The echoes of the past that today’s intelligentsia probably don’t want you to think about

My brother had to sit through another contextual studies lecture at university, this time he was introduced part 1 of a four part documentary series by Adam Curtis entitled “Century of Self”, which is all about how the thinks the idea of a consuming self was manufactured by society, and last night he invited me to watch it because he wanted to see what I thought of it. And let me just say something up front: I personally detest Alan Curtis. I think of him as someone who trades in sophistry and generates a living from it (does that Nixon documentary he aired on Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe ring a bell?). Weirdly enough it’s not so much that the documentary I’m talking about is based on complete lies – there is factual content to be found within the documentary – but Curtis’ argument is also misleading in that he presents half-truths alongside otherwise factual information. But the documentary also provides a fascinating window into a historical parallel to the political travails of the current era.

This film (which is subtitled “Happiness Machines”) centers around the exploits of a man named Edward Bernays, an advertiser, propagandist and innovator in the realm of public relations during the 20th century, and how according to Curtis he was responsible for the creation of modern consumer culture. Right away I have a problem with the essential premise. According to the film, Bernays seemed to view humans as passive consumers who are ruled by drives that they cannot control (he even seemed to view the masses as stupid), and that by satiating their desires they can be controlled, deriving his theory from Freud’s theory of the unconscious. But strangely enough the film often makes it seem like Bernays is responsible for implanting desires into peoples’ heads that they didn’t have before, and that this is where today’s consumer culture comes from. But it seems to me that all Bernays did was exploit desires that were already there and do what we already know advertisers do today – take a desire that already exists, and appeal to that desire and convince people to follow that desire via persuasion.

I had a similar discussion in a dissertation-themed contextual studies lecture once when one of the speakers talked to us about advertising and subliminal messaging – he argued that we are driven to want something that we otherwise wouldn’t through carefully crafted imagery, while I pointed out that many of the drives being exploited via advertising – lust, envy, hunger etc – are already present in the human condition. All the advertisers do is find a way to titillate them in order to achieve the outcome of consumption. It’s not exactly brainwashing in the strictest sense. The film makes it seem like corporations and politicians create desires, but desires are not created by others. They already exist, just that they can be awoken through the power of suggestion. And man’s desires and needs are part of a hierarchy – we don’t just pursue only what we need, and then have to be conditioned into wanting more. Once we have the lower parts of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs fulfilled, we can pursue other desires, like the desire for self-improvement for instance. Hell, I’d argue that even the basic needs spring from one desire in particular – the desire for self-preservation. After all, if we didn’t want to stay alive, we would we bother killing animals for food, building shelters or fires for warmth, drinking water or even sleeping, and if we didn’t want to continue a line of succession for the species, why would we procreate?

The film seems to present Bernays as responsible for getting people to trade stocks, pushing what would become the first department store, convincing women to smoke and getting an entire generation of Americans to believe in the magic of the free market. And this guy claims he’s not a leftist. For starters, the idea of a market where people trade in stocks or bonds has been around for centuries, dating back to at least the 17th century via the East India company, and the New York Stock Exchange we know it has been around since 1817. Also the first department store was established in 1858 and the idea that begun to spread before the 1920’s, free market capitalism has a long history, the ideological formations of which dating back to the likes of Adam Smith, and women have been smoking for centuries (though there may have been a social taboo surrounding it). And you can find most of that out with only a couple seconds or a minute on Google. It’s not great that you can find flaws in Curtis’ case so easily.

Apparently, at some point during the 20th century, confidence in the idea of democracy was weakening. It was increasingly believed that Man was incapable of making informed, rational decisions, was dominated by unseen and dangerous unconscious forces, and because of that Man was by nature an “unrational” being and needed to be controlled. Bizzarely enough the Russian Revolution, which happened in 1917, was seen as evidence by the media class of the day, who were according to Curtis influenced by the pessimistic view of human nature held by Sigmund Freud, that Western democracy needed to be challenged because of the mob mentality that erupted in Russia was proof that humans could not make rational decisions, seemingly invalidating a key principle of democracy, despite the fact that Tsarist Russia was both an autocracy and an empire – the opposite of the kind of republican democracy envisioned in the United States of America. Of course, not that the Soviet Russia that succeeded it was any better (in fact, arguably it was somehow worse). Bernays’ daughter Anne recounts who her father felt that democracy could not be trusted because he couldn’t trust “all those publics” to make the right judgement and not vote for the wrong person or have the wrong desires, which sounds like what the Remoaners were saying after they lost the Brexit vote. Are you beginning to feel like you’re in familiar territory yet?

A contemporary of Bernays, a political thinker by the name of Walter Lippmann, advocated for the concept of an elite group of people to manage democracy on behalf of the people and control their opinions through communication and media. Apparently he too was influenced by Freud and was interesting in psychological persuasion techniques, like those of Bernays, to convince the people that what Lippmann’s elites said was true, one of the methods of which was to form a “barrier between the public and the event” thereby allowing for the manipulation of information for public consumption. Well fuck me if that doesn’t sound like the mainstream media we have now. Oh and by the way, Lippmann also happened to be an advocate for socialism, and he was a member of various socialist groups including the Socialist Party of America. And isn’t that just magical? A socialist intellectual arguing for an elite, aristocratic class to stand above the people? Why is that relevant you might ask? Because it sounds a lot like the thought process behind the conception of the idea of the European Union before World War II and the actual foundation of what would become the European Union afterwards. Before World War II there was The United States of Europe, a paper released by Arthur Salter which documented his vision of supranational governing entity to govern the nations of Europe. After the war, Monnet, another leftist (not a died-in-the-wool socialist, but a consistent supporter of the French Socialist party), paved the way for federalism by working to pool economic resources into what would become the European Union, which over the years would grow from a supranational economic power, to a full-blown supranational political one with its own anthem, treasury, borders and the ability to override the will of its member states, managed by an elite technocratic class who cannot be elected or ousted democratically and obsessively and single-mindedly march toward the fruition of their “European project”. It’s like a billion-piece jigsaw puzzle suddenly falling into place, to quote Dave Lister in Red Dwarf, as if I needed another reason to despise the American, British and European left.

Bernays apparently felt like they had to guided from above (like in conventional religion, much?), believing in an “enlightened despotism”. Which, honestly, sounds a fucking lot like Bob “MovieBob” Chipman’s Twitter feed, a Guardian column about Internet “hate speech” or every filum of technocratic, anti-democratic dribble spewed from the leaders of the European Union. Assuming this is true, then we have a modern media and so-called liberal class that is full of people who follow the doctrine of Edward Bernays to this day. For today’s progressives and “liberals”, you can’t trust humans to think for themselves and you can’t trust them to be active citizens in a democracy, democracy doesn’t mean anything if they don’t vote the right way, so you have to convince them through propaganda to vote the right way or else the end of civilization as we know it is inevitable. That, my friends, is the philosophy that our political class follows today.

Apparently there was talk of the idea that, because Man is unrational and driven by unconscious desires and needed to be controlled because of it, a leader could ascend to power by taking the deepest fears and deepest desires of a subject or a citizen and appeal to those desires and use them to your own purposes. When I saw that with my brother I thought “this sounds like naked demagoguery” – demagoguery being when someone neither uses conventional reason nor speaks truth to power, instead cynically manipulating deep-seated longings and even prejudices in order to ascend to power – and this is what every Guardianista, every Clintonite and every modern leftist think that the likes of Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and the European far-right are doing, to the point that I honestly ask myself, how come the former are not ardent supporters of the latter?  If they truly believed that Donald Trump existed solely to give . Oh that’s right, because Hillary was the one actually doing this. Using sentimental slogans (Stronger Together anyone?; by the way, the Remain camp called and they want their originality back) and appealing to the vapid political and social climate of the day (for fuck’s sake she even had selfies taken of her as part of her campaign) rather than honestly addressing the issues outside of towing the Democratic party line. And that’s not getting into her corporate backing or the numerous wrongdoings that are now out in the open for all to see.

Or maybe it’s not because of Hillary. Maybe it’s because the media is the one decided what the terms are for being a demagogue. Someone speaking truth to power on anything, to those people, whilst going against the established order of things is a demagogue to those people. Either that, or it’s their job to make you believe that this is the case – which, let’s be honest, it is!

By the way, if you want to see what an actual demagogue looks like in my country, consult Owen Jones’ speech at an NUS rally circa November 19th 2016.

Getting back to the point, we also have Sigmund Freud coming out with his own take on civilization, which he felt was not an expression of human progress but instead nothing more than a necessary cage for human passions that would otherwise become dangerous. Apparently Freud felt that humans constantly needed to be controlled, and freedom of self-expression was impossible because it would bring about destruction. The implication is, thus, that humans are incapable of controlling themselves and constantly need to be guided by someone else. The problem I have with this is that this is not the proper remit of a government. It is true that humans can’t contain the savagery of a lawless state of affairs on their own, try as they might, and there is the need to outsource the need for security and stability to a larger body of power (hence, government). But a law enforcement can usually only contain savagery and criminality after the fact, they cannot and should control the passions of a citizenry. The onus is on individuals to at least attempt to control their own passions. Otherwise, if you want to live in a Demolition Man or Minority Report style world then go ahead – enjoy governments that act on the thoughts, feelings and desires of others rather than on actions and real issues and actively attempt to control or outright police them at the expense of your own freedom – but I would rather not. And the idea that civilization doesn’t bring content? Sounds like something I actually used to believe not too long ago, but now recognize as bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, modern civilization has its problems and can be a limiting force on the human spirit, but the idea that civilization doesn’t bring content or progress can be refuted by literally any technological and economic advancement that has ever been made in any civilization in the realms of not just entertainment, but also medicine, security and raising the standards of living. Anyone who actually believes that people aren’t happier living in a civilized society than otherwise should spend sometime in the pure state of nature, divorced from civilization and its benefits, and then see if that makes you much happier (I’m looking squarely at the anarcho-primitivists).

Let me tell you, I find the central premise of Lippmann and Freud’s assessment of human nature and democracy and their proposed solutions to both to be ultimately insensible. Don’t get me wrong I am apprised of the fact that there is indeed the innate capacity for savagery within the human species, and the fact that human history with resplendent with accounts of violence, war and mayhem, whether it’s in the name of either God (or the gods), a higher set of ideals or simply perceived self-interest. But I am also apprised of the underrated capacity for what others might call humanity. We are, at least in part, social animals. One of the key aspects of our survival as a species is the ability and willingness to cooperate with each other to achieve a desired goal, in fact I am willing enough to concede that certain fundamental aspects of our civilization is probably doomed without it. But more importantly I’d like you to just ponder for a moment: if we are all irrational, all eternally guided by unconscious forces and we are in no position to control ourselves, then who is? Who is enlightened compared to the rest of us beasts? Who then is fit to control us besides the strong, and the next strongest after him? What is the guarantee that the philosopher kings that Lippmann and his modern inheritors (like the EU and MovieBob) advocate for aren’t going to be exactly as irrational and beastlike as the rest of us? If we are not without sin by dint of our very humanity, why are they without sin, and how is that decided? This is why I don’t like the benevolent dictatorship concept. Not simply because at the end of the day it’s still a dictatorship, but because I don’t trust the dictator be benevolent, especially given that human history is also resplendent with the fallibility or outright corruption and even despotism of its leaders and elites. And ultimately, these people, whilst holding us as utterly savage and as falling short of their ideal of a rational human, hold that the solution is to controlled by an elite class who they expect us to believe will not be more savage than us.

Case in point, we get to how the Nazis seemed to take the ideas of Bernays and the growing despair about democracy and ran with it, blaming democracy and capitalism for economic decline and unemployment and that by sacrificing individual liberty and giving up the will of the people to a totally centralized state under National Socialism. You see, the 1930’s was a time that began fresh off the heels of the Great Depression, and this caused people to lose faith in both democracy and capitalism. At the same time eugenics was a part of popular ideology and was seen as desirable, while fascism was a growing ideology that was gaining some support, including in UK (with British Union of Fascists), Japan (with the rise of extreme militant nationalism) Spain (the rise of fascist groups such as Falange) and Italy (with the rise of Mussolini). Nazi Germany thus can be understood as an unfortunate of its time – a time were desperation and a crisis of confidence in democracy led people to genuine political extremism (unlike the modern populist wave that is still being spun as political extremism). And guess who admired Bernays’ work and used it to build the foundations of his own propaganda campaign? None other than Joseph Goebbels. He kept Bernays’ books in his personal library and studied them attentively, despite the fact that Bernays himself was a Jew and Goebbels a Nazi (not that the Nazis didn’t believe that Jews could collaborate with the Nazi regime, of course). From there, the Nazis aggressively propagandized the German people to accept the rule of a political elite with complete control over German society that would eventually destroy anyone it deemed undesirable.

For a party that embraced the idea that democracy threatened to reek destruction upon society, we all know the barbarism they inflicted on Germany and the nations it conquered in pursuit of its ideological goals. Just think about it: the Nazi Party wanted to save the German people from the “irrational” power of selfish individualism and the destruction it was perceived as causing by inflicting an irrational totalitarian regime upon the German people and liquidating people on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexuality and political opinion? This, though it is an extreme example, is a demonstration of why I find the Lippman and Bernays way of thinking to be internally inconsistent. For an influential political intellectual and a talented propagandist, they were both fools.

And you know what I find unbelievable? If Curtis was correct then we must come to the conclusion that the Second World War traumatized the entire world, with the Western world particularly troubled by the horrors inflicted by Nazi Germany, and yet the Western World has somehow managed to convince itself that the path to saving itself from repeating those horrors is by applying the same philosophy of propaganda, and the worldview that accompanied it, that the Nazis via Joseph Goebbels built on and utilized in order to convince the German populace that democracy needed to be discarded, the state needed absolute control of public life and that Jews, non-Aryan Europeans, gays, political opponents and other “untermensch” needed to be exterminated. That is nothing short of the grandest folly that the Western world has ever imbibed in, grander even than the phenomenon of political correctness and cultural Marxism we are seeing today, itself still carried forward by the doctrine of propaganda. Among the clear lessons of World War II is not that there is a dangerous force within humanity that must be controlled at all costs, but that some of worst horrors in human history were incited by the propaganda that men like Bernays and Lippmann thought were instrumental in subduing the irrational powers that caused them!

Yet here we are, living in an age where the mainstream media in the Western world can lie to your face in order to try and control what you think, and now outright browbeating the people with the causes of activist journalists, and Western leaders view the solution to the world’s ills as being more centralized control over the lives and minds of their citizens. And at the vanguard of this is the modern “liberal” left, who have been supporting a propagandist media, corporatist politicians, authoritarianism, and social engineering and they been in the business of propaganda through the media and through universities in order to disseminate their ideology.

The connection between all of us is the zeitgeist of Bernays’ and Lippmann’s time – the zeitgeist where Freud’s view of human nature has been taken as the basis of a worldview that holds that human beings must be controlled by a higher societal force in the form of an elite class that will propagandize them by manipulating their emotions and desires, because they thought humans could not be trusted to make rational decisions –  a view that, if Curtis is right, was discredited by the rise of scientific political polling. The rise of fascism in the 1930’s sprung out of this zeitgeist, and the modern antipathy towards democracy among the progressives echoes it. For all the sophistry that’s sometimes scattered throughout the film, there is a valuable window of insight into a historical parallel, if not a historical root, to some of the modern travails of our political climate.

Fuck Edward Bernays, fuck Walter Lippmann and fuck the modern inheritors of their way of thinking.

Now I would like to address the people who took the side of the mainstream media, social media, popular groupthink and the ideological agendas that they supported: you are all fools. You have been misguided by an elite class that, despite demonstrable failure in its worldview in the past, continues to follow the doctrine of Bernays, Lippman and Goebells whilst actually believing that this will prevent fascism from claiming the world within our lifetime. The only chance you have of escaping the cycle of history is to reject the mainstream media, cut yourself off from the zeitgeist of social media and the corporate culture that lingers over it, free your mind from the boundaries of herd mentality and think for yourself. And the only chance mankind as a whole has of becoming free from this is if those of us who succeed in doing this learn to spread this authentic free thinking to others as best they can without force.

Edward Bernays (left), Walter Lippmann (middle) and Joseph Goebbells (right)

Edward Bernays (left), Walter Lippmann (middle) and Joseph Goebbells (right)


If you actually want to see the documentary here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DotBVZ26asI

The discrediting of the media

Well, that’s it. I guess we’re all Nazis now. You, me, everyone. We’re all Nazis because at some point in our lives we looked at footage of Adolf Hitler giving a speech somewhere. That’s what the Wall Street Journal seems to have implied with their hit piece against a world-famous YouTube star called Felix Kjellberg (a.k.a. PewDiePie). And yes, unfortunately we’re at a point where I’m talking about him, even though before hand I never gave too much of a shit about him. Only I’m not talking about PewDiePie himself per se, but rather the shitshow that has resulted from a joke he made that was deemed to be anti-Semitic, or jokes he made that involved references to Nazism.

The thing is, that’s all they were. Jokes. It was a kind of edgy but ultimately silly form of comedy. Otherwise, he has no known affiliation with any anti-Semitic movements. But it was on the basis of some jokes and some comedy that he got labelled a Nazi by the mainstream media. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, Salon, Vox, lots of mainstream media outlets went on the attack, and the Internet took notice and I’ve seen nothing but people calling them out on their obvious bullshit. And then The Daily Stormer went and seized on this by, for a short period of time, declaring themselves to be the number one PewDiePie fan site (now they call themselves the number one Wall Street Journal fan site, in reference to the three “journalists” who wrote the hit piece on PewDiePie to begin with).

There’s not much for me to say on this matter other than this is pure hysteria. One that, in my opinion, should be familiar to those who might be older than me, old enough to be far more intimately familiar than I with the demented moonscape that is the mainstream media. The media always either looks for some kind of panic to spread or outright fabricates one of their own. And why? For attention of course, which likely results in attaining not just revenue but also societal relevance, people hanging on their every word. Once upon a time this was seen as the game of some right-wing Murdoch media or some shit, but now we see it as the game of progressive media, with almost everyone outside of alternative media playing along, and I hope that by the end we start to this for what it is – a game of cynical corporations and delusional ideologues on both sides of the spectrum who are less interested in the truth and more interested in influence and a paycheck. And for me that’s all there is to it. PewDiePie and his allegedly anti-Semitic content were just the next target of an ongoing hysteria, in concert with the reign of political correctness I should add.

Calming down…

After that rant about what the woes I’ve been feeling about my academic life, I have been talking with people about the matter in order to get some advice and counsel on the matter. After a while, I kind of realized that I had been a little harsh on myself, and my extreme dissatisfaction combined with my impatience with the others that I work with made me feel the way I did and it wasn’t actually necessary for me to do that. It was a very emotional reaction let’s say. I suppose in my own defense, for a rant on my personal blog it was acceptable to vent such an emotional reaction, but for my own sake I ought to pursue a correction and make things straight.

The reason I often get mad with my colleagues is not just because of what I perceive to be them shutting me down, but because of the fact that they blow off the course when it suits them – whether it’s not showing up on 9am when they’re supposed to, or leaving early if they can get away with it when they’re supposed to stick around until 5pm. This is supposed to be treated like you’re actually in a job, and for me I see it as a matter of upholding a contract. I signed up for the course, and I’ve obviously put some money into it, therefore I am expected to actually do what is expected of me and be punctual. This has been my mentality for all of my student life, and I believe there was even a time where this was considered…what’s the word again? Work ethic! Or as I call it, virtuous and honorable conduct. I think that this is expected of all us, and since I work in a team, and we’ve been told in the past that we have to operate as a team in order to do well. The fact that my colleagues do not observe the same standards hurts my morale, especially when we’re at a point where we can just be in the studio for hours and use that time to discuss what we’re doing at pretty much any time outside of lectures. Maybe I should detach my sense of morale from the lackluster standards of my colleagues, but it’s hard for me to because, aside from me having to deal with them on a regular basis, the mere idea that I’m the only one who actively pursues work ethic and actually tries to uphold the implicit contract. That said, the program director is kind of with me on this in that he thinks that my colleagues are pretty much lazy, and he seems to notice that I don’t always get along with my colleagues because of it. In general I’m the kind of guy who, if you made me a producer or a boss, I’ll take an artist or an artisan who isn’t half as good as whoever the most talented artists are at that time but who commits to his work, shows up on time when he’s supposed and all that stuff over a genius who doesn’t care about any of those things and is just a total punk-ass (for lack of a better word). In short, I value conscientiousness.

One thing I didn’t talk about last month, despite having then returned to university after the winter holidays, was how I did in the last semester. The big reason for this is because I never received any formal marks on paper other than for my dissertation. Eventually I stopped waiting for my marks and looked them up on my student Moodle account. I found out that my marks for this semester alone are higher now than they’ve been in previous years. The average mark I got for this semester was 75. The average mark for last year was 62, and for the year before that it was 58. To me, this means I have clearly progressed as a student and am getting better and doing what I do, and I hadn’t realized that yet. Now that I have, I think “I don’t have the right to feel beat down about anything”. I know that what I am doing is, ultimately, getting me good results. And now that I’ve seen that, I feel better and I can carry on doing what I’m doing. To me, even if I’m not doing as good as I’d like to, I think I’m seeing the results of the way I do things pay off. The only thing that remains is just taking what I do and doing it better, putting more effort into it.

I will carry remembering the principle of pride in worldly accomplishments, and I won’t allow myself to be dragged down by other people for no reason or by any emotions that become inflated in the process.

Starting to get tired….

This is a rant that I saved for when I finished the previous post about an experience I had in university, or rather a rising feeling of exhaustion and disillusionment.

Let me explain: over the past week we were supposed to be designing what’s called an art target, which is a basically a visual representation of what we’re supposed to be design, with all our design work proper being based around that general representation. Towards the end I had received a message from one of my colleagues explaining what we needed in an itemized form, and I run with it thinking “OK, let’s do this”. The next day, we got shitcanned by the program director because the art targets we generated appeared to be bland, flat and uninspired. I wasn’t fully sure what I did wrong at the time, but I didn’t say anything. All the while I just had this feeling of resentment – I followed the advice of my colleague, and we got shitcanned for doing so in my mind, and all I want to do is try and fix that, but every time I come up with something it’s always wrong, apparently, and when I try to help it feels. In addition to this I spent the opportunity, doing almost nothing but drawing some quick sketches on paper in one night, and one Photoshop the morning after, each time trying to perfect my skill at trying to convey something artistically and then I get told it’s not about how well you draw.

So as I designer I’m starting to think I’m always doing the wrong thing, or doing something the wrong way. All the while, when I got told “you’re a gamer, you’ve played games, what is it that you like about them?”, I just didn’t know what to say. And after that, I just felt like such a fraud, and that filled me with a sadness that was difficult to contain. I know everyone else got told the same thing, and it wasn’t just aimed at me, but that didn’t make me feel any better. It didn’t change the fact that I don’t know why I’m even here. My written work is great, I can analyze what I do, and I’m competent in areas such as character rigging and creating environmental assets as well, but I feel like in terms of basic design I feel like I’m just not cut out. Worse, I feel like I’m just taking cues and following instructions! And why? Because other people always project this sense of confidence and knowing what they’re doing, so, logically, it just felt like a matter taking the word of people who I assumed knew better than me. But the people I work with frequently come across such a non-committal bunch non-committal trollops with a blase attitude to the course. I’m there every morning, showing up at exactly the time I’m supposed to show up, while they usually show up later than me and one of them always has a reason not to show up, and they only buckle down and change this as of this week and even then I’m still convinced at least one of them has dedication issues. And when they’re gathering “research” for their designs, it feels like all they do is get from random work that someone did on Deviantart or some shit, while I try to go from real-world sources and recognized fictional media, sometimes including other games if I have to. I try to go out of my way to avoid quoting other games that are like what I’m working on unless I have to because it’s the best way to explain what we’re trying to do. In my mind that’s called, oh I don’t know, fucking originality! As I write this I feel like I’m letting myself get played and I’m thinking “why the fuck am I doing this?”.

But I already know why. Aside from what I said earlier about them projecting a sense of confidence and the appearance that they’re better artists than me (which judging from their actual work seems to be grounded in reality), the game I worked on used to be my project, and then they joined and convinced me that doing things their way might actually make a better game. I submitted a design document back in April 2016 and the next month we had our documents marked and my document was one of two that were judged by the lecturers to be the one being worked with. I was surprised that that happened, because by my money I had done a shoddy job of the document, and I think the target demographic I set for the game may have been a major weakness, having limited a potential audience. In a free market in the actual games industry I probably wouldn’t give a fuck, but in university we have to have a public exhibition for our games and we have to worry about people being repelled by what I might create. So anyways, we then formed groups of three for each project corresponding to each document, and we discussed how we were going to do this. They convinced me to turn the game from a supernatural-oriented beat ’em up into a fantasy oriented beat ’em up, because they thought that would be more accessible. For a while, after discussions, I thought I could still make this kind of unique, preserve some elements from the original idea I had, and make this into something I could get behind. But as time went on and we made it into a simplistic game for virtual reality, that became less and less, until now I’m convinced that this isn’t my game anymore, not since the others joined me in creating it. Now, in terms of design, it feels like their opportunity to do some World of Warcraft wankery.

Because of all that I’m hating the people I work with more than I did before, and from the looks of it I have to work with them until May. I can’t help but wonder if we’ll get into a situation where I say “I hate you”, and one of them says “well I hate you too”, and I say “well I hate you more” and all that bullshit. But then I also remember that part of it is still my fault. My fault for not writing a better design document, my fault for being convinced by them that their way of doing things had merit, my fault for not taking more control. Because of that, I felt less justifiably angry and more like the sense that I was kind of a screw-up who had no business in game design. But I can’t quit now. It’s the second half of third year. What’d be the point? All I can be certain of is once the third year is over and I continue into the Masters portion of the course, I never have to work with them again, even if it means working with only one other person. If I have to work with the same people again, I would resent the prospect. If I have to work on the same game again, which is being talked about, I would resent the prospect. And the main reason I’m continuing is for my own advancement as a technical artist, because the better I do on those terms the better my prospects will be later in life if I get into the industry. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, I’ve discovered the errors tied to pursuing something for your own advancement? Because it’s not as though I’m all in regarding the project I’m working on, particularly if I’m convinced it’s more akin to the project of someone else who hijacked my original idea to make it their own, whilst quoting other games in the process moreso than I could have done, and on purpose no less! And particularly not if I hate the people I have to work with. This is for my own advancement now, and even though being a Satanist I shouldn’t be bothered by that, I am worried that by the end of the project I will wind up being poorer, not richer, for it.

How much of Christianity was lifted from the pre-Christian world?

Sorry to keep you waiting with this post. I guess I should’ve mentioned that the second semester of my third year at university is now in full swing.

In this post I’ll attempt not just to outline how many of the main points of Christianity are borrowed from pre-Christian/pagan belief systems, but by the end establish what that means, focusing on some of the key points found in popular Christianity as it is imagined today.

 

God himself

We already know that Yahweh/Jehovah, the supreme deity of the Bible, was originally a minor Canaanite deity of war, who ascended in status within the Hebrew pantheon as the chief deity of their people (in other words the God of Israel), the context of which transitioned from that of a merely henotheistic tradition (that is the belief that there are many gods but the practice of worshiping just one; i.e. on the basis of tribalism) to that of a full-blown monotheistic tradition. As time passed, Yahweh also accrued many characteristics associated with other deities such as El or Zeus, and became the far more warlike and supposedly omnipresent and loving version of both. And after the Jews were exiled from Babylon, Yahweh transformed from just the God of Israel to the ruling deity of everything.

Yahweh himself is just another deity in a long line of supreme deities with slightly similar characteristics. Ahura Mazda in Persia, Aten and Ra in Egypt, Ba’al and El in Canaan, Marduk in Babylon, Indra and Varuna in India, and of course Zeus in Greece. And we know that before the ascent of monotheism, Yahweh was in direct competition with other deities. Among his biggest rivals was a deity named Chemosh (or Kemosh), whom the Bible refers to as the “abomination of Moab”, a deity that archaeological evidence points to as being not so different from Yahweh.

Kemosh (aka Chemosh)

Kemosh (aka Chemosh)

 

The messianic archetype

Jesus himself was not stolen from paganism, contrary to what Bill Maher and Peter Joseph would have you believe. However, the role he plays in the Bible is that of an archetype that has been passed down throughout the ages. The archetypal role assumed by Jesus is of course the role of a dying and rising deity, or divine being. One of the most familiar examples of this in Mesopotamian mythology is the deity of vegetation known as Tammuz, the deity to whom the origins of the Christian cross are sometimes attributed. Tammuz was believed to have died at the hands of the spirits of the underworld or his wife Inanna/Ishtar, and descended to the underworld only to rise again every six months. Then there is Osiris, who was killed by Set only to be resurrected by Isis and go on to become the lord of the Egyptian netherworld. Among the deities worshipped by the Phrygians was a deity of vegetation and fertility named Attis, who went crazy and mutilated himself only to, depending on who you ask, either resurrect or reincarnate as a pine tree. In another sense, Ishtar’s descent into the underworld is sort of similar to the descent of Jesus into Hell, except that Ishtar dies and resurrects while in the underworld while Jesus is crucified to death and then goes to Hell in order liberate the souls of the damned. In the case of Ishtar, her mission was to save Tammuz who had apparently been dragged to the underworld by Ereshkigal’s spirits.

There are other aspects associated with messianic archetypes that I’ve covered in my post about the “Divine Individual“.

 

Some familiar public holidays

I’ve talked about this before in the early days of my blog and I plan on covering this subject in greater detail in separate posts dedicated to the eight holidays associated with the Neopagan wheel of the year, but we’ll quickly go through the holidays popularly celebrated in the West. The timing of the Christmas holiday season is based on Saturnalia and other winter solstice festivals and is found nowhere in the Bible, the premise of Easter hinges on a myth that, as was just explained, derives from pre-Christian archetypes and storytelling, and while the modern Halloween is largely shaped by Christian and American tradition, the date of the Samhain celebrated by Celtic pagans is, perhaps coincidentally, near to the date that Halloween is celebrated now, and the theme of monsters and night terrors associated with Halloween was also found in European pagan traditions which hold that time to be either Samhain, Walpurgisnacht or both.

 

Heaven and Hell

The belief in an afterlife divided in terms of a blissful kingdom of light versus a dark nether realm filled with demons or monsters has been traced to as far back as ancient Egypt, as has the basic concept of the individual soul being judged after death. The Duat was the ancient Egyptian version of the underworld, filled with all manner of monstrous figures and daemonic beings and the site of the regular journey of the solar deity Ra. It is even documented within Egyptian lore that a serpent bent on mankind’s destruction slithers through the underworld, waiting for the opportunity to strike at Ra whenever he journeys into the underworld, which is similar enough to the Christian view of Satan as the adversary of mankind who also appears as either a dragon or as “that old serpent” intent on striking down Jehovah/Yahweh. However, for the ordinary Egyptian, being trapped in the underworld was not the main fear, rather the prospect of being annihilated in the jaws of Ammut if the soul was found wanting by Anubis. The equivalent heavenly realm is Aaru, a prestine field of reeds which resembled life in Egypt, which the Egyptians felt was the greatest thing on earth and wanted to continue living for eternity. And if the soul was deemed worthy of passing into such a beneficent afterlife, then it would indeed be allowed to pass on an live forever with loved ones and pets. Does that sound familiar?

Don’t forget that many pre-Christian traditions have their own conceptions of the afterlife, and there are several heavens and hells found in the mythologies of the world. In Greece, for instance, those who lived a good and virtuous life or were heroic in some way would enter Elysium, provided that they were remembered by their peers and their descendants, while more wicked individuals would descend into the dungeon of Tartarus, where the Titans were also imprisoned, and everyone else would go to the fields of Asphodel, a meadow in the underworld where ordinary souls pass on that was neither a heaven nor a hell, all after the judgement of the soul. Oh, and much like how Christians believe that Yahweh reserved a lake of fire for the devil and his angels, Tartarus is the place where deities like Zeus cast down their enemies, such as Typhon.

Fallen angels in Hell by John Martin

Fallen angels in Hell by John Martin

 

Angels and demons

Pre-Christian belief systems all had their own varieties of spirits, with plenty of them falling into either the angelic or demonic categories. Mesopotamia had the Shedim, which were largely seen as demonic beings. Other demonic beings included Gallu, Lamashtu and Pazuzu, the baddest of the bunch. Evil spirits were often viewed as the cause of disease and were sometimes capable of bringing harm to humans and abduct their children, particularly night spirits such as Lamashtu and Lilitu, the latter a precursor, at least in name, to the the Biblical Lilith (we’ll get into that in a future Mythological Spotlight, once I get around to writing one). The closest things to angels in Mesopotamian lore were probably beings such as the Apkallu, who were winged sages or demigods who were viewed as teachers and protective spirits. Egyptian, as was already established, was host to several spirits. What we would could demons were viewed by the Egyptians as liminal spirits, frequently either hostile beings or guardians of the netherworld who could be called upon to protect humans, and thousands of nameless demons have been found in depictions on all manner of items from both religious and mundane items in Egyptian society. The Greeks recognized the term daemon – from which we get the nomenclature “demon” – as a general term for spirit, and often these spirits were seen a guiding forces, though there were of course malevolent spirits in Greek lore (a disease spirit named Aerico immediately springs to mind). Romans had a similar belief and believed in the concept of genii, who often served as the spirits of the household. India and Persia observed the similar divide between good and evil spirits. For the Indians, it was the devas, apsaras and sometimes yakshas on the good side, with the asuras, rakshasas and other ghoulish spirits on the evil side. In Persia the devas were actually on the evil camp, identified as “daevas” and the minions of Angra Mainyu or Ahriman, while the good spirits are identified as the Amesha Spentas in service of Ahura Mazda. In fact it’s in Persia via the Zoroastrians that we encounter one of the earliest clear cut incarnations of the concept of good versus evil personified as God versus Satan in the form of Ahura Mazda versus Angra Mainyu.

 

 

Good old fashioned Christian values

The “family values” platitude that is stereo-typically attached to conservative Christians are not especially new. In fact, at the very least it goes back to the Roman Empire. The emperor Augustus instituted a series of reforms aimed at aligning Roman society towards “traditional Roman values” – values such as monogamy and chastity. He even went so far as to criminalize adultery and imposed financial penalties on people who did not marry and have children, which to be fair seems a tad more extreme than the kind of family values politics that Western societies would have to deal with in the modern world.

The concept of marriage, which is often seen as a Christian institution, has been a recognized social and romantic union for longer than Christianity has been recognized as a religion. Marriage rituals have been known to exist in ancient Greece, Rome and China, and the contract of marriage, and divorce, has even been around in ancient Mesopotamian society. In Mesopotamia, marriage was valued for much the same reason we do now – to ensure the continuation of a given family line. Rome also considered monogamy to be the tradition for marriage in society, just as we do now. Of course, the ancient world had a tendency to value arranged marriage, whereas in the modern world we value the choice of getting married.

Then there are some of the debatably more positive values sometimes ascribed to Christianity, which have been observed as far back as the days of ancient Akkad.

 

The influence of the mystery cults

Greece and Rome were home to a particular phenomenon known as the “mystery cult”, which is basically a religious movement characterized by secretive rituals and the tendency to center around a specific deity (like Mithraism for example). There was an Eleusinian mystery cult centering around the goddess Demeter, based around the story of the abduction of her daughter Persephone, the wrath she wrought upon the earth and its fertility and the resurrection of vegetation and thus life. The re-emergence of Persephone was supposed to be representative of the possibility of eternal life through participation in the mysteries. The exact nature of the ritual performed in the Eleusinian mysteries is disputed, but it is possible that the ritual took place in an underground passage or theater and was intended to convey the whole death and rebirth message. It is also said that the Eleusinian mystery participants purified themselves by bathing in the sea. The cult of Dionysus had its own communion, typically described as a sharing of wine (which would be befitting of the deity of wine). The Mithraic mysteries were also known for featuring an oblation of bread and water or wine, at least for initiates of certain degrees, which may have served as either a reminder of their faith or as a means of giving them the power to resist the forces of evil. The Orphic mysteries stressed that only by following their rites, practicing abstinence from sensual pleasures (such as sex) and devoting yourself to the mystery can you guarantee salvation and join the gods on the fields of Elysium for all eternity. And don’t forget the Egyptian mysteries, including the mystery of Osiris which proclaimed “Be of good cheer, O initiates, for the god is saved, and we shall have salvation from our woes”. The promise of eternal salvation through initiation into the mystery cult and performance of its rites very much strikes accord with the Christian idea that you can be saved by being baptized, receiving communion and following Jesus.

 

So what does that mean, exactly?

I do not consider Christianity to be a complete clone of one single religion, as many critics of Christianity are want to do, instead I consider it to be supported by collection of ideas that existed well before both Christianity and Judaism. It started off as an offshoot of Judaism, which itself emerged out of the henotheistic tradition observed in the land of Canaan, and it embraced many ideas that happened to be observed by the rivaling pagan traditions, but in doing so the Christians essentially repurposed them for their own belief system. Many of these old ideas, it seems, are in fact very ancient, and have been with humanity for a very long time. And as much as the idea that Christianity took over solely through violent conquest is an appealing narrative to people more vociferously anti-Christian than I (and believe me I still am considerably anti-Christian; it practically comes with being a Satanist/Luciferian), I suspect many appropriations of polytheistic teachings and those of the mystery cults were more likely either reflective of the religion as a product of its time – remember that the religion had developed in the Roman Empire alongside the other traditions – or as a means of drawing pagans away from their old belief systems and into the new one. I think that when this is understood when dealing with modern Christianity, you can render Christianity essentially harmless for what it is – a messianic Jewish faith that with synthesized pagan beliefs, sometimes the same beliefs that are also present in Judaism I might add.

 

Just as an aside to close this post, I can’t guarantee that I will post as frequently as I would like to, due to university commitments, but I’ll see what I can do.

Witch on DMT – For Science!

A fascinating article on magick and DMT.

The Blog of Baphomet

DMT is an iconic substance; one of the central ingredients of the magical potion ayahuasca, fuel for the entrancing soliloquies of Terence McKenna and the beautiful art of Pablo Amaringo. This powerful psychedelic was also the one that the fabulous Nikki Wyrd was injected with at the winter solstice last year – for science!

Nikki was a participant in an experiment conducted at Imperial College, London. In due course I’m sure she will publish exactly what happened, but she can’t share much at the moment because the experiment is ongoing (and no one wants to mess up the data). Both physiological and psychological information was collected, as subjects had the chance to take this often highly visual psychedelic in a clinical setting. The aim is to understand more about how this substance operates, its potential to help us explore how the brain (and mind) works, and the mechanisms by which it exerts its possible therapeutic effects.

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A further excoriation of The Satanic Temple

You know, I think my musings on the inauguration of Donald Trump and its aftermath would be incomplete without talking about The Satanic Temple, and its role in all this. I talked about them before in “Some post-Inauguration thoughts“, but I intend to excoriate the organization further in late of their involvement in the Women’s March, which took place the day after Trump’s inauguration. After this, I swear I’ll go back to my planned content.

Before I begin my excoriation of The Satanic Temple I think it’s important to establish the following: just what is the Women’s March exactly? It was a mass demonstration that took place beginning on January 21st, the day after the Inauguration and after the Inauguration protests, which devolved into riots, vandalism and clashes with police officers and Trump supporters. Unlike the previous protests, these were not riotous protests in which Antifa, as well as radical communists and anarchists, got involved and started shit. It basically just a movement of feminists taking the opportunity to protest against Trump in a civil manner. I say that because it really does seem like a bunch of people getting together to protest Trump’s inauguration, especially given the time and the high presence of anti-Trump slogans alongside feminist and pro-Clinton. It’s not a response to any legislation, it’s just a response to Trump, driven by the fear that he will bring about the apocalypse of women’s rights. In a way, it seems to me like a kind of opportunistic, johnny-come-lately demonstration. I mean were these people planning to do anything the day after Trump got elected, or even after he was sworn in by the Electoral College?

So what women’s rights are being agitated for? Well, it seems that a lot of protesters showed up because they didn’t want to get their vaginas grabbed. Which is pointless because (1) the 12-year old tape was essentially bragging that isn’t substantiated by anything and that Trump will probably not live up (except, perhaps, in the bedroom with Melania, but that’s a private matter between two married individuals), (2) Trump will not order that every woman be taken to the White House to have their vaginas grabbed by him, that would be logistically impossible, and (3) I cannot see Trump making sexual assault legal, and I mean clear-cut sexual assault not the kind of bullshit that third wave feminists make up to justify not owning up to, say, getting drunk and then sleeping with someone and then regretting it. Then there’s that famous sign which read “Make men pay for razors if we pay for tampons”. I assume this refers to the “tampon tax” or “pink tax”, which can actually be debunked. But besides that, people already do pay for razors, they’re just less expensive apparently. The theme of abortion rights was also present – presumably driven by fear of either the overturning of Roe v Wade (which will likely not happen), the abolition of Planned Parenthood (which also probably will not happen), or simply the prospect that Planned Parenthood will no longer be funded by the taxpayer (which honestly is not a reduction of your rights, it just means you have to pay for your own abortion), who knows? -, as well as a cocktail of environmentalism, LGBT activism, promotion of Islam, and other causes typically associated with the Democrat Party. Not to mention, it seems to me like some of them don’t even know why they’re doing this other than they don’t like Trump, and even then they just feel that he’s going to be the worst President, they don’t know that. Other than that, this has been an entirely Western phenomenon – nothing about the horrors that women face outside the Western world, particularly in Islamic countries (like Saudi Arabia and Iran) and African countries (like Tanzania and Mauritania), where girls can be subject to things like child marriage or female genital mutilation and women can be viewed as commodities or subjects, rather than citizens just as men are.

This whole thing has been a pathetic and confused virtue signal, designed to make thousands of women feel good and act like they give a damn about issues and vainly proclaim that progressivism shall not be defeated, while it is otherwise on the path to being soundly dead, paying the price for its rejection of reason, tolerance and classical liberal values and its embrace of identity politics, postmodernism and ideological bigotry.

And yet who should I find in support of this sad display of witless political posturing? Why The Satanic Temple of course, specifically their Seattle chapter, apparently. But not only that, I did some searching and on the TST website I find that there is a link to their official Instagram account where they seem to be promoting the Women’s March. And what individual member announced her attendance? None other than Jex Blackmore, apparently. The same women who took a folk horror film called The Witch and co-opted it for their own politically progressive agenda. Why am I not fucking surprised? Another link brings me to another Instagram post promoting something called The Civic Engagement Dance Party. Right away, the fist symbol gives me concern, given that it’s pretty much the symbol of black power movements, and similar black racialist causes (like Black Lives Matter), as well as feminism. The event promises prospective attendees that they will meet with like-minded people who want to “build a better world”, the terms for which, for my money, I suspect that will amount to a world aligned with progressive ideology (you know, making everything equal and shit). The description lists some names of some “powerful women”, which are as follows: Najima Jamilah, Zaira Livier and Abida Segal. I can’t find much about Najima Jamilah other than she may or not be a Black Lives Matter activist who is affiliated with the Tuscon chapter of Black Lives Matter. Zaira Livier is a feminist and Democratic Party activist who supported Bernie Sanders and also has the honor of, apparently, not actually being a US citizen, but rather an “undocumented” immigrant, who it seems rather than work to legally become a US citizen spend her time getting politically active with the progressive Latino voting block. Adiba Segal is a blogger for The Huffington Post and a writer for Everyday Feminism, as well as a burlesque dancer at Ravishly and a self-described food addict, and her work for The Huffington Post is typical banal mom blog stuff.

So in other words, not only are The Satanic Temple promoting and taking part in the Women’s March, a confused, vain and opportunistic march for progressivism, but they also seem to be allying themselves with Black Lives Matter, an organization that promotes the lie that the police are at war with black people as a whole and think America is an actual white supremacist country (despite that it has several black members of government and even had a black President for 8 years, as well as the fact that black people are quite capable amassing large amounts of wealth on their own), and two no-name progressive activists, one of whom is a fucking blogger. These are not powerful women! These are just nobodies – nobodies who happen to be politically active and advocate for progressive and collectivist political ideas but that’s about it! And The Satanic Temple is taking their side. These are supposedly advocates of an individualistic philosophy allying with advocates for collectivist progressivism. That I find to be insufferable, if not intolerable, particularly from a group that has actually supported liberal ideals in the past, and as recently as the last weekend their leader was willing to defend Milo Yiannopolous’ right to free speech and disavowed the “Satanist” protesters who were planning to demonstrate their opposition to him speaking at California Polytechnic.

I’m going to tell you right here, right now, that these people aren’t doing this for Satanism. All the pentagrams, black robes, the dressing up as the Whore of Babylon and the Black Masses in the world won’t change that fact. They are doing because they are liberal progressives and they got some more supporters after the victory of Donald Trump. Yes, I seem to remember that right after the election of Donald Trump The Satanic Temple received an influx of new members, a new flock of sheep who believe that the end of the free world is coming and that America will be more of a “One Nation Under God” sort of country and seek to satisfy their desire for a resistance movement (and in that regard, at least they didn’t go to Keith Olbermann). They know they’ve got new membership, and they intend to capitalize on this, as well as the hip progressive “Trump is Hilter” hysteria – that’s all this is. And they use their existing political philosophy as a nice package for this progressive activism.

And I have half a mind to suspect that these people don’t actually care much for authentic Satanic philosophy to begin with. These are the kind of people who distance themselves from Anton LaVey’s philosophy primarily because Ragnar Redbeard was an avowed racist (at least according to them), despite the fact that Anton LaVey had excised the racial components of Redbeard’s philosophy when using its ideas to form his own – something that Greaves himself acknowledged – and the founder Greaves emphasizes meritocracy as impossible without an “environment of equality”. Well, what equality? Do you mean equality of opportunity? Or do you mean equality of outcome, or parity? Or do you just mean a bunch of socialist nonsense that will never be achieved because it just doesn’t pan out in real life? In my mind, authentic Satanic philosophy is about individualism and merit first, and equality second, or third, – we are equal in the sense that every man and women, regardless of race or creed, can play by the same rules in a society, can share the same liberty and strive to become more than he or she is at present. Beyond that, equality really isn’t the strongest ideal to be found in Satanist philosophy, which is deeply individualistic. Of course Greaves and co can’t have that – they wouldn’t be siding with progressivism if they are truly committed to any deep-seated individualistic philosophy. They may have some aspects of it right, they may talk about how their Satan is the eternal rebel against arbitrary authority, but their actions in the wake of the Inauguration speak louder than words here. Either commit to individualism as you purport to, or continue down the progressive road and remain a trendy left-wing activist group that conforms to leftist ideological trends whilst simultaneously espousing the idea of Satan as the eternal rebel against arbitrary authority.

The sad thing is, I know that The Satanic Temple is capable of being better than this. They are capable of standing up for positive ideals and in at least a somewhat positive manner. And I know that in the past their trolling of religious institutions, or religious influence in secular governing institutions, was largely a force for good because they were trying to show that individual rights and secular government should come first. They should have been a beacon of how, contrary to the Church of Satan’s assertions, Satanic activism can be a force for good. But instead they have proven the Church of Satan to be correct in their assertion that they represent a Satanic philosophy diluted by Tumblr politics.