Rewilding America

“Ultimately, the longing for spiritual rejuvenation and community empowerment will break through the cage of modernity, if we are not first destroyed by ecological devastation and/or economic collapse.”

Cultural and Ecological commentary from William Hawes

It’s time for us as a people to come together, to form an understanding about our natural environment, and our connection to it. If we are to survive long into this century and beyond, our society will have to learn to re-indigenize itself. This will be a painful process for those dependent on creature comforts, on the electrical grid’s continuous power supply, on the streams of TV, Netflix, even the internet itself, on factory-made pharmaceuticals, etc. It will be difficult for those whose illusions are about to be shattered, for those who thought they could live for so long and have it so good at the expense of others and to the detriment of their natural, wild surroundings.

We aren’t going anywhere. There will be no moon and Mars colonies to flee to. Isn’t it suspicious, though, how little talk there is about the parallels between the past colonialists of North America and the sci-fi dream of future colonies in space? Any potential future space colony wouldn’t be a glitzy affair: it would be similar to past and present immigrants and refugees streaming across continents, trying to escape death, privation, despair. In short, the dream of human habitation of the solar system exists because of the utter destruction of landscapes and the indecency of human societies in many parts of our planet.

Imagine if we actually decided to collectively care for our own world instead of having day-dreams and wasting billions on rockets and gadgets to propel us towards the “final frontier”. Doesn’t that sound nice? Luckily for us, the resiliency of our planet towards habitat degradation is very, very strong. That is why a policy of rewilding must be introduced into mainstream thinking and politics. Coined by David Foreman, rewilding refers to conservation methods that strengthen and maintain wildlife corridors and large-scale wilderness areas, with an emphasis placed on carnivores and keystone species which act as linchpins for ecosystem stability. Rewilding leads to increased connectedness across previously fragmented habitat due to roads, railways, urban sprawl, etc.

In the Americas, please consider educating yourself and others about these issues, and donating to a few of the fine organizations promoting wildlife corridors, such as: the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative, the Paseo del Jaguar program led by Panthera, and the American Prairie Reserve.

Strengthening our ecosystems will provide a higher quality of life for future generations, as well as your children and grandchildren. Now that’s a return on investment. Forget about yourself, your fragile ego, and your “standards of living”, for a moment. Western capitalism and colonialism has been degrading habitats for centuries, with benefits mostly accruing to white, older men. Only by giving back to the land, and in many cases, non-intervening and letting our soils and waterways heal on their own, will allow for a more equal distribution of wealth. It is natural resources, not money, which are the real inheritance we will leave behind to our youth.

The distribution of the “common-wealth”, by the way, used to be far more equitable hundreds of years ago, when land was freely available for hunting, fishing, foraging, and farming. Yes, there is less abject poverty in Europe and the US today compared to centuries ago, but it has come at a steep cost: there is no self-reliance, no collectively and culturally stored traditions of farming, crafts, weaving, pottery, home-building. Corporations have swallowed all this, citing the “need” for specialized divisions of labor. Self-sufficiency and homesteading are looked upon with scorn, and we are told to buy everything we could ever need (and desire), instead of co-producing tools, clothes, food, and more.

Sharing of community resources needs to be re-instilled in the populace. The average garage, shed, or extra closet of today’s Westerner is filled with useless crap used maybe a few times a year, all purchased from a few companies. Recycling usable equipment and renting for small fees throughout the communities will significantly decrease consumption and foster closer neighborhood ties.

Today, the legal webs and labyrinths of “property laws” and low-wage work have imprisoned the average person. So has the spread of capitalism and unequal distribution of money, division of labor, separation of classes. The lives of masses of working people, the precariat, are just as unstable and misery-inducing as they were centuries ago, when Frederick Douglas said:

“Experience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and rushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other.”

This all underscores the need for rewilding the American people, not simply expanding our National Forests and wildlife refuges. It calls for a transformation in consciousness, to promote understanding of different cultures, openness towards change, and advocating for compassion and peace. We can begin by starting to support a 15 dollar wage, to fight for climate science funding, to promote renewable energy. Yet there needs to be an understanding that those actions, while a good start, are simply a few first baby-steps towards re-orienting our culture.

Ultimately, the longing for spiritual rejuvenation and community empowerment will break through the cage of modernity, if we are not first destroyed by ecological devastation and/or economic collapse. Longing, in all actuality, is too mild a term; actually, there is an intense craving for unique and authentic notions of identity, for belonging to a caring culture, for sharing and cultural blending. There is also, to an extent, evolutionary reasons and epigenetic possibilities for the deep desires, for instance, to want to sing and dance around a fire, to go on long walks to calm the mind, to talk to plants and animals, to feel the Earth’s joys and pains, to partake of psychedelic plants. It’s what our species has done for millennia, and no freeways, high-rises, fluorescent-lit malls, or gated communities can possibly make up for these urges.

Inner calmness and contentedness, feeling joy at other’s successes, altruistic actions of bravery, spontaneity, the creative act, and transpersonal experiences all teach us that our egos are illusions. The drive of the ego is the drive of civilization, with all its life-denying baggage. It is this ego-based desire to dominate, to harness and pillage nature, which expands outwards to include all life-forms, including even our close loved ones. The judgments and pain inflicted on others are projections of our own, deep inner hurting. The ego shifts the blame, projecting, always outwards onto others, always disguising and rationalizing its selfish deeds.  Indigenous life is not without problems, but it recognizing and integrates the shadow-side of ourselves: there was no need for modern psychology until modern, Western man ramped up the process of destroying the world, all in order to fill the gaping void within the soul.

Thus, rewilding our psyches will mean dissolving the ego, recognizing it as a small part of the mind, occasionally useful in survival-enhancing or problem solving situations, but not as an absolute master of our sense of self. In short, it must be acknowledged that there are many aspects to individual minds, spectrums of ways of thinking, just as specific brain-waves exist, and differing states of sleep and dreaming.

Shrinking the ego will re-establish our commitment to protecting the Earth. As creator and protector of life, our planet, along with crops, animals, mountains and rivers, all have been venerated and deified across history. Thus, the sacredness of life and its continuity can be seen for the miracle it truly is. New spiritual and religious groups will be founded, with cross-fertilization and syncretism causing an explosion of kaleidoscopic cultures. Shrinking petty individual desires and grievances enlarges our view of nature: it allows for free living and amicable relations, promoting an idea of an Unconquerable World which can triumph over the capitalist-dominated, chaotic, absolutist, totalitarian impulses of modern life.

This has serious implications. What cannot be used, i.e. extra physical products, food, and extra income must be given away to less fortunate countries. Open-source medicine and technology will have to be distributed to developing nations to stave off the worst symptoms of global warming and habitat degradation. In the wealthy West, the rich should look to the example of the indigenous, where in some tribes the chieftains distributed their personal wealth among their tribe, often to be rewarded in kind at a later ceremonial/seasonal time of the year. Companies that produce weapons or various useless waste will be forced to shut down. Education will be reoriented to focus on the potentialities of each individual student, not as a one-size-fits-all indoctrination mill, churning out damaged, submissive, domesticated youth.

Green constitutions will have to be drafted to provide regulations to protect humans and wildlife from unnecessary pollution and production. It’s not just the West that will lead: the Chinese must realize, and be planning for, the eventuality that the demand for crappy plastic goods and gadgetry at big-box stores is going to decline, worldwide, in the coming decades. A new international order based on the UN, or otherwise, will be needed to uphold climate change commitments, speedily develop renewable energy tech, sustainable agriculture plans, and distribution of resources. Basically, this requires a shift from an anthropocentric outlook to an ecocentric outlook.

This will require a global awakening, and a moral/spiritual transformation of consciousness. It is the only way for our societies to move forward. Adaptability and having a broad range of skills and a wider knowledge base will be preferred over the narrow, technological elitism we see today in the corporate world and reflected in culture and the media. Ultimately, rewilding ourselves means learning how to live free, i.e., unlearning what our consumer-based culture has brainwashed us into believing.

I don’t intend to shy away from the hard political questions of what the world and the US could look like in the near future, if the above steps are taken. Most likely, the modern nation-state will perish, America included. Our national experiment has been blood-drenched and steeped in genocide, slavery, domination by capitalists, and structural racism from the very beginning. A new era of cooperation is called for, with true democratic consensus and citizen involvement in governance as well as the workplace. Smaller areas based on bioregionalism and the city-state will replace the nation-state (which Gore Vidal, among others, spoke out in favor of) and will be more likely to prosper, as they will be more likely to provide for their citizens. Climate refugees and nomadic ways of life will increase for those fleeing disaster, or those simply seeking better opportunities. Decentralization of power as well as a closer connection to the land will foster a reawakening of the tribal ways of life, where tight-knit communities care for the sick, the elderly, disabled, and troubled souls, instead of shunting them into various soul-crushing institutions like jail, mental hospitals, etc.

A new era of solidarity and care for the meek must begin. This will mean feeding the millions per year who die of starvation, drought, lack of medical care, etc. This will mean reprioritizing our lives, with no excuses. Radical egalitarianism and faith in the boundless potential of each and every person must be instilled in our societies. Some will denounce this as radical, utopian, unachievable. Those who say so are without hope, without faith, having been indoctrinated by mainstream media and enshackled by capitalist ideology. Recently, in an interview, China Mieville explained this quite well:

“We underestimate at our peril the kind of onslaught of received opinion from the media, from the sort of cultural establishment, basically kind of ruling out of court any notion of fundamental change. Ridiculing it as ridiculous, to the extent that, you know, when you start to talk about wanting a better world you see the eyes rolling. What kind of despicable pass have we come to, that that aspiration raises scorn? And yet that’s where we are, for huge numbers of the political establishment.”

What sort of ideology can replace this cynicism, this nihilism? What kind of world do we want to create? I defer to Carl Rogers:

“Let me summarize my own political ideology, if you will, in a very few words. I find that for myself, I am most satisfied politically when every person is helped to become aware of his or her own power and strength; when each person participates fully and responsibly in every decision which affects him or her; when group members learn that the sharing of power is more satisfying than endeavoring to use power to control others; when the group finds ways of making decisions which accommodate the needs and desires of each person; when every person of the group is aware of the consequences of a decision on its members and on the external world; when each person enforces the group decision through self-control of his or her own behavior; when each person feels increasingly empowered and strengthened; and when each person and the group as a whole is flexible, open to change, and regards previous decisions as being always open for reconsideration.” (1)

Notes:

1.) May, Rollo, et al. Politics and Innocence: A Humanistic Debate. Saybrook Publishers, 1986. p. 6.


William Hawes

William Hawes is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. His articles have appeared online at Global Research, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, The World Financial Review, Gods & Radicals, and Counterpunch. He is author of the ebook Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. You can reach him at wilhawes@gmail.com


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The World Without Forms

I said to a friend, we see the darkness, and some go in.
It is the Abyss.
We have to find out what is there, to find out if there is meaning. And we see only the abyss. And some go mad. And some never return. And some—
And some, I said, come back wielding light against that darkness. Seeing nothing, we bring back fire, we light lamps, candles, torches. We hold light that isn’t ours, as how else would any else see?

Terror often greets the far-off glances on the faces of those who return from the Abyss. The lone wanderers who walked boldly into the darkness past the boundary of fire- or street-light, the mad poet, the uncouth heretic, the unshowered witch: their reckless journeys are not celebrated when they return.

Like the ones who ‘walk away from Omelas,’ they did not know to where they were going, only somewhere not-here, not the streets full of opulent wealth and the joyous cries of liberation made possible by a founding horror. But unlike in Le Guin’s story, the city is the world, and there is nowhere else to go except back to those same streets, their eyes no longer glinting with the shallow laughter of civilization but nevertheless lit with fire.

It is their own fire, and it is a fire others are right to fear. It is a fire that can reforge the world.


I am what some might call an Egoist. I can also be described as a Nihilist, a mystic, an esotericist, a witch, a Pagan, an Anarchist, and also a Marxist. None of these labels actually mean anything–they are only useful when attempting to speak as the locals speak, to use the prescribed language of Capitol/Capital, treating ‘words that stay’’ with the same fetishism which Marx ascribes to commodity-cum-currency.

It is generally easier to list what I reject (for those of you checking-off boxes on mental clipboards) than it is to begin the litany of what I embrace. Few have the time: there are stories that must be told for each thing before they can be understood, and such narration seems mere obfuscation to those for whom reductionism and essentialism (as endemic to the American ‘left’ as it is to the ‘right’) are unconscious requirements to get at the ‘truth.’

I will tell you what I do not like. I do not like racism or racialism; I do not like gender or genderism. I do not like property or propriety, nor do I Iike borders and what they define. Also, Capitalism and Liberal Democracy and Empire are my least favorite things in the world, along with their shadow, Fascism.

Here, though, I should remind you: “Fascism” means nothing at all. It is a word invoked by people overcome with a strong urge to shore up the ruins of Empire by recourse to even more tenuous concepts with even less material basis: Tradition, Race, Gender, Morals, the Nation. Though the words are mere sounds we make with our throats or symbols printed with ink or displayed on screens, they each serve to outline vaguely (and by their vagueness gain more power) ideas which nevertheless have great power in the realm of the human social.

Max Stirner called these ideas ‘spooks.’ Others would call these ‘constructs.’ I prefer to name them spectres or Egregores. They are also the mythic, and it’s the realm of the mythic I understand best, which is also the realm the Fascists are trying to take from us.

Spooks That Kill

Carl Jung gave a speech in 1936 in which he suggested a “Wotanic spirit” had begun to inhabit the National Socialists, as if the people had become possessed by a god:

Perhaps we may sum up this general phenomenon as Ergriffenheit — a state of being seized or possessed. The term postulates not only an Ergriffener (one who is seized) but, also, an Ergreifer (one who seizes). Wotan is an Ergreifer of men, and, unless one wishes to deify Hitler– which has indeed actually happened — he is really the only explanation.

Jung invokes his theory of gods as pre- and un-conscious archetypal drives to defend his thesis, but like much of the rest of Jung’s work, it’s always unclear whether he believed there was not really a god there. But Jung does not quite mean what we generally think of as a god. Wotan is a “buried drive” within the Germanic people, one which essentially haunts the ‘race’ until it becomes manifest.

“Because the behaviour of a race takes on its specific character from its underlying images, we can speak of an archetype “Wotan.” As an autonomous psychic factor, Wotan produces effects in the collective life of a people and thereby reveals his own nature….It is only from time to time that individuals fall under the irresistible influence of this unconscious factor.”

Jung’s racial essentialism here is tragic and prefigures the biological and genetic essentialism which now dominates Western thought. However, the concept of a mass possession by an unconscious form fits incredibly well with what we know of Nationalism.

Consider the World Trade Center attacks in 2001 in the United States. After the attacks, people experienced (and were diagnosed with) trauma from watching the explosions on television, so much so that some (including otherwise sane and clear-thinking friends of mine) for a little while believed they had either actually been present at the event or had a close friend or family member within the destroyed towers. Worse, many otherwise virulently anti-war people suddenly regained national ‘pride,’ literally waving flags with such civic devotion that one would have thought their life depended upon it.

Devotion to the Nation after such traumatic events often takes on both a religious quality (similar to that of evangelical Christians) while displaying symptoms of mass hysteria. The Nation appears to haunt the actions of the individuals, manifesting and reifying itself as if by possession or seizing.

What Jung noticed regarding the possession of the German people by “Wotan” is this same process. And while one need not believe it was Wotan who possessed his people (I do not—I’ve asked him myself), Jung’s assertion that a mythic force can operate on the psyche is hardly a unique idea. The same function was described by Max Stirner as ‘spooks,’ ideological and philosophical forms which exert influence when they are unconsciously accepted as really-existing.

Spook, Spectre, Egregore

Jung’s theory of archetypes—as well as Stirner’s theory on Spooks, may have been influenced by an occult theory regarding near-deific spirits known as egregores. An egregore (greek for ‘watcher’) is a spirit composed of the memories, knowledge, personality, and intentions of a group, which either arises organically from the activities and interactions of the group or is constructed willfully by the group.

Egregores could be called ‘group minds,’ though they exist autonomously (like Jung’s archetypal Wotan) and maintain the cohesion, survival, and collective identity of a group beyond the individual goals of each member. Unlike an archetype, an egregore does not spring from the unconscious/pre-conscious mind, but rather the myriad actions and interactions of those within in. Unlike a god, an egregore is not something one worships or necessarily invokes. They can be constructed, but after their construction the apparent life they take on is much more complex than what they were constructed to be.

A more accurate explanation may be to say that they are real-ised; brought from the realm of infinite possibility, the world without forms, into the more finite realm of social existence. Yet another theory is that they become inhabited after-the-fact by pre-existing spirits, similar to the way many animistic cultures build shrines as houses that benevolent spirits (or fairies, etc.) will want to move into.

Like Jung’s ‘Wotan’ and Stirner’s Spook (and to some degree Derrida’s ‘Spectre’), the Egregore describes the apparent realness of a thing despite its disconnection from the material world. There is no ‘there’ there, and yet it functions always as if there was, manifesting itself in the actions of those who live within its realm of influence or meaning. And it thus acts also as if it were a god, making demands upon its followers who constantly (and often unconsciously) manifest its existence.

This same process has been described by other means by post-colonialist theorists. Dipesh Chakrabarty, particularly, proposes in his introduction to Provincializing Europe that it is precisely European exceptionalism that prevents us from seeing how those of us in Liberal Democratic societies still “inhabit these forms even as we classify ourselves as modern or secular.” Similarly, Frantz Fanon and James Baldwin speak to the way that belief in whiteness and its psychological manifestations seem to inhabit those who, in Baldwin’s words, “believe they are white.”

One need not necessarily accept a supernatural explanation for the way the mythic manifests as-if it is real in order to comprehend this idea. Benedict Anderson’s formulation of the Nation as an ‘imagined community’ also points to the same mythic and Egregoric functioning. For him, the Nation is a modern constructed form creating an indefensible (yet fully-manifest) sense of (false) horizontal kinship with complete strangers, as Anderson says, making “it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people not so much to kill as willing die for such limited imaginings.”

America exists; yet we cannot point merely to the constitution of the United States, nor to its government and institutions, soldiers and politicians and police, and say: this is America. America exists within the psyche of Americans, constantly reproduced through self-description and unconscious acceptance of its goals, desires, and inevitability. America is an egregore, a god-form, inhabiting the psyche of its individual constituents, like Jung’s Wotan: “…an autonomous psychic factor, …produc[ing] effects in the collective life of a people…”

The Fascists Know What We Prefer To Forget

Race, Gender, and all other ‘identity’ categories function this same way. Gays imagine themselves part of a ‘gay community,’ yet there is no such thing, only an imagined kinship with people who just happen to like sex with people who have the same genitals as themselves. A horrific attack on people who call themselves gay (such as the Pulse massacre in Orlando) thus manifests in individual gays elsewhere (as was the case for myself and many of my gay friends) as an attack on us as well.

We see this egregoric manifestation even stronger in whiteness. Whiteness has no material basis, yet it does not need one to manifest through the social interactions of humans. Whiteness ‘possesses’ the white person, and appears to inhabit their interactions with people possessed by other egregoric racial categories (Black, etc.) regardless of their oppositional nature. In fact, the conflict and tension between egregores only further refines and entrenches their influence and power.

Neither the conservative Right nor most of the liberal or radical Left challenge these egregores. Instead, they strengthen and re-invest these egregores with power by insisting they are real and meaningful fields of social struggle (regardless of their final goals). We see this most tragically on the Left, which generally accepts the constructed nature of identities, yet also insists identity is a valid (if not foundational) field of political struggle.

Consider the problem of Gender. Most Leftists accept Judith Butler’s proposition that gender is performative, not essential or biological (likewise the Egoist position). Yet, particularly on the “Social Justice” Left, essentialism and a fear of straying too far from Liberal Democratic forms creates a contradictory position, seen particularly in the arguments around trans women. On the one hand, Leftists insist woman is a constructed category, yet then assert that trans women are women. That is, woman is constructed, but in order to liberate another constructed category, trans women (as category) are absolutely (essentially) part of a woman (as category), making both again essentialist, Similarly, maleness is a category that the Left generally seeks to make irrelevant, but then the Left reduces men to an essential category in which every man essentially causes exploitation, violence, and oppression (“#YESALLMEN”).

Even if it were only the Left attempting to define the boundaries of these egregoric categories, we would find ourselves in an interminable deadlock. Unfortunately, there is a much stronger and less self-conscious current which already understands the great power these egregores have over the actions of humans.

A brief glance at the Nazi project is probably sufficient for us to grasp how Fascism not only is more comfortable with the egregoric nature of these concepts, but also understands how best to manipulate them. Nazi theorists (social, occult, legal, scientific, etc.) cobbled together a new mythic reality for Germany quite quickly. Tibetan and Hindu spirituality, Nordic and Germanic folklore, and general occult studies as well as previously oppositional and antagonist political, social, and scientific forms all became part of the egregore of Nazism, seizing the mythic imagination of a (likewise mythic) Nation.

Consider: before the Nazis, the Aryan race was a mere fringe scientific theory. During the Nazi ascension, the Aryan race was a thing, alive, ‘self-evident.’ So, too, Germany itself: suddenly a nation created only three decades before arose fully-formed with an ancient history as if it had always been there.

Did the Nazi theorists actually believe their own mythic creation? Or were they consciously creating something new? It’s impossible to know. The same question could be asked of Lenin and Stalin: did they really believe in the existence of the Worker?

Or more controversially regarding the identity politics of the Left: gays did not exist as a category in the 1800’s, nor did trans people. When the political category/egregoric identity of ‘gay’ and ‘trans’ arose, suddenly they were self-evident, alive, meaningful, and strangest of all: ‘true.’ Did those who constructed gayness and trans identity know they were making something up? How many who embrace these identities (unless they’ve really read Foucault) even realize that they do not stretch back into prehistory, let alone before the 20th century?

The point here is not to unravel the nightmare of Left identity politics, only to show how Leftists unconsciously do the same thing that Fascists consciously do. Leftists construct identities and egregores without any reference to the material world, yet then quickly accept them as if they have always existed, just as a Nationalist embraces the Nation and a White Supremacist embraces the White Race.

Leftism (and anti-fascism) as it currently exists is thus insufficient for combating the mythic power of Fascism until we acknowledge how much of this mythic, egregoric power we’ve not only ceded to Fascists, but then clumsily mimic.

The World Without Forms

An essay by Alexander Reid Ross recently warned against the danger of “Post-Left,’ Egoist, mythic, and anti-civilizational thought. What these “potential intersections” with Fascism all have in common, however, is a rejection of the egregoric spooks over which the Left and Fascists are currently warring. Also, they all have at least an apparent understanding of the mechanisms by which the egregoric functions, and they each assert the freedom of the individual over these forms as a primary goal.

Ross’s essay suggests that these positions seem close to the border past which all is fascist. That apparent proximity, though, is not what he suspects it to be. Rather, the extreme distance of most Leftism from the mythic–and its long complicity with Liberal Democratic secular exceptionalism–makes these non- and anti-fascist positions seem ‘close’ to Fascism.

Leftism—especially American anti-fascism—has been so lost in the world of identities and forms that it has forgotten that they are only merely that: forms. Thus, any who reject the world of forms, or create new ones, will be seen as immediately suspect.

Were the current forms (Liberal Democracy, Capitalism, the Nation, Gender, Race, etc.) worth keeping around, then this error would not be so catastrophic. Some are certainly anti-fascist only because it threatens Liberal Democracy, and perhaps it is no longer true to say that Leftism (at least in its American iterations) is anti-imperialist or anti-capitalist any longer, regardless of how much it claims otherwise.

If, however, we are anti-fascists because we are also pro-something else, something besides the current egregoric forms which lead only to exploitation, oppression, and the destruction of the earth, then we must stop looking away from the mythic power we have ceded to the Fascists.

We can see how we’ve done this by looking at one of the symptoms that anti-fascists use to diagnose whether someone is a Fascist: the Black Sun. Though proximity doesn’t prove causation, this is generally a good rule of thumb. However, little to no attention is ever given to why Fascists invoke the Black Sun.

The secret of the Black Sun is actually quite simple, and it’s one that Fascists do not own. Stare at the sun in the sky and something odd happens. It appears first to turn deep red, and then goes black and starts to spin as your retina burns. It also sears itself as an after-image, lingers there for hours (if not days), and creates the perception that there is actually nothing behind the sun. It appears to go flat as it moves, revealing a deep Abyss as if all light, and all reality is merely a black hole.

I do not suggest every white boy and girl who puts an image of the Black Sun as their iPhone background has experienced the same mystical transformation that medieval alchemists name nigredo; nor do I assert that it is an Abyssal truth limited to mystical traditions or European-derived thought (the Sufis and many animist traditions describe a similar experience). Still, it should intrigue us that in at least one Fascist strain, a rite exists which inducts the initiate into the nihilist/spiritual world without forms.

From that world, through such an initiation, it is easy to transcend societal restraints and enter into the pre-formal realm of perception. Outside the constraints of socially-constructed identity and morality, any new thought is possible and any new form is acceptable specifically because ‘possible’ and ‘acceptable’ no longer apply. More so, the experience strengthens the will of the initiate: the vision was survived, the mind intact.

Those who’ve studied and felt the inebriating mix of mythic power and indomitable will evinced by fascists like Jack Donovan and the Wolves of Vinland will understand my meaning here. Donovan has been able to create an intoxicating, egregoric, mythic conception of the world, cobbling together fragments of the past with terrifyingly violent new ideologies which are pristine in their coherence. There is raw, seductive, violent power here that functions on the ‘primal’ (pre-conscious, libidinal) level against which anti-fascists have no other defense except no-platforming.

Reclaiming What We’ve Thrown Away

If I here seem full of praise for something so horrifying, it is not because I am, but because you may have become so separated from your own mythic power that you’ve forgotten you can do this too, towards a more affirming and fair world rather one of hierarchy and hatred.

I suspect we shun this power for two reasons. First, anyone returning from the Abyss with such mythic visions, transcending the egregores by which the rest of us are ruled, will always be initially marked as a heretic or an outcast. Only when we find others who have seen the same things or who find meaning in these new dreams can such mystics find acceptance. The other reason? We’ve so long ago ceded to others our power to make the world that we are more happy to leave such delvings to the Fascists than realize we are complicit in our own enchainment.

The ‘world without forms,’ where we can again reclaim our power, is what Stirner and the Egoists embrace. It is also what Bataille sought, as did his close friend, the Jewish mystic Walter Benjamin. From that world we see both the infinite possibility of human liberation and the infinite delusions under which we have for too long struggled. It is also where we can learn how to be Walter Benjamin’s “real state of emergency” which will eventually make Fascism untenable.

The Nation is a false thing that only has power because we give it power. Gender, race, class, religion, morals—even the self itself—are all constructs. Civilization is a spook, one to which we are always subject because we believe there is such a thing as civilization, because other people believe there is such a thing as civilization, and because all of us fail to remember that civilization is just an idea in our heads that causes us to cohere around it and give it more power. Thus, the Fascist who warns that civilization is under threat from Islam, or trans people, or Cultural Marxism—as well as the Liberal-Leftist who warns that civilization is under threat from Fascism—are both still merely fighting for control over the egregore of Civilization.

Any anti-fascism which seeks to break not only the power of the Fascists but also the power of the forms the Fascists wish to control must refuse to accept the forms themselves.

Race, Gender, the Nation, Civilization–these are not our forms, they are forms which enchain us, they do not exist in the world we wish to build, and we must stop pretending otherwise. Instead, we must make new forms while always conscious that they are only just forms, forms we can change at will because it is our will which births them.

We must also refuse to cede the mythic—and the embrace of the self—to the Fascists. The ‘post-leftists’ and the Egoists and those who’ve read Bataille, and also those who’ve read Baldwin or Fanon or Chakrabarty, and especially all those who would dare walk past the forest’s edge in darkness and find there new truths, regardless the consequences—it is to them where we must look for the rituals which will free us all. It is them, and nothing else, who can finally exorcise Fascism’s spectre from our world.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth is the co-founder and managing editor of Gods&Radicals. He co-edited, along with Lia Hunter, the most recent issue of A Beautiful Resistance, “Left Sacred.

He can be supported on Patreon, and is currently in Rennes, France, where he is very happy.


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Witches In A Crumbling Empire

Below is a video recording of Rhyd Wildermuth’s presentation, “Witches In A Crumbling Empire.”

This is the first part. The second and third parts will be posted in the following months, or you can watch all three parts now on his Patreon (requires subscription).


Rhyd Wildermuth

rhyd-wildermuthRhyd’s the co-founder and managing editor of Gods&Radicals. He also writes at Paganarch, Fur/Sweat/Flesh, and posts a near-daily “Friendly Anarchist Thought of the Day” on Facebook.

His entire life is 100% crowdfunded by readers like you. Find out how to help him here.


 

The Forest That Will Be

The Gates again open, the skies darken, the rain soaks through stone and skin.

The rain poured through my skin. As I stood upon the pavement outside the tavern, soaked in the chill night, smoking a cigarette, the Gates opened around me.

Straddling the ford, wet up to the laces of my boots, water rushing past my feet along the river-bed: someone is laughing at me. Eddies swirl in the torrent unable to clear the leaf-clogged drains, and someone is laughing at me.

“Look at this guy,” he says, and his companions titter and jeer. “You’re being scary, dude. Is that your costume?”

It was Halloween, after all, though I hadn’t dressed up. I wore what I usually wear, thrift-store camouflage trousers, a printed shirt from my friend Alley, a maroon-and-blue flannel shirt. No more a disguise than any clothing is.

One of his companions, a gentrifying ‘woo-girl’ (anthropological note: they literally shout ‘woo’ and gentrify everything they touch), sneers at me. She turns to her friend and says, drunkenly:

“Oh my god he’s totally on drugs or something.”

Then she turns back toward me. “You think you’re being creepy standing in the rain like that?”

I shake my head. I cannot tell her about the forest we’re standing in, the elk crashing through the bramble, the endless dripping of the last-to-fall Maple leaves down upon our heads. I cannot tell her about the river in which I stand.

I smile. “Welcome to Seattle,” I say, laughing. “It rains here.”

“We’re from California,” her friend says. I’m disappointed he’s such a jerk — he’s kinda attractive. “This weather’s stupid.”

I’m standing in a river. I’m standing in the road, just off the curb. A car passes; I’m surprised to see an auto in the river, the river in front of the gay bar, the gay bar on a night the gates of the dead were thrown wide open, the gates of the sky unhinged as rain soaks everything.

I am in the forest. I am in the city.

Tip some out to the dead, to The Dead who linger forever just behind your eyes, walking alongside your step through puddles and streams over concrete.

 

Tip some to the dead and notice you’re not where you were.

Everyone’s bumping into you, pushing against you, surprised for a moment you’re there, startled they had gotten so close.

 

They’re drunk, you tell yourself, but not just on vine and grain.

It made no sense to try to tell most people what I was doing for Halloween, so I shrugged when asked. I didn’t know myself, really, though I knew I’d walk with the dead.

With grave dirt and an elk tooth and crow feathers in my pocket, I biked to a bar after a shift at my part-time social work job. It was storming, rare for Seattle where the weather is, for 6 months, at least, a steady, relentless drip of rain, not a downpour. It had been dry, the earth too compacted to soak up all that water, so streets were flooded, blocked drains overflowed. For that night, at least, the streams and rivers of the Forest-That-Was could run again, un-culverted, upon the surface of the city built over them.

In many urban fantasy novels, there’s a spectral, magical city overlain upon the disenchanted mundane. Those writers know a thing or two about magic and a thing or two about cities. But Seattle’s not old enough to have a ghost-twin that looks like it, only stranger. Rather, what haunts Seattle in the Other is the Forest-That-Was, the dead forest, the waiting forest.

Forest dead pullThe dead are not always what has gone before, but also what could have been, what maybe will be. The forest-that-was haunts Seattle, but so too does a second forest; its roots slowly lifting the broken concrete of sidewalks. Plantain, horsetails and chamomile find purchase in the crevices, moss and lichen cover unattended stone. Ferns grow in gutters; aerial moss suspend from uneven brick.

Both the Forest-That-Was and the Forest-That-Will-Be are the same, and they both haunt the city. They co-exist; they merge in the frontage garden, the untended lawn, the volunteer tree. They dance; they collide; they collude in endless war against small-business owners, property developers and civil engineers.

One of my favorite writers, Octavia Butler, was said to be a casualty in this war. Newspapers reporting her death blamed a root-broken sidewalk for a fall that triggered a stroke. But this was propaganda. Later, it came out she had the stroke first and then fell, returning to the forest that seemed to inspire her. Seattle’s mayor was unpopular with the propertied classes for leaving sidewalks broken, potholes unfilled –Butler’s death was used against him.

Propaganda works like that, though. The first story is the one most remember: The forest killed a famous elderly Black fantasist. Perhaps the propagandists will do the same for Ursula K. Le Guin when she leaves us, perhaps they’ll do the same for me. Don’t believe their lies.

You weren’t from the forest, and now you are, the dark wet places, rain dripping from leaf, mud and rot slicking the paths beneath your feet, your exposed roots.

What are you doing walking when you can stand still, soak deep into the earth, reach like great pillars towards the sky?

The tension between civilisation and nature is a bit obscured in Seattle. From my second-story balcony I’d see more trees than houses, Crow and Scrubjay, Racoon and Opossum eat the peanuts I leave for them just within arm’s reach, and it’s easy to forget I’m in a city at all. I’ve tolerated Seattle most of the last 16 years because of this. Gods know I can’t afford to live here, nor afford many of the things that make a city appealing to an artistic queer.

I’m the ‘degenerate’ sort against which Republicans and New-Right anti-civilisationists often complain, lifting a tired screed from the Nazis. “People like me” move to cities because we honestly like people; we like art; we like culture — all those things you can’t find in the suburbs or the rural. I live happiest when I’m among dreams and the people they inhabit.

But I’m also a Druid, a Pagan, an animist. Without raw, breathing Nature, I become parched and eventually wither. The ocean of concrete in strip malls, parking lots and massive highways that comprise the main architectural feature of suburbs, for instance? Those feel like murder.

Seattle is unlike most other large American cities in that the forest was never fully obliterated. Though almost every ancient cedar, spruce, red alder and pine was killed to rebuild San Francisco after the fires or to fuel the furnaces of capitalist expansion, or to clear the way for internal migrants from other parts of the United States. Seattle is still a forest.

Though even manufacturing, then war-contracting (Boeing), then an onslaught of businesses completely reliant on near-slave labor and global coal-use (Microsoft, Amazon, Google) have joined the war against the forest here, none have ever conquered the forest.

You weren’t from the forest and now you are, the forest that was before, the ghost-trees and spectral ferns, Elk crashing through bramble, startled by a voice still echoing from the past.

You weren’t from the forest but now you will be, awaiting its birth through broken sidewalk and disused alley, hearing it growing through what will soon be your corpse.

You weren’t from the forest, but now you can’t return here. Wet pavement is river, and you wade through it, unseeing the cars unseeing you.

Pagans make much of the environment, as least romantically. We like the forests and the streams, we idealise the pre-industrial world, worship land-goddesses, divine with symbols from nature. Yet most live in cities or suburbs, drive cars, use computers, work in flourescent-lit offices or stores or restaurants. We like the idea of the forest, but live apart from it, in the urban and suburban–in civilisation.

Civilisation seems to stand against the forest, in the same way that the forest seems to stand against the city. In many critiques of civilisation, the city is the cause of the destruction of the natural world. Some anti-civilisationists, merging the bourgeois anthropology of David Abrams with the misanthropic primitivism of Deep Green Resistance, link almost all the problems of humanity to the birth of cities.

Forest Civilisation pullOn the surface, this appears plausible. As people transitioned to agriculture and settled in one place, the fabric of human society changed. Work was divided, roles ensconced in tradition. Some say the Patriarchy arose first from the urban, men doing one sort of work, women doing another.

Abundance and settlement created surpluses, more than what people could carry with them. Surpluses meant less work, surpluses meant wealth. Surpluses could be stolen; surpluses could be hoarded; surpluses could be extracted. Some say this birthed hierarchy and class.

Gods and ancestors were worshiped in place, not in people. Shrines arose as did temples. Those who tended gods became priests rather than shamans, another division of labor in a settled civility, a class with purpose and power and economic interests. Some say that debt sprung from the need of priests (also skilled scribes) to track donations and the cost of temple labor.

Agriculture, dense living, the need to protect surplus–these, some say, led to population explosions. More people require more resources, need military classes (and conflicts stemming from that need), and need to destroy their environment to extract more resources.

If we extrapolate from what we know now of cities, this story is unassailable. The city seems an illness, a plague, the root of evil, the root of hatred.

This story’s eerily too easy, though.

The city’s unreal, the forest gates unhinged, and you walk always along the edge, in both worlds and neither.

You are emissary.

You are saboteur.

Is the city then some den of horror, the abode of voracious monsters? Or is it just full of people? I like people. No, I love them, gods-dammit, even when they jeer me in the rain.

People cluster together. We need each other. We want each other. We love each other. We build off each other, create with each other. What would we do otherwise?

Forest individual pullRugged individualism is a Capitalist lie and will get you killed. Families are great, unless you were born to a developmentally-disabled schizophrenic mother and a violent father as I was. Tribalism is great, if you are in charge and get to choose who is in and who is out. Small villages are fine, if there’s at least one person there who you can fall in love with. Degenerates like me don’t fare so well in any of those alternatives.

If groups like Deep Green Resistance are correct, the only solution is to destroy the city and all who survive by community, rather than force.  And beside, cities are full of queers, trans people, immigrants, Jews, bohemians, libertines — independent folk who threaten those who need small worlds in which to rule.

But the city is undoubtedly sick. The destruction of the environment caused by the urban is undeniable, yet too often denied, even by us ‘degenerates.’ The ‘urban professional’ of today, working at a tech company, progressive of politics, in love with nature? Their organic and free-range foods are produced by immigrants working in near-slave (and sometimes full-slave) conditions. It takes a lot of forest to make toilet paper, a lot of coal to make electricity, a lot of oil to transport food from the farms to the city.

Both the prophets of progress and the prophets of anti-civilisation evoke the pre-historic past. It’s either nasty, brutish, and short for the one or Edenic for the other, but both groups are either awfully bad at history or betting that, because no records remain to challenge them, we’ll accept their stories without question.

Few dare mention the shorter history, a few hundred years ago. Something arose which turned the endless dance of forest and city into slaughter of one and misery of the other. A great forgetting, an archonic trick, the Demiurge’s conquest of Sophia.

Something changed in the world several hundred years ago, something so disastrous, that, like the Holocaust or the nuclear bombings of several Japanese cities, we seem incapable of approaching without shutting down or relying on Nationalist rhetoric.

The world was not always like this. The cities once could never win over the forest. And that wasn’t so long ago.

You are how the forest becomes the city you’ll betray.

You are unborn dreaming remembering the past.

You are the endless taking root in the now.

Historian Peter Linebaugh, who has written much about the intersections of 1800’s Paganism and anti-Capitalism, suggested that, because the Commons were destroyed by the Cities, the Cities must now become the Commons.

We must say the same thing of the Forests.

This must then be our rallying cry, those who have become ‘from the forest’ but refuse to accept the notion of mass urban slaughter, like Deep Green Resistance does. In fact, most anti-civilisation rhetoric has become a way of running from the true war, betraying the forest, just as the cult of progress huddles, slump-backed, over backlit screens in self-arousal and vain hope.

The forest-that-was still lives, if you bother to look through the gates on a rainy night in the city. You can be standing, soaked, in front of a gay bar and see the rivers we try to forget. You can even, like I do, chuckle when those who will never see it jeer you.

The forest-that-was lives in the forest-that-will-be, which are both a waiting now, Walter Benjamin’s jetzt-zeit, the pregnant moment, the moment we hold in our hands.

Forest root pullThe forest-that-was is also the forest-that-will-be, but only if we let it root through us. It is we who are the mages, the witches, the priests and bards. We are the rogues spreading seeds on the pristine lawns, the saboteurs helping trees lift concrete with their strong roots.

We were from the city. We are now from the forest. And only with our hands can the war finally end and the dance begin anew. The Cities destroy the Forests. The Cities must now become the Forests, so that our lives may once again, in the end, nourish the roots of past and future, making the eternal now.

 


This essay also appears in A Kindness of Ravens,
and was originally posted at The Wild Hunt.

Rhyd Wildermuth

InstagramCapture_7ce39a05-4d20-417c-949f-634924804809

Is the co-founder and Managing Editor of Gods&Radicals, and also writes at Paganarch.

 

“Betraying the City”

After a very long wait, the professionally-bound A Pagan Anti-Capitalist Primer has finally arrived! Originally presented as a photocopied zine at the presentation which sparked Gods&Radicals, we’re pleased to offer an expanded, 40-page, perfect-bound edition with matte cover.

Single copies are $6.00, which includes shipping within the United States.  (We are currently unable to offer the Primer outside the United States until we find a suitable distributor on account of punitively high shipping rate changes.)

Click here to purchase a single copy of the Primer for $6 including shipping (US only).

We’re also pleased to offer bulk purchase pricing. Email us at gods.and.radicals [at] gmail.com for with the word PRIMER in the subject heading for quotes.

Speaking of shipping rate changes, prices for new subscriptions and future single-issue purchases of A Beautiful Resistance will increase March 1st.  This is due both to postal rate changes and an increase in charges from our printer.

Until March 1st, you can still purchase a subscription (issues #1 and #2) within the United States for $20+$6 shipping until March 1st, or a single issue copy of A Beautiful Resistance–Everything We Already Are (#1) for $12.50 + shipping.  Digital rates will remain unchanged.  Here’s the link for purchasing.

We’ll have information on Pre-Sale prices for issue #2 as well as new subscription rates (for US and International folks) on March 1st.

Also on March 1st, we close the call for submissions for the next issue.

Links

Pagan traditions often involve critiques of the modern, including specifically the urban. This week, a collection of links regarding the question of the city, anti-capitalism, ‘progress,’ and nature.

Primitivist and Anti-Civilization critiques (particularly that of Deep Green Resistance) often rely heavily on the hope that a future ‘apocalypse’ will even the playing field for humanity and the rest of the world. But is it possible to have Primitivism Without Catastrophe?

And on the matter of civilisation—instead of waiting for the cities to sink in the sea, how do we reclaim the cities?

Here’s an article from a modern-day struggle for the Commons in Lancaster.

And more notes from A Beautiful Resistance editor Lorna Smithers on the struggle against Fracking in Lancashire.

Writer Highlight: Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd...Rhyd Wildermuth’s one of the co-founders and is the Managing Editor of Gods&Radical, as well as the editor of the first issue of A Beautiful Resistance–Everything We Already Are.  He’s also a monthly columnist for The Wild Hunt.

His experience growing up in abject poverty in Appalachia, raising two younger sisters after his mother became schizophrenic, and years of social work with the homeless (along with his own experience on the streets) taught him much about Capitalism’s hatred of the poor, while his devotion to Welsh gods and to the Forest honed his understanding of what Capitalism does to Nature.

From his essay, An Apparently Impossible Problem (also published in A Beautiful Resistance):

The way past the impossible usually just involves giving up some certainty that is keeping you on a snow-bound bus at the bottom of a hill, some habit, some reliance on an expectation that isn’t serving you any longer.

 

You can carry a rucksack full of wax and wine up a snowy hill with your lover and laugh and make mulled wine and warm yourself and each other with the love falling like rain and snow from the skies.  You can read by the light of burning barricades and plant chamomile in the cracked pavement and tell stories of what it was like when we thought we should ignore the gods and the dead.

 

We can side with the poor and the streams and forests and crows and the forgotten, because there’s so many of us, you know, and we have the best stories.

He studies druidry with OBOD and lives in Occupied Duwamish Terrority in the city called Seattle. He’s also published two books, his primary blog is Paganarch, and his writing for Gods&Radicals can be found here.

Quote

The city’s unreal, the forest gates unhinged, and you walk always along the edge, in both worlds and neither. 

You are emissary.

You are saboteur.

You are how the forest becomes the city you’ll betray.

You are unborn dreaming remembering the past.

You are the endless taking root in the now.

–Rhyd Wildermuth, from The Forest That Will Be, in A Kindness of Ravens.