Renaissance Of The Ritual
On The Foundation of Things.
“This is the inevitable path of certain men. Not occultism, but the rituals of it. Not darkness, but a closeness to it.”
-- Mike Ma, Gothic Violence
The above line in Mike Ma’s satirical, dark comedy Gothic Violence asserts itself. It—and the entire section from which it is drawn, titled “The Renaissance of The Ritual”—cut through what is otherwise a discursive epic on the take-over of Florida and subsequent founding of a people there, offering a clue as to what such a foundation must look like on a spiritual level. “We will see the return of anti-satanic rituals, holy sacrifice, vampirism and white magic in our lifetime,” Ma writes (47), and this, ominously enough, after suggesting we “round up the undesirables for ritual slaughter… [c]hild rapists, corrupt politicians, world bankers, and the list goes on…. [i]t’s funny how perfectly they’ve set the stage for their own sacrifice” (46-47).
Elsewhere Ma describes a way of life on the re-founded peninsula that would be morally agreeable to the traditionalist right—not to mention women and children—with an emphasis on family-life, physical health, and cultural purity. Ma even cites such an archetypally trad and peace-loving image as the Amish by way of comparison regarding certain customs (167). And yet behind it all there is a great, amoral violence. The military violence of conquest, to be sure, in the case of our surfer-jihadists, but on an even more profound level: a generative, primal violence. What Nietzsche calls “Dionysian”, and what Paglia identifies as the basic force of nature: that chaotic dance of creation and destruction that in human affairs manifests in sexuality and the arts, and that a select few might choose to channel through ritual.
Gothic Violence is just the latest example in a constellation of works arising out of frog twitter which begin to articulate what such foundational mysticism might look like in our time. I am reminded most especially of Ma’s friend Bronze Age Pervert and his oft-repeated exhortation to look at the foundation of peoples, religions, and systems of morality for the truest manifestation of man’s highest capabilities. Still further, BAP emphasizes the necessity of such foundational thinking by contrasting it with the paltry state of extant strains of traditionalism and conservatism. . He writes colorfully on this in his article “The Biology of Kingship” for last year’s premiere issue of The Asylum by The Pierian Spring:
No one today except maybe in Bhutan, in dark nooks of Japanese imperial palaces, or similar fossil pocket holdouts has any right to the luxury of continuation of tradition. The reason conservatives and especially social conservatives appear to be both disingenuous and also losers—to always lose, to always play a caricature or foil of the left, ultimately to play the cuckolded husband who is being mocked by adulterous mistress and her lovers and all the audience—is because of what we call roleplaying or LARP’ing, but which is the pretense or even worse the belief that you are upholding traditions or institutions when these have been violated, impregnated, and transformed by interloping others into something else. And therefore you are reduced to a steward and protector of your enemy’s aims and offspring, which is after all the definition of the cuckold, in this case with the added buffoonish humiliation of having the trappings and airs of the patriarch and Head of the Household…. In our time the question can’t possibly be about the continuation of any traditions, which have almost all been inseminated by rogues, but about the foundation of new traditions: which immediately brings questions, what traditions are for, and how are they founded and why. (35)
BAP tells us that foundational thinking—as opposed to traditionalist thinking as such—is the only avenue available to the right, traditions being compromised as they are. But is even foundational thinking available to us, properly speaking? He continues:
…once you think long enough about these things you will come to this conclusion: that founding traditions isn’t even possible in our time, not at this moment, but that you must work for something that must exist even before the foundation of a new tradition. What is this something? Maybe I leave it this vague and general for now: work for conditions where “foundation of traditions” in a real sense, in a real political and social sense, where this becomes possible. What this looks like? ( 35, emphasis mine).
Foundational thinking cannot be engaged with directly given current historical circumstances-- given the Decline of the West, Kali Yuga or however you want to put it-- and instead, BAP tells us, we must do something even more primary: lay the groundwork for the mere potentiality of a new tradition. Clearly, what the laying of such a groundwork would look like defies easy explanation, and BAP opts not to put it into words. In the case of Ma, I have described Gothic Violence as containing clues toward a certain foundational mysticism, and while I expect what BAP has in mind is multifaceted, involving both political and spiritual goals, it is safe to assume that an appropriate mindset is paramount to his vision. In any case I reiterate again: whatever foundational thinking must look like in the 21st century—or whatever the groundwork for such foundational thinking must look like—BAP, Ma and certain others are on the case of articulating it. Academic Josh Vandiver cautions: “[i]f a religion emerges from the Alt-Right, BAP may prove, in retrospect, to have been one of its founders”. Indeed: perhaps.
In this post, my goal is to further unpack the dawning, foundational, mysticism emerging from the new right counter-culture, which in the face of a declining West, favors the direct experience of and engagement with those natural elements behind the spiritual impulse as a starting point, rather than the sapped logical and linguistic abstractions of received tradition. I say mysticism as opposed to religion—or simply “neo-paganism”—out of a conviction that such a spiritualism need not necessarily contradict Christianity or monotheism but rather might complement them. Indeed, Ma calls himself an “instinctive Christian” (90), whilst expressing a liberalism toward the objects of his peer’s worship, so long as they don’t worship Satan (46). Ultimately, I see a path forward for a foundationalist current of spirituality that is not occultism, but that indeed re-embraces ritual; not new-age-ism, gnosticism, or Buddhism per se, but something with more than a few of their affinities. If this be the second religiousness Spengler wrote about, then so be it!
Not being a philosopher or theologian myself, the following is self-consciously cursory or off-the-cuff. Those things I’ll identify as “basic, natural elements behind the spiritual impulse” are grasped by me intuitively, not the product of extensive psychological or theological study. I don’t claim to be the expositor of a new tradition myself, but rather my primary aim to simply catalog how Ma, BAP, and several other writers have lately helped me me rediscover in the world what we’ll see Ma describe as the world’s life-blood: mystery.
Aesthetic Wonderment (A Starting Point)
There is something intoxicating about being alone in the woods and building odd structures for others to come upon. Tower’s of stone and brick, circular pits, open graves, obelisks, nestlings of twigs, crucifixes, sundials, and effigies. Something geometrically stunning or eerily close to the human form. It has to be something strange, whether by form or context. You are leaving behind a mystery to be solved, or better yet, invented. Something to be researched with no true end. You are providing to someone a gateway to the worlds of interest. That momentum of a purpose swings and it is off onto the next path. We live on these moments. Humans are not mysterious animals, but animals of mystery. We create it so there is more to be had, more to be studied. A world without mystery is dry to the touch. There is no blood in the fully understood and all things die before they have achieved such.
-- Mike Ma, Gothic Violence, 49
.…when a sense of mystery arises, it does so most potently on the threshold of realization. Should the mystery ever be revealed, it will crumble and lie in pieces upon the earth. Afterward, there will be an incursion of scripture, doctrines, and narratives that specify the mysterious as an object or a datum. To say that some kind of god might exist is to vivify its being with mystery. To define a god into existence because it meets certain criteria for godhead is to kill that god by turning it into a cheapjack idol with a publicity team of theologians behind it…eventually every god loses its mystery because it has become overqualified for its job. After a god’s mystery is gone, arguments for its reality begin. Logic steps in to resuscitate what has been bled of its healthful vagueness.
-- Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, 231.
I begin with these two quotes as they show two different writers working in different contexts, etc. striking upon the same phenomena: a fleeting sense of mystery, born of aesthetic wonderment. At its core, such wonderment may be the mere wonder (or terror) at existence itself, though perhaps it is encapsulated in our memory by this or that music, this or that visual experience, etc. There’s an obvious connection behind such aesthetic wonderment and perception of nature, though perceptions of man’s more sublime cultural productions certainly fit the bill as well. If there is a single feeling behind the spiritual impulse it is this (BAP proposes something similar in Bronze Age Mindset, describing animism as the natural religion of man). We see Ma describe it as the world’s life-blood, while American horror writer Thomas Ligotti focuses on how it is taken up and corrupted by religious tradition, but their basic reverence for it is the same.
Ma and Ligotti each layout an inverse correlation of rationalization with meaningful spiritualism, and BAP has taken up a similar helm, condemning the deadening effects of logocentrism on the human spirit, not to mention the propensity toward cuckoldry of such word and concept worship, we saw earlier. The good news is that no matter the spiritual landscape we find ourselves in, a basic aesthetic wonderment is always potentially accessible and ritualizable, as in the case of Ma creating his odd structures in the woods, or really anyone creating good art. Aesthetic wonderment precedes codification into specific religious tradition and outlasts those traditions once they dry up on shore. No matter the status of tradition in the world, this basic first element persists, and remains accessible to anyone, worsened though the situation might be for those born into aesthetic squalor.
Aesthetic wonderment must be cultivated and embraced as the seed of any foundational mysticism, and this must be on aesthetic wonderment’s own terms: the instinct to codify it in line with existing tradition must initially be resisted.
Writing from a different vantage point, as part of a consideration of Western Philosophy up through Heidegger-- Alexander Dugin strikes on something similar in a subsection of his The Fourth Political Theory titled “The Metaphysics of Chaos”. Dugin writes that all of the possibilities of logocentric philosophy have been exhausted in the West, leading us into the “trap” of post-modernity but by re-embracing “pre-ontological chaos” we might mitigate this:
“[C]haotic philosophy is possible because chaos itself includes logos as some inner possibility. It can freely identify it, cherish it, and recognize its exclusivity included in its everlasting life… we come to the figure of the very special, chaotic logos, that is a completely and absolutely fresh logos being eternally revived by the waters of chaos.” (Dugin, 210).
Dugin goes on to write things even witchier than that, but I’ll leave them for you to read. I don’t suggest that what I define as aesthetic wonderment is the same as Dugin’s pre-ontological chaos but rather that aesthetic wonderment may be our apprehension of such chaos: one of our principle bridges to it. The Heideggerians, of course, have an inscrutable school of their own, but I will leave it just as a breadcrumb here that the basic Heideggerian principles of the astonishment at being, the forgetting of being, and the possibility of another beginning are probably not unrelated to foundational mysticism as I’m trying to construe it.
Building the case that a select few men have the disposition of finding meaning in their lives through mystery in-and-of-itself, Thomas Ligotti cites as an example HP Lovecraft-- one of his forerunners in American, dark fiction-- for whose aesthetic mystery, realms beyond our comprehension, and the imminence of (Typically horrifying) revelation were indispensable. Similarly, in his Lovecraft essay “Against the World, Against Life”, Michel Houellebecq describes Lovecraft as the founder of a mythology, and purveyor of ritual literature founded upon such aesthetic wonderment. Notable for our purposes is that Lovecraft imagines the dwelling places of his supernatural terrors to be constructed of geometrically inscrutable architecture: a sort of macro scale of Ma’s odd structure in the woods.
On the Lovecraftian note, and indeed the Ligottian note, it is worth noting that aesthetic wonderment may be more of a horrific notion than a romantic one. The sort of thrill at the unknown we have described is directly upstream from terror at the unknown, and indeed when you attempts to look unflinchingly at nature unveiled-- as is our intention here in cultivating foundational, aesthetic mysticism--you may not like what you find.
We have already seen it called “pre-ontological chaos”, and have ourselves called it an amoral violence behind things. One needn’t commit to the notion that we live in the best of possible worlds in order to embrace aesthetic wonderment or even find existence remotely tolerable. One can join Ligotti in finding existence MALIGNANTLY USELESS and believe humanity would do well to march willingly into extinction, and yet even such a man’s disgust at existence would be a form of aesthetic wonderment, and something he could choose to--like Lovecraft and Liggoti--ritualize into literature.
Ligotti cites a number of writers to formulate his case in his pessimistic tract The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, but for our purposes we can call Ligotti a pessimistic Schopenauerian. Schopenauer: that Buddha of Western Philosophy, who attempted to develop that singular thought of the world as will to representation: a oneness of all things united in striving and suffering, signifying nothing.
The thing is this though: even a universe as ostensibly pessimistic as the world Schopenauer describes-- and there is good reason to think that he, the Buddhists, and Ligotti are not wrong in their basic prescription of how the world is-- can be interpreted, and indeed AFFIRMED aesthetically. Crudely speaking, this optimistic Schopenauerianism is Nietscheansim or at least the Nietsche of The Birth of Tragedy who wrote that “only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified”. Perhaps less crudely-- in a way that strikes closer to the full truth of the matter-- I think optimistic Schopenauerianism is BAPism.
BAP-- in Bronze Age Mindset as well as in many episodes of his podcast-- co signs on the Schopenauerian and Buddhistic notion of a oneness of things united in a pure striving energy, describing it as an intelligence behind things and a will to power of which everything, including human lives, is part and parcel. But in the face of this basic recognition, BAP insists, one need not follow the Buddhists and Schopenauer into pessimism, or the practice of will-denial. For BAP, as for Nietszche, the understanding of the world as will to power can be a happy science. As is well known to his followers, for BAP the answer to the question of “what is life” boils down to the ownership of space: the flowering of power. For as much as BAP condemns horizontally-oriented “yeast life” as a chthonic slop, his exaltation of vertical-oriented life-- life oriented not toward mere reproduction, but the ever-novel domination of the material world--is rapturous. For anyone interested in this topic of where BAP both co signs on Schopenauer’s adoption of Eastern thought, but also follows Nietszche into formulating an affirmative path beyond mere will-suspension: Caribbean Rhythms episode 44, Ex Orient Lux (“out of the East, light”) is a must-listen.
Note that I don’t take the pivot from Schopenauerian pessimism to Nietzschean optimism to be a simple, settled, matter. The depressives may yet be correct, metaphysically speaking. Thomas Ligotti in fact presents the most profound critique of Nietszche I have ever read when he suggests that the whole of Nietszche’s gay science, his embrace of the will to power and the eternal recurrence of the same--boils down to a big-brained version of self-hypnosis as effective, but no more metephysically grounded, than Émile Coué’s self-help mantra “Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better”.
But ultimately: maybe the answer to this question of whether pessimism and will-denial, or optimism and creativity is a more appropriate response to an ostensibly Schopenaurian universe is not a matter of right or wrong at all, but as Ligotti as much as says: a matter of immutable disposition. Some-- the majority in fact-- will always go back to thinking life is fundamentally all right, while the pessimistic few will disagree. Many of us may vacillate between these two dispositions, and to be sure, I think there is room for mixed paths forward involving both will-suspension and creativity, pessimism and optimism. A basically happy person myself, however, put me squarely in the camp of AFFIRMATIVE aesthetic wonderment.
Affirm The Mess of The World (Affirm Chaos).
In the previously mentioned podcast episode, “Ex Orient Lux”, BAP offers a dichotomy as understood by tantric Buddhism which positions the state of nirvana on one side of a spectrum and orgasm on the other. Nirvana in this dichotomy marks the blissful state at the extreme of will-denial, while orgasm represents the bliss at the extreme of will affirmation. Nirvana is certainly owed its due, and though I know very little about meditation, I will touch on it before the end of this post. The main point BAP makes though, and that I will here elaborate upon, is this: if you are to go forth on the affirmative path-- if you are to found any new system, tradition, civilization, or lay the spiritual groundwork for such a new beginning-- you have to embrace the orgasm literally and figuratively (a squeamish but necessary notion for social conservatives).
Everything starts as a mess. Call it the Dionysian, the chthonic, or a formless, amoral violence. It is literally the formless mess of ejaculation in the case of human life, and the chaos of sperms out-swimming each other toward ovum. Everything is founded in such chaotic striving. Everything is the contrivance of will in competition with other wills (or in competition with itself, if we are to believe in the oneness of things), all founded upon an initial, non-rational spark. When we attempt to look at nature unveiled-- and at ourselves as part and parcel of nature unveiled-- this, like Schopenauer, is what we find.
Everything starts as a mess, but we must affirm this. As a man of the right, you are pro-civilization, and disgusted by the incontinence and gluttony you see around you: obesity, porn-addiction, etc. You are rightly horrified at the re-emergence of the chthonic within modern civilization and culture. It is healthy to fear the chthonic and to go as far as build civilization to protect yourself from it. But mere avoidance is not the path; ultimately, in as far as the Dionysian represents the seed of the will to life, you must affirm it, even in its filthiest manifestations. You must sublate the vitalism present in the chthonic as the cornerstone of its own ultimate negation: most especially if your goal is to found anything new.
Perhaps this is related BAP’s controversial exhortation at the end of Bronze Age Mindset to descend into the filth of the underworld, keeping company in locations which fall outside the cultural “sanctioned zone” such as night clubs, and gambling houses. He tells us that in so doing we might “gain a true hold on the foundations of this trash world” (BAM 196), having earlier speculated that it is only in such places that you can “start to polish the claws nature gave you” (BAM, 33).
Say you jerk off to shameful pornography, and cum three times: this gooey mess is still the start of things no matter how profane. There is some seed of positivity-- of the affirmation of life, in this act, although in the exact moment of understanding this, you might choose the path of retention: recognizing the real spiritual significance of your fluids and your orgasm like the previously mentioned students of Tantric Buddhism, as well as the online no-fap crowd. You probably should stop watching porn, you probably should stop masturbating. Or let's say your circumstances and alpha-status are such that you are leading the Heartiste lifestyle and banging hundreds of women. You’re unlikely to feel much shame over this, but this too is probably bad for society, quite likely bad for you (in the long run, anyway), and certainly bad for the girls you are with. Yet nevertheless: the energy you are exhibiting here must be affirmed, affirmed, affirmed, and then perhaps rechanneled.
The sexual drive-- like all basic forces of will is in itself amoral. It is cantankerous, taking the most profane things as its object (sometimes things we’d rather it wouldn’t). But even in degraded form it has the propensity to catapult us toward the sacred. Always there is the possibility of rechanneling it. The squeamish fact for conservatives and traditionalists is that we must affirm amoral vitalism as a force in-itself before we can affirm the rechannelings-- into moralism, into system, into tradition, into civilization-- that we love so much. Things start as an amoral chaos, a formless mess, and the morality, the channelings, and the binding and cultivating forces of system are applied later. Civilizations are not built to be filled with erotic energy (with life) but rather the erotic energy, pre-exists civilization and the systemization is built up to channel it to productive end: to beauty, to the domination of space etc.
To do the opposite is to put the cart before the horse and engage in a sort of word-and-concept worship that, as we saw BAP argue, leaves our ideas vulnerable to insemination by enemies, and as Ligotti warned us leaves our spiritualism vulnerable to sapping at the hands of over-rationalization. Unfortunately, as is obvious to anyone analyzing the deadened spiritual landscape in the West, both of these dour possibilities have come to pass.
Obviously many throughout history have been born into higher points of civilization and spiritual and religious systems which don’t require feats of psychic strength to continue functioning. For men of such times considerations such as the above are less necessary--or only necessary for the mystically inclined among them--and a mere conformity to a functioning channel of energy is sufficient. But in eras such as our own, looking back to the stark lessons of nature unveiled is necessary, at least for anyone unwilling to retreat, or anyone seeking the foundation of something new. We need monsters of will (to borrow another BAPism), more so than we need moralism and piety. Bandits scavenging the decline of the west for the remaining scraps of sexual release and spiritual fulfillment-- as is the image of PUAs or the spiritually promiscuous--do not exactly appear to be a moral ideal, but as presencers of foundational energy, they are preferable to those who would embrace defeat and isolation. The vice of the former could be made virtue; the virtue of the latter is stagnant pharisaism.
The matter of sexual-politics, in fact, provides an illustrative opportunity to contrast the simply conservative or tradtionalist with those who would engage in foundational thinking. Do you regard the fact that young people are having less sex as a neutral or even good thing, or do you recognize it as the disastrous indicator of cultural health and vitality that it is? Not to strawman: I think even the most straightlaced social conservative would be able to recognize that the decline in out-of-wedlock sex goes along with the decline in marriages, sex within marriages, and birthrates and therefore recognize it as a bad thing, but nevertheless it is interesting to chart how something that was once a socially conservative talking point-- keeping young people out of bed-- has manifested for insidious reasons that anyone on the right must push against. The sexual morality of tradition does not serve the purpose it once did.
As BAP imagined once on some podcast, somewhere: what if a cohort of attractive women went off to breed with handsome surfers on some far away beach, beyond the spatial and cultural borders of our nations and traditions as we know them? This would be, technically, in defiance of any existing tradition, but it would be the start of something new. It could even be the genesis of a morally superior people, and all that follows from that. You must affirm the mess--affirm the energy-- at the start of things.
Once we’ve taken such an affirmative Schopenauerian point of view, however, the next step is to explore what lies within our power. Not to touch on the matter of whether or not there is “free will” properly speaking, we can say that the will to life objectifies itself through you in a way you have an ostensible hand in channeling. Your will is part of a grander animism that you can subject aesthetic form to. We’ve seen rudimentary examples like Ma creating his mysterious structures in the woods. By the loosest definition the process of objectifying the will is the process of doing anything at all. The finer things that we do-- the arts, victory in battle, etc.-- are simply channelings that are deemed somehow more sublime or aesthetically pleasing than others.
What lies behind the sublimity and beauty of certain actions? This is not something I want to rationalize other than to say that such actions seem to be the products of more purely channeled will, and that the launching of man beyond the terrestrial and chthonic is a common theme. These are feats of strength, in short, of man overcoming himself, as Nietzsche might put it As we know, though: the will does not give itself easily to such feats The will is cantankerous and multifaceted, with lower appetitive dimensions frequently at odds with higher dimensions, and requiring training if we hope to accomplish any higher ends. To the question of how we might begin to craft our will, and channel its effects, we now turn.
Before doing this: a note on the will in regard to different theistic interpretations. The will may be understood in strictly atheistic, Schopenauerian/Nietzschean manner as only that: a will part and parcel of a grander will to life. We may also have the instinct, perhaps bolstered by sincere belief, to spiritualize our will as something higher. We may have in mind something similar to the Crowleyan notion that each of us has a “true will” that our lives might be dedicated to uncovering. This notion is itself perhaps downstream from that of early, gnostic, Christians who held all of us to be pure spirit--light trapped within matter-- longing for a transcendence achievable through knowledge (gnosis). God needn’t leave the picture either: perhaps you understand your own will as a molehill in comparison to the mountain of God’s, and perhaps you make your life about closing the gap-- bringing the small flame of your will into contact with the grand, blazing, Godly, fire behind everything. The point I’m trying to make is this: the religious/theistic possibilities are numerous, but what I write in the remainder of this post is first and foremost practical advice, accessible to all.
Bring Order to Chaos (Invent Your Own Rituals)
Another key moment in the development of my thoughts on these matters came while leafing through not Gothic Violence but Mike Ma’s first book, Harassment Architecture. Harassment Architecture is dedicated to several people acknowledged only with sets of initials—including BAP—but one fully spelled-out name: Alex Kazemi. What gave Kazemi the distinction to have his name mentioned in full? I was intrigued enough to Google around, and found the rabbit hole I ultimately went down to be a rewarding trip.
Wikipedia describes Alex Kazemi as a “Canadian pop artist, author, journalist and chief executive officer of VOID Collective… best known as the writer of Pop Magick: A Simple Guide to Bending Your Reality”. I was immediately struck by the number of people with whom Kazemi is associated who have served as significant creative influences over me dating back to my early teenage years: Marilyn Manson, Brett Easton Ellis, Ariel Pink, Camille Paglia, and now Mike Ma. These on top of connections less personally interesting to me, but with significant cultural cachet: Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Lana Del Ray, Diplo, Rose McGowan, Madonna. I also found the striking interview Kazemi did with Milo Yianapolous during the heyday of the latter’s podcast, in the lead up to the 2016 election. Here is where we can assume Ma—a Dangerous Faggot Tour associate—must have first met Kazemi.
Pop Magick is not exactly a book I’d recommend to the dubious. It’s self-help-stylings and frequent cultural references will strike many as silly at best, another example of the degeneracy of modern pop-culture and its insidious flirtation with occultism at worst. Beneath its surface, however, I am convinced that there is much more to Pop Magick and to Alex Kazemi as a culture-jammer than meets the eye.Kazemi’s affinity for Camille Paglia, and arguments for cultural “libertarianism” on The Milo Yiannapolous podcast evince some groundedness of perspective, to be sure, and in as far he is a product of the culture industry, it is the more interesting, bleeding edge of that culture industry which keeps one eye on the creative energies lying outside the “sanctioned zone”: that bleeding edge responsible for the Lana Del Rays, Brett Easton Ellis’s, and Marilyn Mansons of the world. Kazemi is also an impassioned advocate of NoFap, believing that sexual energy is better utilized on higher aims than porn and masturbation in a manner which brings him into dialogue with some of the stranger corners of the manosphere.
Consider also the promethean aspect of Kazemi’s project. This is but a subtext in Kazemi’s book (he never uses the word promethean) but it is inherent to the very notion of “pop-magick”, which means magick, like pop as an artistic category, which is accessible to all: a “birthright” as Kazemi frequently reminds us. Like modern esotericists from Alesteir Crowley, to Timothy Leary, to Genesis P-Orridge before him, Alex Kazemi emphasizes the role of magick to break us out of the “simulation” of what we are pre-programmed by society to take as reality. A red-pilling process, Kazemi does not quite say, though he does harken back to The Matrix as a metaphor in a chapter of Pop Magick titled “You Are The Illuminati”.
As writers from Angela Nagle in “Kill All Normies” to myself in “Dragon Day” have pointed out: the antinomian energy encapsulated by the Crowleyan exhortation “Do What Thou Wilt” were closely associated with the left from sometime around the French Revolution, through its last flowering in 60’s counterculture, but in an era such as ours, dominated not by any recognizable Conservatism or Traditionalism but only by the small-c conservative consolidation of power at the hands of knowing and unknowing perpetrators of corrosive, social-atomization, it may well become a tool of the right. Perhaps a tool utilizable to complete BAP’s task of laying the groundwork for foundational thinking. Perhaps an energy which animates the chaotic project of Mike Ma’s books.
In Pop Magick chapter “You Are The Illuminati” Alex Kazemi lays out his anti-cultural vision the most clearly, but he also sums it up in his interview with Sean Stone. Sean Stone, son of Oliver Stone” the New Age weirdo and Hollywood dissident who himself is part of the last few year’s intriguing, post-Bernie exodus from the dissident left toward a certain coalition-of-the-fringes counterculture. If I am to believe Kazemi, there are no coincidences and only magick, and so chalk up to magick that the Stone/Kazemi interview is no longer available on YouTube thanks to Stone’s channel getting nuked shortly after his interview with the man who has taken the task of laying out a philosophy of Prometheus more seriously than any other in our time: Jason Reza Jorjani.
Outside of the Harassment Architecture dedication, the links between Kazemi and Ma are mostly subtextual, but if my hypothesis that Kazemi serves as an unlikely influence upon Ma is incorrect, then I hope it is at least a creative misinterpretation. Mike Ma’s conception of “The Renaissance of The Ritual” shares the Promethean dimension of Kazemi’s project for one thing: “The shadow classes have stolen rituals from the world’s honest people… [f]rom its rightful leaders…they have bastardized it, commoditized it, and turned it into something truly wicked “(46), Ma tells us, and encourages us to take ritual back, to turn the tables on the shadow classes, like Prometheus against the Olympians. There is also the matter of “Not Enough Violence”: the hypnagogic pop tune Kazemi penned with Ariel Pink, and after which Ma names a subsection of Harrasment Architecture in which he dares to get down with the energy of ISIS on a strictly aesthetic (not ideological or religious) level.
I offer most of the the previous paragraphs of throat-clearing to justify why in the summer of 2021, I-- an educated, right-of-center, 26-year-old-- not only bought a self-help memoir called Pop Magick but have heeded its influence every day since, armed with a value-pack of tealights, a small blade to carve symbols into them, and a lighter. If writers like BAP have done much more to influence my overall worldview, I have to credit Kazemi for his hands-on recommendations in the realm of ritual.
In Pop Magick, Kazemi emphasizes again and again the usefulness of magick to anyone willing to tap into it, dismissing the necessity of adopting any of the hokey religious beliefs, or teachings of would-be cult-leaders one generally associates with the occult, and instead emphasizing the practicality of learning how to effectively harness and alchemize the power of one’s will into energy. “In pop magick, magick has two definitions,” Kazemi tells us:
1. Magick is the science, art, and practice of bending reality in accordance with your true will.
2. Magick is the science, art, and practice of accessing your divine will to bring order to chaos.
Kazemi goes on to describe what I guess are occult basics: a plethora of different types of ritual, including sigil magick, candle magick, sex magick, and elemental magick, as well as alchemy understood in a psychological sense.
Having cautiously delved into these: I have come to a number of conclusions regarding so-called occultism. While it is clear that there are many who use esotericism for shady purposes, today and historically, this is not in-and-of-itself what occultism is. I find that a more useful definition of occultism-- and esotericism or mysticism might be more agreeable word for what I am about to describe--is a concept I’ve already introduced: a spiritualism favoring the individual experience and engagement with nature and those natural elements behind the spiritual impulse preceding codification into specific, organized, religious tradition. In my last section I argued that the messy energy at the start of things must be affirmed in order to develop anything more sophisticated. Occultism, by my definition, is this energy with regard to religion.
Esotericism and occultism of course have their own traditions, but they resemble the passing down of arcane knowledge more so than the propounding of dogma. Moreover: they tend to emphasize the importance of experience and intuitively grasped knowledge (arising out of experience or instinct) rather than book-learning and philosophizing, thus leaving them less vulnerable to the previously discussed traps of logocentrism and over-rationalization.
Regarding Kazemi’s occult basics--the candles, the symbols, etc.-- I am convinced that they approach some kind of universal syntax of human ritualism, linked closely to what I’ve described as “those natural elements” behind the spiritual impulse. Just as I’ve described “aesthetic wonderment” as preceding codification into religious system, and others like BAP have proposed such notions as animism as the natural religion of man, so too with the basic outline of ritual. I posit that there is a set of basic instinctual practices-- revolving mostly around the creation of symbols and the manipulation of elements-- which constitute the natural, most basic aesthetic choices in the realm of ritualizing the primordial, spiritual instinct. Though they might precede religious traditions proper, the trace of these rituals can be found in religions across the world from tribal traditions right up to the most widespread and above-board denominations of Christianity.
I’m not an anthropologist or archeologist, but I bet you could find one who’d back me up here, on what I don’t think is too radical of a notion. Go to church after a jaunt reading about the sorts of rituals Kazemi describes. Notice the votive candles, and candles of other descriptions burning everywhere, notice the symbols and icons, the holy water burbling in the corner. These are going to be more pronounced in certain denominations than others (i.e. Catholic as opposed to Mennonite) but you get the point.
Occultism (or mysticism generally) understood thus is the process of getting back in touch with these basic, foundational elements of spiritualism and ritualism-- whether to embrace them in their own right, or to use them to start something new. In as far as this marks a push toward universalism, it is easy to understand the association of the occult with new-ageism and liberalism though universalism in the realm of spiritualism need not necessitate universalism in the realm of politics or custom. If our universalist understanding of existence is of the BAPian character we’ve already described, for example, we understand it as a struggle for space, and thus the seeds of our universalist spiritualism may also necessitate that we embrace a particularism of politics and custom.
To illustrate this further, I’ll cite yet another episode of Caribbean Rhythms worth listening to, in which BAP turns Herodotus’s famous pronouncement that “custom is the king of all” on its head, emphasizing the manner in which particularism of custom is biologically determined, created and handed down by a people’s highest caste (through aristocracy or shamanism). Hardly a call to cultural relativism, in BAP’s mind, custom’s status as “king of all” calls for us to pay such particularism homage, and in a world whose customs have shriveled away, to found new ones.
I hope it doesn’t make me sound too much like a fedora-wearing atheist (or new-ager, in this case), to say that I think the basic structure of organized religion involves the adoption of the basic spiritual elements and impulses and the channeling of them toward social and political goals. Here’s where the fedora comes off: far from “opium of the masses”, I think this is good and necessary. The marriage of the spiritual and the socio-political is the “glue which holds a people together” as is equally evident in the functioning of a simple tribe as the flowering of the world’s great civilizations. The fact that social “oppression” and wars can be justified by religion is precisely why religion is good (not to co-sign on all social prohibitions and every religious war in history). Religion bolsters social and political goals that can be, and have often been, noble in aim and fertile in effect.
But this is hardly the case by necessity. What if the political and social goals your religion is tied to go awry? What if new and insidious social and political goals are slipped in without you noticing? As a mere congregant, you likely have little to no say in the socio-political wheelings and dealings of your Church. What if BAP is correct about the threat of cuckoldry arising from today’s dominant, Western, religions? What if bad actors are using your religion against you? Maybe this process isn’t totalizing, you still have your individual Church and pockets within your social circle etc., but it's getting worse and worse every year, coming from the top-down. More and more in the public square you find your own religion cited to justify and engender your demise. If you share this view you’re going to have to do something, and if you share the view that the poison started within logocentrism-- within liberalism as an intellectual movement, etc.-- you’re going to have to hearken back to the irrational roots of things: embracing a mysticism, if not occultism proper. This is true both for those who would start something entirely new, and for those would more simply wish to reclaim their own churches.
The prohibition against occultism by organized religion of course makes sense in the context of a well-functioning tradition. Individualism and openness to outside experience as embodied by occultism flies in the face of authority and tradition (add to that the threat of brotherhoods and lodges forming, and the problem becomes distinctly more political). Even outside of these concerns: I admit there are dangers to the individual in playing with fundamental spiritual matters. You are playing with a fire in a way more close to literal than you might think. The question though, is this: if all of the worst things about the state of Western religion I’ve speculated upon are true, and it really is locked in by logocentric necessity towards cuckoldry and general spiritual demise, than we might go so far to as to ask do we even have a choice but to wander into the mystical beyond?
Resolving the orthodox practice of religion with occultism requires less mental gymnastics than some might suppose. I believe there are even orthodox traditions today where a truce has been made, or where there never was a tension in the first place (ask someone who knows more about Alexander Dugin’s Old Believer’s sect to confirm, or perhaps someone familiar with those practices in Bhutan, or in the nooks and crannies of Japanese imperial palaces BAP alludes to). It's simply a matter of recognizing that both mystical frolicking and orthodox practice have distinct, complementary roles in the functioning of tradition. Recognize that the majority of people will always be better suited to the practice of religion by the book, and have no instinct for significant flirtation with mysticism beyond these bounds. Those who do have a head for mysticism have a significant role to play, but their practice is for the few, not the many. Their interest in such matters might even be a secret they take to their grave, all the while remaining vigilant in their more standard practice of a religion or tradition.
Consider also: if the chief enemy in the world today is an encroaching spiritlessness, as I think is the case, then even apparently opposing flavors of spiritualism might realign. As major world religions converge on middling principles of lame, liberal, reformism, orthodox and occult traditions may be on a crash course toward finding themselves unlikely allies of the fringe.
Heady topics about the decline of the west, and the founding of new traditions aside, ritual magick as Kazemi defines it is eminently accessible. Some might even think it is too accessible, and that this is a real issue: that tackling deep-end issues with shallow-end materials like Kazemi’s quasi-self-help book, is like trying to compose a symphony with a toy piano. Maybe or maybe not; maybe the accessibility has its own power, and is necessary for what we are trying to do here which is tap into a spiritualism devoid of abstraction. If that comes in the form of a self-help memoir written by a self-described demisexual, then so be it.
In Kazemi’s view of the occult--and in mine-- agnosticism as to the belief in literal “supernatural” power or forces is OK. To the degree that humans are able to bend their realities in ways not fully grasped: there may well be a rational explanation to it all. Maybe it boils down to such fringe scientific concepts as hypnosis and self-hypnosis-- recall the purported power of the regimen the previously mentioned Emile Coue brought to the world. Maybe it works like this: a preponderance of coincidences occur after you objectify your will to the universe in some ritual or other, and then you create your own narrative around them ( a narrative which started with your ritual). This narrative may provide the extra push of impetus that you or others around you need--to make your will manifest. Maybe it's as simple as the basic psychological/self-help principle that you have to specifically name the thing you desire or that you wish to overcome before you can obtain or overcome it. This combined with grounding your desires in physically obtainable results, as Kazemi encourages, can indeed be very powerful: (i.e. don’t try and manifest muscles overnight, but the discipline and will to hit the gym). Simply objectifying this will to yourself may be all the “magick: you need to get going. There may well be a rational or psychological explanation for all of this but rationalization is not the point.
This may all sound like the trite visualization and positive-thinking stuff of self-help books, and on some fundamental level it is, but when you begin to apply it to creative and other serious projects beyond the “do-well-at-your-job, have-nice-family, get-nice-car” horizons of the self-help world, you might see this all in a new light. The point is learning the boundless creative power that comes from objectifying your will and alchemizing it into energy.
The basic process, as I understand it, is simple and two-step:
1) Locate your will, at any given moment. Maybe this is one of your higher goals (your career goals, life plans, etc) or maybe something lower (that you are hungry or want to jack off, whatever). Try to be honest with yourself about whatever it is you want at whatever given moment. You may likely, of course, have multiple desires at once, but often one will call out most in need of attention. If you’re experiencing a desire you consider lower first affirm it, and then think how you might rechannel it (this process is what is meant by psychological alchemy). If you’re experiencing a desire you consider to be higher, try to go deeper, ask yourself is this really what I want and why. Remember: affirm all your desires, even the messy ones, as your desires are life itself. In meditation the move would here be to consciously suspend them. In pop magick the goal is to ritualize.
2) Ritualize your will. Do this through an artistic creation, the simple lighting of a candle, or, in a pinch, something even more rudimentary: the movement of your hand, the sprinkling of salt or water onto the earth. I don’t recommend blasting a load (this is sex magick if you didn’t know), but to each their own. I’ll let you read Kazemi for more specifics on ritual and visualization, but this is the basic idea.
An abundance of caution must of course be exerted when dipping into any of this, and I find Kazemi’s distinction between specific outcome magick and abstract outcome magick helpful. Specific outcome magick are those rituals performed toward specific desired effects of the sort we typically associate with “magic” (i.e. to manifest this specific job offer, for this specific person to reply to my email, for a water fountain to appear around the bend on this thirsty hike etc.) while abstract outcome magick encompasses desires asserted to the universe with a less specific end-point in mind (i.e. help me finish this book, help me stop masturbating, help me find a satisfying job). Kazemi warns that specific outcome magick is powerful but potentially dangerous, libel to create unintended chaotic consequences, while describing abstract outcome magick as the “safe” form of magick.
Dipping into pop magick with this distinction in mind has been a revelatory experience. Starting out-- and still even now-- the notion of specific outcome magick was squeamish to me, premised as it was upon the notion that I myself know specifically what is best for myself (a premise I squarely reject in most cases). I therefore can only recall using it in one, innocuous case (it worked for the record-- thanks unopened water-bottle on thirsty hike!).
I started off open to the notion of specific outcome magick, but I have rarely felt the urge. I have been happily surprised by my lack of a desire to simply wish for things and get them and my own willingness to live in the process rather than the results. More often than not, I’d rather put the work in, focusing my energy on retaining discipline as opposed to simply trying to manifest things. I am convinced that in my hour of need, when I’ve put the groundwork in, and the conditions are such that I just need that one specific outcome to happen, the results will be that much more powerful.
It is abstract outcome magick-- as well as Kazemi’s notion of psychological alchemy-- that I use every day. I am convinced that abstract outcome magick (again: the presentation of a general desire to “the Universe” with an openness to a range of outcomes) is not significantly different from petitionary prayer. Kazemi distinguishes magick from prayer by holding the former to involve a greater involvement by the participant, but I think he may be too quick to distinguish here, as any cleric worth their salt would tell you you need to be ready to involve yourself in the results of your prayers, act upon signs from God, etc.
It carried with it the weight of revelation when after weeks of dipping my toe into Kazemi’s pop magick, I found myself in a steady habit of lighting candles toward abstract outcomes the majority of which would be considered “wholesome” in nature: goals pertaining to work, discipline,creativity, sexuality etc. I’d set out on a path willing to dip into a little Crowleyan “Do What Thou Wilt”, and come out practicing something that I’m not convinced technically goes against the teachings of Christendom but for its witchy source. You might even say Kazemi helped me rediscover petitionary prayer.
Praying for petitions and at times even lighting petitionary candles had been something I’d done my entire life, always feeling some distance wrought by the self-consciousness of participating in received tradition, the question of am I doing it right, etc. In my candle practice, all of the distance was evaporated, the process became entirely my own and rooted deeply to my creativity: an aesthetic process linking me with a wellspring of mystery energy. The abstractions of prayer had been refounded within me and repersonalized.
I started off wanting to tap into my own will power, but ended up, in almost all cases wanting to cede to a superior will-power: God himself, the singular will behind things, however you see it. I can take this revelation with me in whatever non-occult participation in religion I may do in the future. I’ve never taken psychedelics, but my friends who have have described engaging in analogous processes, ending in such profound acceptance.
What if entire denominations were founded, or rechristened like this and on a mass scale? This is foundationalism, as I understand it. An affirmative refocusing on the direct objects of experience.
Not sun-worship, for example, but a new concretized understanding of monotheism wrought by a focus on the singular burning energy of sun. Sunbathing becomes Church. Your weight-lifting: a yoga. You no longer accept the degenerate distinction between soul and body; even if you maintain some thread of Christian dualism, you recognize that the the health of the one is linked integrally to the health of the other. So too with what is outside of you: you accept the this art thou, that your health is integrally linked to that of the world. Things are new again, full of life.
Go Forth (Affirm The World/ Negate The World; Alchemize).
A few final remarks by way of conclusion:
I set out seeking to outline my idea of something that was “not occutlism but the rituals of it”. What I explore in the above is meant only as a spur to the spiritual imagination.
If the traditions of the West really are drying up, then we should heed Alexandr Dugin’s advice in following the path of the stream back to where the waters are deep and we might follow the path of new fish. These new fish, I think can be discerned in a variety of traditions from across the world and history: esoteric and exoteric both. This can be done in a way which neither embraces liberal universalism, or makes itself a permenant enemy of Orthodoxy.
For me: my main source is a 2020 occult book that many will find silly, but again I emphasize that accesibility and pop-culture-flair may obscure a surprising depth. Weird-right progenitors like Shawn Partridge and Boyd Rice engaged in something similar in the 90’s, subverting pop art and pop culture into an occult practice with fascistic overtones. It is probably worth acknowledging their influence here as well.
The process of “ritual magick” I have explored above, is at core about alchemy: about alchemizing the small will represented by you with the desire of the highest will. Even if you are a slouch, you can make gold of the filth of these lower drives you have been conditioned toward. You can start doing this right here, right now. Practice consciousness of the will, suspending it when necessary, and rechanneling it toward higher aims.
A final word on the negative side of the equation: on the suspension of the will which it might be argued I have given inadequate attention to in favor of the affirmative path. BAP in Bronze Age Mindset has interesting thoughts on those early Christian gnostic sects which held man to be a spark of divinity contained within evil matter. As an affirmer of the world, BAP does not co-sign on their views, but admits that there are states of the world in which the presence of suffering and and the stifling of freedom might be widespread enough that such gnostics would be functionally— if not metaphysically and for-all-time—correct. BAP warns that the world might be on a trajectory toward such a state.
Should this grim possibility be the case, the affirmative path I’ve attempted to describe above may grow narrow to the point of implausibility. In such a case, practices which lean further into will-suspension, and even controlled decomposition, might be the preferable way.: a process of churnig, decomposing or burning off dark matter called nigredo in the alchemical tradition. For this post I’m just going to leave it as a creepy final note here that I mean to explore this negatory path more in the future, quite likely through fiction of a horrific character.
I am impressed by the breadth of topics and wisdom you’ve incorporated in this essay.
I have great interest in the project of seeding a new mysticism within the purifying fires of our presently collapsing, spirit-dead civilization. Tradition is lost and progress is impossible – we have reached the end of our history, and a new one struggles to be born.
I agree this requires a return to nature – as an amoral force of creation and destruction, the mysterious unitive source of direct experience, and the formless chaos of infinite wonder and possibility.
I also agree a reinvention of ritual is necessary, which I found through Chaos Magick, Jodorowsky’s psychomagic, and Julius Evola’s writing. The placebo effect is fatally undervalued and misunderstood as something confounding causal explanation opposed to being recognized as the source of human power.
What I don’t understand is how Christianity can be revitalized by this approach. It is already full of ritual and mythos, much of which is less about nature than the particularities of a historical time and place – the Roman Empire’s transformation by an obscure religious culture of mercy and compassion, overturning might making right.
A true, unmigitated return to nature is fundamentally pagan – like sun worship, moon worship, attuning to the cycles of nature, something I am inclined towards. Where do you draw the line between this and maintaining Christian values and principles?