Part Seven: Responding to New Age Conspiracists
Who is he, who even were truth on his tongue, his way of speaking it would make truth almost as offensive as falsehood? – Herman Melville
A fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. – Winston Churchill
In America the legacy of violent crusading is channeled through our unique emphasis on individualism, and, I would add, our narcissism: What is true for me, what saved my soul, is necessarily true for you as well, and it would save your soul as well. You should believe what I believe. This is the potent, underlying assumption of all religious proselytizers, because it serves to cover up their own ambivalence and anxiety. In other words, if they can convince you to accept Jesus (or Q), their own beliefs are validated.
Remembering Hillman: we are all psychologically Christian. This also explains the rigidity behind some of our secular disputes. The examples in middle class consumer culture are endless: clothing styles, therapy or exercise styles, doctors or healing modalities – and especially diet. What helped me with my problem would help you with your problem. Am I exaggerating? Consider your last Thanksgiving dinner conversation with a vegan relative you hadn’t seen in years, or if you prefer, an advocate of the paleo diet. When believers suggest — a little too often — that you would be better off converting to their way of thinking, this is a form of fanaticism. And it can only exist in a monotheistic universe where we assume only one correct way to be, and taken to its logical conclusion, it becomes jihad, or crusade. Ironically, fanatic derives from fanum (“temple, shrine, consecrated place”).
I’ve been suggesting that critical thinking, or discrimination is the key. Not in the monotheistic sense that divides the chosen from the fallen, but discrimination in the Buddhist sense of clear comprehension of reality. So I’ve devised a somewhat poetic response to discrimination-challenged NACs:
1 – Admit that we are all gatekeepers. In 2005, Stephen Colbert coined the word “truthiness.” He said, “We’re not talking about the truth; we’re talking about something that seems like truth — the truth we want to exist.” No matter how far out on the margins anyone is, there is always someone further out, and we each determine where the boundaries are. Behind the justifiable but still monotheistic hunger for Truth, we find a deeper but smaller truth, the Pagan wisdom that there is no Truth, only various truths. Or, as the great physicist Niels Bohr said: “The opposite of a correct statement is a falsehood, but the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”
2 – Believe nothing; entertain possibilities. Thanks to Caroline Casey for this insight. We are talking about stories that could be true, or not. Like all myths, they are stories we tell about other people but which in fact – always – are about ourselves. We project the stories we need to hear about ourselves onto celebrities (our substitutes for the pagan gods), or upon the shadow of celebrity, those who will not reveal their identities, or those who claim to have knowledge of the shadows. Only in our demythologized age, when myths no longer serve the deep needs of the soul, do stories about truth become concretized, literalized into affirmations of belief. Indigenous people who are still held in living mythologies and rituals understand that stories are meant to provoke increasingly deeper questions, to drop us into the work of the soul, not to provide simplistic answers. “That is how he grows,” says Rilke, “by being defeated, decisively, by constantly greater beings.” Stories are meant to entertain us. As I write in Chapter Ten:
Our primary leisure activity is entertainment, being passively entertained. Certainly, we deserve relaxation and restoration. But why does it seem so unrewarding; and despite this, why do we constantly repeat the experience, as if something might change and our longing be fulfilled?
Entertain means “to hold together.” But what does “together” refer to, subject or object? Two or more subjects can hold something in common. Or, one subject could hold two or more objects. Finally, a community, several subjects, could hold mutually exclusive concepts – the tension of the opposites – in a ritual container such as tragic drama, and suffer together. I suggest that the original meaning of entertainment was ritual renewal of the community though shared suffering. (Ancient) Athenian audiences did exactly that; viewing the clash of unbearable contradictions, they held that tension and wept together. They emerged spent but renewed, purged of their anxieties for a while.
3 – Follow the money. In searching for truths in America one’s first question must always be Cui bono? – Who profits? Other ways to frame it would be: Does this theory come from the bottom up or from the top down? Whom does it serve? Does it merely appear to come from the bottom up? If you are getting your political information from “wellness influencers” are they also selling stuff on their websites?
Anchoring ourselves in this perspective, we automatically align ourselves with the masses of suffering humanity. Then it becomes easy to see that behind most so-called “populist” movements of the Right are some very wealthy people. Quite simply, there would be no Tea Party – and hence, no Trumpus presidency or QAnon – without the massive infusions of money provided by the Koch brothers and other billionaires.
To take their bait, once such sponsors are revealed, and still accept the proposition that the mega-rich have anything in common with these people besides their racism is to lack any discrimination. But to accept the challenge to discriminate, it becomes possible to realize that the only Deep State that Trumpus is trying to destroy are agencies that regulate his friends’ businesses.
4 – Judge a tree by its fruit. Even if at this late date you still harbor notions that Trumpus is out to destroy the Deep State, just consider the scoundrels he has always surrounded himself with, from his original mentor Roy Cohn to New York and Russian mobsters to the corrupt bankers and anti-regulators dedicated to serving Big Business. For a while, David Icke’s website featured a banner reading, “President Trump needs your help. Sign the petition to build the wall!”
To judge what the tree really thinks, look at what other trees think of it. During the 2018 Florida Gubernatorial campaign, the Republican Ron DeSantis made outrageous public statements but denied their obvious racist nature in debates with the Democrat Andrew Gillum, who countered with:
…he’s got neo-Nazis helping him out in the state. He has spoken at racist conferences…I’m not calling Mr. Desantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.
Similarly, it doesn’t matter if Icke purports to hold certain progressive views; anti-Semites love him, and that’s all we ought to know.
5 – Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Just as there is no overarching, grand Truth, no one is perfect except for the archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, and this is the source of the cult of celebrity which so characterizes our age.
So we can’t expect our purveyors of information to precisely share our versions of reality. At the same time, a certain general consistency in philosophy ought to produce general consistency in specific views. Consider Rand Paul, who occasionally criticizes America’s imperial wars from the libertarian perspective, but who would also ban all abortions. Can someone favor banning a woman’s freedom of choice – choice! – and still claim that they love freedom? Or is that freedom simply freedom from taxes? It’s all about discrimination.
Of course, elements within the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the 9-11 attacks, but that doesn’t mean that they take their orders from Reptile people. The fact that Alex Jones questions the official narrative – or that he gives Dr. Andrew Wakefield airtime opportunities to respond to his “debunkers” is no reason to believe other claims of his (Film of the Moon landings were faked! Democrats and Communists plot “white genocide” attacks!) Jones’ major product, like that of all right-wing conspiracy theorists from the early Puritans to Tucker Carlson, is fear. And his major cures range from scapegoating Black people to nutritional supplements and gold investments (follow that money again).
6 – People do cruel things because they are cruel, sick – and, ultimately, traumatized – people, not as representatives of racial or ethnic groups. Life is hard because rich people want to be even richer, and they don’t care about you. All mass shooters act on their own, even if the vast majority of them are white males with similar, right-wing views. This was true long before QAnon, and it’s true now. And it’s all about white privilege.
At this point, my good-hearted friend will ask, “What about George Soros?” His name is often at the center of the connect-the-dots charts, which emphasize his Jewish identity first and his billionaire status second. My friend has probably never heard of Jewish right-wing billionaires such as Paul Singer, Bernard Marcus or Sheldon Adelson, who just gave Trumpus another $75 million. Nor does he realize that the Soros narrative – and the huge uptick in worldwide anti-Semitism associated with it – was created by two long-time Republican (and, yes, Jewish) dirty tricksters, who ironically were also advisors to Benjamin Netanyahu. You can’t make this stuff up.
7 – The Lyndon Johnson trick in reverse, as told by Hunter S. Thompson:
…(in) one of Lyndon Johnson’s early campaigns in Texas. The race was close and Johnson was getting worried. Finally he told his campaign manager to start a massive rumor campaign about his opponent’s life-long habit of enjoying carnal knowledge of his own barnyard sows. “Christ, we can’t get away calling him a pig-fucker,” the campaign manager protested. “Nobody’s going to believe a thing like that.” “I know,” Johnson replied. “But let’s make the sonofabitch deny it.”
In reversing this tale, we recall the line from Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Do actual non-racists ever have to deny accusations that they are racists.
Trumpus: “I’m the least racist person anybody is going to meet.”
Icke: “I’m one of the least racist people on Earth…”
To be fair, we should note that Icke, unlike Trumpus, has consistently pointed out that he is an anti-Zionist. And this issue drops us back into the false equivalency muck, where Republicans – and, sadly, most elected Democrats – accuse even pacifist critics of Israel of being anti-Semitic and continue to demonize the BDS movement. So, referring back to Andrew Gillum’s statement (“I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist”), we can only ask whether admitted racists consider Icke an ally. In this sense, his own beliefs are irrelevant. And would an articulate anti-Zionist ever have anything whatsoever in common with such a pro-Israeli imperialist as Trumpus?
The only thing that broken clocks have in common with each other are their brokenness.
8 – It’s not my circus, not my monkey. We have to ask ourselves: Do I really need to spend any more time obsessing with this stuff? Is it doing me, my loved ones or the world any good at all? Why am I concerned with global (or inter-galactic) issues over which, admittedly, I have no control, when I could actually have some influence in local issues? And: why would these groups be going to such elaborate and expensive lengths to control the world when to a very great extent, they (as corporate monoliths) already do?
As Jeremy Lent writes, there are in fact corporate conspiracies that we don’t need to explain by reference to reptile people. And the most critical of them all is the heavily funded refusal to acknowledge the threat of climate change and the very real possibility of extinction.
Discriminate! Yes, 5G may be dangerous, because no cellular transmission technologies have been adequately tested – not because evil scientists created it to enhance the coronavirus and justify a one-world government. When you feel that sense of certainty coming on, take a breath.
Certainty is a rigidly mythic position, and opposites are surprisingly similar. To leap from one certainty to another skips the holy ground of uncertainty, of not knowing, of humility, into which genuinely new information can come. What unites the pundits of all persuasions is their certainty. This is not to patronize but to challenge those who cleave to meta-narratives that clearly no longer serve them. In the 20th century we have seen plenty of evidence that those who have done so often reached the depths of profound disillusionment, as in this true story. In archetypal terms, Hillman referred to this experience as betrayal, and he saw it as a prelude to soul-work. Or, as Rumi says:
When school or mosque, tower or minaret get torn down,
Then dervishes may begin their community.
Only when faithfulness turns to betrayal and betrayal into trust
Can any human being become part of the truth.
But betrayal and disillusionment do not necessarily lead to increased self-awareness. Too often, popular culture offers us another attractive meta-narrative or ideology to fill the void. However, at any moment – and New Age people ought to understand this – we can actually choose to disengage ourselves from belief systems and courageously ground ourselves in this post-modern, very uncertain world. Then we can “believe nothing – entertain possibilities.”
Part Eight: Reframing
…he is constantly being squeezed between the world and his idea of the world. Better to have a broken head – why surrender his corner on the truth? Better just to go crazy. – Stephen Dobyns
All things depend on each other. Everything breathes together. – Plotinus
Take a deep breath, feel like you’re choking. Everything is broken. – Bob Dylan
When we encounter betrayal or disillusionment and refuse the opportunity for soul work, we can easily leap from devotion to disgust, as our love-hate relationship with celebrities reveals. But then we are likely to search for a new devotion. It’s been said that there are no more virulent anti-communists than former leftists (Lyndon LaRouche and David Horowitz come to mind), or more vocal anti-Catholics than former Catholics. And if another ideology doesn’t fill the void, substance abuse can be an overwhelming attraction, as in the story I posted above.
If we pay attention – if we can discriminate – we may see that life always presents the need and the opportunity to reframe our obsessions. How do we do that? By looking past the literal to the symbolic. If we survive the era of Trumpus, we may well discover a new meta-narrative. Perhaps it will have something to do with the return of the Goddess, or the Whole Earth, as I speculate in Chapter 12 of my book. But any new story can quickly become yet another belief system.
As we accelerate the return from monotheistic back to pagan thinking, we may discover something entirely different. Rather than connecting the dots to justify our helplessness in a grand narrative of control, we may well begin to pursue mini-narratives in the form of questions, such as: What have I been called to do? What gift must I manifest, without which the world would be less for? What god or goddess did I come here to serve? What is my responsibility to the other world, and to those who come after me?
The year 2020 began with a virus that attacks our ability to breathe and progressed with a grisly murder in which a policeman prevented a Black man from breathing. In California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Colorado, massive forest fires have made it a year in which we all have to struggle to take a healthy breath. We can only breathe together in virtual spaces.
Cultural survival may require us to cook the word “conspire” down to its essence – to breathe together – and then reframe it further, into the Hawaiian ritual of “Ha.” This is a mutual greeting that recognizes and welcomes the Other. Two persons press the bridges of their noses together, inhale and exchange the breath of life. To ancient Hawaiians the breath was the key to good health and possessed mana (spiritual power). On their deathbeds, elders often passed down wisdom to their chosen successors with this ritual. May we all aspire to creating the kind of society that inspires our children rather than condemning them to more of the same.
And we can also reframe the idea of gatekeeper, from one who figuratively stands at the entrance – the threshold – to the world of acceptable discourse, charged with the responsibility of maintaining its borders and deciding who is pure enough to be admitted. In many indigenous societies some people straddle two worlds and mediate between them. Such people, comfortable in liminality, serve the community by guiding people in transition from one state to another. Many Native Americans use the term “two-spirit” to describe persons of unconventional sexual or gender orientation, while in West Africa words describing them actually translate as “gatekeeper.” Sobonfu Somé explains:
Without gatekeepers, there is no access to other worlds…They are mediators between the two genders…There are many gates that link a village to other worlds. The only people who have access to all these gates are the gatekeepers…They have one foot in all the other worlds and other foot here…Without them, the gates to the other world would be shut. On the other side of these gates lies the spirit world…Gatekeepers are in constant communication with beings who live there, who have the ability to teach us how to deal with ritual…Gatekeeping is part of one’s life purpose, announced before birth and developed through rigorous initiatory training to ensure that its power is not misused.
So let’s imagine a culture that invites a return to a ritual relationship with the Earth, with ancestors, with Spirit, with strangers; a culture that perceives the Other not as a threat but as one who arrives bearing gifts; a culture that respects the wisdom of the past but also welcomes the young and those on the margins. Imagine some people being called from birth – from before birth – to heal the divide between worlds so as to welcome the potential of each person, including the potential to re-imagine the world, rather than to exclude those who question inherited Truths. Let’s imagine a world not dominated by the Western, crusading, monotheistic urge to enforce those Truths on others, but one that appreciates these insights from the far East:
Since everything is but an apparition,
Perfect in being what it is, having nothing
to do with good or bad, acceptance or rejection,
One may well burst out in laughter. – Long Chen Pa
If you love the sacred and despise the ordinary,
You are still bobbing on the ocean of delusion. – Lin-Chi
Leave your front door and your back door open.
Allow your thoughts to come and go.
Just don’t serve them tea. – Shunryu Suzuki