From Chris Wayan's journal 6/9/1982
At the library where I work, I sneak into a corner and read another book (I try to skim one a day--it's the Code of the Slackers).
Today's offering to Bob the Slacker God is: HITLER: OCCULT MESSIAH.
The book claims Hitler parallels Rasputin more closely than Mussolini, Tojo, Stalin--any of the other dictators of his time. He studied with a pupil of Gurdjieff and was deeply involved in occultism. The nucleus of the Nazi Party started as a front for a cult, not a political party. Many in the core saw themselves not as seekers of political power, but as sweepers ending an age, the age of Christianity and logic, an age that repressed all unconscious elements the same way it'd oppressed all non-Europeans. Only Hitler's cult personified the unconscious as a God of War! Crowley's horrifying but accurate predictions, in a book written in a trance in Egypt, says the 20th Century begins an age in which "because" dies, along with the smug social stagnation and stratification of the 19th century. "Do what thou wilt, and that shall be the whole of the law" echoes Yeats's "rough beast...slouching toward Bethlehem..." Both are images of Horus, the old war-god. Or so says this book.
The Reich's inner circle was clearly a cult not a party, and a demonic one by any standard. The book describes Hitler's nightmares and his speeches so high on yogic breathing a spirit possessed him--his own people felt it wasn't him but some thing he let into his body. Creepy! SS officers meditated and did yoga and deliberately practiced indifference to the suffering they caused "because it's all one, nothing's truly evil, this is but a play" like black-leather Arjunas... they followed weird pseudosciences like Hollow Earthism and fire-and-ice meteorology. The author says flatly "the Reich's worldview was more alien to ours than that of the ancient Aztecs... The common view, that the inner circle was hyperrational, cold, scientifically and technologically obsessed, is false. They were mystics and magicians and their worldview was magical."
The book also points out Charles Manson's cult was a miniature of Hitler's. He worshiped and advocated abandon, that everything's perfect, good and evil are obsolete not absolute... so let's prove it by killing, kill the old order.
Well, Hitler DID kill the old order. His parody of heroic techno-worship, empire, and racism woke the world from complacency and greatly sharpened the critique of those values, indeed left them indefensible.
It seems to me that our main task is building a PEACEFUL transition from the old absolutes to doing what we want.
A couple of centuries ago most people's problems weren't around values. They knew the right way to live, it was externally defined--it was just hard to DO. Hard to get what was needed to survive, let do good or progress.
We have the opposite problem: easy to do lots of things, but we're not at all sure WHAT should be done. Not even sure what we truly want.
The shift from "God's will" to "what WE will" is hard. The Nazis demonstrated (with the emphasis on the first two syllables) that for us all: we can choose any crazy values and "stamp them on the face of the future." Evil is now easier (simply because big actions are) and it gets attention fast. If you want to advertise that good and evil are arbitrary it's easier to shock with evil. Manson said he murdered to make a point.
Have we really outgrown WW2 thinking? The paradox at the heart of the Cold War, embodied in "Mutual Assured Destruction" (MAD) was that if the enemy fired its missiles it was really useless to fire your own. Their function had already failed. You'd only kill people who mostly had nothing to do with the attack. You have to be willing to destroy the world for no reason in order to threaten adequately, and thus PRESERVE the world.
But isn't this question "Why shouldn't we destroy the world?" quite bizarre? Demanding logical reasons for loving life? It's exactly our form of rule-based logic that suppressed our personal whims, and created such resentment that Hitlers could exploit them--and in the name of overthrowing logic he WAS willing to destroy the world. Demanding logical reasons why we shouldn't blow up the world (or build death camps, or kill random Southern Californians like Manson's cult) is to demand something of a cultural institution that it wasn't designed to do. Logic was built to BEGIN with reasons and analyze them and come to a conclusion. That structure works poorly backwards. Starting with an undeniable truth (for most of us), "We don't want to blow up the world" and demanding logic justify your feeling is like saying "We command you to command us to..."
We have in fact accepted the premise of Nietzsche and Crowley... and Hitler. Will DOES come first. We want life, no matter what God or logic says. But we'd like to cover our asses. We are, as Jonathan Schell's articles on nuclear war pointed out, using a illogical hybrid between old beliefs and new. Unwilling to make our choices without orders, we order our former gods to order us the way we want to be ordered--to not destroy the world! And one of our gods is logic.
Hiter and Manson are trying to tell us to drop our logical excuses. Why so vicious, though? Why does the birth of a value system that acknowledges our real drives, encourage monsters? After all, they slow the very shift they advocate, with their examples of just how badly "do what thou wilt" can go astray.
I think they're trying to do us a favor--mistakenly. Such people are enraged at our continuing surface obedience to bourgeois ideologies not so different from the Victorian imperialists... but they fail to see that nowadays we tell our gods to tell us what we want them to tell us. We're adapting our social systems pragmatically under cover, and have been ever since the American Revolution.
The counterproductiveness of terrorist cults, from Hitler on down to Manson, is that terror slows change. Violence doesn't always. Even illogically, emotionally aimed violence may not do it. It's random violence that causes terror and hardens positions. The impartiality of a nuclear exchange, the car-bomb by a cafe, Manson's blood sacrifices... But random violence is NOT the product of "do what thou wilt." Terrorism is reactionary: a person out to prove an abstract point. But actions truly rising from heart's desire, even anger or vengeance, rarely strike innocents at random. That's an act of coldness made possible only by archaic faith in a system, whether God-given or logically dictated. The purely subjective "Do what thou wilt," applied even to the angriest acts, demands clarity and aim. One may do violence, but the victims will have provoked outrage and know it. Their provocation and your reaction may not follow logical or moral commandments, but they WILL be seen as linked--identifiable. Hence, preventable... by stopping the outrageous provocation. Each side has power! If both sides of a dispute act from wants, whether logical or not, both sides have power to resolve matters nonviolently. They may not do so, but they have a chance. Not so when you're facing Nazis.
Random "evil" was the 20th century's most frightening aspect. But it's an artificial creation, evil displaced from the object of one's anger to another, and its point is not to hurt those it hurts, but to make some statement, pro or con, about the old ideologies claiming God the Cop watches all. Either to prove he's dead, or asleep on the beat, or that we must be vigilantes...
We expect evil by now, it's familiar. We think we understand it. But what we face is not evil in the traditional moral sense at all. Few people truly believe an invisible God is watching them personally and condemning as evil any action not in God's official rulebook. The vast majority, even of those who truly believe in some God, don't treat holy writ as a strict code of action. Basically decent and harmless actions don't send you to Hell. We just can't believe in the absolute sense medieval Europeans did. We know too much. Even those who claim they do take their holy books literally, are CHOOSING to do so, with millions of examples around them of people behaving well outside their rules.
What we see is not what the devout meant by evil when they coined the term, but a post-moral HISTORICAL RECREATION of evil, an imitation of evil--the opposite of "Imitatio Christi."
Like those mass-produced Halloween masks of politicians, the shape of this plastic evil is recognizable, but it doesn't feel quite real.
If we all did what we really wanted, true good and evil would be possible again, under the new rule. If you restrict someone's power to do what they want, whether on a large scale by depriving them of life or a small scale by intimidating them, pragmatic people almost universally will see this as bad. This new pragmatic definition of evil is pancultural, and perfectly viable. But people rarely want to do LARGE evils under this definition--just small evils on rare occasions when our appetites or our tempers get out of hand. People don't sustain large-scale evil very long without help; it's too tiring. And most people want to be liked, or at least tolerated. And people who truly follow their urges usually are. Meeting genuine desires isn't particularly destructive.
It's only when these reactive cults set out to make some abstract point, trying to teach us what evil is, or set the clock back to the obsolete rules they've inherited in some old holy text, that you get large-scale nastiness... The root of modern violence isn't dark urges from the unconscious, but ideology.
Wow, that book provoked a flood of ideas! Seem like my unconscious has been thinking about this for some time...
So what do my dreams think of all this?
My housemate Arnold got a new sports car from his family as a gift. He takes me for a ride...
My, my! It's fast. Zoom zoom zoom. We go so fast I'm a bit scared. Fun, though.
But I don't like the color scheme of the car. Black and tan.
Black and tan... the colors of the Fascists... so that sports car was the book! My dreams don't give a damn about all these abstract speculations. What they find amusing is that I got so excited and horrified by the book that I didn't work, didn't eat, wrote like a madman all afternoon... zooming around like a boy with a new sports car.
Is that all the real thrill of evil is? It gets you all charged up...
And these days we're so bored we mistake adrenaline for fun.
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