Article 43


Thursday, February 16, 2023

NewAge and Fascism

image: fascism and newage

Today’s New Age Trends are Looking a lot Like Fascism
And its death-drive is more alluring than we care to admit.

By Theo Horesh
The Elephant Journal
September 20, 2020

It should not surprise us that fascism has inspired ANTI-MASKERS to sign their own death warrants or that new age conspiracy theorists are increasingly embracing a violent cult. Fascism has seldom been about the future visions it claimed to embrace, but rather escaping into a more compelling fantasy-world. 

Fascism thrives in an eternal, mythologized present, where the burden of past constraints cannot encroach on the fantasy of power. Social norms, political conventions, established institutions, and expectations of decency are all thrown off in mass rallies where followers fuse themselves to the will of the leader to feel themselves a part of something greater.

Fascist rites are reminiscent of Dionysian orgies and spontaneous mobs, where impulses reign supreme, and the herd regresses to an undifferentiated mass of quivering impulses. While early twentieth-century fascism may have produced well-organized mobs of neatly dressed automatons marching in goose step to a vision of the future, early twenty-first-century fascism presents a slovenly crowd of obese retirees giggling over their own offensiveness. Yet, both inspire followers to be swept away by the crowd.

Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Benito Mussolini each differ in their own ways, but each attracts uneducated followers, who conform to the will of a big man. They each pride themselves on flouting the rules and threatening extralegal violence. And they each shock elites and worry liberals so as to strengthen their sense of virility. Why else would TRUMP BRAG ABOUT THE SIZE OF HIS PENIS except that his followers might want to partake in their leaders greatness? Why else would unapologetic philanderers receive so much unapologetic support in Britain and the Philippines unless they were acting out the fantasies of their followers?

The fascist follower is weak and insecure; he is unprepared for life in an overwhelming world, and so he seeks security in the greater will of the leader. How do we know this? Because everywhere we find him sacrificing his ideas to conform with those of the leader. He is a lifetime free trader who suddenly turns protectionist; a religious traditionalist who is all of a sudden unbothered by marital infidelity. And like the wild dog at the head of the pack, the ringleader permits them to be savage. They live through his experiences as if they were their own. And by magically swallowing the big mans mojo, through a curious sort of sympathetic magic, the fascist follower imagines himself growing his own.

But for the transference to succeed, the leader must make himself appear larger than life. Why else would he lie so often and so outrageously? He is the richest, the smartest, the most potent. Shameless bragging makes him seem the biggest truth-teller as well. Who else would show the coming emperor in all his naked glory? Fascist braggadocio is part of a magical rite in which small followers feed on the bigness of their fascist father. The stronger his image, the more they might give themselves over to his will; the same process can be found everywhere fascists reign. Everywhere, fascism presents a regression to preconventional barbarism, where loyalty to the leader comes to be viewed as the highest moral aspiration.

Hence, the fascist inflates his ego to gargantuan proportions. No matter that his hands are small and he is unfit for office, his supporters are entranced, and sustaining the trance requires that the past be obliterated so the future might be laid bare. The real magic of fascism lies in the present moment, where the self can dissolve in the long march into a fantasized future, for in it the anxieties of a weak and insecure existence can finally be relieved.

There is a nihilism to the movement supporting Trump, a gleeful offensiveness, and revelry in destruction. It often seems as if his followers are not really concerned with the outcomes of their actions, do not even care whether he is telling the truth. There is something uniquely human in this compulsion to self-destruct. Lemmings do not actually gather together in mass rallies to jump off cliffs, like Thelma and Louise, in a nihilistic blaze of glory, but sometimes people do.

Freud called it THANOS - the death drive. As social anxieties build, many long to be part of the frenzied herd, where they might forget their cares and throw off reason. Self-destruction can energize the hopeless; destroying the works of others can make a person feel powerful. And this death-wish is a sentiment that can be sensed equally in the movement to elect Trump, the glorification of Putins machismo, and in the English yearning to abandon the world.

Trump is the reality show host to a mass neurosis that is taking America and the world over the edge.

The fascist moment is not the same present spoken of by Eastern spiritual teachers, but it is similar, and access to it may rest on many of the same social conditions. Whereas the spiritual present transcends the ego, the fascist present submits it to the movement; whereas the spiritual present dissolves the human-built world, the fascist present disdains it as worthy of destruction; whereas the spiritual present is pure awareness, the fascist present is mindlessly unconscious. The spiritual present is transformational, the fascist present regressive. The spiritual present is luminous and sublime, the fascist present anxious, alienated, compulsive, and condensed.

It is hard to think, hard to carry the burden of projects from the past into future fulfillment, and immersion in the present eases the strain. But THE PRESENT MOMENT IS A SPACE OF POSSIBILITIES, and in times of great change, it is a place of refuge. And yet, we are not simply taking refuge in the present; everything seems to be pressing us into a claustrophobic moment. Information overload condenses reality into an eternal present, for when the whole historical record is written, every year takes on a special meaning, every place its own significance, and it all dissolves in imponderable specificity.

Social media condenses conversations into an eternal present, for when everyone is debating, the social body is sucked into the whirlpool of streaming disorder. Meditation condenses experience into an eternal present, for the senses become opened and the self-connected to everything.

A space of possibility has been opened in the public sphere, a magical space in which truth and reason have been thrown off. It is a space open to other ways of knowing, yet it is also a space in which the mob has been set free.

There is a hedonism, not so different from fascist revelry, to the spiritualized notion that nothing matters but the present moment. And while it is a hedonism more likely to result in love-making than war-making, a hedonism more likely to deepen empathy than the breakdown of democracy, it is a hedonism that has played some part in paving the way to fascism.

There is a shadow to the eternal present, and like most shadows, it is the last thing we want to see.




Acid fascism: Past and present ties between occultism and the far right
Phil Jones on the commonplace use of new age references among QAnon supporters, and the historic connections between mysticism and fascism

By Phil Jones, author Work Without The Worker
Verso Books
June 28, 2021

“Lift the veil” implores the wellness guru Krystal Tini. “Get off of your knees and release yourself from your mental shackles.” Once a space for yoga poses and advice about toxins, Tini’s Instagram now offers a disturbing blend of self-help, baseless conspiracy and proto-fascist incitement. “What mark do you want to leave in this world?” “A weak one that lacks color? Or do you want the world to be stained with your name, your bravery, and your heroic tale?” “You either LEAD or you follow!” Many such pronouncements - didactic as well as mystical, ranging from the cowardliness of mask wearers to the end of “free speech” - have turned Tini into one of the new age community’s most influential conspiracists. In Tini’s world, self-branding blurs into far-right PR and inspirational quotes segue into paranoid rants. Airy pronouncements about peace, love and truth nestle among statements like this: “come for our kids and you will be met with wrath and fury.”

Her words allude to QAnon, a conspiracy theory whose followers believe a paedophilic cabal of senior Democrats, Hollywood stars and billionaires run the world and harvest a life-giving chemical from the blood of abused children. The children are always ‘Americas children’ or ‘BritainҒs children’, the purest, most innocent expression of the mystical Volk and a blatant reference to the ‘Christian children’ of the Blood Libel. Like past anti-Semitic conspiracies, QAnon and its associated strands transform sensations of impotence in the face of a catastrophic system into resentment of a fantasy elite, who have impaired reality to such a degree that only a strongman can now save us. QAnon promises, according to one adherent, a REVERSE RAPTURE ushered in, no less, by corporate messiah Donald Trump. Prophesied as the instigator of the ‘storm’ - a day of reckoning when members of the cabal will be rounded up and brought to trial - Trumps central role reveals QAnon’s overtly fascistic aspirations. In the figure of the former president, its followers have found a willing hero. As President, Trump repeatedly made references to the Deep stateђ and even claimed QAnon’s followers “believe in good government”. His departure from office has only seen the movement grow and adapt, gaining further ground among the highest ranks of the Republican Party.

Despite the growing evidence, commentators have struggled to fathom QAnon’s popularity among wellness and new age communities. Holding tight to a vision of holistic healing, astrology and crystal peering as unequivocally benign pursuits, they have voiced continual surprise at the new age communitys drift into paranoia and hatred, with ARTICLES such as QANON’S UNEXPECTED ROOTS IN NEW AGE SPIRITUALITY and MEET THE QANON SHAMAN BEHIND THE HORNS AT THE CAPITAL INSURRECTION.

The storming of the Capitol on January 6th proved a particularly unsettling event. In the days that followed, images circulated of a bare-chested man, resplendent in viking horns and Nordic tattoos. The man in question was later identified as Jake Angeli, a far-right activist from Arizona and familiar face at Trump rallies. Angeli describes himself as the “QAnon shaman”, a “multi-dimensional or hyper dimensional being” who can “see into these other higher dimensions that these entities - these paedophiles, these rapists, these really high up people ... that they can almost hide in the shadows in.” This proved too much for liberal pundits, who came out in droves to make the same bland argument: the far right is not supposed to look like this. Seemingly more shocked by Angeli’s neo-pagan aesthetic than the insurrection itself, the major organs of social commentary obsessed over his far-out attire and self-confessed use of psychedelics. The focus of such articles tends to remain at the level of aesthetics. The far-right is supposed to be a gang of testosterone-jacked skinheads. New agers and spiritualists are not supposed to believe that a satan-worshipping cabal is trafficking children and drinking their blood.

Contrary to the commentariat’s shock at the shamanic practices of QAnon believers, connections between occultist and fascist belief systems are well founded. Many such beliefs were central to the European spiritual movements in the early twentieth century. Like today, the period saw new age charlatans flourish by selling creeds of absolution and purification, as trust in democracy foundered amid imperialist war and financial mayhem. The historian, Nicholas Goodrick-Clark sums up the mood of the period as the ‘netherworld of fantasy’, in which progress came to seem a lie and many people rejected Enlightenment ideals, favouring the false sanctuaries of occultism, astrology and divination. These seemingly benign practises proved to be a crucible of Aryan and Volkisch ideology, leading eventually to what historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke describes as the ultimate dreamworld of the Third Reichђ.

At the vanguard of Europe’s new age were the Ariosophists, a spiritualist movement originating in the writings of occultists Guido von List and Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels. Both writers came of age at the end of the nineteenth century, when rapid demographic and geographical change in the region helped to forge the pan-German movement, which sought to cohere all German speaking people into a single ethno-nationalist state. The Ariosophists justified these ambitions through tracts that offered spiritual weight to ideas of German superiority. Combining anti-Semitic conspiracy with mystic visions of the Volk, they prophesied an era of Germanic global domination, which would return the modern world to a golden age when gnostic priesthoods ruled over a racially pure social order. These glorious pbermensch would vanquish the conspiratorial interests of Jews - a phony elite - which had thrown humanity into a new dark age of false progress and barbaric liberalism. It was this Jewish conspiracy, the Ariosophists claimed, behind the economic misery and political uncertainty that threatened the livelihoods and, indeed, the very existence of the German people.

The esoteric underpinnings of the Ariosophists drew on the ideas of arch-occultist Helena Blavatsky, a Russian adventurer who claimed powers of clairvoyance and telepathy. Often regarded as the mother of new age thought, Blavatskys ragtag sophistry of Ancient mythology, Egyptian folklore, Gnosticism and occult ritual has offered a blueprint for the motley musings of many a new age spiritualist since. She popularised the fable of a superior Aryan race, stretching back to Hyperborea, the mythical homeland of the far Northern people. Her anti-enlightenment screeds seem to be precisely what Umberto Eco had in mind when describing “ur-fascism” as a kind of “irrationalism”, “nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic and occultist elements”, dangerously “obsessed with a plot”. Eco did not go so far as to argue that new age thought inevitably leads to fascism, but suggested that the views share a set of common dispositions. Most obviously, the Gnostic promise of belonging to a special elite that has pierced the illusion of the everyday and accessed secret truths. There are many variations on this trope: the evangelical call of the online conspiracist to ‘Do your own research!’; the lockdown protestor’s ‘Wake up!’; or the alt-rights ‘red pill’, which references Neo’s gnostic awakening in the Hollywood film The Matrix. “You take the blue pill, the story ends”, Morpheus tells him. “You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes”.

Theodor Adorno famously described occultism as ‘the metaphysic of dunces’. Occultism and fascism appeal to a ‘consciousness famished for truth’, he wrote, which ‘imagines it is grasping a dimly present knowledge diligently denied to it by official progress in all its forms. It is the knowledge that society, by virtually excluding the possibility of spontaneous change, is gravitating toward total catastrophe’. The conspiracist likewise believes they have gleaned a catastrophic truth, unsanctioned by the powers that be. In the case of QAnon, the catastrophe contains its own solution. The real sources of alienation are denied, supplanted by romantic images of Donald Trump conquering the evil elite and making America great again.

Such notions of millenarian triumph were central to the Thule Society, one of the occultist groups Adorno undoubtedly loathed and a precursor to the Nazi Party. The group obsessively read the future in ancient runes and fetishized the Ar symbol, which denoted the rebirth of Germanic society. Thuleђ was said to be a lost civilization, originating in Hyperborea, destined to rise again in the time of the Nazis. As with todays new age authoritarians, critics have tended to fetishize the society for its rank weirdness, undeterred by the obvious fact that strangeness was wielded in the name of normativity. Occultism was merely the path to ethnonationalist superiority, cosmic violence to earthly tradition. Its romantic visions of Germanic harmony, stretching back to some perfect dawn, then toward a glorious, knowable future, offered solace but of a dismal and dangerous sort. Today’s far-right mystics similarly find sanctuary in a mythic yesterday. Comfort resides in a phantom past - a great America - destined to someday, somehow, become a radiant tomorrow, where fantastical Muslim grooming gangs and Jewish lizard people have been vanquished to Guantanamo bay or some other such place suited to fantasies of revenge.

Alt-Right Mystics

Of all the racist quacks to experience a modern renaissance, the most influential is Italian mystic Julius Evola, whose omnipresence in the halcyon days of the alt-right became a pundit shorthand for a new breed of fascist intellectual. Emboldened by Trump’s election as president in 2016, prominent alt-right activists were able to reference with impunity a figure recognised as central to Italian fascism. The white supremacist, Richard Spencer described Evola as “one of the most fascinating men of the twentieth-century”. The chief strategist of former President Trump, Steve Bannon, name-dropped the philosopher in a speech to the Vatican, advancing the ‘new dark age’ thesis key to Evola’s most revered of ideas: ‘traditionalism’. Characterised by Indo-Aryan tenets of caste and supreme state rule, this esoteric brand of authoritarianism has since been used by far-right terrorists to lend an air of sophistication to violent ideals.

Evola’s influence on today’s far-right is most evident in his 1934 work Revolt Against the Modern World, a kind of manifesto for traditionalism. The book traces myths relating to the Arctic origin of the Aryan race through ancient Indian, Iranian and Greek texts, drawing heavily on the Hindu cycle of the ages, equating modernity with the dark age or Kali Kuga, in which society is corrupt and tradition is dead. Evola despised the secular, cosmopolitan and liberal concerns of the modern world. He scorned capitalism and socialism in equal measure as corruptions of man’s project of ‘self-transcendence’ - in short, a violent, millenarian return to a world of regal authority, chivalry and rigid caste hierarchy.

The most remarkable and enduring of Evola’s ideas, called razzismo dello spirito or racism of the spirit, conferred upon Jewry a metaphysical evil. The idea seeped into the Nazi party, and undoubtedly was an influence on Adolf Hitler’s treatment of Jews. Today, transcendental anti-Semitism has found a new audience of zealots through publishers such as Arktos Media, who have recently rerun a number of Evolas texts. Most notably, the idea appears in Evola’s much-read introduction to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory behind QAnon, though first published in 1903 - in which he concedes the dubious origins of the text but nonetheless holds up its arguments as metaphysical truths. In his telling, Jewry is a cosmic force for evil, an ineffable archetype existing behind all social ill. It is omnipotent and omnipresent but also, somehow, weak and nomadic ז a cowardly citizen of nowhere. One can see why such metaphysical certainty argued by Evola with the zeal of a true doctrinaire ֖ holds appeal for angry white men at a time when their privilege is threatened by progressive cultural forces and regressive economic ones. His thinking may appear indecisive and feeble, but these traits disguise a sturdy fatalism, which reflects the essentialism it appears to reject.

These ideas turned out to be premonitions of Nazi political terror, the ghettos and, ultimately, the mass murder of the Holocaust. Mystics, of course, cannot see the future. But they can, like other political actors, will it into being with their ideas and actions. In the writings of figures such as Blavatsky, spiritual fixes to an impoverished inner life readily merged with deathly fantasies about who was ruining the outer world. The same sleights of hand are rife among a new crop of mystics that hawk their ideas on social media. Questions about truth become musings on an elite cabal; ‘toxins’ offer a ready metaphor for immigrants, and followers are urged to become “spiritual leaders”. The purveyors of these ideas promise a gnostic awakening, the ability to transcend an unsatisfying existence of ignorance and misery. But in the calls to ‘wake up’, ‘lift the veil and ‘do your research’ can be heard the echoes of a great calamity.


Posted by Elvis on 02/16/23 •
Section Dying America • Section Fascism • Section Spiritual Diversions
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