… I am intrigued to learn that there will be a show of Hilma af Klint’s works this October at the Guggenheim.


  179. Scotlyn, thank you for posting the wonderful Stephen Murphy video; very much appreciated. Peter

  180. Hi John Michael,

    Hmm, yes, the wombat concerned God would be well pleased with a few less pesky humans around the landscape. Fortunately we seem to be playing into the wombat concerned God’s hands. Once, and not all that long ago, wombats weighed in at over several tonnes and would have been a formidable beast to encounter in the forest.

    Oh, incidentally I spotted an interesting article today in the newspaper about a community group preparing their land for the re-introduction of the marsupial cat (the spotted tiger quoll): Where trees rain from the sky so tiger quolls might roam again. They used to exist in this mountain range but they 1983 Ash Wednesday bush fires destroyed a lot of their final habitat (very large and very old trees). I was particularly interested to see that the community in the article had to come to terms with their obligations to the land and all within it and decided that healing was the best way forward.

    Hey, speaking about newspapers, I chanced upon a news report the other day that the two main competing newspapers have decided to share print facilities and shut down the other. I’m unsure of the details, but far out.

    Blind Freddy reckons that the question as to beauty, which you mentioned in the comments above, one aspect of the problem is part of the Faustian Bargain that we have struck. But myself, I don’t really know.



  181. Reading the CosDoc is creating ripples in almost everything else I think about, including this post (and I apologize if it’s dragging too off topic). For example, for the excluded, their evil or Ring-Chaos is the will of the aristocracy to hoard wealth and power for themselves, instead of allowing it to flow through the system and be shared with others. But if the excluded only oppose the evil, it will result in making it stronger overall. Many who are excluded seek to seize the power or wealth of the aristocracy for themselves, as you outlined. And if they take up magic in order to simply gain what the aristocracy has, how is that really helping? According to Dion Fortune they are just perpetuating the evil. The force of the Ring-Cosmos would become locked up with the Ring-Chaos and nothing would change. The excluded would become a mirror image of the aristocracy, a binary from which one can’t escape.

    To truly oppose negative evil, says the CosDoc, create a vacuum around it and allow it to dissipate. So with that in mind, the excluded should hate everything about what the aristocracy is doing, stop allowing them to dictate their values, and surrender their desire to lock up money, power and status for themselves. That may sound good in theory, but in practice I think a lot of people fear to do that. Especially if they’re starving, sick, have no job, no money, enslaved. I think it’s tough to actually do that, even in limited ways.

    And yet, every person who steps outside of the game of striving to accumulate money and power for themselves does those excluded from the aristocracy a favor by not perpetuating that evil any further. It seems the magic of the oppressed could be instead to gain the will and power to change the game and truly do something different. Allow something larger to flow through them which is not simply the position of opposing evil. One could gain access to an entirely new method of thinking, of creation and power that way – the third way which is not locked up in the binary.

    So with this hope, we might see subcultures doing different things. As Hakim Bey put it, creating ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’ (or later, he figured, permanent autonomous zones) where one is free for a time from some aspects of the hegemony of society. Growing your own food and sharing it with your neighbors instead of getting it from Big Ag. Unplugging your brain from the corporate media machine which perpetuates the magic or consciousness of the aristocracy. Having community festivals where attendees are participants in creating art, not just spectators or consumers. Using herbs and other alternative healing methods instead of Big Pharma. Worker-run co-ops instead of corporations. Staying outside of the monetary economy, bartering. Homeschooling. All things that have been brought up here often enough. I guess I’m just starting to figure out why they’ve been mentioned so many times.

  182. JMG, I am wondering why your impression of my comment was that I am just now noticing. I have thought on this for hours, and I still don’t know how to respond. The issue of homelessness and the homeless has been the central issue of my life. At 48 years old I no longer have the strength to deal with the pain of it all. I was just trying to illustrate the madness of our society in my own way, since I don’t know what to say or do anymore.

  183. JMG,

    I often think or George Orwell the Journalist and not so much the Novelist in these days. Much of what he wrote before Animal Farm and 1984 deserve larger credit than they have (“Shooting an Elephant” and such)

    To pick one example related to this post of yours, this is how he wrote of the “opposition” to the tory govt. at the eve of WW2:

    “The downward slide is happening because nearly all the Socialist leaders, when it comes to the pinch, are merely His Majesty’s Opposition, and nobody else knows how to mobilize the decency of the English people, which one meets with everywhere when one talks to human beings instead of reading newspapers. Nothing is likely to save us except the emergence within the next two years of a real mass party whose first pledges are to refuse war and to right imperial injustice. But if any such party exists at present, it is only as a possibility, in a few tiny germs lying here and there in unwatered soil.”

    “Not counting N**gers”

    This is how I sense the reaction in the DNC established HQ has been since 2016. A loyal opposition who can’t mobilize on the decency of the American people.

  184. Isn’t there a magic of the “privileged” classes? What about the magic of Donald Trump, the New-Thought styled Norman Peale, Ernest Holmes, Charles Filmore think and grow rich magic? This is the magic of 20th century mental science that Gary Lachman writes about; he also ties it to alt-right deities like Kek. Isn’t Trump’s magic the magic of the privileged classes? In some conspiracy circles it is believed that this is what keeps the rich rich! Nothing wrong with that, is there?

  185. a small quibble, you say that it is the new deal leadership that lead to this but there was a revolution in the 60s of the last[greatest] generation by a new meritocracy encapsulated with the Clintons that is the group clinging to power. Sanders’ attempt to revive that new deal coalition with the masses that provoked such strong and dogmatic reaction [continuing today] proves this.

  186. John—

    I try to observe the antics of our ossified elite, and also that of the wannabe stratum just below it, from an emotional distance and with some dispassion. But, I have to admit, it can be difficult at times. Partly, I crave resolution— which I know is an impossible thing, as existence doesn’t resolve, the dance doesn’t end, but only shifts from one form to another. And partly, I must confess, I succumb to a bit of schadenfreude and would like to witness a comeuppance or three as the present world order changes under their feet. Mind you, I’m aware that I’m going to be impacted, which is why I was trying to be a voice nudging us in a better (less bad) direction, but we know how well that went. I hope there will be a time when there is the opportunity for rational thought to break through this spell of empire, but in the meantime it seems there is little to be done on the larger stage but to wait patiently for the fever to break and that opportunity to appear, hoping that things don’t get out of hand before then.

    Or is there the alternative to alter consciousness in accordance with will? And how might that be done in such a context as this, affecting the course of this nation? Could we invoke peaceful resolution of our differences, a sane path to imperial deconstruction, and a return to modest, frugal lifestyles while respecting the ways of others who live differently from ourselves?

    Or is it both?

  187. I am one of those people you all despise so much, still “having tantrums” over what’s happening to this country, so please allow me to try to explain. You are right that anger is a secondary emotion; for me, the primary emotion is grief over the loss of what I consider civilized standards of behavior. Sneer if you wish, but that man assaults women, repeatedly tells lies – even when what he says is demonstrably untrue, contradicted on tape – defends racist violence, insults people who should be allies and over and over again demonstrates his admiration for authoritarian rulers.

    What I don’t understand is why someone who claims to be a Burkean conservative and against State control would so strongly defend an aspiring authoritarian ruler.

    Now, your points about power structures of Republicans and Democrats being indistinguishable and designed to prop up corporate elites, I agree with. And completely agree that those have to be dismantled.

    But the collateral damage! And does no one see that the most damage will be inflicted on blue collar workers themselves? Trade wars, a Supreme Court that is strongly signaling it will rule in favor of corporations over workers every time, the complete dismantling of environmental protections… these are going to hit the lower and working classes the hardest, as the aristocracy can afford to move away from environmental destruction.

    What happened to standards of decent behavior? I have no idea where you’re going with the Pepe the Frog bit, but certainly hope you’re not going to defend racist, anti-Semitic violence on the grounds that white men are somehow suffering and underprivileged. Backed into a corner? What about the corners that people of color are backed into when the KKK crowd attacks them with the explicit support of the current occupant of the White House.

    Truth is being killed off by someone who thinks he’s king and doesn’t care how blatant and obvious his lies are; he’ll just keep repeating his lies until they become truth. His assaults on women and repeated failure to pay his companies’ vendors and employees — these are not actions in support of the working class. Why are they perceived that way?

    Any hope of decent treatment for suffering people who arrive at our border seeking asylum – dying. (Not that their treatment was good before Trump; since the mid-80s, I’ve been horrified at what we’re willing to do to people with brown skin in the name of some imaginary line in the desert.)

    I would be all in favor of dismantling the current power structures and dethroning the corporate elites, and understand that can’t happen without upheaval. But I’m still throwing tantrums over Trump because he’s a lying egomaniacal wanna-be dictator who will institute new power structures that are worse. If you’re hoping for more freedom, HA! Take a look around at the destruction left in his wake.

    So that’s why I’m still upset, angry and in despair. All the values I care about most — treating people kindly, telling the truth, constraining power to protect the most vulnerable — those are dying, while corporate authoritarianism is being strengthened.

    Tantrums, indeed. Call it that if you wish. Do your happy dance over the destruction of the ethics and mores and the elevation of corporate rape.

    What I don’t understand is why someone who has argued before that no society can survive when it extracts more than the environment can sustain would be so opposed to boundaries and regulations designed to protect the environment. T and his cronies are giving the green light to wanton destruction that’s going to foul drinking water for the poorest communities all over the country. They’re violating the sovereignty of Native American nations in order to support corporate profits. And you’re defending this on the grounds of “less regulation is always better”? I don’t understand how a Druid could be so in favor of destroying the natural world.

    Well, I don’t know if that help you understand some of the “tantrums” or not, but I for one am not going to sit down and “accept that we lost.” I will not accept the loss of truth or common decency, and that’s what this is, whatever socioeconomic spin you want to put on it.

    Purely as an aside, my idea of an economic revolution to aspire to is described in Starhawk’s fictional work _The Fifth Sacred Thng_. Now there’s a revolution worth fighting for!

  188. Re: fear of beauty;

    As the myth goes in Hesiod’s Theogony, after Aphrodite is born and comes to shore, flowers grew under her feet. Apparently, Venus was the Roman goddess of vegetable gardens before she became associated with romance.

    If we look at the war on nature of scientism, that is also a war on beauty, since nature is the fount of beauty. As Jesus Christ said: “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”

    Going a little deeper, what happens in the moment of the apprehension of beauty? There is a uniting. It is the same as falling in love, or nature mysticism. To really let beauty work its spell and move in one’s soul is to become changed and united with the apprehension of that beauty, to lose the sense of hermetically sealed, separate “I-ness”. This too, if I understand correctly, is the domain of Venus on her higher neoplatonic level.

    Scientific understanding separates things into smaller and smaller pieces. It isolates, extracts, dissects. It cares not for beauty, it tends to happily destroy beauty to create knowledge. In any given moment, one can take something apart to extract the facts, or one can apprehend the wholeness. It is impossible to simultaneously engage in both. Our culture has overwhelmingly chosen the first option.

    Now if one thinks about the isolation of people behind their cell-phones and computer screens, the fear of beauty, the worship of science and information, the hyper-specialization, the ugly surroundings, the sense of separation from the natural world, it begins to make a sort of sense. The zeitgeist is, to my mind, of very imbalanced Mercurial energy. So much communication happens that people stop listening, deep listening is actively discouraged, it is too intimate. Beauty threatens this, it threatens to break it with the lightest touch. Beauty is nothing more than an invitation to listen. There can be no meaningful separation of listening and love, or love and beauty. They are all, from a practical standpoint, precisely equivalent.

    And what happens if one wishes to start listening, to apprehend the beauty? They are met with a terrifying sense of devastation, hopelessness and maliciousness. The Natural World with her many beings and spirits is teeming with bad feelings. I imagine that much of today’s addiction is a frantic attempt to ignore the clamor of deranged, keening voices that sound in every forest and on every street corner. A frantic attempt to not reckon with the ugliness our civilization has produced, but within and without.

    If I’m correct here, there appears to be a double edged fear of beauty; first there is the fear from those who are invested in the world-feeling of Scientism, and then there is the fear from those who cannot bear to open their hearts to the ugliness of their surroundings and their own inner world.

  189. @Violet/JMG “….the high-priced ugly art, the ugly surroundings, the worship of Progress, the doctrines of Science, the fear of poetry etc. etc….Why is there this apparent widespread fear, at least among the well-to-do, of beauty, harmony and pleasure?”

    I wonder about this all the time – about what feels to me like non-stop uglification of the world.

    Do people actually think that modern skyscrapers are preferable to the smaller, usually much more graceful, older buildings they endlessly replace in the cities? Do people really like their expensive contemporary furniture and art that seems so butt-ugly to me? Why were granite-and-stainless kitchen renovations such a rage, when they seem so cold and morgue-like to me? Why do restaurants and hotel lobbies look like stark clinics? Why do people pay exorbitantly for things I find so ugly?

    But when I complain, people say “to each his own, not everyone likes what you like!” etc. True enough, I guess. Or sometimes, “you don’t understand it!” I don’t? But I did have what one would call a “fancy education”, and I did take art history and history of architecture courses, and I have frequented museums all my life – so what, exactly, am I “not understanding”?

    (Sometimes I actually wonder if it’s some sort of “test” for the elite. Are you willing to say that ugly is attractive, so that way, we know you’ll be willing to say equally absurd things down the line when we tell you to? Modern skyscrapers are magnificent! Hillary Clinton is the best candidate to beat Trump! This plastic furniture and deliberately-ugly artwork belongs in my living room! Obama fixed the economy, and anyone who says otherwise is a racist! People who don’t like McMansions are just snobs! Gay wedding cakes are a more important issue than overseas military conflicts! There – do I pass??)

  190. @Violet and JMG:

    “Why is there this apparent widespread fear, at least among the well-to-do, of beauty, harmony and pleasure?”

    Speaking from some experience and from exposure to the ‘art world’ (I went to art school), I would guess it’s a mixture of the following:

    – The separation of art as something distinct from craft, and the separation of concept from technique. In music, the idea of a composer as something separate from a performer or improvisor is actually a fairly recent idea, for example. The point of Duchamp’s urinal, and perhaps indirectly Cage’s 4:33, was that one did not need technique to make art with a capital A. The side effect of this was that many who didn’t have technique started to create art, flooding the market with conceptual art.

    – In the same way, a side effect of industrialization and mass production in the craft/design world was that design also became a separate skill distinct from technique, because design as opposed to craft was concerned with preparing products for mass production. The functional became more important than most other factors in product and graphic design (as summarized succinctly by the title of Adolf Loos’s essay ‘Ornament and Crime’ and by the dictum ‘form follows function’). This ‘rationality’ at the expense of other factors started to spread into the fine arts and music, too.

    – A certain embarrassment on the part of artists and composers to be seen as being sentimental. This may have something to do with the emphasis on rationality as above, but in Europe, a major reason for the trend to make ugly art or challenging art (pick whichever stance fits best) came from the fallout of the second World War. Artists and musicians felt that beautiful or sentimental art, including the classics, was popular among Nazis, and were horrified that the culture which produced Beethoven and Goethe could also descend into Nazism. For them, the idea of art as something which could bring out the best in people had failed, and they rejected making anything beautiful anymore because they no longer trusted beauty as a moralizing force. See Alex Ross’ book The Rest Is Noise for more info. This trend, which originated in Europe, spread throughout the West, where it took hold in the Euro-centric middle classes.

    – Fear, on the part of artists and composers, that all the best ideas in art and music have already been done. This goes to JMG’s idea of notional space on the old ADR blog. This, coupled with a new emphasis on the artist as an ‘innovator’, which puts pressure on artists to innovate, led to artists and composers trying to break every last bit of artistic ground they could.

    – Fear, on the part of audiences, to be seen like they don’t get that type of art. No one wants to be denounced for saying that the emperor has no clothes. Indeed, appreciators of that kind of art and music are particularly touchy on this point, judging by the number of times I’ve seen attempts at rebuttals of this argument from professional critics. Plus, a certain type of visitor to art galleries or music concert-goer has some need to be seen as sophisticated, and there’s a lot of ‘well, so-and-so influential person said that this new artist is the next big thing’ in that world.

    Despite knowing all this, I’m still quite omnivorous in my listening habits. I love Mozart, Chopin and especially Bach, but I also love a lot of contemporary music, too. The way I see it, as a hobbyist musician, is that a lot of 20th century music is worthwhile for a different reason: the experimentation they embarked on can bear fruit in terms of interesting techniques used for making music. While Stockhausen’s music may not be popular, music made using techniques he pioneered can be. For example, in the rave scene of the late 80s and early 90s, experimental techniques used in musique concrete and electronic music were used heavily in the techno and house music popular there, and many who attended raves most certainly did not come from ‘elite’ backgrounds. Of course, drugs were also a factor in the acceptance of that music, but not exclusively.

    But I do think it’s true that artists and composers, if they want to earn a living, do have to take audiences into account, and I think JMG is very correct about how a lot of 20th century art is used to reinforce class distinctions (I’ve seen it for myself).

  191. Also, you write:
    “For example, the golden age of African-American folk magic was between 1900 and 1945”

    It is incorrect to suggest that African American interest in folk magic expanded during this time, when in fact it was a period of mainstreaming of Hoodoo-Conjure beyond the black communities of the South where they originated. It’s simply that *whites* were exposed to folk magic and thus engaged with their commodification. This created not so much a golden age but a more visible marketplace for these new urban styles of black folk magic. It makes sense to call this a golden age if you are viewing this from the perspective of those who appropriated and popularized the original traditions instead of the post slavery, black belt practitioners and ex-slave communities who maintained them. I see little evidence that their interest in Hoodoo-Conjure diminished after the civil war and Reconstruction. This is speculation.

  192. Dear Prizm, for many of us, I think I can speak for more than myself here, getting political means letting ourselves in for being harassed by herds of bossy cows (and bulls), each one convinced that he or she knows the one true way. The one true way always turns out to be a lot more expensive in time, money and effort than you ever thought it would, and the “leadership” turn out to be representatives of some particular faction whose perks cannot be challenged. For example, don’t mention improving Medicare to groups whose members benefit from jobs in the insurance industry.

  193. Kfish, bingo. The spiritual practices popular among the privileged are those that allow them to feel good about themselves without having to examine themselves, their lives, or what their preferred lifestyles and policies are doing to others.

    Prizm, that may be part of it, but gods don’t seem to be hindered by linguistic barriers — I know plenty of Christians who don’t know a word of Aramaic or koine Greek, who still have personal experiences of Christ.

    Kimberly, thank you. That made my day.

    Will, thanks for this.

    Prizm, remember that slogans like “you matter” are aimed entirely at the privileged. Poor people, working class people, know perfectly well that those slogans don’t apply to them. The magic involved is the simple kind you experienced at school: you’re free to express your opinion, but only if it’s the opinion you’re supposed to express.

    Christopher, good. This is what Toynbee calls mimesis — the tendency of humans and other social primates to ape (literally!) the behavior patterns of those at the top of the hierarchy. That’s the way things usually happen in human societies (and, yes, those of other social primates). It’s when it breaks down — and in today’s America, it’s breaking down — that radical change follows.

    Millicently, thank you for this. Yes, I’m familiar with Ms. Chaitow’s work — we’ve exchanged emails, in fact, and she’s done a splendid job of rescuing Peladan from the memory hole in which he’s been tucked away for so long.

    Chris, good for the tiger quolls and the people preparing habitat for them! As for Blind Freddy’s latest piece of insight, hmm. That may indeed be an issue.

    Stefania, excellent. You’re catching on.

    Tude, my point is that this has been going on for decades, and indeed for centuries. You might want to pick up a copy sometime of Jacob Riis’ How The Other Half Lives, a study of life among the New York City poor in the 1880s. It’s good that you’ve become aware of it, and want to do something about it, but the phenomenon and the policies that have made it happen are nothing new, so when you say “Is this how things are now?” you’re showing a bit of naivete, you know.

    Herbert, excellent. Thank you for this!

    Y. Chireau, if you took the time to read my post instead of simply reacting to it, you’d have noticed that I also talked about the magic of the privileged classes. I’ll have even more to say about that as we proceed, so stay tuned.

    Ken, that’s an interesting analysis and one I’ll want to consider. Thank you.

    David, I think it’s all of the above, but it seems to me you’ve got a great theme for meditation here.

    Witch, yes, I figured I’d eventually field a tirade like yours. The thing I find most striking about it is how thorough a job of cherrypicking you’ve done in deciding what’s going to be the target of your outrage. Bill Clinton treated women considerably more abusively than Donald Trump ever did, and let’s not even talk about the way that Hillary treated her husband’s many accusers, but somehow that doesn’t count — no, it’s Trump who gets the shrieks of outrage. Similarly, the millions of American children who will go to bed hungry tonight, because the policies your candidate supports to the hilt shipped most of America’s working class jobs overseas and flooded the job market with illegal immigrants to drive down wages to starvation levels — they don’t matter to you, it’s only the children of illegal immigrants who excite the crocodile tears of the privileged.

    When you talk about truth and decency, I hear the usual rhetoric of a privileged class defending its own social and economic status. As I pointed out in my essay, it’s absolutely standard for the privileged to think of themselves as the good people, the people who uphold truth and decency et al. Tell that to the people in the flyover states — not just white people, either — who’ve been handed the short end of the stick over and over again by “the good people” for decades. I don’t think you’ll get far.

    And, by the way, I don’t despise you, or the other people who voted for Clinton in the 2016 election. Have you ever heard of Jung’s concept of the projection of the shadow? When you insist that everyone who disagrees with you, or who upholds policies you disagree with, must despise and hate you, have you considered the possibility that they don’t feel that way at all, and you’re simply projecting your own unacknowledged rage and hatred onto them?

    Violet, thank you. I think you’re on to something very important.

    El, and thank you also. I’m going to spend a couple of hours this afternoon staring at a blank wall, because I think the pieces are beginning to come together.

    Jbucks, and thank you too. This is great.

    Y. Chireau, I based my comment on the historical resources available to me, which are by no means limited to works by white writers and historians, you know. If you’ve got sources to suggest that discuss African-American folk magic from the Reconstruction period through 1900 which would support your case, I’d be happy to look at them.

  194. Since mindfulness meditation has come up (as a form of aristo-magic), I’ll share a little story. Up until about 6 months ago, I studied Zen Buddhism in a group and with a teacher who had received “transmission.”

    One evening, during our “tea and conversation” after-session, someone brought up “mindfulness meditation” that had begun at his workplace. It’s the only time I’d seen the teacher have to take a deep breath, ungrind his teeth, and probably internally count to ten.

    All he said was, “Most serial killers are very mindful.” On a later occasion, he explained (as people here already have done) how “mindfulness training” conveniently omits the other spokes of the wheel (ethics and the rest) that, of course, actually require much more work, and lifestyle changes.

  195. Witch,

    Here are my thoughts on the matter. I’m sorry it may come across as harsh, but I want to explain why I disagree, quite strongly. I’ve seen this sort of rant many times before, but only here do I feel comfortable replying.

    My experience is that plenty of people who oppose Trump for assaulting women are fine that Bill Clinton (probably) did it. Next to no one challenges my arguments that there are credible reasons to think he raped people, and the one person who did then jumped on a bandwagon claiming I abused someone on far less credible “evidence”. So I can’t take that argument seriously anymore. As for the lies, have you noticed that when he says something outrageous it distracts his opponents, letting him get something for his agenda done? The lies are a cynical strategy for sure, but they work. Ditto for the defending racists and the rest of it. The first step to stopping that would thus seem to be not falling for it again.

    I’m a Burkean Conservative as well, and I’m increasingly coming around to Trump. He is, without a doubt, an authoritarian. You’ll get no argument from me, but the awkward facts of the matter are that many of the Democrats are copying his worst attributes, and that he is doing things that need to be done. There are a sizable number of Democrats, including most that I know, who want to engage in unprecedented actions to oppose him. (Ex: they wanted to rig the electoral college, now impeachment before the investigation finish, the 25th amendment, etc). To my mind, that is more dangerous than Trump himself.

    Also, I suggest you reread what Greer is writing. He’s written on numerous occasions the issues he sees with Trump. This post is explaining why people support Trump. I want to see Trump lose in 2020. I don’t have good hopes for it, because lots of people won’t calm down long enough to engage with Trump supporters, and are doubling down on what lost them the last election.

    For reasons outlined here:, Greer expects trade barriers will bring working class jobs to the US. I agree, and I can also cite numerous cases from history where standing of living, for the lower classes, goes up when trade barriers are put in place.

    How has Trump changed the Supreme Court? That’s an honest question, since I’m not seeing much difference in their rulings yet. And if you’re thinking of the ruling saying workers can’t be compelled to pay unions, I’ve seen plenty of unions in bed with management, with a couple where I suspect it may have been literal. The people who no longer have to prop those up are probably ecstatic. As for environmental protections, those are written to minimally impact the wealthy. This means their effects fall disproportionately on the working class. Personally I’d love to see real standards, but that doesn’t seem likely at all.

    With regards to standards of decent behavior are you including the person who punched me in the face for expressing disinterest in jumping on the latest bandwagon of anti-Trump hysteria? Plenty of vocal Trump supporters have similar stories, and some of them started during the campaign. I find the leftward insistence it’s okay to physically assault Nazis, and then conflating Trump supporters with Nazis, and then insisting anyone who doesn’t shriek loud enough about how awful Trump is is a Trump supporter and thus a Nazi, worrying, since it means there’s a sizable number of people out there think I deserve to be beaten up.

    Poor people are suffering in the United States, regardless of religion, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, etc. And do you have a source for Trump saying he supports the KKK? Since you used the word “explicitly”, I think I’m within my rights to ask.

    Truth is dead. I agree. But I disagree Trump is the only one behind it. Even during the election I started getting bombarded with things that were clearly fake. I’m not saying I support Trump’s lies, but if you want to fight lying it doesn’t help to have pathological liars on your side, and quite a few liberal news sites fit that bill. I’m not saying that you’re responsible for it, but again, if you claim to be opposed to lies you should oppose them from Trump’s opponents too, right? Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case for a lot of people.

    Trump the business man was horrible to the working class. But you can’t run a business otherwise. Trump the politician seems better.

    My experience, again, is that a lot of the people who supported Clinton can’t claim to value “treating people kindly”. They are horrible to the people who they think they can get away with being monsters to. Usually this means working class, or anyone who supports Trump. “[T]elling the truth” is also a virtue many of the anti-Trumpers I know lack. They will share anything, even where it’s completely wrong, and veritably wrong, if it makes Trump look bad. Finally, “constraining power to protect the most vulnerable” is something no one has seriously done for decades. People will engage in small signals, but no one with the ability to do so has done anything worth talking about for decades, and democrats and republicans alike have joined in tearing down the systems meant to protect the vulnerable.

    The way illegal immigrants are treated in the US is awful. The interesting fact about this is that all Trump is doing is enforcing the law. The law is awful, it needs to be fixed, but enforcing the law is necessary for rule of law. And frankly, keeping rule of law has enough benefits to outweigh the costs here. Weighing the costs like this is a brutal thing to do, but it’s necessary.

    “Do your happy dance over the destruction of the ethics and mores and the elevation of corporate rape.” Reread the post. If you want to argue that that is what’s happening, please provide sources that Trump is actually worse than his predecessors, since the post is arguing the opposite.

    The current environmental laws in the US do nothing to protect the environment. All they do is encourage outsourcing to other countries. This disproportionately hurts those employed by the industrial sector, which is to say the working class. As someone who’s sensitive to air quality and living down wind from where the industry will be built I’m not happy about it, but I see why so many people are turning their backs on environmental protection.

    Please also show where Greer said ‘“less regulation is always better”’. A quick search for that phrase showed it appeared once: in your comment, so it looks like a straw man.

    Finally, since I’ve read and or heard this sort of argument at least a hundred times (but, as mentioned, only here do I feel safe to reply), it’s not saying anything new. It’s just a rehash of the same thing that’s said plenty of times elsewhere.

  196. With regards to the absurdities of modern culture, I’m reminded of an old anthropology book I read a while back. I’ll need to dig out again to say the title and author (I’m really hoping I didn’t sell it….), but it had a chapter about absurd beliefs. The argument went that absurd beliefs functioned as a way to determine group membership, and show solidarity. This was then backed up with some evidence, but what got me was the followup part:

    In order to function, these absurd beliefs need to have a personal cost to the holder. The higher the cost the more effective they are, but if they grow too large, then they get in the way of survival. The net result is that there is a range where they have a large enough cost to function as signals, but small enough not to put survival at too high a risk. This range depends, in part, on how much wealth a society has access too.

    All else being equal, a society with more wealth will be expected to have more, and more extreme, absurd beliefs. This too was backed up with numerous sources. I found it missing from newer books back when I believed in the myth of progress and assumed it had been disproved, but I just realized why new anthropology books don’t mention it at all: logically, our society, with the most extravagant wealth in history, should be expected to produce the most absurd examples of the kind.

  197. I agree with Violet, El and Jbucks – I had some similar ideas last night while lying awake in bed but can’t really expand on their ideas.

    The thing about beauty, in my mind, that is so off-putting to the aristocratic class (or those who share their mindset) comes from a few places:

    1) Nearly all beautiful architecture that exists in Western countries today could be roughly divided into a few categories, each of which is offensive to the aristocratic class for its own reason. Most of our architectural heritage is either a) Churches or other Christian religious buildings, b) Royal and aristocratic palaces built by the past European aristocracy, c) Practical vernacular architecture well-adapted to its location and the technology available to make buildings comfortable when it was built.

    a) Religious buildings are offensive to the aristocracy because they represent a value system other than their own, and of course, there is a significant anti-Christian bias in much of higher education, and there has been for decades. Of course, the aristocracy has also tried, and had modest success in using Christianity to advance their objectives, but that ended with Reagan. I think religion is also offensive to the present elite because it can be an equalizing force – having the same central identity as one of Those People – after all, a plumber and the President are supposed to be equal before God, which just won’t do these days.

    b) I don’t have as much to say about, because I am not a European and this example is much rarer in North America, but surely, the fact that the previous round of aristocrats at least had better taste than the current round must offend some of them. And of course, the fact that those aristocratic families aren’t generally aristocratic anymore must bother the present elite.

    c) Practical vernacular architecture is offensive to the present elite because it depends on a skilled local worker base and can’t be built at the same scale as the glass-and-steel monstrosities can. You can build a glass and steel monstrosity anywhere from Cape Town to Edmonton and they can be compared to each other directly, whereas there is really no reasonable comparison between, say, Notre Dame and Ankgor Wat.

    2) As Violet says, beauty is something that commands you to observe it – you can only interact with it carefully or you will ruin it – you can’t admire a beautiful flower without submitting part of yourself to the flower. To the extent that you can enhance the beauty of a flower you have to obey it – for instance, clipping off a wilted leaf on the same stem as the flower might make it more beautiful, but only because you have made the flower become more like itself. Our elite see themselves as creators – our society is obsessed with creativity and innovation, and so the idea of appreciating something that’s already there is offensive to them. Of course, people create beautiful things all the time, which brings me to point 3:

    3) The perception of beauty is something that is highly cross-cultural, and although particular art forms differ from place to place, you don’t need to learn anything to experience the beauty of some foreign-to-you art or music. Even completely vocal music in a language totally alien to you can be beautiful. I’ve never personally tried to train myself to find the beautiful products of some particular culture ugly (even cultures that I have good reason to dislike, for instance, I think the Macbook Pro I use at work is beautiful to the extent that electronics can be), but I don’t think it would work. I think one reason why invading cultures desecrate the beautiful parts of the invaded culture is not just to harm the invadees but because the invaders can’t help but appreciate the products of the other culture, so they destroy them to protect their own. Of course, sometimes the invaders keep parts of the invaded culture, and sometimes it even gets transmitted in strange ways back to the homelands of the invaders – the number of Germans who like to LARP as Plains Indians is one example, and the American tradition of naming some of their most impressive military equipment after native tribes is another.

    So, if you treat the present aristocracy as an invading culture with supremacist ambitions (I think this is reasonable):

    It makes sense that they want to create beauty, to the extent they can, so that their media is more compelling than the actual environments their subjects inhabit as a way of maintaining cultural control. Even though they were only rendered on computer screens, for instance, the MMORPGs I played too much as a teenager were far more beautiful and interesting than the suburbs, strip mall and prisonlike schools I otherwise inhabited, and who does that serve?

    Anyway, those are my 2 cents.

  198. The connection between beauty and nature (including human nature..?) has already been made, so I’ll just add this embarrassingly obvious quote:

    “Truth is beauty, beauty truth…”

    Our hasn’t exactly been an age devoted to a passionate search for truth; quite the reverse, meseems.

    Also, I suspect the war on nature is connected to the notable hostility toward any form of wildness that you’ve criticized in the past.

    Finally, as I suppose you’re probably aware, the philosopher Roger Scruton has some worthwhile things to say about beauty.

    I hope this helps.

  199. @JMG – I’ve reflected a bit about why I felt moved to attach that poem, “before you push the chair”. I realise that it relates to your discussion of the theme of magic as the politics of the excluded. And that it certainly is, but if might be said that, in more specific terms it is the politics of the excluded who have not succumbed to despair. Whereas suicide is the despair of the excluded, made manifest.

    Also, since Kek wars, the magic of the alt-right, are themes you promise to touch on more deeply in posts I am greatly looking forward to, the *specific* nature of the community of the excluded that seems most caught up in that particular magical scene seems worth mentioning. I often wonder why I have never seen a reference to Peter Pan’s “Lost Boys” in this regard, because I think it bears some relevance.

    I personally know of several families with young, barely adult men, who can make no headway, or even connection, at all in this world, and who are lost to their bedrooms, their screens, and their despair, with parents who are at their wits ends trying to get them involved in a friendship, an apprenticeship, a volunteering role, a social activity of any kind. There are no jobs for them, but something very deep gnaws at their souls. Life is tough for young, barely adult women just now, but I do not see them mired as deeply in that black pit of despair.

    And so, the poet, to my mind, speaks to the lost soul of the lost, especially the lost boys of this rising generation. And the final line “in the shelter of each other we can learn that love is light” is a small beacon.

  200. To everyone else who has expressed appreciation for the Stephen Murphy link, I am very glad to share it.

    @ Onething, you may well be right about the cultural influences. May I ask if there is any performer in particular that Stephen’s work echoes for you?

    @ Stephania – I like what you are suggesting that the best hope comes from creating things that are new and different that come from within, rather than reacting to things created by others. I think you might enjoy reading about a Mexican village called “Cheran” which apparently has banned politicians from within its boundaries. In the process they have discovered and revived their own traditional habits of democratic organisation.

  201. @Witch of West Texas:

    1. It seems to me that you’re confusing explanation and understanding with justification. It is always a very good idea to figure out–in fine, nuanced detail–where one’s political opponents “are coming from” in your opponents’ own terms.

    Understanding one’s opponents is not any sort of selling out; much less is it support for them or excuses for their actions. Only after you’ve done understood your opponents can you counter them.

    2. Outrage blinds a person and shuts down a person’s ability to fight effectively. The last thing anyone should ever do in a truly serious fight is to hate one’s enemy, or to be outraged by what he has done. The most effective fighters are the ones who unemotionally study their enemy’s moves, correctly anticipate their next moves before they make them, and then . . . the moment your enemies leave even the tiniest opening for an effective counter-move, you strike as ruthlessly and unemotionally as you can in a way that does the greatest possible damage to them, indeed, in a way that permanently cripples or kills them. Also, fighting fair, if it is a life-or-death fight, is for losers. Instead, fight to win. This requires dispassion, though you may feign passion to intimidate your enemy.

    3. No truly effective form of lasting government over a great number of people can be based on strict adherence to any set of absolute values. No matter what that set of values might be, there will always be significant numbers of people who can never share them on emotional or intellectual grounds. There is no such thing as a universal set of self-evident human values that all people will naturally agree on, no matter how clearly they are presented. If there is in fact such a universal set of values, it is sufficiently opaque and counter-intuitive that one can never hope to obtain any kind of planet-wide agreement about them. (Myself, I think there is no such set of values, but I am content to argue instead that there is no such self-evident set of values.)

    4. From this it follows that any effective government must always rest in part of a series or morally or ethically repugnant compromises–that is, compromises that strike significant fractions of the citizenry as intolerable. Our choices as citizens of our nation are stark. We must live with such compromises in perpetuity, or instead we shall destroy the very nation we would attempt to govern. Nor can we escape this dilemma by breaking up a large nation (such as ours) into a number of smaller nations. The stark choice descends–in the manner of any fractal–from larger polities into each smaller polity that results from a break-up of the larger one; and if these in turn are broken into even smaller polities, the stark choice descends into each of them, too. Only if the resulting polities have no more than a few hundred members can one hope by luck to avoid this situation. And no polity that small can survive in the face of aggression by some much larger polity.

    5. As Tom Paine once wrote, “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.” Deal with it!

  202. Dear West Texas Witch,

    I hope you get some good replies, although your post contained so many items, it will be difficult to do it justice. I also have to say, that while your post appears sincere, it is truly difficult for me to believe that so many falsities and twists of truth could really be contained in one head. Are you for real?

    T is a womanizer, but assaulting women – when has he done that? Meanwhile, Bill Clinton actually did so. I think it was Bill Clinton who was truly at the vanguard of turning the Democratic party against the working class. He instituted NAFTA while lying about its effects. He instituted the American Gulag system, and when it was pointed out to him that his sentencing laws were disproportionately affecting blacks, he refused to change it. He also took away the banking laws that would have prevented the debacle of 2008 and allowed the media monopolies to take over. If you wonder why I am talking about Bill, it is because she has been in complete agreement with all those things. Plus, she likes to bomb brown people. But then, so did Obama.

    I am shocked to hear that the KKK has been resurrected and is attacking black people. Where has this occurred and how has Trump voiced support of it?

    I don’t know, probably you did not vote for Her…if you believe in protecting the most vulnerable…have you looked into the whitewater scandal? Ms. Clinton was deeply involved in taking the life savings away from the poor and vulnerable by pulling a fast one in the fine print. Not even legal in many states.

    What I think might be useful at this juncture is to really look into what was going on in the heads of people during times of high levels of propaganda, maybe soviet, maybe Nazi. What were the techniques, how and why did it seem plausible to people. One of the foolishnesses of human beings is that they always think they are smarter than people were in the past and have a sneering attitude to how they could have fallen for such blatantly obvious lies and manipulations. But people are people, and in their time and place, without the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, people did believe a lot of it. And why am I bringing this up? Because we now, 2018, United States of America, have arrived at an era of propaganda. Yes, we have. Think about it.

  203. Shane,

    Yes, you are absolutely right and that is why I said that very likely they were reasonable people. I did have a rather shocking experience with 3 POC trans people a couple of months back that has soured me a lot. Mostly on the racial side. But I have also witnessed the goings on in academia and so I have a new feeling of wariness because some of these people are just not safe to interact with. They bite.

  204. Violet,

    I appreciate your musings on beauty. I was struck by your question, as I’ve been asking it too, in a slightly different context. Cities used to have quite a lot of beauty and now they no longer do. I am not at home but I want to ponder this question deeply when I get a chance. I keep coming up against an intuition to explore its relationship to atheism, and whether there is less of this problem among the religious. I’m not sure because it is a modern disease.
    I also recall that there used to be some sort of idea about a trilogy of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. These might also be called attributes of the Divine. Beauty is often or mostly a perfection or near perfection in design or appearance. I wonder if truly contemplating beauty makes it more uncomfortable to be a materialist? If beauty uplifts the soul…it sure does mine…but one denies a soul, one will not like it stirred up too much.

    Is being touched by beauty a kind of surrender?
    But of course there will be immediately many atheists protesting that they love beauty.
    Obviously not everyone avoids it.
    Perhaps it is more the higher echelons of society who hate beauty. Who gets the power to decide to place a stupid big metal disk in the middle of a watery area around a modern building here? And in a more traditional part of the town, another fountain has two beautiful naked statues of a man and a woman, and he is blowing a conch shell.
    There is this snobby attitude that the old beauties were naive and simple minded. We will let history be the judge of that.

  205. Dear Witch of West Texas, What do you mean by “anti-Semitic” violence? Whatever that might be, it is emphatically not indistinguishable from racist violence, of which we have a long and sorry history. I was not aware there had been pogroms in the US, do please enlighten me.

    Your candidate lost because she is and has always been terminally incompetent. Anyone with any sense knew that the 2016 election was going to be close. A competent candidate would have paid attention to electoral votes and would certainly not have been caught blatantly stealing the primary from a very popular and widely respected opponent. Me, I voted for Stein and I shall probably go on voting for the Greens. I just a few weeks ago was subjected to an angry tirade from a Working Family party operative for the “sin” of voting for a Republican congressperson. Sigh. This is how a small party makes friends. She was so tired, this operative said, of people voting for Republicans because they didn’t like Hillary. I shoved her clipboard back at her and said if she was going to bring up Hillary she could leave. Then I went and changed my registration to independent.

    Folks can squawk about “anti-Semitism” all they like but the fact remains that the American public wants no more wars and over seas interventions, and does not want to be the world’s policeman. Not in the Mid-East and not anywhere else. No fewer than five countries were destabilized during Mme. Clinton’s tenure at State: Honduras, Haiti, Libya, Syria and The Ukraine. Even by the lamentable standards of Anglo-American imperialism, that has to be some kind of record.

  206. @Ken Saucke

    Please keep the generations straight. The Lost Generation (the previous cycles equivalent of Generation X) was at the top of the pyramid during WW II and the 50s, aging off the pyramid during the 60s, being replaced by the GI generation and then the Silents.

    The generation that redefined things during the 60s and later was the Boomers. These are the people that JMG is fond of saying “sold out” during the Regan years.

    Hillary Clinton is an early Boomer, born in late 1947. The youngest Silents are 75, and the youngest of the G.I. generation (renamed the “Greatest generation” by a journalist who wanted his 15 minutes of fame) are all geriatric. Very few of of these people are “clinging to power.” They’re too old.

    The people “clinging to power” today are the Boomers. The youngest is currently around 58, so they’ve still got a few more years before they age off the scene to be replaced by Generation X at the top of the pyramid.

    For comparison, Donald Trump is also an early Boomer, and a year and change older than Ms. Clinton. Bernard Sanders, born in 1941, is a Silent.

    By the way, I agree with your analysis.

  207. Re: Bill Clinton scandals – if you want a summary of it happening in real time along with the major media coverage of the time, I highly recommend Andrew Breitbart’s autobiography Righteous Indignation. He worked at Huffington Post at the time and Drudge Report was breaking the stories. Breitbart talks about his shock at the time and the shift in his thinking. In the beginning the media ran cover for the Clintons, but it went on so long Dershowitz wrote a book about it. It was insane how many women accused him of abuse and that was before Lewinsky. The book stops with that.

    I can’t believe the man has the gall to show his face. No shame or cluelessness of the elites? Probably a little of both.

  208. Dear Mr. Greer – There may still be hope for realistic art. I see the Portland (Oregon) Art Museum is having an exhibit, “Modern American Realism” coming up. October 2018-April 2019. Paintings by Cadmus, Hopper, Lawrence, Marsh, etc.. Covers the period from the 1910s to 1980s.

    I found it interesting that Jackson Pollock was a student (almost a family member) of Thomas Hart Benton. Which I think you mentioned when you were running the “Retrotopia” series. There’s a book about their relationship, “Tom and Jack.” (Adams, 2009). Ken Burns did a marvelous one hour biography of Thomas Hart Benton. The high point (low point?) was when a be-bowtied Ivey League art critic described Benton’s work as “Oakie Baroque.” I guess I’m an Oakie and didn’t know it.

    Another aspect of the art establishment that I find rather … criminal, is when someone discovers some unknown works by an artist, but can’t get the art establishment’s “seal of approval.” Or the family or foundation refuse to accept them, as, they don’t have control of the images. Some cases involving (surprise, surprise) Jackson Pollock and photographer Diane Arbus, come to mind. If your not plugged into the Art Establishment, they’ll be dismissed outright as frauds or fakes.

    Realism in painting survived here and there. And, as auction prices climb to the stratosphere, there’s a bit of art mafia “reassessment,” going on. Norman Rockwell paintings are approaching a million, per. A good contemporary Benton lithograph is 3 or 4 hundred dollars. Lew

  209. Violet and El,
    Thanks both of you for your perspectives on fear of beauty. I read both of your posts a couple of times. I have often thought that part of the reason we have so many people who have given up and succumbed to despair, drug addiction, mental and bodily illness is that there is nothing that feeds their souls. They are adrift in a sea of ugliness and they haven’t learned the tricks that some others have learned to be able to live in this world.

  210. Wonderful and very incisive post, and many great comments…thanks everyone! Just as a stray observation, I am not a Catholic, nor do I adhere to any organized religion.(I am a past life regressionist, and subscribe to Dr.Newton’s views on time, karma, and the spirit world).but I have always thought that the Latin Mass is an amazingly magical ceremony, and wildly popular with young adherents. The Catholic hierarchy’s abandonment of it strikes me as just as another example of the Establishment having lost all touch with the rest of us….

  211. John,

    Thank you for this post. It’s been somewhat cathartic for me.

    While I’m writing, I’ll think I update you on the little project I told you about at Peter’s wonderful potluck last month. Cliff might also be interested in this.

    As I described I gave a sermon on recovering from empire, based on your work, to two UU churches over the two weekends bookending the Fourth of July. The sermon started from the metaphor of empire being a drug addition for the Imperial center (if it IS only a metaphor) and was very clear that the wealth from the set of client countries was the drug’s high. I talked about what the drug was doing to us – the two class society and “the missing teeth of Detroit and the wasted body of the rust belt”. I was very clear that we would be a very much poorer nation after losing our empire and finished with what could be regained politically and socially after the loss of empire if we worked at it.

    The first sermon was at my church, which is a small to mid sized one. There was only a handful of people attending. Afterward there were the usual polite comments at coffee hour with one woman who grew up in a struggling West Germany just after WWII talking about how East Germany was a client country for the USSR. One person though, a friend of mine, seemed to get a somewhat deeper implication. He said it is unfortunate that we got the guy we do for President, and not someone else who was competent who would be trying to do what the current guy is trying. I actually only smiled and nodded and did not say “I would much prefer someone else also, but Trump is who we got and no one else showed up wanting to do this job – and I suspect that includes Bernie”.

    The second UU church to which I gave the sermon the next weekend is the largest one in the county with about four times the membership of mine so there a larger, though obviously light, attendance. There was a talkback session as part of the service. No one accused me of being a Trump supporter. One person asked me if I would given the same sermon six years ago. I said I would have. I wondered why they specified six years, instead of say five. If they has said seven, well, I wouldn’t have been able to give the same answer. One person asked about border issues and immigration. I had only talked how Imperial centers drain the wealth of client countries which can sometimes lead to the complete collapse of a client country – a problem if that country shares a border with the Imperial center. I did not talk about war bands forming, since I didn’t want someone starting on how I was an obvious racist or something, since I would have saying that people in Mexico might starting doing something very unpleasant under extreme stress that has been documented for millenniums in other human societies. Instead I simply responded to the question about immigration by saying that we need to look at what we are doing to countries in Central and South America that creates the immigrate flows. Since someone else had brought up our little adventures in those areas, that was an acceptable answer.

    I had to leave right after the talkback session, so there was no coffee hour discussions. I never learned if the woman who asked if I would have given the same sermon six years had possibly identified the source of the sermon.

    The gentleman who invited me to give the sermon, and who very much likes the sermons I have given there (previously on peak oil and on voluntary simplicity), said he though I got a usually large number of comments at the feedback session, which he feels is the sign of a really good sermon.

    I noticed that no one at all responded to the idea that we would be a much poorer society (I didn’t used the term ‘Third World”) after we lose our empire. I wonder why… ;^/

    Overall, a better than expected experience for talking to UU’s. I think I got at least one person to consider our current situation in a slightly different light. Hopefully there were others as well.

  212. Thesseli,

    There’s actually a lot more overlap between Trump’s business practices and those of his voters. This has gotten much less attention than it deserves; I’ve only seen it mentioned by a number of fairly marginal leftist observers, some of whom are adamant about it and annoyed that it’s such an obscure phenomenon.

    The reason that there is in fact such an overlap between Trump and his voters on bad business ethics is that many of his most committed supporters come from the provincial business elites. These have a high degree of overlap with evangelical Christians, by the way; this is another dynamic that has been left unexamined in the mainstream discourse. The Rust Belt hardhats and those close to them put Trump over the top, but it seems that something like the most committed 70% of his base (the loudest MAGA hat types, etc.) have above-average educational attainment and income, especially for their home towns and counties. These are the car dealership owners, the dentists, the doctors, the hospital administrators, the fast food franchisees, a surprising number of bureaucrats, and the like. Many of the Sierra Foothill precincts where California state office employees are most concentrated, for example, went for Trump. Cops, who have a lower-class reputation but generally middle- to upper-middle-class income and benefits, apparently went for Trump by huge margins.

    Trump’s notorious history of cheating less powerful parties in his business dealings probably aren’t nearly as offensive to his base as people unfamiliar with American provincial business elites assume. The hardhats most likely voted for him in spite of this sleaze, but unfortunately, there are probably a great many sleazy small-town businesspeople who saw a kindred spirit and admirable figure in Trump on account of his success at these rackets. I say this because one of the most scandalous semi-open secrets of the American private sector, at all fractals and in all regions, is the near ubiquity of wage theft. More money is stolen in the United States today by wage theft than by shoplifting, burglary, robbery, or other conventionally understood forms of theft; I don’t recall where I saw the statistics or just what the difference was, but I was stunned.

    In short, the conventional understanding of Trump’s base and what drives it is founded on a serious category error. For that matter, the business elites that I’ve described are much more controversial in their hometowns than they’d have people believe. It’s also worth noting that granular data on who shows up in armed racist mobs, racist 911 calls over trivialities, and the like fairly consistently show these people to be affluent and/or educated (more than a few engineers, for example).

  213. Mark, thanks for this. Your teacher summed things up with typical Zen crispness, but I’ve heard similar comments at somewhat more length from other Buddhist teachers.

    Will, hmm! If you do find the author and title I’d be most interested to hear it.

    Justin, thanks for this. Yes, I think these are also factors.

    Kevin, many thanks.

    Scotlyn, thanks for this. I’ve actually got three-fourths of the Kek Wars series done and the fourth part started; I’ll be interested to see your responses to the points I’ve chosen to explore.

    Denys, the thing to keep in mind is that the rich and powerful don’t hold themselves to the same standards they enforce on their lackeys. Clinton is a great case in point…

    Lew, thank you! That’s very good to hear.

    Pyrrhus, no argument there — my readers can always be counted on to make thoughtful and interesting comments, but the last few posts have pushed that into overdrive. I’m really impressed by the conversations here!

    John, fascinating. I’m not surprised, though, that nobody wanted to talk about how much poorer we’re going to be. I’ve found that by and large, people simply won’t think about that.

    Kay, thanks for this.

  214. @David, by the lake
    Re “Another good example is the issue of transmission cost allocation, probably *the* most contentious issue in my industry. That is, who pays for the cost of the high-voltage transmission lines which form the various interconnections (Eastern, Western, and Texas) of the national grid?“
    Here in New Zealand, there has been a push for residential grid-tied solar panel installations. This is in spite of the fact that the power supply companies don’t pay much for the excess locally produced electricity put back into the grid. In addition, there was a recent court case which validated one of the regional lines companies putting a surcharge on customers who have grid-tied PV panels. Their argument was that the grid-tied folks were in effect using the grid as a giant battery, but because they were using buying electricity they were also paying less for their fair share of the grid upkeep/maintenance/upgrade. This is because in addition to a small fixed charge for the lines, there is a much larger variable charge based on electricity usage. So the non-PV folks are effectively subsidizing the PV folks. Is there anything like this issue in the USA?

  215. @ Violet,
    I heard about Shakespeare on the Common last year, but was unable to attend. I’m glad to hear they’re doing it again this year. I’m definitely gonna try to go. Hopefully I’ll see you there.

    Your discussion of the arts definitely hit home for me, as someone with a (basically worthless) bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. I actually transferred midway through college precisely because I didn’t like the way that my first University focused solely on the intellectual and technical side of things. I was expecting to learn how to make real art — spiritually elevating works of entertainment — and instead I got spoon fed a heaping helping of bogus “analysis” and “criticism” classes. Granted, some of that stuff has it’s place, but it was putting the cart before the horse — and not bringing the horse — that really frustrated me. I transferred to a slightly better University, but it was ultimately much of the same. Much of what I’ve learned has come from outside the University system. And I find it amusing that some of today’s best and most popular filmmakers, for example, are people who never once set FOOT inside a marbled hallway of academia.

    I especially like this passage:

    “In America, at least, the fine arts became a means of exclusion by which the aristocracy defined itself as different from the rabble. Paintings that any educated person could appreciate became the kiss of death for an artist’s career; what brought the prestigious shows and the financial rewards were objets d’art that looked like a dog’s breakfast the second time around, because no one outside the circles of the elite even pretended to appreciate them.”

    It reminds me of this film scene with Mel Gibson (warning, there is profanity: Even as a member of the aristocracy, he recognizes how horrible, stupid, and overpriced the modern art is, but he purchases it anyway, purely for status.

  216. @David, by the lake,

    I don’t know if this information will lead you to the path you are looking for, but it helped me understand power and status a different way.

    Perhaps you might read about the difference between Power-Over and Power-Within. Wealth, status, and dominion are all examples of power-over, where your internal value is over or better than someone else. Power-within is different, it’s a comfortable self-confidence, and it’s a deep self-connection and once it’s achieved, power-over is seen as a sad and hollow substitute.

    I don’t know if this will help you or not, but I wanted to offer it to you just in case it might help you. Also I have no memory of where I encountered the information, so I’m sorry if it leads to a dead end.

    Jessi Thompson

  217. This has been a good week for reading… as I read I think of ideas to contribute only to have the next poster cover that very topic well enough that my two cent’s ain’t needed.

    Especially the blossoming of the topic of beauty is beautiful to me. I love it so much. In a lot of my life I tend to act with a very subdued sense of beauty, finding much of my aestetic joy comes from the joy of other beings. Petting a dog or cat comes to mind. I play at being gruff and hard hearted, winking and nudging elbows the whole time, but it is a great joy to find the purr in the recalcitrant cat. Much of the visual beauty of the natural world doesn’t open up to me directly, but I am captivated by a friends captivation. The beauty of a person’s smile as they gaze into the sunset is most fantastic.

    I think I know the problem with beauty. It is passion. Passion, please recall, is the opposite of action:

    Agent / patient
    act / pass
    action / passion
    active / passive

    It is also a very close relative to the older meaning of ‘suffer’ in English.

    When I encounter beauty, in the words or ideas of another, in an image, a sound, a gustatory experience, a touch, in a heart bared, a down pour, a proof, a pattern, a joke, small leaves, purring and that dog leg wiggle thing, in the tears of the reality of pain and its depths beyond my venturing, in small rocks, in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in may favorite musics it really is such sweet suffering! Some of those things afflict me mindly and I submit to the sensation comfortably, the dog’s leg wiggles, I am pleased and scratch the dog more, it is good, I want to keep going, but it is not so strong, not so beautiful that in can change the course of my day. Then again, when I hear some one tell me their sorrows, that can make my skull tingle with joy and I look at the clock and say in my heart “I won’t be making it to market today, so it goes.” Here it starts to get ticklish, a sensation which more mildly was pleasurable starts to excite me to such a degree that a part of my soul revolts and even panics at the destruction of my agency, my Iron Faustian Will.

    Some beauties torment me, or capture, worst are those that cry for an attention that I cannot attend; stopped from the fulfillment of the will of Venus my the cussedness of circumstances. Then comes the gut clenching, anguish of not being myself beautiful enough, the embarrassment greater than shame and far greater than guilt. Beauty, or the lack of it, or the realization of our lack that it is, it a terrible joy.

    It is absolutely un mechanical, and it must be restriced from afflicting the part’s of a machine. Sympathitic vibrations

  218. HI Andrew

    Out here in flyover country, we know to stay well away from any business making a big production about being Christian. It’s the mark of the swindler.

  219. Dear Violet and JMG,
    Re your questions about beauty/ harmony:
    “I genuinely wonder, why this may be? Why is there this apparent widespread fear, at least among the well-to-do, of beauty, harmony and pleasure?“
    “Violet, that’s an immense issue, and it’s not just limited to the privileged. Our entire society has come to hate and fear beauty. Why? I don’t have a clear answer to mind; it deserves serious thought.“

    I’m going to make a suggestion that modern urban life is so filled with ugliness and stress, so many people are so estranged from Nature (a reliable source of beauty), and their own inner lives, that for them to admit there actually is beauty and harmony in the world would only highlight the lack of it in their own lives; to admit this would be painful in the extreme. The internal chaos and pain is projected onto the world. The unacknowledged yearning for beauty harmony and pleasure gets channelled into being an Instagram follower of the “beautiful people” who roam the world taking selfies in front of beautiful places and indulging in all the pleasures that money can buy.

    There seems to be a lot of self-created drama in peoples lives, that is self-created chaos, ugliness, and pain which can fill the emptiness and make one feel “alive“ even if one is really dead inside. A tranquil life of small pleasures, appreciation of the beauty of the everyday, recognition of one’s place in the larger picture can be seen as boring to people who have an inflated sense of their own worth. Ordinary life has plenty of naturally occurring drama, birth, coming of age, finding meaning, death, etc. In traditional societies, these dramas were recognized as steps along the path of life and they were ritualized in ceremonies that always had some sense of order, beauty, and meaning. Most of that is gone now in Westernized modern society.

  220. Re music:
    IMHO, In any music worth listening to, there is always some tension between chaos and order, between dissonance and harmony, playing around with the beat (which is why a lot of electronic pop music is sooo boring because the beat is robotically regular). This is just as evident in Bach, although subtle, as in the best “free” jazz. All the great singers know this and all the crappy ones don’t.

    When I was courting my partner of 20 years, who was a Suzuki trained flute teacher then, I had a sort of “test“ piece of music that I played to her (and a few others). It was a Pharoah Sanders 1973 free jazz piece with a bunch of great black sidemen, piano, horns, drums, sax, African instruments. Anyway the piece starts with a very beautiful quiet melody, then gradually moves into a louder and more chaotic phase which goes on and on and frankly scares the shit of you (especailly when you listen in the dark). Its like being dropped into Dresden during the bombing raid or the Inferno, utter chaos, screaming horns, great dissonant chords. You’re thinking “will I ever get out of this alive and how dare these musicians do this to me.”
    But then, just when all seems lost, out from under all this chaos and pain you hear that little opening melody, gradually coming more to the fore as the chaos fades. Its like being in front of the firing squad knowing that you’re going to die when the officer rides up waiving your reprieve. Just to make sure you got it, the music once again descends into chaos and once again that “saving” beautiful melody returns to end the piece.
    Yes my girl “got it” (others didn’t, including 9 out of 10 guys in my men’s group who still give me shit about inflicting it on them). It about, among other things, the contrast between order/ beauty and chaos/ugliness, the experience of being “saved” through beauty. The recognition that yes, there is ugliness and pain in the world of human experience, but that there is also beauty and pleasure.
    That’s worth saying and hearing.

  221. Kek is a four part series? Looking forward to it!

    It occurred to me that much of the anti-Trump backlash could be a reaction to the group dynamics supporting Trump. Said another way – the left has operated with mob mentality constantly chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” or “The world is watching!”, claiming that any moment now there is going to be some historic thing that happens and, by gods, they there in the mob are there to be a part of it. Current example: the mom in front of the White House right now. They all desire to be a part of some great historical moment and they recruit new members to come and be a part of history. (Strange that they claim history is happening now in the present). This was Hillary’s campaign slogan – be a part of the history of electing first woman blah blah blah.

    Their anger is over the disappointment of not being a part of the real historic moment when a man who had never held a political office, defeated 18 other Republicans in the primaries and the Clinton political machine, to win the presidency. They never were a part of his huge rallies, the hat, the memes online. They missed the true historical moment that will be written in history books.

    The left are trying to rig the next presidential election. I found someone from Google Analytics on Twitter bragging how he and his friends in Silicon Valley are trying to work with the Democrats to do effective marketing. The Democrats don’t have a marketing issue, but a product issue, and I wasn’t going to tell him that. What a jerk though for volunteering his expertise to help one political party and talking about it in public like its nothing.

  222. @Witch Yours is the third time I have heard that Trump is rounding up and killing people of color or mixed race people. The other time was on Reddit where a man said his sister who is mixed race a total mental breakdown over screaming she was next. The first was in person and I was able to defuse that one I think.

    Where are people getting this information? Can you point me to a website?

  223. Kay Robison,

    I think you’re onto something as well with the idea that there is nothing feeding people’s souls, especially the youth, who are naturally bursting with the vigor of life and ideals. They are to adulthood as toddlers are to childhood.
    Not only that they are not inspired with ideals and beauty, they are also not really needed but are old enough to go about on their own, purposeless and having to manufacture a purpose. In a sane society their strength and budding adulthood would be greatly valued and utilized. All we have for them is to hope they do not become addicted or arrested.

    This business of carefully not feeding souls – it is a subtle thing, mostly taking the form of ignoring its existence as a slight embarrassment at best, a nasty delusion at worst.

    Somehow this brings to mind the way we treat animals in CAFOs, as though they were blocks of inanimate bricks to be stacked in a warehouse. I recall that Jane Goodall when she was newly watching the chimps but had been watching them for quite a while and certainly knew exactly who each one was. She wrote back a report and used the word “she” about a particular female. She got roasted for it as being unscientific. But isn’t that quite strange really, to refer to animals of known gender as ‘it’? We use that as an insult. Having gender and reproductive ability is one of the key differences between living and nonliving things. Yet, she was expected to refer to these families of chimps as ‘it.’ And I’m sure her superiors back home may have had a cat or dog in the house, and did not refer to it as ‘it.’ Why is it necessary to go to unnatural contortions to appear to be clinical when, after all, mammals are all he or she. It is a denial of the beingness, the consciousness, of the creatures to force oneself to call each one as ‘it.’ There is pathology here.

    A society of CAFO meat and eggs and dairy could surely be more comfortable using ‘it.’

  224. @ Violet

    I just wanted to thank you for your brief discourse on beauty. Your thesis was eloquently stated and provided me with much food for thought. I still find myself much too focused on the higher sephiroth and not properly appreciative of the lower set. Your comment is helpful in reorienting that perspective.

  225. @West Texas Witch
    I voted for Trump. Let me say the same thing differently: I voted against Hillary Clinton.

    I am a white woman with a Master’s degree, two of my four children have PhDs, I have worked full-time for 40 years, my son was engaged to a black woman with my complete blessing and support, and I voted for Obama in 2008. That is, I am NOT an ignorant, racist misogynist as Trump voters are constantly called, usually in a loud, abusive manner. I’m not conservative either; I have listened to millions of hours of NPR and actually had a subscription to The New Yorker for many years (until Tina Brown took it over and ruined it). I am not a fundamentalist Christian either. I thought a lot about who to vote for in 2016 and whether to vote at all. I did not want to vote for Trump but I did the only thing I personally could do to make Hillary Clinton’s election less likely. That is, I voted for Bernie in the primary and Trump in the election.

    I researched both candidates and came to the conclusion that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are just about equally evil, sexist, racist, etc. I am basing that on careful research and personal contacts who actually traveled with both candidates during the campaign. What tipped the scale against Clinton for me was her mishandling of classified information. I have worked for many years as one of those “little people” that follow the rules. If I did even a fraction of what Clinton did with classified information, I would be in a jail cell. I don’t just think that, I know it for a fact. And under the law, intention does not enter into it. There are no “honest mistakes” with classified information. So that was my main reason for voting against Clinton — it was personal and had specific relevance to my life.

    That is my point: I had personal, thoughtful reasons for voting against Clinton. I wish the alternative had not been Trump, but it was Trump. Having some folks and the media screaming at me and calling me names because I voted for Trump is not persuading me that I was wrong or persuading me to join their cause.

    I am a reasonable American citizen, registered independent, with no party allegiance at all. If one of the political parties can give me someone I actually want to vote for, I would join their cause — and hey, if that person was a woman, BONUS, because I really would like to see the first woman president in my lifetime (so long as her name is not Hillary Clinton). But berating me for voting for Trump, while holding up Hillary Clinton as some kind of wonderful person that could solve our country’s problems is unhelpful. We had lousy choices in 2016. Let’s stop insulting Trump voters (and throwing drinks in their faces, kicking them out of restaurants, etc.), because it is not helping, and find someone better for 2020.

    And if you read this, did you find it convincing? Did it break through at all? Because I keep hearing things similar to your comment from my daughter who is at UT Austin. I really would like to get through and help her understand why I voted the way I did. I miss having meaningful conversations with her that include an honest exchange of ideas, but neither one of us can break through the outrage….maybe I could forward her your comment and my response, if you feel that anything I said makes sense.

  226. El/Violet – the question as to how we, as a people, have come to this point where we see the world mechanistically, dead and devoid of inner life is crucial. I think your observation on whether we fear beauty may be because of its inseparable connection with the inner dimension, is right on the mark.

    I recently started reading this book by Jeremy Naydler, a favourite author for me: The Shadow of the Machine.

    The book explores the change in our mode of consciousness over the last 2000+ years that brought into manifestation the mechanisms that intermediate our experience of nature and keep us from encountering the inner dimensions of experience.

    It’s a book I’m savouring, and reading slowly, and I think you may also enjoy it.

    JMG – I’ve sent you a copy.


  227. I know this is long and personal so please feel free to not post it publicly, it’s just something I need to say.

    JMG, it’s interesting to me that my comments now cause you to think I am “naive”. I can assure you I am intimately familiar with both poverty and homelessness. I don’t need to study homelessness and poverty, I lived more than half my life in it. I am 48 years old and was raised by my grandfather, who was homeless and alone by the age of 12 (1918 Los Angeles) and spent the next 20 years as a hobo. My grandmother was a coal miners widow in Ringtown, PA, with two young children and one on the way, when they met at an orphanage in 1939. They would spend the next decade as migrant workers throughout the south, living and working side by side with the children of slaves. They returned to Los Angeles in the late 1940s chasing the post war job boom there, along with many other migrants.

    I was raised by my grandparents because my father (born in 1950) was a heroin addict who spent most of my childhood in prison .My teenage mother abandoned me when I was 6 months old and I was left with my father’s parents, her family wanting nothing to do with me.

    By 1980 my grandfather was losing his mind and dying of pick’s disease. My grandmother was simply losing her mind dealing with him and my father’s drug overdoses and constant stints in jail and prison.

    By the age of 12 I was being thrown around from house to house, relatives to friends, running away and running the streets, becoming a homeless “traveler” myself. Finding myself homeless and a high school drop out at 16 years old…I took my GED and embarked on a series of stints in colleges racking up student loan debt. I came to SF in the mid-1990s to do a masters in Applied Anthropology and Social Work, convinced I would solve the homelessness issue for others. I had a fellowship and was a community organizer, and spent two years trying to build youth housing that was run by homeless and formerly homeless young people. Then the dot com bubble came, and everything seemed to change overnight. I found myself days from being homeless once again in 1998 when I was offered an entry level administrative job at a tech company, which pure economic desperation forced me to take. Not to mention the fact that trying to help others while I was still in emotional pain from my own experiences was sending me to very dark places.

    I suppose if I am indeed “naive” it’s because through all that, I always felt more people cared than did not. Average people still seemed to feel it and wanted to do something about people’s suffering. Most people I knew just wanted a relatively simple life and wanted that for others. I’m not sure when the last time you were in Berkeley or SF or LA, but there has been a real change in the past 10 years, and it’s scary. People really don’t care anymore, despite all the yelling and screaming. For a while I thought maybe it was just me getting older, but at the rate the students at Berkeley are going insane, it’s everyone. I come to your blog to try to figure out what is going on and not be driven insane watching the world fall apart around me, and for that I thank you. It really bothers me that my comments came across in such a way that you completely misunderstood who I am and what I was trying to express. But after half a decade of being totally misunderstood by almost everyone you would think I’d be used to it by now.

  228. Regarding West Texas Witch’s post, but also my own daily frustration in the “liberal bubble” where I work –

    It’s not that I disagree with most of the criticisms of Trump made in that post. Not at all! I do think Trump is dishonest and probably abusive, has promoted a lot of bad policies that will hurt the vulnerable, and is supporting a lot of bad people and making bad appointments. [We can quibble about a few policy points of his that might be either somewhat better or much worse than some of his predecessors, but suffice to say that on the whole, I’m no fan of the guy.]

    What I cannot understand is why so many people seem think that all this bad stuff – dishonesty, bad policies, exploitation of the vulnerable in a range of forms, bad people in power doing bad things, whatever – all somehow started in January of 2017!!!

    As far as I’m concerned, the main difference between Trump and many of his predecessors in the White House – as well as many politicians in other offices and other rich and powerful people in other positions of power – is simply that Trump is more overt and crass about how he expresses himself, and doesn’t do nearly as good a job of couching his actions, motives, and deleterious policies in polite language and double-speak.

    Which leads me to the cynical conclusion that most of the “liberals” I know aren’t upset about underlying policies and their consequences on the vulnerable – because if they were then they would have been mad for a long time. (And they wouldn’t be rushing to canonize St. Obama and wailing over Poor Hillary and even trying to resurrect W’s reputation.) Instead, their current rage would seem to be a direct product of the fact that the election of Trump has stripped off the veneer of respectability, politeness, and well-mannered double-speak from the American Empire, exposing the hypocrisy of America’s privileged classes for all (including themselves) to see.

    And *THAT* is what they cannot forgive him for. HOW DARE that crass buffoon carelessly expose how corrupt and dysfunctional things really are, and how privileged they are to not be among the millions of people suffering (at home and abroad) to make their lifestyles possible! How unforgivably RUDE!

    And when I have dared to point out that many of Trump’s policies and proposals are no worse than much of what went before – well, the unhinged rage swings around my way, just as it does on a larger scale to people who do the same in public formats. My take is that they don’t want to fix problems; they just want to kill messengers so they can go back to ignoring problems – or at least pretending problems are being fixed when they aren’t – so they can all go to their lives with a comfortable conscience.

    [Apologies if that was a bit of a rant – but when you live somewhere outside the metaphoric bubble, but commute (literally and figuratively) into the heart of the bubble to make your paltry living, and have to deal with the stark contrast all the time – well, let’s just say that this is an area of exceptional frustration.]

  229. JMG,

    That expression of an opinion in line with their way of thinking is further encouraged by rewards. In school, that reward is a passing grade, being made to feel a member of intelligent by being in honors/higher level classes, and participation in special functions. It is easy to see how that works because as humans we do have a need which can make us weak to this sort of magical attack: the need for socialization. With my experiences in school, I have always wanted my children homeschooled. But, and especially in the area which I live now, homeschooling takes away from much socialization opportunities. It can be a situation which is hard to balance, although I do know in some areas there are more opportunities for socialization besides attending public schools.

    One another note regarding the magic of the aristocracy, we are taught how it works in school, but on a daily basis society is reminding us of how it works. The finest example is the media. Currently the news media are waging a war against Trump which I have never witnessed in my relatively short lifetime of 37 years. It was no surprise when I was out and about yesterday that I saw graffiti with a short, four letter message to Trump which began with an “f”. Lifestyles are constantly under assault with the magical messages which we see in TV and movies. The short of which is, we are all living the dream and it’ll just get better. It’s hard not to fall under the spell of that magic. Sometimes it is just minor things chinking away to find a hole in your armor. I know there are definitely ways with which to protect oneself against this magic, some involving daily rituals, others involving not watching and/or listening to all that media. Another, strong way to fortify oneself though is history. There are many great reminders there that things were once a certain way and it wasn’t so bad. Recently I’ve found some articles in a local newspaper showcasing the history of the region I live in. I had found myself amazed by the number of derelict farms dotting the landscape here and now I have an answer why. Once upon a time, this region actually produced quite a bit of it’s own local produce. It even had developed a market for Green Mountain potatoes which had been shipped nationwide. Something happened between then and now which limited the interest in growing things locally. Fortunately in the past ten years there has been some renewed interest in growing things locally. I’m seeing a few CSAs which have become available since I left. History in this instance has been a great reminder that this area can be a great producer of it’s own agricultural needs. These kind of reminders are a great way to help battle the magic of the aristocracy because they show we don’t have to live the life as we see around us. Subconsciously, I know I had always known that. But perhaps it was fear, I never could bring myself around to changing till I left the country for some time.

    So it is with great appreciation I thank you for these weekly postings and commentary. Here one can find historical comparisons with which to look at events happening today. One can find discussion of magic which takes place daily in our lives. One can come to realize that there are avenues for finding people who can find a common ground from which to make changes. One can find a pathway to an initiation into a different sort of life.

  230. Trying to comment on the beauty theme after being up for twenty two hours was ambitious, though the sentimentality of sleep deprivation certainly spoke from a deep place. Now I am rested and sipping coffee, and hope to clarify what I was enthusiastically grunting into the key board.

    The people I know who are most acutely aesthetics are, as a rule, captured by priorities that are directly useless to the process of Mechanical Empire. They are moved by sensuous desires and motives in a way that can not be planned for, they are wobbly gears in the drive train of progress. The degree to which a population is aesthetically
    motivated is an upper limit on the mechanical tolerances of a machine society, they are a limit on the complicatedness (not to be confused with complexity, in light of the lean logic distinction between the concepts) of the society which they partake in. Just as the precision of the measurement of the parts in a machine are a limit to the level of complication that can be included in the mechanism. Machine Empire is the tick-tock of humans bound to a grand vision. The clock work just on time delivery of our civilization’s mechanization in complicated in a different but comparable way to the Colosseum of complexity that was the Roman Machine.

    Design of complex machines is vulnerable to sympathy, the rings of every movement in the device call across a tiny cosmos for the sympathy of another part, but the whole device is predicated on the assumption that pieces may only move one another by way of approved, rational channels. A seized bearing in my bike means that the orientation of my handlebars now sympathizes with the orientation of my frame, instead of obeying the prompting of my hands. Sentimentality in machines is very frustrating. If two teeth in opposing gears fall in love, one must replace the transmission.

    I am thinking back to the romantics in art and poetry now, and the way that they so often have an erotic drive hed close to a death drive, a gothic side. I have a group of friends, young traveler kids, who are artists with a very debauched aesthetic; think the Edgar Allen Poe Burlesque Show. Mostly from well to do back grounds, clearly not more than two generations from the good people, they are now kinda trashy vagrants who live more impoverished lives than myself in many ways, except that they earn much more currency, only to spend it on the night life while traveling Europe or the more culturally significant part’s of old cities; usually the seedy ‘authentic’ areas with a rich artistic history. They are very aesthetic, to the point that beauty, even if if could kill you, drives them before all else, and the things they find beautiful have a retro style, like they are trying to be a post apocalyptic rehashing of the Dharma Bums, and a style toward death. Good kids, they work for a regional family my family is close to, but the aesthetic is absolutely absurd to me. Though in fairness I have an aesthetic that looks a little bit like Hee-Haw LARPing at times. These kids are parts being cast out of the machine, some still affect the aristocratic platitudes and hustle as hanger on people in so of the well to do groups: working behind the scenes for major Hollywood productions; others are cast aside from all that and free from the gear they were born to they swim freely in the transmission fluid they fell into.

    A baptism of the broken part, cast out from the mechanism into the waters of life, to rust to tarnish and thus grow Earthish again; buried nail is eventually taken up by the roots. But Beauty is ruthless! The erotic aspect on our body and service system is braided with it, for the way of reproduction that our Kingdom favors, is a reflection of beauty in the union with something else in submission; the Scientists sometimes try to reduce beauty to an epiphenomenal of sex, when the precise opposite is the truth. The new cosmos that arises from the meeting of inequality forces brings up chaos.

    In a vigorous life form, the ring of passnot very absorbent and takes in a great deal of evil, which is to say, beauty. More precisely it takes in momentum perpendicular to the movement of the cosmos, it is attracted to that movement, the cosmic ring turns toward the chaotic by force of ATTRACTION. And in growth this is essential, the random number generator of gods. That attraction to the chaos is simultaneously a repulsion from the other surface. Thus we meet the beautiful as something that calls through us and pulls something up out of us, but also as something like a negative evil to oppose, to repress, to release the repression at punctuated times. Therefore beauty flips the cosmos coin, and engenders the passnot, indeed in time it brings forth such limits as to harden the outer layer to a ‘modern’ aesthetic. Beauty ages us, because of the ever increasing turbulence of flipping that ring, the strengthing of the passnot, the closing off to prime-evil (Lilith), the various resistances to ‘evil’ forming patterns and draining the cosmic momentum. It is the Death of I AM.

    But beauty is life, and creation of life. Because though the cosmoses that submit to it participate actively in their death, as opposed to less aesthetically sensitive beings like stones which can out live us by far. The turbulence of rings and beauty also pull in currents around them, and the creation of encapsulating cosmoi, which are fresh and young, and which can avail themselves of those patterns which were not lost. Sex and death are the heads and tails of the coin of beauty. Beauty is the experience of the world that is absolutely not immaculate perception; it laughs at objective detachment.

    We are the children of Beauty, born and born again so many times, in her image. A strong passnot ring is needed in our civilization to stop the fragile and delicate organelle of civilization from being frayed to death. Beauty calls us to creation, but when the place for creation is already over full we must reject the call, to fossilize with that which has been. Blessed it is to be that which sits in a peaceful, pleasant, not passionate beauty, but it is also antithetical to the cosmic ring of Faust; who cannot age well, and must be passionately in love with even his affected detachment from beauty.

    Through out nature we can see that evolution has been more moved by artistic concerns that practical for a very long time.

    Faust must return to beauty to be redeemed, his love of Beauty is the only pass from damnation, even if it is at the ending of his own life. Stories differ on whether Gretchen will or won’t plead for his soul, and whether the Angels with listen to her. As the machinations of his power come to despair, and he is cast downward into the disposal of ill fitted parts there need be a beauty in that. Perhaps the romantics and the Gothics are on a noble front in the aesthetic of death, and their celebration of a life style which claims many a young artist? Maybe my friends, the fallen aristocrats are behaving more nobly than those who cast them down.

    For my self, I am very much an aesthetic, but of very very different tastes, dare say too sensitive to be the artistic type of my friends I talk about. I don’t mean that as a preen, I mean that the experiences they celebrate and seek out would over stimulate me to the point of exhaustion. I prefer much quieter and more gentile experiences, not the grand, but the fine. The beauty of stillness, when instead of opening up the passnot to be obliterated, holding it, and then calming myself to be sensitive to those smaller beauties which those friends have little sensitivity for. Myself, I find that beauties are regularly so powerful that I have to squint, less I am blinded. Squinting, I can take the appearance of one who closes his eyes to the beauty in life, but to a degree I see as much beauty as I can bare, and often times, especially in the wonderment of another persons mind if it can be glimpsed, I see so much beauty that it can leave me stunned for many hours a week, thinking and meditation on the expeerience until in is integrated enough that it doesn’t over whelm me any more.

    So much of the hope for humanities best prospects in the future of those already living (between now and the point when the current humans of Earth are all gone, leaving subsequent generations) is from the blessing of beauty. A new aesthetic that can give us meaning as the machine loses parts one after another. Those with out beauty start to shrivel and die. So many ‘broken parts’ are still stuck to the machine spinning along its motions, like my artistic friends, who are still vigorous consumers even as they despise the means of consumption.

    Dang, these rambles are are the ragged edge of my thought space, so I apologize for the poor craftmanship of my writing on this; I hope to become more fluent in such matters, and I hope that this topic carries on.

  231. @ Witch

    A number of folks have given their responses, but for what it’s worth, I’ll offer my perspective on Trump.

    I am not a Burkean conservative. I’m not quite sure what I am, actually, but perhaps I can summarize by saying that I’m an ecologically-minded, small-government, economically-leftward civil libertarian. “Small government” might be better phrased as “appropriate government”, as I believe there are things best done at the federal level, things best done at the state level, and things best done at the local level. Not everything should be a federal program.

    I did not vote for Trump in ‘16. I voted for Stein. I’d have voted for Sanders (and in fact did so in the primary), but would not vote for HRC because of her positions on issues such as our American empire and global trade. I can best sum up my feelings in the wake of the election by saying what I said to my friends the next morning, and which I’ve repeated here: I’m not happy he won, but I’m quite relieved that she lost.

    All that said, Donald J. Trump, for better or worse, appears to be the *only* politician willing to consider the kind of policies we need to adopt in the face of our looming post-imperial future. Tariff walls to protect American workers from foreign labor; withdrawal of our troops from our over-extended military complex spread across the globe; reduction of our foreign entanglements generally. There’s much of what he’s doing with which I disagree, in some cases quite strongly, and I would gladly vote for any Democrat who championed those policies. But in the absence of that, and in fact, observing the Democrats double-down on the wrong-headed positions which will only make our future more difficult than it is already going to be, we must consider what our practical options are. If Trump actually pulls off some troop withdrawals and if the Democrats nominate another proponent of American exceptionalism, then I may very well be casting my vote for Trump in ‘20, however distasteful I find the man personally. The Dems have no one but themselves to blame and I’m done trying to save the party from itself. I’ve offered my opinions and suggestions, tried to lay out a coherent policy platform focused on economic nationalism and national self-reliance, only to be met with ridicule and disdain. If Trump is the only one willing to do what needs to be done, then despite the baggage he brings, he may be the one that is needed in this time of transition.

  232. @ El, thank you for this perspective. In part because I don’t have a fancy education, I often keep silence in conversations concerning aesthetics, and even doubt my own impressions. That being said, I wonder if there is an accounting for taste.

    As I study the Cabala and begin to dip my toes in Neoplatonic philosophy, it seems clear to me that there isn’t one single ethical system, instead there are many. The ethics of Earth could be described as Success, the ethics of the Moon could be described as Power, the ethics system of Mercury could be described as Truth, the ethics of Venus could be described as Beauty, etc etc. So if the ethics of Saturn are Karma, and the ethics of Venus are Aesthetic, they would exist in entirely different continents of understanding.

    If I’m on to something here rather than just wallowing in abstractions, beautiful art would be art that is created with the ethics of Venus on some level, truly ugly art is art that is made without those ethical considerations.

    @ jbucks, these are all excellent points! The historical sketch you provide makes a lot of sense. The point about the idea of the artist as “innovator” strikes me as particularly crucial. Innovation would, itself, be to my eye at least, rather more mercurial rather than venusian.

    @ Justin, the points you bring up about the various politics of aesthetics are very interesting, and I tend to agree. Even more so is the crucial idea that beauty if cross-cultural. Again, my thinking is that when there is beauty, regardless of cultural context, a certain something comes through, and that thing is real. I’m calling her Venus, but I’m sure that there are other words just as appropriate. Point being, beauty is to my eye something much more than just subjective make believe. There appears to be a certain livingness to beauty that can be felt.

    @ Onething, thank you! Your thought: “I wonder if truly contemplating beauty makes it more uncomfortable to be a materialist? If beauty uplifts the soul…it sure does mine…but one denies a soul, one will not like it stirred up too much.” strikes me as very important. I agree that ‘…being touched by beauty a kind of surrender,’ for whatever it’s worth.

    As for the two fountains, it is interesting to think about it in terms of one depicting a beautiful scene from Earth and the other, perhaps, invoking outer space. The Cos.Doc. may be relevant to this…

    @ Kay, I agree, and am sympathetic to those who struggle with the ugliness that has been created. Certainly, it is hard on me. Part of the issue is, I believe, that we have an ethical system that only recognizes one ethic. With the advent of monotheism, and then especially protestantism, a diversity of ethics became replaced by one.

    I imagine there being an enormous difference in a world where everyone has their patron god or their patron saint, and adheres to that law, versus only one law. Artists clearly have a different ethical system than scholars or politicians, and that is as how it must be. If one tries to shoehorn everyone into a single ethical system than there are going to be many, many people who struggle to live in the world at all. As William Blake wrote so perfectly, “One Law for the Lion & Ox is Oppression.” To clarify, I’m not speaking of Legal Codes (which are, to be honest, never universal either) but to Inner Law.

  233. @ JMG, you are so welcome! I confess I am quite curious to read any thoughts on the matter you may wish to share.

  234. Just thinking about elite attitudes, the mainstream media and the middle classes. With the people I’m familiar with, there’s a lot of people out there who don’t have elite incomes, around or below the median, who believe the picture the media paints of everything, with maybe one or two exceptions where problems impact their lives, show attitudes that are aligned with that of the nominally leftward end of the elite, and the more vocal of whom spread their talking points on facebook. They’re mostly very decent people. They’re also very definitely ordinary people, and far from any sort of elite. Most of the ones I know are Canadian, but I can think of an American and an English person or two as well.

    Leading me to wonder… where does this very large group fit? I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a quarter of coastal urban BC’s population falls in or near this category.

  235. John, thanks for this. It’s very promising to see such things seeping out into the mainstream media.

    Sam, glad to hear it. I’m probably going to discuss the arts at some length in a series of future posts, as there’s clearly a lot of interest in the subject among my readers.

    Ray, thank you. I’m going to brood about that for a good long time, because you and Sartre between you may have just given me the guiding thread I need.

    Sandy, your comments about ugliness make a lot of sense. As for discord in music, as I’m sure you know, people vary in their sensitivity to that. I’d probably loathe the Pharaoh Sanders piece you mention, simply because the unpleasantness of the discords would likely outweigh any pleasure I’d experience at their resolution — some modern music reminds me of the old joke about hitting yourself over the head with a hammer, because it feels so good when you stop! The broader point you make is of course correct, but some of us prefer our discords used as a seasoning rather than the main ingredient.

    Denys, yep. The next three episodes are subtitled “In the Shadow of the Cathedral,” “Triumph of the Frog God,” and “What Moves in the Darkness.” We’ll be postponing next month’s Cosmic Doctrine book club by one week so the series can run without a break. As for your suggestion about the origin of all the outrage, you know, you may be right. You may very well be right.

    MCB, thank you — I’ve read a number of Naydler’s works (and had a very pleasant lunch with the man) and find him well worth close study.

    Tude, you didn’t communicate any of that in your original comment. You simply vented your feelings and asked a question that, since I had no way of knowing your background, seemed naive to me. Let me follow up with another question: why did you make your original post here, when this week’s discussion is not about homelessness, or your personal feelings about it?

    El, so basically a Victorian shriek of “Not in front of the servants!” You know, that may just be the best analysis I’ve heard yet.

    Prizm, socialization is vastly overrated. Children raised in isolated cabins on the frontier, with no playmates but their siblings, routinely turned into decent human beings who had no problem coping with other people. The risk with public schooling is reverse socialization — the very high probability that they’ll be “antisocialized” by bullying and other abusive behavior. I’d strongly encourage you to go ahead and homeschool if you can; your children will thank you for it.

    Ray, please turn that into an extended essay and publish it somewhere, online or off. I think you’re saying something of real importance, and it needs more of an audience than it’ll get low down on one of my comments pages.

    Violet, I’m still brooding. Clearly this is a topic that a lot of my readers feel strongly about, as indeed do I; I’m not at all sure yet that I have a handle on what’s going on with the modern cult of ugliness…but it feels as though tracing this one down to the core might just unearth the fundamental wrongness at the heart of the entire project of our age.

    Pygmycory, that’s what Toynbee was talking about when he wrote about mimesis. Human beings and other social primates tend to copy the behavior of the primates at the top of the troop hierarchy; that’s just as normal for us as it is for baboons — and in turn, when the primates at the top of the troop hierarchy no longer have a clue, there’s a period of confusion where some primates keep on imitating them and others start imitating one or another of their rivals. You’re right, though, that this needs to be factored into the social analysis I’m developing.

  236. @ Sandy

    Re PV subsidization

    Absolutely. In the US, the nominal retail cost of electricity is 10 cents per kWh (with some regional variation). Of that, less than half, say 3-4 cents, is the actual cost of power production (e.g. fuel). The remainder is the (fixed, as opposed to variable) cost of the necessary infrastructure such as transmission facilities, distribution facilities, reliability management, voltage control, frequency control, etc. To the extent that PV owners are paid/credited the full retail rate (i.e., the full 10 cents), they are not paying for that infrastructure despite the fact that they are users of said infrastructure. The costs are then, necessarily, shifted to non-PV owners.

    @ Ray

    I am morally obligated to salute anyone who cites a proof as an example of beauty. 😉

    @ Jessi

    Re power and the ethics of power

    Many thanks for the lead. I will most certainly pursue it.

  237. JMG,

    What exactly is playing and interacting with ones siblings considered if it is not a form of learning manners of socialization? In my comment I wasn’t suggesting that public schools are much more superior to homeschools because students are allowed more socialization opportunties, I only stated one of the drawbacks with homeschooling is that there are less opportunities for socializing. With all else I had also commented on in the entirety of that comments, I am mildly amused with the response I got. I do appreciate though that there have been many examples of people who grew up in frontier areas with little social interaction other than their family.

  238. Re: Art – Something in the air? Came across this today (Sunday, July 22nd)

    Lew – You noted that when some previously unknown works of art have been discovered that it can difficult to impossible for an outsider to get, as you said, the art establishment’s “seal of approval”. This seems to be true in many cases, even with ‘proper’ documentation/provenance of the work in question. Art that has been owned by somebody who is famous or well-connected seems to get recognized, even if that work is dog vomit. On the flip side, many people think they have made the find of the century, when it is anything but. I know some gallery owners, not of the high-end art establishment, who collect and resell art (some of it pretty good); they have seen both extremes – rejection or deliberate undervaluation when they tried to sell choice documented works with ‘good’ names to the art establishment, and – on the other hand, having to tell (as gently as possible, and through educating) hopeful sellers that they weren’t interested in buying their great grandma’s art ‘treasure’.

  239. @ Sam, that could be cool! Feel free to drop me an email at

    @ Ray, that is a very interesting reflection! I hadn’t thought about the active/passive dichotomy, but you raise an excellent point. A thought I wish to add is that it is my understanding is that in neoplatonic thought it is Dame Venus herself who leads one towards apprehension of spiritual beauty. A soul too, is a work of art in a certain sense, and it is Venus, too, who inspires one to pick up the chisel and work.

    @ Sandy, that all makes an uncomfortable amount of sense.

    @ David, you are so welcome!

    @ MCB, thank you for the recommendation!

    @ Ray, let me second JMG’s wish to see this published as an extended essay. You present a lot of very interesting ideas and I’d love to read them more fleshed out.

    @ JMG, that makes sense, thank you.

  240. Thinking out loud here, the fetish for ugliness may be a symptom of the rejection of spirituality. Simply put, I think an industrial society can not be a spiritual one, and we’ve chosen industrialism, for the immense material benefits it provides. I can’t think of a single spiritual tradition, aside from the pseudo-spirituality so popular today, that doesn’t condemn the mindless pursuit of power, wealth, and influence in no uncertain terms. I also can’t think of any that would say that burning through a ton of energy to fuel the world’s largest and longest orgy, without worrying about the consequences for future generations, anything but immoral. This is not to say that human beings listen, and indeed our society can be thought of as the result of what happens when we don’t.

    We have made our choice, but deep down I think a lot of people are deeply uncomfortable with the thought that perhaps we chose wrong, so they react violently against anything the reminds them of the fact that maybe, just maybe, there are higher powers, and maybe, just maybe, there are values that transcend the pursuit of wealth, power, and influence.

    This shows up in a number of forms. The intense hostility many atheists feel towards religion, for example, or the insistence that God has a plan and human beings can’t be expected to do anything to further it since He already knows what will happen and has decided on it, popular with some Christians I know, and the rejection of anything that leads to the direction of spiritual insight.

    Beauty is a major way to get there (in my experience, and, from reading a variety of religious traditions, plenty of other people’s experiences as well), and so it can’t be tolerated, since it might lead to the insights that members of our society are desperately trying not to have.

  241. Well if those rambling have you thinking, that ain’t bad for a half drafted rant. I’ve noticed that most of my best received comments have been half baked rants which I half consider self censoring. This actually ties back to the theme because, well it is an issue of self-censorship, of hiding the heart behind a mask of sober rationality. I will consider writing this up as an more accessible essay, and if I get to that i will make it known here. I think I might need some sort of conceit to make it an effective piece. Hmmm.

    Was taking with a friend who is more cultured than myself about this thread. The key agreement we were able to reach was that beauty has a fundamentally limit transcending aspect to it, and that since the rise of modernism there has been a swelling trend to separate and specialize. It seems that by the 20th century there was an active move to use art to divide, and what is interesting isn’t that there were elites selling it, but that there were plebs buying it; that the project got so far without getting snuffed. I suggested that society needed the ugly for specialization, but that seemed to be too utilitarian an explanation for a problem in this domain. More likely it’s origin is spiritual.

  242. “It was the result of specific, easily identifiable policies carried out by a bipartisan consensus and backed to the hilt by the privileged classes across the political spectrum.”

    Could you identify some of those policies?

  243. @ Kevin: Sure, I’ll give it a shot. Mind you, this is the short version; I didn’t want to go into all the detail and post something 17 screens long.
    As JMG said, I studied classical violin for 12 years on the performance training track. I knew by the time I went to college that I didn’t want a career in music, so at that point I left formal musical training and switched my major to Art History, which also involved taking art classes. I also later took up folk music, and have been involved in that for about 25 years, so I‘ve played plenty of tunes that aren’t classical.
    As a result of that combination of experiences, I noticed a process that probably began more than a century ago, and that came into full flower after WWII. Briefly, in both art and music there are — or were, anyway; things may have changed — a series of graduated training exercises designed to give the learner the technical skills, experience, and understanding they need to progress toward full competence. In music, there were scales, arpeggios, and other purely technical exercises, plus etudes and the like, which latter were actual pieces of music. In art there were things like clay and wax models, and the sheets and sheets and sheets and sheets of drawings from life drawing class, still life class, etc.
    Until the last century or so, etudes and wax models and arpeggios and in-class drawings were not considered to be finished pieces of art or music. They were practice and nothing more — a term once used by both artists and musicians to describe these was “studio pieces”.
    Gradually, that shifted, and studio pieces came to be considered finished works of art, worthy of performance or exhibit, so long as they were sufficiently formless and nonconformist. Take an arpeggio in the key of B flat minor, break it up into discrete sections, put them back together again in a different order, and give it a theoretically deep and meaningful but actually absurd and meaningless title — Ecstasies in the Orbit of Pluto — and you could charge money for tickets to a performance of it. Equally, swipe some road tar onto a canvas, add a few pieces of half-chewed bubblegum and three dead bugs, call it Abstraction 37, and get it hung in an art gallery. And sell it, even, to some dipstick with more money than taste.
    I think what happened is that creative artists and art patrons alike, faced with the artistic and monetary value of casual sketches by Leonardo or Rembrandt or Picasso, came to the conclusion that any scrap from the studio of an artist is a work of undying value. Except, no, it’s not. What makes even the scraps of scribble from the pen of Rembrandt valuable is the talent and skill and competence — in a word, the craft — of Rembrandt. You’re lucky to get one artist of the caliber of Rembrandt in a century. Most artists’ casual sketches or wax models are just studio pieces, of no particular value except for the education and experience they provide to the artist.
    Equally, the same slide happened in music, because even the etudes penned by Mozart or Vivaldi are held to be worthy of paid professional performance — but again, this is due solely to the craft of Mozart and Vivaldi. Most composers’ etudes and other compositions for training musicians are studio pieces, valuable as exercises but not worthy of performance.
    Which slides over into John Cage and his ilk. It used to be that if an artist wanted to explore the way two colors interact, they would play around in the studio, create various studio pieces, and then take what they had learned and make an actual finished work of art. Equally, composers who wanted to ding around with tone rows, or atonaliry, or the role of rests in music, or the sound of ping pong balls on a garbage can lid, would do so at the piano or with whatever other instrument they played, and then later on take what they learned and compose a finished piece of music with it. The experiments are only studio pieces, not finished works.
    When I was nearing the end of my classical music training, the conductor of a music workshop I attended played various pieces of music for us, and asked us to analyze and critique them. One of those pieces was 4’33” by John Cage. When it was finished, the conductor looked around at us and said, “What’s wrong with that piece?” One of the students raised his hand and said “It’s the hole without the donut.” To which the conductor said, “Got it.” We then discussed the fact that music is sound, but not all sounds are music. The sounds made by the audience during the duration of 4’33” are not music, they’re noise. Rests in musical compositions only function in the context of the notes of music that surround them. Separate the rest from the music and it no longer has a role.
    In my opinion, John Cage was too easily swayed by Neat Ideas. I disagree with JMG that he was a con artist; I think he was a true believer with myopic vision and questionable judgment, who was trying to push the window of classical music and ended up losing, or perhaps never understood in the first place, the difference between experiments and finished pieces of music which merit performance.
    But then I’m one of those old-fashioned folks who believe that both art and music should follow one of Mark Twain’s criteria for a good story, as expressed in his immortal essay about the failings of James Fenimore Cooper’s writing: “The tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.” From my perspective, far too much of modern art and music, as Twain says about Cooper’s novel The Deerslayer, “accomplishes nothing and arrives in the air”. I’ll take a Vivaldi concerto, or a fiddle tune by Shetland composer Tom Anderson, over John Cage on any day ending in y.

  244. Dear Mrs Sara Greer,

    Thank you very much for your intervention. It was an interesting, informative and entertaining response.
    Hopefully we’ll get to read your posts a bit more often now.


  245. Hi again JMG

    Talking about the “bubble of power”, one the institution the powerful people had in the past were the buffoons, those marginal people born in a s**t-hole of the kingdom, deformed and ugly, but with a natural wisdom and powerful language (poetry) that allow them to say some truth about how society (poors) outside the bubble of power think about the behavior, policies, taste of the sovereign. They were a needed institution for the powerful to “feel” the people’s mind outside the chorus of sycophants that sorround the powerful
    The message to the powerful cannot be sent by rational discourse, this is auto-referential, but the buffoons’ cynicism and poetry, jokes and cries could break the “rational armor” that sorround the “reasons” of the state and the king. All of this is lost

    In the future I augur the return of the “Yurodivy” the return of the “holy madness”, the “foolishness of Christ” (or other Gods) after the debacle of rationalism and abstraction. As the buffoons’ for the richs, the Yurodivy were the way the society remind their worst trend, the way they treat the poors, nature, the hiden hypocresies, as San Francesco did, the big yurodivy of the catholic world


  246. @Violet, if I may I would like to echo JMG’s recent comment that you are likely onto something very important.
    The discussion brought to mind lines in Ezra Pound’s Pisan Cantos. ‘Beauty is difficult’ is a refrain through these Cantos, but Pound borrows lines from a letter from his wife describing Tuscan mountains at Carrara and the fresh snow on the tops, the relief provided by this loveliness all day while she was returning home after visiting him in the US Army detention camp in Pisa in 1945. Pound writes: ‘Carrara / snow on the marble / snow-white / `against stone-white / on the mountain’. And a little later in the poem; ‘Under white clouds, cielo di Pisa / out of all this beauty something must come.’

    Phil H
    BTW I am neither defending Pound’s politics nor 20th Century ‘modern poetry’ in English.

  247. @Phil Knight
    Thanks for the link to the essay. Your quote: “One of the central problems for Westernizing revolutions, on the other hand, is that the model they aim to imitate is constantly morphing before our eyes”
    I like your point: “This is why, as John Gray, has observed, liberals tend to veer between their usual implacable faith in the future and gibbering panic”.

    I’m reading Sakwa’s 2016 ‘Frontline Ukraine’. His thesis is that Western Europe, in particular the EU project for peace between European State powers has morphed not just socially, economically and financially, but more so into a divisive choice. EU enlargement, “and its effective merger with the Atlantic security system”, became a recipe for conflict. The pro-EU Ukrainian ultra-nationalists welcome just this divisiveness welded to the military alliance. Good governance and enlightened liberal and democratic values are entirely beside their point.
    Sakwa points out a contrasting view of the EU in Eastern Europe, where right-wing nationalism allies itself with ‘rightist’ Euro-scepticism in France and elsewhere. Scary on both counts for us liberals, eh?
    Wish I lived closer to London (I presume) for a pub discussion or two! For nine years to 2006 I was in Eastern Europe and the Balkans as a technocrat on EU projects, and back in the 80s on a project in communist Poland. It was harder to see the woods for the trees in those days.
    Phil H

  248. @denys

    Re: the left’s Historical moment.

    Greetings denys.

    Your comment reminded me of Maximilian Forte’s (of similar speculations on why the left was so gung-ho for the bombing of Libya. If I recall correctly, he hypothesized that this bizarre stance only made sense in the context of seeing the Arab Spring as a grand historical moment, where by setting themselves up for the coming revolution the left was being on the right side of history. I also believe he mentioned the emotionally overwhelming appeal that the “fall of the Bastille” and the “storming of the winter palace” have for leftists. I admit to have shared this feeling sometimes. Imagining the “people” throw down symbols of the tyrant’s oppression brings a great rush of good feelings. I have no problem believing that one can get addicted to that image.

  249. Ray Wharton,

    re your post on beauty at 3:53 am about getting beauty through watching others, I read it before sleep the night before last. Coincidentally I’m sure, I had a bad dream, a bit unusual for me. I dreamed my husband died. I was processing the devastation to my life, and felt my world would go dark because without him, how would I see beauty?
    I think of myself as a person greatly appreciative of beauty, but in the dream all I could recall was the way that he brings so much beauty to my attention because he is so different from me, sees things that I miss. He also makes me stop. In summer evenings we have what he calls the moment of silence, a brief time at dusk when the daytime sounds quiet and the night noises have not yet begun. We just sit and look at the garden flowers. Often, we have a datura opening, which you have to catch at about 8 pm and you can see the lovely white flower pop open. It has a very inspiring but very delicate scent.

  250. Will J,

    “… the fetish for ugliness may be a symptom of the rejection of spirituality. ”

    You said very succinctly what I was aiming at.

  251. @Jean,
    ditto here RE: Trump. I listened to many hours of NPR on KCRW when I lived in Long Beach, then WEKU once I moved back to KY. I “felt the Bern” @ his rally @ the waterfront in Lou., and voted Sanders in the primary. Registered Dem here. But I did vote Trump in the general (election), based on tariffs, retreat from empire, and detente w/Russia. And while I always had a sneaking suspicion that Sanders might sell out, even tho I would’ve voted for him if he made it to the general, like he did during the primary season, I was more confident Trump would follow thru on his promises. Now, w/tariffs, military w/drawal, and the recent Putin summit, I must say, Trump did follow thru. This is the first time in my lifetime that a president actually followed thru on campaign promises in the teeth of entrenched opposition by the establishment…

  252. That nature is a source of beauty we all know. What I did not know early in life was how very much beauty man can create. I grew up where the local woods were my sanctuary. I would come to them after school and get a special feeling just running along an undulating and well worn path along the stream. My experience of the thing called City was going to Brooklyn in which I was horrified by the ugliness and the noise and dirt. Later, we moved to Los Angeles, a truly ugly city. I recall as a young person coming across the phrase that such and such was a beautiful city. I experienced cognitive dissonance because city and beauty were opposites in my mind.

    It was not until I spent a day in London that I began to understand the beauty that man can create. And luckily London preceded Kiev, because in Kiev I was just blown away. Sometime after that on the internet I came across a picture of a city in old Europe, maybe Romania or some such. A very charming old city with a lovely river and a beautiful stone bridge over it, with pretty cottages and summer flowers. A feeling of intense nostalgia and longing welled up in me. It was the most desirable place to live I had ever seen.

    A bit later I visited King’s College in Cambridge and I began to think about how in the past, while people were very poor, these gardens, bridges, cathedrals and even palaces to an extent, all belonged to the PEOPLE and they spent a fair amount of time in them. For the most part, they were built by the rich as gifts and legacies. Looking again at certain beautiful remains in South America, Asia and elsewhere, I see how this beauty that takes my soul away was something incorporated into the daily life of the common people, and not only the buildings, but the whole surrounding areas, the terraces and gardens and cottages, all so beautiful.
    So I was completely wrong that people only generate ugliness. They actually generate something sort of equal in beauty to nature, but they must do it correctly, with beauty of design and with it being embedded within nature in such a way as to bring out our human creative genius of beauty.

    What a tragedy to deliberately refrain from that! How bizarre!

    How spiritual an exercise it is to see beauty in nature and to be inspired to create our own beauty in response. There is such variety in the beauty different cultures create.

  253. @JMG,
    perhaps Where the Wasteland Ends is a good starting point for extrapolating the pursuit of ugliness in our society?
    Also, I’m very interested in your alternate history whereby Carter gets reelected in ’80, Anderson wins in ’84, the neoliberal neocons die in infancy, the Boomers don’t sell out, and the development and trajectory of all subsequent generations (Gen X, Millennial, iGen) when they’re not defined by their relation to a nonexistent digital technology (the digital age being arrested in its infancy along w/the neocons neoliberals)

  254. Dear Mr Greer

    There is a lot of discussion about the ugliness of modern art on the comments this week. I wonder if it might be worth looking at what your old friend Mr Schopenhauer has to say on the subject. I have to admit that it is sometime since I have read anything about his aesthetics so I may be rusty on this. From what I remember your old friend seemed to be saying that when you are absorbed in a work of art, this liberates you for a short time from the domination of the will. You see the world as representation rather than will.

    So for example the way you would look at a display of food in a restaurant is different from the way you would look at some Dutch masters painting of a display of food. The food you see in a restaurant is likely to evoke feelings of hunger and desire and craving. These are all emotions associated with the will to survive. You do not feel this when look at the Dutch masters painting as there is no will involved. For a short time you transcend the will with all it craving and desire.

    This is only speculation, but I am thinking that there has never been a civilisation that has been so caught up in craving, greed, desire and imposing its will on the world as ours. Ours is the most materialistic civilisation in history (by materialistic I don’t mean material goods that are beautiful and well crafted; I mean cheap, shoddy and plastic). The whole emphasis of modern industrial consumer society is ever increasing consumption of the cheap, nasty and the shoddy. Maybe that we have become so caught up in that kind of will, that it becomes difficult for us to transcend it. Or maybe we don’t want to be reminded that we are capable of transcending the will. Maybe the consumption of the cheap, shoddy and the nasty has become so caught up in our religion of progress that to transcend the will in art is tantamount to heresy.

  255. @JMG, I am not sure if your question expects an answer or not, but all I can come up with is an embarrassing one. Over the past year I have become scared to express my opinions and feelings. I believe in my desire to express them here, where I see so many people that hold many the same opinions, I tried to express my feelings as briefly as possible to simply voice my sadness and fear.

    I know I have mentioned I work in IT at the “premier” public university in the Bay Area. As of last week, after 48 years on this planet, and 20+ years of above average “performance” and promotions into senior management roles, I am on medical leave from the oppressive (and dare I say “conservative” and “authoritarian”) culture of the department and university, along with the extremely hostile and toxic and bullying work environment.

    As a 4th generation Californian, who has gone through everything I posted above, and an ex-radical (active Earth First’er, among many other things), this is the first time in my life I truly feel fear and hopelessness. I no longer express myself well. Thank you though for this blog, your thoughts, and this conversation.

  256. Great post. I wanted to ask about this quote, “We’ll probably have to wait until the student loan bubble pops, and takes most of US higher education with it,” The Media says default rates for student loans are only 3%, but the real data, which is extraordinarily difficult to find, suggests it’s more like over 50, possibly as high as 60%. And it will only get worse when all the millions currently in the university and racking up six figure debt graduate in the next few years to find that a BA in Transgender Studies doesn’t even qualify you to flip burgers (no matter how good it felt to be a self righteous “subversive and radical” thinker for a few years!) Anyway, do you predict that this can cause another 2008- another financial meltdown in the USA? Thanks.

  257. John–

    This is a bit sideways with respect to the topic, but it does pertain to perspective and the differences therein. Perhaps the element of magic is also pertinent with regards to one’s consciousness. The post in question is:

    But I’m referring specifically to one particular exchange in the comment thread that caught my eye:

    CA_Guy • 36 minutes ago
    Bannon is like an Ebola carrier on a world tour.

    CaptainCommonsense CA_Guy • 34 minutes ago

    I could only smile, thinking of a certain conversation on a certain beach in a certain work of occult fiction…

  258. John–

    Re meditation on magic and political change

    I’ll keep at it, but one early result of working the theme is the realization that a triad of components are necessary:

    1) the necessary force/power to induce the change (gwyar)
    2) a foundation/thrust-block from which one is able to apply/anchor that force (calas)
    3) the understanding of exactly when and to what degree the force should be applied (nwyfre)

  259. Mr. Greer, do not fall into the trap of allowing comments to be rated.

    People will value more comments with high ratings, and soon you will have people shifting their opinions to get more “likes”.

    Let all comments be equal without ratings, and their contents speak by themselves, so that each person can evaluate them without the badges of approval from groupthink.

  260. Dear Witch of West Texas,

    I won’t bother with too much of your comment, but I do want to throw one item into the discussion for consideration.

    I am a 40-something former registered Democrat, biologist by education, ecologist by professional experience, active herbalist, and long time 3rd party voter. I voted Libertarian in ’16, the first time since ’92 I voted anything other than Dem or Green.

    My history has directly exposed me to regulatory agencies upon occasion, and the DEET-free bug spray our little company makes currently keeps me accountable to the EPA, as it is considered a pesticide.

    Let me just say this: if we completely gutted the EPA and sent all its employees home, we would be better off. They haven’t produced anything of actual value to the biosphere in a very long time. More than anything else the EPA simply offers legal protection to some of the worst offenders among us. They make it all but impossible for genuine environmentally-friendly innovation (like ours) to compete on the so-called “open” market, while coddling corporations like DuPont and S.C. Johnson and their well-known toxins.

    I know it sounds “right” to be pro-EPA, but when you get under the hood and get to know more about how the machine works, it just ain’t so…


  261. It is now getting rather late in the week, but I wanted to repost this, since it seems to have suffered a glitch before. People were discussing if Canada’s aristocracy is as clueless as in other places, and I was surprised to see in the “Plutonomy” report cited above that Canada was included with the US and UK among the plutonomies. That does not correspond at all to what I see here in Quebec, so I decided to look up measures of inequality in the Canadian provinces:

    Ontario and British Columbia are in fact right up there with the the UK, Australia and USA as regards inequality of income (though the USA is a bit in a league of its own, at least among the rich countries – look at the top decile’s share!). On the other hand, Quebec, New Brunswick and PEI are almost Scandinavia, due to tax redistribution. The transfer of money to the rich started about 1990 (not to say 1988…). That does make sense to me!

    PS: I enjoyed Sara Greer’s comment.

  262. Thank you to Violet, El and all of you who have expressed your thoughts on beauty.
    One Thing, you commented that humans can also create beautiful places as you discovered in your travels in Europe. This brought to mind a book that I often refer to and ponder entitled “A Pattern Language” written by Alexander, Ishakawa and Silverstein in 1977. Many of you are probably familiar with it if you were involved in the alternative scene in the 70s . It’s premise is to provide anyone with the basic tools or patterns to create beautiful, functional, meaningful places. It is not a light read- more the sort you can go to often and you can pick and choose patterns from the macro(ex. creating liveable cities) to the micro(ex.creating alcoves in a home) to read about and consider. It’s one of the books I go to when the ugliness and insanity are wearing me down.
    Thanks JMG for this posts and to all commenters. I look forward to the following posts!

  263. I have a question about meditation.

    I’ve been struck by the discussion here about how simply doing “mindfulness meditation” is an incomplete path and one does not get all the benefits of that process without following the entirety of the source tradition (in this case, Buddhism).

    My question is: is there an alternative?

    I have a basic meditation habit (I use the guided meditation app HeadSpace for 15-20 mins most days and it helps me focus on and observe my breathing). When I am doing it consistently I certainly feel some benefits.

    I have no particular desire to convert wholesale to a different spiritual tradition and follow it am I better off just doing HeadSpace? Or are there more valuable meditative practices for me to try within the above time constraints?

    For example JMG has occasionally written about “discursive meditation” which is sitting and considering and wrestling with a concept in great detail and is the opposite of simply “observing” thoughts with detachment. Would that be a good idea? And are there any resources or guides to help me start?


  264. John–

    Pertinent to the extent that post-secondary education (or, I should say, credentialing) plays a role in the inclusion/exclusion process, but also touching on a previous comment some weeks back on the state of the UW system generally and the fate of the two-years campuses specifically:

    I am hardly one to talk, I suppose, as I am a well-credentialed product of a decade’s worth of college (quite literally — I began my freshman year in 1990 and graduated with my Ph.D. in 1999), but that was also an earlier time before the decline really began to accelerate. I wonder to what extent the UW’s situation is mirrored in other state’s public university systems. I know that many private colleges and universities, particularly the smaller ones, are under immense fiscal pressure these days, some in danger of folding completely.

    It is fascinating to watch my daughter, now navigating the terrain of post-secondary education, take the curve-ball she was thrown when her tuition scholarship to a small private university was cancelled on her after one semester and, jujitsu-like, pivot instead to a two-year paralegal program at a nearby technical college. She’ll be out sooner, more employable, in a field with decent income potential, with significantly less debt. I think it is becoming clear that more and more people are weighing the costs and benefits of a four-year college degree and respectfully declining the proposition. To that extent, perhaps the magic of the elite is fading.

  265. HI Jasmine,

    Our TV has a picture tube. Americans are baffled as to why we haven’t replaced it; when I explain, “It still works,” they are even more baffled. The people that helped win WW II with “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” has transformed into a great, mindlessly voracious beast. It’s a human tragedy.

    My favorite feature of our TV: it couldn’t spy on us even if it wanted to.

  266. Some thoughts on beauty from a couple different angles.

    We live in a very protected, unnatural way in much of the USA. If I choose, I can rarely leave an environment between 68 and 74 degrees with relatively perfect humidity. In “The Druidry Handbook”, JMG urges us to reconnect with Nature, to spend at least 15 minutes a week in and with Nature. We are far removed from Earth if even 15 minutes a week is a largish commitment for some!

    JMG also covers what he thinks is the solution to the Holy Grail: living in balance between solar, lunar and earth paths. The visible ugliness on many levels of our society would suggest that we are far from this! And the tales of the Fisher King and the Holy Grail show what can happen when these things are unbalanced.

    Meanwhile, when first reading the thread here on the ugliness, I immediately thought about Tony Hillerman’s writings on the Dine Way in his fictional mysteries, especially the earliest third of the series. Hillerman often quotes a poem which begins “In Beauty may I walk…” Which really, to me gets into the idea that Beauty is living in harmonious relationships with the living beings around us. (My wife, a tribal member from a Pacific Northwest tribe, suggested these books to me early in our relationship. Why? Although the mythologies are different, the way of relating to the living beings around us is very similar.) Then Ray Wharton wrote his wonderful piece about beauty, which in my mind gave concrete examples of what I’ve read of the Dine Way.

    But there can be a leaving of this path of beauty: turn to greed and power, or what might be called or the Skinwalker Way. It leads to ugliness and total imbalance.

    Then I turned the clock back to the late 1970s. (While not quite older than dust, I’m about two years older than our host.) We had a new EPA, which might’ve been a move in the right direction. And Jimmy Carter and his ideas upon which JMG has elaborated over the years. There were also still some fairly strong spiritual movements within evangelical Christianity. It could be argued that we were on a path in which maybe, just maybe, the USA could arrive at the unification of the 3 paths.

    Then came the moral majority and the evangelicals got involved in politics. As JMG has said, when politics enters a church, the gods run out the other door. One leg of the “grail” was failing. As I look back, the 1980 election and the immediate years thereafter were filled with magic. Not only did the evangelicals sell themselves to politics, the country seemed to really sell itself to a pursuit of world power (allegedly in order to destroy the USSR) and money for the sake of money. (Greed is good.)

    In other words the USA chose the Skinwalker Way. Or, in the other analogy, the USA chose to kick to the ground all 3 parts of JMG’s Grail, totally snuffing out earth as a result. It takes strong magic to cause people to do these things. This magic is still at work today and, to me, is a large cause of the anger and utter ugliness and lack of Beauty today.

    And to the younger set here, it was not simply the baby boomers who made this choice and reaffirmed it in 1984 and 1988. Every person I knew from the Greatest Generation and earlier voted for Reagan. It was something that , as a society, became agreed upon regardless of generation.

  267. @Prizm What do you mean by socialization? Its a term that is thrown around when people talk about children, like kids are a dog that needs walked or a horse that needs ridden. So when you throw it out there, you are going to get push back because it sounds like an ingredient you add to make sure kids turn out right.

    We homeschooled for 10 years and the oldest is headed off to college in August. When she did accepted student events with her peers at some very swanky private colleges, she came out of it saying in her words “most people need a high school recovery program” like the 12 steps of AA. She found these students who are at the top of their classes rude, crass, and unable to communicate about what they cared about. None had any idea what they wanted to do in college. Their focus was on partying and drinking.

    Back to socialization – I stopped caring about it at some point along the way. Our focus was on good immediate family relationships and having those be full of love and respect. I have found that adults who had horrible family relationships with parents and/or siblings, carry it with them the rest of their lives. Many adults I know are carrying hurt and pain that they project into every relationship. I sure they were socialized to the hilt as kids, but it didn’t mean squat when their parents or brothers or sisters hurt them over and over again.

    Good family relationships are impossible if your child goes to public school. The teachers work to destroy that relationship.

  268. Dear JMG – Just a bit of popcorn fluff (mixed metaphor?) but I recently saw a movie from a few years back called “Art School Confidential.” (John Malhovich, Angelica Huston, et all.) I think it may have originally been a graphic novel. A bit of a sendup, but used a lot of “types” that I actually remember from my time at the University of Washington Art Department. And, a bit of the inner machinations of the fine art business.

    It’s interesting that there seems to be a lot of gatekeeping going on, in professions that heretofore, were based more on experience and practice. Apparently, it’s difficult to get a job in some restaurants unless you have a certificate from The Culinary Institute of America, or some other well thought of school. Without a Master of Fine Art from a preferably high caliber school, writers and artists have a difficult time getting even a “look see.”

    Years ago, I read a book called “The Mud Pie Dilemma.” It asked the question as to if one wanted to be a studio potter (and, maybe starve to death) or be a commercial production potter and maybe be able to keep body and soul, together. Another book that comes to mind is a recent autobiography by the artist Eric Fischel. I don’t have the title at my fingertips. He’s pretty much a successful realist painter, but it pulls no punches in describing how difficult that was in the professional art world of the 1980s and 1990s. He tried to be an abstract expressionist, and gained a little bit of success. He got his foot in the door. But his heart just wasn’t in it, and when he set off in a more realistic style, the pressure on him to conform was just tremendous. Lew

  269. Thinking about mimesis of the elite in coastal BC vs. the USA:

    With regards to coastal BC, there’s also the fact that there is an actual left here, which offers signficant benefits to people on lower incomes (like a significant jump in the minimum wage, smaller rises in income assistance and disability, child care subsidies for low income people, and some attempt to come to grips with housing prices), as well as banning corporate and union donations from provincial elections. They haven’t managed to improve skyrocketing rents and the homeless situation, though. This left shares a fair amount of the talking points, identity politics and immigration policies seen in the US left, along with the economic policies I’ve described.

    So from the perspective of someone on disability who struggles to hold down a few hours of minimum wage work a week (which is legal and encouraged), I have a lot of reason to support them, and do, even if I question a few of their policies. The BC Liberal party, which was right-wing by local standards, was far worse to live under. Got to love those oxymoronic political party names. Nationally, Canada used to have a political party called the Progressive-Conservative Party.

    The tangible benefits probably have to do with why mimesis on those other issues seems stronger here than what I’m hearing from you and others in the USA. There does seem to be more mimesis on the US coasts even outside the elites, though, than in areas like the rust belt.

  270. Re: PV electric subsidies. Perhaps I am biased by the panels on my roof, but while I am “using” the grid as my battery during the night, I am also supplying the grid with expensive peak-demand power on hot, sunny days. How that balances out is hard to calculate.

    As for the overall impact of PV generation on the grid, here in the US Mid-Atlantic states, the recent statement from our utility company divides the default supply into roughly equal fractions: coal, gas, and nuclear. If you want to pay extra for wind-generated power, I guess you take it away from others, because it doesn’t even show up in the table. Nor does PV power. Thus, it’s impact on grid economics seems minuscule as well.

    Is it evil of me to sign up for expensive wind-generated power, and then claim reimbursement at the higher rate for the wind power that I’m not actually consuming, because my solar panels produce more than I use?

  271. @onething

    Thank you for sharing, I am grinning with the recursion. Enjoying an aesthetic experience of reading about your enjoying your husbands aesthetic experience. The main thing I thought about when I read your first paragraph what that in seems that, in one important domain at least, Mr. Onething is a lucky fella.

    @ JMG

    Beauty kinda captures us, when it does it makes us a kind of beautiful. You and Violet, know as much as me about the implications of that rant. Because I think the thread I was writing about was, philosophically speaking derivative on bunches of other stuff up thread, and past discussion here. But, I was writing in deep focus on the experience of beauty, with really weak attention to good prose, and if I do say so myself there was some beauty in it. I am mulling writing an extended piece, but I really don’t know how to do it, I think that to do anything neat with that stuff I would have to make a beautiful text, because there ain’t that much to explain except what was said.

    Seeing beauty for myself, it can be a very sober thing, but the way that beauty changes my relation to another; be that other enchanting or enchanted, is fantastic. On the other extreme there are certain things in math I find fantastically beautiful, but this is a very private form of beauty for me, most people cannot see the beauty that catches me in that realm; because its way out and takes work to see, and ain’t on a branch of math that our common culture has words for. But once in a long time something from that realm catches the eye of another, and it is a blissful thing, like rapturously giddy, to show someone something that is beautiful, having found the path being followed in order to see it, and to see them seeing the beauty. Rare treat, but so good. Oh, and beyond math, that’s a joy of philosophy too; I guess other arts are like that too. And its different from vanity, though they can get tangled.

    Beauty is so fun to share. In a weird way consuming it is at most the foam of the top of the beer. Have you ever seen a group of people on Youtube, jockying to share their favorite song with the group… they are so focused on sharing their song they don’t listen. Tragic; but it demonstrates something really basic.

    The Symposium probably already covered everything, but I don’t remember it very clearly.

  272. Scotlyn,

    Thanks for the tip about Cheran – I went to read up on it a bit. It sounds like they were forced to resort to some extreme measures, but with a good outcome. I tend to think democracy or any kind of decision-making works best when it is small and local and personal. I wonder if we’ll see more situations like that one unfolding as we move further into decline. Have you ever read James Howard Kunstler’s ‘World Made by Hand’ novels? There’s a similar thing going on there.

  273. RE: iGen, late Millennial suicides/substance abuse: my experiences w/99.9% of this cohort are very bad. They seem to have an inherent inability to thrive. I’ve had to detach from them in the same way that a loved one has to detach from a chronic alcoholic or drug addict. Too much dysfunction. I really think that they’re a tragic. lost generation that nothing can be done about, and that their only role will be as the worst possible example that the upcoming Prophet generation will thrust against in steely resolve not to crumple like their older brothers and sisters did.

  274. Looking back on almost 20 years as an American voter I would note that the “He’s gonna kill us” cry of alarm has been applied to many Republican candidates since Goldwater. Sometimes it is muted to “round us up and put us in camps”. These cries of alarm have usually been accompanied by pledges to move to Canada if HE is elected. Somehow, no one ever does–with the exception of those avoiding the draft during Vietnam War. But I can recall this theme when Reagan was running, again with Bush 2, and now with Trump. My grandson is a Marine, so I was far more conderned that H Clinton seemed to be gunning for Russia.

    As with most things in US politics, the internet seems only to have made things worse. The day after the election a Facebook friend posted an article claiming that there had been a sudden increase in suicides of gay teens. I presume this was Trump’s fault since everyone _ knew_ that he was anti-gay. I commented to the effect that older and wiser gays, such as my freind, should tamp down the hysteria a bit since it was having the effect of panicking young people into suicide. From the response you would think I had shown up with a box of pink triangles and directions to the relocation center. Unfollowing was my only option. After a brief stint of research I found no evidence that the original article was even true–and at least one activist issuing the same warning I had given my friend–spreading this rumor may cause more suicide.

  275. @John B. – Thank you for the stories! They track with my own experience of UUs. I’ve met a lot of intelligent, considerate, reflective people… but they seem to only be reflective along certain well-defined paths. And I feel that the culture as a whole (or the egregore) cannot tolerate certain ideas.

    I’ve told several people point-blank that we are not going to Mars, or any other deep space destination, and they don’t really react. The point seems to slide right past them.

  276. @Prizm

    I have absolute gratitude for the opportunity I had to not go to public high school. Middle school was the worse three years I have been alive for. As for socialization, total hog wash, I am an active member of my community and widely respected by many community leaders. It is notable that the majority of people I know who are active in the community and under 40 have something in common, they dodged as least a few years of their time on the inside.


    It is interesting you mention the beauty way, I’ve lived out with the Dine from time to time, and hadn’t yet made that connection. The remaining herding families still have a degree of right connection that I admire. Though some of the towns are hard to see.

  277. Hey JMg,

    Another fine essay, with content not found anywhere else on the internet. Interesting slant on the popularity of magic, and how it changes over time and surges upward in times like we’re experiencing now. My first take though, I’m somewhat fuzzy on cause and effect – what you refer to as magic, I observe to be the effect of willful propaganda by the elites. I do not see the magic or propaganda coming from the excluded. I’m looking forward to the next three installments of the Kek Wars, and hopefully that difference will become more clear.

    RE: art, music, media and literature. There is a train of logic in some dark corners of the internet that the control exerted by the elites is very strong in these areas, and has gotten to the point where there’s a hammerlock on content to achieve goals of the elites. (adjusts tin foil hat to a more comfortable position) Some of these goals include maximizing consumption and profits, polarization of politics to distract from serious problems and retain power, money laundering, and detailing the historical record. One example would be in the publishing industry – where the “connected” elites garner the lion’s share of advances to have the “correct” content promoted, while truly talented writers on offbeat topics never see their work gain popularity. After all, if the big publishing houses have to pay the Clintons and Obamas tens of millions for their “important and exciting” memoirs, what’s left for substantive content?

  278. Hi JMG: I can assure you I’m not a fan of self-flagellation through music! In fact I built replica harpsichords for 14 years (some of that in Oregon in the 70’s), and mostly indulge myself in rather sedate music from the Baroque and Rennasance. At last count I’ve got 10 different recorded versions of the Bach suites for solo cello, which is IMHO the most transcendent piece of music ever written. I also enjoy my vinyl collection of classic melodic 60’s rock n’ roll and folk from my days at UC Berkeley.
    I was referencing the Pharaoh Sanders free jazz piece only as an extreme example the chaos vs order tension in the arts; its not a piece I would recommend to most people.
    One second thought though, listening to it might be less harmful and more cathartic than the current epidemic of young people mutilating themselves…

  279. @Phil Harris

    Well, I’m on the East Coast mainline, midway between London and York, so I’m not that far south! Maybe a meet-up of UK-based Greerites is due sometime…

    I’m not sure I’m a liberal anymore. I remember during the Maastricht period. when John Major was battling his Eurosceptic rebels, and I held the conventional proto-Blairite view that Britain belonged in the EU, and that the likes of Bill Cash and Teddy Taylor were just antediluvian cranks.

    Nowadays I generally agree with the point that Patrick Deneen makes in “Why Liberalism Failed” in that the central problem with Liberalism is that it just does not know when to stop, and its tireless radicalism is inherent to the entire philosophy. So at the moment, I’m doing my best to become a dispassionate observer, because I think that the excesses of Liberalism are the very cause of the nationalist-populist backlash that is engulfing it, and that there is no way to productively intervene in this dynamic.

  280. Scotlyn, no, I don’t really know any names. The form is rap, which I don’t much like as a music form, but works well with this type of poetry.

    Speaking of poetry, speaking of beauty, I do not reject modern poetry forms but I have noticed here as well a modern rejection of traditional poetry, what I call true poetry, and here is a favorite of mine in which the whole point is being transfixed by beauty, in his case, listening to the singing of a woman he loves;

    Asia: From Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysshe Shelley
    My soul is an enchanted boat,
    Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
    Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;
    And thine doth like an angel sit
    Beside a helm conducting it,
    Whilst all the winds with melody are ringing.
    It seems to float ever, for ever,
    Upon that many-winding river,
    Between mountains, woods, abysses,
    A paradise of wildernesses!
    Till, like one in slumber bound,
    Borne to the ocean, I float down, around,
    Into a sea profound, of ever-spreading sound:

    Meanwhile thy spirit lifts its pinions
    In music’s most serene dominions;
    Catching the winds that fan that happy heaven.
    And we sail on, away, afar,
    Without a course, without a star,
    But, by the instinct of sweet music driven;
    Till through Elysian garden islets
    By thee, most beautiful of pilots,
    Where never mortal pinnace glided,
    The boat of my desire is guided:
    Realms where the air we breathe is love,
    Which in the winds and on the waves doth move,
    Harmonizing this earth with what we feel above.

  281. @ Lathechuck

    Re PV subsidization

    Renewables aren’t evil, by any means! Personally, I believe that grid-decentralization is ultimately a good thing, making the system much more robust and less reliant on the transmission grid as a whole and on large, central power stations.

    But the economics of rate design are important. As I described in my comment, of the nominal 10 cents one pays for electricity at the end-customer level in he US, only 3-4 cents is the actual value of the electricity itself. So PV owners who are being paid or credited the full retail rate for consumption they offset or power they inject back into the grid are being over-paid. The 6-7 cents that aren’t the direct cost of power cover the fixed costs I described previously which pay for the infrastructure that those PV owners are still using, but are now using for free or at a reduced price. Those costs, which must still be recovered in retail rates, are therefore shifted onto others. Think of the issue as being similar to gas taxes which are used to pay for road upkeep and the way in which electric and hybrid vehicle owners don’t pay those taxes, yet still utilize the roads. (Similarly but more subtly, because many fixed costs are recovered in volumetric rates, on a “per kWh” basis, low-use customers are subsidized by heavy-use customers. I am myself one of the former.)

    The system was designed, both physically and economically, under a core set of assumptions which are becoming increasingly invalid. A redesign is needed, but there is considerable inertia resisting that change.

  282. Dear Mr Greer,

    Thanks so much for the reference! ‘Substantial amounts of horse manure from a nearby farmer’ had me chuckling to myself! I think I’m going to like that lot. 🙂



  283. Dear Mrs. Greer,

    Many thanks for your official contribution to the discussion! Most enlightening.

    You might be interested to know that I recently discovered who bought Abstraction 37. Remember John McEnroe? The cry-baby pro tennis player? Apparently his tennis career also made him an expert in the avant-garde art scene.

    I had the misfortune of catching an interview with him on TV at a bar during the World Cup and Wimbledon (about the only time I ever watch the fracking thing), and I’m certain I saw the piece in question hanging in his gallery.

    Apparently, after a false start or two (go figure), he married his soul-mate Patty Smyth and knocked out eleventeen or so children. One day along the way supposedly he approached her about singing alongside her onstage, to which she said sure, and maybe I could be your mixed doubles partner in the next major…

    Curiously, along with Abstraction 37 in his private gallery, I’m pretty sure I saw Heinz 57 and Preparation H on exhibit as well.


  284. Having met your (lovely, genuine, personable, wise, sensible) “basic middle-aged earth mama hippie chick” wife, I’d much rather pass the time of day with her than with my wealthy, snobby, clueless, but very well-dressed sister in law…. I’d be grateful if you’d tell her I said so, since I am behind on emails and she sent me a lovely note to which I want to respond!

  285. Yesterday our local newspaper, The Providence Journal, printed a profound column on football as the foremost American “liturgy of empire” within its “civil religion” — which is a “false, commoditized civil religion,” to boot. The author, Sally Jenkins, traces “the volatile marriage of patriotism and football” as far back as the late 1870s, and connects it with the closing of the American frontier. “American football has always been a game of clout. It’s about taking possession by moving others out of the way.” It exemplified “a righteous ruthlessness.” And so forth …

    Jenkins does not note it, but this same tumultuous decade saw the rise of several important radical new spiritual movements in American culture, notably a revived occultism as launched by H. P. Blavatsky and Emma Hardinge Britten; the “mind-over-matter” religions of Mary Baker Eddy, Emma Curtis Hopkins and William Walker Atkinson; and the cautious advocacy of sex magic in the writings of Alice Bunker Stockham and Ida Craddock. It also saw Victoria Woodhull, a semi-Pagan radical Feminist and Spiritualist medium, launch her campaign to become the President of the United States.

    Jenkin’s column was first published in The Washington Post. You can read it here:

  286. I really appreciate the direction that the ongoing discussion of aesthetics is going into, so thanks JMG, Violet, El, Onething, Ray Wharton and everyone else. I’m currently reading Joscelyn Godwin’s book Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: Mysticism in Music from Antiquity to the Avant-Garde which touches on some of these topics as they relate to music (the author was recommended to me by JMG over at Dreamwidth some time back), and some commenters here might also find it a worthwhile read.

  287. I’ll go with the “no like button” crowd. It would change the entire tenor of the comments, and not for the better, IMO.

  288. >By my metric, you thus haven’t shown a trace of political correctness.

    People have contradicted me regarding several of my other beliefs, using similar metrics.

    This makes me think perhaps an acquaintance of mine is an authoritarian, after all. He doesn’t embody my worst expectations of that group, so I had assumed he was not, but he consistently speaks as though he were using an authoritarian conceptual framework, and has signaled membership in several other ways.

  289. @Lordybird re: the French Revolution

    After the French stormed the Bastille, beheaded the monarchs, then ended up killing 600,000 French citizens for not sharing the right thoughts of the revolutionaries. Then Napolean came into power and conquered most of Europe.

    I can’t think of a time a mob of citizens over throwing the government turned out well for the citizens. The mob seems to run on pure emotion and turn on the very people involved in it.

  290. For your consideration as you ponder where did the beauty go… I assumed Trump’s hotels were garish based on media descriptions over the years. I looked for myself and actually the hotels are quite classically beautiful. The hotel in DC that gets so much flak is stunning. I can’t think of anyone else making that kind of investment in building beautiful things. Would love to be proven wrong.

  291. @Stephania No, I haven’t read any of Kunstler’s stories (something to put on the get to list). But I have read a fair number of ethnographies, and I reckon that a) you are correct in saying “I tend to think democracy or any kind of decision-making works best when it is small and local and personal” and b) people who successfully create such organising structures for themselves rarely trumpet the fact, lest someone take notice and try to annex or dispossess them. There is often a point, as JMG has often said, to discretion and even outright secrecy in such matters.

  292. @Rita I had a similar post election day situation. My friend rides his bike 30 miles into work on a bike trail. The day after the election someone had graffitied a building with a swastika. He post 4 photos from different angles with a long screed on “now the Trump supporters are emboldened to spread their hate”. I replied that he would be better to report it to the police who could investigate and determine who did it, because he had no proof who did it and why they did it. And by posting it on Facebook, he was wiping up a frenzy of emotion, for what? The response was swift and condescending that I had no idea “what these people were capable of” and now it was war.

    I wish I had just flat-out accused him of painting the swastika himself. Who knows, maybe he did.

  293. David, by the lake – I think that you might have missed two of my points. At the risk of going too far Off Topic for this week, I’ll explain a little more. The cost of electric power generation, minute by minute, is not constant. The base-load supply, typically from nuclear and/or coal plants, is inexpensive (2-3 cents per kWh), but unresponsive to changing demand. They can’t crank up the reactor on a sunny day to run the air conditioners, and then tamp it down for the night. Same with coal. It takes hours to get the boiler hot enough to make steam. Natural gas turbines, however, spin up in a few minutes, so they come on-line as needed for the variable load. But, they’re more expensive to operate (between 5 and 8 cents per kWh), and power purchased from a distant region to be brought in on demand is even more expensive. So, my PV system can help reduce the purchase of expensive power by producing it when and where it’s needed. So, I think my power is often worth the net-metering value I get from it.

    As for wind power… before I got the PV panels, I agreed to pay slightly more for my electricity by getting 50% of it from wind farms. Now that I’m a net producer, I’m getting reimbursed more for the wind power that I’m not consuming than I would have been for the nuclear power that I’m not consuming. It’s not a significant amount of money, but it’s a bit of “gaming the system” (and perhaps slightly “evil”).

  294. Re: beauty… I recall going over this topic pretty thoroughly on the old blog, about the evolution from innovation to performance within a genre. We want beauty, but we also want novelty. The same old beauty, year after year, when we have the whole world’s sounds and images at our fingertips, can get tiresome. We could take that fatigue as a sign that it’s time to turn away from the synthetic beauty of the built environment, and toward productive work, nature, or silent solitude, but too often this jadedness creates the market for work that rates higher on the novelty scale than on the beautiful scale.

    There have also been some reports that the CIA promoted abstract art to demonstrate the freedom of expression inherent in chaotic capitalist democracy, as opposed to that stuffy old socialist realism.

    Maybe this is a new idea, though: In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevski writes that there are times when a person has to reject “what’s best for him” just to prove that he has a choice at all. So, even if the mass media were giving us one beautiful thing after another (not that it IS), we might go risk exploring some ugliness just to reassure ourselves that we don’t have to accept what’s put before us. Rejecting the wisdom of our elders is a feature of adolescence. Most people grow out of it, but not all.

  295. Greetings all,

    First time comment, long time reader. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts JMG for a few years now, and also the comments from your many thoughtful readers. It has given me much to think about and discuss with folks around me and helped guide my views of the rapidly unfolding times in which we now live.

    Regarding Witch’s comment above, about her feelings about Donald Trump – I have to say, all comments responding mention Hillary Clinton, including our host’s. Witch never mentioned Clinton, she only discussed her sentiments towards Trump. So why do people jump on her comment responding with comments about Hillary Clinton? It would be interesting to see what your opinions are regarding the points she brought up. I think you owe her a more considered response regarding the issues she addresses about your current President, without falling back on the ‘cos Hillary’ narrative. There are many of us outside the USA who would appreciate this.

    I live in Northern Ireland – we currently live under a failed, non-sitting government (for last 18 months) of 2 diametrically opposed parties. We are now wondering how the UK’s exit from the EU will affect us, the only UK territory with a land boundary with Europe. This boundary no longer exists in a physical sense, but if reinstated could well return us to the ‘troubles’ which many still remember all too well. We have a looooong tradition of distrust of politics, and in living memory suffered under a 30 years long bloody, semi-civil war involving the British state and a murky multi-faceted nationalist Insurgency. There are many interesting parallels between our quasi failed state and what seems to be currently happening in the USA that would take a long time to go through. I would like to use my first post on this veritable forum to ask the following question:
    To those of you who consider Trump a worthy leader – why do you, and how far are you prepared to accept his antics as presented in various media?
    I’m curious, not as an American voter, or as someone who has strong views about Trump, merely as a foreigner looking in on what looks like the end of the American empire.



  296. @Phil Knight
    I was fairly tongue in cheek about ‘us liberals’. I was long term Guardian reader especially during the Thatcher years and still retained a wistful hope for ‘world development’ after that, gradually decreasing in the face of reality. But much if not most of the paper is unreadable these days and I can’t imagine reading an alternative.

    Yes – good idea for Greerites. I met a few in London when JMG was last over here, I would value chewing the philosophy. My email is my moniker as above my comments, lower case all one word (with s in the middle) continuing

    Phil H

  297. I know this is awfully late to comment, but here I am. Re. discussion on beauty/aesthetics, I second Robyn’s recommendation of “A Pattern Language,” as it’s based on thorough study of how people have self-organized and lived sensibly with their environment for centuries, not on how experts dictated they should live. I also heartily recommend Greil Marcus’s book “Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century” (1989). While not specifically about beauty and aesthetics, it starts with the Sex Pistols and the punk rock explosion of the late 70s, and then goes way back in European history to study all sorts of millenarian, underground and alternative movements, mostly forgotten now but always running like a potent thread through present culture. Punk rockers cultivated a deliberate ugliness, as did Dadaists, and Marcus has some good insights as to what they and other dissenters were–and are! up to.

    To BXN, who asked about meditation: You certainly don’t have to convert wholesale to another spiritual tradition to study and benefit from Buddhism. JMG’s and many others’ point is that stripped of its cultural and ethical context, it becomes another tool to fit us into the present consumerist society we’re in, while the original intent of Buddhism is to help us be more awake, aware, kind, and open-minded.

    Where to start? If someone asked where to start with Christianity, should they be referred to a snake-handling church in a small town, or a high Latin mass in a big-city cathedral? To a Mormon temple? a Unitarian potluck? Best way is to explore a bit and find what matches your style but doesn’t flatter your ego too much. As always, use your intuition and don’t forget your common sense. Many of us work one on one with teachers, and I am extremely fortunate to have a good one; but the Buddhist world gets rocked periodically with financial and/or sexual scandals, and is in the middle of a rather big one right now.

    Best way to get started may be to explore around on here. A one-day retreat is readily available in many traditions. Find podcasts from reputable teachers. If you don’t like religious trappings, there are still teachers who have deep understanding of the core. In that vein, I recommend seeking out Cheri Huber, Adyashanti, and Stephen Batchelor.

    If you get interested in a certain lineage and it’s at all possible for you, consider visiting the country it originates from. Part of the objection to the mindfulness movement has been from Asian Buddhists whose experience is connected with a whole rich cultural context they don’t like to see denuded. Even though this may not be your background, there is nothing like seeing a religion functioning in its earlier environment to extend its meaning. This is very true even in supposedly secular Japan, where large Buddhist temples are well-visited and practices intermingle harmoniously with the indigenous Shinto religion.

    There are many ways to practice besides mindfulness meditation. Many Buddhists don’t do a sitting practice at all. Tibetans do a lot of bowing–some so many that there are permanent dents on their forehead. Some circumambulate temples and make offerings to bodhisattvas and buddhas. (Yes, both are plural.) Visiting a Buddha statue can be of great benefit if you’re so inclined. You can ask for inspiration for your practice; again, you don’t have to convert. The best Buddha statue I know in North America is the Kuan Yin statue at the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City.

  298. @JMG
    I second packshaud’s motion.
    Likes, upvotes and other forms of rating do seem to distort conversation.

    Well, at least we can provide an example. (sigh). Since millenials as a whole tend to be more into identity politics (and other leftist ideologies, like socialism), do you think this will play into the prophesy of “Generation Zyklon”?

  299. I’ll cast a firm vote against the like/dislike buttons. You don’t want a thoughtful conversation disrupted and derailed by cheering (or booing) from the sidelines. Even if it’s very quiet, it pulls attention away from the topic under discussion and toward the audience. That’s a very bad thing: it ruins concentration on the topic and too easily corrupts the discussants into playing to their audiences.

  300. Denys and Ray,

    I appreciate your input. Homeschooling definitely has a lot of advantages. My personal experience with public schools was that it was a waste of time. The bullying and ridicule I received, along with the lack of educational experience probably had a lot to do with my missing over 100 days of classes during my last two years and why I’ve never respected school. And why I am very interested in different options to public school. One of the drawbacks to homeschooling I mentioned, was the lack of opportunities for socialization. The response to the word socialization puzzles me. Perhaps some personal biases based on experiences are coloring the understanding of the word? Isn’t socialization interaction between other members of society in order to understand and practice the rules of society? Socialization therefore takes place in the home, at work, at the bar, on the bus, here on these forums, and a host of other places. Socializing helps people develop skills in dealing with people of different backgrounds allowing for channels of communication to exist between people of different classes. The lack of interaction between the aristocracy and the working class is a central theme in this essay along with many others. Suffice it to say, I don’t think socialization is over-rated. In fact, it is a necessary part of a functional society. It definitely can be learned within the home, and that is probably the foundation of where most rules of socialization take place. But the home is also a place that has been under attack over the past years. Many families can’t and don’t provide great examples of how to interact. Peoples needs are also different. Horses are a great example of an animal which has been repeatedly shown to function better when there are at least two of them. Some humans are like horses and operate better in packs. My youngest sister is a great example of someone who benefited a lot from the social experiences she learned in her public education. There is hardly a person she can’t engage with in conversation on a variety of different levels.

    WIth those things in mind, homeschooling with very limited opportunities to engage in other social interaction does leave me concerned. The current public education system and the behaviors learned socially there concern me an even greater deal. What does one do when the two options available don’t meet their needs? Find creative ways to deal with the problem. But I can’t see the benefit in ignoring the need for socialization.

  301. @Dusk Shine
    Re: “Generation Zyklon”

    I had to look up the term, since I’d never heard of it. It appears to be a label someone has slapped on “Generation Z” or the “Homelander Generation,” which Michael calls the Virtual Generation.

    According to Strauss and Howe’s nomenclature, this is an Artist generation, which grows up during a Crisis and comes of age during a High (Xenakis: Austerity, Recovery. Michael: Stability).

    I’m not at all surprised that they come off as somewhat conservative. Growing up during the Crisis, with everyone screaming at everyone else, seems like it ought to engender a desire for some calm and stability: the exact characteristics of the next 20-year phase.

    My expectations is that they’re going to be anti-ideolog, and that’s going to show up when they hit college in the next few years. That doesn’t mean they’re going to be conservative in the sense of Republican or Trumpites, more that there’s going to be sense of “a pox on both your houses.” They may look like they’re going along with Trump initially since he’s the one in power, but they’re going to forge their own path, which may well surprise the more radical people on both sides.

  302. @ Lathechuck

    We’re at the end of the cycle, but I’ll just say that I’m quite aware of the nature of electric power pricing: buying and selling wholesale power is part of my job. And I’ll point out, too, that retail rates necessarily include the cost of the transmission and distribution infrastructure that you’re still using so long as you are tied to the grid and therefore need to properly pay for. The issue is how to design rates equitably.

  303. @Roberta – thank you for that explanation. It’s very helpful, especially the analogy to different kinds of Christianity. I don’t know much about yoga either, but I have heard similar comments made about yoga in the West, and how it is an ancient spiritual practice as well as a physical one and learning it in a hot room in a strip mall, stripped (so to speak!) of everything but its physical aspects, denudes it of much of its value.

    Coincidentally I was listening to a podcast today on an unrelated subject and someone said as far as he knew there were three categories of meditation: 1) mindfulness or “open monitoring” meditation – I think this is the standard HeadSpace “watch your breath” style; 2) Transcendental Meditation – I don’t know much about this except it involves chanting a mantra of some kind; and 3) Focused attention – I know even less about this, but I think it is what JMG calls “discursive” meditation.

    I will study them more.

    @Philsharris and @Phil Knight – a London meetup? I’m totally there. Shall we co-ordinate by email to Phil Harris’ address? Maybe in a couple of weeks?

  304. @JMG I’d like to second, third, fourth, or whatever number, the objection to adding an “upvoting” feature. That would detract from the thoughtfulness and personableness of each contribution. Thank you.

    @James – I am interested in your comments, and your questions, and relate to your perspective, as I am an American immigrant to Ireland, living in Donegal since 1991, just the other side of the soft-potentially-hard border you speak of. For Donegal, integration into the rest of the island essentially requires regular use of that border. Also, many of us up here have cross-border family connections, work/residence connections, and in many other ways are also made exceedingly anxious about the potential hardening of this border.

    In connection to your specific questions, what I notice is that Trump and Clinton have become so integrally mutually referential for each other that it is almost impossible for anyone living in the US to discuss either without dragging the other in. In my own family, which is a microcosm of this kind of division, I have not seen either side discuss either one for their own sake, whether negatively or positively.

    In the two years since the election, the very first discussion that I personally have witnessed that was entirely based on one of those individuals and an analysis of their actual policies and commitments (that wasn’t intended purely as a sly dig at the other), occurred in an episode of Del Bigtree’s podcast, in which he interviewed Robert Kennedy Jr, who at one time had received assurances that Trump was going to set up a vaccine safety committee. It seems that the White House had gone silent on this issue (at least vis-a-vis Kennedy’s potential role in it) since the election, and the two men wondered whether the corporate representatives of the pharmaceutical industry had gained Trump’s attention so as to distract him from the issue. Other than that single instance of a calm rational discussion of one of those two figures, treating him on his own merits as a human and political actor, rather than a cosmic force of good/evil (take your pick), I have seen nothing resembling it anywhere in public discourse.

    Politics in the US has ceased to be a conversation, and similarly to what you have experienced in NI, is mainly practiced as a set of hostility performances for sending signals to both one’s friends and to one’s enemies, in what is essentially a war not yet declared, and no longer a polity working out its common destiny by reconciling conflicting interests. (The trends that have brought this situation about are very long in the making, though. They did not suddenly occur during the last election).

  305. RE iGen:
    Maybe there’s just something tragic about Artist generations–aren’t the Silents also an Artist generation? It always seemed strange that the wealthiest generation to ever exist went around loudly proclaiming what victims they were, especially women. Yes, grandma, I KNOW sexism was bad in the 50s, but that still doesn’t dismiss the incredible wealth gap between you and younger generations…

  306. @DuskShine,
    iGen is the generation AFTER Millennials, although a lot of late/younger Millennials share their characteristics (kinda like late Boomers and GenX)

  307. @James re: Trump and “his antics”.

    1. The media love Trump. They act like they dislike him, but not true. They get to be melodramatic as they live-action role play being a journalists. They don’t cover 95% of what Trump is doing/saying because it isn’t anything they can be dramatic about. Watch the video of Trump any day of the week and he is doing the stuff all Presidents do, talking like Presidents talk.

    2. JMG already wrote about how Trump whips up the media into a frenzy and talked about the chans. Go to and search for the board the_donald which has up-voting so you can see most relevant posts. They do memes on all of it and its instructive to see how DJT could be covered. (Reddit actively suppressed the numbers, so do not be shocked by how few people are on that board.)

    3. Study DJT book The Art of the Deal. Its his stories as he was building Trump Tower and the Atlantic City casinos as well as his childhood and growing up. I thought JMG did a post one time about levels of reading but can’t recall the title of the post. If not, read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler if necessary. While reading Art of the Deal, go beyond Trump said this, did this, I don’t like how he is bragging. What character and values does DJT have? What are his flaws? How does he compensate for them? What motivates him and keeps him moving forward? How does DJT life intersect with the story of America, as in our mythos? How does the DJT then compare to the DJT now? The book is hard to find, but has this book as an audio book.

    4. Bonus: Do #3 for Hillary Clinton with any of her books.

  308. Pondering this morning the threads on lack of beauty in architecture, music, visual art, dance…..and my husbands response is beauty can be found in anything and it’s all relative what one considers beautiful or even worth listening to, looking at, etc. Isn’t American culture all about pushing the boundaries of what is? Pick any of the arts and we adapt from other cultures, history, and put something out there. Its not all “beautiful” but we are pushing out material.

    Then my brain went to the people doing the pushing out of the material. They will accept a variety of approaches to art and its interpretations, and they will accept 32 genders, body piercings and tattoos, colored hair, dressing in any style, but they don’t seem to accept difference in thinking? Or said another way, they want to force everyone to like what they like? Why is it all the outer dressage can have what looks like variety (and little of the beautiful imho) but the inner thinking must all be the same?

    If I look at photos in the 1800’s as photography starts, everyone is dressing similar, but there is a great diversity in thinking and approaches between the immigrant cultures than come to America, to between the different states, to the different religions founded here. We were inventing new technologies like crazy during that century too.

    So its like things have flipped – we have traded a diverse inner life for a seemingly diverse outer life. Does this jive or am I rediscovering something we’ve already discussed here?

  309. @John Roth – as a “Last leaf” Silent myself, whose grandchildren and grand-nieces and -nephews are all “Generation Z, I tend to agree.

    @ Shane W. – give it a rest. The Xers were thrown under the bus, like the Lost before them, and we didn’t do it. GI-gen Ronnie Baby started it and everybody got on the bandwagon with great shouts of joy. WHOSE slogan was “Greed Is Good?” And of course the upper classes ignored the plight of those lower down, if they even saw it coming; the rest was the economic forces Greer has analyzed at great length.

    Grandma is just as distressed over the relative poverty of the younger generation as she was over the very real postwar emptying out of women’s roles and lives. And Grandma’s contemporaries spearheaded the drive to clean up the racial problems the GI (as we saw it) never got around to doing. With some real success.

    As my hillbilly dad used to say, “Stop whining and get to working.”

  310. In Japan during 1920’s there was the problem of young men with high cualificación but whitouth posibilities for yo find a job. The frustración induced by this situación provoked the arribal of a militarist and imperialist goverment that eventually finished atacked Pearl Harbour with the outcome that all we know.

    In my country , Spain, there is a big problem of young people whitout future. But there is not in this moment an inspiring minority for to lead them.

  311. @Prizm re: Homeschooling

    Advice: take each year of children’s education as a year by year decision. Look at what each child and your family needs. My husband and I first had a long discussion over several days of our values, our goals for our children, and what was important for them to “walk away with” at the end of their time with us. Try any and all kinds of education at home that are offered and see what works for all involved. Don’t over invest emotionally or economically in anything because you change and kids change.

    I don’t know of many homeschool families who do school at home, meaning strict lines between subjects, completed at desks, with bells ringing every 45 minutes to an hour. Every homeschool family I know gets out of the house daily and is in the community doing music lessons or sports teams or theater groups or whatever interests the child. Some children go with their parents to work or work at the family business or do work on their own on the side. In homeschool co-ops where families work together to cover school requirements (at least in our state of PA the homeschool law has defined subjects to cover for the portfolio to show at end of year), kids interact with kids up and down the ages, from infants to 17 year olds. They eat together and talk with each other between classes.

    Kids in public school only get to interact with children their own age, and only at lunch (20 minutes in our school) and recess (10 minutes). On the bus they make kids sit in separate seats if possible because of the sexual and physical assaults occurring between kids. Yes, in elementary school there were girls servicing the boys so the bus driver told me.

    It’s not healthy or normal for kids to only be with other kids all day. That is why there is bullying, abuse, etc. And that is why we all remember school as such a horrid experience.

  312. Denys – thanks for your reply. The media certainly seem to love Trump alright, he features almost daily even over here, and his antics are the stuff of general amusement amongst even young children. It’s interesting to see how he does seem to distract the rabble with the antics to push through changes when everyone’s looking the other way, this is a well tried and tested technique here in Northern Ireland and I’m sure in many other countries around our world also. I won’t be reading any books by H Clinton thanks, and I find it interesting that you suggest I do so in response to my question, which was about Trump and not Mrs Clinton… maybe one cannot exist without the other?

    Scotlyn – nice to make your acquaintance, another Ulster dwelling person on here! I’m also a blow-in, I arrived from Chile via England in 1993. My in-laws live both sides of the Donegal/NI border too, and I hear what you say regularly. Interesting times ahead for us all. Thanks for taking the time to explain the Trump phenomenon also, he reminds me a bit of old Ian Paisley and how his larger than life character similarly divided policial opinion.

  313. BXN
    re ‘Greerites’ meeting
    Yes, contact me is OK.
    However, bit of a ,misunderstanding.
    Phil K lives between London & York and I am up on the Scottish Border.
    My meeting in London with Greerites – and the man himself, I attended two of his talks – was a one-off for me. However I intend to look if there are still any live email contacts with them and will keep you posted.

    I guess Phil K and I will get together sometime somewhere on the East Coast mainline as he suggests.

    Phil H

  314. @James Hillary and Trump are likely intertwined and one explains the other. One person loves this country and the other works to destroy it. We can’t agree as citizens which is which.

  315. @Onething

    Sure. Just off the top of my head: minority applicants are less likely to be hired for jobs than white candidates with identical resumes – systemic racism. Minorities, especially black people, are more likely to be assaulted or killed without cause by police, and their attackers are less likely to face justice – systemic oppression.

    I know that similar results re: resume experiments have been demonstrated for women in scientific academia, I’m not sure if that’s the case in other fields.

    Like I said, those are just the examples that come quickest to mind.

  316. Dear JMG
    It seems that the acception of “magic” used here could be resumed in the basic concept of “manifestation”. It works not against (or unkonwn to) other consciousnesses, but together.
    Manifestation can be individual or collective: the more people participate in it, the more powerful (it follows a non linear progression) it gets. Manifestation is, pure and simple, basic reshaping of reality. It needs not formulas or weird practices, but, simply, belief and visualization. Thats’all, as far as i know.

  317. @ Fred N

    The racial discrimination is the outcome of the colonization of the USA, by diferents racial groups, linked each one of thes to a determined social status. And the persistence of the belief in the manifest predestination of the puritanism. Without forgot the abrahamic conviction of to be the chosen people, taken equally for the puritanism.

    Erase the racial discriminstion will mean, in my opinion, to suppress the soul of the American nation.

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