How's that High-Vibration Light-Worker with Powerful Luminosity Workin' Out for Ya?
In my view -- and for my purposes -- it presents something like a master key for the interpretation of history. In fact, I would probably push the evidence further than does the more sober Landes. However, at the same time, I am very suspicious of just how much it does explain, for a theory that explains everything has explained nothing. Landes, who is aware of this, recalls presenting a paper, and a participant asking "What does this not explain?" Or, in scientific parlance, "What evidence can falsify your claims?"
Most history focuses upon -- and loses itself in -- a mere chronicle of outward events. But I am particularly interested in the invisible interior of history, or what one might call the "collective cosmic interior."
This is ironic, because postmodern multiculturalists like to pretend that this is their bailiwick, but they view the subject in a hopelessly uncritical manner; for the moment one says there are no bad or immoral cultures, one has rendered thinking inoperative. Not only that, but multiculturalists are infamously prone to the spiritual disease of "anti-America right or wrong."
One virtue of Landes' book is that he is an equal-opportunity critic. Somewhat like The Simpsons, everyone is in for ridicule, for it seems that everyone has "millennial tendencies." We all know that religions tend to be built around millennial dreams and fantasies, but even worse are the secular millennialists, since they are under the illusion that they are "rational."
But nothing is more dangerous than the millennial movement that wraps itself in reason, beginning with the French Revolution and then playing out in Marxism, communism, and the ubiquitous liberal Cult of Expertise (consisting of gifted people who have never met you, and yet, Know Better how to run your life).
(Interestingly, Landes notes that the main feature distinguishing communism from fascism is not the results -- which are so similar -- but the fact that the latter rejects modernity and grounds itself in romanticism rather than a pretense of science -- blood, soil, will, volk, etc. Thus, the 60s generation was and is more fascist than communist; its superficial scientism is always in the service of its deep romanticism).
One has only to look at the bizarre behavior and apocalyptic rhetoric of Al Gore to see the process in action. Or -- and we will be discussing this in much more detail -- the millennial hopes that rode Obama until that feeble horse collapsed in the dust. In point of fact, it is the other way around: the millennial dream is always in the saddle, and we are being ridden. We are the ones the millennial script is always waiting for.
One reason the book will be controversial is that it presents a frontal challenge to "positivist notions about the clear division between secular and religious phenomena" (Landes).
Also, Landes is aware of the fact that any imaginative "lumper" such as himself can and will be picked apart by hyper-critical and anal-obsessive academic "splitters," because that is what splitters do: toss cold water on forest fliers. Such professional myopics habitually confuse the limits of their thinking with the countours of reality, and therefore "objectivize their own limitations" (Schuon). (That's my bobnoxious opinion, not Landes'.)
One of the questions we will be addressing in this series of posts is why people seem to be built in this way, foolishly but repeatedly expecting messianic saviors, dramatic transformations in human nature, a new world order in which the powerless become the powerful, and the attainment of paradise on earth.
Surprisingly, nowhere in the book does Landes even speculate on the ultimate source of this odd behavior. Which is actually quite admirable, since he is an historian and doesn't pretend to be a psychologist or anthropologist (although he is insanely well read; I cannot recall reading a book with such a breadth and depth of sources, from left to right and center to fringe).
Landes does, however, present a number of working hypotheses, including the idea "that the emotional drives that underlie perfectionist social thinking, whether secular or religious, whether monotheist or polytheist or a-theist, share important dynamics."
Another important feature is that these movements are by definition doomed to failure, which results in an "apocalyptic curve," from "inebriating acceleration out of, and disorienting free-fall back into, 'normal time.'" But this is the most dangerous moment of the curve, that is, when the leaders must deal with "the terrible disappointment in realizing their expectations [have] failed."
For this is when the millennial movement, in order to preserve its newly won power, turns to violence, demonization, and improvisational "apocalyptic mind jazz" in order to keep itself going. In a generally non-violent political culture such as ours, this is when the bullshit really starts flying. "The stimulus wasn't big enough!" "My opponents are terrorists!" "The racists ate my homework!"
As Landes describes them, millennial movements are relatively bloodless as they ascend to power. Even Hitler did so through legitimate channels, and the communist revolution was no more bloody than the average. The real mayhem begins when failure is apparent -- when paradise is not at hand, the eschaton fails to arrive, and human beings are the same greedy, envious, petty, and narcissistic rascals they've always been. More on this dreary pattern later on.
Landes doesn't get into it -- perhaps too hot to handle for a member of academia -- but I don't think there's any doubt that Obama rode in on a wave of millennial hopes and dreams. In fact, it is almost as if he were aware of millennial dynamics, and consciously strove to trigger and exploit them in the masses.
Consider his '08 campaign speeches, which were otherwise content free, and yet, had a hypnotic effect which his supporters were not shy in acknowledging. Deepak described Obama in literally messianic terms, as a "quantum leap" in human evolution, and a columnist in San Francisco described him as a wondrous "light worker."
And Obama wasn't the least bit hesitant to accept the messianic mantle. People have ascribed this to his narcissism, but if Landes is correct -- and I believe he is -- there was something much deeper going on, i.e., much deeper than garden variety clinical pathology. After all, it really doesn't explain anything to point out that Mao, or Castro, or Lenin were narcissists, especially since Churchill and Roosevelt were probably narcissists as well.
Here is an example of straight up millennialism: "generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth."
To track down that quote, I stumbled upon this interesting looking blog which is quite to the point: Is Barack Obama the Messiah? Look at some of the quotes in the sidebar: Obama is
"A Lightworker -- An Attuned Being with Powerful Luminosity and High-Vibration Integrity who will actually help usher in a New Way of Being" (that was from the above-noted SF columnist).
--"We're here to evolve to a higher plane... he is an evolved leader... [he] has an ear for eloquence and a Tongue dipped in the Unvarnished Truth" (Oprah Winfrey).
--"Barack Obama is our collective representation of our purest hopes, our highest visions and our deepest knowings.... He's our product out of the all-knowing quantum field of intelligence" (Eve Konstantine).
--"He is not operating on the same plane as ordinary politicians... the agent of transformation in an age of revolution, as a figure uniquely qualified to open the door to the 21st century" (Gary Hart).
--"This is bigger than Kennedy.... This is the New Testament" (Tingles Matthews).
--"Obama's finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don't even really inspire. They elevate.... He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh.... Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves" (Ezra Klein).
The question is, what makes people believe and say such crazy things? What is the nature of this insanity? Are they "just" crazy, or stupid, or drunk? Again, such explanations, although emotionally satisfying, are far too facile. This is a different kind of madness, and it seems to be part of our standard equipment.