Before & After I Became a Social Justice Vampire

“In today’s age of haphazard integration between trauma and discrete identity politics, the performance of solidarity on the right or left is rarely about actual healing.”

From Pat Mosley

todd-cravens-267766
Photo by Todd Cravens

Since publishing my essay Un-Identity: Climbing Down the Other Side of Peak Liberalism, I’ve connected with dozens of other leftists around the world burned out on the hypocrisy and stagnancy of liberal identity politics. Many of us share common experiences of trauma and oppression, some of which fit liberal identity narratives and others of which don’t. Each of us has come to this place of knowing that we cannot live our lives any longer in a state of perpetual outrage, evasion, false confidence, and reactionary, shame-driven, mob politics.

The title of that essay described a sort of mountain, which is what I see when I picture social justice in my mind. At the top, we’re promised this egalitarian utopian paradise, but the way there is constantly obstructed by one thing or another. Sooner or later—and this is where so much connectivity is happening now—we realize that no one has actually seen the mountaintop yet. We’re just believing in stories that other people have told us, or that we’ve overheard them reassuring themselves with. Upon further examination, we realize that this truth—that no one has seen the mountaintop—explains all the conflicting stories we’ve been hearing all along.

Climbing down is a choice I believe more and more of us are making. It’s a humbling process of admitting that we’ve spent a good chunk of our lives fumbling through a quasi-mythic landscape we still have trouble mapping. And along the way down, as we verbalize our political and personal changes, we start uncovering this person we used to be and begin to see more clearly how deeply affected our sense of self and power had become while on the mountain.

This piece is about the vampires many of us became in our quest for the mountaintop, but it’s also about another world beyond that landscape, where our utopian visions might actually still be grown.

How Social Media, Identity Politics, & Trauma Created Social Acceptance of Vampirism

The kind of liberal identity politics I describe in Un-Identity and join countless other marginalized peoples in critiquing have in fact been critiqued by leftists for generations. This particular social conflict between leftist unity and liberal divisiveness is nothing new. Nevertheless, I believe that in the 2000s with the advent and centralization of social media platforms, we entered a new period in this dialogue. This period has so far enabled unhealthy relationships between people played out in politicized terms and revamped social justice movements.

Both internet forums and sociopolitical movements have always had their toxic personalities. Social media cannot be blamed for producing them. However, it is my belief that popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have inadvertently encouraged toxicity, although I do not believe this was their intention. Instead, I think the promises of social media—the promises of connecting people across the world, providing a platform to raise awareness of injustice, and amplifying a voice of the oppressed—were intended as an answer to the relative isolation, limits, and ineptitude of earlier internet forums and social movements hoping to accomplish the same.

I first joined Facebook in 2005 as a way to keep in touch with high school friends as we graduated and moved away from home. Beyond known friends, Facebook groups offered a means of connecting with broader social groups, like GLBT people, Pagans, Deaf people, etc. from around the country, and eventually the world. This masterfully resolved the scarcity of brick and mortar community spaces or dispersion of demographic groups by permitting even the most isolated person the possibility of connecting with others like them through simply creating an account and joining a group.

I think Facebook recognized its role in this niche too. In 2006, the social media platform was one of the few places where gay marriage was permitted. We could indicate on our profiles what gender(s) we were interested in, and even list our same-sex partners as spouses. Add-on apps allowed us to expand on this information with an earlier, 2000s-era version of the dozens of genders now recognized by many social media outlets. Additional developments, such as the “like” button, the news feed, and the ability for individual users to share or up-vote links to articles, videos, and blogs to and from all their connections through it, created a platform with extraordinary potential for facilitating social awareness and change.

With this potential, however, are several drawbacks. Concern over “fake news” has only recently become an issue people expect social media to resolve. And concern over how the instant feedback of “likes” and other reactions affect our communication styles and content choices is yet to reach the same level of alarm in social media ethics. Perhaps most relevant to political discourse aided by social media though should be recognition that microblogging platforms like Facebook and Twitter indirectly discourage nuance either through character limits to posts or the instant feedback culture which seems to reward reactive, short, invective posts over long-form, more emotionally moderated content.

More than simply rewarding sometimes toxic behavior with a sea of likes and shares, microblogging platforms encourage a specific type of political analysis. This analysis avoids logical, constructive, contextual, or critical thinking in favor of emotional, destructive, selective, and reductive narratives which complement or reproduce classically politicized identity narratives.

For example, consider reactions to the recent wave of sexual assault survivors publicly describing their ordeals and in some cases also identifying people in power who perpetrated them. Almost immediately this phenomenon was absorbed into the classic feminist identity narrative of powerful men abusing powerless women. Experiences outside of this narrative, particularly those involving trans victims, were critiqued for “erasing” the experiences of women. Likewise, women sharing stories about being raped by trans people were critiqued for “transphobia,” and many men who shared stories of sexual assault by women were also shut down for the “sexism” of taking this moment away from women collectively and for “distracting” from the evidently more important issue of men assaulting women. After a few weeks of this, an additional layer of public shaming was added, and that was the apparent transgression of not naming the specific creator of the hashtag #MeToo when describing one’s sexual assault.

I’ve identified three major takeaways from observing these reactions. First, they were a reminder that liberal identity politics care more about preserving a specific narrative (e.g. men over women, white over black, straight over queer, etc.) than with actually acknowledging and ending the violent or oppressive acts themselves. Second, the microblogging structure of the social media platforms this movement took place on enabled a viral spreading of shame and guilt directed at survivors for the sake of preserving these narratives and an irrational set of social hierarchies or expected checkboxes (e.g. naming the creator of a hashtag, not acknowledging that minorities can be rapists, etc.). Lastly, the trauma of human existence is widespread and so far failed by the narrow-mindedness of identity-dominant thinking.

Older leftists I have worked with have often related their burnout in decades past from previous iterations of feminist and social justice movements. Their stories communicate a similarly observed irrational preoccupation with identity-based narratives to the detriment of resolution on the issues they aim to address. Where I believe my generation differs is that we are additionally dealing with a degree of instantaneous global connectivity previously unknown. Social media is not simply informing us about issues halfway around the world, it is enabling a cultural expectation that we will immediately and continuously offer the correct opinion and precise amount of properly constructed outrage regarding each and every one of them, or risk public shaming, guilt pressure, and accusations of all manner of -isms and -phobias. And while these politics may conceptualize themselves as radical, revolutionary, or far to the left, the reference points they consistently cite rarely predate post-modern liberal identity discourse.

Take for instance the romanticized image of the Stonewall Uprising regularly conjured up in contemporary political debates internal to LGBT+ folks. Many of today’s activists are utterly convinced of the “fact” that either trans women of color uniquely led the riots, or that their alleged presence at a New York bar in the 1960s is somehow relevant or obvious justification for trans inclusion in political movements today. References to the social advances enjoyed by Soviet trans people or the relative periods and regions of social acceptance enjoyed by pre-modern or ancient crossdressing and binary-defying people are even rarer than references to protests or uprisings only slightly earlier than Stonewall, such as Compton’s or Dewey’s. This selective history is indicative of the political context the narrative complements. The departure of mid-century liberal discourse from earlier leftist movements is the start of liberal identity histories.

My criticism of these politics is not coming from a place of purity or superiority. Rather, I have been the exact type of person I am criticizing. Before I left Facebook, my news feed was routinely swallowed by similar demands—for trans people to account for rapists who happen to be transgender, for Jews of the diaspora to account for the actions of the state of Israel, for Muslims to account for the actions of ISIL, for Wiccans to account for incidents of homophobia or transphobia in individual covens, for liberals and leftists to account for how the federal government spends our taxes, etc. Like many people my age, I engaged in these tactics and likely helped teach their art to those performing them today.

Late economist Mark Fisher described this form of social media based activism as vampirism in his 2013 essay Exiting the Vampire Castle.

“The Vampires’ Castle specialises in propagating guilt. It is driven by a priest’s desire to excommunicate and condemn, an academic-pedant’s desire to be the first to be seen to spot a mistake, and a hipster’s desire to be one of the in-crowd. The danger in attacking the Vampires’ Castle is that it can look as if – and it will do everything it can to reinforce this thought – that one is also attacking the struggles against racism, sexism, heterosexism. But, far from being the only legitimate expression of such struggles, the Vampires’ Castle is best understood as a bourgeois-liberal perversion and appropriation of the energy of these movements. The Vampires’ Castle was born the moment when the struggle not to be defined by identitarian categories became the quest to have ‘identities’ recognised by a bourgeois big Other.”

Prior to Fisher, however, Anton LaVey also correlated guilt as an influence tactic with what he called “psychic vampires,” or people who feed off the labor (emotional, physical, or otherwise) of others.

“Often the psychic vampire will use reverse psychology, saying: ‘Oh, I couldn’t ask you to do that’—and you, in turn, insist upon doing it. The psychic vampire never demands anything of you. That would be far too presumptuous. They simply let their wishes be known in subtle ways which will prevent them from being considered pests. They ‘wouldn’t think of imposing’ and are always content and willingly accept their lot, without the slightest complaint—outwardly!” (p. 75, The Satanic Bible)

Where LaVey observes reverse psychology employed by psychic vampires of his day, however, I would argue that today’s vamps are keen to make direct demands of other people, and that doing so is even now considered an acceptable moral standard or virtue we should oblige.

Responsibility for this cultural shift towards acceptable vampirism I believe does not rest solely on Facebook, Twitter, or social media in general. Rather, it is the perfect storm of these impersonal platforms combined with the failures of liberal identity politics and the continuation of trauma on new generations.

A Stab At Why We Become Vampires

“You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, ‘Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?’ And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.” Junot Diaz

Like Diaz and many other marginalized people, I grew up in a world where no mirror held my reflection. I was keenly aware of my queerness and troubled by gender at a very early age. Disability, sexuality, mental un-wellness, trauma, and pursuit of spiritual alternatives to the insular Christianity I grew up in added additional dimensions to my self-perception as a weirdo and clear deviant from the norm. Navigating a world where these things provoke violent outbursts and social punishments has pretty well defined my relationship to other people since before I was a teenager, and continues in many ways to define my (anti-)sociability to this day.

As I’d wager many people torn between presenting as one thing but being another have discovered, writing has always helped me bridge the fractures of my existence. And coming of age in the era of MySpace, Livejournal, and then Facebook, social media specifically offered me an impersonal means of experimental self-expression for the self that wasn’t always immediately apparent to people I wasn’t sure if I could trust. I think it’s on that bridge—having a means of saying something without actually saying it to someone, knowing you can read reactions before having to deal with them, and even having the option to delete and block people or feedback you don’t like—that the vampire started to take hold.

My vampire was an early-adopter of social media activist strategies, frequently sharing numerous articles and generating political commentary throughout every single day as soon as the possibility to do so became an option. Doing so gave me a sense of power and self-worth. Sharing political articles I agreed with reassured me that I had always been right all those years in communities that deny climate change and (at least from 1999-2002) wholeheartedly believed in an imminent apocalypse. Sharing in the outrage of communities beyond myself made me feel like I was part of something big, part of a family, part of a voice, real. More than educating others or raising awareness—the promises social media is justified through—I dove into the queer callout culture of the early 2000s, and reveled in the opportunity to publicly tear down others, finally part of a clique in power somewhere.

It was punishment for trauma I had endured. It was punishment my targets usually didn’t deserve. And it was punishment not only politically protected by the liberal ethics my generation inherited from previous identity movements, but it was punishment bizarrely accepted and even encouraged by many outsiders and some recipients, eager to demonstrate their submissive status and dutiful liberal loyalty to the most sadistic and vampiric among us.

My addictive engagement in this style of activism paralleled my descent into drug abuse, as it did with many of the other activists I surrounded myself with. We used drugs and activism as a cover for the frozen, traumatized state we found ourselves in. Objective or subjective but real enough either way, we perceived oppression and -phobia like walls of jagged glass shards closing in on us everywhere. Everything was wrong. Everything hurt. And there seemed no way out of either. Too poor, too traumatized, too addicted, too…everything to either seek or receive psychological help, we became a generation of social justice vampires, temporarily sated on a lifetime full of outrage typed out at lightning speed, sent without regret, and protected by the constant threat of publicly shaming anyone who would challenge us.

Importantly, we got here through being wounded, and not because of some innate character flaw or natural predisposition towards psychic manipulation. Wounded people are susceptible to vampirism. We give empathy to people who appear to be in need because we know what it is like to be in need and to be ignored. The guilty world that makes us needs no accuser, and in its shame rewards our social outbursts with whatever we demand of it. Vampirism is taught this way. It is made and rewarded by the same guilty culture yet to abandon the monstrous process it has initiated.

And our politics are not helping. Take for instance, popular insistence that the average lifespan of trans women (variously further distinguished as “trans women of color” or “Latina trans women”) is between 30 to 35 years (I have also heard 25) or that 1 in 8 (I have also encountered “1 in 7” or “1 in 12”) will be murdered that are routinely cited by alleged trans community advocates to justify trans political inclusion. Leaving aside the dramatic leap from murder rates and lifespan to non-discrimination ordinances, to my knowledge, no study has ever been conducted which could produce an average lifespan or murder rate for trans people of any variety (please correct me if I’m wrong). The closest data I can find would be a 2016 study by the Williams Institute which suggests there are 1.4 million trans people in the U.S. So then, for the 1 in 12 statistic to be true, that would suggest that around 117,000 trans people in the U.S. were murdered in 2016. GLAAD, on the other hand, reported 27.

These statistical fictions provide a free channel of criticism for conservatives whose research into the origins of this alleged data will not begin and end at “it must be true because a trans activist said it is.” Furthermore, this alleged data amounts to not only an expression of psychic vampirism when used to garner movement support, but also a form of psychological terrorism against trans youth, who I have witnessed falling into mental un-wellness upon internalizing the message that their lives will soon be ending. It is fitting then, that so many trans people find themselves attracted to vampiric relationships with the world considering the undeath our politics relegate us to.

Additionally, for those whose trauma aligns to classical identity narratives, liberal politics encourage this anger and sense of powerlessness. And for the traumatized who fall outside these narratives, right-wing identity politics are ready to pick up what liberals discard. The wickedness of our neoliberal state, however, is in the diversity it has assumed into its machinery and oppressive institutions. Failing to be universal under scrutiny, such identity narratives tunnel into analysis of increasingly micro-aggressive and interpersonal slights, paralleling a drive away from institutional changes and into cultural warfare for both right- and left-wingers. Yet at the height of my vampiric identity sectarianism, every woman and queer along with most of the men I knew had a sexual assault story. We are a generation of kids the world has touched and terrorized, gaslit and disowned. But our politics are yet to become as universal as our trauma.

For instance, concurrent to the recent #MeToo movement has been insistence on generalizations like “believe women” rather than “believe survivors,” which in turn politicize specific narratives that certainly help many women and girls, but don’t address the problem of sexual violence beneath the particular vehicle of sexist dynamics. These narratives become a form of gaslighting. We tell men and boys (and often by extension, many trans folks) that they didn’t grow up in a culture that sexualized them from a young age, subjected them to violently enforced, abusive gender expectations, or positioned them to be exploited later in life.

Collectively, we are tasked with accountability for the same system we have struggled against to survive. The first time I can remember being penetrated was by two boys in kindergarten—also the first time I remember girls (following the example of adults) ruthlessly teasing me for not being manly enough. As a student massage therapist, both men and women inappropriately asked (or grabbed) me to perform sex acts for them during our sessions. I started wearing loose long pants when I walk at the park alone on days I don’t feel like being catcalled by old men eager to tell me how great my body looks. I spent several years of my life putting on weight and ignoring my hygiene in hopes of being less attractive. A lifetime of being spit on, teased, excluded, and threatened for failing (or succeeding) to meet gendered expectations for masculinity have left me with a voice that changes pitch as a defensive mechanism, a heart rate and blood pressure which register specific traumatic triggers I am still too ashamed to name, an internal sense of self so dissociated sometimes that I’ve had nightmares based around not knowing how to gender myself, as well as a seemingly insurmountable compulsion to be in control, in charge, and completely severed from financial interdependence or dependence on others (along with a deep sense of shame when I fail at these things).

I personally didn’t realize the prevalence of male struggles under gender until I uncharacteristically made the radical decision to get a drink with a homophobe instead of yelling at him on the internet. I learned that he had been repeatedly molested by a gay uncle for most of his childhood, and even he admitted that his hatred of gay men now was projection of his uncle’s crimes onto others. He didn’t know another way to recover. Whereas liberal identity politics offered me the opportunity to perform my traumatized outrage as a reaction to homophobia, transphobia, and heteronormativity, conservative identity politics offered him the opportunity to perform his traumatized outraged as a reaction to the homosexual agenda and liberal destruction of the family. No politics offer us the opportunity to be outraged at sexual violence itself.

I’ve met others like him since then—male sexual abuse survivors relegated to the sidelines of popular feminist rhetoric and so taking refuge in vampiric conservative politics for the same reasons we do on the left too. Our traumas are politicized by culture wars in need of proxies. And none of us seem particularly better off or healed by their narratives.

Perhaps that is because in today’s age of haphazard integration between trauma and discrete identity politics, the performance of solidarity on the right or left is rarely about actual healing. Instead it is about reinforcing a politicized social generalization, that in turn justifies continued mistrust and separation. For those of us who fall outside these narratives, there is no mass movement of help coming. But like our friends who are narratively included, we fall onto a path with two main trails: be angry about how much the world has failed us, or learn to move the fuck on from it. All social pressure is towards vampiric anger, not resolution.

Back From the Grave

Coming down off the mountain, exiting the castle, returning from the grave, or whatever metaphorical landscape we define the vampiric phenomenon by, another world is possible.

And I am not just telling you that to reassure either of us that there is a mountaintop we’ll eventually get to if we keep trying. You know this truth too. Everyone who has not spent a chunk of their lives consumed by political narratives is out living in this world along with all those social media dropouts, post-leftist burnouts, and post-vamps who have already done exactly what you and I are doing now.

I believe a defining difference between this world and the world of the vampiric mountain is an actual embrace of human and planetary diversity. Whereas vampires are obsessively concerned with maintaining strict separation among equally discrete identity groups further organized hierarchically by victimhood/worth, the post-vampiric world acknowledges the messy and flawed, mixed race, mixed gender, mixed religion world we inhabit. This other world is a space to perceive one another from a horizontal power potential, where all are potentially comrades and equals, especially in the vulnerability necessary to see this world. Whereas identity politics patrol these sorts of hobbled together, impersonal communities that seek to define vastly different people by a common denominator, and then at least on some level, the shared victimhood of that label, in another world, we are already living, working, and loving side by side without the arbitrary division of these politics.

Freeing ourselves from vampirism necessitates also freeing ourselves from the thrall of identity politics. These politics rely on a perpetual powerlessness in order to maintain their boundaries. They assert that we are so weak without one another that we must face the world behind the shield of a larger group. The idea of healing or moving on from trauma, choosing not to be bothered by interpersonal drama or institutional issues beyond our control are direct affronts to this system because doing these things is to claim strength and sovereignty as an individual.

Alternative to vampirism is the choice to make ourselves vulnerable to the physical communities around us, where we connect to food systems, where we connect to healthcare, where we connect mutually to what was once the commons. This choice requires us to find the strength to refrain from taking personally the flaws in others we may have grown accustomed to attacking. This choice is about growing enough good faith to keep trying to work together. We will fail, often and messily. And we will offend and hurt one another in the learning process. But—and I believe those of you who have also dropped out of the vampiric system know this too—if we honestly want to see a world that is different, that is better, that is healed, then we must try something new until we get it right. I think exiting our vampiric landscapes requires more than the political re-attunement towards class unity rather than binary thinking that Fisher suggests, and more than the ah-ha moment of gaining the upper hand against vampires that LaVey suggests. I think we need more than reflections in the mirrors we create. We need a world to live in too. We have to change the very way we relate to one another.

Our survival is common. Our desire to heal from trauma is common. Recognizing those common conditions seems like a good place to start to me.


Pat Mosley

jan18Pat is making magic in the Carolina Piedmont. His blog can be found at patmosley.wordpress.com

The Mega Golem: A Review of Carl Abrahamsson’s “Reasonances”

Reasonances by Carl Abrahamsson, Scarlet Imprint 2014

reasonances

If gods can die, leaving us to wander amidst their bones in the miasma of their defuse rot, then gods can be born. Neither ex nihilo nor ad nihilum travel the lives of the gods. Perhaps some gods find their birth in the work of the magician-artist. Amidst the conquest of noise over signal, the dispersion bred of accelerated techno-empirico-capitalist-fragmentation pushing all apart into isolated well-measured sameness, what can bring about a return of some sense of the whole? It is against a background of such considerations that the book Reasonances takes form.

“Meta-programming through fiction and art is the most scientific and poetic way there is of solving our problems, at least according to me. The words affix themselves to the worlds. The worlds filter themselves through the words. The images become parts of the imaginations, the nations of images, all seeking each other out like grounded magnets, polarities or cruising sybarites of the night. If we stop and look, we can see a pattern, or several. And we can use these patterns as tools more than ever before in our own quantum quilts and our own Mega Golem processes.” (Reasonances p. 49)

Carl Abrahamsson’s book is many things: a prismatic net of reflections on Twentieth-Century occultism, art, and their overlaps; a philosophical engagement with the porous border between the magical and artistic processes; a surprisingly hopeful walking along the knife edge of market nihilism, ecological disaster, political corruption, technological acceleration and the dawning of a new way of life; an extended meditation on death and the fragmentary remains of artists and magicians past; a call for the creation of a new divinity, the Mega Golem.

Reproduction of the Prague Golem
Reproduction of the Prague Golem

“However, in the end nothing matters. But until then, some things do. Your own mind, for instance, and your own time.” (Reasonances p. 51)

Reasonances is a book of missed appointments, uncompleted artworks, lost connections. For Abrahamsson there will be no future revels with Anton LaVey in San Francisco, though we are graced with a living sense of LaVey’s life and effect as a master magician. We may never know what the moviemaker, Conrad Rooks, was crafting in his bungalow filled with computers in Thailand. But we learn in these pages about his struggle with drugs and the way this struggle was definitive for his film Chappaqua. Ever wonder what it was like to be friends with William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Man Ray, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac? Conrad Rooks tells you by telling Abrahamsson. But his final work, drawn from the void stretching from his two great films “Chappaqua” (1966) and “Siddhartha” (1972) to his death in 2011, remains a mystery. We get the sense of an expansive vision, incomplete.

We witness Abrahamsson’s love for Lady Jaye, half of the ongoing “Breyer P-Orridge Existential Art Project” aimed at the creation of one hermaphroditic entity from the lives of Genesis P-Orridge and Lady Jaye, and are left to wonder what remains when half of that one entity has died. Genesis P-Orridge speaks as “we” but Abrahamsson speaks of loss and the dream of a new totality become a fragment.

In Reasonances we witness a fascinating excavation of largely forgotten figures at the borders. At the border of art and the occult we learn of Rosaleen Norton, the Australian artist depicting bacchanals and occult rituals, who faced social rejection and police persecution from the 1940s until her death in 1979. At the border of mysticism and science we find the German philosopher Ernst Junger and hear of his experiments with hallucinogenics, including experiences with LSD shared with its discoverer Albert Hofmann, interwoven with his experiences during the World Wars. Destruction and dispersion face off against the divine he approached through drug experimentation.

“The Seance” by Rosaleen Norton

Reasonances’ cast of characters is extensive and it weaves stories of forgotten acts of bravery and enchanting personalities that enrich and enliven the history of art and the occult while remaining challenging throughout. What are we to make of Yukio Mishima’s suicide when it is understood as a work of art and connected to his blending of homoeroticism and nationalism in the milieu of the Samurai code? How are we to navigate the call to freedom in Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law when faced with its seeming glorification of violence and the rule of the strong? How truly critical of the Nazis was Junger whose work, by and large, was admired by them – including by Hitler himself? The book is consistently a work of provocation, seeking to inspire questioning and action without dominating its reader with prefabricated solutions or simple answers.

We could go on to explore the extensive interviews with the Thelemic moviemaker Kenneth Anger, or the exceptionally careful orienting of the life and works of the important novelist Lord Bulwer-Lytton within the occult circles of 19th century England, but ultimately all of these stories and histories are examples of Reasonances’ larger vision – the dream of the Mega Golem.

“As an experiment, try to leave the hermetic and arcane frames of reference alone for a while and use instead those of artistic creation and, if you feel really daring, those of fiction.” (Reasonances p. 41)

To understand the Mega Golem we must first recognize it as the axis of Abrahamsson’s proposal that art needs to learn from the occult and occult practice needs to learn from art. The connection here is not at all unusual, as will be apparent to those with experience in the occult or with knowledge of the history of art. Cave painting, story telling, dance and music all were originally largely the province of priestess and priests, shamans and mystics – occultists par excellence. All served a vital function in bringing about changes to the world of ancient people and maintaining the metaphysical structure and nature of those worlds. Looking at the situation from the contemporary occult angle the connection seems just as obvious. The practice of magic involves visionary states of consciousness much like those used in forms of artistic inspiration, handcrafted tools and sets, dramatic impersonations of gods, poetic invocations and songs.

Beyond the historical overlap, Abrahamsson offers a deeper connection between the processes involved in art and magic. Both involve the control of causal forces through non-causal or non-rational means. In other words, both recognize that there is something about their process of creation that cannot be fully understood or, if it were to be understood, the very act of analysis would destroy the effectiveness of the process. We can see this in the overlap of inspiration and mystical experience in the creation of both works of art and magic. Each starts with the play of unconscious forces rising to consciousness, the moment of inspiration, that must then be distilled into a singular embodiment. Each involves a trust in, and channeling of, intuition. Each manifests a new reality.

This brings us naturally to the Mega Golem. Both the magical act and artistic creation suffer from potential failings or, at least, what can be seen as failings against a certain background. Magical acts can be dominated by a lower worldly will, in other words they can be channeled almost exclusively towards short-term selfish ends. Personal gain in all its various forms, from accentuating natural talents and uncovering insight to gaining money or power, often dominates magical goals even when hidden under the rubric of ongoing initiation. Art, on the other hand, can be devoid of coherent worldly will and instead merely the outcome of immediate inspiration and intuition. We might say, in the case of both magic and art, that inspiration and will need to be conjoined in a final product that goes beyond the immediate ends of the creator.

For magic to escape its solipsism and art to escape its self-indulgent immediacy each must wed themselves to a goal that goes beyond the individual. This is the Mega Golem, a new divinity built from individual artistic-magical acts and works.

“Consider this idea: new, consciously made, magical, talismanic totems as members/parts of a new divinity. Artworks of different kinds become cells and building blocks of a new pagan pantheon of intelligence, of whose essence future generations can rely on and partake. Special importance should be given to indigenous, traditional, tribal and folk culture, woven into the fabric of genuine human creation. The final times of our mercurial technocratic culture could actually help in setting this up before these new gods are properly established enough to live on through the rituals of the post-technocracy-survivals.” (Reasonances p. 30)

We might speculate that the idea of the Mega Golem owes its origin to a distinct aspect of both magic and art. In magic, particularly Chaos Magic, we encounter the idea of the living Thought Form or Egregor. This is an entity that begins as an individual or collective creature of imagination, which, once invested with will or magical energy, becomes an independent spiritual entity with its own lasting existence. Similarly, in art, the work which begins in the artist’s internal processes eventually takes flight into a world where it will give rise to its own interpretations and maintain its own unique existence beyond the intentions of the artist. Both the artwork and Egregor are outcomes of acts of creation that develop, in some sense, a will and life of their own.

The idea of the Mega Golem opens up the possibility that both art and magic might overcome their own limitations. From channeling or communicating with divinities we move to crafting them in a communal form, from creating works of art we move to creating a new world and way of life.

We get a better sense of the central role of self-overcoming in the texture of Reasonances when we consider Abrahamsson’s discussion of Babalon as a magical formula. After tracing the history of the figure of the whore of Babylon from ancient practices of holy prostitution, through the Book of Revelations, to Crowley’s own recreation of the concept he distills what he takes to be the central elements of the magical process that Babalon came to represent. This process is one of self-development through the transgression of taboos. As the author rightly points out, the process requires one to transgress taboos that are still meaningful and powerful within one’s own psyche, not just arbitrary social limitations one has already rejected. Instead, we challenge our own limits and go beyond our own comfort zones through acts of reinvention that release pent up energies within our own being.

William Blake's
William Blake’s “Whore of Babylon”

We can see each of Abrahamsson’s investigations of, and interviews with, artists and thinkers as case studies in the practice of the formula of Babalon and the uniting of art and magic in a way that might serve the birth of the Mega Golem. Similarly, we can see the very idea of the Mega Golem as a self-overcoming on the part of its inventor. Repeatedly within Reasonances Abrahamsson reveals his own occult upbringing within the context of the Thelemic Ordo Templi Orientis, the Church of Satan and the more Chaos Magic focused Temple ov Psychick Youth in his heavily individualistic understanding of the nature of human existence and both artistic and occult work. Abrahamsson claims in the concluding interview of the book that, “…everything is individual. Any collective or communal decision is based on a consensus formed by individuals. Hence, politics may seem to be rooted in ideas and ideals, but in actual fact the driving force is always individual will, that may or may not be joined by others of a similar persuasion.” (Reasonances p. 160-161). Yet this very view, while exceptionally common in today’s world and a major aspect of most understandings of both libertarian Satanism and Thelema, is a central artifact of the technocratic age Abrahamsson wishes to get beyond. T.O.P.Y., in this regard, is something of a mixed heritage. Based on the use of sigil magic aimed at self-overcoming through the achievement of personal private desires, the organization’s basic structure and goals were nonetheless aimed at the creation of productive networks of artistic exchange and support. Much like the Mega Golem itself, we might suggest that the process of T.O.P.Y. began with the individual in order to escape the contemporary prison of isolation that goes along with our almost unthinking acceptance of radical individualism.

Were the Mega Golem to live it would require a specific transformation from being a conglomeration of individual works into a united whole of its own that goes well beyond any totality of pieces. In fact, through an act of retrospective creation we would have to come to see each step in the forming of the new divinity as already implicit and necessitated by its end. We might say that ultimately each piece of the Golem will come to be seen as an expression of its being willed from beyond the individual artist or occultist. This tension between the individual and the whole forms a central paradox of the book from Abrahamsson’s early call for a renewed “…harmony with the macrocosmic, natural life force. Inherent in this harmony is the adaptation to and, importantly, reverential respect for the movements and routines of the whole.” (Reasonances p. 18) to his concluding claims about the priority of the individual. Abrahamsson rightly sees that this paradox is overcome in the moment when the creator is created by her or his creation. The artist becomes the expression of the work, as the magician becomes a vehicle for the magic. Ultimately, then, the call for an active will-driven magico-artistic creation of a Mega Golem aiming beyond the individual towards a communal and natural macrocosmic goal serves to subvert the focus on individual will. At the risk of putting the project in a way that might be a bit disturbing, each contributor to the Mega Golem serves, or retroactively will have served, the new divinity’s will. Ultimately the project cannot be fully understood from the perspective of the individual.

It is not adequate to respond to a proposal as daring and fascinating as that of the Mega Golem through purely analytic means. Instead, it calls out for an active and creative response. It calls out for a contribution. If you could create a divinity, what aspects would you have it contain? If you were to craft a new vision of reality, a new mode of life, a new metaphysical framework of meaning, what would it look like or smell like or sound like? Each of us alone in isolation at our computer screens face in this moment a communal call from the macrocosm – name me. Give me form and, in doing so, find yourself as an expression of the cosmos we all share.

“No matter what, I hereby set the Mega Golem free. This lecture and this text is the right side of its brain, perhaps one of many brains. It may be enough to give it life, or it may not. It is an occult experiment that is also artistic. It is an artistic experiment that is also occult. I have vaguely attempted to state here today that I don’t really believe there is any major difference between these two spheres. What this Mega Golem will or can do is no longer exclusively up to me. I have done my bit and the rest is now up to you.” (Reasonances p. 43)

In response to the call and in thanks for the work Carl Abrahamsson has given us in Reasonances, I would like to offer a humble contribution of my own – a part of the Golem’s heart:

An Elk hart in the shade from Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
An Elk hart in the shade from Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Something stirs –
Where once rivers flowed,
Where the ghosts of trees rest
Unremembered.
Something wakens –
From concrete
Once mossy banks,
And blinks.
It cherishes –
How the crows used to gossip in the branches
Just so,
And the stones of the river winked
With hidden quartz.
It shelters –
The echoes of days without time
When walks went on forever
And we watched clouds play tag
With our backs bruised with grass stains.
Something smiles –
Where slim stalks will grow
And angry voices will rise in joy
To demand life for the earth
The voiceful wind
The wine dark sea
The shivering wave
The silken sky
Once more.
Something remembers –
The songs we will strike
Like bonfires
In the fields at the end of history.
You can hear its voice calling us together
Hidden in the folds of the breeze
In the corners of the night
When no tread paces.
“Golem?” it asks,
“Call me Hope.”

Author

Kadmus is a practicing ceremonial magician with a long standing relationship to the ancient Celtic deities. His interests and practice are highly eclectic but a deep commitment to paganism is the bedrock upon which they all rest. Kadmus is also a published academic with a Ph.D. in philosophy teaching at the college level. You can find some of his reflections on the occult at http://starandsystem.blogspot.com/ or look him up on twitter at @starandsystem .