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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Sometimes the words come easily. And sometimes they don’t come at all. In which case I have to let others speak for me. As Maria Lionza , the Spirit Queen of Venezuela does here:

Imagine she had said, imagine the live bodies trembling there on the spirit queen’s mountain rising into the mist sheer from the plain where ghostly labourers tend the sugar cane and clouds swirl around high-voltage pylons. Imagine what it means to enter that space where she rules over the courts of spirits swarming there together with the serpents and the dragons. Imagine your body in its spasmodic resurrection of those who died in the anti-colonial wars that founded the state of the whole. That my friend is really something!

She smiled. Yes! A whole typecast of spirits of Europe’s Others; the fierce Indians who fought the early conquistadores, the African slaves and freedmen, and then all manner of riff-raff insinuated into the hearts of the people the past few years; Vikings like Eric the Red, not to mention fat smiling Buddhas and cruel dictators who sunk this country in blood turning neighbour against neighbour; all in an impossible mix, a fantastic martyrology of colonial history …And her voice trailed off as if she, too, in her effort to explain had succumbed to the impossibility of that very imagining and was about to be silenced forever …
From Michael Taussig : The Magic of the State: 1997

Just a few days ago in a piece called ‘Commodity fetishism as magick’ I used these found words and a zombie film image as an illustration :

Wim van Binsbergen remarks, regarding the new zombie cults, that "the reference to earlier forms of globalisation (slave trade) is now used in order to express and contest, in a witchcraft idiom, newer forms of globalisation, such as the differential access to consumer goods and post-colonial state power." Van Binsbergen makes a suggestive distinction between slavery and wage labor. In slavery, the entire being of a person is alienated, so that one person becomes the property of another. The slave ceases to exist as a legally autonomous subject. In wage labor, however, only the part of a person's life which is sold as "labor" is alienated. The person remains a legally autonomous subject, but he gives up a portion of his life -- that is, of his self -- in exchange for a symbol of that portion. This symbol, which is money, then attains a subjective power, so that it determines the lives of the people whose activity it represents. A money economy is one in which people are ruled by a fetishized representation of their own selves. Market economies are ruled by this ghostly, dead -- but supernaturally active -- power called money.

This image - of our lives and our world ruled by a ‘ghostly dead power’- is echoed in Michael Taussig’s ‘The Magic of the State’ (Money and Spirit Possession in Karl Marx) where he suggests that through understanding - through experiencing - spirit possession we are ‘enabled to read Marx differently’.

Money as a vast accumulation of ‘alienated labour’ - the working lives not only of the living, but of the dead. That we live in a world ruled by the fetishised representations of ourselves. As The Pop Group put it “Capitalism is the most barbaric of all religions”.

I am still struggling to absorb and make sense of this ‘spirit possession reading of Marx’.

Taussig is an anthropologist who has mainly worked in South America. ‘The Magic of the State’ is fictionalised summation of his experiences in Venezuela focused on ‘the theatre of Spirit Possession at a Spirit Queen’s magic mountain’. The Spirit Queen is called Maria Lionza. Perhaps I should ask her to ask the spirit of Marx to help me?

Ah, she says she already has…she found one of Marx’s letters for me.

The reform of consciousness consists only in making the world aware of its own consciousness, in awakening it out of its dream about itself, in explaining to it the meaning of its own actions. Our whole object can only be — as is also the case in Feuerbach’s criticism of religion — to give religious and philosophical questions the form corresponding to man who has become conscious of himself. Hence, our motto must be: reform of consciousness not through dogmas, but by analysing the mystical consciousness that is unintelligible to itself, whether it manifests itself in a religious or a political form. It will then become evident that the world has long dreamed of possessing something of which it has only to be conscious in order to possess it in reality. It will become evident that it is not a question of drawing a great mental dividing line between past and future, but of realising the thoughts of the past. Lastly, it will become evident that mankind is not beginning a new work, but is consciously carrying into effect its old work.

Thank you, Maria Lionza: “The mystical consciousness that is unintelligible to itself “.

As it stands - this is unintelligible :

Voodoo is a Bad Tradition. The basic mechanism: displacement of an individual human consciousness from their body and temporary replacement with a parasitic life-force-harvesting energy - this kind of psychic body prostitution in payment for magical favors - is inherently problematic. AAAW! You say, but it was the last resort of the oppressed! Well, so is hiding razor blades up your bum. But when the crisis is over - and, believe me, the people who are at risk from slavery now mainly live in Africa and Eastern Europe (and, depending on your particular views of economic coercion, China). It’s time for people to grow out of voodoo and start investing in approaches which are suited to the modern world, rather than dragging these horrible parasite-gods out of the Medieval Colonial Barbarism period into the present. They should have died with slavery, in short, and to continue to feed them is perpetuating part of the slave system into the present day, under the guise of “liberation.” Being enslaved to the parasite gods is not freedom.

But if there is political understanding of such convulsive utterings, if we can understand through spirit possession by Maria Lionza that…

…the practices of Chaos magick - in reifying the ‘current social landscape’ - encourage participation in the consumption of neatly-packaged experiences of exotic otherness, drawn from the profusion of signs, images and ‘lifestyle options’ characteristic of consumer capitalism….the proliferation of occultural movements is as much a consequence of economic booms as of social and economic deprivation. In the former case… these movements represent a means of managing the anxieties emergent from the indeterminacies that proliferate within consumer capitalism rather than challenging the conditions which produce those anxieties…
and that…

…another manifestation is the schizoid attitude with which the members of such a society necessarily confront the phantom objects that have been thus abstracted from social life, an attitude that shows itself to be deeply mystical. On the one hand, these abstractions are cherished as real objects akin to inert things, whereas on the other, they are thought of as animate entities with a life-force of their own akin to spirits or gods. Since these "things" have lost their original connection with social life, they appear, paradoxically, both as inert and as animate entities. If the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas at the same time and still retain the ability to function, then the modern mind can truly be said to have proved itself. But this is testimony to culture, not to mind.

…then all is revealed. In the unintelligible confusion of mystic consciousness, stimulus and response have been reversed. Rather than recognising ‘voodoo’ as a collective, defensive response to the stimulus of slavery, it become its cause.

Parasitic life force-harvesting = capitalism as commodity fetishism
Medieval colonial barbarism = New World slavery

Such reversals of causality and of history are precisely the forms of ’mystification’ necessary for the survival of the Spectacle of Commodity Fetishism. However, it is noteworthy that such ‘mystification through reversal of causality’ is rarely expressed in such direct language in the discourse of (post) modernity. The necessity of recourse to such language indicates - here at least- a breakdown of the usually seamless mechanisms of Spectacular control via recuperation.

But why, I wonder, is it out here on the magical edge (Ultraculture as it claims to be) that the cracks, the tears and rips in the seamless web of the Spectacle are so obvious? I suggest because there is a danger that a set of social relationships which are not mediated through commodification/ spectacle is being proposed:

The role of hoodoo worker, as I interpret and try to aspire to, is a profession. Possibly the world's second oldest profession. It's about becoming very good at results magic, in order to administer grassroots occult assistance to the body of people that might loosely be considered your community. Doing stuff for other people. Providing a service to those who need it. Not out of some lofty altruistic sense of duty, but because it's the obvious application of those particular skills. To do otherwise would be like the surgeon who studies medicine for ten years only to perform minor operations on himself, or the barrister who only ever represents himself in court. If you're operating from the hypothesis that magic works and tangible results can be accomplished through the medium of sorcery, then I think you really have to consider the social implications of that statement. How does the magic that you practice relate directly to the world around you? How do you integrate it into your life and adapt that potentiality for change to the environment you are a part of?

For instance, how many people here tonight that identify as practising witches or magicians or whatever, regularly use their magic to actively engage with the problems that might be going on around them? Helping people you care about, using the magic to look out for friends and family when they're having a rough time, even becoming involved in local community problems at a magical level, keeping the local arts centre open, stopping a small business from going under at the hands of corporations, sorting out the bunch of kids that bricked your next door neighbours window, finding lost property, healing the sick, giving divination, using this stuff to try and make a difference in whatever small way that you might be able to. It strikes me that a lot of people don't seem to even think about sorcery in these terms, or relate their practice directly to the world around them, and I'm interested in why that is. I think there's almost a tendency to shove the whole issue of "doing magic for other people" into a box marked "shamanism" and forget about it, as if shamanism is a completely separate "system" of magic entirely divorced from "chaos magic" or "Thelema" or whatever flavour people happen to identify with. "All that 'serving the community' stuff? It's a calling isn't it, shamanism, on a different shelf in the occult bookstore mate, nowt to do with me". I think that's a load of bollocks.

If you can make stuff happen, then using that ability to intervene in situations that really desperately need some kind of intervention, is not some magical mystical "shamanic" vocation. It's just taking responsibility for your skills and what you can do. The world seems to be at a crisis point. You could argue that there's no time for all the theoretical dilettante shit that characterises much of contemporary occultism, no time for magic as an entertaining hobby or diverting little parlour game. If you want a hobby take up knitting or fisting. If you're going to be spending countless hours of your life studying and practising magic, then at least think about finding something tangible and practical to do with it.

These are dangerous ideas. It is significant that their author is entangled in the ‘Ultraculture war on voodoo’. Maria Lionza reminds me - rememory the ‘Battle of the Beanfield’ (1985). The Struggle for Stonehenge? No, it was deeper than that. It was a successful assault on a UK (or just England?) counterculture which was moving beyond its limitations and starting to become something more. Starting to become a network of social relations existing outside of commodities.

Which had to be suppressed. Violently. As in physical violence.

No physical violence was used in the Ultraculture dispute. Just words. So many words.

So here is a word, the word Maria Lionza has found for me to speak. I thank you Maria Lionza for this word. This new word.


Rememory? It is here.

Rituals of rememory: Afro-Caribbean religions in Myal and It begins with Tears - Critical Essay

MELUS, Spring 2002 by Pin-chia Feng


Recent theoretical works on trauma and memory place special emphasis on the limits of representation and the ambivalent relations between fictional and historical narratives. Theodor Adorno's remark, "To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric," still rings true. How to write about extreme experiences that elude immediate understanding and threaten to destroy the narrating subject remains a question for literary artists and critics. Afro-Caribbean writers, in particular, need to confront multiple layers of traumatic memories and, among them, the "original trauma" of the Middle Passage in which their diasporic identity is rooted.

The image of dismemberment succinctly summarizes the history of African diaspora. Harris is most insightful when he stresses the importance of the creative co-existence and constructive reassembly of alien cultures and when he recognizes the liberating power of ritualistic cultural expressions such as limbo and vodun. In almost all of the African diasporan religions there is an attempt to remember the historical separation and by extension an underlying desire for reunification with the African homeland, Ginen or Guinea, in what Joseph M. Murphy terms the "orientation to Africa" (185). (7) Through the practices of these rituals, therefore, Afro-Caribbean people can start what I call their "rememory" of collective and individual memories, which leads to a re-membering with their ancestral cultures and to a certain extent frees them from the traumatic nightmares resulting from tribal dismemberment and racial encounters.

Rooted in the creolized belief systems of the Caribbean, rituals of rememory mobilize the collective force of the community and through the power of sympathy free traumatized characters from layers of repressed memories and further empower them to battle against imposed racial, sexual, and class oppressions. Thus the traumatized characters are able to survive the crime of "spirit thievery" and physical violence inflicted by representatives of colonial powers, and finally come to terms with their individual and collective haunting experiences. The power of Afro-Caribbean religions resides in Afrosporic peoples' ability to resist Christian monotheistic domination with the support of their African belief-system legacies. Despite Christian proselytizing in the Caribbean, Christianity has never achieved full hegemony, even though colonial powers established religious and educational institutions, profound interpellative instruments intended to erase the cultural identity of the colonized and to reproduce the colonizer's culture at the colonial site.

As Dale Bisnauth stated in his study of the history of religions in the Caribbean, "the most orthodox practice of Christianity in the Caribbean by blacks is affected by a spirit that is identifiably African" (100). Moreover, the master's tool has been used to dismantle the master's house; the Baptist War of 1831-32 and the Morant Bay uprising of 1865 in Jamaica, both led by black Baptist ministers, are two examples.

In early October, 1865, news of a minor scuffle in Morant Bay, Jamaica, were exaggerated into alarmist reports of a fully-fledged "black uprising". Governor Edward John Eyre of Jamaica declared martial law and sent his troops on a terror spree throughout the island, burning down black settlements, flogging much of the black population and executing some four hundred blacks. Applauded by whites throughout the Caribbean, Eyre's activities alarmed the British -- not only for his brutality, but also for his disregard for the procedures of law. Eyre's hanging of one of his prominent political opponents, George William Gordon, without a fair trial (and outside the area declared under martial law) was a particular case in point. Carlyle supported Governor Eyre.

For Carlyle, see my ‘Thunder, Perfect Mind’ and this

from which this analysis of Carlyle as a ‘proto- Fascist’ is taken.

To some extent, the West Indian plantation society appealed to Carlyle's sentiments about idealized "feudalist" societies. Carlyle's vision was best expressed in his earlier writings, such as Chartism (1839) and Past and Present (1843). He contended that only in a feudalist society, where roles were clearly assigned, could the Puritan ethic of work-for-work's sake be possible -- and that, he held, was the whole purpose of living. Note that Carlyle never recommended a return to slavery as such but rather a return to something akin to European-style serfdom. Slaves can be sold and bought by masters and thus, unlike serfs, they are not guaranteed constant "life-time employment", the critical feature of Carlyle's personal gospel. This feudalist ideal was something he felt Britain had abandoned to its peril when it set off in pursuit of capitalist industrialization.

With capitalism, workers were reduced to nomadism, scavenging and competing for the next shilling in uncertain wages or profits. And if employment cannot be readily found? Then pauperism, idleness and starvation. In Carlyle's view, the world of British industrial capitalism reduced half the population into nomadic Hobbesian beasts, and the other half into idle paupers. Such an outcome, Carlyle felt, was no better than slavery, and in many ways worse.
With the emancipation of slavery in the West Indies and the supportive BFASS activities there, Carlyle believed the hitherto peaceful black ex-slave would be condemned to idle pauperism. The principal image that horrified Carlyle was that of the West Indies being reduced to a "Black Ireland". To the idle, impoverished "potato people" of Ireland, Carlyle saw the potential counterpart in an idle, impoverished "pumpkin people" in the Caribbean.

Remember that at this time, Ireland was still in the thrall of the Great Famine Carlyle visited Ireland in 1849 and filled his journal with tirades, referring to Ireland as a "human swinery", a "black howling Babel of superstitious savages".
Carlyle's sentiments towards the paupers of Ireland (and the ex-slaves of the Caribbean) is not plain brutal racism, but a different, more paternalistic concern. He does not see their predicament, as many contemporaries did, as being due to the inherent immorality or natural laziness of the "Gael" or the "Negro". No, Carlyle argued, set a man to work and all those "savage" qualities disappear. The character of the Irishman (or the West Indian, for that matter) is not inherently corrupt but it has been corrupted from lack of work.

This is not too far from contemporary opinion. For many British philanthropists, not least Charles Trevelyan, the pious Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in charge of British relief during the Irish famine, the problem of Ireland was a cultural one and thus not irretrievable. They believed that "savage" Gaelic/Negro attitudes could be "fixed" if they were given the right upbringing and incentives. Irish paupers could be transformed into proper, industrious Englishmen with the discipline of the market-place, moral education, religious piety and the whip of hunger.

Where Carlyle differs from Trevelyan and other "philanthropists" is that he believes that the culture of pauperism cannot be fixed by the market, because that very culture was created by the market. The market, he argues, does not create an incentive to work, it gives an incentive to sell -- and, for Carlyle, these are two very different things. As an axiom, Carlyle refuses to accept that wage payments induce work. Work comes first, payment afterwards. Work is done "for the favour of Heaven", not with a view to recompense. As such, wages are an imperfect measure of the worth of labour.
With the rise of capitalism, the "cash nexus" intervened in the relationship between work and reward.

"That all useful labour is worthy of recompense, that all honest labour deserves the chance of recompense; that the giving and assuring to each man the recompense that his labour has actually merited, may be said to be the business of all Legislation, Polity, Government and Social arrangement whatsoever among men." (Carlyle, "Petition on Copy-Right", 1831, Examiner)

What Carlyle (1839) called the "cash nexus" intervened in the relationship between labourer and master. [Note: ‘cash nexus’ developed by Marx into commodity fetishism]

Carlyle despised "systems" of thought and philosophy, particularly those which claimed to have captured the "Truth" and were willing to up-end the given organic, "natural order" of society in pursuit of it. Moral or scientific absolutism and "collective wisdom" irritated Carlyle, and his very method of argument -- sweeping assertions, hard-hearted conclusions, twisted appeals to anecdotal evidence, shocking language -- were geared in part against it. His life-long "mission", if he had one, was to subvert widely-held "systems" of theory and belief, like those of the evangelicals and economists. "I am not a Tory", he declared, "no, but one of the deepest though perhaps the quietest of Radicals."

However, none of this should detract from the fact that Carlyle was (or certainly can be seen as) a proto-Fascist. Many of his policy recommendations -- such as compulsory military drilling, the reinstatement of servitude/serfdom for blacks and other "servant" races, etc. -- foreshadowed the policies put into practice by Fascist regimes of the 1920s and 1930s. Of course, Carlyle's theories were not novel. Like Nietzsche's, they were late industrial age manifestations of earlier 1800s Romanticism. But Romanticism itself -- at least as expressed by Blake, Goethe, Schiller, Coleridge, Byron, & Co. -- was harmless enough, intended for personal consumption as opposed to social implementation. Romanticism was perfectly compatible with a relaxed cosmopolitanism.

Where Carlyle goes beyond any of the Romanticists, beyond even Nietzsche, was in pushing for a practicable re-organization of society in the "service of great men". It is in the practical policy arena, in Carlyle's misguided call for his kind of social reform "from above", that he anticipates the Fascist era. Sadly, this "moral desperado", as Matthew Arnold called him, might not, in the end, have been inconsequential.

V.Vale San Francisco Punk 1976-1979

V. Vale of Search and Destroy was an occasional contributor to Ripped and Torn circa 1979.

This is from his latest newsletter. Can you help RE/Search survive?

Last but not least, RE/Search is on MySpace: If you would like to be "our friend" - receive bulletins, etc, please Join Us! http://www.myspace.com/108198017 - thanks, v. vale & cohorts
Your editor, V. Vale, founder of RE/Search (Search & Destroy redux) in 1977, still is under the cloud of the longest mysterious illness in his lifetime. Hence the lateness of this June newsletter. Have readers seen the S.F. Weekly's large article on McSweeney's ("With no money for payroll, the future looks staggering for the local publishing house") ? RE/Search is basically "in the same boat" (no money to pay printing bill for the next book, an expanded reprint of the RE/Search Burroughs / Gysin / Throbbing Gristle issue, with more intvs w/ WSB and BG).

Any readers and fans who think they can help RE/Search survive please order RE/Search books, send suggestions & donations, AND if you might be an angel investor -- and want to keep key RE/Search backlist titles in print: Pranks, Incredibly Strange Films, the Burroughs issue, and Real Conversations 1, in particular -- PLEASE contact us! A number of other RE/Search titles are in "last copies" status - order 'em now before they disappear. Vale will be happy to autograph, upon request. http://www.researchpubs.com or call Vale to order, 415-362-1465.

RE/Search attended DIRKFEST, June 8, 2007, at Great American Music Hall. Here's V. Vale's brief report:

"The Mabuhay Gardens under Dirk Dirksen almost singlehandedly made the earliest Punk Rock Countercultural Revolution in San Francisco happen. Why? No other club, including the Great American Music Hall, would allow Punk Rock bands. Also, the Mabuhay, being a restaurant, allowed All Ages to attend - very important; people like Jello Biafra were under 21. Dirk Dirksen's editorial / curating policy was simple: submit a tape, a photo, and a brief bio. Upon review, he would give you one chance to perform. (If you couldn't produce those 3, you probably were just pulling a prank.)

San Francisco is a city of about 750,000 people, with a total of about 20 million people stretching from the North Bay to the South Bay to comprise the Bay Area. In 1976-1978, probably no more than 200-300 people were really living the hardcore Punk life - i.e., barely working, going to every Punk show, and in their copious spare time staying up all night talking, writing songs, forming bands, making posters, making Punk clothes, making zines, reading William Burroughs, going to 99-cent movies at the 6 B-movie palaces that still existed, and going to the cheapest places in town to eat after the shows, preferably those staffed by other Punk individuals...

In 1979, our Mabuhay Gardens were invaded by hundreds of teenage boys who saw an NBC Weekend special on Punk, and our original social cult/scene was destroyed. Some of us dropped out; some went to Robert Hanrahan's Deaf Club and other more underground venues, but the unity was not the same. Also, as Punk continued, the new arrivals seemed less interesting and diverse (what do you expect; they were a lot younger). It became a lot easier to say you were going to a Punk show... The original people were older, more artistic and rebellious, more idiosyncratic -- that is, if one were to generalize...

So, for me, the entire evening of Dirk Fest in the Great American Music Hall, a gorgeous piece of architecture, was like I'd gone to Punk Heaven. The venue was sold out, with six hundred-plus people having paid for advance tickets, and from 9 til 2 AM, individuals continually came up to me. With many of them, I'd have to ask, "Who are you?" They'd tell me their name (in the early Punk scene, you only knew people's first names) and a memory of their young face 25-30 years ago would emerge from faces that had gotten wider - maybe they'd put on 50-150 pounds - or maybe they'd lost their hair, or their hair had turned gray. It just seemed impossible that we'd all be in the same room ever again, 25-30 years later. A literal handful of people looked amazingly the same (one very good-looking woman in particular had been a junkie and kicked it, and still looked about 25 - well, W.S. Burroughs claimed that junk preserves cells.). Reesa looked the same, but about half a foot taller - she reminded me that when I met her she was just 15. Joanne looked the same; she was 17 in 1978 when I met her.

Lamar and Esmerelda looked great. Ginger Coyote had put on 150 pounds since the last time I'd seen her, but she remained totally feisty and over the top, and her band, the White Trash Debutantes, was one of the best bands I've ever seen, for many reasons: ferocious music, great sing-a-long lyrics, perfect arrangements, and 'beautiful babes' to look at on-stage (that's quoting my 11-year-old daughter, whose favorite acts of the evening were the White Trash Debutantes, the Mutants (esp. Sue, with the 'foot-high blonde hair'), and Chip Kinman of the Dils).

We liked EVERYBODY - in fact, everyone sounded BETTER than "back in the day." Johnny Genocide had become a school teacher, but he was still angry and musically slashing and ripping chords off his guitar. The Contractions sounded exactly like they did in 1979, and that's a compliment. My daughter left too early to see the Avengers (headliner) but I'm positive she would have greatly admired Penelope - the Avengers sounded unbelievably stirring - most of their songs truly are classic anthems. Someday, the world may find out that San Francisco produced more and better songs than New York, London, or L.A. ... at least in the Seventies Punk Scene ...

We don't get that many chances to go back to our past lives... Having lived this long, it seems that life really does go by like the snap of a finger, that nothing is more important than the tiny handful of people you really, really like (it's got to be an instinctual feeling right away when you meet them), and that our personal history is far more important than anything you can buy at a store or mall... especially if you were lucky enough to be in a real underground when it just gets started...

Well, the whole evening would not have happened without one person, Kathy Peck, Contractions' bassist and H.E.A.R. Foundation founder... This big benefit for Dirk Dirksen - to preserve his archive of Punk everything - pay for his burial expenses - was also expedited by Punk historian/mentor/scholar/orator Jello Biafra, the real heart and soul behind the Dead Kennedys; the bands who played; Winston Smith and Chuck Sperry/Ron Donovan who made the great poster; Dawn Holliday, booker of Great American/Slims); Craig Pop Artist who made the backdrops; whoever made the food backstage ... It took a village to make this amazing event, and there may never be another one like it... Sometimes you only get one chance in this life ...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Psychedelic flyer 1984

Too big for scanner - but this was a flyer I made for All the Madmen in 1984

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Racism is not magick

I am posting this old article of mine as background to a 'racisim is not magick' piece I will be writing soonish. It will follow on from a 'discussion' about Ultraculture magazine I have just found here http://barbelith.com/topic/26898/from/105

which cross connects with

lengthy argument which is neatly summed up as 'Ultraculture : Aryan People Only Please' at

Finally read this excellent article by Stephen Grasso (on the anti-racist side) http://www.philhine.org.uk/writings/ess_hoodoo.html

Magick is not science

[first published in Chaos International 22 : 1997]

In his article ‘The Magician as Rebel Physicist’ in Chaos International 21: 1996: , Pete Carroll argues for the incorporation into magick of 'speculative theories at the cutting edge of sciences', which he regards as offering a more creative magick than those which rely upon ancient cosmologies and worldviews.

The suggestion is of a magical equivalent to the collapse of the earth-centred cosmos of the Middle Ages during the Renaissance, with its corresponding broadening of European horizons. A collapse hastened by the first waves of European expansionism, in which not only were non-scientific cosmologies shattered, but also the lives of those 'primitive savages' who held them. The expansion of the rationalist world-view did not only affect non-Europeans, it also relied upon the destruction of ways of life and patterns of thought established by the Neolithic (farming) revolution in Europe itself.

The connection between land and people was broken, not by Christianity, but by science and industrialization. A bodily knowledge of the world built up over countless generations was replaced by the bodiless abstract knowledge of scientific rationality.

But, in creating bodiless minds, scientific rationality also created mindless bodies. From slaves and workers through plants and animals to the world and the universe beyond, just as handful of Europeans under imperialism tried to control the lives of millions of non-Europeans, so a handful of scientists attempt to define reality as perceived by non-scientists, on the grounds that only scientific knowledge is 'true' knowledge. All else is delusion. Such absolutism goes well beyond attempts by religious or political elites to control beliefs. Indeed, it now extends to an attempt to deny us consciousness at all.

For 'thinkers' like Daniel Dennet, we are all zombies, our complexities reducible to the actions of myriad robotic sub-systems. Since such 'robots' (a term used to describe both genes and neurones) are mindless, and we are no more than an accumulation of such mindless sub-entities, we are therefore also mindless entities plagued by the delusions of consciousness.

But here the very word 'robot' betrays the origin of such speculations. The word was coined by Karel Kapek from the Slavik robotnik which means worker. Workers (of any type) in an industrial economy are forbidden to use their own bodily knowledge or traditional craft skills, are forbidden to think for themselves, and be humans rather than cyborgs. But this denial of humanity is critical to the advance of scientific knowledge, since it relies upon instruments (from particle accelerators to computers) to obtain and analyse data. Instruments which in turn require the dehumanizing process of industrialization for their production.

Scientific (rational) knowledge then is generated by the suppression of humanity. It is an essentially oppressive knowledge, historically rooted in both the overt destruction of nonscientific people and cultures and in the continuing marginalization of alternative (i.e., body-centred) ways of knowing the world in the industrialized economies.

Cosmologies reflect social structures. The fact that few people can grasp scientific cosmology is a reflection of our inability to understand our own society. Religious creation myths may "pale into puerile insignificance" in comparison, but outside of monotheism, they are focused on the meaning and significance of human existence within a living 'mindful' non-human cosmos. They depend upon the ability of ritual to embody meaning in the participants-not as an abstract system of knowledge, but within the flesh, as living knowledge which is not part of a linear 'progression', but occurs all at once in the here and now, which includes past and future.

Such knowledge is not easily transmissible through a language of abstraction (which includes this article), but rather through the creative fusion of myth and ritual. When that fusion occurs we are able to remember our bodies and the suppressed memories they contain. Such memories are not individualistic but collective; they are what we are unconscious of .They hurt.

Imagine that we are zombies. Imagine the pain of a zombie remembering itself; of the coming together of mindless body and disembodied mind.

Subject/object, self/other. Religion/science, as in one of Crowley's slogans, "The method of science, the aim of religion", which I believe Pete Carroll once praised. At the very least it can stand as a distinguishing feature of magick.

To sum up:- In dismissing non-scientific understandings of the world and attempting to place magick within the abstract rationality of science, Pete Carroll's position risks the application of Occam's Razor. (Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.) Science is an absolutist/totalitarian system which, for the past 300 years, has excluded magick from its descriptions of reality. The hard science position simply lumps magick in with religion as delusory.

I may have misunderstood Pete Carroll's position in the article, since it appears to be a retreat from his suggestion in Liber Kaos that science, religion and magick are distinct paradigms, and that, as science declined, so magick would become the dominant paradigm, just as religion has been replaced by science. An alternative speculation would be to consider science as a powerful form of magick, in which rational belief sustained by generations of scientists as a collective group has shaped reality, and participates in the creation of the formal mathematical structures it believes it is 'discovering'.
In which case, successive acts of magick, of remembering ourselves as 'embodied minds/mindful bodies' could result in the creation of a post-scientific (i.e., magical) reality which would appear as undeniably 'true' as religious or scientific bodies of knowledge were in the past.

And finally?
Science is usually traced to an origin in Greek philosophy, some 2500 years ago. Yet it is only' in the past 300 or so years, and within the sphere of European dominance, that it has achieved its position of privileged knowledge. It has not penetrated very deeply into the belief systems of the majority of humanity. It remains an elitist knowledge and relies for its advancement on the existing structure of global power relations. On any realistic set of future scenarios-the effects of global warming, the industrialization of China. economic war between Europe, the Americas and the Asian economies, fossil fuel depletion, or some unexpected problem (i.e., Nature decides she has had enough - Editorial CI. 21)-the funding for academic research, which allows scientists the space/time to test their theories, will cease.

Suddenly the lights will go off. We will all be sitting in the darkness, wondering where our next meal will be coming from. At which point a magick reliant upon speculations about quantum physics will not be very useful. (CERN requires as much electricity as a small city for its operations). Magicks of survival are more likely' to produce results. Such magicks do exist. For example,. Santeria, which preserved African knowledge despite slavery and transportation to another Continent. Such magicks survived because they are rooted in bodily knowledge rather than texts.

However, I am not suggesting the rejection of scientific knowledge. What ever is to come, nuclear physics will remain to haunt our ancestors for many thousands of years. Science is indeed a powerful magick. The need is not for the subjection of magick to the single vision of science, but for the absorption of science within the sphere of magick. Such a magick will be a painful magick. it cannot fail to fall into the trap of Neo-Paganism. i.e., of a rejection of the past. It will have to be a magick confident and powerful enough to accept responsibility for the destructive power of science and industry, empire and oppression, yet able to balance such acceptance with the will to act beyond the desire to "provide itself with plenty of money, sex, power and fun, at the expense of the surrounding socio-political environment". [quote from Carroll]

The bottom line is 'respect'. Respect for our own power as magicians, and respect for the power of others, which includes the non-human environment (nature). This cannot occur in a master/slave! subject/object relationship. It is alien to the scientific belief system, with its solipsistic belief that only reason exists. To respect another does not mean agreeing with or being liked by them. It is about challenging and being challenged, arguing and debating as equals. Science refuses to accept this. Magick has to, or else it becomes no more than delusion, like the whole New Age fantasy. Why should the spirit of a North American shaman reveal his secrets to the ancestors of the people who destroyed his culture? The more likely response would be for the shaman to say "Fuck off and die".

Why should Nature reveal her secrets to a scientist? In which case science does not reveal the truth about the world, but is a self-referential system in which the scientists get reflected back at themselves the stupid questions they ask. By treating nature with respect magick offers an alternative approach. It is not an easy option, but that is why magick is regarded as 'dangerous' by both science and religion. Not because it is a delusion, but because it can lead to the disturbing truth that the world is essentially beyond human comprehension, and as a consequence of this, since our humanity is of the world rather than created by God, we are incapable of fully/truly knowing ourselves.
Science then is the pursuit of an illusion. The illusion of 'true knowledge' which is absolute, eternal and unquestionable. It is equivalent to monotheistic religion where the word 'god' is replaced by the word 'reason'. Magick is confusing since it is pluralistic, offering understandings and meanings rather than 'knowledge'. Understandings and meanings which arise through the union of imagination (mind) and actions (body). The acting out of myth through ritual.

As I understand it, magick is distinguished from science by this difference: the magician is changed by the magick; the scientist is not changed by the science.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Stolen Origins Society Spectacle

I spotted a 'borrowing' by Debord / Society of Spectacle from Marx. Checking up, I have just found this, which is an extensive list of such borrowings. But then Marx borrowed from Thomas Carlyle (and no doubt others)and Carlyle borrowed from ...


Detournements in Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle

Following extracted from Releve des citations ou detournements de "La Societe du Spectacle," published by Editions Farandola, Paris, 2002. Corrected and translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2007. The translator has made no attempt to conform our renderings with those of Debord's other translators

Thesis 1
"All of life in the societies in which modern conditions of production reign presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles."

Marx, Capital: "The richness of the societies in which the mode of capitalist production reigns presents itself as an immense accumulation of commodities."

Thesis 2
"in which the liar has lied to himself."

Hegel, The Science of Logic: "Truth verifies itself."

"the autonomous movement of the non-living."

Hegel, The First Philosophy of Spirit (Iena, 1803-1804): "Money is the material, existing concept, the form of unity or even the possibility of all the things needed. Need and work elevated to this universality thus form for themselves in a great number of people an immense system of community and reciprocal dependence, a life that dies in itself autonomously from a dead reality, a life that, in its movement acts in a blind and elementary manner and which, like a wild animal, has need of being continuously trained and mastered with severity."

Thesis 4
"The spectacle is not an ensemble of images, but a social connection between people, mediated by images."

Marx, Capital: "Thus one discovers that instead of being a thing, capital is a social connection established by the intermediary of things."

Thesis 6
"is at once the result and the project"

A. Kojeve, Introduction to Reading Hegel: "As a result that is a project and as a project that is a result -- a result born from the project and a project engendered by a result; in a word, the real is revealed in its dialectical truth as a synthesis.

"It is not a supplement to the real world, its added-on decoration."

Marx, Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right: "Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium (...) its solemn complement."

: dot dot dot all the way to :

Thesis 205
"In its very style, the exposition of dialectical theory is a scandal and an abomination according to the rules of the dominant language, and for the tastes that they have produced, because in the positive use of existing concepts it includes, at the same time, the intelligence of their recovered fluidity and their necessary destruction."

Marx, Preface to Capital: "In its rational aspect, [the dialectic] is a scandal and an abomination for the ruling classes and their doctrinaire ideologues, because in the positive conception of existing things, it includes, at the same time, the intelligence of their fatal negation, and their necessary destruction."

Thesis 208
"Detournement has not founded its cause on anything exterior to its own truth"

Stirner, The Unique and its Property: "I have founded my cause on nothing."

Thesis 217
"separation has built its world."

Proverbs, 9, 1: "Wisdom has built her house."

Thesis 221
"To emancipate itself from the material bases of the inverted truth, this is what the self-emancipation of our epoch consists. This 'historical mission to instaurate truth in the world' . . . ."

Marx, Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right: "It is thus the task of history, before the beyond of the truth has disappeared, to establish the truth in the here-and-now."

"the class that is capable of being the dissolution of all the classes"
Marx, Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right.

(Extracted from Releve des citations ou detournements de "La Societe du Spectacle," published by Editions Farandola, Paris, 2002. Corrected and translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2007. The translator has made no attempt to conform our renderings with those of Debord's other translators.)

Marx was a situationist

From one of Marx's letters


The reform of consciousness consists only in making the world aware of its own consciousness, in awakening it out of its dream about itself, in explaining to it the meaning of its own actions. Our whole object can only be — as is also the case in Feuerbach’s criticism of religion — to give religious and philosophical questions the form corresponding to man who has become conscious of himself.

Hence, our motto must be: reform of consciousness not through dogmas, but by analysing the mystical consciousness that is unintelligible to itself, whether it manifests itself in a religious or a political form.

It will then become evident that the world has long dreamed of possessing something of which it has only to be conscious in order to possess it in reality. It will become evident that it is not a question of drawing a great mental dividing line between past and future, but of realising the thoughts of the past. Lastly, it will become evident that mankind is not beginning a new work, but is consciously carrying into effect its old work.

From Society of the Spectacle

164 The world already possesses the dream of a time whose consciousness it must now possess in order to actually live it.

Extract - orginal Thunder, Perfect Mind

From www.gnosis.org/naghamm/thunder.html

For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one
and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
and it is my husband who begot me.
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband
and he is my offspring.
I am the slave of him who prepared me.
I am the ruler of my offspring.
But he is the one who begot me before the time on a birthday.
And he is my offspring in (due) time,
and my power is from him.
I am the staff of his power in his youth,
and he is the rod of my old age.
And whatever he wills happens to me.
I am the silence that is incomprehensible
and the idea whose remembrance is frequent.
I am the voice whose sound is manifold
and the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name.
Why, you who hate me, do you love me,
and hate those who love me?
You who deny me, confess me,
and you who confess me, deny me.
You who tell the truth about me, lie about me,
and you who have lied about me, tell the truth about me.
You who know me, be ignorant of me,
and those who have not known me, let them know me.
For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless; I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace.
Give heed to me.
I am the one who is disgraced and the great one.

Illuminated text

Here are some images to illuminate 'Thunder, Perfect Mind'

They are a bit jumbled.

The first is of the marshland.

The second of the new bridge built where the railway bridge once was.

Then maps - from 1920, showing

From 1797, showing canal.

And from 1750 showing neither.

Then there is one of the soot stains under the bridge where I sheltered from the thunderstorm.

Finally the thunderstorm itself as it rolled in.

Commodity fetishism as magick

Commodity fetishism as magick

These are just some notes I made in an attempt to follow through the chain of associations and thoughts explored in ‘Thunder, Perfect Mind’ - blogged below.

Is commodity fetishism a form of magick? I now think it is… maybe.

Illustration is a zombie pic since one of
the sources I found links
zombies with the advent of

Wim van Binsbergen remarks, regarding the new zombie cults, that "the reference to earlier forms of globalisation (slave trade) is now used in order to express and contest, in a witchcraft idiom, newer forms of globalisation, such as the differential access to consumer goods and post-colonial state power." Van Binsbergen makes a suggestive distinction between slavery and wage labor. In slavery, the entire being of a person is alienated, so that one person becomes the property of another. The slave ceases to exist as a legally autonomous subject. In wage labor, however, only the part of a person's life which is sold as "labor" is alienated. The person remains a legally autonomous subject, but he gives up a portion of his life -- that is, of his self -- in exchange for a symbol of that portion. This symbol, which is money, then attains a subjective power, so that it determines the lives of the people whose activity it represents. A money economy is one in which people are ruled by a fetishized representation of their own selves. Market economies are ruled by this ghostly, dead -- but supernaturally active -- power called money.


…the practices of Chaos magick - in reifying the ‘current social landscape’ - encourage participation in the consumption of neatly-packaged experiences of exotic otherness, drawn from the profusion of signs, images and ‘lifestyle options’ characteristic of consumer capitalism….the proliferation of occultural movements is as much a consequence of economic booms as of social and economic deprivation. In the former case… these movements represent a means of managing the anxieties emergent from the indeterminacies that proliferate within consumer capitalism rather than challenging the conditions which produce those anxieties.
Justin Woodman http://ghooriczone.blogspot.com/2007/04/weird-realism-paper.html

Carlyle argued against the ‘mechanical age’ and the ‘cash nexus’ in his 1843 book Past and Present. This was reviewed by Frederick Engels in 1844

In his context, Carlyle was looking backwards to the Middle Ages , which he compared favourably to early Victorian Britain. To simplify Carlyle, he reckoned a medieval worker building a cathedral had a better life than a worker of his time (1840s) building/ working in a factory.

The big difference he saw was that in the ‘modern’ world, cash/ money was becoming the only relationship between people - nexus having the meaning of both connection/ link and focus/ centre [from Latin nectere, to bind]. In the old ‘medieval’ world there were other relationships, especially that provided by religion (but also feudalism, kinship, locality).

Marx was not interested in a return to the Middle Ages, so took this idea of the ’cash nexus’ and developed it as part of his theory of ’commodity fetishism’, as set out in ‘Capital’:

The mysterious character of the commodity form is due to the fact that a commodity, the product of labour, reflects human social relations embodied in its production and exchange. For example: The magnitude of the value of commodities is a measure of the expenditure of human-labour power. Also, the social relationships between various producers translates into a social relation between the commodities they produce. Thus, the commodity-form and value-relation between commodities have nothing to do with physical properties of the materials from which they are made but rather with the social relations involved in their production and exchange. The fetishism with commodities arises from the social character of the labour which produced them. Material objects become commodities only because they are the product of labourers working individually from each other. It is only by being exchanged that the products of labour acquire uniformity of values distinct from their utility-producing or physical properties. Thus, man-made material goods are artificially given a 'life' of their own , i.e. value seemingly inherent in them.

By using the word ‘fetishism’ here, Marx seems to have been deliberately using a magical/ religious term to reveal the ‘irrationality’ which lies at the heart of capitalism. Before Marx, fetishism was associated with the ‘primitive religious/ magical beliefs of savages’ . It was first used to describe African religious beliefs by the Portuguese -who began exploring the west coast of Africa between 1416 and 1460. These explorations began the process which led to Europe’s discovery of the New World and its subsequent exploitation/ colonisation, which created the Atlantic slave trade. The belief that African religious thought was based on ‘fetishism’ I.e. was ‘primitive and irrational’ helped justify the slave trade.

Complicating aside - as Robin Blackburn : The Making of New World Slavery : Verso : 1997 and others have argued, the British development (from the 17th century onwards) of the ‘triangular trade’ between west Africa - slaves, the West Indies/ North America - sugar, tobacco, cotton and the UK - manufactured goods stimulated the UK’s industrial revolution. Which Carlyle then reacted against to, thus influencing Marx.

I then found - by googling on ‘commodity fetishism occult’ a whole set of pretty heavy duty texts which are not easy to summarise. One was Michael Taussig : The Magic of the State: Routledge: 1997 which I have already mentioned . Previously Michael had written ‘The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America ‘. I will paste part of the first chapter at the end of this. Here are some others…

http://www.sicetnon.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=PagEd&file=index&topic_id=2&page_id=77 The reality behind commodity fetishism :Mario Wenning

Thesis on Feuerbach : Karl Marx

Debord and the Postmodern Turn: New Stages of the Spectacle : Steven Best and Douglas Kellner

Palimsest: Hakim Bey

Dialectical vs. Di-Polar Theology : Thomas J.J. Altizer


Faust Among the Witches: Towards an Ethics of Representation :David Hawkes

The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America : Michael Tausig - text found at

CHAPTER I Fetishism and Dialectical Deconstruction This book attempts to interpret what are to us in the industrialized world the exotic ideas of some rural people in Colombia and Bolivia concerning the meaning of the capitalist relations of production and exchange into which they are daily being drawn. These peasants represent as vividly unnatural, even as evil, practices that most of us in commodity-based societies have come to accept as natural in the everyday workings of our economy, and therefore of the world in general.

This representation occurs only when they are proletarianized and refers only to the way of life that is organized by capitalist relations of production. It neither occurs in nor refers to peasant ways of life.
So, although this work focuses on the cultural reactions of peasants to industrial capitalism and attempts to interpret those reactions, it is, inevitably, also an esoteric attempt to critically illuminate the ways by which those of us who are long accustomed to capitalist culture have arrived at the point at which this familiarity persuades us that our cultural form is not historical, not social, not human, but natural -- "thing-like " and physical. In other words, it is an attempt forced upon us by confrontation with precapitalist cultures to account for the phantom objectivity with which capitalist culture enshrouds its social creations.

Time, space, matter, cause, relation, human nature, and society itself are social products created by man just as are the different types of tools, farming systems, clothes, houses, monuments, languages, myths, and so on, that mankind has produced since the dawn of human life. But to their participants, all cultures tend to present these categories as if they were not social products but elemental and immutable things. As soon as such categories are defined as natural, rather than as social, products, epistemology itself acts to conceal understanding of the social order. Our experience, our understanding, our explanations -- all serve merely to ratify the conventions that sustain our sense of reality unless we appreciate the extent to which the basic "building blocks" of our experience and our sensed reality are not natural but social constructions.

In capitalist culture this blindness to the social basis of essential categories makes a social reading of supposedly natural things deeply perplexing. This is due to the peculiar character of the abstractions associated with the market organization of human affairs: essential qualities of human beings and their products are converted into commodities, into things for buying and selling on the market.

Take the example of labor and labor-time. For our system of industrial production to operate, people's productive capacities and nature's resources have to be organized into markets and rationalized in accord with cost accounting: the unity of production and human life is broken into smaller and smaller quantifiable subcomponents. Labor, an activity of life itself, thus becomes something set apart from life and abstracted into the commodity of labor-time, which can be bought and sold on the labor market. This commodity appears to be substantial and real. No longer an abstraction, it appears to be something natural and immutable, even though it is nothing more than a convention or a social construction emerging from a specific way of organizing persons relative to one another and to nature.

I take this process as a paradigm of the object-making processin an industrial capitalist society: specifically, concepts such as labor-time are abstracted from the social context and appear to be real things.
Of necessity, a commodity-based society produces such phantom objectivity, and in so doing it obscures its roots -- the relations between people. This amounts to a socially instituted paradox with bewildering manifestations, the chief of which is the denial by the society's members of the social construction of reality.

Another manifestation is the schizoid attitude with which the members of such a society necessarily confront the phantom objects that have been thus abstracted from social life, an attitude that shows itself to
be deeply mystical. On the one hand, these abstractions are cherished as real objects akin to inert things, whereas on the other, they are thought of as animate entities with a life-force of their own akin to spirits or gods. Since these "things" have lost their original connection with social life, they appear, paradoxically, both as inert and as animate entities. If the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas at the same time and still retain the ability to function, then the modern mind can truly be said to have proved itself. But this is testimony to culture, not to mind.

Thunder, Perfect Mind

Thunder, perfect mind

image Paris 183o

There is something deeply satisfying about thunderstorms. They have an awesome, primal power. In the city they would bring relief. A few days of heat turning the air into an eye-stinging acrid poisonous gas, the heat of the sun multiplied as it is absorbed by brick, concrete and asphalt then radiated out again through the brief hours of darkness. Restless, unsleeping in stifling semi-dark. And then…a breath of cold wind and a flash of light….waiting, counting the seconds until…. SOUND. Not always a ‘boom’, sometimes a tearing , ripping, wrenching, rending noise, as if the very fabric of the world was being pulled apart.

Another FLASH, another SOUND. Closer now. Mixed with a throbbing, drumming noise. Rain. A staccato, rattling. Hail. FLASH. SOUND. Right over head now. And then the deluge begins…

Afterwards, the air is clear, drinking in great draughts, cool and refreshing, body tingling, alive, ecstatic. Even in here in this great city.

And in the countryside? Last night began a walk in bright evening sunshine. A few minutes saw me pass from a small island of houses and streets into the great sea of green. So many shades of green, - the greens of the rushes and reeds of marshland, the greens of trees and bushes, the greens of fields (yellowed here and there where the deep grass had been cut for silage). The path I followed tracing a trajectory of transformation: of ‘present’ into ‘past’, the stuff of future archaeologies and histories.

Here a great river once ran through a cold desert of naked rock, sand and gravel, mud and silt. The land’s flesh stripped, skin flayed by the ice knives of a glacier, grinding and creaking as the weight of millions of tons of frozen water laid waste to all in its path. What is more fleeting, more transitory, more delicate, more fragile and beautiful than a crystalline flake of snow? Yet as snow flake piled upon snow flake some 20 or 30 thousand years ago upon the summits of the hills which still mark the horizon here, their individual transience was transformed . They ( how many billions I wonder?) fused into a mass of ice which rose a mile high above the highest hill. As gravity’s mechanical force exerted its mindless will, the mountain of ice spread and crept downwards along pathways of least resistance towards an ever receding sea. No life survived this slow motion assault . The very soil, the soul of the land, was caught up and carried before and beneath the glaciers to be dumped in thick dense layers beneath what is now the Irish Sea.

Centuries passed. Hundreds of centuries passed. Perhaps 10 000 years. And then the ice began to melt. Steams of water began to trickle beneath the sheets of ice. Lubricating the glaciers’ progress, the ice sheets moved more swiftly. As the snow flakes ceased to fall, the great ice mountain began to die. A landscape, like that of Iceland today, began to emerge, a re-virgined land, veined with rivers of melt water.

One such river ran here, taking the most direct route to a rapidly rising sea. It carried all before it, its waters suffused with mud, silt and sand and gravel . But as the accumulate resource, its frozen capital, was released each spring, so its strength and power began to wane. Where ever a ridge of rock remained, its waters were pooled and gave up their burden of rocky fragments. In time the river could no longer surmount such obstacles in its path. So it found a new route to the sea, leaving in its wake a four mile long by half mile wide strip of what is now marshland.

In 1864, a railway branch line to Kirkcudbright was built on a low embankment across the narrowest part of the marshland - through which a canal had been built in 1765. In 1991, a road was built on a higher embankment. The canal had fallen out of use by 1840, the railway was closed in 1965. In 2006, the disused railway was made into a footpath, with a wooden bridge crossing the canal built on the footings of the old railway bridge. This was the path I followed last night.

As I did so, I could see and hear a thunder cloud forming. As I progressed along the path, the storm moved closer. I watched the lightning flash down over Keltonhill and felt a cold wind which shook the blossom from the hawthorn trees which have grown up beside the railway. The rain began, so I took shelter under a bridge which carried a farm track over the railway.
It was not quite the intended outcome. I’d brought a pad of paper to jot down some ideas. How could I tease out the connections and overlaps between Thomas Carlyle and Kenneth Grant? And to Hegel, Marx, Breton and Debord?

I listened to the sound of the thunder , almost overhead now. Felt the coldness of the air, gusts of wind scattering rain drops over the page. A pool of muddy water gathered and began to creep towards me. Looking around for inspiration, all I could see were some black smears of soot on the red/ brown sandstone of the bridge. The last steam train had passed under this bridge over 40 years ago, but the smoke of its passing had not dispersed. I jot a few words down:

Crouched down under an old railway bridge- listening to a thunderstorm overhead + rain words - where are they - here - where they are written - or where they are read?

Carlyle - Johnson’s ‘ghosts’

Which may seem a bit cryptic, but is quite useful. The words were written at a specific place and time. I can mentally see myself writing them, even took some photographs. The piece of paper on which I scribbled them is before me as a type them. Now they appear on a computer screen. At some point -as yet in the future- they will be read on another computer screen. The one you are reading them on ‘now’.

Or the words could be being read on a printed page. Should I wish to ensure their survival for an extended period of time, they could be carved on to a piece of rock, written on a piece of clay which is then fired or on some suitably enduring ink on parchment. The words of the text ‘Thunder, perfect mind’ were found written on sheets of papyrus (a reed) in a clay jar at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt in 1945 and have been dated to AD 390. http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl.html

But words are more than just markings on a page, or a stream of binary digits in cyberspace. Words also exist as a set of ‘meanings’. So where do the meanings of the words exist? Immediately as a set of impulses in the brain of the writer/ reader. I suppose that with some form of highly advanced brain scanning technology, the very electro-chemical impulses generated as each word is read could be monitored and displayed. But would the brain activity so monitored ‘mean’ anything? Not as it is on a screen. It would have to be interpreted , have to be translated back into words, into language, into context. Take just one of my words: ‘thunderstorm’. How many contexts and associations would that give? As writer, I have already suggested a few - ‘Thunder, perfect mind’ for example. Then there is ‘What the thunder said’ from T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” .. and the Cramps’ song ‘Voodoo Idol’ “Lightening split the sky and thunder shook the ground”.

So although I was alone under the railway bridge in the middle of a thunderstorm, other, ghostly, presences were sheltering there with me. Looking up at the smears of soot on the stonework of the bridge, the thundering ghosts of long lost steam engines also haunted me. The space seem too small, too confined to have ever accommodated such entities. Their memories lie at the outer edge of my childhood. I was only six when the last train passed beneath the bridge. But visiting a ‘heritage’ railway a few years ago, the pungent aroma of coal smoke and hot oil, the hissing clanking sounds and sheer physical presence of a steam engine passing the platform were immediately familiar sensations.

How long will these ghosts from the Mechanical Age continue to haunt the green fields? A few centuries yet. Half a mile or so from the railway bridge the remains of 2000 year old (approximately) Iron Age ring-fort can still be traced around Meikle Wood Hill. The railway bridges will in time collapse, several have already gone, although one has been replaced with the wooden foot bridge mentioned above. The earthworks, the cuttings and embankments will survive, perhaps for 2000 years, like the ditches and mounds of the Iron Age ring-fort. The meaning of this ‘old-straight track’ [= ‘ley-lines’ as imagined by Alfred Watkins in 1920s] may be lost, but it will survive.

“Johnson’s Ghosts”

Following the track of associations evoked by the thunder storm leads to more ghosts. The ‘johnsons ghosts’ I scribbled down whilst shivering in the suddenly cold evening. Twenty kilometres/ twelve miles north west from Kelton Mains farm (the track to which I was crouching beneath) lies Craigenputtoch. In the farm house here, surrounded by open moorland and patches of cultivate land, Thomas Carlyle wrote ‘Sartor Resartus’ in 1830. Although physically isolated from the dramatic events of the time - a revolution in Paris, the Captain Swing rural revolts of southern England and the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway - through newspapers, Carlyle was aware of these events.

In March this year (2007 e.v.) along with fellow students from the University of Glasgow’s Crichton [Dumfries] Campus I visited Craigenputtoch to hear a lecture on Carlyle given by Dr. Ralph Jessop. I found the experience deeply disconcerting. (As Ralph himself did). Apart from the addition of electricity, the farm house is unchanged since Carlyle’s day. It was as if Carlyle was still in the room, a tangible ghost immediately present.

Why should this be so? The answer lies in Carlyle’s own words, where he discusses the nature of ‘ghosts’ [the ‘Johnson‘ mentioned is the 18th century Dr. Johnson who wrote the first dictionary and whose life was recorded by Boswell]:

"Again, could anything be more miraculous than an actual authentic Ghost? The English Johnson longed, all his life, to see one; but could not, though he went to Cock Lane, and thence to the church-vaults, and tapped on coffins. Foolish Doctor! Did he never, with the mind's eye as well as with the body's, look round him into that full tide of human Life he so loved; did he never so much as look into Himself? The good Doctor was a Ghost, as actual and authentic as heart could wish; well-nigh a million of Ghosts were travelling the streets by his side. Once more I say, sweep away the illusion of Time; compress the threescore years into three minutes: what else was he, what else are we? Are we not Spirits, that are shaped into a body, into an Appearance; and that fade away again into air and Invisibility? This is no metaphor, it is a simple scientific fact: we start out of Nothingness, take figure, and are Apparitions; round us, as round the veriest spectre, is Eternity; and to Eternity minutes are as years and aeons. .. Ghosts! There are nigh a thousand million walking the Earth openly at noontide; some half-hundred have vanished from it, some half-hundred have arisen in it, ere thy watch ticks once.

"O Heaven, it is mysterious, it is awful to consider that we not only carry each a future Ghost within him; but are, in very deed, Ghosts! These Limbs, whence had we them; this stormy Force; this life-blood with its burning Passion? They are dust and shadow; a Shadow-system gathered round our ME: wherein, through some moments or years, the Divine Essence is to be revealed in the Flesh. That warrior on his strong war-horse, fire flashes through his eyes; force dwells in his arm and heart: but warrior and war-horse are a vision; a revealed Force, nothing more. Stately they tread the Earth, as if it were a firm substance: fool! the Earth is but a film; it cracks in twain, and warrior and war-horse sink beyond plummet's sounding. Plummet's? Fantasy herself will not follow them. A little while ago, they were not; a little while, and they are not, their very ashes are not.

"So has it been from the beginning, so will it be to the end. Generation after generation takes to itself the Form of a Body; and forth issuing from Cimmerian Night, on Heaven's mission APPEARS. What Force and Fire is in each he expends: one grinding in the mill of Industry; one hunter-like climbing the giddy Alpine heights of Science; one madly dashed in pieces on the rocks of Strife, in war with his fellow:--and then the Heaven-sent is recalled; his earthly Vesture falls away, and soon even to Sense becomes a vanished Shadow. Thus, like some wild-flaming, wild-thundering train of Heaven's Artillery, does this mysterious MANKIND thunder and flame, in long-drawn, quick-succeeding grandeur, through the unknown Deep. Thus, like a God-created, fire-breathing Spirit-host, we emerge from the Inane; haste stormfully across the astonished Earth; then plunge again into the Inane. Earth's mountains are levelled, and her seas filled up, in our passage: can the Earth, which is but dead and a vision, resist Spirits which have reality and are alive? “

The sheer intensity of Carlyle’s writing here surely transcends ‘space and time’ ? It is immediately present, even now 177 years later. Sweep away ‘the illusion of Time’ and were we not then in the presence of Thomas Carlyle as he wrote these words in the same space - Craigenputtoch - as we were ourselves? If anything, were we not the shadows and the ghosts - whilst the real and substantial were the words composed by Carlyle?

Although somewhat obscure today, Sartor Resartus was a deeply influential text. It inspired Dickens, who dedicated ‘Hard Times’ (his industrial novel) to Carlyle. It inspired Andre Breton, who mentions it as an inspiration in his 1924 ‘Manifesto of Surrealism’. The phrase ‘all that is solid melts to air’ in Marx and Engels ‘Communist Manifesto ‘ is very close to Carlyle’s “So that this so solid-seeming World, after all, were but an air-image” in Sartor Resartus. Less ambiguously, Carlyle’s words “ Cash Payment had not then grown to be the universal sole nexus of man to man” were directly borrowed by Marx and Engels as ‘the cash nexus’.

To fully explore the strange currents set in motion by Carlyle’s text would be a fascinating exercise, but one which is beyond me. Rather I want to explore the possibility of an imaginative (imaginary) link between Sartor Resartus and the work of Kenneth Grant (1924-). Discussing Carlyle/ Sator Resartus at a course seminar at the Crichton following the Craigenputtoch lecture, I suggested the text ‘almost made sense’ - a view disputed by fellow students who found it ’almost incomprehensible’. It reminded me, I said of Kenneth Grant’s ‘mystical interpretations of Aleister Crowley’. However my attempted adumbration (which means at once to outline or partially reveal and to over shadow or obscure ) was less than helpful.

But then Kenneth Grant is one of (if not the most) challenging writer of English alive. To read any of the nine volumes of his ‘Typhonian Trilogy’ is to experience a prolonged and profound ‘derangement of the senses’. It is as if Carlyle, rather than going on to write his history of the French Revolution and become the eminent Victoria ‘Sage of Chelsea’, had entered more deeply in to Herr Teufelsdrockh’s ‘Philosophy of Clothes’ and spun it out into a Hegelian corpus of work. Since a recent study [Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition: Glen Magee: 2001] claims that

Hegel is not a philosopher. He is no lover or seeker of wisdom — he believes he has found it. Hegel writes in the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit, “To help bring philosophy closer to the form of Science, to the goal where it can lay aside the title of ‘love of knowing’ and be actual knowledge — that is what I have set before me” (Miller, 3; PC, 3). By the end of the Phenomenology, Hegel claims to have arrived at Absolute Knowledge, which he identifies with wisdom.

Hegel’s claim to have attained wisdom is completely contrary to the original Greek conception of philosophy as the love of wisdom, that is, the ongoing pursuit rather than the final possession of wisdom. His claim is, however, fully consistent with the ambitions of the Hermetic tradition, a current of thought that derives its name from the so-called Hermetica (or Corpus Hermeticum), a collection of Greek and Latin treatises and dialogues written in the first or second centuries A.D. and probably containing ideas that are far older. The legendary author of these works is Hermes Trismegistus (“Thrice-Greatest Hermes”). “Hermeticism” denotes a broad tradition of thought that grew out of the “writings of Hermes” and was expanded and developed through the infusion of various other traditions. Thus, alchemy, Kabbalism, Lullism, and the mysticism of Eckhart and Cusa — to name just a few examples — became intertwined with the Hermetic doctrines. (Indeed, Hermeticism is used by some authors simply to mean alchemy.) Hermeticism is also sometimes called theosophy, or esotericism; less precisely, it is often characterized as mysticism, or occultism.

and since Grant’s work lies within (and beyond) the ‘broad tradition’ of Hermetic thought, I suggest this is a useful analogy. But unlike Hegel’s hermeticism, where the sheer weight of abstraction glacially grinds down all resistance, Grant’s texts ripple and pulse with a profound sense of Otherness. They are deeply disconcerting. They resist not only rationalisation, but the very act of reading itself.

We shall in due course analysis the scale of numbers from 000 to 999, which does in fact have Had (555) exactly at its heart. 000 = 70 x 3 = 210. 210 is the number of NphLIM, the ‘builder of the Tower’ (of Babel).210 is also the number of the word Nexhagus, which appears in the writings of Andhadna. Its meaning is unknown , but has the same value as the equally mysterious word ‘Ompheda’ which appears in Liber AL in connection with the Curse, Bahlasti, as the second half of the curse. The Bahti are the Little People, the Gnomes; the Nephilim are the Giants. 210 is also the number of BQBVQ, ‘a bottle’, from the Egyptian word Baakabaka meaning ‘reversal’, ‘topsy-turvy’. In AL III.54, the word peh, ‘ a mouth’, forms the heart of Ompehda , and the mouth can curse as well as bless. The bottle BVBQVQ is turned upside down to release its contents, thus we have BChR (210) ‘ to have pleasure’, ‘to love’, from the Egyptian bekh, ‘to fecundate ‘, ‘conceive’ HRH, also 210, means ‘ to conceive as a woman’, from the Egyptian ar, ‘to make’, ‘image the child/ likeness’, hur, function…
Kenneth Grant: Outside the Circles of Time: Fredrick Muller: 1980: 173

The above may seem confusing, but it is based on a tradition which extends back to the origin of ‘writing’ some 5000 years ago. It is also ‘post-modern’, and can be related to the processes of ‘deconstruction’ and ‘semiotics’ whereby the apparent meaning of a text gives way to multiple alternative ‘readings’.

Although Grant’s particular use of gematria, as this mix of words and numbers is called - related to Greek ‘geometry‘, is peculiarly his own, the process is genuinely ancient. It has its roots in the origin of writing and the problem of how to capture the fluidity of speech and the complexity of numbers in as few symbols as possible. Probably the earliest system of writing began as an accounting system in the temple of Inanna in Uruk in Sumer (now Iraq) about 5200 years ago. This used pictographs to represent the offerings of food and drink collected a the temple. These were marked on clay tablets. This evolved in to the cuneiform system of writing which contained over 700 ‘signs‘. A problem arose when the Sumerian language was replaced by the Akkadian (Old Babylonian) language a thousand years later. Akkadian was a ‘Semitic’ (related to Hebrew and Arabic) language. A cuneiform sign which in Sumerian represented a word (e.g. ‘head’) came to be used to represent a sound in Akkadian (e.g. the sound of the Sumerian word ‘head’). Writing and speech diverged. Written language became a language in itself , one composed of abstract signs which had to be learnt before it could be read.

Furthermore, perhaps as an attempt to reduce the complexity of the system (which required 400 ’basic’ cuneiform signs) Akkadian as a written language was based words having a three part consonant core. So ‘dog’ had the core KLB to which were added vowels to give context e.g. kalbum, kalbam, kalbim (the last meaning ‘the king’s dog‘, I have forgotten the others. I am not a cunning linguist and failed to learn Akkadian when I studied it ). Eventually, since the alternative system of Egyptian hieroglyphs was no less complex than Sumerian cuneiform, about 3000 years ago (depending on sources) the number of signs were drastically cut down to create the first ‘alphabet’.

However, until the invention of the 0 to 9 decimal system of numerals by the Indians (transmitted to Europe by the Arabs) letters of the alphabet also had to stand as numbers. In Hebrew, which inherited the Akkadian three part consonant root system, this gave birth to gematria. The belief was (and still is for many) that by close study of the words of Scripture, the meaning of the words of G_D could be more fully understood and interpreted. The idea was that by translating the consonant root of a word into its numerical equivalent, or by adding different vowels to the root, one word could be changed into another, or that different words could be shown to be essentially ‘the same’. With the advent of Christianity and the writing of Scripture in Greek, a similar process ensued. Although Greek lacked the triple consonant ‘word root’ of Hebrew, it did contain the ‘letter/ number’ link.

To conclude: although confusing to modern readers, Grant’s gematria is rooted in a tradition which extends back over 5000 years to the very origin of writing. It is also, in its own way, related to the post-modern tradition of deconstruction. Deconstruction and gematria are techniques for creating ambiguity and multiple ( often contradictory or just plain opposite) meanings and interpretations of what otherwise seem to be straight-forward or ‘transparent’ texts. These techniques effectively bring out the ‘poetry’ inherent in even the most mundane prose. The importance of the ‘poetic’ for Grant is shown in this next quotation .

Certain fugitive elements appear occasionally in the works of poets, painters, mystics and occultists which may be regarded as genuine magical manifestations in that they demonstrate the power and ability of the artists to evoke elements of an ultra- dimensional and alien universe that may be captured only by the most sensitive and delicately adjusted antennae of human consciousness... [This] would seem to require that total and systematic derangement of the senses which Rimbaud declared to be the key to self knowledge ... ’ The soul must be made monstrous ... The poet makes himself into a seer by a long, tremendous and reasoned derangement of his senses... This he attains the unknown; and when, at the point of madness, he finishes by losing the intelligence of his visions, he has beheld them!’ This formula of derangement was for Rimbaud, as for some of the greatest artists and magicians, the supreme key to inspiration and the reception of vivid images such as those which flash and tremble upon the luminous canvases of a Dali or an Ernest.
Kenneth Grant: Outside the Circles of Time: Fredrick Muller: 1980: 14/15

The poet or artists as seer, yes. But the poet or artist as revolutionary? Perhaps.
The insubordination of words, during the experimental phase from Rimbaud to the surrealists, has shown that the theoretical critique of the world of power is inseparable from a practice that destroys it. Power's cooption of all modern art and its transformation of it into oppressive categories of its reigning spectacle is a sad confirmation of this. "Whatever doesn't kill power is killed by it." The dadaists were the first to express their distrust in words, a distrust inseparable from the desire to "change life." Following Sade, they asserted the right to say everything, to liberate words and "replace the Alchemy of the Word with a real chemistry" (Breton). The innocence of words is henceforth consciously refuted and language is revealed as "the worst of conventions," something that should be destroyed, demystified, liberated. Dada's contemporaries did not fail to stress its will to destroy everything, the danger it represented to the dominant sense. (Gide uneasily referred to it as a "demolition job.") After Dada it has become impossible to believe that a word is forever bound to an idea. Dada realized all the possibilities of language and forever closed the door on art as a specialty; it posed once and for all the problem of the realization of art. Surrealism was of value only insofar as it carried on this project; in its literary productions it was reactionary. The realization of art -- poetry in the situationist sense -- means that one cannot realize oneself in a "work," but rather realizes oneself, period. Sade's inauguration of "saying everything" already implied the abolition of literature as a separate domain (where only what is literary may be said). But this abolition, consciously asserted by the dadaists after Rimbaud and Lautréamont, was not a supersession. There is no supersession without realization, one cannot supersede art without realizing it. In fact, there has not even been any actual abolition, since even after Joyce, Duchamp and Dada a new spectacular literature continues to thrive. This is because there can be no "saying everything" without the freedom to do everything.
Captive Words: Preface to a Situationist Dictionary: Mustapha Khayati: Internationale Situationiste: No. 10 : 1966 [Translated by Ken Knabb]

The ‘freedom to do everything’ ? Rabelais ’ "fay çe que vouldras"? Or Crowley’s ‘Do what thou wilt’?. But although the Situationists’ ‘Spectacle’ could be equated with the Sanskrit/ Hindu ‘maya’ or illusion, I suspect their critique of the society of the spectacle would be insufficient for Grant. The Situationists essential update Marx, who in turn had updated (by attempting to remove the mystical content) Hegel’s work. And Hegel starts by showing that Being and Nothing are the same:

A. Being. Being, pure being, without any further determination. In its indeterminate immediacy it is equal only to itself…it has no diversity within itself nor any with a reference outward…. It is pure indeterminateness and emptiness…There is nothing to be intuited in it, if one can speak here of intuiting…Being, the indeterminate immediate, is in fact nothing, and neither more nor less than nothing.

B. Nothing Nothing, pure nothing: it is simply equality with itself, complete emptiness, absence of all determination and content -undifferentiatedness in itself… To intuit or think nothing has, therefore a meaning; both are distinguished and thus nothing is (exists) in our intuition or thinking; or rather it is empty intuition …Nothing is, therefore, the same determination, or rather absence of determination, and thus altogether the same as, pure being
G.W.F.Hegel :Science of Logic : 1812 [ Translated by A.V. Miller: 1969: page 82]

A few pages later, discussing the work of F.H. Jacobi and Jacobi’s attempt to ‘become one with being’ by forgetting all, including ‘myself’, Hegel says:

With this wholly abstract purity of continuity, that is, indeterminateness and vacuity of conception, it is indifferent whether this abstraction is called space, pure intuiting, or pure thinking; it is altogether the same as what the Indian calls Brahma …This dull, empty consciousness, understood as consciousness, is - being. [As above, page 97]

Brahma satyam jagan mithya Brahman is real; the world is unreal. Ekam evadvitiyam brahma Brahman is one, without a second. Prajnanam brahman Brahman is the supreme knowledge. Tat tvam asi That is what you are. Ayam atma brahma Atman and brahman are the same. Aham brahmasmi I am brahman.
Sarvam khalvidam brahma All of this is brahman.

From http://1stholistic.com/prayer/Hindu/hol_Hindu-brahman.htm

Bearing in mind ‘ avam atma brahma’ above, this leads on to my final quotation from Kenneth Grant:

It should be abundantly clear to anyone with any experience of astral work and dream control that there is in truth nothing but a wakeful state of consciousness. We call the dream state that after dreaming has ceased; during actual dreaming no sense of illusion is experienced. Similarly, the state of dreamless sleep is described as a state of oblivion only from the wakeful state. Whilst shusupti (dreamless sleep) was being experienced there was on the contrary, full awareness, full consciousness, not of nothing - for that is impossible- but of the Self (Atman). Atman is pure consciousness, I.e. Self without any taint of ego. Because thought does not exist in shusupti, the mind itself, which is but the functioning of thought, does not exist here either; mind is not an entity in itself. Therefore during the three states there is present only wakeful consciousness, I.e. vivid, immediate awareness. In jagarat (wakeful state) reality is masked by objects, which are crystallised thoughts; in the dreaming state (swapna) reality is obscured by thoughts, which appear as real to the dreamer as do “objects” in the wakeful state. In the state of suhupti (deep and dreamless sleep) reality is masked by the absence of thoughts, and this state is mistaken by the unenlightened for unconsciousness or the void. The absence of mentation is taken to imply the absence of the Self ; in truth, it indicates the presence of the Self in its pure state, bereft of all attributes, I.e. thoughts. Pure Consciousness is the sole reality because it is the only factor common to all three states. There is no dream or dreamer; there is only Reality, I.e Consciousness undivided by subject and object. If this substratum is realized it will shine, totally unobscured, and the organism will automatically function with perfect spontaneity in all states.
Kenneth Grant: Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God: Fredrick Muller: 1973: 84/85

Moving towards a conclusion, or at least an ending…

The thunder storm has passed. But today again the clouds are building up. Yesterday I got Michael Taussig’s “The Magic of the State” and read it whilst listening to Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 Electric Ladyland - a cd replacement for the long lost vinyl . I had forgotten quite how powerful it is. The full version of Voodoo Chile suffused with electrical intensity. I daren’t turn the volume up - the house might fall down. A musical thunderstorm mixed with an earthquake.

The Taussig book? Well, he quotes William Burrough’s ‘Cities of the Red Night’ as a source, but in places it reads more like J.G. Ballard. Chapter 13 is called ‘Money and Spirit Possession in Karl Marx’ which gives a flavour. The ‘spirit possession’ aspect is a central theme, healing through spirit possession on the slopes of a magic mountain…not quite Haitian voudon, but similar, related. Here is a short section from a review:

In The Magic of State, Taussig pushes at the boundaries of ethnography when he engages magical realism in order to tell the story of his on-and-off sojourn in Latin America. He does not establish himself as expert or authentic knower in this text but rather as a character; when he does this he relinquishes the role of master (omniscient) narrator. Captain Mission, as a mere character in the text along with others such as the Spirit Queen, the Liberator, Virgilio, Ofelia, or Katy, allows Taussig’s narrative voice to be relativized; each character is more real or more fantastic depending on the events. Certainly, the ethnography remains written from Taussig’s gaze, of which the reader shares of necessity, but this gaze is not the lofty gaze of an omniscient narrator speaking from the center of power, either located in the North or the institution of the university. Taussig does not take a professorial tone of knowledge dissemination; instead, he too is subject to the messiness of existence:

She leaned forward as if challenging me. And doesn’t a caricature capture the essence, making the copy magically powerful over the original? And what could be more powerful than the modern state? For the world of magic is changing, has changed … Wasn’t it Lenin himself who wrote in 1919 … and her voice trailed away …Was this the magic she was referring to, and in that case would self-awareness help any, or was something else required? She grabbed my wrist. You want to know the secret don’t you?

Magical realism is maybe the theme of this essay, starting with Sartor Resartus and Johnson’s ghosts .That ‘realistic’ descriptions - factual or fictional - of ‘reality’ are insufficient. They smooth over rough edges, blur distinctions and just plain evade awkward questions. Carlyle, Hegel, Marx lived through a time when ‘all that is holy is profaned’, when the ‘G_D’ which (who?) had given history meaning suddenly vanished as a living presence, leaving only the image, the shadow of the ‘holy’ … and so they had to follow Blake from The Everlasting Gospel:

Thou also dwell'st in Eternity. Thou art a Man, God is no more, Thy own humanity learn to adore, For that is my Spirit of Life.
Awake, arise to Spiritual Strife.

But without the ‘magic power’ of religion what lay between the brave new world of industry and empire and the forces of chaos and ancient night?

Nothing, it would seem. One irrational system was replaced with another. One form of ‘magic’ with another - in the ‘fetishisation of commodities’ and the transformation of ‘ society’ into ‘economy’. Carlyle’s ‘cash nexus’ (as adopted by Marx) the black hole through which all must pass as :

'All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned ... the need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere' ... [Marx/ Engels/ Communist Manifesto]

Which for me at least helps explain why it is proving so difficult for the ‘magic power of the state’ to adapt to the constraints imposed by global warming. To take the necessary steps - for example in the UK, deciding not to increase capacity at airports or build new roads, but invest massively in an expansion of public transport (including rail freight) - would require a level of rationality the system simply lacks. We are entranced by our fetishes, by our commodities, by ’the spectacle’ and can conceive of no other reality.

My thunder storm was localised and short-lived. It does not seem to have caused any damage and the rain it released was swiftly sucked up by the growing plants in the fields, hedgerows and woodlands of this green rural landscape. But heat is energy. The more heat there is in the atmosphere, the stronger grow the storms. The weather systems become more chaotic, putting greater stresses and strains on the smooth workings of the global economic system. Could it fail?

James Lovelock’s ‘Gaia Hypothesis’ - which treats the planet as if it were a single organism - implies self-regulation of , for example, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere over a lengthy/ geological timescale. Without attributing conscious intent to Gaia, one can imagine how this might work. A species evolves which feeds on fossilised carbon deposits, excreting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The species thrives, however there are limits to is success. It may exhaust its food supply (the fossilised carbon deposits) or it may excrete so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases that the global temperature rises to the point where the species can no longer successfully maintain / reproduce its ‘means of production’ . There follows a massive extinction event and output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases immediately declines. After a lengthy period, homeostasis is conserved.

What is unlikely to be conserved is much of our hi-tech culture. We are more likely to have numerous variations on a lo-tech subsistence agriculture economy and society.