Opening the Seals

“Death is not the enemy of life, but godlessness. The despair of humanity today is the product of centuries worth of both the denial of the spiritual life of the world and the suppression of the natural urge to reintegrate with that world.”

From Ramon Elani

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For those to whom a stone reveals itself as sacred, its immediate reality is transmuted into supernatural reality. In other words, for those who have a religious experience all nature is capable of revealing itself as cosmic sacrality.—Mircea Eliade

We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living, incarnate cosmos.—D.H. Lawrence

Death is not the enemy of life, but godlessness. And I do not speak of an impersonal and immaterial God, who dwells in the realm beyond the earth, demanding slavish obedience. Rather I speak of the living soul of the world, which has many names and it’s law is written into the mountains and rivers. There can be little doubt now that the end has come. And though we cannot hope to avert what is coming, we may still take stock of ourselves in the darkening twilight and reconsecrate bonds long forgotten. Since the beginning, humanity has misunderstood the doom which it has wrought upon the world. As we shall see in what follows, however, I believe there were moments during the birth of industrialization when brave souls perceived the vastness of what had occurred.

Our dialogue surrounding the end of the world is part of the problem. This is particularly true for those who have not yet accepted its inevitability. What is the nature of our crime? The extinction of countless species, the collapse of the world’s oceans, the eradication of the world’s forests. Do we weep for them? Or do we weep for ourselves because we know we cannot live without them? As it turns out, both are misguided. The world will rebuild itself in time and our civilization is not worth saving. Whether or not our species is will be determined by forces far greater than ourselves. But if, as Robinson Jeffers wrought, the death of millions of humans is no more than the death of so many flies, then what does that say about the value of the fly? The flaming heart of the universe is indifferent to the deaths of countless billions, whether they are humans, bears, whales, bees, or daffodils. What matters is that every breath and every drop of blood sings in reverence to this spirit of the world, pulses with the energy and vitality of the gods. And in this regard, is humanity chiefly lacking.

Do we imagine that something is irrevocably lost when a species is extinguished? The cosmos is a spiral and what has come will come again. The earth does not need our tears. This should be clear to all who do not imagine that humanity is the architect of the universe. Likewise, how many can truly weep at the fall of techno-industrial society? Did we ever imagine that the world could or should sustain so many billions of human? How else was this ever going to end? Wherein, in other words, does the sacredness of life reside? Death is not the enemy of life, but godlessness. We think too highly of our power when we talk of destroying the earth. The purpose of life is not that nothing should ever die. Species come and go. The universe will not weep for the salmon because we turned the oceans to barren acid anymore than it wept for the Irish Elk because its own glory condemned it to death. The world has been ruined and remade countless times. We imagine that we are special because we have caused the present crisis, which confirms our believe that humanity stands at the center of the universe. And we live in terror of our own destruction because we cannot stand the idea that the world will be fine and perhaps better without us. Thus either of the two dominant perspectives is inseparable from an anthropocentric orientation.

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The sin of techno-industrial society is not that it kills and destroys. But that it denies the divinity of the world and within humanity. To take the life of an animal and honor the spirit within it is to assert the sacred world. To take the life of an animal and treat it as nothing more than so much biological material is to deny its meaning, which is far worse than taking its life. Thus what is needed at this moment of reckoning is a resacralization of the world. This is the closest we can get to atoning for what we have done, by addressing the precise nature of our crime. Not in killing, as humanity has done since it first appeared on the earth, in full reverence of the divine cosmos. But in denying the spirit of the world itself. In other words, the true horror of our age and the content of the crisis we now face is the triumph of a disembodied, dualistic conception of humanity and the earth. And it is likely that we will not survive the consequences of this division, the product of the logic of industrialism.

As we have said elsewhere, D.H. Lawrence had a particularly astute understanding of what had been lost through industrialization. Nowhere was this understanding better articulated than in his final work, which was completed only months before his death. Apocalypse, Lawrence’s reflections on the Book of Revelations, is a strange text by any estimation. It is part exegesis and part manifesto. In the first case, it may seem strange that Lawrence wrote a book about the bible at all. While he described himself as being “passionately religious,” his hostility towards Christianity was undisguised and vociferous. But despite having abandoned his Christian upbringing early in his life, The Book of Revelations nevertheless exerted a tremendous influence on his later work. For Lawrence, the significance of Revelations was as a sort of manual for humanity to rediscover the nature of the world that had been forgotten over long centuries of industrialism, both in terms of the alienation is caused within the human race and in terms of the vile destruction it had caused in the natural world. It was, for him, a path that lead to both the liberation of the self and restoration of nature.

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As renowned Lawrence scholar Mara Kalnins writes, “revelation, he [Lawrence] argued, was a symbolic account of how to attain inner harmony as well as a sense of living connection with the greater universe.” Indeed, it is surprising that Lawrence is so rarely thought of as an ecological writer. As deep ecology pioneer Dolores LaChapelle and others have argued, however, Lawrence deserves to be counted, alongside Thoreau and Muir, as one of the preeminent environmental writers. Like Jung, Lawrence’s childhood was defined by experiences in the natural world centering around deep, dark places. Quarries, caverns, and caves. Lawrence heard the echoes and whispers of the dark gods of the earth in those places, and never forgot them. Only in the sense that for Lawrence, it was enough to recognize the presence of those chthonic forces, rather than dedicate his life to delving deeper and deeper into their world, does he differ from Jung.

Lawrence’s main attraction to the Book of Revelations lay in its symbolic and allegorical qualities. Having read widely in the esoteric and occult, although he rightly dismissed Helena Blavatsky’s racist hokum as “not very good,” Lawerence was especially drawn to the pre-Socratics and Heraclitus in particular. The latter’s conception that the universe is governed by battling divine, elemental forces, which both stem from and return to a primary fountain of boundless energy, echoes the cataclysmic struggles of the apocalypse. The essence of the divine is one of constant flux. Creation and annihilation. Most importantly for our purposes, Lawrence’s orientation was never backward looking. His goal was always to discern what could be gained in understanding for the purpose of achieving a reintegration of humanity within the living cosmos. As techno-industrial society appears to triumph, the question becomes more vital than ever: what is the nature of humanity’s relationship to the divinity of the world?

Following Jung, Lawrence saw modern humanity, like the forces of the cosmos, at war with itself. Torn between the rational scientific logic of industrialism and the intuitive religious power of the living world. Just as the former seeks to divide, reduce, and sever, the latter aims toward reintegration and wholeness. Mara Kalnins describes it thus:

Lawrence was keenly alive to the mystery and beauty of the non-human universe and to the sense that the human species is a part of a vast creative pattern. At the same time he saw modern man as willfully divorcing himself from that world through the products of human intellectual consciousness; all too often the quest for material gain and technological advance violate the integrity of the world of nature.

And if the apocalypse is a metaphor for Lawrence’s conception of restoring the integrity of the world and humanity’s place in it, we may find that our current situation, though it is a far less metaphorical kind of cataclysm, may afford us a similar opportunity. Ultimately, Lawrence’s position argues for a rejection of rationality and science in order to rediscover the brightness of the noumenal world and our place in it.

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Early in Apocalypse, Lawrence writes “I would like to know the stars again as the Chaldeans knew them…but our experience of the sun is dead, we are cut off. All we have now is the thought-form of the sun. He is a blazing ball of gas.” The pre-industrial world finds the universe vibrantly alive with spiritual power. By denying the animistic essence, the souls in all things, we are left with a world that is deprived of beauty and meaning. Again, this is ultimately the tragedy we face. Not a dead world but a world that never truly lived. A universe of molecules and matter swirling about according to mathematical models and equations. We are left with a view of the cosmos that is consistent with the earth that we have created: lifeless and mechanistic. Oceans of plastic. Poison in the air, water, and dirt. Lawrence: “The Chaldeans described the cosmos as they found it: magnificent. We describe the universe as we find it: mostly void, littered with a certain number of dead moons and unborn stars, like the back yard of a chemical works.” But of course, and herein lies it all, it is not the world that has changed. Only our perception of it. The stars still burn and dance with the sacred fire. But in denying the soul of the world, we have only made ourselves blind to the only thing that makes life worth living. We cannot return to a time before industrialism. We cannot forget the horrors that a mechanized view of the universe has unleashed. But perhaps we can restore something of what has been lost, by reconsecrating ourselves to the living god of the world.

What Lawrence foresaw for this severed humanity was a state of suicide, both for the individual and the collective. In this present moment, it is very difficult to see that he was wrong. It is clear that humanity will choose death over meaninglessness. A world dominated by techno-industrial society is not worth living in. As Lawrence observes, humanity would gladly extend this suicide to the cosmos themselves, if it had the power. This again, is all too clear in the 21st century. Death is not the enemy of life, but godlessness. The despair of humanity today is the product of centuries worth of both the denial of the spiritual life of the world and the suppression of the natural urge to reintegrate with that world. Can one imagine the sort of tortures required to break down the most fundamental impulse within a living thing, to be connected with the whole? Sadly, it is likely that we all have some sense of what that feels like now. Hundreds of years worth of denial cannot expunge what every blade of grass and drop of water knows. So we bury it within ourselves, and as Jung has observed, we trade the living gods of the old world for the psychotic demons of this world.

Nevertheless, despite all of this, there is an optimistic tone to Lawrence’s Apocalypse. A grim kind of optimism, perhaps, but optimism no less. For when things come crashing down, there is the potential for growth, for change. While it might be tempting to see our crisis as a final crisis, we must not forget that this is the linear view of history and time promoted by the rational mind. The end is never really the end. Time is cyclical and destruction brings creation. As Mircea Eliade puts it: “myths describe the various and sometimes dramatic breakthroughs of the sacred (or the ‘supernatural’) into the World.” The apocalypse is one such moment. As structures collapse, a door appears for the old gods to re-enter our world. By losing ourselves in the noumenal world, we are able to break free from the profane world. Mythic time, bursting with spirit and life, repeats itself over and over again. The moment of crisis opens up a world of possibilities. Our present moment shows us plainly what we have lost and what must be restored. This is the true meaning of apocalypse for Lawrence, it shows us

the things that the human heart secretly yearns after. By the very frenzy with which the Apocalypse destroys the sun and the stars, the world, and all kings and all rulers, all scarlet and purple and cinnamon…we can see how the apocalyptists are yearning for the sun and the stars and the earth and the waters of the earth.

We know what truly matters to us when we see it dashed to fragments before our very eyes. As yet, techno-industrial humanity is so far from even acknowledging its true pain. The crisis has evidently not reached a dire enough threshold. Perhaps we can perceive here and there a sort of blind grasping, which appears as despair more often than not. The more suicidal we become, the closer we are to crying out for what we truly want. What will it take, we might ask, for humanity to recognize that what it has lost is wholeness itself. Lawrence writes, “We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh and part of the living, incarnate cosmos. I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet now perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea.” But as long as we deny a cosmos that is alive, there will be nothing for us to be a part of.

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Deny the spirit of the world and we deny ourselves. That in the process we will also bring death and ruin to the earth goes without saying. The rational, scientific mind drives us over this cliff, no longer tethered at all to the earth, intuition, and religion. It is the enemy of the universe, it is the architect of time. No more cycles, no more birth and death. A flaming arrow into the dark void of space. All things shall end, once and for all. And the light will go out of the universe. Lawrence:

How they long for the destruction of the cosmos, secretly, these men of mind… How they work for its domination and final annihilation! But alas, they only succeed in spoiling the earth, spoiling life, and in the end destroying mankind, instead of the cosmos. Man cannot destroy the cosmos: that is obvious. But it is obvious that the cosmos can destroy man. Man must inevitably destroy himself, in conflict with the cosmos. It is perhaps his fate. Before men had cultivated the Mind, they were not fools.

Techno-industrial society is a war against the universe, against the gods, against life. Its dreams and aims are nothing less than an end to all things. But this an illusion. Several hundred years of technological advancement has given some the hopes that their mad fantasies can be achieved. Thankfully this is not the case. Lawrence ends his text with the following words: “What we want is to destroy our false, inorganic connections, especially those related to money, and re-establish the living organic connections, with the cosmos, the sun and earth…Start with the sun, and the rest will slowly, slowly happen.” Find the living gods of the world once again and restore the cycle of time. Profane time will always give way to sacred time.

Death is not the enemy of life, but godlessness.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.


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The Sword Triumphant

“The sword is the land. The sword is love and love for the wild. It is the love of waves that crash down upon the shore with an unquenchable fury, until it has ground cliffs into dust. It is the love of the mountain, whose heart is iron.”

From Ramon Elani

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“Reason will not decide at last; the sword will decide.
The sword: an obsolete instrument of bronze or steel,
formerly used to kill men, but here
In the sense of a symbol.”—Robinson Jeffers
Having dug into the dark water and thick peat, stinking with thousands of years of decaying sacrifices, strewn with half drowned bones, and bits of flesh preserved, I have come to the sword at last. Held aloft, with the ghosts behind me. The sword is the earth, the land itself. And its fire burns with a heat that will blow the world to pieces. Destruction upon the wings. For victory in battle, the sword bears the Tyr rune. Victory comes through dismemberment. We must lose in order to win. The wolf is bound by freely giving the sacrifice of blood, of ruin. Those who fear the sword will be the first to fall beneath it’s blade. The sword is the steward of the bloody and of those whose bodies have bled from wounds that will not heal. Ah, that we should curse the sword for teaching us what we are!

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The sword is the land. The sword is love and love for the wild. It is the love of waves that crash down upon the shore with an unquenchable fury, until it has ground cliffs into dust. It is the love of the mountain, whose heart is iron. It is the love of the grove, where beauty was given to oak and wicker. It is the love of the stars, forever exploding in the abyss of space. What shall be said of man? It shall be said that he was “Prince of the plunder, / The unrelenting warrior to his enemy; / Heavy was he in his vengeance; / Terrible was his fighting.Who dreams of a world governed by a kinder, gentler god dreams of desolation. Who dreams of reason and the triumph of justice will forever dream in vain. Thus we must give our love to the severed hand, though we mourn its loss. For the part that is mutilated is still a part of me and I will not shun it. Wholeness is not what it appears. There is agony in wholeness, though its absence contains a sorrow to break the world.

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Humanity is a grotesque enough thing without becoming torn apart by its dreams of a world for which it was never destined. Nevertheless, techno-industrialism promises humanity godhood. Not the bloody commingling of flesh and spirit but the mechanistic arrangement of parts. Isolation, alienation. An ordered world of a compartmentalized humanity. Only be separating itself from the spirit of life can that world be achieved. And what would be left of us by then? What manner of stunted, deformed creatures would still breathe to wander the golden palaces we strive for? The sword is obsolete to the world builders of today and tomorrow. Theirs is a weapon more subtle and dreadful by far. Industrialism had no use for the sword. Those of ages past longed for nothing than to die whole and to dissolve within the heart of the world. To put aside the sword is to curse ourselves even beyond the mark we bear from birth. For the sword is love.

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I speak to my son and my daughter, my own Life and the Everlasting Strength of Life. What a world you will face. Dark when I was born, dark when the earth was born, dark when the storms come, dark when our home is buried beneath the dust, dark when the stars fade in the sky, and the universe grows cold. The trouble is coming, the trouble is here. It has been here for longer than we know. And the world and humanity will grow more rotten in your time and in the time of your children to come. Lies notwithstanding we have always known that the gods are not full of boundless love and forgiveness. Love yes, forgiveness perhaps. But they do not rule from on high, dispassionately directing our hands with the calm patience of an endlessly benevolent parent. No, the gods are as cruel as they are loving. And to be born into the world is to accept the law of the sword and the bloody claw. And to strive for something other, to strive to bury the sword and shatter the shining blade is to deny the gods and deny their love. My children inherit a world of ruins, a landscape of bones. They will struggle and fight and they will be unrelenting in their battles and they will bring vengeance and fury. They will be demons in a world of monsters. And the sword will guide them.
Through it all, they will see, as I have seen, the staggering beauty of the iron grey sea. The stars shining in a limpid pool. The sun rising over the piney hills. Beauty, yes. And meaning. The meaning of the cosmos and the secrets of the gods themselves. All these things lie in the simplest, most quiet moments. The whispering trees, stirred by the gentle wind. We are never alone. We stand, sword in hand, and commune with the forces. A vision of humanity perfected is a vision of solipsism. Imperfect but whole, we are a part of that which is beyond us. Only if we listen and respond. For there will always be a voice that echoes in the heart, which can speak in the tongues of rivers and mountains. Even as the floods bear down upon us and threaten to sweep our world away, the gods will talk to us if we listen.

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Love the sword, for it is who we are. And in that truth lies our link to the cosmos and self beyond the self. To look in upon humanity, to take the ideologies and madness of our society at face value, is to be damned. It is to live in a desert of our own making. If salvation awaits us, if the gods offer clemency for our many crimes, it can only be sought upon the thundering cliffs and the murky woods.

 

“The world’s in a bad way, my man,
And bound to be worse before it mends;
Better lie up in the mountain here
Four or five centuries,
While the stars go over the lonely ocean.”—Robinson Jeffers


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.

The Sword Radiant

“If there was ever a thing of beauty among our race, it was the part that held the light of the star and the crash of the waves upon a rocky, inhospitable shore.”

From Ramon Elani

“The spirit of the depths spoke to me: ‘Look into your depths, pray to your depths, waken the dead.’”

“There is a desert on the moon where the dreamer sinks so deeply into the ground that she reaches hell.”— C.G. Jung

I stand upon a hill and gaze to the north, where the sky is filled with flames. The whispering trees sway gently. Urging me to wander, filling my heart with the bittersweet madness of wandering. But I have walked so long already. I have wandered and now have finished with wandering. All will happen as it has happened a thousand times. This is the curse of wandering. Again and again, the wanderer finds himself standing before monuments he cannot remember. Only that he stood he before and he will stand here again. Onward and onward he will be driven, pursued by maddening storms. The self runs but its path is only to circle the endless stones. Life and the cosmos will always be elsewhere. The beast will always be full of bitterness and hunger, as it runs across the plains. Because what it hunts is its own self.

*Who liveth alone longeth for mercy,

Maker’s mercy. Though he must traverse

Tracts of sea, sick at heart,

Trouble with oars ice-cold waters,

The ways of exile—Weird is set fast.

But I bind myself to this hill. Here I will stand until ruination. I will not find my home and my mother through movement. I will find her by digging my grave and standing within it. My mother, the moon, gazes down upon me. I can sense her light from beneath, as well. A pillar of light, extending into infinity. Where shall I seek the barrows? Where are the ancient kings buried, with all their war-gear? Where does the radiant blade shine beneath the dark earth? I know, I know.

Thus spoke such a ‘grasshopper’, old griefs in his mind,

Cold slaughters, the death of dear kinsmen.

What is there to search for that you will not find within yourself? We have buried much of ourselves with them, the dead kings. We have put aside their cruelty, their bloody masks. And yet we have torn from our hearts the beating drum of life and the cosmos. What is left of humanity? What force ever animated these sickly limbs with a sublimity to match the soaring falcon above the dusky hill? The falcon soars that he might rend the flesh and bathe himself in blood. We know, we know.

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No weary mind may stand against Weird

Nor may a wrecked will work new hope;

Wherefore, most often, those eager for fame

Bind the dark mood fast in their breasts.

If there was ever a thing of beauty among our race, it was the part that held the light of the star and the crash of the waves upon a rocky, inhospitable shore. Where has it been driven? Driven beneath the barrow, denied with the blood. For, do not mistake, the blood and the light are of the same substance. We can extinguish the one only by hiding them both in the darkest places of soul. One hand holds the fire, and the other holds a blade dripping with gore. And yet, whose blood? Our own, of course. But we are done with fathers and the things of the father. The prohibition against blood-letting is the domain of the father, as are all prohibitions and the logic of law.

There stands in the stead of staunch thanes

A towering wall wrought with worm-shapes;

The earls are off-taken by the ash-spear’s point,

That thirsty weapon. Their Weird is glorious.

Dig, then. Dig into the black and musty earth. Dig out the sparkling blade from a realm of worms and rot. The sword carried aloft, the moon shining at its apex, for I am of the moon. Never forget: “Who would be born must first destroy a world.” The sword shines in the heart of the jewel. And the one who wields it is the maker and annihilator of worlds. Hesse once wrote, “I am a star in the firmament.” The star knows not morality or mercy. Seek not, nor ask for mercy. Mercy is not a quality given from one divine thing to another, but from a master to a slave. Blazing in the void of space, the glory of the star is combustion and the gentle light that it shines upon the faces of the dreamers, who gaze up at the night sky. Gentleness we may find, perhaps forgiveness as well. But never mercy. To struggle into becoming is the fate of the world.

A wise man may grasp how ghastly it shall be

When all this world’s wealth standeth waste,

Even as now, in many places, over the earth

Walls stand, wind-beaten,

Hung with hoar-frost; ruined habitations.

The wine-halls crumble; their wielders lie

Bereft of bliss, the band all fallen

Proud by the wall.

We have come unto our kingdom and found it ashen and decayed. A lie was written somewhere. We followed a path that circled the tower but never approached the steps. So we flee to distant places. The soul is thrown beyond. The horn is heard among the standing stones upon the hill, where the wolf moans to the wind and the bear digs among the moss and roots and the hawk shrieks for slaughter. The song echoes among the bogs and watery places, where dark things slither and dim lights shine beneath the murky water. Reason has made a waste of the world and buried the flaming heart and the weeping sword. Wraiths wandering among the fallen stones speak to us of times gone by. The White Bull and the crescent blade that slit his divine throat. Even as now, even as now. Like Hesse, we are doomed to endlessly traverse the “hell of inner being.”

Where is that horse now? Where are those men? Where is the hoard-sharer?

Where is the house of the feast? Where is the hall’s uproar?

Alas, bright cup! Alas, burnished fighter!

Alas, proud prince! How that time has passed,

Dark under night’s helm, as though it never had been!

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There is no pain we cannot endure, for indeed, we carry with us the sorrows of the eternal courses of the world within us. Within the heart, all has come and gone and come again. There is no death we have not suffered. The cup is filled and drained and will be filled again. Yet here we stand, alive in a morning world, though our souls dwell in the evening. We have been raised by the Sun, in a Sun land, but we long for our mother the Moon and the icy mists of the forest in twilight. The noumenon rises like a mountain into the sky within the soul. It is not outside of us. Its fragment pulses in the moments that we truly live, like a germ of ice that brings with it the promise of a demon called the glacier that grinds down the ages of the world.

Storms break on the stone hillside,

The ground bound by driving sleet,

Winter’s wrath. Then wanness cometh,

Night’s shade spreadeth, sendeth from north

The rough hail to harry mankind.

The dead live within us. They slumber in the hidden places of the psyche. In this ancestor-less time we have sealed their tombs. And we evoke their names in a manner both crass and profane to strike out against anything as long as it is not within ourselves. There must be a surrogate for the slaughter. Those who will not battle within their hearts will seek a victim for their impotent rage. May they be buried by grains of hail, that nothing will grow from their malice and I will cast a shadow upon them from the north that will bind their vulgar tongues and feed the monster within them, who they will not fight, and who in time will make their existence an inescapable hell. And I will curse them to wander forever among the lost stones of their own fear and stupidity and self hatred. Woe unto them who run from their demons, for they will bring ruin upon ruin to the world. The creature will be fed, one way or another. One war or another. One sacrifice or another.

In the earth-realm all is crossed;

Weird’s will changeth the world.

Wealth is lent us, friends are lent us,

Man is lent, kin is lent;

All this earth’s frame shall stand empty.

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Dive down and waken the dead! Find the demon that time immemorial has twisted and generations of denial and repression has cursed. There lies your foe. Unearth the tombs, shatter the bands of iron that seal them. And the spirits, faced and bested, will fight for us, will trace the edge of the rusted blade until it shines like a beacon through the ages. And the sword held on high will burst into flames and radiate its light into the heart of the star that beats dimly within our blood. And a flame will rise in the north, where I stand upon my hill. And I will not weep for the end of a world. And I will plant the tip of my spear in the dark earth. And I will raise the sword to the moon!

*Excerpts of “The Wanderer” as translated by Michael J. Alexander


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.


The Anima of Disintegration

“Titanic forces war within us. A war waged by the blood against the intellect, between the influences of the industrial fallen world in which we live, and the primeval, fecund, blood drenched swamps that we remember in our dreams and in the shadows of the woods at night.”

From Ramon Elani

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“Life is never a thing of continuous bliss. There is no paradise. Fight and laugh and feel bitter and feel bliss: and fight again. Fight, fight. That is life.”

—D.H. Lawrence

The birth of the modern world brought with it the death of the old gods and their ways. As D.H. Lawrence wrote “it was in 1915 the old world ended.” When the factories came, when the machines arose, when history became the demon that had once haunted our groves and forests. The ethos of the modern age placed humanity at the center of the cosmos. They promised a world of endless human perfection, a world without suffering, a world were engineering could so arrange society that the demons would be driven out. But, as we know, the demons will always find other homes. Now we see what these promises have come to. A world of ash, a world of endless ruination. Inseparable from the acts of enclosure, from the mechanization of human life, came the prohibition against violence. Modernity and the techno-industrial society that it created, teaches us that violence is a thing to be abhorred, resisted, renounced, abandoned The Christ-worshippers and their other desert dwelling brethren of the crescent moon and the temple and the lamp teach us this. The servants of capital and industry persuade us to repudiate violence so that we might not be tempted to turn it against them. The ghosts and bones speak: we would rather die than live mechanically. There is truth in blood. Not in the blood of this tribe or that nation. But the pumping, wild, vital blood of the animal that still lives within us. There was a time when we listened to the lessons of the blood, before the spirit of the modern age told us to fear that voice. The spirits still dwell among the blood, in the world of instinct, of wildness. The spirits that modernity sought to quell. For my blood is of the ocean, and the ocean is of my blood. It is in blood and vitality that humanity discovers its true being. Modernity has taken the cosmos from us and replaced it with a lie. A grotesque lie, made of factory chimneys and machines. We would rather die than live mechanically! The techno-industrial world denies the blood and denies its expression in violence. As we shall see, there are few voices that argue more compellingly in defense of the truth of the blood and against the tragedy of the modern age than D.H. Lawrence.

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Though Lawrence had no direct contact with Sigmund Freud, the ideas of the unconscious and the subconscious run deeply through Lawrence’s oeuvre. The key point to make in this regard, however, is that Lawrence instinctively rejected Freud’s conclusion that pre-modern or pre-civilized humanity was nothing more than a horrific riot of bloodshed. Clearly there was blood and suffering but there was also a deeper connection to the mystical essence of humanity and to the cosmos as well. And the eradication of the primal violence of the pre-modern era also brought with it the derangement of the cosmos, the annihilation of the natural world, and the alienation of humanity. While Freud is terrified of primal humanity and sees it as a force that must be imprisoned, to protect humanity from itself, Lawrence finds the darkness to be fertile and ripe with meaning and beauty. In the words of Ursula Brangwen, heroine of both The Rainbow and Women in Love, “You are a lurking, blood-sniffing creature with eyes peering out of the jungle darkness, snuffing for your desires.” For all our veneer of civilization and rationality, we are still bloody beasts haunting the dark forests. And this is why modern humanity fears the forest. We know that among the shadowy trees and the uncanny light of the moon, we will find our true selves. Not only is there a truth in acknowledging the essential, primal, bloody nature of humanity but further, there is a greater beauty in it than the fictions of modernity and the humanists.

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For Lawrence, like Carl Jung, the unconscious is not merely the basement prison where our complexes and repressed memories ferment and mutate, as it is for Freud. Lawrence saw in the unconscious a burial mound, a haunted relic from pre-modern times where a world invigorated by blood still lived and breathed. The forces of industrialism and modernity sought to keep these ancient memories suppressed and thus deprive life of its true meaning: violent, bloody, life-affirming struggle. Lawrence was disgusted by Freud’s fear of primal humanity: “The psychoanalysts show the greatest fear of all, of the innermost primeval place in man, where God is, if he is anywhere.” For Lawrence, who had strong inhumanist tendencies, it was not clear that divinity still resided within humanity at all but if it did, if even a spark of the world soul still flickered in our hearts, it could only be in the depths, where we still lived as dark primordial beings, monstrous and bloody and alive.

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The soul of the pre-modern world is unapologetically violent. Blood ran freely and the people were possessed by blood. But the lived and they lived in the lap of the gods. They saw them, felt them in the roar of ritual and the darkness of oak groves. As we see everyday around us, humanity is dying. Its vitality denied. Its blood denied. Like a tree uprooted, humanity is torn from its intuitive life. Modern consciousness displaces instinct. We are taught to fear the body, for it is the source of wickedness. How telling that as modernity seeks to dispel the old gods, the same repressive impulse is given free reign by the stories of the Christ-worshippers. Thus modernity and Christianity go hand in hand. They work together to deny the body and its blood. To eradicate the world of nature, which cannot be conquered so easily by technics. Both fill our heads with stories of a world to come, in which all struggle will disappear. Humanity will live in peace, in harmony, as one. Whether this is told via the worship of Christ the Redeemer or Technology the Redeemer, the message is the same. The demons in our heart enter the world through the body and the blood. To keep them at bay, to suffocate them, we must deny our nature. Forget the body, it is the source of pain and misery. Deny the body until someday, the priests of technology promise, we may be able to do without them altogether.

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The only path for humanity that leads away from the waking nightmare of industrialism is to successively dive deeper and deeper within our psyches to rediscover the true self, the self forged in bloodshed, and animated by passion. As modernity evolved and expanded, this true self was buried beneath the lies of a benign, passive cosmos and a docile human nature. Industrialism taught us that the world could be controlled and that what was best for humanity should be our only concern. Thus the truth of blood became hidden from us. For Lawrence, our only hope is to swim through the oceans of the unconscious and to arrive again on the mysterious shores, thick with fierce life, where we abandoned ourselves. The intellect, the tool of industrialism, the demon of modernity, denies this true essence and pushes it down. In fact, the intellect seeks to persuade us that it never existed at all. The intellect, which speaks in the language of control teaches us to fear and disregard the things that overwhelm us, the forces that resist control. Thus violence is, above all, abhorred by the intellect. Violence appears as an irrational power. It seizes us in the language that only blood can understand. Everything that we have not chosen, everything that is above and beyond us is anathema to the intellect. And therefore, the intellect cannot help us understand the most profound experiences of life for truly, who can say that when they were consumed by the living heart of the world that the rational, conscious mind gave them words to express the wisdom that was bestowed upon them.

Lawrence dedicated his life to discovering the power that lead to greater wisdom than the bland, tasteless fruits of the intellect and the conscious mind. The power that could shatter the bitterness of the industrial world and its crimes against the earth. In a letter dated 1913, Lawrence writes:

My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh as being wiser than the intellect. We can go wrong in our minds. But what our blood feels and believes and says, is always true. The intellect is only a bit and a bridle. What do I care about knowledge. All I want is to answer to my blood, direct, without fribbling intervention of mind, or moral, or what-not.

The inhumanist, who boldly asserts the limits of the human view of the world and the weakness and fragility of our species before the might of the cosmos, knows too that morality is nothing more than a trick of the mind. The blood pays no attention to these inventions that are not reflected in the universe beyond ourselves. Throughout his career, Lawrence sought to refine this view. He maintained that there was a seat of higher wisdom and greater self-knowledge than the mind. The blood contains its own consciousness, for Lawrence, separate from the rational faculties of the mind. In 1919, Lawrence writes:

the blood has a perfect but untranslatable consciousness of its own, a consciousness of weight, of rich, down-pouring motion, of powerful self-positivity. In the blood we have our strongest self-knowledge, our most powerful dark conscience. The ancients said the heart was the seat of understanding. And so it is: it is the seat of the primal sensual understanding, the seat of the passional self-consciousness.

In other words, our consciousness is not monolithic. Our innermost soul is Vigrid, the plains of battle where Ragnarok will be fought. Titanic forces war within us. A war waged by the blood against the intellect, between the influences of the industrial fallen world in which we live, and the primeval, fecund, blood drenched swamps that we remember in our dreams and in the shadows of the woods at night. Industrialism has deified the intellect, since it is by such powers that humanity has gained its cursed dominion over the earth. The heart and the blood will not assist in such an unholy crusade. The law of the blood is to tear down, to expend itself in a glorious detonation of fire. The intellect is a bridle, a yoke forced upon the wild human spirit. For truly, how else could those that hope to reduce humanity to a state of endless servitude accomplish their designs? The wild within us will not serve! It cries out with foaming jaws! The wild will must be broken in order to build the world of artifice and degradation that the Mammon worshipers desire. The call of the blood must be silenced. The vigor of humanity must be denied and renounced.

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The destiny of blood is war and struggle. Bliss and self destruction. As violence is denied, so to is the joy of an unfettered life. For Lawrence, predating Jung, the blood consciousness was seen as the subterranean force, which the domination of the intellect was built upon.

Destroy! destroy! destroy! hums the under-consciousness. Love and produce! Love and produce! cackles the upper consciousness. And the world hears only the Love-and- produce cackle. Refuses to hear the hum of destruction under- neath. Until such time as it will have to hear.

These two complimentary forces, destruction and creation, were both given their due in the world before industrialism crashed down upon us like a wind from the abyss. The imbalance in these forces is what now drives us to the precipice. Lawrence saw, like Jung, that the blood could only be denied for so long. Slumbering powers would not consent to dream forever. There will be a time when the blood rises again and it will take its revenge upon the bland, tasteless, ashen prisons that we have built around it. What will that time look like? Apocalypse. Revelation. The veil built by centuries of denial and repression will be shredded. And blood will return with a fury that we have never seen. It has grown rancorous in its years of imprisonment. Oh, that we had shown reverence to the blood and cast aside the chains of the machines and the intellect when we had the chance. And Lawrence saw all this: “There’s a bad time coming. There’s a bad time coming, boys, there’s a bad time coming! If things go on as they are, there’s nothing lies in the future but death and destruction, for these industrial masses.” A bad time, indeed.

The spirit of blood and violence screams in the words of Lawrence, “I’d wipe the machines off the face of the earth again, and end the industrial epoch absolutely, like a black mistake!” The gods fled in the face of these monstrosities that we gave birth to. And in our denial of them, they retreated further and further. And so humanity began to rot. Only in the vigorous struggle does life exist and only in the throes of a wild battle the likes of which have not been seen in hundreds of years, will the gods open their bleary eyes and gaze upon us with curiosity and something approaching tenderness. The intellect and modern consciousness lead us, again and again, away from the path. The intellect of consciousness knows nothing but anguish and dullness. It winds around and around in mazes of its own creation. But it is too blind and bedizened by its own design to ever find its way out. Look what I have created! It proclaims like a madman. But it is nothing more than its own tomb. The intellect knows nothing of value. It knows how to imprison, it knows how to divert the natural course of the water until it pools in fetid, subterranean filth. The blood, the blood only knows the language of freedom, the language of the gods. Truly there is nothing to fear from anger and the letting of blood. It is when blood is denied that it becomes stagnant and sick and infects the body of humanity. Born from the cosmos, humanities only hope is to return to the rhythm of the cosmos themselves. A rhythm of destruction and creation, death and rebirth. There can be no rebirth without death.

As Jung and others have articulated, the self is not the self. The unconscious and its hidden depths are not clear to us. They are murky as a forest tarn, thick and black with the compost of millennia of dead leaves. The unconscious, the deepest self, the blood self, the awareness of the bodily, returns to us only in brief glimpses and hauntings: “The self that lives in my body I can never fully know. . . My body is like a jungle in which dwells an unseen me, like a black panther in the night, whose two eyes glare green through my dreams, and, if a shadow falls, through my waking day.” To shun and renounce the intellect and the techno-industrial world is to dive into the world of dreams, to seek what we have forgotten in ourselves. At the bottom of the murky pool, we will find a beast. There is terror in the depths. But that is not all, for we can only be free and experience joy when we find and do homage to the monster that lives in our deepest places. For Lawrence, this path, the diving path meant abandoning the scientific view of the cosmos, which had grown out of modernity, the bloody sire of industrialism. Science represented to him the principles of death and the machine. The unconscious may be unknowable to the rational mind, to the intellect. But like Jung, Lawrence believed that we could rediscover our essential nature by returning to a religious conception of the universe. We must realize that the techno-industrial world and its rational, scientific view is precisely what puts us out of balance and separates us from the world of blood and wild nature. The ancient spiritual teachings of the pre-modern world sought not to explain the mysteries of the gods and cosmos, but to acknowledge them, to honor them.

Lawrence dedicated his life and creative efforts to articulating the meaning of the blood and rediscovering the true self that techno-industrial society has displaced. It ultimately led him to write this creed:

That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women.

We must submit to the gods, and the blood through which they speak. Forces beyond our understand and control rule us, utterly. At best, we may hope to discern their presence in the nighttime places, the dreamtime places. Beyond this, the beauty and truth of Lawrence’s creed speaks for itself.

Unfortunately, Lawrence’s religion of blood and dark self-knowing was misunderstood by many. Bertrand Russell, who maintained a correspondence with Lawrence even identifies this philosophy as an antecedent of the horrors of the Nazis. Russell writes “He had a mystical philosophy of “blood” which I disliked…This seemed to me frankly rubbish, and I rejected it vehemently, though I did not then know that it led straight to Auschwitz.” Perhaps it is unsurprising that a philosophy of the world that conforms so much to Jung’s view also becomes conflated with abhorrent ideas and actions. It is also unsurprising that someone with such a radically rational perspective as Russell misunderstood Lawrence so outrageously. When Lawrence writes of the blood, I believe it is quite clear that he refers, like Jung’s collective unconscious, not to the blood of this particular race or nation but to the blood of humanity as a whole. To an impulse which is universal in humanity and a force that is vitally present in the non-human world as well. This is a cosmic force, not one that suffers the pettiness and vileness of nationalism or the intolerant, narrow minded hatred of the demagogue. Author Rex Warner likewise situates Lawrence in this milieu, writing in 1946: “There must be nothing at all gentle about the ‘dark’ force to which the dark independent outlaws of his dreams would owe a sort of reverence… Fascism finally succeeded, at least temporarily, in making the synthesis that eluded Lawrence.” Again, this misreading of Lawrence fails to acknowledge that the power of the blood brings with it joy and bliss, as well as violence and struggle. Lawrence is significant precisely because, like Jung, he understood that humanity must accept that it has a dark dimension to its nature. And that this element within us puts us in touch with the vast sublimity of the cosmos.

What both Warner and Russell mistake in Lawrence is the same problem that we can see so clearly in Freud: the hysterical fear of the realm of instinct, blood, and wildness. There is an assumption among over-rational minds that if there is something we cannot control within ourselves then that thing must be feared, abhorred, shunned, denied, or denigrated. There is something to be feared within the wild, bloody heart of humanity. But it is not this force that left unchecked that will turn the world into a graveyard. It is the other. The intellect, running rampant, will annihilate humanity and the world far quicker than the savage violence of those who sleep in tombs beneath the earth. No, let us be quite clear: the gas chambers and the unspeakable horror of the holocaust were born from the ruthless, rational, mechanistic mind of industrialism not from the pre-modern darkness that dwells in of the blood and its mysterious power. And likewise, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the rule of the intellect and the techno-industrial order is solely responsible for the destruction of the earth. A holocaust against the earth which has lasted every single moment of every single day for hundreds of years.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.

The Burning Crown: Reading “Dismantling The Tower”

“The essays in Dismantling the Tower ask what do plants dream? What secrets do they share with us in that forgotten language of sighs and whispers?”

 From Ramon Elani

“…along with the other animals, the stones, the trees, and the clouds, we ourselves are characters within a huge story that is visibly unfolding all around us, participants within the vast imagination, or Dreaming, of the world.”—David Abram

“Devil’s Club is about structure, and the way each person interacts with the structures in their lives is very different. Devil’s Club builds and it demolishes. It creates and it destroys.”—Casandra Johns

The Tower, the House of God, the Burning Crown. Structure collapsed. Shattering. Fragmentation. Catastrophe. Is this the age of the Tower? Do we, already, stand among the ruins? The ashes falling around us, silent as midwinter snow.

The word “catastrophe” means “to overturn.” Like compost. As Donna Haraway writes “we are all compost.” The lines of demarcation between the human and the non-human have never been as rigid as we like to pretend. The soul of the world is an assemblage, an endless interpenetration. Boundaries are shifting, permeable. Borders can never be enforced. For Haraway, this present age of collapse and catastrophe is defined by the dwindling availability of sites of refuge. Human and non-human alike. And if there is any refuge to be left for any of us, it can only be found in the interstices between human and non-human, between being and non-being. Spaces that allow refuge for the human alone will guarantee the desolation of all else. And such refuge will not last long on its own.

There is discourse and kinship between beings, even between being and non-being. Liminality, the state of being in between, is the condition of reality. We are the hooded figure haunting the crossroads. We forever stand between consciousness and the spark of the world soul. The winds of history blow through our hair. We see the desert of ruins both before and behind us. The sleep of the world is broken by nightmares. And the depth of our souls are peopled by innumerable spirits and entities that we do not know.

For Carl Jung, this murky swamp realm contains the drowned, submerged consciousness of all life on earth. The dreams of the thunder lizards, the feeling of light shining down on titanic palms in primordial jungles, the desires of the mammoths wandering across endless fields of ice. The memories of all things swim in the dark flooded basement of our souls. Without light, they become twisted and unrecognizable. But this essence, this spark of the universe inside of us can still be felt. It is felt in the uncanny familiarity that one finds among the trees and stones. It is the reflection we see when we gaze in the mirror and find something other. But a cosmos full of meaning and depth has been replaced by a cold, mechanistic model. Being and non-being is forced into narrow categories. Modernity taught us that the plants do not speak, the stones do not dream, the trees have nothing to teach us. What better way to understand the humankind’s annihilation of life on earth than in terms of a resentful child who imagines that his parents no longer care for him? If you do not love me, I will destroy everything. The path of the soul and the path of the world are one. If the soul is denied, or thought to be self-constituted, then all will perish. We are never alone.


Towers are born to fall. The edifice cannot stand for long. Like another tower that stabbed at the heavens, the towers fell. And when they came down, the world and its dreams changed. Dismantling the Tower, the second volume of Casandra Johns’ Numen Naturae, an ambitious series on the intersection between tarot and herbalism, meditates upon the tower card and Devil’s Club. As Jenn Zahrt writes in her foreword, “the first image that came to me was the crisp Tuesday morning in Manhattan the day the Twin Towers fell.” Creation cannot occur without destruction, though this, of course, does not lessen the trauma it causes. Furthermore, the creation that it engenders may not be easily perceived. If we return to the notion of “catastrophe,” to overturn the soil is a violent process, though one that creates growth and birth. Its violence cannot be denied, nor can its necessity to life. Thus we begin to approach the world of Numen Naturae, a world in which the human and non-human are in dialogue. One in which the language of symbol and dream bring us into conversation with the vibrant noumenal world. Destruction in the wild world is never experienced merely as such. It is always a moment and opportunity for growth and creation. Humanity, locked in the grips of a modernity that suffocates us with its fantasy of linear time, struggles to grasp the cycles of death and rebirth.

And what of the other tower? The first tower? The tower build by the hands of promethean man to reach god and attain his kingdom. The tower that he threw down to punish that prideful endeavor. What does it say about that god that multiplicity is his punishment upon the world. But as Jacques Derrida writes “The ‘tower of Babel’ does not merely figure the irreducible multiplicity of tongues; it exhibits an incompletion, the impossibility of finishing, of totalizing, of saturating, of completing something on the order of edification, architectural construction, system, and architectonics.” Every tower contains a germ of this. The tower is a fragment, momentarily restrained. It is a symbol of an impossible quest to dominate the consciousness of the world. The edifice points to its own annihilation. Creation, construction in the purest sense, is not possible, which is to say that it is inseparable from its opposite.

For Casandra Johns, Numen Naturae was born out of a discomfort with the ways in which contemporary herbalism emphasizes the human uses of plants. Are planets, in other words, merely another resource to be consumed and exploited by human beings with no reciprocity, no dialogue? When we name something we gain power over it. I name this plant and its uses and thus its power becomes my tool. When we study a plant as such and identify its force, we deny its uniqueness and its being. By asserting Devil’s Club as a protective entity, we disregard the destructiveness that lies latent within it. And furthermore, we lose our way in understanding the nature of protection. Perhaps it is that protection and destruction are two sides of the same coin. Perhaps, as we have suggested above, destruction cannot be understood as purely negative. And most importantly, if we identify a being in our own terms we deny its agency. Johns suggests that perhaps Devil’s Club determines the nature of protection we require. Throughout Dismantling the Tower, the authors investigate this notion of Devil’s Club as an agent, a being in its own right. And the card of the tower as a symbol that resists a simple negative reading. As Jung writes, “the secret is that only that which can destroy itself is truly alive.”

The unconscious mind cannot be trained like a monkey or a parrot, to endlessly babble our own words back to us. The unconscious mind speaks to us in the language of the world soul and this language is heard loudest in the realm of dreams. The essays in Dismantling the Tower ask what do plants dream? What secrets do they share with us in that forgotten language of sighs and whispers? Contributor Elisa Finos writes of a voice that came to them, wandering through their dreams. The spirit of Devil’s Club spoke to them and directed them toward the resting place of its ancestors. As one of the first essays in the book, this piece sets the tone for what is to come. Devil’s Club is a character in these pages. For Finos, Devil’s Club appears to them and offers the protection that they need. It is important to acknowledge, however, that the particular protective healing that one receives from Devil’s Club may not be what one imagines they need, or want. The notion of human conscious as a self-sufficient entity does not find much to stand upon in the dark, mossy depths of primeval forests. Finos observes that the protection offered by Devil’s Club is a dialogue, revealing ourselves to ourselves, and the other. When we gain protection, it welcomes us to reflect upon our wounds and their sources. Protection and trauma are twins that walk beside us. One cannot experience trauma without summoning protection and healing. And one cannot be healed without first being wounded.


This idea of Devil’s Club and the symbol of the Tower as a force that appears to guide and teach recurs throughout Dismantling the Tower. As Sean Donahue writes, “I can barricade the door and Devil’s Club will break through and I will have pieces of door and pieces of furniture scattered everywhere, and then Devil’s Club will be my support among those ruins.” Our assumptions about protection, healing, and teaching are inherently born out of beliefs about the nature of structure. Thus the Tower and Devil’s Club imply each other. Devil’s Club, as the Tower, may stimulate collapse in order to bring about healing and rebuilding. The forces we resist come back to us all the stronger for our resistance. Again, in order to re-awaken ourselves to the noumenal world, we must revise the nature of our relationship with that world.

The universe of non-human forces has not disappeared because we deny is existence. But if we seek dialogue, healing, or guidance from those forces, we must speak to them once again. As David Abram puts it, “if we no longer call out to the moon slipping between the clouds, or whisper to the spider setting the silken struts of her web, well, then the numerous powers of this world will no longer address us– and if they still try, we will not likely hear them.” As techno-industrial humanity continues to turn away from the forces and the spirits, their voices become harder and harder to hear. However, as Donahue observes above, the consequences of separating ourselves from the non-human world will eventually lead us back to it. Structure, collapse, and rebuilding. The fragment contains both its past and its future.

Donahue brings us back to the Twin Towers. To return to our earlier point about the collapse of the tower(s) engendering multiplicity, we can ask: what was created by the destruction of the Towers? For Donahue, like the ruins that Devil’s Club both creates and rebuilds, 9/11 created a mirror image of the outside world, which decades of American imperial policy had constructed. This reality, obscured by the shimmering edifice of neoliberalism, was made plain by this act of brutality. Baghdad becomes Manhattan and vice versa. As the Middle East had been burning for decades, now America was burning as well. Of course, this moment of reflection, this opportunity for genuine dialogue, was neglected and obfuscated. As Donahue puts it, “rather than gazing into that mirror and recognizing what we ourselves had brought into the world and seeking to build something new on a different foundation, there was an attempt to quickly gather things up and build a more rigid foundation.” The Tower and Devil’s Club bring revelation. And the more we ignore these lessons, the more of these lessons we will inevitably receive.

In Casandra John’s powerful essay on the Tower and its relation to the goddess Hekate, whom she aptly situates as being primarily a deity of the crossroads, we continue to see the expansion of the theme of dualism(s), unity, and opposition. The transitional, liminal nature of the crossroads is an illuminating variation on this theme. The crossroads establish boundaries and points of contact. This sacred space also penetrates boundaries, while it creates them. It opens up moments and opportunities. It exists both within and without, as a property of the soul and as a landscape. The one-dimensional binaries of modernity fade away in the mists of the crossroads: things are not what they seem, they are both familiar and uncanny, we recognize shapes but they are unmistakably other. Comfortable categories of fear and love dissipate in the pale light of the moon. And we come face to face with the unthinkable truth, which we have secretly always known. It both is, and is not. Neither is obliterated by the other in compromise. Neither does one encompass the other, gaining ascendancy. It is not a unity of differences. It is not a sum of parts. It is simply an other form of structure. It is, to borrow an overused phrase, rhizomatic. It is, to return to Haraway, compost. Composed. Composite.

Johns leads us through gnostic passageways. Dusty Alexandrine archives. The laboratories of mad alchemists. Hekate, transplanted from her typical role of haunting crossroads, becomes the embodiment of the World Soul. No longer shepherding the souls of the dead, this Hekate guides the Idea from the Cosmic Ether into the Material Realm. She is the middle category, analogous to the mysterious mechanism in Hegel’s dialectic that causes the gears of that industrial consciousness to turn. Hekate, thusly conceived, is the host through which divinity passes into our world. And the divine Idea, here, is symbolized by the lightning bolt. Shattering the world. A catastrophe is no less catastrophic because it brings revelation. Nor is it any less of a creative force though it brings the world to its knees. The Idea can break worlds. In fact, perhaps we can say that only the Idea can sunder the rigid structures of modernity. And the patriarchal techno-industrial world would do well to remember that it is the Feminine that gives birth to the Idea. Hekate’s hand guides the thunderbolt, not Jove.

The time is coming (has come) when our towers will no longer offer us even the illusion of stability. Our condition has never been amenable to that. The Wild God of the World and She Whom He Serves live in endless cycles of repetition and recurrence. Bloody death and verdant life. Annihilation and cosmic birth. Putrid decay and vigorous pride. The symbol of the Tower reminds us of this. All our monuments are destined for dust. And Devil’s Club stands in the shadows, waiting.

Numen Naturae: Dismantling The Tower can be ordered here.


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article was published with the wrong pronoun for one of the writers- correction made January 13th 2018.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.


Airgetlam

From Ramon Elani: “We are never alone.
And the darkness is not outside of us.
Solitude is a gift only found in the endless soul of the ocean.”

“I will no longer mutilate and destroy myself in order to find a secret behind the ruins.” —Hermann Hesse

 

Within us, there is another,
Who we do not know, who walks beside us,
Sleeps beside us,
The opposing force, The other,
The one who stands behind,
The one who sits at the foot of the bed while we dream,
The shadow by moonlight.

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The thing that, when denied, rises up
From the black meres and tarns smoking with mist
In the depths of the shadowy primordial forests,
Where our souls and dream wander.
It rises, in blood, when it is forgotten,
And we live a fetch-life, a double life,
The twin of our soul that stalks through the ruins of the world,
Howling and begging in a storm of fire,
A ghost hungry with wrath.
And so the world becomes the blood-stained battlefield of our souls disregarded.
We see the twisted, mutilated fragments of our selves
In the face of everyone we meet.
That which is denied in the self is born into the world.
There is a deepness within us,
A depth that cannot be sounded,
And that void is haunted by a universe of spirits
That seek to claw their way to the surface,
And overcome the self that rules,
And lay waste to all that has been built.

He who voyages into the darkness of dreams will find the other.
He who searches for the demon will find him.
And he who does not search will be devoured.
The monstrous gods have retreated into the heart,
And by denying them, we become them and bring them into the world.
We are never alone.
And the darkness is not outside of us.
Solitude is a gift only found in the endless soul of the ocean.

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He who is whole alone may be King,
And take the crown of the Children of the Goddess,
And bear the arms of Four Cities.
Silverhand!
Who led his children from the North of the World
In ships of war to the land of the Bag Men,
Swollen with the fury for battle.
And Mac Erc saw in a dream the fair gods descending from clouds of fire,
And he woke in horror,
And he knew the day would soon come when he would seek water
And desire it more than life itself,
And the water would be hidden from him by the weavers.
And thus shrieking for water, would he be cut down.

And with the Goddess behind him,
Silverhand declared half the land for his kin.
But the Bag Men defied him
And in honor of their glorious pride,
He joined them in the sacred covenant of war.
Silverhand, whose sword none could withstand,
Thus faced the champion Sreng
On the plain of broken towers.
And Sreng in his warlike might shattered Silverhand
And sundered his arm from his body.
And the Children of the Goddess wept as they saw the king go down.
But the battle turned against the Bag Men,
For the spirit of the blood swan was not with them.
And Sreng found himself alone on the bloody field,
And in his martial rage he shook his spear
At Silverhand and demanded recompense for his kinsmen slain.
War for eternity, did Sreng promise to the Children of the Goddess.
War without end.
But Silverhand would not face the dread man again
And overcome by his valorous soul,
Gave him the gift of land and pasture.

And then was a hand wrought of silver to replace
What the king had lost.
And so was he known as Silverhand thereafter.
And then did he regain the kingship, for he was whole once again.
But his wyrd came for him in time,
As it does for us all.
And when the Deep Ones came upon the land,
Silverhand fell to the arms of He of the Evil Eye.

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None are free, all are driven by the monster inside of us.
We push it aside, only to ensure that it will follow us with even greater force.
Blood engenders phantoms.
As Paracelsus wrote, there is within the human soul
The quintessence of the universe, light and dark alike.
And there is poison in all things if not taken in their measure.
What we have lost has not disappeared,
It is always within.
And the flames of the world are nothing to the infernos inside of us.
The path is a spiral.

The path we walk is the path of madness,
But we must not turn away, we must not purge the madness from inside of us.
Those who abandon the path of madness within  make the world into a nightmare.
The demons that we seek to banish from our souls wreck the pillars of the world.
How can we choose?
Between a dry, placid soul and a world sundered by horror
And
A lacerated spirit, panting and wounded from endless battle, living in a world of stars.
Alas, the choice is a false one.
For only the one who is whole may rule.
And in the depths, there is only the cacophony of struggle
And the quietude of the Moon, in her strange ways.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.


The Red Champion

What has been won by our liberation from these outdated delusions? What has been gained? Are we free? Are we at peace? Even by the standards of modernity, twisted and obscene, we are undoubtably the poorer. Without the gods, now there is only ourselves to fear.

From Ramon Elani


Let us accept the vitality of blood, or rather the identity of blood and life, as a fact which antiquity never doubted and which has been acknowledged again today; another opinion as old as the world itself was that heaven grew angry with the flesh, and blood could be appeased only by blood…How then can we fail to recognize that paganism could not be mistaken about an idea so universal and fundamental as that of sacrifice, that is to say, of redemption by blood? Humanity could not guess at the amount of blood it needed.—Joseph De Maistre

I call to the goddess Cerridwen to guide my hand! Cerridwen, the Old White Sow, The Crooked Woman, Mother of the Bright One, the Black Screaming Hag, the Lady of the Wolf, the Cat, and the Pig, Cauldron Stirrer, who devoured her Golden Child.

I call to the Morrigan to grant me victory! The Nightmare Queen, Consort of the Dagda, Raven Goddess, Pursuer, Destroyer, Subduer, the Sovereign, Battle Crow, the Devastation of Ulster, the One who Washes Bloody Armor in the crystal stream.

The Druid, the Oak-Seer speaks and says:

I am the wind over the deep sea (for depth),

I am a tempest of the sea (for weight),

I am a roaring of the sea (for horror)

 

Blood is pouring down my face. “Your nose is broken,” says my coach. “It’s fine, it’s fine,” I reply. Across the ring, my opponent is panting and holding his ribs. A look of agony on his bruised face. I don’t feel any pain. This is why I fight: to feel alive, to give my blood for something ineffable. A lifetime of dry books has given me the thirst for the vitality and magic of blood. And I have understood that in this wild desire there is something of terrible and earth-shaking importance.

Techno-industrial society has severed humanity from the gods of the earth. In our modern isolation, we have not only lost the power that bonded us to the earth but we have become a grotesque mockery of what we once were. The human soul has rotted. The gods have turned away from us. And everywhere we walk we spread desolation over the earth. We no longer see the faces of the gods, our ancestors upon the barren hilltops and in the green woods. We no longer hear their whispers in the streams and rivers. We no longer draw strength from them through the stones and the soil. Where once we knew to avoid cursed places, the homes of faeries, and ancient burial mounds, now we have absorbed demons into our own hearts.

No one, perhaps, has understood this as well as Carl Jung: “after it became impossible for the demons to inhabit the rocks, woods, mountains, and rivers, they used human beings as much more dangerous dwelling places.” For whatever modernity teaches us, we have not dispelled the mystical forces of the earth, we have merely swallowed them and forgotten. Or to put it another way, Jung again: “You can take away a man’s gods, but only to give him others in return.” Meanwhile the soul and body of human-kind withers and sickens and the body of the earth is ravaged and degraded. And be assured that nature, the wild world, is full of demons. The spirits and gods of the earth are not the benign protectors as some envisage them. Yes, they may protect us and bless us with their favor. But they will just as well cast us into an eternity of horror and madness.

I am a fierce ox of seven battles,

I am a proud stag of seven horns (for strength),

I am a griffon on a cliff,

I am a hawk on a cliff (for deftness)

The psychic and spiritual life of humanity was once writ large upon the world. The “autochthonous demon” or the “sparks of the World Soul” was once felt in all things. We saw it while we sat upon the river bank, lost in thought or reverie. We heard it in songs, in smoke filled halls, surrounded by our kin-folk. We felt it in the thrill of battle. Then came the juggernaut of modernity and techno-industrial society as its apotheosis. The so-called illusions of the past were denounced and those who kept to the old ways were butchered. The technician and the scientist declare the horrors of the dark past to be mere superstition, nonsense. Jung:

What happens to those figures and phantoms, those gods, demons, magicians, those messengers from heaven and monsters of the abyss, when we see that there is no mercurial serpent in the caverns of the earth, that there are no dryads in the forest and no undines in the water, and that the mysteries of faith have shrunk to articles in a creed?

What has been won by our liberation from these outdated delusions? What has been gained? Are we free? Are we at peace? Even by the standards of modernity, twisted and obscene, we are undoubtably the poorer. Without the gods, now there is only ourselves to fear. And who would have imagined that the vileness and cruelty of humanity could so greatly surpass the gods themselves? As Jung observes: “In the olden days men were brutal, now they are dehumanized and possessed to a degree that even the blackest Middle Ages did not know.” Even an ardent humanist would be forced to acknowledge that the most vicious crimes of the past pale in comparison to what has been wrought upon humanity and the earth in the techno-industrial age.

I am the shining tears of the sun,

I am fair among flowers (for clearness),

I am the ruthless conquering boar (for valor),

I am the salmon in the pool of knowledge (for wisdom)

The covenant between humanity and the gods, which held for thousands of years until the birth of the modern world, was written in blood. Blood shed by heroes and warriors during the joyful madness of battle. Blood shed by those who stand within the square of twigs and face the shadow of themselves in their opponent. Blood shed by dark eyed priests through grim sacrifice. But this is not all. The blood given to the gods in exchange for their favor can be understood symbolically as well. The blood or vitality given by men and women to the land they work. The energy and labor given to the gods in harvest offerings. All these gifts of blood and more served to bond humanity to the gods and through them to the earth. These acts represented a relationship between humanity and the cosmos. An acknowledgement that we are small and weak and frail and that we are surrounded by powers and forces beyond our understanding. Blood, literal and symbolic, represents what we have to give.

When we stopped paying for our fortune with blood, when we stopped acknowledging how little we are and how contingent our lives, we stopped hearing the voices of the gods and we fell from their favor. Modernity makes war upon the mother, upon the Great Goddess. Indeed, it may be that modernity and the techno-industrial world it produced is not constituted, in the final analysis, by anything other than the fundamental rejection of the Great Goddess, and the image of the mother which represents her.

When Carl Jung wrote his Red Book, when he stepped into the realm of dreams and ripped open the door between the worlds what did he find but the image of the mother: “Communion gives us warmth. Singleness gives us light. At immeasurable distance stands one single star at the zenith. This star is the God and goal of humanity. In this world one is Abraxas, creator and destroyer of one’s world.” The essence of the mother. The twin powers of creation and destruction. The meaning of the Great Goddess. Hermann Hesse saw her too wandering the shadowy corridors of the seminary. When she appeared to him, his mind shattered into a thousand fragments: “The mother of life could be called love or desire; she could also be called death, grave, or decay. Eve was the mother. She was the source of bliss as well as of death; eternally she gave birth and eternally she killed; her love was fused with cruelty.” If we do not believe, as all once did, that the gods of the world demand blood, it can only be because we have lost the wrathful aspect of the Goddess or mother. The most vile myth of modernity is that of a benign cosmos.

I am the flooded lake upon the plain (for dominion),

I am the hill of poetry,

I am both the oak and the lightning that blasts it,

I am the spear of woe to such as wish for woe (to slay therewith).

And what is at stake for modernity in the vision of a divinely ordered cosmos, kindly disposed, and gentle? Fear not! Cries modern man. The world can be made an earthly heaven by my hand and my technics. There are no gods to fear. There is no demon in the woods painting her bare breasts with blood. Thus, there is no beast that longs for blood in your heart. As the stars beyond are placid and obedient, so you to are in essence a docile thing. The stones and rivers and plains and forests are without soul, they exist for our pleasure. The image of an ordered and compliant humanity mirrored by a domesticated nature and a world without blood or gods. A world that demands nothing from us can be used as we will. The very terms we use to describe the world around us reflect this emptiness. As Jung famously wrote

today, for instance, we talk of “matter.” We describe its physical properties. We conduct laboratory experiments to demonstrate some of its aspects. But the word “matter” remains a dry, inhuman, and purely intellectual concept, without any psychic significance for us. How different was the former image of matter—the Great Mother—that could encompass and express the profound emotional meaning of Great Mother.

A cosmos denied of its divinity becomes mere material for the engines of progress. But as we have seen above, the gods and the Goddess cannot be so easily vanquished. For Jung, as we have said, they will lay siege to the human soul itself and poison it until it turns on itself and gives birth to unheard of horrors. For the earth, the forces of the gods and the Goddess will rise up against this fragile edifice we have constructed and obliterate every idol we have constructed. Our cities, our factories, the air we breathe, the soil we stand upon will turn to ash and desert. The Goddess will have the blood she deserves, one way or another.

Robert Graves, more poet than scholar, gave himself to the Goddess of War, when Europe was engulfed in flames. He fought in the muddy trenches and saw the horrors of war and the brutality of life and death. His soul was given to her power when shell fragments pierced his lungs. What might he have seen in the bloody death that stood before him? Did he see a vision of the Mother rising up above the warring plains, holding the sun and the moon in her outstretched hands. Upon her lips a smile of unendurable eroticism and terror. Her eyes shining like dying stars in an oblivion of darkness. Her hair woven into a crown of bones and crows. How must he have longed to possess her and be possessed by her. What courageous effort must have been required to resist her embrace. When he came back to life, he pledged himself to Ceridwen, goddess of death and rebirth. And through her, he found his voice:

Cerridwen abides. Poetry began in the matriarchal age, and derive its magic from the moon, not from the sun. No poet can hope to understand the nature of poetry unless he has had a vision of the Naked King crucified to the lopped oak, and watched the dancers, red-eyed from the acrid smoke of the sacrificial fires, stamping out the measure of the dance, their bodies bent uncouthly forward, with a monotonous chant of: ‘Kill! Kill! Kill!’ and ‘Blood! Blood! Blood!’

The only path for humanity is the path of the Goddess and her sacrifice, for in that moment of spurting blood is achieved the union of the stars.

I am a god who forms smoke from sacred fire for a head (for inspiration),

Who makes clear the path to the mountains?

Who but myself knows the assemblies of the dolmen-house on the mountain?

Who but myself knows where the sun shall set?

Who foretells the ages of the moon?

In the cosmic union, the Great Goddess presides over the ritual sacrificial death of the Sacred King. Modernity and its logic condemns the world of mythology, the world of superstition, the world of blood, and the rule of the Goddess. In this regard, Graves argues, the modern tendency begins with Socrates, who “in turning his back on poetic myths, was really turning his back on the Moon-goddess who inspired them and who demanded that man should pay woman spiritual and sexual homage.” Thus modernity is in essence, the force of the patriarchy. The tendency in human culture which denigrates the earth, which denies the pursuit of glory and blood, is the same tendency that seeks to dominate the feminine. As Graves writes

Ancient Europe had no gods. The Great Goddess was regarded as immortal, changeless, and omnipotent; and the concept of fatherhood had not been introduced into religious thought. She took lovers, but for pleasure, not to provide her children with a father. Men feared, adored, and obeyed the matriarch; the hearth which she tended in a cave or hut being their earliest social centre, and motherhood their prime mystery.

This is, of course, broadly true outside of Europe as well. For the Selk’nam of Patagonia, the matriarchal Moon Goddess is forever at war with her husband, the sun, who dared to strike her. The continued existence of the Selk’nam people was only made possible by homage given to the Moon-Woman: an entire society built upon the premise of honoring the goddess.

To anticipate arguments made by those who wish to imagine a kinder great mother goddess, we must say that this is merely a failure to properly understand the cycles of life and death. Her gentleness and love is not corrupted or diminished by her hunger for blood. The desire to project a peaceful goddess is born from the desire to dominate her. Graves: “the Goddess is no townswoman: she is the Lady of the Wild Things, haunting the wooded hill-tops.” She will not be controlled. She is untamable and beyond the petty morality of the domesticated world. The conflation of the Goddess with the Virgin is of course another attempt to control her. The virgin is chaste and untouched. She is a mere object, rather than an agent of her own destiny.

We cast down this absurd patriarchal fantasy, following Graves: “The White Goddess has never been monogamic and has never shown pity for the bad, the ineffective, the sterile, the perverted, the violent, or the diseased: though loving and just, she is ruthless.” We insist upon a conception of the Goddess which, precisely because of its brutality and cruelty, utterly resists the yoke. She does not transcend nature, she is nature. And like nature, she is by turns sweet and gentle and barbaric and vicious. If this vision terrifies us, this is right. The powers above us are terrifying. If this vision disgusts and outrageous us, we must recognize that the techno-industrial morality that we have been persuaded by teaches us to reject violence in order to better disguise its own war against the cosmos. We are taught to fear and hate the violence of crushing fists and cutting knives but to blindly accept the violence of industrialism, which threatens the life of the earth itself.

Who brings the cattle from the house of Tethra and segregates them?

For whom but me will the fish of the laughing ocean be making welcome?

Who shapes weapons from hill to hill?

Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen?

Robert Graves’ theory of the White Goddess, the shadowy goddess that is known to all people in different names, has much to offer us in terms of understanding the relationship between the Goddess and the glorious sacrifices she requires. It has, of course, been demonstrated by scholars that Graves was mistaken in conflating goddesses from around the world. But Graves is not a historian, he is a poet. As such, he speaks directly to the uncanny world of mystery, the world of blood-drenched spirits and forgotten rituals. Who better to speak of the Goddess? This is precisely why he has been chosen. A poet, one who speaks the language of blood rather than the dry facts and observations of the dispassionate academician.

For our purposes, we shall begin our reading of Graves with the combat of the Oak King and Holly King and the stag cults. One of the earliest antecedents is the Greek myth of Artemis and Actaeon, who is taken a lover of the goddess only to be turned into a stag and hunted to death by Artemis and her hounds. This tale is echoed by other from all over Europe and Africa. The consort of the Goddess is chosen for her pleasure. And the consummation of their passion is his dismemberment, death, and occasional consumption by the priestesses of the Goddess. The various bull-cults and goat-cults are a variation of this theme. When the Morrigan appears to Cuchulain in The Cattle Raid of Cooley, she warns the hero that his life is tied to the bull. The king or hero, therefore, chosen as the champion of the Goddess is destined to die for her in blood. The patriarch, or Antlered King, is ritually slaughtered in homage to the Mother. Images from cave painting around the world depict the horned king, in postures of sexual arousal or ejaculation, being murdered. Graves describes the following image from Zimbabwe:

At Domboshawa a ‘bushman’ painting…shows the death of a king who wears and antelope mask and is tightly corseted; as he dies, with arms outflung and one knee upraised, he ejaculates and his seed seems to form a heap of corn. An old priestess lying naked beside a cauldron is either mimicking his agony, or perhaps inducing it.

The gifts of the moon are thus won, through agony and ecstasy. The magic of the moon, its prophecies and powers can be acquired. But only through sacrifice, blood, and death.

The war of the Oak King and the Holly King brings us to the nature of glory in the service of the Goddess. The battle of dark and light. Winter and Summer. Waxing and Waning. Each king reigns for brief time before his rival slaughters him and gains his kingdom. The Oak King is the lord of the Summer. The peak of his power is at Midsummer. The tide of battle turns at the Autumn Equinox. And the Holly King slays him at Midwinter. As such the Twin Kings represent the figure of the Sacred King, the consort of the Goddess.

For Graves, the Greek hero Hercules is used as an archetype of the Sacred King. In his earliest form Hercules appears as a primeval elemental twin god, who commands the rain and thunder. Carrying an oak-staff, a symbol of male sexual power, he is joined in matrimony with the Queen of the Forest. When summer is at its peak, after drinking and feasting, he is placed upon a wooden throne and carried to a ring of stones within an oak grove. He is led to an oak that has been cut into a T-shape and “he is bound to it with willow thongs in the ‘five fold bond’ which joins wrists, neck and ankles together, beaten by his comrades till he faints, then flayed, blinded, castrated, impaled with a mistletoe stake, and finally hacked into joints.” His blood is gathered in a basin and the people of the tribe paint themselves with it to gain his power. The Sacred King’s body is then burned along with the oak tree on which he was hung. Then

twelve merry-men rush in a wild figure-of-eight dance around the fires, singing ecstatically and tearing at the flesh with their teeth. The bloody remains are burnt in the fire, all except the genitals and the head. These are put into an alder-wood boat and floated down a river to an islet; though the head is sometimes cured with smoke and preserved for oracular use.

Hercules’ twin then reigns in his stead until the following year when he is slaughtered in the same manner by his successor. This is the quest and meaning of man: to fulfill his destiny as the Sacred King. To be chosen by the Goddess as her consort, to be her champion, to spill blood for her, and finally to give himself up to her in blood.

Javelins shall be wielded to revenge the loss of our ships.

I sing praises, I prophesy victory.

Now steaming with blood and reeking of murder, the Man Who is a Sorrow to his People comes forth. A butcher of men, a pouting, petulant child whose wounded pride condemned thousands to death. A raging beast, whose anger defied the gods. Achilles slaughters for love and is the son of his mother, a great hero of the Goddess. Like Hercules, Achilles birth and childhood identifies him with the myth of the Sacred King. His six older brothers are burned to death as annual surrogates for the Sacred King. He is spared from the fires at the last moment, though he remains marked. In exchange for his life, Achilles’ father Peleus takes his place on the pyre. When his grief drives him back to war, it is his mother who arms him.

I am the womb of every holt,

I am the blaze on every hill,

I am the queen of every hive,

I am the shield to every head,

I am the tomb to every hope.

Robert Graves understood exactly what was at stake in abandoning the worship of the Goddess and turning away from the bloody sacrifices she demands. Having embraced the figure of the Glorious Apollo, the archetype of the Masculine, we have lost ourselves on the path of technology and domination of the world. Apollo and the Christ-Worshipping tree fellers that followed him, has wrought a world of artifice, of technics, and of delusion. Apollo, sad in love and spiteful for never having been chosen by the Goddess, leads us to catastrophe. Humanity will not voluntarily turn back to the Goddess. The Goddess does not beg, she does not ask to be loved. Hers is to command. Graves writes “there seems no escape from our difficulties until the industrial system breaks down for some reason or other… and nature reasserts herself with grass and trees among the ruins.” Do we imagine that we stand upon the earth by the might of our own hands? No, we are here only by the sufferance of the greater powers. And only once all the horrors we have wrought following the tragic fool Apollo have been scrapped from the face of the world by the raking claws of the Goddess, may we be given another chance. And who now may stand as a champion to the Goddess, to offer himself as her consort and her sacrificial victim? None comes forth and so we doom ourselves. Graves again:

But the longer her hour is postponed, and therefore the more exhausted by man’s irreligious improvidence the natural resources of the soil and sea become, the less merciful will her five- fold mask be, and the narrower the scope of action that she grants to whichever demi-god she chooses to take as her temporary consort in godhead. Let us placate her in advance by assuming the cannibalistic worst.

Yes, we must assume the worst and blood must run for her once again. And it will, whether we offer it freely or not. The true face of techno-industrial society has shown us plainly that blood will come. No matter that it is the blood of those we choose not to see. We will unknowingly sacrifice the world itself before we find ourselves alone upon a hill of bleached bones. There will be nobody left to offer but ourselves.

The things we have done to escape from ourselves. Humanity will undergo any trauma imaginable to avoid its own shadow. How is it that denying blood, we are choked by it? How is it that the narrative of peace, modernity, and progress has ended in nothing but horror? It is simple, of course. We have never wanted any of these things. They have been thrust upon us for the banal pleasures of deluded old men. None of us were given an option to live in a world we chose. The Goddess, cast aside to rot and grow musty with forgotten years, is a story, they tell us. So instead we are left with a world that doesn’t make any sense. Jung understood this better than anyone:

the god of war is restless, we must propitiate him, let us sacrifice to the god of war. And then every country would be going to the temples of the war god to sacrifice, perhaps it would be a human sacrifice, I don’t know, something precious, they might burn up a lot of ammunition or destroy cannons for the god of war. That would help. To say that it is not we who want it would help because man could then believe in his goodness. For if you have to admit that you are doing just what you say you are not doing, you are not only a liar, you are a devil, and then where is the self esteem of man? How can he hope for a better future? We can never become anything else because we are caught in that contradiction, on the one side we want to do good and on the other we are doing the worst. How can man develop? He is forever caught in that dilemma. So you had better acknowledge the evil, what you call it doesn’t matter. If there were priests who said that the god of war must be propitiated that would be a way of protecting yourself. But of course there are no such things, so we must admit that we prepare the war, that we are just thirsty for blood, everybody.

After years of dreaming of land, a home in the forest, my family and I came to our smallholding in the mountains of Western New England. I work the land, I give her my blood. I build a cairn for Woden and Eorce. When it is time, the blood of my sheep will be poured over the stones and I will offer gifts to the gods and the earth. I will seek, in my own small way, to restore the lost covenant between humanity and the earth. I will invite all the madness and horror of the Goddess into the world, for it will mean the restoration to a world whole and unsundered. I will tear down the Solar Apollo, with his intellect, his machines and his patriarchal domination of the world and the spirit! I will give my glory to the Moon Goddess, to blood and intuition and wildness!


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.


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The Wyrd of the Weorld is to be Mere-Deap: The Return to Mythic Time

There is a feeling of strangeness that has come over the world. We have a sense, scarcely articulated, that something is coming. And that the world we have become familiar over hundreds of years of capitalism and industrialism, has suddenly become surreal and bizarre. We suddenly become aware of the shadow that walks alongside us.

From Ramon Elani

“Wild, dark times are rumbling toward us, and the prophet who wishes to write a new apocalypse will have to invent entirely new beasts, and beasts so terrible that the ancient animal symbols of St. John will seem like cooing doves and cupids in comparison.”—Heinrich Heine

“The dream is a hidden door to the innermost recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night…All consciousness separates, but in dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of the eternal night. There he is still whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from nature and bare of all egohood.”—C.G. Jung

The human world drifts closer to the abyss. We may still linger in the shallows. The water maybe only knee-high. Gentle fish play about our ankles and tickle our toes. But a deep blue void beyond our comprehension awaits. Are we seeing the future or the past? Cities swallowed by rains. Water rising. Skyscrapers shrouded with seaweed. Highways and shopping centers encased by mountains of sediment and algae.

Modern, capitalist, industrial consciousness is unprepared to make sense of what it sees. And what it now knows is coming. The myth of the future has long since eroded and collapsed, sending up a cloud of dust to block out the sun. Progress. Technology. Human perfection. Four hundred years of dreams. Dreams of shimmering tomorrows extending like a neon caterpillar into the heart of eternity. All blown away in a hurricane from paradise.

I.

In 1962 J.G. Ballard wrote The Drowned World, his first novel. In this maddeningly prophetic vision, Ballard imagines the world of the 21st century, devastated by climate change. As the concept of manmade global warming was still essentially unthought of at the time, the cause of Ballard’s apocalypse is a series of powerful solar flares that weaken the atmosphere and initiate a process of irrevocable heating. Confined to the polar regions, civilization is only barely able to survive and humanity knows that will not last much longer. A strange mix of scientists, mystics, and eccentric adventurers travel south to the remains of Europe, which has reverted to a prehistoric swamp, inhabited by the massive reptiles that are gradually reclaiming the ruined earth. The human population has dropped to no more than five million and babies are no longer being born, a result, perhaps, of the massive amounts of solar radiation that pours unfiltered into the earth’s atmosphere. There is no human future and the planet rushes unstoppably back toward its own primordial dawn.

We too now stand at the threshold of a primeval, mythic age. The sorts of cataclysms that are foretold by every culture’s oldest stories are now commonplace and we know that greater ones are not far off. It is time to acknowledge the nature, the character of our present moment. What form of temporal consciousness can account for the increasingly likely possibility of human annihilation? For those who inhabit Ballard’s Drowned World, the only response to an undeniable geological reality is a descent into the ominous lagoons of the prehistoric, prehuman psyche that persists residually in the shadowy subconscious. As the conditions of Ballard’s world becomes more similar to that of the Triassic age, so too does the psychological and spiritual condition of his characters revert to prehistoric forms. The world dissipates into an archaic dreamscape.

“Everywhere in nature one sees evidence of innate releasing mechanisms literally millions of years old, which have lain dormant through thousands of generations but retained their power undiminished… We all carry within us a submerged memory of the time when the giant spiders were lethal, and when the reptiles were the planet’s dominant life form.”

What other mysterious shapes lie beneath the dark waters of conscious thought? As Houston, Mumbai, and Miami are drowning, we must ask ourselves: how do we face this world of catastrophe? The oceanic mother is drawing us back to herself. We are being pulled back to the water. Back to the womb.

“If we let these buried phantoms master us as they re-appear we’ll be swept back helplessly in the flood-tide like pieces of flotsam.”

There are powers awakening in the world that we have long forgotten and if we do not heed them, we will vanish from the face of the earth. Techno-industrial society has taught us to deny those powers. To deny that they ever existed. Climate change has shattered that vicious lie. Who can watch the waters rising, the deserts spreading, the sun burning through the sky without feeling terror grip the heart. Climate change has reminded us how small we are and how weak we stand before the might of the gods. We stand now with two choices before us: collective suicide or the descent into what we have forgotten. The descent into the deep, into the world that we foolishly believe dwells only in our dreams. No, it is a world that pulses in our blood. Memory. The terror we feel when we see the storms approaching reminds us of the mythic age we once inhabited.

II.

Amitav Ghosh begins his new book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by reflecting on the history of his people in what is now Bangladesh. Ancestral memories of flooding rivers, displacement, wandering, refugees. Ghosh writes “I remember the elemental force that untethered my ancestors from their homeland… When I look into my past the river seems to meet my eyes, staring back, as if to ask, Do you recognize me, wherever you are?” The folly of bourgeois, capitalist, industrial society is to deny agency to the non-human world. What is non-human is only relevant apropos its use to humans. Thus climate change presents a paradox so inconceivable to the techno-industrial mind that it has become utterly paralyzed. Nobody knows how to respond. What does it mean that the earth has risen up against us? This earth that we have, over the last 300 years, become accustomed to seeing as nothing more than a resource to be exploited or a backdrop for our human dramas. We have forgotten the gods but that does not mean they cease to exist.

The techno-industrial world is not capable of understanding what it has unleashed. Thus it will drift away in the flood of history. We are only confused in our response because we have accepted the terms of our education in modernity. We are only confused because we have been taught to see humanity as the center of the universe. We have been taught that humanity is exceptional. That the rules don’t apply to us. That we are irreducibly other than the world. That we are above the world and its powers. In short, the legacy of the enlightenment has taught us to believe that we can become gods. Climate change has shattered this delusion. Humanity will utterly perish if it does not abandon this foolishness. And if we readjust our eyes to see without the distortion of the past 300 years, we will see that everything is clear. As Ghosh writes, “comprehension need play no part in a moment of recognition. The most important element of the word recognition thus lies in its first syllable, which harks back to something prior, an already existing awareness that makes possible the passage from ignorance to knowledge.” In other words, comprehension is a tool of the capitalist, the engineer, the scientist, the modern. Comprehension is an idea engendered by a conception of the world that is measurable, knowable, finite and a conception of humanity that is limitless. Comprehension is an idea of control, of domination. To comprehend is to name, to bind. It is an idea that will strangle and suck the life out of the world and ourselves.

Recognition is the language of the seer, the wild deer in the misty glen, the bloody raven on the alder tree, the bear dreaming in a mossy cave. Recognition has always been with us. It is the way of our first ancestors and our last descendants. To know what you always knew. To be accepted and to accept. I will not seek to control you. I merely see you and I know what you are. There is an ease and a quietness to recognition, though it can bring earthquakes and break the sky. Ghosh reminds us, “[recognition] cannot disclose itself except in the presence of its lost other…it arises from a renewed reckoning with a potentiality that lies within oneself.” Recognition is a return. It is to find what has been lost, and to understand that it has been within us the whole time. We stand upon the barren mountaintop, upon the cliffs before the pounding waves, amid the lifeless suffocating sands. We see the ruin and devastation coming toward us. The coming storms are inescapable. They cannot be reasoned with. We cannot throw money at them. We cannot bomb them into oblivion. We cannot think our way out of this. We have reached the edge of what techno-industrial, capitalist society can accomplish. There is nothing left for us now than to sit with our horror; to dive into the depths, to welcome the rushing dark waters, and to seek what we have forgotten beneath the waves.

Thus climate change brings us back to ourselves and the world. It reminds us what we have known throughout our time on this earth: that we are surrounded by forces and powers and energies that are utterly beyond us, that we can never hope to dominate them, that every moment of our lives are conditioned and made possible by them, that we are nothing more than fruit flies to them, that we can never understand their workings or the extent of their might. We know in some vague way that we function through them. We know that there is a relationship between us. There are terms and agreements. There are consequences for promises and covenants broken.

It is not so long ago that all humanity held covenant with the spirits of the earth. Floods, famines, draughts, storms were seen as the actions of the gods. There was a cultural and psychological context for such events. When the gods were angry they punished humanity. The end of the world was a story all people told. And that story was always followed by rebirth. In other words, these stories helped humanity understand its place in the cosmos. Small, helpless, fragile. As subject to the greater powers as the smallest creature that runs and scurries. But also connected to the cycle of destruction and rebirth. To be subject to the terrifying forces of the universe is also to be bound to all of creation. What agonies do we suffer now from our insistence of separation from the world? How easy it has been for us to delude ourselves thus. For hundreds of years and increasingly, humanity has built its world to be apart from the greater world. To encase ourselves in steel, to escape into a virtual world, to preserve ourselves in the tower. All to be immune from the violence and terror of the gods. We sadly believe this to be our goal. But the flood that comes upon us now will bare us naked. A new time is coming. As Ghosh puts it: “we have entered a time when the wild has become the norm.” It is implied of course, that for almost all of our history, the wild was the norm. It was never not the norm. We just pretended for a bit.

III.

Thus, let us bravely declare our return to the age of myths! To the timeless! To the dreaming! We know the monsters that lurk in the heart of the storms. We fought them before. We knew them to be greater than ourselves and when they came, we lost many souls. Yet we stand before them proudly, defiantly, because we know that we are part of this world just as they are. We are made of the same stuff and we return to the same source. We have the same mother. “Every man and every woman is a star.”

Modernity has strangled itself. When time became conscious of itself, the gods and their powers fled from the time-demon that we conjured. Jung: “As you know, in olden times the ancestral souls lived in pots in the kitchen. Lares and penates are important psychological personages who should not be frightened away by too much modernity.” We have driven the world away from us. This demon helped us reimagine the world as tame, safe, abundant, slow, and weak. Things may change, the modern voices mutter, but they change slowly. Never fear, never fear. These are the voices of ghastly withered things. They do not see how their bodies have crumbled beneath the tedium and banality of bourgeois consciousness. And with their bodies, the body of the earth. Modernity has tried to tell us, for three hundred years, that nature could be controlled, that humanity could be perfected, that the myths of Ragnarok and revelations were mere fables, not to be believed. All swept away by the storm.

For thousands of years we have known that tigers are demons, to be feared and appeased. Villages must be built far away from the realms of the tigers and their forests and mangroves are not to be disturbed. We have known that trees have spirits. We have known that the ocean is dark and that its wrath is terrifying. Thus villages and houses would never have been built by the beach. As Ghosh points out, now it is considered a great mark of wealth and status to have a beachfront property. The gods care nothing for our wealth and status and these houses will be swept away to be driftwood and seaglass. The catastrophes that are coming and are here, for all the anguish they cause and loss of life, bring us back. Bring us to remembrance. Bring us to recognition.

There is a feeling of strangeness that has come over the world. We have a sense, scarcely articulated, that something is coming. And that the world we have become familiar over hundreds of years of capitalism and industrialism, has suddenly become surreal and bizarre. We suddenly become aware of the shadow that walks alongside us. Ghosh aptly brings to mind the concept of the uncanny. Climate change is nothing if not uncanny. We cannot think it. It is beyond us. But what is the nature of this quality? Climate change is uncanny because “we recognize something we had turned away from: that is to say, the presence and proximity of nonhuman interlocutors.” Mythic time animates a world filled with voices. Stones, trees, clouds, ferns have always sought to speak with us. We have long since ceased to listen or respond. As the hurricanes come down upon us now, all that is left is to beg them to spare us from their wrath.

Ghosh suggests that climate change forces us to remember that “humans were never alone, that we have always been surrounded by beings of all sorts who share elements of that which we had thought to be the most distinctively our own: the capacities of will, thought, and consciousness.” There was a time when this idea would not have seemed strange. Indeed, there was a time when this idea would have been universally accepted by every man, woman, and child on earth. Modernity posits a lonely world, emptied of life and vitality. Humanity sits alone in the tower. But now the tower is crumbling.

In the mythic time it was understood that as the wild world around was throbbing with consciousness, that consciousness could also interpenetrate our own. There was communication between humanity, animals, plants, stones, and trees: “there are entities in the world, like forests, that are fully capable of inserting themselves into our processes of thought.” In other words, the horizon of human thought is defined by the forces and spirits of the earth. Perhaps humanity is nothing more than a thought or a dream of the earth. Climate change has made it clear to us that the nonhuman world is influenced by human action, despite the fact that its power is unimaginably more vast and profound. The mythic consciousness understands this relationship intimately. Offerings and sacrifices were made to honor and acknowledge this relationship. Demons, monsters, and catastrophes are sent by the gods to punish or teach us. It is a response to our actions. The horrors of climate change “are the mysterious work of our own hands returning to haunt us in unthinkable shapes and forms.” Jung was of the same mind. Observing the mechanized reality of 20th century America, he pleaded that something must be done to “compensate the earth.” We turn away from the world we have wrought because it is too horrible to believe. There is no penance or sacrifice great enough to atone for what we have done.

And worst of all, we have no excuse. As Ghosh points out “it is not as if we had been warned… An awareness of the precariousness of human existence is to be found in every culture: it is reflected in biblical and Quranic images of the apocalypse, in the figuring of Fimbulwinter in Norse mythology, in tales of pralaya in Sanskrit literature, and so on.” Every culture on earth has spoken of the end times. The time when the gods would bring the full force of the earth against the human race. The mythic world gives us a way to understand this notion of time. It teaches us that the end of this world is not forever. Indeed, it teaches us that there is no real end, only new beginnings. But make no mistake, a new beginning can only occur by obliterating every trace of the old world in a violent conflagration so massive that the cosmos themselves will shake. The coming dawn of the new world does not make the darkness, terror, and blood of ragnarok any less. The mythic consciousness understands that we cannot have rebirth without death. That violence is the shadow side of creation. Horror and love. Power and frailty. Modern consciousness insists on splitting everything up into discrete boxes. The box has been shattered now and we can no longer turn away from the shadows. Linnaeus wrote, “Surely Descartes never saw an ape.” Jung articulated the same position: “He [man] can only state with certainty that he is no monkey, no bird, no fish, and no tree. But what he positively is, remains obscure.” Modernity teaches us that we can make easy distinctions. The wild world resists this with a strength cannot be denied.

Modernity teaches us that time travels as an arrow. The future rushes irresistibly towards us. The forms of consciousness of the past are rendered invalid by being part of the past. Modernity teaches us that everything evolved from a less developed form. Climate change has changed it all. Modernity has now revealed itself to be a hollow fiction. We rush blindly into the past. The doors of the spirit world swing open. The world of myths, the world of dreams await us. We have no other way to understand the world around us and this world will destroy us.

IV.

Let us end here with Jung. If the way through the horrors that are coming lies in the deep twilight of our mythic past, there can be no better guide. For Jung, everything we are as modern creatures rests upon an immeasurably vast primordial foundation. Millions of years of memories swim in the darkness of this buried swamp. Having put aside the world of omens, magic, and superstition we have denied the knowledge contained in these memories. And by keeping them shut away from the light, we mutate them into grotesque, murderous things and will creep out of the muck and slime in the depth of night and strangle us. The animal in us, the mythic consciousness, the power of instinct, the ability to hear the rustling voices of the trees, these things cannot be extinguished. They can only be forgotten or remembered. And the recognition that Ghosh writes about is the method by which these powers are restored to us. Climate change stabs our heart with such profound terror that ancient whispers within us cry out. They remember cataclysms of the past. They remember stories of the end of the world.

There is only one path now. For that I suppose we must be grateful to modernity. A thousand more years of this world would have wrought unspeakable horrors upon the human soul and the spirit of the earth. We know now, or will shortly know, that techno-industrial society is a fraud. We must abandon the pursuit of knowledge and control. Jung wrote “knowledge does not enrich us; it removes us more and more from the mythic world in which we were once at home by right of birth.” For all the technical prowess of modernity, climate change was the result. And we cannot tinker our way out of it. But to be separated from the mythic consciousness only by a distance of time is no separation at all. For we no longer assert the linear movement of history. We stand at its edge and find ourselves back to its beginning.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father, as well as a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here. You can also support him on Patreon.


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The Way Of The Violent Stars

“The only way for humanity to make itself immune to violence is to allow the creation of a vast authoritarian system that protects individuals from personal violence through the endless impersonal violence of the state.”

This essay, by Ramon Elani, originally appeared in Black Seed 5, along with an essay by Rhyd Wildermuth. Black Seed 5 can be ordered at this link.


“I hate the word peace, as I hate hell.” ~William Shakespeare

“I shall try to make plain the bloodiness of killing. Too often this has been slurred over by those who defend hawks. Flesheating man is in no way superior. It is so easy to love the dead. The word ‘predator’ is baggy with misuse. All birds eat living flesh at some time in their lives. Consider the cold-eyed thrush, that springy carnivore of lawns, worm stabber, basher to death of snails. We should not sentimentalise his song, and forget the killing that sustains it.” ~J.A. Baker

As green anarchists and anarcho-primitivists, we have utterly idealized indigenous or so-called primitive people. In doing so we have failed to understand precisely the reason we should follow their path. Most discourse around primitive life is drawn from western anthropology, though from the conclusions most anarcho-primitivists and green anarchists have drawn, it is clear that very few of them have actually bothered to read the texts they are referring to. Even given the Eurocentric bias of most anthropologists, those texts paint a much richer, more complex, and more conflicted view of primitive life than one finds in the vast majority of anti-civilization writing and discussion.

The most egregious assumption is that primitive life is supposed to be happy and easy. This is, of course, drawn from notions of primitive abundance and leisure. The fact, however, that individuals in primitive communities only worked for a very small amount of time per day does not mean that there were not other difficulties and hardships to be faced. Anarcho-primitivist and green anarchist writers suggest that modern humanity’s neurosis and pathology is entirely a product of the alienating forces of techno-industrial society. Indigenous communities now and in the past had their own ways of understanding and addressing anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Of course, it is likely that they experienced these conditions differently than we do or to a lesser degree but clearly they still exist regardless. To avoid essentializing primitive or indigenous lifeways, we must understand that they experienced as broad a range of emotional states as we do.

In other words, the old assessment that ancient hunter gatherers were happier than we are is irrelevant and likely untrue. It is important here to acknowledge the distinction between the terms anarcho-primitivism and green anarchy. While green anarchy presents a wide range of conceptual apparatus for confronting techno-industrial society, Anarcho-primitivism dogmatically insists on a prescriptive vision of non-civilized life. For anarcho-primitivists, the only communities that count are ones in which no power structures or symbolic culture exist at all. In this vision, since there is no oppression of any kind or rupture with the non-human world, there are no social or existential problems. It is, of course, unlikely that such a community has ever existed.

Primitive life certainly involved hardship and suffering. Contrary to much received wisdom, violence was universal among primitive communities and remains so in those that persist to this day. Primitive life was also not a leftist utopia of perfect egalitarianism. Of course, the fact that pain, suffering, trauma, and tragedy was always present does not mean that joy, happiness, and pleasure were not also always present. Perhaps it is so, as I believe, that the very presence of ubiquitous violence and struggle intensified the feelings of happiness, contentment, and satisfaction that ancient people experienced. But in the end, this is neither here nor there. The point is that primitive life is superior to our own because its impact on the biosphere was minimal and people lived in close contact with the non-human world; that is the only reason and that is sufficient.

People who do not know what it means to fight cannot understand violence. They fear it because they have never experienced it. Aside from posturing and play acting, most anarchists and activists have never experienced violence. This is not to say, of course, that many of them have not been brutalized by the police, etc. Fighting with an enemy is not the same thing as being ruthlessly beaten by an anonymous employee whom you cannot strike back against, or harassing racists and idiots in the streets.

The violence of the mob, of the masses, is a different beast entirely. It is more akin to being crushed by a blind stampede of herd animals than anything else. Traditional people understood the need for ritual combat, for battle enacted under the strictest and most sacred terms: tt make a square within staves of hazel, to tie your strap to a spear plunged into the dirt.

Among the ancient people of Scandinavia the power of the state was weak and in the absence of a police or military to enforce the law, individuals resorted to ritual combat to resolve conflicts without disrupting the community as a whole. This practice, known as holmgang, involved the voluntary participation of both combatants and stipulated that the source of the conflict must end with the conclusion of the duel. In other words, the rules of holmgang were designed to ensure that other family members did not get caught up in the feud. Moreover, holmgang did not require one of the two combatants to die. In many cases the drawing of first blood was considered sufficient to determine a victor. Unsurprisingly, the practice of holmgang was outlawed in the early 11th century as Christian law stamped out pagan ways of life and hegemonic power grew in the region.

Even in such classic works of anthropology as Stanley Diamond’s In Search of the Primitive, we find a picture of traditional life that fully embraces violence. Diamond writes, “the point is that the wars and rituals of primitive society (and the former usually had the style of the latter), are quantitatively and qualitatively distinct from the mechanized wars of civilization.” This is to say, the type of violence, the experience of the violence, makes an enormous difference. As critics of civilization and techno-industrial society we have inadequately accounted for this. Violence and war are not to be feared or condemned. It is the nature of the violence that must be interrogated and reconsidered.

The custom of counting coup, practiced by the tribes of the American Plains, is an important historical example to cite here. To count coup means to demonstrate one’s bravery and courage by achieving a number of increasingly difficult feats on the battlefield. As George Bird Grinnell observed among the Cheyenne and Crow, “the bravest act that could be performed was to count coup on—to touch or strike—a living unhurt man and to leave him alive.” Joe Medicine Crow, the last war chief of the Crow Nation, achieved this feat a number of times as a soldier during World War II. Among his many achievements include disarming and fighting an enemy officer in hand-to-hand combat, as well as stealing 50 horses from a German battalion and riding off while singing Crow war songs. According to his obituary, Medicine Crow felt war to be “the finest sport in the world.”

As ancient people understood well through their war cults and warrior societies, there is tremendous wisdom and meaning to be gained through violence. In the first case you learn that pain is just another sensation in the body, it does not need to be feared. In the second case, to stand proudly against another, an equal, is to test yourself in a way that we have little ability to replicate. It is a form of physical relationship with another that is unique. You learn that you are strong, that you are skilled. You also learn that there is strength in the other. That sometimes your strength and your skill are insufficient and you strive to make yourself stronger. You learn about the world, about the nature of life, grounded in the body. Modern humanity is utterly separated from this. To return to Diamond: “war is a kind of play. No matter what the occasion for hostility, it is particularized, personalized, ritualized. Conversely, civilization represses hostility in the particular, fails to use or structure it, even denies it.”

The violence that we experience, as modern, civilized humans, that we perceive around us in countless ways, brings nothing but trauma. It is utterly, radically distinct from the violence of the primitive societies. It is depersonalized, sterile, and more destructive on a previously unimaginable scale of magnitude. In techno-industrial society we experience the violence of the police, the violence of men against women, the desperate random violence of humans driven to madness and hopelessness, violence against minorities, violence against the poor, and most importantly, no matter where we are, all around us, every single hour of every day we experience unspeakable degrees of violence against the earth.

Moreover, the soldier is not the warrior. The warrior longs for meaning, for connection with the cosmos and himself. The soldier is an automated, anonymous employee. It searches for nothing. It kills because it has been programmed to kill. It has no joy, no sorrow, no thought of what it does. When such emotions do occur they are shoved deep into hidden places in the soul and when they break out they cause insanity and horror. The violence of the soldier is the violence of the machine. It is a bloodless kind of violence, a violence that erodes the soul, no matter what it does to the body. Those pitiful beings that serve as the instruments of the brutality of the machine understand nothing, they are numb and insensate. They are appendages of the thing that annihilates. They have never felt the challenge of facing a foe who is trained and prepared for them, to be joined in valor. They execute. They bomb. They murder. Existentially, they count for nothing. Their lives are nothing.

Peace is understood as little as battle. Peace is not synonymous with joy, nor with righteousness, nor with abundance. Peace has only ever been achieved through history’s greatest atrocities. Peace has only ever meant power to the victor and misery and degradation to the vanquished. We, in the heart of technoindustrial society, are experiencing what peace means. A life devoid of joy. A sterile life. A non-life. And worse still, it is a life maintained perpetually by the slaughter of those on the fringes of our world. As the world-machine continues to expand outward, more and more will be pacified and brought within our life of shopping malls, endless highways, obesity, sickness, despair. And peace will reign. Peace, peace, peace.

What do we long for? A life of joy and passion. A life that is alive, throbbing with blood. A world that pulses with vitality. Do we want the icy porcelain bodies of mechanized gods? Or do we want living animal bodies that break and heal and decay and die? The latter is the body that is shaped by violence, by suffering, by hardship. Just as it is shaped by joy, pleasure, and robust health. Ancient people did not live a life without pain. They suffered acutely and they experienced joy acutely. We experience neither truly. What would you choose? Who would not trade this world of atomic bombs, environmental annihilation, and mechanized dehumanization for a world of primal war?

But let us be clear: the world we have is the world that exists. And wishing will not make it otherwise. Moreover, the skill, courage, and strength of the warrior will never defeat the impersonal mechanized destroyer.

In our greatest manifestations and noblest moments, we are beasts. The myth of human exceptionalism has poisoned us to the core. There is nothing wrong with being animals, in fact it is a far greater thing than the fantasies that humans tell themselves about their supposed superiority. Anything good that has come from human action or thought has come from our animals nature. The evil and vileness we do, contrary to received wisdom, comes the part of us that no other animal shares. To understand this means to understand that the world of beasts involves its own kind of brutality. When lions slaughter hyena babies, it is not because they are hungry. We dislike this because of our human moralizing. We easily perceive that “nature, red in tooth and claw” is not the whole story. But it is an inescapable part of the story.

The only way for humanity to make itself immune to violence is to allow the creation of a vast authoritarian system that protects individuals from personal violence through the endless impersonal violence of the state. If you can’t protect yourself, you will rely on someone else to protect you, whether you realize it or not, regardless of the cost. Humanity is capable of radically limiting pain and suffering. We can live longer and longer. We can cure diseases. We can create enlightened societies with relatively low rates of violence. All of these things come at the cost of the earth, the things of the earth, and our connection to the earth.

Posing a vision of humanity without hardship or suffering denies the reality of the wild world and it distracts us from what is truly important: not the avoidance of pain but our unity with the myriad things and spirits of the world. The strength and the future of the human race lies only in its ability to show proper reverence to the gods of the earth.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father. Until recently he was a muay thai fighter. He wanders in oak groves. He casts the runes and sings to trolls. He lives among mountains and rivers in Western New England

More of his writing can be found here.


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