Thursday, September 01, 2011

How's that High-Vibration Light-Worker with Powerful Luminosity Workin' Out for Ya?

Part two of the previous post has been completely obviated as a result of my encounter with Richard Landes' new book -- required reading for Raccoons -- Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience. It's pretty much the history book I've been looking for my whole life. I only wish it had been around when I was writing my book, since it tracks perhaps the most important vector of mind parasites: millennial and apocalyptic discourse and behavior.

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.


36 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Oh, this is rich.

And fractal - people are hardwired to fixate this way on small things within their lives just as much as on an external messianic figure. So much so that it's huge business: everything from late night infomercials promising to hold the keys to your personal perfection - finally! - to the popularity of self-help gurus who have the secret to your instant success if you'll just follow these several steps, add water, and don't forget to click your heels together at the end.

Everybody longs for perfection - or more truly, though they rarely know it, for Grace - but very few people want to do the necessary work to allow themselves to be open to that Grace. They just want it to happen, right now, because they want it.

The Millenial tendency, it seems to me, must be based in Truth - much like counterfeit money. But there is no end to the imitators, while there is only one genuine article.

9/01/2011 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...a Tongue dipped in the Unvarnished Truth...

OK, I have written about five obscene responses to this, given that it was said by Oprah (e.g., So, I wonder what Stedman calls it?).

But it's not my fault. "Unvarnished Truth" implies a solid surface, free of covering. How is anybody going to dip a tongue in that? Oprah is a sloppy thinker and a sloppy speaker -- just like her messiah.

9/01/2011 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

It seems to me that the messiah, like the dying god, is an archetype built into our whatever-is-a-less-saturated-word-for-collective-unconscious.

I think, too, that you are correct to give credit to Obama -- or possibly to his handlers -- for recognizing how to package him to fit that messiah-shaped hole in the psyche of the left.

Those of us who already have a perfectly Good Messiah might be a little less susceptible to the pitch.

9/01/2011 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Know why they call him Stedman? Short for Insteadofaman.

9/01/2011 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Hi-ooohh!

9/01/2011 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Oh. And I see I should have read Julie's comment before typing my second one.

9/01/2011 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

"because that is what splitters do: toss cold water on forest fliers."

Brilliant!

Can't wait until you address us apocalyptically inclined types.

9/01/2011 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"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.""

Got that right. Guess what the DOJ of our 'Jobs are Job#1!' President told the CEO of Gibson Guitar, Send your manufacturing jobs to Madagascar.

"It seems that the Department of Justice wasn’t satisfied with merely raiding the law abiding factories of Gibson Guitar with armed agents, shutting down their operation costing them millions, and leaving the American company in the dark as to how to proceed without going out of business.

Now, according to CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, agents of the United States government are bluntly informing them that they’d be better off shipping their manufacturing labor overseas.

CHRIS DANIEL: Mr. Juszkiewicz, did an agent of the US government suggest to you that your problems would go away if you used Madagascar labor instead of American labor?
HENRY JUSZKIEWICZ: They actually wrote that in a pleading.
CHRIS DANIEL: Excuse me?
HENRY JUSKIEWICZ: They actually wrote that it a pleading.
CHRIS DANIEL: That your problems would go away if you used Madagascar labor instead of our labor?
HENRY JUSKIEWICZ: Yes
"

It's tough to follow while your ability to think is still operative, but turn it off with some multi-culti patois, and it's all crystal clear. Jobs are their #1 Priority... it's just that they are anti-American jobs.

Got a Les Paul? Hold on to it (and DON'T travel with it), it's gonna be worth it's weight in gold soon. Which is handy, since the dollar is unlikely to be worth any wait.

9/01/2011 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"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.""

How related do you think that is to the general tendency to assign significance to anniversaries or other 'event' events?

I don't mean the 'stepping out of time' nature of ritual observances, I mean the attitude that because something is going to happen on an anniversary, especially a 5yr,10yr, etc, anniversary, that something is going to make it more significant, something in the event itself will imbue you with an extra ability to be more effective, more determined, more likely to be able to 'change your stars', than say... now.

It's almost like the near mystical power some people (especially Anthony Robbins' types) seem to give to Lists. 'Write down your goals, set up your action plans, read your lists them every morning and explosive abundance is Yours!', as if their lists will become magical talismans and poof your desires into existence.

On the other hand, the possibility that understanding yourself, and thoroughly knowing what your are doing, and why, is pretty much dismissed. Too boring. No events. No lists. Meh.

It always worries & disturbs me when I hear the sounds of the 'eventers'... as you say, "the most dangerous moment of the curve, that is, when the leaders must deal with "the terrible disappointment in realizing their expectations [have] failed", the next morning when they have to face up to the fact that the diet failed, they didn't morph into Super Bob! or whatever... bad juju.

9/01/2011 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"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."

Indeed. Something... something in the way they build it up, upping the rhythm and emphasis, egging each other on to "Yeh... I see it too...!", and the key ingredient seems to be other people nodding along with you, the more the better, it really does remind me of an incantation,

"Eye of Newt, Size of a Mob, The Event's a go now, yob, Yob YOB!!!!"

And intelligence doesn't seem to provide any charm against it, if anything, it makes people more susceptible. If you don't have a a firm grounding in the above, a 'His will be done' rather than "I want this... I can make this happen, if there are enough of us WE can be the ones IT's been waiting for!", people are swept away with it so easily.

Scary.

9/01/2011 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

He goes into that a lot. Details as we go along, but 2076 is looking like a bad year, since it's our 300 and 1500 for the Islamists. An unharmonious convergence.

9/01/2011 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

In reference to your question about anniversaries.

9/01/2011 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "...to the popularity of self-help gurus who have the secret to your instant success if you'll just follow these several steps, add water, and don't forget to click your heels together at the end."

I see similar thoughts were conjured up.

wv says "comons"
Not sure if that means "Commons" or "Come on's", but we'll just have to wait and see. Maybe for an anniversary. Who knows.

9/01/2011 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Mushroom said "I should have read Julie's comment before typing my second one."

Vu ja De.

Gagdad said "...2076 is looking like a bad year, since it's our 300 and 1500 for the Islamists. ..."

2076 eh? I'll leave a note for the Grand kids and thank my lucky stars for my (assumed) early exit... and their lucky stars for having made it that far.

wv:tomip
Who's 'mip'? Messianic VIP?

9/01/2011 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Van said: On the other hand, the possibility that understanding yourself, and thoroughly knowing what your are doing, and why, is pretty much dismissed. Too boring. No events. No lists. Meh.

A lot of the self-help, new-age types point to James Allen's little tract called "As a Man Thinketh" as being foundational to their philosophy. But what I remember Allen saying is that a person does not get what they want; they get what they are.

The context of the verse in Proverbs from which Allen takes his title is exactly that: pay no attention to what people say; it is what they think in their hearts that determines what they are. If people will clean up their inner being, their external circumstances will conform to the state of their hearts.

9/01/2011 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Via Vanderleun's sidebar, this seems apropos: "The Islamic Caliphate as a panacea for the problems caused by Islamic caliphates is about as good an idea as pouring gasoline on a fire."

9/01/2011 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Today's post in other words...

9/01/2011 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ah ha - I knew he was getting close; I was thinking that his Liberal Apocalypse (which Vanderleun also linked today) might be it, but it lacked the right ringtone.

That said, I really hate the portrait in that post ; I remember when you posted it here once, and it is no less painful now. Nor any less fitting, for that matter...

9/01/2011 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Boom! "<a href="http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-liberalism-is-reactionary-ideology.html'>The narrative</a> that liberal pundits have constructed and continually replayed over the last year is one in which progress minded and enlightened liberals are working to reform America into a modern society, while being stymied by a bunch of knuckle dragging reactionary conservatives who are anti-Science and want to drag America back into the dark ages. There's only one problem with this narrative, it's actually a mirror image of reality.

"When it comes to holding on to reactionary ideas or maintaining an ideological worldview built on a reflexive hostility to modernity; nobody can top the modern leftist or his tamer liberal cousin. If you took away leader worship, fear of technology, the state as the solution to all problems, the supremacy of the group over the individual and the belief that the "enlightened" should rule over the common masses for their own good and control every aspect of their lives-- there would be nothing left of the modern liberal. Literally nothing at all.

"Every time a liberal pundit self-righteously trots out the stereotype of the ignorant science bashing conservative who just won't accept the science of the environmentalist movement, he needs to be reminded that the entire environmentalist movement is founded on a fear of the products of science, namely technology and modern civilization...."
(from Vanderleun's sidebar)

9/01/2011 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Bob says:

"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."

It was overall, a pretty weak millennial impulse wave. Obama tapped into it in a very superficial manner.

The weakness of the wave is evident in the manner in which it has basically already collapsed.

I wasn't that worried when he got elected and I'm not that worried now.

He's inert. He won the prize. Now he has absolutely no idea what to do with it.

He's kind of just sitting there, like a deer in headlights.

No real passion. Which is a very good thing.

9/01/2011 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Link.

9/01/2011 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

1000 was a pretty good year for civilization.

9/01/2011 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

:D
Obviously, I skimmed through too fast...

9/01/2011 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

(Oh - or not; my earlier comment was in reference to his earlier link; some days, it's hard to keep up...)

9/01/2011 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Dear Bob,

Excellent post. And I am happy you are linking to Sultan Knish.

For the millenarian origins of socialism, I recommend The Socialist Phenomenon by igor Shafarevich. At times he seems to posit an actual organizational continuity between ancient socialisms, the Brotherhood of the Free Spirit, and the later development of political socialisms, and I do not find that convincing, but his sketch of the intellectual history of the socialist idea is very helpful.

May I also recommend Norman Cohn's Pursuit of the Millenium, which discusses the medieval millenarianisms and some of the extreme phenomena that accompanied the Reformation(e.g. in Jan Bockelson's Muenster) - connecting them intellectually to XXth century fascism and Nazism. he omits communism, if I recall correctly.

I find Landes's distinction between fascism and communism interesting. Both represent statist, centrally controlled economies, but they do have different ways of organizing things.

Millenarianism has complicated the Jewish tradition at several pooints, notably the early jewish-Christian movement, and then of course with Sabbateanism.

Perhaps you will want to discuss how the Church has avoided the millenarian temptation despite the fervently hoped for deliverance at the eschaton.

The most hellish hells on earth have certainly been those created by men who sought to "immanentize the eschaton" and force into being a heaven-on-earth.

Gandalin

9/01/2011 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

"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)."

As Van would say... << gong >>

This is a particularly interesting and a sometimes gnarly set of issues. I think I know something about it and then it seems I know very little. It seems like I'm lost and found on it on a rotating basis. Er hemm... reading on. And I'm interested!

9/01/2011 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

"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."

This hit me, too. I run into that a lot. People try to reprove me for relating things (as a mode in general) rather than sticking to narrow analytical tracks. Even though I understand the underlying factors, it still tends to catch me off guard.

wv says, strikingly: anialy

9/01/2011 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger Alan McCann said...

An odd coincidence - Dennis Prager had on Ian Plimer - author of Heaven AND Earth: Global warming and the missing science today (ok, yesterday - but it was the same morning Bob wrote this post).

9/02/2011 01:15:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

It's Friday now, when all good raccoons celebrate finding beer in their picnic basket.

Cheers!

9/02/2011 05:00:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

That's the magic of beer - from crawling on all fours, to running on two. Of course... it usually works the other way around, but... there ya go.

I've had that .gif running on the side for about 5 min now, hilarious!

9/02/2011 05:37:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Awesome, Joan. He looks like a leaping lemur towards the end, there :)

9/02/2011 07:31:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Now I know how to keep them from raiding the cat food.

9/02/2011 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger C A W said...

Funny you should mention Churchill.

That he was crucial in defeating Hitler will always be a righteous source of pride for his legacy.

The sacrifices of the Russian people in defeating Hitler will always be a righteous source of pride for them.

BUT...

The Red Army engaged in wanton rape and plunder in Easter Europe and in the defeated Berlin, a practice which was sanctioned all the way from the top. To paraphrase, Stalin said something like: "Oh, these guys work hard, give them a break!"

AND...

Winston Churchill's politics towards India during World War II was, with its manmade and intentional famine, every bit as genocidal as Stalin's politics towards the Ukraine. If you wish to learn more, please read:

Muskerjee, Madhusree ; Churchill’s Secret War - The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II.

I tell you this, because you need a fuller and more rounded picture of the people you idolize. Sometimes I feel your moving to the right in politics is just a way to embrace the status quo, which surely is an easy stance to take, and a way to take the brunt off caused by your youthful radicalism. Ah, well!

9/06/2011 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

All I said about Churchill is that he was probably a narcissist. Do you disagree?

9/06/2011 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger C A W said...

I do not disagree that Chuchill was probably a narcissist. The way you positioned him in your text, I interpreted it like you saw in him an instrument of God's will on Earth, as you seem to do with, among others, Abraham Lincoln.

9/07/2011 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Impossible to say. Aurobindo certainly thought so, for what it's worth.

It's a bit too easy to read back into history from the perspective of knowing what happened, so there are not too many people I would nominate as having clearly had world-historical missions. George Washington would be one.

Churchill was obviously a seriously flawed man, but it is difficult to think of anyone else who could have used rhetoric the way he did, to rally the country and hold off the Nazis until America's involvement. I wasn't aware of the magnitude of the famine, but an important point to bear in mind is what would have happened to India had Japan or Germany won the war. This was uppermost in Aurobindo's mind, since there were more than a few pro-Axis Indians, due to their antipathy toward the British.

9/07/2011 07:30:00 PM  

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