Saturday, February 28, 2015

ISIS And Iconoclasm: De-facement As A Failed Politic by Jack Vates

ISIS And Iconoclasm: De-facement As A Failed Politic by Jack Vates

It was hard to miss. Last week the ISIS idolaters once again showed the entire world their propensity for awfully stupid actions by looting the Mosul museum in Iraq and demolishing the precious relics stewarded inside. In their mind, this kind of evocation is a high virtue. Something to absolutely aspire to while securing their bid for ‘statehood’ in the world theatre. This is nothing new. Iconoclasm has been practiced all the way back to Akhenaton and surely before that. As Latour remarked, “Iconoclasm is an absolute – not a relative – distinction between truth and falsity, between a pure world, absolutely emptied of human-made intermediaries, and a disgusting world composed of impure but fascinating human-made mediators”.[1]

In a desperate attempt to instill secular legitimacy, ISIS chose de-facement as a means to re-face Mosul under the shroud of the IS flag. As if defacing the artifacts would inevitably create new faces, as if defacement and ‘re-facement’ were necessarily coeval.[2] When ISIS took sledgehammers to the museum they did it under the rationale that the icons were counterfeit. That the more they are constructed by the human hand, the less truth they embody. But what if truth is increased by being human-made.  Perhaps interaction with the Other is increased through the construction of sacred images. As Ramon Sarro eloquently suggests, “Far from despoiling access to transcendent beings, the revelation of human toil, of the tricks, reinforce the quality of this access.”[3]

ISIS would clearly gnash their teeth at the thought and in doing so, fall into the ultimate conundrum involving iconoclasm. What Bruno Latour calls “The Double-Bind”. Are the relics human-made or transcendent? There is a concept called acheiropoite that suggests sacred icons are not made by the human hand. They are constructed by the Other as representations of the numinous and thus real purveyors of religious power. So ISIS must make a choice. Either the relics are human-made or literally transcendent. Either it is made or it is real.

The ultimate idolatry of ISIS comes in their denial of the objects being transcendent. By destroying the religious icons they have made it impossible to produce objects of sanctity. As Latour remarks, “the idol-smasher is doubly mad: not only has he deprived himself of the secret to produce transcendent objects, but he continues producing them even though this production has become absolutely forbidden, with no way to be registered.”[4] And herein lays the stupidity of ISIS. They have inadvertently made their own icons religiously irrelevant. They have corrupted the power and legitimacy of IS re-presentation. And they can’t even identify what form their icons come in. Although it’s obvious to anybody who can think critically that the IS icon is video production. The videos are their mediators. In the highly ritualized productions complete with voice-overs and special effects, ISIS has created an idol that they then made illegitimate and devoid of power by making themselves unable to assemble or gather divinities. Destroying the museum destroyed any chance of the IS to create religious power.

On the other hand, if ISIS clumsily tries to say the icons were indeed transcendent and not made by human hands then again they show their idolatry. After all, if the smashed objects have real religious power, ISIS is giving legitimacy to these ancient religions and renewing them in modernity. How would Muhammad react to giving real religious power to other spiritual paradigms? He’d be disgusted with ISIS. Not to mention a true Jihad comes as a war between peoples of differing religious systems and their gods. And the first foray of Jihad comes in making the opposing religion’s gods illegitimate. By giving the smashed icons religious reality, they’ve already lost the Jihad. They’ve made it impossible for themselves to produce religious icons while at the same time making other’s icons transcendent.

Perhaps the most important point to take away from all this is that iconoclasm destroys something in the idol-smasher that must be atoned for. It goes beyond making one’s own spiritual predilections devoid of any real power. The iconoclast offends every god and goddess by the sheer audacity of their actions. The deities become appalled at this perversion of inter-action. IS are not only idolaters to their own cause but bereft of religious power and offensive to the gods that Be. And in their stupidity, they will continue to be a nuisance to the rest of the world. Perhaps if they had the foresight to divorce themselves from any religious paradigm and admit that the real goal is secular statehood, they wouldn’t be seen as idolaters but they had to win the hearts of minds of the populace somehow. And now even Iran is leering at them and ready to lash out. It won’t be long now. The ISIS bid for relevance has been denied on every level- both secular and spiritual.  

[1] Bruno Latour. On The Cult Of The Factish Gods. Duke University Press. Durham & London. 2010. Pp. 68.
[2] See Han Belting, “Beyond Iconoclasm. Nam June Paik, the Zen Gaze and Escape From Representation.” In Iconoclash: Beyond the Image-Wars in Science, Religion, and Art. Ed. Peter Weibel and Bruno Latour. 390-411. Cambridge, Mass. MIT Press. 2002.
[3] See Ramon Sarro, “The Iconoclastic Meal: Destroying Objects and Eating Secrets Among the Baga of Guinea. In Iconoclash Pp. 227-230.
[4] On The Cult Of The Factish Gods. Pp. 80.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

John Dee and Ufology

John Dee & Ufology by MDA

It had begun like any other night in Belize. A dreary eight hours of sweat and Ayahuaska. I had been dodging the locals due to their dislike for wine-soaked Americans shrieking night after night for Quetzalcoatl and Kukulcan. And there had been an incident with a tour guide on the stairs of the great Altun-Ha pyramid. But that’s neither here nor there. I was finally getting my head in the game. My idiot editor thought it might be a good idea to cover Mayan astrology in Belize. I went along with the hopes of contacting the Mayan spirit guides in the rain forest. It was a sound plan that was as always meticulously thought out.
When I left the hotel, I knew I had a walk ahead of me. I didn’t rent a car and cabs are always a mixture of strange jabbering and foul smells. So I gathered my guide Philipe and we headed into the dense canopy of Belize. The first hour of hiking was uneventful. It was after midnight when we came across a dozen or so indigenous Mayans holding captive what appeared to be a Russian thief. Philipe instantly flew into a panic and screamed “Oh God!” But it was too late to run. I knew these parts. If the Rusky still had his hands by the end of the night it would be either dumb luck or due to fervent praying to Putin.

I sat down to enjoy the proceedings but Philipe couldn’t be calmed. He was in the midst of stammering an apology to the native chief when one of the women lashed out so quickly that to me it was only a blur. Philipe shrieked as he went down and clutched his chest as if suffering some bodily fit. I knew it was over for him. He’d never return to a calm state of mind. He’d forever be looking over his shoulder for Mayan warriors and would never ever go out at night again. As he crawled away weeping, I gave him a 50/50 odds of surviving and turned my attention back to the pleading Russian.
Suddenly, a blinding flash erupted overhead. The natives all stared up transfixed but I knew it wasn’t a helicopter or drone. It was too quiet and too still. As it hovered above and bathed us all in a pearl white glow, I knew something had just gone awry.
The natives plunged into the rain forest like terrified deer leaving the Russian hog-tied and shackled. I heard him scream, “Mother Russia!” But I had the feeling that what was above was a “Mother-Ship.” Nobody would be saving him today. As he unbound his legs, I crouched behind a rock enclosure and tried to steady my knees and regulate my breathing.

A few minutes passed s the thief hummed the Russian national anthem and got free from the knots the Mayans had tied to his hands and neck. It was then that something invisible blasted out from the object paralyzing the Russian in mid-verse. I witnessed the realization as it occurred to him that what was silently above us wasn’t a Russian envoy or search party. As fast as it came, the object shot off and took the thief with it. I can only imagine the horrors that poor soul is enduring at the hands of what can only be demons or extraterrestrials. As I headed back to camp, I knew there would be no stargazing tonight. The stars had come to us. That was my first foray into discovering what it was that erupted above us that night. So I scrapped the astrology piece and began to research aliens and the occult.
Ufology and the occult have had a strange trajectory. Modern lore of the saucer tends to focus on ‘modern’ incidents. However, ET’s and their contact with Man has been apparent forever. This is not an article espousing Ancient Aliens theory but something in my mind, much more believable. As any occultist will tell you, our daimons or Holy Guardian Angels have extraterrestrial motifs. The characteristics of these entities are identical in tone and the narratives more than just similar.
One such case study involves the famous John Dee. This famous 16th century magician meandered with alien entities as part of his occult operations. A scholar, Dee was a devout Christian who, like his contemporaries, wanted to build a Jacob’s Ladder that would effectively network the Heavens and earth. He was a man who adhered to a Universal Science by utilizing mathematics, alchemy, kabbalah, astronomy and other hermetic arts to communicate with the Other. But he also wanted these communications to meet with God’s approval. This is why the aliens he came into contact with were deemed ‘Angels’.
Like today, the time in which Dee lived was awfully preoccupied with the sky above. Portents were made of unusual sights and happenings and used as fodder for astrological and other occult interpretation. For example, in November 1577, a comet raced through the sky and made the population go all to pieces. When it appeared, Elizabeth I herself called  on Dee to soothe her anxious courtiers and to interpret the comet’s potentially eschatological message.[1] And this wasn’t the first time. Astrologers of the period were always flailing about when something came from Heaven. One such event was the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that was such a rarity that it was discussed in print for years before it actually took place in 1583.[2] Even Tycho Brahe gnashed his teeth and went wild with fear about the upcoming apocalyptic conjunction. He railed at anybody who would listen that this event would only be magnified by a star he discovered in 1572. Local folklore suggests he went underground and only surfaced at the prodding of loved ones and jeers by the local community.

In 1581, Dee began working with a skryer named Edward Kelley. The methods used by this pair involved a showstone that when stared at by Kelley, would yield contact with heavenly personages. The reason they employed a showstone was to assuage the anxieties attached to attempting open communication with the Other. The showstone acted as an artifact to instill faith in the operators. Dee himself stated that he was prompted to use a “shewstone, which the High Priests did use…wherein they had lights and judgements in their great dowtes.” [sic] In addition, Dee thought his extraterrestrial angels were liminal beings. They wee part substance and part potential and held an intermediary space in the cosmos. He wasn’t alone in this regard. Because of the intermingling of various currents in the 16th century, it wasn’t strange for Pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Occult figures to assert that angels were planetary intelligences that moved the celestial spheres. Dee often remarked that “planetary angels or intelligences move the Heavenly Bodies.”[3] The universe was always a part of the process and interpretation of these strange occurrences. The entities involved were the ‘extraterrestrials’ we contact or ‘witness’ in modern times.
In occult circles, a rift in when contact occurred exists that even now inspires righteous animosity and shrieking across the aisle. I’ve personally witnessed rage and blind hatred at some of these gatherings. One man was bloodied for simply suggesting that Crowley’s Aiwass was an earthly elemental. Another wept openly at the thought of a flying saucer corresponding to the disks or pentacles of tarot lore. But never mind that. Those that espouse a more modern interpretation claim 1947 as an important year in Ufology. According to Kenneth Grant, “When Parsons[4] received Liber 49, which he proclaimed to be the fourth chapter of AL, it was in musical concert with L.R. Hubbard that extraterrestrial contact was established. The working began in 1945-46, a few months before Crowley’s death in 1947, and just prior to the wave of unexpected, aerial phenomena, now recalled as the ‘Great Flying Saucer Flap.”[5]
Like Dee and Grant, modern Ufologists appreciate the network that connects daimonic and extraterrestrial realities. They have barked more than once that the entire UFO sequence is an analysis of dimensions. According to John Mack, abductees have spoken of aliens “breaking through from another dimension.” As he reported, “through a ‘slit’ or ‘crack’ in some sort of barrier, entering our world from ‘beyond the veil’”[6] in both concept and terminology, this statement oozes occult thought. It’s not a stretch to suggest that a showstone could very well be the liminal link between ‘us’ and the ‘E.T Other’. Also, Ufology interprets contact with aliens as an assemblage of intelligences. The acknowledgement of alien beings’ existence, after the initial ontological shock, Mack writes, “is sometimes the first step in the opening of consciousness to a universe that is no longer simply material. Abductees come to appreciate that the universe is filled with Intelligences and is itself Intelligent. They develop a sense of awe before a mysterious cosmos that becomes sacred and ensouled.”[7] Like John Dee and his contemporaries, the entities that populate the night sky are ‘Intelligences’ to be interacted with for mutual benefit. When a ceremonial magician encounters a livid Grey alien in the confines of a ritualistic circle, it’s clear that these networks are much closer than what is supposed.
Modern Ufology also attributes portents of the future to contact with aliens. It was the same with Dee’s angels. According to Harkness, “Dee believed that the information shared by the angels would include divine law, revelations of future events, prophesies, and doctrines.”[8] Modern abduction narratives are also characterized by usually dire warnings for the future of mankind. Apocalyptic visions of an ecologically deplete earth as well as nuclear disaster are common in accounts of visitation.
Whether it be dirty little Grey probes, cold and mean reptilians or narcissistic Nordics, the modern alien is a re-embodiment of what John Dee communicated with through his showstone. These creatures stay relevant and are renewed as they take on recent forms and structure. in fact, the modern Ufologist performs occult-like ritual every time they venture out into a rain forest or build a mountain of mashed potatoes. The visions are real and so is the contact. It doesn’t matter whether the entities are interpreted as angels or extraterrestrials. In the end, the experiential nature of the event gives credence to the accounts given.

[1] Deborah Harkness. John Dee’s Conversations with Angels. 1999. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. pp. 69.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] See Jack Parsons. An occultist, rocket scientist, and one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (JPL)
[5] Kenneth Grant. Outside the Circle of Time.1980. Frederick Muller Limited. London. pp. 50.
[6] C.D.B. Bryan. Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind. 1995. Alfred. A. Knopf publishing. New York. pp. 420.
[7] Ibid. pp. 444.
[8] Deborah Harkness reference. pp. 115.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Wallowing in Witchcraft. A Press Release for Magus Magazine. February 2015.

There are ravings coming off the wire that state a feeble-minded soulless degenerate has published another piece of occult rhetoric. How will it end? I had been lazily vacationing in Borneo when a rude and spiteful weasel showed up at my hotel room with an ‘urgent letter’ from the editor. We were going on with it. The train was leaving the station. Somehow this stupid and dirty publication was still being released. I was appalled. After trying to unsuccessfully calm my jangled nerves, I again picked up the letter and fell into such a foul and despondent state of mind that the hotel concierge remarked later that, “suicide would have been the only bright point to the entire weekend.” I railed and cursed incoherently as I read what my filthy editor had planned. An interview with a witch? Folklore of the supernatural? It was a frighteningly real and clear case of dementia. Something had to be done.

It had already been a trying few months and I was still in the grip of deciphering the implications of an FBI run Pirate Bay. We've had whole throngs of people going crazily berserk and picketing because the File Sharing website had been rudely sacked by Swedish authorities. Some of these brave souls refused to leave the premises in ? and have convinced themselves the authorities are all ‘undead’. Some have gone half-mad and stare vacantly at FBI agents who walk nervously past and mumble something about “the goddamn downloads”. And the whole Pirate Bay staff has holed up in their office building and refuse to leave due to the ‘zombies’ outside. Behaving like arctic Eskimos or Australian aborigines, these employees get drunk all day on cheap whiskey, stare defiantly outside, and talk of increasing the armament. I’ve seen them with my own eyes. They are a reckless brood constantly jabbering about conspiracy, the evil disposition of the zombies, and the need for more ammunition. And my nuisance editor of a clearly blasphemous and godless publication wants to join the ranks of these crazed simpletons? No thank you, I’ll take the zombies. It’s no time to be doing business. Not in this day and age.

Most days, it’s a complete waste of time to go on the internet. There is something profoundly wrong and ugly about any devise that is so laden with information that even the dumbest can fire off an intelligent-sounding blog or post and have people take notice. Not so last week however. We bore witness to the internet creature from the deep rear its many heads and slap the government silly by conducting a 24-hour blackout. It was Old Testament, violent, and clearly intended to spite. Even now, the shamed legislators that conceived the SOPA fiasco are shaking their heads in bewilderment and trying to backpeddle towards the First Amendment. Many have joined the anti-zombie militia and are now cowering in government buildings with corporate bigwigs. It’s a slow-moving fire and the internet entity has once again fallen asleep but there are remnants of scorched earth. Like Frankenstein’s hideous abomination, most are wondering what kind of mediations and networking granted this creature autonomous existence. At what point did ontological and epistemological distinctions disappear and give rise to this folkloric absurdity. We may never know. It’s clearly a savage end to normal sensibilities.

And this is what is going on in my head when that misshapen bell-boy came ringing with his ‘urgent correspondence’. What he forgot to tell me and what I only gleaned from the sheer horror of the experience was that my foul editor Preston Copeland had included a surprise with his letter. The swine had set me up an interview with a known occultist and practitioner of the Dark Arts. It was after midnight when a loud rapping at the door signaled the arrival of the Beast. She was disheveled as if she’d just gotten into a fight or car accident. Her strange Boston accent coupled with the smudges on her face and pasty complexion gave her the appearance of a corpse or monster. I backed away and instinctively raised my fists into a defense posture. This is it; I thought. The end of the ride. She squealed something high-pitched and began to rummage into her purse for what I could only imagine was pepper-spray or a shiv. I bit my lip to keep from screaming and snarled, “Get out of my hotel room.” She fished some horrid lipstick out of her bag and began to smear it across her face like a demonic clown. “I’m here for the interview.” She quipped and sat down lazily on the bed. “There’s no time for that.” I said as forcefully as I could while trying to stop my leg from shaking. “I’m the witch. I’m here for the interview.” She said again and produced what could be construed as a pentagram from a chain that hung around her neck. “What kind of witch?” I asked warily. It is well-known that each and every esoteric Order has its own set of curses, countercurses, and rituals that it uses to negotiate the numinous. Most if these groups get along with each other but never under any circumstances, would they tolerate a laymen or non-initiate perpetuating the secrets of the group. In the old days, this was grounds for a large push off a short cliff. A terrible insult. I turned to the Old Hag and remarked icily, “No, you’re not. I’ve met real witches and they’re not you.” It was as this second that again my nerves were tested to the point of flight or fight. I frowned dolefully, “It’s too late. People with black robes will get you as soon as you leave this room.” She suddenly jumped up and flung herself onto me. “Get me outta here!” She begged. “I’m too young to be eaten by crazies. I just needed money so I told your editor I was the real deal.” “I know.” I soothed. “It’s a terrible shock.” As she wept openly and chattered about being a good Christian, I remarked about the severity and downright nastiness of witch retribution. “They’re wicked and ill-tempered. They’ll make an example out of you.” She suddenly screamed and fled the room in a blind panic. I peered out and caught a glimpse of her wild-eyed and in full gallop heading for the elevator. The last thing I heard was her whimpering as she abandoned the elevator idea and headed directly for the stairs.

And now you ask me, why I’m hesitant to endorse this Magus Magazine? They want a glowing Press Release and want me to just sit back and take orders from that Copeland character? Not from me. These buggers can burn in a vat of piss before I’ll condone their rubbish. Granted, the occult and the supernatural are both vaguely interesting. Any magazine that has the cojones to approach these taboos with an ear towards critical thinking is both laudable and deserving of a good read. Does that mean I’m gonna stoop to the level of dumb beast, yapping and howling the praise of a cur who barely pays and sends strange-smelling women to my hotel room in the middle of the night?

Mad Doctor Abdullah