Imagine a dystopian England under the rule of a brutal fascistic regime. Political opposition is outlawed. Free speech is non-existent. Government spies go undercover in pubs and restaurants searching for prohibited expressions. Security cameras tape everything you do and even occasionally yell at you. The state controlled media promotes a specific political agenda and knowingly lies about facts that jeopardize its worldview. Violent thugs, funded by the state, openly attack political opponents while the regular police do nothing or arrest the victims. Those who do not believe in the official ideology of the state are either banned from decent jobs or hounded out of their profession.
Such is the world of V for Vendetta , a nightmarish fantasy designed to show how even terrorism may be justified to fight tyranny and secure freedom. The film dares to ask if violence is ever a legitimate tactic if the government crosses a certain line. It is a favorite of libertarians, including many YWC members, and tomorrow, tens of thousands will “Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November” and ponder whether they’d be willing to act if the government ever crosses that fateful Rubicon.
The problem, of course, is that this is also the United Kingdom in the world we live in right now. You don’t have free speech in England . Cameras are everywhere, and like the telescreens in 1984, they can yell at you . Police monitor what you say and do  in pubs and restaurants. Saying the wrong thing can cost you your money, your job, or your freedom. The political order is safeguarded by violent thugs, supported by every major party from both the Left and the phony Right .
So, everyone watching V for Vendetta this 5th of November and posting slogans on facebook – would we be justified in blowing up Parliament?
I hasten to add – I advocate no such thing. The point is – neither does anyone else, even as a hypothetical. If there was a “Norsefire” government though, we would have no shortage of V Volunteers because we’ve all been carefully trained to believe that tyranny is exclusively a product of the Right.
V for Vendetta is almost a perfect reversal of the actual situation in England today. In the film, an ultra nationalistic and Christian theocratic government uses state terrorism to coerce the masses behind a repressive right wing agenda. The Church of England rules the moral landscape. Muslims, homosexuals, and immigrants are all imprisoned or deported. Guy Fawkes is a long forgotten hero who struck a blow against tyranny.
In the actually existing England of today, the English flag is considered a racist symbol. The officials of the state are told the Red Cross is offensive because it reminds those oppressed Muslims about the Crusades . Six year olds are investigated for racism . The leader of the Church of England is busy advocating for Muslim Sharia law . The state maintains that Islamic terrorism must be labeled “anti-Islam activity ” so Muslims do not have their feelings hurt. It is not criminal to be a homosexual – it is criminal to criticize them , even in the mildest of terms. Perhaps most revealing, political leaders have actually admitted that mass immigration offered no benefits for England but was a tactic to make electing conservatives and libertarians impossible in the future  by flooding the country with Third Worlders dependent on the welfare state. In essence, by their own words, the English government is a conspiracy against their own people.
It should be noted that Guy Fawkes, of course, thought that the English government of his time was actually too tolerant and wanted to restore Catholic autocracy, which would have strangled any Enlightenment rhetoric about rights and freedoms in their cradle. (Even Cracked is with me on this one .) If you are a traditionalist Catholic Guy Fawkes might be a good hero, but for postmodern hipsters, Fawkes isn’t actually the best.
I’ll grant that the film has some good quotes, notably, “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” And so they should, especially the current English government, from the current English people. The problem is that film systematically shows us that the only way we can know repression is when it comes packaged up in 1930s fascist regalia promoting a right wing cultural agenda. Touching scenes about reverently handling the Koran and respecting minorities ignore that these supposedly oppressed groups are dictating terms to the taxpaying English masses. The English people are expected to sit down, shut up, and pay for the regime that dispossess them. The actually existing tyranny is not just ignored, but apologized for because the tyranny is explained in cultural terms. For that reason, for the vast majority of people watching the movie today, it will simply not occur to them to connect the dots between the arguments against the imaginary white Christian theocracy and the actually existing anti-English, anti-Christian regime. In fact, V for Vendetta just makes things worse.
Of course, this was the point of V for Vendetta all along. Alan Moore wrote the original graphic novel as a protest against the rise of the free market champion Margaret Thatcher . “Norsefire” in the graphic novel was clearly modeled on the National Front , a small nationalist party that focused on street activism and marches. Somehow, liberals feared this tiny group would magically rise to power if they gathered so much as 10 people at a rally. The evil Chancellor Sutler and his ruthless regime was simply a stand in for Thatcher, capitalism, and England itself.
It’s not an attack against the “state.” There is nothing in the film, its message, its symbolism, or how it has been interpreted by most activists to pose any threat to the kind of repression that is occurring right now. At this very second, the English nation is being ground out by the state, but the movie does nothing to communicate that message. Instead, it’s simply a thinly veiled sneer against patriotism, a celebration of trendy multiculturalism, and a safe, harmless, cute little way of expressing pretend dissent against the people who rule the West. It actually reinforces the real, existing, insidious tyranny that exists right now in the Mother Country because it tells us that liberty’s enemies are always comically easy to spot , complete with uniforms and scary Germanic words.
Why then is this movie so popular as a symbol? It tells us what we want to hear and hides from us that none are so hopelessly enslaved that think that they are free – or think they are fighting for what they call “freedom,” a word long bereft of meaning. It lets people continue to believe the illusion that freedom will be restored without having to take on uncomfortable, politically incorrect issues. A graphic representation of the destruction of Parliament is far less gutsy than some random College Republican trying an affirmative action bake sale . It’s so, so easy to oppose “the state” as long as it remains abstract. It is far more difficult to criticize a specific state, or specific things that a state is doing because then you have to confront the actual people who benefit from those policies.
It is all very well to say that the government should not have the right to redistribute income to the poor, or that racial preferences are bad on libertarian grounds because we are all individuals, or that identity politics are flawed because we are all individuals. However, your opponents will quite reasonably respond that the nature of the class system and economic privilege mean that redistribution might actually be necessary to ensure everyone starts from an equal footing. They might say that “white privilege” means that informal networks and cultural biases that perpetuate racial inequality mean that we need state directed affirmative action. They might say as part of a privileged class, you can believe in individualism, but their identity is important to them and that they need to collectively mobilize in order to defend their own interests.
At some point, you are going to have to explain or defend inequality  if you actually want to defend freedom. Once you’ve done that, state or no state, it’s right vs. left and you’re on the side same as us supposedly far right types who rock Martel’s hammer.
Of course, the meaning of art is in the eye of the beholder. I was fated to be on the Right because I always seem to learn the opposite lesson that’s intended from the prolefeed the culture industry slops out for us. I do not begrudge my libertarian comrades both within YWC and without for co-opting symbols for their own ends. I hope they’ll allow me the same.
The group I want to defend is that which is really being oppressed, right now, in the real world. I stand with the great English people who still have some sense of pride, identity, and patriotism in their Isle of Kings. So for my Fifth of November toast — if I may borrow the handle of the Voice of London — I say “Good guys win, bad guys lose, and, as always – England Prevails.”
Source: Youth for Western Civilization, http://www.westernyouth.org/articles/england-prevails/ 
From the channel description: “2001: A Space Odyssey – The revolutionary filmmaking that went into Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey encapsulates the totality of humanity’s experience, in one film. Jay Dyer and Jay Weidner analyze the occult imagery emblazoned throughout this classic film as we are presented with a tale of humanity’s transformation, […]
By: Jay Dyer (from years ago) Cloud Atlas (2012) was an interesting film on several levels. Fans of both the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer will quickly recognize the fingerprints of all three, especially philosophical elements of the Matrix trilogy. From the perspective of moral assessment, there is much in the film that I object to, but artistically speaking, I […]
The famous hit television show Ghost Hunters‘ Jason Hawes & JV Johnson talk to Maria Schmidt of National Ghost Hunting Day & then Jay Dyer about his book series – Esoteric Hollywood. 7/30/2019 – Beyond Reality Radio. We cover propaganda in film, symbolism, subversion in film, Kubrick’s central messages that more or less predicted […]
The post Kubrick’s Hidden Messages – Jay Dyer on Jason Hawes & JV Johnson’s Beyond Reality appeared first on JaysAnalysis.com.
By: Jay Dyer The Fountain is one of Hollywood’s more difficult esoteric films: The failure of the film to achieve at the box office can be chalked up to this heavily mystifying plot and symbolism. To decode the film requires some familiarity wth cabalism, alchemy, Mayan mythology, Genesis and creation and Zen philosophy. Combining all […]
The post The Esoteric Meaning of The Fountain (2006) – Jay Dyer appeared first on JaysAnalysis.com.
Part 1 of 2. Part 2 here .
The Unique and Its Property by Max Stirner
Translated with a new introduction by Wolfi Landstreicher
Underworld Amusements, 2017
John Daggett: I paid you a small fortune.
Bane: And this gives you power over me?
The Dark Knight Rises (Nolan, 2012)
Another week, another witch-hunt. This time, the protectors of ideological purity are defending the escutcheon of Max Stirner from supposed besmirchment. If that doesn’t even more sound absurd and hypocritical than usual , read on!
These periodical transformations of soi-disant rationalists and “enlightened” folk into reincarnations of the Witchfinders General  (or more likely, Witchsmellers Pursuivant ) have always reminded me of Thomas Mann’s Dr. Faustus, whose major theme is the many ways in which pure rationality leads to barbarism and even diabolism.
In an early chapter — set, appropriately, in a theological college — the protagonist and narrator are invited to dinner at the home of a favorite professor, one Dr. Kumpf. Kumpf is sort of a Teutonic Ned Flanders, who flaunts his proto-Barth fideism  in the form of a compulsive and relentlessly cheerful Lutheran Gemutlichkeit worthy of those who know they are saved — or hope they are. Beer, good German home cooking, be-dirndled daughters, folk songs… it’s quite grueling. Could it get more embarrassing? “It had to happen, and it did…”
“Behold!” he cried. “There in the corner, the Mocker, the Killjoy, the sad, sour, spook, and will not suffer our hearts to rejoice in God with meat and song! But he shall not have the better of us, the Archvillain, with his sly, fiery darts! Apage!” he thundered, grabbed a hard roll, and hurled it into the corner. 
Herr Prof. Dr. Kumpf’s hard roll came to mind again as a Facebook post alerted me to Keith Preston’s blog post about the latest kerfuffle about Max Stirner’s “ties to the Nazis.” (Lastest? We’ll get to that in a sec’).
Preston summarizes it in his book review thus:
Underworld Amusements  is owned by Kevin Slaughter,  a man who has been attacked as an OFFICIAL BAD PERSON by leftist critics of [translator Wolfi] Landstreicher’s work. … Landstreicher has been accused of some great moral failure for allowing an alleged OFFICIAL BAD PERSON to publish this translation. A screed titled “Wolfi and White Supremacy: What Happened and What It Means” was originally posted on the TheConjureHouse.Com website. The post was a stereotypical “fascist creep” screed, authored by a “Dr. Bones” individual whose online avatar features an emaciated-looking young man with a hammer and sickle scarf masking his face.  
As it happens, I would not have known about the book itself (or that Kevin Slaughter even had a publishing house) at all had the outrage not led to Preston’s post, so as per usual, good job, SJWs!
About the book, the publisher writes:
Max Stirner’s opus was first published in Germany in 1844. In 1907 Benjamin R. Tucker published the first English-language translation of Der Einzige und sein Eigentum, carried out by Steven T. Byington and titled The Ego and His Own. Every edition of Stirner’s book since that time has been a reproduction or revision of the Byington translation—until now.
You’d think these Antifa creeps would be grateful.
And about Stirner, Preston writes elsewhere:
The individual in question was a dissolute figure who wrote under the curious pseudonym of Max Stirner.
Stirner was born as Johan Caspar Schmidt on October 25, 1806, into a lower middle class German household of a Lutheran religious affiliation. Stirner’s father died when he was only six months old, and Stirner was consequently raised by his mother, and later by his aunt after his mother remarried. His mother appears to have been plagued by mental illness, and it is interesting to considering what psychological effects having been raised without a father and by an unstable mother might have had on Stirner.
Stirner never expressed anything other than contempt for bourgeois norms in either his philosophy or, ultimately, in his private life. His two marriages seem to have likely been for the sake of convenience, most probably financially motivated, and Max Stirner was largely responsible for squandering the inheritance of Marie, his second wife.  Much of his later life was spent dodging debt collectors, and Stirner spent two stints in debtors’ prison before he eventually died in 1856 at the age of forty-nine. His cause of death has been traditionally attributed to an illness that was developed after a poisonous insect bite. 
In short, a typical Millennial; perhaps a typical alt-Righter.
But the point is, Stirner can’t really be reduced to any definite figure; he devoted his work to freeing his readers from what he saw as dogmas, fixed ideas (as in OCD) or most typically what he called “spooks;” in short, bats in the belfry.  It’s crucial to understand that these included both God and Man (the God-substitute of the “pious atheist”), religion and secularism, etc. 
Yet such is Man, that from the start people have read their own—fixed — ideas into Stirner, and jealously claimed him as their champion. As Preston says:
When the Byington translation was issued over a century ago, Tucker said of the work, “Some call it The Anarchists’ Bible, others call it The Billionaires’ Bible.” But that’s clearly the point. The egoist philosophy advanced by Stirner contains no ideological, let alone moral, prescription. Stirner’s ideas are just as applicable to the predatory billionaire capitalist (see the current US President ) as they are to revolutionary anarchist assassins. A consistent application of Stirner’s philosophy would simply involve going about the business of pursuing one’s interests while giving no thought to either prescribed notions of virtue or to societal interests.  
Of course, “pursuing one’s interests while giving no thought to either prescribed notions of virtue or to societal interests” is exactly not the SJW M.O., even when claiming to rally ‘round the drapeau noir.
Stirner was driving people nuts right from the start.
Marx famously claimed to have found Hegel standing on his head, and to have set him right-side up; in other words, he re-inverted Hegel’s already inverted idealist dialectic and made material reality the basis of ideas.
Stirner, by contrast, picked Hegel up and held him over his head, spun him around, and then pile-drived him into the mat; a philosophical Hulk Hogan.
Stirner’s magnum opus is a kind of parody of Hegelianism, if not exactly Hegel . But in fact he spends most of his time using his dialectic to torment Hegel’s epigones, first Feuerbach and then, at much greater length, the Whole Sick Crew of (mid-nineteenth century Euro-)socialism.
Marx was as well and truly gaslit , a kind of nineteenth century Hillary besieged by this, this — cartoon frog of a philosopher , and responded with an epic flame war, devoting most of his massive work, The German Ideology, to a figure he mocked as”St. Max.”   Finding that there were no blogs to post it, Marx put it away in a drawer, not discovered again until 1932, when Stalin exhumed it and made it mandatory reading.
Striner, like Nagarjuna or Chuang Tzu, uses the Hegelian dialectic as tool to expose the absurdity of all social, political, philosophical ideas, in order to free the minds of his readers.
Have you philosophers really no clue that you have been beaten with your own weapons? Only one clue. What can your common-sense reply when I dissolve dialectically what you have merely posited dialectically? You have showed me with what kind of ‘volubility’ one can turn everything to nothing and nothing to everything, black into white and white into black. What do you have against me, when I return to you your pure art? 
One ancillary result is the discovery that zealots have more in common than they might like to think:
The zealots for some sacred thing often don’t look very much like each other. How the strict Orthodox or Old Believers differ from the … Rationalists, etc. And yet how utterly unessential this difference is! If one calls single traditional truths (for example, miracles, the absolute princely power, etc.) into question, the Rationalists also call them into question, and only the Old Believers wail. But if one calls truth itself into question, he immediately has both, as believers, for opponents. (Ego, p64-65)
Perhaps because most of us non-Stirners tend to think in such binary terms, everyone seems to miss the message and instead reads Stirner as advocating some position or other.
Wikipedia provides a handy list of “thinkers have read and been affected by The Ego and Its Own in their youth,” such as:
Rudolf Steiner, Gustav Landauer, Victor Serge, Carl Schmitt and Jürgen Habermas. Few openly admit any influence on their own thinking. Ernst Jünger’s book Eumeswil, had the character of the “Anarch”, based on Stirner’s “Einzige.” Several other authors, philosophers and artists have cited, quoted or otherwise referred to Max Stirner. They include Albert Camus in The Rebel (the section on Stirner is omitted from the majority of English editions including Penguin’s), Benjamin Tucker, James Huneker, Dora Marsden, Renzo Novatore, Emma Goldman, Georg Brandes, John Cowper Powys, Martin Buber, Sidney Hook, Robert Anton Wilson, Horst Matthai, Frank Brand, Marcel Duchamp, several writers of the Situationist International including Raoul Vaneigem, and Max Ernst. Years before rising to power, Benito Mussolini was inspired by Stirner, and made several references to him in his newspaper articles. The similarities in style between The Ego and Its Own and Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism have caused some historians to speculate that Wilde (who could read German) was familiar with the book.
Not mentioned, as per usual, is Julius Evola, although he for one was willing to “openly admit … influence on [his] own thinking” in his youth, along with — Oscar Wilde. 
Surely any book “influencing” this motley crew is more like a Rorschach test than a treatise;  this is what happens when, as Zen says, you mistake the pointing finger for the moon.
Needless to say, the modern Hitler cult has had its innings as well. And therein lies a tale.
I first encountered Max Stirner in John Carroll’s Break-Out from the Crystal Palace: The Anarcho-Psychological Critique; Stirner, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky.  I can’t recall any particular reason for picking up the book, much less reading it – it’s slim enough though the prose is of academic opacity – other than an interest in Nietzsche that dated back to Kubrick’s 2001. 
So I was prepared to take notice when, at a table of new releases displayed by Harper & Row at an academic philosophy convention, I spotted Carroll’s edition of The Ego.  
Of course, it would have been hard not to notice it; it was clad, like an SS Sturmbannführer,  in the severe black and white covers  of typically Hitler-obsessed Judaic academic George Steiner’s “Roots of the Right: Readings in Fascist, Racist and Elitism Ideology.” These “black books,” as Steiner calls them,  are intended to supply the eager student with “source-readings” to explain, if possible, the seventy million “dead through war, revolution and famine in Europe and Russia between 1914 and 1945,” and the “return to barbarism, torture and mass extermination in the heartlands of civilized life.” 
Of course, there are a couple of obvious problems here. First, a considerable amount of said “war, revolution and famine … barbarism, torture and mass extermination” was at the hands of the Communists, who don’t seem to figure in this series. Secondly, and more importantly here, what the Hell does Stirner have to do with this?
Well, not much at all. Carroll brings the same academic trash compactor to work on Stirner as he would later on Stirner, Nietzsche and Dostoevsky to force them all into the “anarcho-psychological” mold; here, Stirner is simply a Fascist malgre lui and avant le lettre.
It’s a stupid argument, and a reviewer at Amazon , one “Einzige,” deals with it adequately for our purposes:
Pointing out that Stirner’s preferred method of social change is insurrection and self-liberation—as opposed to the political action and violence preferred by the left—Carroll, in his introduction, asserts, “Stirner has by default Rightist tendencies.” Furthermore, that Marxists, therefore, have the “right” to make the argument favored by demagogues and ideologues throughout history: “He who is not with us is against us.” (page 13)
What such an argument reveals, without even meaning to, is the fundamental inadequacy of the right-left spectrum. Carroll can sense this (on page 16, for example, he says “Stirner is one of the men who defy political classification; the orthodox categories break down.”), but he apparently doesn’t have the ability to break free of it. It would seem that, to him, our only choices are the dictatorship of the proletariat on the left hand, or the dictatorship of the total state on the right. The autonomy of the individual is out of the question. It takes the one-dimensional thinking of an authoritarian Hegelian to posit such a false dichotomy, as if fascism and socialism were our only options.
Carroll then tries to tie Stirner to Italian Fascism with a couple of vague, inconsequential quotes from Mussolini: “And these summits of the spirit are called Stirner, Nietzsche…” (page 13); “Leave the way free for the elemental power of the individual…Why shouldn’t Stirner become significant again?” (page 14). That’s all Carroll has in support of his thesis that Stirner had an influence on Fascist Italy???
Next, Carroll draws some vaporous connections between Stirner and Nazism. Afterwards he admits that Hitler probably never heard of Stirner. Once again, though, he neglects to discuss the much stronger Marxist influence on Nazism. For example, Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, wrote “The National Socialist movement has one single master: Marxism.” Hitler himself is purported to have said, “The whole of National Socialism is based on Marx.” Oops, another of Carroll’s arguments goes up in smoke!
Carroll’s attack on Stirner does end with the admission “that the case for including Stirner in `the roots of the Right’ is not watertight.” My question, then, is: Why publish the book? Carroll’s answer appears to be that “many of [Stirner’s] themes form a vital component of fascist ideology.” However, as I pointed out above, a much stronger case (dare I say “watertight”?) can be made that Marxism, rather than individualism and egoism, is THE vital component of Fascism. 
“Why publish the book” indeed. I imagine Carroll either, knee-deep in his Crystal Palace book, jumping at a chance to metamorphose some of it in a book published by a major house and under the auspices of a famous academic, an excellent way to get word of mouth going for the real book later. Or inversely, perhaps Carroll, like Jim Dixon in Lucky Jim, was dragooned into this piece of make-work in order to curry favor with said famous academic.  Who knows?
  “Liberals believe that we should all love one another, and hate those who don’t.” Fred Reed, “Social Justice Warriors and Bubonic Plague:Is There a Difference?” Fred on Everything, March 30, 2017, here .
  “Witchfinder General is a 1968 British horror film directed by Michael Reeves and starring Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, and Hilary Dwyer. The screenplay was by Reeves and Tom Baker based on Ronald Bassett’s novel of the same name. Made on a low budget of under £100,000, the movie was co-produced by Tigon British Film Productions and American International Pictures. The story details the heavily fictionalised murderous witch-hunting exploits of Matthew Hopkins, a 17th-century English lawyer who claimed to have been appointed as a “Witch Finder Generall” by Parliament during the English Civil War to root out sorcery and witchcraft. The film was retitled The Conqueror Worm in the United States in an attempt to link it with Roger Corman’s earlier series of Edgar Allan Poe–related films starring Price—although this movie has nothing to do with any of Poe’s stories, and only briefly alludes to his poem.” Wikipedia, here .
  “’Witchsmeller Pursuivant’ is the fifth episode of the first series of the BBC sitcom Blackadder (The Black Adder). It is set in England in the late 15th century and centres on the fictitious Prince Edmund, who finds himself falsely accused of witchcraft by a travelling witch hunter known as the Witchsmeller Pursuivant. The story satirises mediaeval superstition and religious belief.” Wikipedia, here .
  Mann says he had reversed Descartes, moving from the frailty of reason to the necessity of revelation; a reversal that would have amused Stirner, as we’ll see.
 Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend; trans. by John E. Woods (New York: Knopf, 1999), p108. Stirner alludes to Luther’s legendary vulgarity in The Unique, p99; a few pages later he also agrees with Mann’s narrator that “it is only as theology that philosophy can actually realize itself, complete itself.” P.103. Stirner discusses Luther and Descartes (pp99ff.); it could have been worse: Landstreicher mentions in his notes that Luther once set the Devil running with a mighty fart.
  In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that although I have never met, spoken with or emailed Kevin Slaughter, he has designed the covers of all four of my Counter-Currents books, and they are quite lovely, are they not?
  I must say this is somewhat unfair; Stirner and the rest of his drinking buddies invested heavily in a scheme to set up a milk delivery system in Berlin, which went teats up. He’s more like your cousin Eddie with his get-rich-quick schemes than a spendthrift or wastrel. See John Carroll (ed), The Ego and His Own (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), pp23-4.
  Not that he cared one way or another; it simply amused him to point this out.
  As Nietzsche later said, the Englishman wanted to get rid of God but keep Christian morality.
  Preston, loc. cit.
  “As with so many other young intellectuals of his generation, it was Hegel who would clearly become the most important influence on Stirner’s later thought as Stirner’s egoism is essentially a negation of the Hegelian view of the supremacy of spirit.” Preston, loc. cit.
  “’St. Max’ is the work of a mind under stress.” John Carroll, introduction to The Ego and Its Own, p14. We’ll soon see Prof. Carroll under stress as well. “According to Lawrence Stepelevich, even Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ extremely sympathetic biographer Franz Mehring, called [it] “an oddly schoolboyish polemic.” (“Feuerbach and the Young Hegelians,” published in Simon Critchley, A Companion to Continental Philosophy, p. 112); quoted by Jason McQuinn, here .
  The flies had their revenge; Stirner died at 49, from an infected insect bite.
  Trust me, it’s not any funnier in German.
  Max Stirner, “The Philosophical Reactionaries: The Modern Sophists by Kuno Fischer”, reprinted in Newman, Saul (ed.), Max Stirner (Critical Explorations in Contemporary Political Thought), Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, p99.
  See his autobiography, The Path of Cinnabar: An Intellectual Autobiography; translated by Sergio Knipe (London: Artkos Media, 2009).
  Rorschach of Watchmen is a classic example of someone with bats in the belfry, as is Ozymandias; only the Comedian and, to an extent, Dr. Manhattan, get it: as the Comedian says, “It’s all a joke.”
  London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974.
  That is, to Jerome Agel’s The Making of Kubrick’s 2001 (Signet, 1970); not to be confused with The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stephanie Schwam and Jay Cocks (New York: Modern Library Movies, 2000) nor The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ by Piers Bizony and M/M (Paris: Taschen, 2015).
  Wikipedia, in the “publications history” of The Ego, says : “An abridged English edition of the Byington translation revised, selected and annotated by John Carroll. New York City / London: Harper & Row 1971. 266 pp. The book appeared in a series “Roots of the Right. Readings in Fascist, Racist and Elitist Ideology”, together with writings by Gobineau, Alfred Rosenberg, de Maistre, Maurras. The text consists of a mix of about a hundred quotations from The Ego (and some from Stirner’s minor writings), reducing the volume by about a half. The reason why Stirner’s work was selected for this series remains unclear [as we’ll see] given the book’s fierce anti-authoritarianism and emphasis on the sovereignty of the individual.” I’ve discovered, again thanks to the SJWs, that Underworld Amusements is selling some 45 “uncirculated” copies of this edition online, here .
  Or Neil Patrick Harris in Starship Troopers, aka “Doogie Howser Joins the SS.”
  Severe, yet “startlingly erotic,” as Crow T. Robot notes regarding the “Miss Prim and Proper” speaker in the short instructional film “Speech: Platform Posture and Appearance” which opens Mystery Science Theater’s episode 619: Red Zone Cuba.
  Not to be confused, I guess, with the BritCom Black Books, created by Dylan Moran and Graham Linehan and broadcast on Channel 4 from 2000 to 2004.
  I always imagine his saying this in the voice of Mr. Kently (Cecil Hardwicke) in Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) as he takes Brandon to task for his supposed “contempt, if I may say so, for that I think civilized”. The gay killers are usually supposed to have absorbed Nietzsche’s ideas through their schoolmaster, Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) but their views sound just as much like Stirner, whose hidden influence on Nietzsche has often been debated.
  A contemporary reviewer, Sidney E. Parker, adds: “The rest of Mr. Carroll’s examples are little more than unsupported insinuations. For instance, when Stirner argues that it is not enough for the press to be free, that it must become his own, and concluded “writing is free only when it is my own, dictated to me by no power or authority, by no faith, no dread: the press must not be free—that is too little—it must be mine—ownness of the press or property in the press, that is what I will take”—Mr. Carroll notes that this is “an anticipation of…fascist attitudes to the press”! Such an assertion is frankly absurd. No fascist favours uncontrolled individual ownership of the press, nor believes in the freedom of the writer from authority.” See “Anarchism, Angst, and Max Stirner,” here .
  Welch (Steiner) to Dixon (Carroll): “I thought something like ‘Merrie England’ might do as a subject. Not too academic, and not too… not too… Do you think you could get something together along those sort of lines?” Remarkably, the “front flap copy” for the Carroll book calls it “a new look at this strangely neglected thinker,” which is almost verbatim the opening of the tedious article Dixon writes to get tenure: “’In considering this strangely neglected topic,’ it began. This what neglected topic? This strangely what topic? This strangely neglected what? His thinking all this without having defiled and set fire to the typescript only made him appear to himself as more of a hypocrite and fool.” Lucky Jim (New York Review Books, 2012), pp. 11, 9.
“Only the dead can know what it means to be dead.”—Ananda Coomaraswamy
Philip Larkin’s poem “Aubade” articulates his fear of death in chilling terms. It describes a man who hates his job and gets drunk every night. Then, before dawn, he wakes, and with the gathering light, he fixates on the certainty of his own death and what it will mean for him. Larkin is clear that it means complete cessation of the self, that there is no possibility of an afterlife, and that this absence of the self is the most terrifying thing in the world. He describes his terror of:
the total emptiness forever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
Larkin is contemptuous of those who try to palliate the emptiness of death through a belief in a heaven, or through philosophical arguments that claim death should not be feared. Religion is:
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade,
Created to pretend we never die.
Stoicism in the face of the certainty of death is an impotent weapon, bringing no comfort:
Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
And this clear-sighted terror of the inevitability of death, and the consequent loss of the self forever, always lurks in the margins of our waking consciousness, “just on the edge of vision.” In everyday life it is something that is not openly considered, and so it can be pushed to one side. Only in moments of quiet lucidity, “when we are caught without/People or drink,” does the full sense of the imminent cessation of our being come into focus. And the breaking light of dawn, which gives the poem its ironic title, provides just such a moment for morbid self-introspection.
“Aubade” is a brilliant and terrifying poem. It expresses perfectly the modern attitude towards death: the belief that the self will end, that religion is a palliative, and that death is to be feared. It does so with a cold and precise use of language and rhyme that seduces the ear and convinces the mind. It is a poem which conveys the terror of “the emptiness forever,” but whose author is not able to believe in anything better. His intellectual integrity prevents him from performing the sleight of mind necessary to believe in an afterlife which modern science has forbidden to us.
As far as the modern attitude towards death goes, there is no such thing as a metaphysics of death. There is only the physical process of the termination of the organism. This, as Larkin correctly points out, is because we no longer believe in religion, and so have abandoned the belief that there resides in the individual an immortal soul that will endure after death. We tend to concur with most scientists that a living organism is a material construct whose sense of self and whose consciousness are phenomena arising from purely material processes. If human consciousness is a merely material construction then it would logically follow that it would disappear with the death of the body. It should then be worth considering whether or not the belief that consciousness emerges from purely material processes is correct.
If the materialist paradigm is correct, and there is no ”immortal soul” energizing our being, then it means that it is, in principle, possible to map the entire neurological network so that it could be replicated. As long as the materialist paradigm holds, it will allow for the enormously complicated task of identifying and measuring the neural connections in the brain and reconstructing them. If we, like Larkin, disallow the existence of an eternal spirit, or some such other ethereal essence, then there is nothing in principle that should prevent us from creating an artificial intelligence from which a sense of consciousness could arise. All that is required is that the unique material composition of the brain can be simulated in a computer program and then, as a consequence of the complex interactions of the neural network, consciousness will arise. If consciousness is some sort of illusion produced by material interactions in the brain, then the building of a brain in an artificial intelligence program should give rise to the spontaneous creation of an individual consciousness within a virtual world. Success in this task would demonstrate that it is possible for consciousness to arise from purely material foundations, without the need to evoke an ”immortal soul,” and we would then agree with Larkin that death is ”emptiness forever.”
The attempt to create an intelligent machine has been ongoing since the dawn of the computer age. The belief that consciousness emerges from material processes in the brain leads to the inevitable conclusion that it is therefore, in principle, possible to recreate consciousness outside of the human brain; in a computer, for example. The challenge for researchers working in the field of AI is to identify the exact nature of the neural pathways and their connections, and to replicate them in a computer program.
In the early days of AI research, there was a great deal of optimism about what computers would be able to achieve and how quickly they would be able to do it. One of the leading AI researchers, Marvin Minsky, was the technical consultant for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the film, the computer HAL 9000 is a fully conscious and self-aware being engaging in conversation with humans, displaying an understated matrix of emotions and an ability to appreciate art. It is made clear in the film that HAL is treated as though he is a fully developed individual. Kubrick was keen to ensure that his rendering of HAL was scientifically plausible. The input of Minsky ensured that the depiction of HAL represented scientifically informed ideas of what computers would be able to become by the turn of the millennium.
What is clear from watching 2001 is that workers in AI in the 1960s regarded the development of intelligent, conscious computers as something that would be achieved imminently. This was because there was an assumption that the barrier to such self-conscious machines was the processing and computational speed of existing computers. It was rightly predicted that processing speed would increase exponentially over the coming decades, and it was therefore assumed that the ability to execute programs capable of replicating the complexity of human thought would follow.
But there was a flaw in this reasoning. A minority of thinkers refused to be drawn into the optimism of the early AI research community. One of the most prominent was Hubert Dreyfus, whose ideas concerning the limitations of computing power were mostly ignored at the time, but have subsequently been proven to be entirely astute. What Dreyfus realized was that the barrier to creating consciousness in a computer was not the deficit in processing power, but the very context of ”being” in which a computer existed.
In 1965, Dreyfus was asked to write a paper on the future of AI research for the RAND Corporation. He produced a document called Alchemy and Artificial Intellience which likened the research of contemporary AI researchers to the medieval alchemists’ attempts to turn base metals into gold. Dreyfus was convinced that the problems facing AI were not problems of processing power, size of memory capacity, or any other practical difficulties. He claimed that there were fundamental problems in principle with the claim that human intelligence could be reproduced in a digital computer. His paper attempted to show that there are certain capacities that human beings excel in which computers would never be able to master. In making his argument, he described three types of information processing which he claimed were “uniquely human.” They were fringe consciousness, essence/accident discrimination, and ambiguity tolerance.
Fringe consciousness is the unconscious awareness that human beings have for wider contextualizing states that exist beyond the area of present attention. For example, in a game of chess, “cues from all over the board, while remaining on the fringes of consciousness, draw attention to certain sectors by making them appear promising, dangerous, or simply worth looking into.” We do not make these cues explicit to ourselves, and often may be totally unaware of them, but they form a relevant background to those decisions we explicitly make.
Essence/accident discrimination describes the type of insight that human beings employ to instinctively distinguish which information is relevant and which is to be ignored in any given situation. Again, this process is carried out mostly unconsciously; it is never necessary for us to consider every piece of sensory input in our surroundings in order to decide what is inessential. The inessential is filtered out automatically.
Ambiguity tolerance is the ability that humans have to operate without explicit definitions or rules. This can be illustrated with a consideration of language use. It is perfectly normal for words to have secondary or tertiary meanings. In practice, we determine what sense of a word is being deployed with reference to its context. For example, if we were to say that one runner in a race was ”miles ahead” of the others, we would automatically know that the word “mile” is not being used in its primary sense of “a unit of linear measure equal to 1,760 yards,” but in its tertiary sense of “a very long way or a very great amount.” Even then we have no problem in understanding that “a very long way” might, in this context, refer to as little as two or three yards; amounts which in different contexts would be seen as very small indeed. In other words, we are capable of sufficiently reducing ambiguity to make meanings clear, but without the needing to explicitly define how we are doing this.
In a later work, What Computers Can’t Do, Dreyfus expanded even further on his skepticism regarding AI research. In this work, he identified four assumptions which he believed were uncritically and often unconsciously being utilized by AI workers to underpin research into AI. Dreyfus believed that the goal of achieving artificial intelligence in a computer could only be achieved if these four assumptions were correct but that, in fact, they were all false. These assumptions were the biological assumption, the psychological assumption, the epistemological assumption, and the ontological assumption.
The biological assumption is based on the fact that neural firings in the brain are “all or nothing” bursts of energy. This observation from neuroscience has been extrapolated to imply that such firings therefore correspond to bits of information in a digital computer, which operate in a binary “all or nothing” manner. In a computer, each bit of information is a discrete unit that has a particular symbolic function. But in the brain, Dreyfus argues, the neural firings that superficially resemble such bits of information are modified and “interpreted” according to many other localized conditions, such as rate of pulsing, frequency of pulsing along particular pathways, and interaction with other neurons. In short, the biology of the brain appears to be more analog than digital in character.
The psychological assumption prompts a somewhat philosophical treatment from Dreyfus. Researchers in AI usually assume that human psychology is a process that operates rather like a computer program, that is, that it is essentially an exercise in information processing. The problem for AI researchers is how to translate the physical properties of the brain into the higher-level intellectual concepts of the mind. As long as the brain is described in terms of its physical behavior, there is no problem; seeing a chair can be described as the presence of light waves on the retina causing a sequence of chemical reactions in the brain, all of which can be described quite precisely. But to speak of really “seeing” a chair, it is necessary to use a different sort of language, language which is more appropriate to the mind than the brain. AI researchers, according to Dreyfus, attempt to bridge this gap by suggesting that there is a level of information processing that occurs in the brain that can organize neuro-chemical bits of information into higher-level concepts. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that this is the case; in fact, in the absence of evidence, AI researchers postulate as yet unknown information processing functions of the brain, merely based on the supposed analogy with computers.
The epistemological assumption is concerned with the way in which humans know how to perform particular actions. It describes the belief that all non-arbitrary behavior can be formalized, and therefore can be reproduced. Dreyfus argues that any such formalization of human behavior, which would enable it to be programmed into a computer, would merely result in an imitation, rather than a reproduction, of that behavior. The computer would need to follow discrete stages of processing in order to perform any particular function, and Dreyfus is far from convinced that this is in fact how humans behave in practice. AI researchers assume that behavior must follow certain heuristic steps, and that where someone is unaware of following such steps that they must be being carried out unconsciously. Against this view, Dreyfus argues that human behavior is always rooted in a particular situation and orientated towards certain goals. Because of this, people effortlessly grasp the particular local aspect of any subject under consideration due to their experience in the situation. A computer has to work through all possible interpretations, discard those that are irrelevant, and focus on those that are relevant. Human beings do not follow such procedures due to their being located in a particular existential situation.
The ontological assumption concerns a fundamental problem for AI research. As Dreyfus notes, “the data with which the computer must operate if it is to perceive, speak, and in general behave intelligently, must be discrete, explicit, and determinate; otherwise it will not be the sort of information which can be given to the computer so as to be processed by rule.” Because computers must operate in terms of such discrete data, it has become habitual for AI researchers to make the assumption that this data is actually present as an aspect of the world; that we, in fact, perceive the world through such data. Contra such researchers, Dreyfus posits that, even where we are able to make explicit our perceptions of certain objects, any such fact is itself contextualized by its particular human situation: “Even a chair is not understandable in terms of any set of facts or ‘elements of knowledge.’ To recognize an object as a chair, for example, means to understand its relation to other objects and to human beings. This involves a whole context of human activity of which the shape of our body, the institution of furniture, the inevitability of fatigue, constitute only a small part.” Moreover, this situation cannot itself be reduced to isolated, context-free facts; it is colored by influences from the preceding situation, so that we build up associations and interpretations over time.
For a computer, this learning-through-time model presents a problem. If data can only be interpreted according to a situation, and if that situation relies for its meaning on the previous situation, then it seems to lead to an infinite regress. At some point, a programmer has to decide what information to give to a computer to begin with, and this will be based on the programmer’s own, human, situation; it will not arise naturally from the computer’s ”consciousness.” In humans, this paradox is avoided by the fact that we are, in Dreyfus’ words, ”wired genetically as babies” to recognize certain stimuli as positive and nurturing, and others as harmful. This appeal to genetics provides a powerful argument for the unique nature of human consciousness.
The Traditionalist View
According to Traditionalist teachings, the unique, inimitable aspect of the human being corresponds with the Divine. This aspect is mostly obscured by more transient aspects of the self, and in the modern climate it is precisely those ephemeral, shallow characteristics that find greatest resonance in their outer surroundings. Ananda Coomaraswamy writes about the supremacy of the Divine aspect of the self and entreats that it is necessary to experience the death of the personal self, that is, of the transient, passing attributes of one’s biography, and to realize the eternal aspect of the self which is identified with God. Thus:
“I” neither think nor see, but there is Another who alone sees, hears, thinks in me and acts through me; an Essence, Fire, Spirit, or Life that is no more or less “mine” than “yours,” but that never itself becomes anyone; a principle that informs and enlivens one body after another, and that which there is no other, that transmigrates from one body to another, one that is never born and never dies, though president at every birth and death.
This “spirit” that animates all beings, yet somehow transcends each, is the part of the self which is seen as being truly authentic. We recognize it throughout religion and folklore. When a child is born his spirit is delivered into him from the heavens, and we say that he has been delivered by a stork. When he dies, he ascends to sit with angels whose wings denote that he has returned to the same airy realm from whence he came. In heathen times, he would have been escorted by similarly-winged Valkyries.
Norse theology provides us with another insight into the way that this spirit partakes of many whilst retaining unity. When Odin sits on his throne, Hliðskjálf, he is said to be able to see everything in the world. He becomes omniscient by virtue of the fact that he is the All-Father, the fundamental generating principle in the world, and as such he is the spirit, or animating force, which expresses its particularities through each of us. He can see through our eyes because, to the extent that we are authentically alive, he is us.
Similarly, Odin’s ravens, Hugin and Munin, are said to leave him in the morning and return in the evening to tell him everything that they have witnessed around the world. The name Hugin means thought, whilst Munin means memory. Again, this attests to the omniscience of Odin. That Hugin and Munin are winged messengers again denotes that it is the realm of the spirit which is the key to understanding the nature of this transpersonal consciousness.
The omniscient aspect of Odin is retained even today through the attenuated figure of Santa Claus, who is able to see whether children are behaving or not. The importance of omniscience in these tales is not to signify that Odin is a different order of being than us, but to show that the Divine spirit is something which is transmitted through us. Odin is omniscient because he is all of us; he is the summation of being. In this sense, then, we can see why Coomaraswamy draws attention to the duality of being:
Our whole tradition everywhere affirms that “there are two in us”; the Platonic mortal and immortal “souls,“ Hebrew and Islamic nefesh (nafs) and ruah (ruh), Philo’s “soul” and “Soul of the soul,“ Egyptian Pharaoh and his Ka, Chinese Outer and Inner sage, Christian Outer and Inner Man, Psyche and Pneuma, and Vedantic “self” (ātman) and “self’s Immortal Self” (asya amrta ātman, antaḥ puruṣa)—one the soul, self, or life that Christ requires us to “hate” and “deny,” if we would follow him, and that other soul or self that can be saved.
The Traditionalist view of human individualism, as representing the ephemeral, transient aspect of a deeper and lasting higher self, is quite at odds with the sick ennui expressed by Larkin when contemplating the ultimate loss of the self. For Larkin, everything that can be experienced, all potentialities, are locked up inside the individual consciousness of a human being, and with his death all possibility is destroyed forever. For the Traditionalist worldview, this human consciousness is barely even the tip of the iceberg; in many respects, it is a positive obstruction to the proper apprehension of the authentic self. Hence Coomaraswamy’s approval of Meister Eckhart’s words, “the soul must put itself to death.” From the Traditionalist perspective, Larkin is in error in perceiving the entirety of his self to be contained within his individual personality. His terror of “the total emptiness forever” is the fear of one who has never suspected the presence of an animating life force anterior to the everyday personality. For such an individual, death is indeed a total cessation, as the self is only identified with its transient expression. The aim of Traditionalist teachings is to unveil the profound spirit which transcends the individual consciousness.
A Surprising Ally
In positing this dichotomy between the teachings of Traditionalist metaphysics on the one hand and the contemporary materialist paradigm on the other, it is surprising to note that some support for the Traditionalist view can be found deeply embedded in the enemy camp.
The most strident exponent of the modern atheistic, materialist paradigm is the neo-Darwinian evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins. In his classic neo-Darwinist text, The Selfish Gene, Dawkins argues that human beings, as well as other evolved organisms, are not the discrete, autonomous entities that they might consider themselves to be. Instead, such bodies are “gene machines,” organic vehicles for DNA molecules, whose purpose is to spread and protect the particular genetic sequences which inhabit them. For Dawkins, it is the gene, the unit of chromosomal material involved in evolution, that is really in the driving seat, acting according to the unfathomable dictates of millennia of blind selection. This process of selection, whilst without purpose, must necessarily favor genes which are good at surviving. So much is axiomatic. Those genes which survive well will do so by inhabiting organic material that is capable of providing good protection. Such organic material might range in sophistication from a thin cell wall to a human being.
The importance of Dawkins’ insight is in seeing the gene as the basic unit of life, and in understanding that it is the gene, not the organism in which it resides, which is the driving force behind evolutionary development. It might not be stretching it too far to say that, when viewed from this neo-Darwinian perspective, the purpose of life is the continuation of the gene, although Dawkins would not use the word “purpose.” It is also worth remembering that the survival of the gene is not a matter of individual genes establishing a line of heredity as organisms do; it is a matter of them perpetuating exact copies of themselves. DNA is a sequence of information which is used to shape and build organic material. Whilst the body it inhabits is born anew in each manifestation of a new generation, the genetic information present within the DNA remains exactly the same. In Dawkins’ words:
[The gene] is no more likely to die when it is a million years old than when it is only a hundred. It leaps from body to body down the generations, manipulating body after body in its own way and for its own ends, abandoning a succession of mortal bodies before they sink in senility and death. The genes are the immortals . . . We, the individual survival machines in the world, can expect to live a few more decades. But the genes in the world have an expectation of life that must be measured not in decades but in thousands and millions of years.
Whilst Dawkins’ detractors often focus on his secular, atheistic concerns, what is remarkable about the selfish gene idea is the way that it seems to support a Traditionalist view of the self. As Dreyfus pointed out in his objections to AI, the human being is born with certain genetic predispositions which orientate him into seeking certain cues from his environment, such as a mother’s nipple. From these simple cues, it follows that the human organism will potentially be able to achieve its primary aim of survival, and then develop into a more sophisticated individuated consciousness. But this individuated consciousness is not replicable in an artificial context, because it requires for its manifestation a prior genetic history of countless millennia of patient evolutionary development. “We are millions of yesterdays,“ wrote Austin Osman Spare, “and what appears autogenic is the work of unknown mediators who permit, or not, our acts by the mysterious chemistry of our believing.”
For Coomaraswamy, we are vehicles of the Divine spirit; for Dawkins, we are vehicles of pure information. Consider the similarity between Coomaraswamy’s words, “a principle that informs and enlivens one body after another, and that which there is no other, that transmigrates from one body to another, one that is never born and never dies,” and Dawkins’, “It leaps from body to body down the generations, manipulating body after body in its own way and for its own ends, abandoning a succession of mortal bodies before they sink in senility and death.” It should not be a source of great concern that one writer is considering the incomprehensible vastness of God whilst the other is considering infinitesimally tiny units of information. Both demonstrate the way in which our lives are suffused with an essence which is in us, but is more than us; and both show that we are expressions of something far greater than our egoic selves can truly comprehend. And if Dawkins is the primary atheist of our age, it should be of no consequence; after all, what is God if not the hidden intentions of eternity?
It might be objected that this brief consideration of the metaphysics of death gives no comfort. We will all die, “and soon” as Larkin mordantly reminds us. And for the outer self, the egoic personality, there is no hope: it will perish with the body. But this personality is already an illusion, a conceit of the organism. It is no more the real self than your name is the real you. It must be put to death by the real, immortal self. For anyone who can shift the locus of their being into this immortal self, reunion with the Divine awaits. Only the dead can know what it means to be dead.
1. Ananda Coomaraswamy, “The Meaning of Death,” in Coomaraswamy: Selected Papers, Volume 2: Metaphysics (Princeton: Bollingen, 1977), 429.
2. Hubert Dreyfus, Alchemy and Artificial Intelligence (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation, 1965).
3. Hubert Dreyfus, What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992), 206.
4. Ibid., 210.
5. Coomaraswamy, “The Meaning of Death,” 428.
6. Ibid., 428.
7. Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 34.
8. Austin Osman Spare, Axiomata (London: Fulgur, 1992).
Part 2 of 3 (Part 1 here )
Esoteric Hollywood: Sex, Cults and Symbols in Film 
Walterville, Or.: Trine Day, 2016
The same explains the proliferation of “Gnostic” or “Illuminati” symbolism in filmed entertainment. Just as directors and screenwriters love surrealism (since it absolves them of any need to create a coherent plot), they love throwing together random bits of “symbolism.” Add in a certain level of laziness (“Hey, it worked for Kanye/Gaga/Kei$ha”), and it’s irresistible.
Of course, one could still point out that all this playing around with symbolism is dangerous in itself. In his Bible-thumping mode, Dyer probably thinks it’s all just stupid, the “vain repetitions” of the pagans, dangerous only as a tool of manipulation, but for someone who thinks magick is real, having it flaunted about by Kanye West is perhaps scarier than some vast occult conspiracy.
When taken individually, the symbols described above can be simply considered as “cool-looking” . . . [but] the packing all of these signs and symbols in one comprehensive 13-minute performance cannot however be dismissed as “random images”. Quite to the contrary, the combination of all of these symbols form a whole and define with great depth the underlying philosophy and Agenda of those in power – the Illuminati.
No, since magick is real, the untalented are able to access, channel, and manipulate these real symbols. No need for an occult hand behind the scenes.
What of the analyses themselves? Dyer does well to begin with Kubrick, devoting his Part One (after the Hollywood Babylon section, which is rather oddly stuck in here rather than standing alone) to Eyes Wide Shut , The Shining , and 2001  (“An Alchemical Spatial Odyssey”). I say he does well because Kubrick is the most obvious target for this kind of analysis, since while having long-rumored ties to intel, it’s even more obvious that “Kubrick’s perspective was that all details are crucial and significant – the placement of everything is deliberate, often fraught with symbolism.”
This would seem to call out for my own paranoiac-critical method, but the effect here seems to be to force Dyer to rein in his institutional paranoia and concentrate on the rich symbolism on the screen itself. Eyes Wide Shut is identified as an initiation ritual in itself: “Not only is it supposed to be an initiation for the couple, the intention is to initiate the viewer, through revelation of the method, to the nature of this cryptocratic underground, assuming one is willing to see.”
And Dyer is forced to follow along the path, pointing out the presence and role of pillars, mirrors, gardens, and hexagrams from beginning to end. Even so, he can’t resist a little anti-Gnostic dig when forced to acknowledge that “[g]ardens also bring to mind Eden, and the expulsion of Adam and Eve due to sin; or, it could refer to their coming initiation into the ‘garden of the gods,’ so to speak.” And ultimately, the cryptocracy reasserts its hold on his imagination:
The real story is the ritual journey of coming out of the dream state, with the result being the “awakening” [note the scare quotes] to grasp the reality of the occult elite, the social power structure as it really is – rich elites who are into bizarre cults and aberrant sex magick. This magical surrealism as an initiatory rite is the true intention of the film.
Dyer also does well with The Shining, identifying both broad themes – “the spectral haunting of America itself, in terms of its dark past in relation to the Native Americans” – and the personal focus on Jack, where the “indigenous animistic spiritualism . . . manifest[s] as a form of generational curse.” Jack is attempting to write a book, but the “book” is his life, especially his family life, and the method is the use of simulacra to harness the power of synchronicity to enable him to create his own new future; in short, a Promethean taking charge of his own life, which must – so Dyer thinks – result in failure and death.
In this philosophy, mastering the inner world leads to a mastering of the outer world as the initiate or “enlightened one” meditates to achieve a perceptive unity between the subconscious dream realm and the phenomena of waking experience. . . . His gruesome reenactment of spiritual, ritual sacrifice . . . is required for his imagined entrance into the hall of fame – the abode of the “beautiful people.”
Especially galling to this Judeo-Christian is the rejection of wholesome Family Values by the apprentice mage:
Jack’s demonic bidders offer him a place among the privileged (he thinks), if he is willing to rid himself of his family.
Jack has come to despise his family, who he thinks are his stumbling blocks to greatness
Jack is . . . seeking to traumatize and sacrifice his family for entrance into greatness, which he believes is being stalled due to his family duties.
Dyer despises the titanic quest, and its disdain for “family values,” so much that he even stoops the “homosexual” canard, arguing like some SJW that Jack must be secretly gay, “despite his masculine appearance,” since we come upon him glancing through an issue of Playgirl at the Overlook. 
And behind it all must be the inevitable Pedophiliac Elites: “[T]he satanic occult elite that rule the West [are] of pedophilic generational bloodlines [that] parasitically manipulate the underclass through the false promise of worldly prosperity.”
All this comes together in the overarching symbol of the maze, which is both the Underworld and Jack’s psyche, or rather, “Jack’s own psyche is plunging into the underworld maze of his dark persona.” Here again, Dyer’s Judeo-Christian bias creeps in, presenting us with this (deliberately?) false dichotomy: “[[I]t is a cyclical process of a time-bound, emergent deity arising from within the kosmos itself, and not an eternal deity who alone subsists outside time and space who creates ex nihilo.” And so, although he can grasp that, “eternal return will be the punishment Jack concocts for himself in his psychical prison for failing to complete his task as ordered by Grady.”
He completely fails to notice that Danny is able to escape Jack, and the maze, by retracing his steps and jumping sideways out of the maze entirely; along with Will Graham’s leap through the plate glass window into the Tooth Fairy’s kitchen in Manhunter , one of the greatest symbols of Passing the Buck in cinema.
Along the way, there’s plenty of scope for the paranoiac-critic, such as the significance of a room numbered 237 as well as the recurrence of 42; and above all, the return of those pillars, in the form of the infamous ghost twins; Dyer even allows himself to wonder if these twin/towers, combined with 2001, have any relation to the events of 9/11.
This leads us to the Big Enchilada of cinematic symbolism and of movie metaphysics: 2001: A Space Odyssey. Again, as with Jack and Danny, the return of the astronaut Bowman as the Starchild in 2001 is not correctly understood: “Bowman breaks free of Plato’s’ cave to cheat death and rise to rebirth among the gods, and the process repeats in eternal return, with a new Genesis.”
We see that what is at stake is Dyer’s Judeo-Christian blinders, which reduce everything to a false dichotomy: “It is a cyclical process of a time-bound, emergent deity arising from within the kosmos itself, and not an eternal deity who alone subsists outside time and space who creates ex nihilo.”
Evolution is indeed the key term. There is not only a recurring cycle of entrapment (Jack), but a spiral of escape (Danny). Bowman evolves to a higher level (Starchild, apotheosis); if there is a new Genesis, it is not a return to the same point.
I keep emphasizing blinders, because Dyer is by no means unintelligent or unperceptive. He certainly grasps the essence of the film, and also begins to sound like Jorjani:
The monolith is consciously “Luciferian.” Promoting man to a Promethean new aeon each time it appears, and always connected to technological advance through the “sacrifice” of warfare. . . . “[C]onsciousness” [is] correlated with techne, but not merely techne, it is technology as an extension of space and power – warfare.
He has perceived the element of Atlas here as well as Prometheus, in this brilliant insight:
As a form of a cube, the monolith seems to embody space itself. This is partly my unique thesis on the monolith. . . . [The] six directions are thus a geometrical box or cube . . . So the cube, and in particular the black cube form outer space is space. 2001 is therefore about this dimension, in totality, that expresses itself primarily in two fundamental ontological realities – time and space.
Techne is the extender for this endeavor, providing the ship and means by which he may project himself further in space.
Part Two is “Spielberg’s Android Space Brothers.” At this point I will confess that apart from his TV movie Duel , and his version of “Kick the Can” in The Twilight Zone  movie, I have never seen a Spielberg film, and have no intention of doing so now or ever. Like I said, I’m a Lazy Bastard. Let’s move on.
Part Three is the far more interesting “70s-80s Fantasy Dystopia,” an admittedly subjective and idiosyncratic selection. The period certainly did give us a bumper crop of dystopian symbolism, but with titles like Labyrinth , The Neverending Story , and Prometheus  (a 2012 film which somehow sneaks in), you can imagine that he’s not very happy.
Nevertheless, there’s some interesting things here, but by far the most successful analysis deals with Zardoz  (John Boorman, 1972), a much-derided film that is also (perhaps inevitably) a personal favorite. Dyer manages to rehabilitate the film by tying it in with Kubrick’s contemporaneous 2001, making it a kind of handcrafted, artisanal version of the big-budget epic.
I am here to declare Zardoz as part of that company of actual “Illuminati” films.
[Zardoz is a] philosophical allegory, replete with esoteric symbology and archeo-futurism that culminates in a Nietzschean LSD-trip cavalcade of existential nihilism, where death is “natural” and itself God.
Boorman accurately captures the nihilistic character of the technocratic age, where the quantification and so-called “perfecting of nature” so adamantly sought by the trans-humanists ends in meaninglessness.
Dyer finds the message of the film, like 2001, to be the Promethean claim of archeofuturism: we shall be as gods because we have been gods; “the gnosis of the ancients in fact contains the secrets of the future.”
[A]ccording the masonic mythos Boorman will employ, the secrets of nature are merely the secrets of science [and] the real “God” is thus an artificial deus ex machina, an emergent deity forged in the labs of ancient scientists who had since purposefully erased the secrets to the “Tabernacle.”
[T]echnology itself is the secret of God, and God Himself is nothing more than a kind of vast, imprisoning Matrix-style demiurge.
As usual, Dyer thinks this is all very bad ju-ju, and wants to warn his good, white Christian readers away from this threat.
Zed is thus a new Satan or Lucifer, invading the Edenic Garden of potentially immortal man, a Prometheus embodying the alternate version of the Genesis narrative as told by the Hermeticists and gnostics, where Satan becomes a liberator.
Again, Dyer is unable to see, or believe, the spiral nature of this archeofuturist doctrine, and he presents it as a kind of circular archeofutilism:
History is the cyclical turn of the wheel of time, where civilizations rise and fall and at the apex, man discovers technology, which was a secret inside himself all along, as he projected these phantasms of his own forgotten genetic memories into externally existing metaphysical realities (think Bruno Bauer). Again, Nietzsche dominates Boorman’s narrative, from the notion of decadent elites, to the ouroboros of eternal return.
Dyer thinks he’s revealing the horrible secret of Prometheanism, but since, as noted above, it amounts an implausible claim that no intelligent person could have fallen for in the first place, the reader must decide whether Dyer misunderstands it, or is deliberately distorting it, perhaps for pastoral purposes (can’t let the lambs go astray!).
2. Contrast the painfully earnest little stories that even Hair Metal bands would concoct for videos in the classic ‘80s, which still persists in the stubbornly retro world of “country” music.
3. Also, making the sign of Horus is less likely to get a b***h cut than the wrong gang sign.
4. “He becomes a myth, a spook story that criminals tell their kids at night. Rat on your pop, and Keyser Söze will get you.” And no one ever really believes.” Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects  (Bryan Singer, 1995).
5. “In this connection, one can speak of a ‘transcendental realism’, which is confirmed also in the conception of the objective effectiveness of the Initiatory rite: it is admitted that its power is, on the spiritual plane, as objective and impersonal, and as detached from morality, as, on the material plane, actions of a technical nature are. Like such actions, the rite only requires that certain objective conditions are satisfied; then the effect will follow of its own accord by necessity, whoever the subject….” Julius Evola, “The Concept of Initiation .”
6. “Madonna’s Superbowl Halftime Show: A Celebration of the Grand Priestess of the Music Industry ,” at The Vigiliant Citizen.
7. “The paranoiac critical method of Dalí is an attempt to systematize irrational thought. When asked why the centaurs in his painting, Marsupial Centaurs , were riddled with holes, he replied, ‘The holes are like parachutes, only safer.’ This response is often used as an example of Dalí being Dalí, purposefully obscure, self-absorbed, and downright snotty. The reader might interpret this comment as a nose thumbing, coupled with an ‘If you don’t know why the holes are there, you Philistine, I will never tell you.’ The fact is, however, that Dalí is simply stating the reason for the holes, which upon examination, becomes unmistakable, true to its Paranoiac Critical ancestry.” “THE PARANOIAC CRITICAL METHOD ” by Josh Sonnier. As an example of the transition from irrational to inevitable, consider my discussion of Clifton Webb’s Mr. Belvedere as an incarnation of Krishna in “The Babysitting Bachelor as Aryan Avatar: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty .” One might compare my use of the Chakravartin symbolism there with Dyer’s rather more literalistic use here, where the circles are literally women dancing at the film’s famous orgy. Here as well, Dyer says that “Nightingale is chosen because he’s an old friend of Bill’s,” but, Nightingale being a fairly odd name, I would like to know if this forges a link with A Dandy In Aspic , where the assassination of the agent named Nightingale leads to Eberlin being sent off on his own initiatic journey; see my review, “Passing the Buck: Spy, Dandy, Übermensch .” I’ve tried my hand with Kubrick and a film Dyer mentions only in passing, in “From Odd John to Strangelove ,” reprinted in Green Nazis in Space!  (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).
8. A term used by Michael Hoffman II, cited several times by Dyer; Greg Johnson has expressed Hoffman’s idea as “[t]he intentional revelation of the designs of the rulers for essentially magical, irrational reasons.” See his comment on Gregory Hood’s “Why Argo Won Best Picture .”
9. One might compare the methods of the Tooth Fairy in Manhunter; See my “Thanks for Watching: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 1 ” and “Phil & Will: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 2 .”
10. A better question might be why the Overlook displays such supposedly risqué publications in its public areas (or does Dyer think Jack brought it along with him to whip out if he needed to pass the time?). In the Seinfeld episode “The Jimmy ,” Jerry is disgusted about the Penthouse magazines he found in Tim Whatley’s (Breaking Bad ’s Bryan Cranston!) dental office, although admits he did take a peek.
11. But of course, the “new aeon” is the next level.
12. Hence his chapter is entitled “2001: An Alchemical Spatial Odyssey.”
13. Again, Jorjani: “Reflection on modern science allows a return to the primordial. Not a return to the past, but a movement into the future from out of the primordial – a development wherein the vital force of evolution becomes consciously self-directing.” Prometheus and Atlas (London: Arktos Media, 2016), Chapter Six, “The Occultation of Supernature.”
14. As Jorjani emphasizes, in the post-Christian age, Prometheus can only return as Lucifer; op. cit., Chapter Twelve.
Part 1 of 3
Esoteric Hollywood: Sex, Cults and Symbols in Film 
Walterville, Or.: Trine Day, 2016
“A film is a ribbon of dreams. The camera is much more than a recording apparatus; it is a medium via which messages reach us from another world that is not ours and that brings us to the heart of a great secret. Here magic begins.” – Orson Welles
Damn this chap Dyer! If only he had just put that Welles quote in his text somewhere, I could have appropriated it as the epigraph for my own forthcoming collection of film essays. But no, he had to go and use it himself! We hates him forever!
In Esoteric Hollywood, Jay Dyer has “has compiled his most read essays, combining philosophy, comparative religion, symbolism and geopolitics and their connections to film,” and now he “invites the reader to consider the existential experience of the various films chosen and how, though it may seem counterintuitive, fictional films can present more ‘reality’ than mainstream media.”
Now, as David Lynch might say, the words here are not what then seem. You might skim over this paragraph in the first section, “Film as Ritual,” and think he’s talking about “the various films chosen” in the book, but actually he’s talking about the book itself, as we can see if we read the immediately following two lines carefully:
Cryptography and cyphers have, for millennia, encoded hidden messages in many forms, and so it will be with this book. Think of it as a hidden message that is intended to be understood, but not immediately apparent. . . . Thus, the reader will travel with me on a mental journey into the psychosphere, understand the semiotic system I utilize, and in turn be able to interpret films in a deeper, esoteric sense on their own.
The message isn’t in the films, it’s in the book. The message is always hidden in plain sight, the method is always revealed.
Before getting to the message, a little background is needed. Leaning on Eliade, Dyer correctly posits that:
Space-age man is just as “religious,” if not more so, than ignorant, savage ancient man. The difference emerges as merely one of form and medium, not substance, and his new temple is wherever the television screen or theater feeds him his new narrative by which to read his world . . . The liturgical icon of old has now become the moving icon of vivacious info-babe, the holy mothers of Channel 5 Monastery.
So far so good. But, all is not well in our groovy, twenty-first century “global village.”
Unfortunately, our new gods do not always issue messages of hope and salvation. Our devas are very much gods of wrath and vengeance, inflicting upon the mass psyche a continual barrage of spells and incantations geared toward confusion and hysteria.
That bit about “gods of wrath and vengeance” will prove to be pretty ironic, but more anon. For now, things are even worse:
Few are those concerned with the virus of programmed liturgical psychodrama their magical mirror screens enchant them with, as they are lulled under the vodoun spell of the zombie.
But aren’t zombies kinda cool? Aha, that’s exactly what They want you to believe! In reality,
[t]he zombie is under the spell that death is life, that parasitism will grant power, that sex is death, when in reality zombies are death feeding on their own death, the fullest blossoming of the covenant of death, which is self-destruction. . . . The iconography of the screen is the crafted narrative and mythology of the establishment’s choosing.
And needless to say, that narrative is self-aggrandizement:
The “secret society” of priests exercise their control of the tribe . . . with the very same ritual psychodrama the mass media mavens of our day utilize, only our ascended Hollywood hegumen are more technologically sophisticated.
For them, the wires and waves of electrical signals are currents are the medium for their message, and the medium’s message is the medium – to further its own existence as the source of meaning thought its faithful presentation of its own mystagogical psychodrama.
Modern man is far from being irreligious, even in our science-driven era. He has, as Michel Foucault said, simply changed his old priests and gods for new ones, and in Esoteric Hollywood, I will decipher how this has been done.
In Part One, “Hollywood Babylon and Kubrick,” Dyer starts, in Chapter One, “The Occult Empire,” to put some flesh on the zombies. Hollywood has been aptly compared to Babylon, since “[t]he holy sites and rites of Hollywood are not the altars of mainstream religion, but another ancient religion, ultimately summed up in the epithet of the ancient mysteries.”
And who are the new priests?
The wizards behind the curtain of Hollywood are drab old studio executives nowadays working with the intelligence agencies, calling the shots for occulted reasons, for the purpose of mesmerizing the Dorothy-like populace of America.
Dyer then draws a consequence that may not be obvious:
The Hollywood magical city of Oz doesn’t exist, in fact, and is instead a place where reality comes closer to the film 8mm. . . . Holly-Oz is where naïve princesses go to become whores or end up in porn, like Betty/Diane in Mulholland Drive, and after they’re used up, the system tosses them away as refuse or kills them like so many stars and starlets who have been “suicided” or sacrificed to the system. . . . “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
The reader should note that the psychodramas now have a name, and a direct historical reference: the ancient Mysteries; and the warning comes from conventional Judeo-Christian religion, for which the ur-Gospel of Mark  serves as a synecdoche.
What we have here, then, is not so much a book of film analysis as another instance of the millennial-long struggle between what might be called the religious, or specifically Judeo-Christian, mentality, and the Hermetic, gnostic, or (in the Greek context) heroic (Heracles) or Titanic (Prometheus) mentality. As Evola says, there are
[m]yths in which there are heroes who confront the tree, and divine natures (in the Bible, God himself is hypostasized) that defend it and impede access to it. And the result, then, is a battle variously interpreted, according to the traditions.
There is a double possibility: in one case the tree is conceived as a temptation, which leads to ruin and damnation for anyone who succumbs to it; in the other, it is conceived as an object of possible conquest which, after dealing with the dragons or divine beings defending it, transforms the darer into a god and sometimes transfers the attributes of divinity or immortality from one race to another.
A review is not the place to decide, or even detail, such a long and complex ideological dispute. It should be noted, though, that Dyer makes no real attempt to make his position explicit or to argue for it. Occasionally, he will simply note that the other view is “stupid.” When he does deign to argue, the arguments are rather embarrassingly jejune, especially for someone claiming to have a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. For example, at one point he simply sneers that all this is “solipsism,” which is the sort of faux-profound point I like to imagine a Plato or Hegel or Blake, even, responding to with, “Gosh, I never thought of that! Thanks so much for bringing that to my attention!”
This Evangelical perspective informs – or distorts – the cinematic analyses on hand, but after all they are merely the window-dressing to attract the readers who will absorb the Abrahamic message.
This distortion occurs in two ways, or areas, which might best be outlined by first contrasting my own perspective. If the Hermetic path is true, in the (forgive me, Heidegger) sense of giving an accurate reflection of reality, then it is a body of doctrine, a science, if you will, that one can understand, or not; and Dyer often doesn’t.
In my own analyses, I have emphasized the contrast of the circle, symbolic of the senseless repetition of phenomenal reality (samsara), and the spiral, in which one casts off ones karma or fate (a process I call “passing the buck”) and instead of returning, ascends to the next level, the Turn of the Cosmic Screw.
Originating in the Pythagorean obsession with circles, which, as we have had occasion to mention in various contexts, is the pseudo-symbol of the circle, horizontal enslavement to the material world, reincarnation, “The Path of the Fathers,” substituted by the Counter-Initiation for the dear, the blessed Spiral, symbol of vertical Liberation, “The Path of the Gods.” As Alain Daniélou expresses it:
The fifths [in an acoustically valid or Traditional system] form a spiral whose sounds, coiled around themselves, can never meet. For us, this limitless spiral can be the joint in the center of the world, the narrow gate that will allow us to escape from the appearance of a closed universe, to travel in other worlds and explore their secrets.
As the great twentieth-century mystic, Neville, puts it :
Without the resurrection, you would know infinite circuitry, repeating the same states over and over again. But, after moving around the circle unnumbered times, the perfect image is formed, removing you from the circle to enter a spiral and move up as the person who created it all.
Throughout, Dyer confuses spiral with circle; for example: “The spiral has the significance here [Vertigo ] of alerting the viewer that we are trapped.” And quoting his fellow Christian symbologist, Michael A. Hoffman II: “The resulting ‘evolutionary being’ [in 2001 ] was revealed to be . . . a homunculus out of the shadows . . . guardian deity of alchemical miscegenation, and entity beyond the spiral of Nature.”
Which is true, except that since Dyer thinks spirals are circles, he interprets this “spiral” to be an instance of the Circle of Eternal Return (Nietzsche, of course), and not a spiral evolutionary advance. But as a Judeo-Christian, Dyer must (deliberately?) confuse the circle and the spiral, seeing both as symbols of Evil: “The spiral [of Babylonian occult mind control] goes even deeper.”
This isn’t entirely pedantic, as, I think, it leads to his Judeo-Christian distortion of the Hermetic path. Lacking the concept of the spiral, Dyer thinks the path of “evolution” is actually just a big, dumb circle and the idea of transcendence is a sneaky-snaky, Satanic siren song leading not to promised freedom and eternal perfection, but to enslavement and death.
Instead of following our Titanic destiny, we should just be nice goyim and bow down to our Lord and Master, the alien space god JHVH-1, who may, out of his inscrutable will, be nice to us and not burn us forever as we deserve. Amen.
By contrast, the Promethean perspective:
Reflection on modern science allows a return to the primordial. Not a return to the past, but a movement into the future from out of the primordial – a development wherein the vital force of evolution becomes consciously self-directing.
Apart from failing to accurately present the Hermetic view, there’s also the issue of where it comes from, if not from the real world itself.
If metaphysics is true, then its elements will occur naturally.
If metaphysics is a “stupid” fairy tale and Satanic snare, they must be put in there, and by somebody.
As Dyer says, “The iconography of the screen is the crafted narrative and mythology of the establishment’s choosing.”
As I began by somewhat solipsistically referencing my own film essays, I hope I may be forgiven for returning to the subject. In my own work, I have been far more interested in what isn’t planned in films, that which slips by when the writers and producers aren’t looking or when they try something and fail. That’s when the mask of Hollywood crap and propaganda slips and reality seeps out.
For example, Dyer traces a wonderful connection from The Black Dahlia  (De Palma, 2006) to Lost Highway (Lynch, 1997) to The Big Sleep  (Hawks, 1946), yet when introducing the latter, says, “Noir would not be a place one would expect esoteric symbolism.” Which may be literally true, but that’s exactly why it can be a fertile field for it – no one’s looking.
Moreover, Dyer needs to explain who put it there, and that’s where we veer off into Conspiracy Land. Here again, Dyer eschews argument and relies on insinuation, changing his putative actors as suits his purpose. As near as I can tell, they comprise an ever-expanding circle [or spiral?!] somewhat like this:
Cigar-chomping Hollywood execs, behind whom are
Various government and intelligence entities, behind whom are
Global elites, of the money and power sort, behind whom are
It’s clear that the categories are somewhat porous, with people moving from one to another; Dyer is always happy to find a Fleming, for example, move from intel to writing movie scripts, or a Crowley moving from occult leader to secret agent, and one might easily imagine someone moving through all four sectors (Trump? Ahrnold?) either as a career path or as needed.
Nevertheless, the fourth ring is, by its very nature, somewhat amorphous, and Dyer occasionally hints that even those in the third ring are unaware of the occult powers they are playing around with; the Strauss-Kahns are just useful puppets of the Crowleys.
Anyway, the point is that while I love a good conspiracy story as much as anyone, and as a proponent of Feyerabend’s principle that “Anything Goes” when it comes to empirical investigation, I’m also (in addition to being a Natural Born Cheapskate) a Lazy Bastard, and my method has the advantage of simply not needing to work up any institutional backdrop, especially an occulted one. You may find that a convenience as well, or as always, your mileage may differ.
I might suggest an analogy with smoking in the movies. There’s a persistent notion that tobacco companies sponsored or bribed their way into movies and TV. And it does seem that far more smoking occurs on screens than ever occurred in real life. But whatever the dastardly efforts of the coffin nail industry, there’s a much simpler explanation: directors and screenwriters loved smoking, since it ate up time and also gave actors something to do with their hands.
A good example is Red Zone Cuba , which I’ve extensively analyzed elsewhere . The three main characters are two hobos and an escaped con, and all three smoke constantly, especially the escapee, even when in a Cuban jail. This is in spite of never showing any of the penniless three buying or even stealing a pack, to say nothing of the cartons that must be stowed away in their truck. Even the penultimate shot of the film informs us that the convict “ran all the way to Hell with a penny (dramatic pause) and a broken cigarette.”
1. Book cover: “Jay Dyer a writer and researcher from the Southern US with a B.A. in philosophy, his graduate work focused on the interplay of literary theory, espionage and philosophy. He is dedicated to investigating the deeper themes and messages found in our globalist pseudo-culture, illustrating the connections between philosophy, metaphysics, secret societies, Hollywood, psychological warfare and comparative religion. Jay is a regular contributor to the popular Intelligence Hub 21st Century Wire and the scholarly Soul of the East, as well as conducting numerous interviews with experts in fields ranging from espionage to history to economics. Jay’s work has appeared on the web’s top alternative media outlets: Activist Post, Red Ice , Waking Times, Rense, Icke and Infowars, as well as appearing on the Alex Jones Show. Jay has broken national and international news, numerous viral alt news stories, as well as surpassing 1 million views in its first 4 years.”
2. Op. cit.
3. Thus, the medium, as Marshall McLuhan said, is the message. In Videodrome  (1983), David Cronenberg’s homage to fellow Canadian McLuhan (and starring future Trump supporter James Woods), the point is not the snuff films being broadcast but that the Videodrome signal causes brain tumors and hallucinations (or are they?). As the McLuhan character, Brian O’Blivion, says, “The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena: the Videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.”
4. The conjunction of info-babes and monasteries recalls Videodrome’s Nicky (Deborah Harry), a TV psychologist who later turns up among the robed-and-hooded torture masters of the Videodrome.
5. The choice of Mark is rich with irony, since Mark seems to preserve ancient Mystery traditions associated with the Jesus movement. What would Dyer make of a modern film featuring, as Mark’s account of the arrest of Jesus does, a youth alone with Jesus, clothed only in a sheet which he loses as he runs away nekkid? See Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark  (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973). In any event, “It is certainly possible to read Mark, even in the canonical text, as containing doctrines ascribed notoriously to the Gnostic Cerinthus and to the Ebionites, such as the adoption of Jesus as God’s son as of the Jordan baptism, when an angelic entry entered into him; and the substitution of Simon for Jesus on the cross of Golgotha.” The Human Bible New Testament ; translated and introduced by Robert M. Price (Cranford, NJ: American Atheist Press, 2014); reviewed here .
6. One can fairly sense Dyer rubbing his hands together with glee as he intones that “Cooper’s curiosity and desire for knowledge of the beyond [in Twin Peaks] . . . lead to his demise [just like] Fred Madison in Lost Highway.” Serves him right, the sinner!
7. The Hermetic Tradition: Symbols and Teachings of the Royal Art  (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1995), p. 4 (italics in original).
8. By contrast, the Alt Right has recently been graced with a detailed, closely argued and profoundly meditated account of the other side in Jason Reza Jorjani’s Prometheus and Atlas  (London: Arktos, 2016).
9. I myself have a Master’s degree . . . in Science!
10. It’s like when the SJW says, “But not every immigrant is bad” or “I know a black engineer.” Wow, your training in mathematical logic has taught you that one counterexample refutes a general proposition, and I never imagined a black engineer or Mexican non-rapist!
11. As Jason Reza Jorjani notes, Tricksters from Hermes to Barnum must add a little bit of truth to make their spiels successful. Op. cit., Introduction.
12. Music and the Power of Sound  (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1995), p. 8. See “My Wagner Problem . . . and Ours ” and “Our Wagner, Only Better: Harry Partch, Wild Boy of American Music ,” both reprinted in my collection The Eldritch Evola . . . & Others  (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014).
13. As Will Graham decodes Dr. Hannibal Lecter: “If one does what God does enough times, one becomes God.” See my “Thanks for Watching: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 1 ” and “Phil & Will: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 2 .”
14. Oops! “Another key thing to note is that people in these circles often refer to nature with a capital “N.” For example, as Francis Parker Yockey does in Imperium , as does Hitler in Chapter Two of Mein Kampf , for example, and David Duke in his junk. “This is not by accident, in my estimation. It is done because it is a specific rejection of the God of Mt. Sinai – the one true God, and a deifying of nature itself, as Devi makes clear.” Dyer, “The Satanic Nature of Nazism,” here .
15. “[T]he oligarchical plan . . . is not to heal man, but rather to end man.” Dyer’s view of the Hermetic tradition is dramatized in Night of the Blood Beast  (Gene Corman, 1958): “An astronaut crash lands back on Earth and apparently dies in the wreckage. His body does not deteriorate however, as he is being used as a breeding ground for an alien race of creatures whose ultimate goal is to assimilate our minds into theirs by killing us, eating our brains, and assimilating all the knowledge and experiences and personality contained therein into themselves. The alien creature thinks that he’s going to save humanity and give us immortality by doing this, but our heroes have other ideas. Will they be able to stop the creatures plan before it managed to create enough offspring to wipe out the whole human race? . . . This story had a very interesting aspect to it, in that we’re left wondering if the creature really is evil, or if it’s actually benevolent and just misunderstood.” B-Movie Central, here .
16. “The ‘infinite demand’ of these finite gods, namely Prometheus and Atlas, disclose the partisans of Revelation as enemy combatants loyal to our would-be slave drivers. The specters of Technoscience drive us on in rebellion against the One True God, with a will to liberate the Earth from those who are content to be His slaves, and who resentfully endeavor to enslave the alpine eagles of the Earth.” Jorjani, op. cit., Introduction fine. By contrast, Thomas Mann, who devoted four thick volumes to retelling the story of Joseph and his brothers , no doubt intends to draw the same moral as Dyer does from his fictional biography of Adrian Leverkühn, who dares to live boldly (Leverkuhn) only to have his meteoric career end, like Nietzsche’s, in syphilitic collapse.
17. Prometheus and Atlas, op. cit., Chapter Six, “The Occultation of Supernature.”
18. Henry: “My philosophy: metaphysics. What is metaphysics? A metaphysician doesn’t believe you’re dead when you die.” Mike Nelson: “So, he’s not much good at an accident.” MST3k, Episode 603, The Dead Talk Back .
19. “There appears to be an archaic force that projects an inexhaustible variety of mythic symbols onto nature, irresistibly framing the world in terms of meaningful relationships. . . . The incomprehensible is turned into what is most firm; it becomes a ‘vault’ or ‘dome’ shielding man from the abyss of meaningless absurdity.” Prometheus and Atlas, op. cit., Chapter One.
20. “Inspector Clay’s dead . . . murdered . . . and somebody’s responsible!” Ed Wood, Bride of the Monster . Thus, the Church Fathers were well aware that the dying and rising God was a common myth, but insisted not that this showed it was a true, general metaphysical symbol, but, being committed to belief in one and only one Christ, argued that Satan had planted these distortions long ago, so as to confuse the pagans. He later did the same thing with those fake dinosaur bones.
21. “Back in my own house on the sixth floor of the Cahuenga Building I went through my regular double play with the morning mail. Mail slot to desk to wastebasket, Tinker to Evers to Chance.” Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye  (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953).
22. See my “Mike Hammer, Occult D**k: Kiss Me Deadly as a Lovecraftian Tale ,” reprinted in Green Nazis in Space!  (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).
23. “A secret team of wealthy upper class who remain in the shadows.”
24. “A world run, not just by oligarchical moneyed elites, but a cryptocracy of occult elites.”
25. See Richard B. Spence, Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult  (Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2008); and my review, “’The Name is Crowley . . . Aleister Crowley ’: Reflections on Enlightenment & Espionage.”
26. “The expansion of our consciousness would be best served by allowing for an abiding tension between those conflicting fairy-tales or myths called ‘theories’ without rejecting any one of them simply because in certain situations a particular theory may have advantages over others, and allowing this tension to further proliferate theories that make new ‘facts’ possible.” Prometheus and Atlas, loc. cit.
27. Moreover, two can play the conspiracy game as well. In Prometheus and Atlas, Jorjani reduces the much-vaunted Christian “God” to a two-bit, yet rather sinister, UFO trickster – JHVH-1, as the Church of the Subgenius dubbed him. See Chapter Twelve, “Mercurial Hermeneutics.” No wonder Dyer will sneer at Project Blue Book. Always notice when a conspiracy theorist tells you “nothing to see here.”
28. One might note that focusing the reader’s attention on the location of mysterious “hidden forces” is also an effective way to keep their minds off developing any of those Promethean abilities; one might compare this with Jorjani’s account of how Descartes and Kant constructed entirely materialistic accounts of science precisely so as to occult the very existence of psychic powers and thus derail their general development, and preserving the “conservative religious faith in the dogmas of Abrahamic revelation.” See Prometheus and Atlas, op. cit., Chapters Three and Four. The sense of being trapped by occult forces beyond control or even identification is likely intended to correspond to the “sense of being trapped” felt by Cartesian dualists such as La Mettrie or De Sade, which led “straight to the madhouse of reactionary religious faith.”
29. At most, about forty percent of Americans were smokers, while it’s not uncommon to find films like Lost Continent , where literally everyone is constantly smoking. If you compare that to cellphone use, or PC ownership, or indoor plumbing, it’s clear the industry still had some room to grow before being wiped out after the Surgeon General’s report.
30. For a non-voluntary example, think of how much film has been used up watching characters dial rotary phones.
Science Fiction Seen from the Right 
Manticore Books, 2016
“Ursula Le Guin wrote about socialist utopias. Heinlein fought against them. There you have Science Fiction Seen from the Right in a nutshell.”
Readers of Counter-Currents will be familiar — and likely agreeable to — the notion that despite what you heard in school, most all the truly great writers of the twentieth century were “men of the Right.” This has been the theme of books like Kerry Bolton’s Artists of the Right: Resisting Decadence, or Jonathan Bowden’s Western Civilization Bites Back.
Bowden also gave us Pulp Fascism, with its subtitle “Right-Wing Themes in Comics, Graphic Novels, and Popular Literature” and including coverage of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Sarban’s The Sound of His Horn, and Brian Aldiss’ Moreau’s Other Island; why not then SF as a genre, tout court?
As if in response, comes now this book; with a title like Science Fiction from the Right, one can consider this an automatic purchase for anyone on the “Alt Right.” If you’re looking for a well-informed study of the SF genre that’s decidedly not from the hard or soft Left perspective that seems de rigueur for both academics and SF writers themselves, this book is for you. Svensson, however, has grander ambitions, and that’s where the book begins to be a bit of a disappointment.
Despite its title, Svensson is not really interested in “the Right” as such; he is interested in tradition, or, as he sometimes spells it, Tradition. And therein lies a perhaps unconscious indication of the problem: is it tradition, or Tradition?
Svensson is certainly straightforward from the start:
My definition of “right,” “a man of the right,” is “a man adhering to traditional, eternal values.”
These eternal values can be exemplified as: duty, honor, honesty, accountability, selflessness, modesty, fidelity, faith, courage, justice, mercy, clemency, compassion, magnanimity, equanimity — values that are in harmony with the eternal natural law, with Dharma and Tao, with Physis and Lex Nauralis.
And to clarify: to merely advocate limited government, personal responsibility, moral values and productivity . . . is not to be a traditionalist. It’s a start, but it’s not enough. There has to be an esoteric element present, a connection with the causal realm in which all of existence can be anchored in the Platonic World of Ideas. Here, ultimately, the eternal values have their footing.
To vindicate these ideals is what I do as a man of the right. I honor Tradition. To systematically embrace eternal values within a spiritual framework of Christianity, Hinduism and the Ancient way of the West, of esoteric strains in Greek, Roman and Norse thought, is called traditionalism. . . . There you have my outline of traditional values and their sources.
And if that’s not clear enough, he adds that
For a textbook rendering of the Perennial Thought intimated above, see René Guénon, . . . The Crisis of the Modern World, Julius Evola, . . . Revolt Against the Modern World, or Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya, . . . The Dharma Manifesto. Another lion of traditionalism currently alive, is Seyyed Hossein Nasr.
He is equally forthright about his intentions in what follows:
My focus in this book is on conservative, right-wing SF and fantasy, of fantastic stories having the character of being based in eternal values as the ones sketched above, fantastic literature having some discernable relationship to Tradition.
Putting all this together, we get, as an example:
Frank Herbert’s Dune, dealing with meditation, courage and honoring your fathers, in the framework of this study, is an SF story of “the right-wing” kind, a story rooted in Tradition.
Now, it’s interesting that Svensson chooses Dune as his exemplar. It’s not the first book/author he looks at; that’s Heinlein, who is, as he says, the “most iconic right-wing SF author ever.” But it is the first — and pretty much the only — book/author that fits the notion of “having some discernable relationship” to capital-T Traditionalism.
See, Svensson is operating with two rather different notions of tradition, which we might call majuscule and miniscule. Miniscule tradition — what he derisively calls “the Conservapedia definition” — could indeed be “exemplified” by that list of virtues but it, and them, have nothing in particular to do with majuscule Tradition.
Now, I’m not saying Guénon, for example, would reject those virtues, not at all; but they would be merely “finite,” pertaining only to social organization in the Kali Yuga. They may be necessary for a society in which Tradition is preserved and handed down; they may also be a necessary first step in moral training for the path of Realization; but no more than that. The “Perennial Thought” is a matter of metaphysics, not morals.
To illustrate my point, consider that both Mike Hammer and his creator, Mickey Spillane, are certainly “men of the Right” in Svensson’s small-t traditional sense; Hammer, as even Ayn Rand perceived, is, however violent and brutal, a man with a solid ethical code that he deviates from not one whit, and uses any means, however violent or illegal, to make sure no one else does either. And his creator was, to a remarkable degree, essentially the same man.
But — to make the contrast clear – the film version of Kiss Me Deadly is, however accidentally, and despite being conceived as an attack on everything Hammer and Spillane represented, a work embodying and bodying forth Traditional themes, while The Girl Hunters, though written and even starring Mickey Spillane himself, is just another thriller, though an excellent exemplar of Hammer’s sadistically chivalrous values. By contrast, Svensson would have a hard time defending Kiss Me Deadly as even small-t traditionalist, since the filmmakers portray Hammer not as a White Knight but as a moronic sadist.
Svensson needs his two kinds of tradition, because unless he can shift from one to the other, he doesn’t have much of a book left. It would be extremely interesting to find Traditional themes in SF; but that’s because it seems, on the face of it, unlikely.
So mostly, Svensson falls back on miniscule tradition; Heinlein, for example, is hardly a Traditional thinker, even before his ’60s-hippie phase, but he certainly meets the “right-wing” criterion.
Svensson has also given himself another arrow for his quiver. Those who fail or refuse to acknowledge eternal values are defined here as “nihilists.” Those who stand against them, however, fall into two classes: those who passively observe their effect on society, and those who take up arms and by opposing (sometimes) end them. The latter are praised, the former chided or condemned. Thus, authors as different as Heinlein and Lewis can be bracketed together for praise of their stand against nihilism.
The reader might think I’m condemning the book outright, but that’s not really the case. It has the virtue of its vice; with so broad a canvas, the value here rests in whatever Svensson can find to say about some book or author, and if the reader persists, he will find much value here.
Take this bracing insight on Ray Bradbury, which applies to many other areas of the Right:
We all know that Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) was a man longing for years gone by, for the American 1920s with T-Fords, striped cotton suits and icecream sundaes. But this kind of sentimentality can’t be tolerated in a study like this. Tradition isn’t about being sentimental, it’s about acknowledging Eternal Values, values that still can lift us, inspire us and guide us, offering an alternative to the current materialism and nihilism. For in essence, sentimentality is a form of nihilism.
Again, while J. G. Ballard is clearly an “active nihilist,” who, by “not putting up a credible counter-image to the forces of evil” has “superficially, nothing … to say to a radical conservative,” he is praised for at least being an honest skeptic, seeing through and rejecting the clichés of the liberal order. Svensson “gets” Ballard where so many don’t, seeing how Ballard goes on to find the creepy beauty of the new; Cambridge is just “a bicycle rack in front of Gothic backdrop”; the real action is at the US air base nearby, “with its concrete runways and landing lights.”
There’s beauty in the Ballardian urban landscapes and the Jüngerian Marble Cliffs. This we sorely need, anything except the left-liberal chewing of General Buzzword No. 1: pity the weak.
Symbols abound, arresting hieroglyphs. Like the burnt-out shell of a B-29, its tailfin like a billboard advertising its own squadron. And the incomparable haze over the pale fields, antitank ditches and mounds, the same light seen after the dropping of the bomb, heralding the end of the war and the beginning of the next.
So, another WWII story? No, not by far. This is the new kind of SF the 1960s sometimes gave us: “speculative fiction,” a free rendering of the modern world with all its symbols and attitudes, condensed into a more urgent narrative. . . . By 1964 his literary attitude had gained a sense of necessity and tragedy not reached by any other contemporary author, inside or outside the field.
One positive feature of this omnium-gatherum approach is that the reader finds himself introduced to new names and new books. For example, Karin Boye, and her novel Kallokain, apparently considered a Swedish modern classic for all to read, like our To Kill a Mockingbird, perhaps. Svensson, in his brief chapter, makes me want to read this work of a Swedish poet/Valkyrie.
Another book/author unknown to me is Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood (1985), where the protagonist finds a primeval forest which is “a dimensional crossroads” where mental intentions interact with mythic energy, “co-creating” the intended results.
By contrast, the following chapter on the expected Orwell, Huxley, Zamyatin, and (perhaps less expectedly, the Metropolis of) von Harbou, really has nothing to say, although students will appreciate the suggestion that they need only read Chapter Three of Brave New World to get the gist of it. But by and large, the hits outnumber the misses.
One major misstep here is that Svensson seems to swerve from his basic theme and give in to the desire to present a kind of encyclopedia of SF matters. A chapter on SF illustration seems pointless without illustrations, and one on the origins and history of SF publishing delves into such thrilling matters as the evolution of pulp magazine binding techniques. The author would have been well advised to leave such matters aside and follow his own taste in the novella format, concentrating on a few major figures and making his arguments tighter.
One has the impression that Svensson started with a list of authors — some essential, like Heinlein, some not that well known, like Boye, some ringers, like Marinetti or Castaneda — along with some topics, like war and nihilism; then he set to work writing something about each one, sometimes finding something to say on their literary or esoteric value, sometimes not.
In the end, one wonders why Svensson burdens his book, and himself, by bringing up the whole Traditionalist business. SF, as already intimated, doesn’t on the surface seem very “Traditionalist” at all. I think the answer is hinted at here:
The ideal of SF, according to Holmberg, is this: man exploring nature with science and technology, thus conquering and understanding his universe, and in the process gaining insights leading to some kind of transcendence. As an esotericist I fully embrace this definition of SF. It’s about venturing out Beyond the Beyond and Within the Within.
Nor are the Beyond and the Within merely two, distinct aspects; Svensson notes several times his agreement with SF master Norman Spinrad, that the key motif of SF in space travel, but adds that to really travel in space requires inner transformation; otherwise, one may travel to the moon but only bring back some rocks.
The Apollo project went to the moon, a much sought-after event, only to bring home a sample of rocks. In his diary Jünger wrote about this: “the only found a desert because they had the desert inside.”
But while SF may think of space exploration as requiring inner transformation, the Traditionalists themselves refuse to see any such link. Indeed, they are infamous for their contempt for mere technology or even science itself; Traditional societies, says Guénon in the book Svensson directs us to, had better things to do than waste their time with such toys. “Exploring nature with science and technology” and “thus conquering and understanding his universe” is nothing but “dispersion into the horizontal realm” rather than vertical ascent to the Beyond.
So the connection Svensson sees between SF and Traditionalism is at best one-way. If SF leans toward something like Traditionalism, what’s really going on?
We find a clue here in a kind of reflex that Svensson retains from the Traditionalists: the use of the term “titanic” or “titanism” as a derogative, as in fact a synonym for nihilism. Lewis is praised for battling it, while Heinlein is rebuked for yielding to it. That should tell you something’s off here; isn’t Heinlein the “iconic” SF writer? Isn’t SF essentially Promethean, from Frankenstein (“The Modern Prometheus”) on, and even further back, to the various utopias that take inspiration from Plato’s Myth of Atlantis (the realm of Atlas)?
I suppose the Titans are “nihilists” not because they deny any “connection with the causal realm” but because they boldly reach out and grasp it for themselves, “storming Heaven” and “winning the Grail by violence.” The process of self-transformation that Svensson refers to is not so much a matter of Traditionalism as it is of Hermeticism, as even Evola admits.
This “Ancient way of the West, of esoteric strains in Greek, Roman and Norse thought,” finds its “framework” not with Traditionalism but with something along the lines of Jason Reza Jorjani’s Prometheus and Atlas, where both science and SF are confronted and assimilated in the Titanic mode of the West.
Periodically, Svensson drops the ill-fitting Traditionalist garb and promotes a doctrine of Will-Power as something against which SF authors are evaluated (the shift from the one to the other is eased because remember, one must not only diagnose nihilism but fight it!). This emphasis on the training of the Will so as to develop the ability to bring about changes in accordance with will (as Crowley would say) justifies the publisher’s reference to Colin Wilson.
Indeed, interviewed elsewhere, Svensson sounds an awful lot like that modern exponent of the Hermetic Tradition Neville Goddard himself:
[Q] Man’s life is short. The border is always near. How can be a man educated in such a short period of time to understand the main things of life?
[A] Indeed, life is short. But any man can learn the two words, “I AM”. Christ said them seven times in the Gospel of John (“I am the light of the world, I am the door into the sheep, I am the good shepherd” etc.), as such a mirror of the” I Am That I Am”– saying of God in the burning bush of Exodus fame. And if the individual does the same, says “I am”, he acknowledges his eternal, divine nature, of being a spark of the eternal light. This I touch upon in Borderline and this is the succinct summation of my creed: I AM. Modern man, if he so chooses, can reach spirituality this way. The I AM-saying is my formula for a more spiritual life, taught to “the man in the street.”
To stay on the “man in the street” level of physical detail: the book has the quality we’ve come to expect from a Manticore publication; nicely proofread and typeset, with a sturdy binding and an atmospheric wrap-around cover illustration. The translation is serviceable, but another pass or two might have smoothed things out more and made it read a bit less like, well, a translation. Also, in a work of this sort, covering many names and topics, an index would have been appreciated.
In the end, one wishes Svensson would trust his Titanic instincts more, and liberate himself from his Olympian chains. Nevertheless, the reader will find much here that is provocative and truly thought-provoking; a book which not just looks at literature “from the Right” but raises questions about what, ultimately, is the Right itself.
1. Edited by Greg Johnson; San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012.
2. Edited by Greg Johnson; San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014.
3. Edited by Greg Johnson; San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015.
4. To anticipate a bit, I must point out that “natural law” has little or nothing to do with Tradition; it originates in Stoicism, which Evola, in the book Svensson later cites, dismisses as an “oriental” current alien to Aryan culture, and in its Christian form results from a further misunderstanding of the Greek concept of law as equivalent to “YHVH’s command.” The Stoic advising “live according to nature’s law” is more like our life coaches counselling “You should eat more organic” than a Bible-thumper screaming about da fegz. For more on this, see my essay “A Review of James Neill’s The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies” (Amazon.com Kindle Single, 2013).
5. For more on Nasr as a “lion of traditionalism,” see my review of Al-Rawandi’s Islamic Mysticism, “The Bad Samaritan: A Glance at the Mohammed Mythos,” here .
6. Guénon would no doubt approve of its Sufi elements, but ultimately dismiss it as mere “syncretism;” Evola might have approved the emphasis on jihad. One must also point out that C. S. Lewis, whose works Svensson also considers exemplars of tradition, would surely have condemned Traditionalism as a blasted heresy and one of the worst tricks of the Devil.
7. Traditionalist would point to a similar mistake made by Jung and others who try to assimilate Tradition to psychoanalysis: the Path is not a method mental healing, but rather assumes an undivided and controlled mind as a starting point.
8. “Despite their apparent differences, Rand admired Spillane’s literary style, and Spillane became, as he described it, a ‘fan’ of Rand’s work.” See McConnell, Scott, ed., “Mickey Spillane,” 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand (New York: New American Library, 2010), pp. 232-39.
9. See my “A Hero Despite Himself: Bringing Mike Hammer to the Screen,” here .
10. See, of course, my essay “ ”Mike Hammer, Occult D**k: Kiss Me Deadly as Lovecraftian Tale,” here  and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014); for comparison of the films, see my “Essential Films . . . & Others,” here .
11. Svensson approves the use of plate armor in the Lord of the Rings films, since it recalls the image of “knights in shining armor.”
12. “But I also admit that there are SF authors in this study hard to categorize. For instance, J. G. Ballard isn’t an author you would think of as a traditionalist. Rather, he’s some kind of modernist. But he isn’t explicitly Marxist.” Later, Ballard’s “The Atrocity Exhibition hasn’t got much to say about Tradition, the theme of this study. But taken for itself this is a great read.” Again, “It’s true that the praising of Tradition and the virtues of old don’t occupy center stage in Michael Moorcock’s novels.” Again, “Karin Boye was a left-leaning intellectual. But she still fits into this survey. Why? Because she wasn’t expressly anti-tradition.”
13. As the reader will know, or have inferred by now, I myself have done a bit of such exploring, mostly in the realm of fantasy — see the essays collected in The Eldritch Evola. . . & Others: Traditionalist Meditations on Literature, Art, & Culture (edited by Greg Johnson [San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014]) — but also in SF, such as the works of Olaf Stapledon — see “A Light Unto the Nations: Reflections on Olaf Stapledon’s The Flames” in The Eldritch Evola, and “‘The Wild Boys Smile’: Reflections on Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John” in Green Nazis in Space! New Essays on Literature, Art, & Culture (edited by Greg Johnson [San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015]). Oddly enough, Stapledon does not appear in Svensson’s book. Stapledon was of course a parlor pink, but — and admittedly it’s an ironic point — his novels are filled with traditional and even Traditionalist themes, illustrating my point about the return of the Traditional in popular culture.
14. “Nihilists! F**k me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.” Walther Sobchak, The Big Lebowski (Coen Bros, 1998).
15. Svensson has written a biography of Jünger: Ernst Jünger — A Portrait (Manticore, 2014). The chapter on Jünger here seems like a condensed version, but it does make me want to see the full text.
16. To anticipate a bit, cf. Jason Reza Jorjani, “Promethium Sky over Hiroshima,” Right On, Nov. 3, 2016, here .
17. Amazon tells me that the University of Wisconsin put out an edition in 1966, in its dourly titled “Nordic Translation Series,” and a paperback in 2002 in its flashier “Library of World Fiction.”
18. Constant Readers will recall many occasions when I have joined with Henry James in praising “the dear, the blessed nouvelle” format. Writing of Moorcock’s Elric novels, that originally appeared as slim volumes but now comprise 400 page collections, “Having the Eternal Champion books as separate, slim volumes make the saga into a random access myth, an epic where you can begin where you want, merely reading one book or two and then leave it with the sense of having seen an aspect of Multiverse, the whole mirrored in a facet, as it were…. Otherwise, the ideal of the fantasy novel is always ‘thick as a brick’ and this will not engender classics in itself.” He also praises Ballard’s “The Terminal Beach” as “an embryoic condensed novel” with a “condensed, urgent narrative.”
19. Svensson gives himself another free pass by including the clearly more traditional if not Traditionalist genre of fantasy in his definition of SF; like the SF authors, his coverage varies from interesting – Tolkien, Lewis – to just going through the motions in the urge to completeness – Clark Ashton Smith, Lord Dunsany. I tend to agree with Kingsley Amis in New Maps of Hell; the two are best studied apart. Amis’s classic study – arguably the first truly serious critical work on SF – is not in Svensson’s bibliography, though he tells us that he intends his book to be “mapping out new lands,” and the publisher explicitly compares his book to Amis’s, as well as Colin Wilson’s The Outsider; possibly the first time both have ever been invoked at the same time.
20. The key work here is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Svensson calls “absolutely unique in the history of cinema” and scores as 60% Kubrick, but a necessary 40% Clarke. This point about “inner space” was often made by William Burroughs, who is mentioned but whose works — Nova Express, for example — are curiously absent.
21. “[But to Traditionalists like Nasr] the events that produced the modern world are not signs of life in contrast to the cadaverous rigidity of Islam but signs of a Promethean betrayal that refuses the demands of heaven.” Al-Rawandi, op. cit.
22. See, of course, his The Hermetic Tradition: Symbols and Teachings of the Royal Art (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1995), especially Chapter One on the myth of Eden.
23. Prometheus and Atlas (London: Arktos, 2016). See also the same author’s “Against Perennial Philosophy,” Right On, Oct. 21, 2016, here . On the other hand, Prof. Jorjani might appreciate Svensson’s discussion of Heinlein’s use of parapsychological themes to challenge both science and SF.
24. It also may explain the bizarre inclusion of Carlos Castaneda among the authors discussed; Carlos’ first wife was a disciple of Neville.
25. Borderline: A Traditionalist Outlook for Modern Man (Numen Books, 2015).
26. “Lennart Svensson: ‘The I AM-saying is my formula for a more spiritual life, taught to “the man in the street”’,” here . Compare Neville, basically in any of his books or lectures; here , for example. On Neville and both Hermeticism and Traditionalism see “Magick for Housewives: The Not-so New (and Really Rather Traditional) Thought of Neville Goddard” in Aristokratia IV (Manticore Press, 2017) and my afterword to Neville’s Feeling is the Secret (Amazon Kindle, 2016).
Oswald Spengler’s radical contribution to the philosophy of history was to observe that different Cultures and Civilizations are discrete life forms and that they all have a certain life-expectancy. The linear progression of history, from the Stone Age to the prevailing Western liberalism, is a myth. There is no single line of history running through all of humanity. Instead, Cultures are born, they grow to maturity, they age, and they die. The springtime of one high Culture is, for Spengler, contemporaneous with the springtime of another, not with other human societies that happen to be in existence at that time. The point can be clarified by analogy with the human organism. A child alive today is contemporaneous with a child who lived in Roman times in the sense that they share the same stage of development. It is the Destiny of both children to grow to adulthood, then to descend to senility and death. This Destiny may be thwarted by disease, violence, or hunger, so that the child never matures, but it remains the Destiny of the human organism to follow such a process of growth leading to death.
Within this process of growth, Spengler draws a distinction between two separate stages: the Culture and the Civilization. The Culture is indicative of the youthful energetic phase, and transforms the symbolic imperatives of its genesis into high art and technical innovations suited to its worldview. Inevitably, these high forms begin to turn stale and the Civilizational phase then begins to kick in. Civilization grows logically from Culture, and it represents a move to a more urban lifestyle where novelty and cosmopolitanism become sought after. Spengler identified the high point of Western Culture as being the Baroque, and the supreme artistic forms that expressed the essence of that Culture as counterpoint and oil painting. Since that peak we have moved to the democratic stage of Civilization’s unfolding. Spengler is clear that this stage is dominated by the power of money. It is also associated with the rise of rationalism, identified in the Western Culture with the Age of Enlightenment. In this democratic stage, cities grow and folk traditions die out. Intellectual innovation becomes valued whilst religion disappears. The Cultural forms that surround us at the present time have decayed and degenerated due to the inner logic of organic growth and decline, so that we have only fads, fashions, and opinions masquerading as Culture.
This form of plutocratic democracy can only exist for so long, as it soon exhausts itself in its restive search for novelty and change. Ultimately everyone becomes bored with the shallow machinations of this type of society and there begins to arise a yearning for something deeper and more meaningful, a harkening to the call of the blood:
There wakes at last a deep yearning for all old and worthy tradition that still lingers alive. Men are tired to disgust of money-economy. They hope for salvation from somewhere or other, for some true ideal of honour and chivalry, of inward nobility, of unselfishness and duty. And now dawns the time when the form-filled powers of the blood, which the rationalism of the Megalopolis has suppressed, reawaken in the depths.
This represents the beginning of the Caesarist age. This age arises from the democracies but supersedes them. It is characterized by an expansive Imperialist urge to impose its worldview on as wide a field as possible. The inner development of the Cultural life has already reached full maturity, so there will be no significant developments in that respect. The yearning for something more meaningful is satisfied by returning to earlier forms of the Culture that preceded the democratic age. These forms are no longer capable of development but through a reengagement with them the population of the Imperial Civilization is once more able to regain a sense of nobility and the connection with the numinous that had been lost.
Spengler refers to this return to earlier forms as a “Second Religiousness.” The earlier religious impulses are now ossified but they still provide sufficient inspiration to give impetus to the Imperium, as they are at least paradigmatically superior to the reign of money and triviality. In this particular phase we can see a plethora of new cults emerging as people gradually lose faith with the democratic money age, and look for something more perennial:
We have in the European-American world of today the occultist and theosophist fraud, the American Christian Science, the untrue Buddhism of drawing rooms, the religious arts-and-crafts business (brisker in Germany than even in England) that caters for groups and cults of Gothic or late-Classical or Taoist sentiment. Everywhere it is just a toying with myths that no one really believes, a tasting of cults that it is hoped might fill the inner void. Materialism is shallow and honest, mock-religion shallow and dishonest. But the fact that the latter is possible at all foreshadows a new and genuine spirit of seeking that declares itself, first quietly, but soon emphatically and openly, in the civilized waking-consciousness.
When the Imperial phase has run its course then it means that that particular culture has finished. The populations living within the boundaries of the defunct Empire are overrun by the barbarians and return to an ahistorical peasantry. This peasantry will subsist in a manner befitting all peasantries and will have nothing to offer to history. But within this peasantry there will necessarily arise a need to understand and articulate the presence of the Numen:
He feels about him an almost indescribable alien life of unknown powers, and traces the origin of these effects to “numina,” to the Other, inasmuch as this Other also possesses Life. . . . Now it is important to observe how the consciousness of each Culture intellectually condenses its primary “numina.” It imposes significant words—names—on them and thereby conjures (seizes or bounds) them. By virtue of the Name they are subject to the intellectual power of the man who possesses the Name. The pronouncement of the right name (in physics, the right concept) is an incantation.
This longing for some form of higher expression, some meaningful articulation of enduring ideals, finds an outlet in the proliferation of new religiosities and cults. From this matrix of mystical yearning may grow the shoots of a new Culture that will have its own particular world view and life-expectancy. From this perception of the Numen a new Cultural form can be born and, thus, the cycle of birth, growth, and death may begin again in a new vehicle.
Spengler’s conception of history has drawn criticism from all sides. Many critics have questioned the element of inevitability that is inherent in Spengler’s model. Theodor Adorno denied that it was historically necessary to follow the pattern that Spengler described, and he saw Spengler as an advocate for the decline he depicted. For Adorno, a key intellectual influence for the forces of the New Left, Spengler is complicit in the historical processes that he describes because he refuses to accept that historical unfolding can be altered. According to Spengler’s model the lifespan of a Culture is determined by the imperative of internal logic and by its having a limited duration. For Spengler, this life-cycle cannot possibly be extended any more than the life of a human can be extended to 300 years. As he famously wrote, “optimism is cowardice.” Adorno refuses to accept the idea that there is an unavoidable decline that cannot be halted. Due to his abhorrence of the Caesarism of Hitler, Adorno claims that the Imperial phase of the West is, in fact, a willed descent into barbarity and oppression. Adorno maintains that Cultures of the past died out because they were based on exploitation, and therefore lacked equilibrium. With the possibility of Communism offered by Marx it was no longer necessary to succumb to the forces described by Spengler:
In a world of brutal and oppressed life, decadence becomes the refuge of a potentially better life by renouncing its allegiance to this one and to its culture, its crudeness, and its sublimity. The powerless, who at Spengler’s command, are to be thrown aside and annihilated by history, are the negative embodiment within the negativity of this culture of everything which promises, however feebly, to break the dictatorship of culture and put an end to the horror of pre-history. In their protest lies the only hope that fate and power will not have the last word. What can oppose the decline of the west is not a resurrected culture but the utopia that is silently contained in the image of its decline.
Perhaps Adorno has a point. After all, the refuge of decadence has been manifested most ably throughout the former Cultures of the West by his followers, even if there is no sign yet of utopia. For Spengler, however, such diversions are all too predictable at this stage of Cultural decline. The existence of decadence, Communism, or other intellectual fads is something that might be supported or opposed, but it is not something that can affect the broader flow of history:
Whether these doctrines are “true” or “false” is—we must reiterate and emphasize—a question without meaning for political history. The refutation of, say, Marxism belongs to the realm of academic dissertation and public debates, in which everyone is always right and his opponent always wrong. . . . The power that these abstract ideals possess, however, scarcely extends in time beyond the two centuries that belong to party politics, and their end comes not from refutation but from boredom. . . . Belief in program was the mark and the glory of our grandfathers—in our grandsons it will be a proof of provincialism. In its place is developing even now the seed of a new resigned piety, sprung from tortured conscience and spiritual hunger, whose task will be to found a new Hither-side (Dies-seits) that looks for secrets instead of steel-bright concepts and in the end will find them in the deeps of the “Second Religiousness.”
Whilst Adorno abhors Spengler’s “universal structure” and denies the applicability of its prognosis to the twentieth century West, his own New Left formulation relies on the historical inevitability of Marx, and the particular model of history he promulgated—a model based on universal applicability. Adorno’s critique of Spengler seems overly influenced by the particular phase of the cycle that he was living through, and is perhaps tainted with the optimistic cowardice common to utopians everywhere.
Another thinker who denies the inevitability of Spengler’s model comes from the opposite end of the political spectrum to Adorno. In his introduction to Yockey’s Imperium, Willis Carto argued that the ultimate decline of the West can be avoided due to the unique technological situation available to the West at that time. Specifically, writing at the dawn of the space age, Carto suggests that space exploration could fulfil the expansive imperative of the Caesarist phase without resulting in the debilitating mixture of races that follows Imperialism. For Carto, it is this racial mixing that provides the organic cause for the decline of a Culture. All Cultures conclude with a universalist, Imperialist phase due to the inner logic of their life-form. This, Carto accepts, cannot and need not be avoided. But, with the advent of space travel, it should be possible to fulfil the inner need for Faustian exploration whilst avoiding the miscegenous downfall of all previous Cultures. Carto sees the Destiny of Western Man lying in space colonization and the creation of an inter-stellar Imperium.
It is an ingenious response to Spengler’s pessimism as it acknowledges the necessity of the historical processes identified by Spengler yet seeks to align them to a transcendent goal, befitting the urge towards infinite space identified with the Faustian spirit. But no one writing in 1960 could have foreseen the limited future that space exploration was to have. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968 gave a sober prediction of intelligent, conscious, computers controlling a manned flight to Saturn. This scenario was based on the best technological predictions available at the time and now looks unbelievably over-optimistic. The further we travel along the final arc of our Western Culture, the more accurate Spengler’s pessimism appears.
Unlike Adorno’s critique of Spengler, Carto shared many of Spengler’s basic assumptions and hoped to participate in implementing the next phase of the cycle. From our perspective it seems less and less likely that there is a future for our Culture. Is there no room for hope?
There is some uncertainty about the particular phase of the cycle we are living through. In the middle part of the twentieth century it seemed clear that the Caesarist age was with us, as various European leaders superseded their democratic systems with new regimes founded on pre-democratic ideals. The American hegemony obtaining since 1945 can either be seen as the cessation of the Caesarist imperative, or its deeper fulfilment in the global spread of Western ideas. The latter interpretation, if it is correct, would undermine Spengler’s model as it would demonstrate the achievement of Imperium through the power of money, rather than through the transcendence of money values. Certainly, Yockey saw 1945 as representing the beginning of pseudomorphosis, a sort of sickness causing the Cultural organism to fall out of sync with its Destiny. For Yockey, this sickness was due to the Culture distortion imposed by the Jewish elites in America who have taken over that country and now rule it for their own ends. Spengler had described historical pseudomorphosis as the imposition of an older Cultural form on a younger, and more vital, form.
If we accept that the Global world order gathering pace under the (distorted) American banner is, in fact, a pseudomorphic distortion of the Destiny of the West then we are faced with two possible scenarios: the first is that the Caesarist phase has been thwarted, in which case the Culture is already dead, and there can be no possibility of Cultural renewal; the second is that the Global World Order is just an extension of the democratic money period, that the Caesarism of the 1930s was premature, and that we are yet to begin the authentic Imperium phase of our Culture. Thus, we are either entering an ahistorical descent into peasantry or we are awaiting an Imperial renewal of earlier forms.
The interesting thing is that, in either of those scenarios, we are living at a time in which we would expect to see the beginnings of new yearnings towards the numinous. Before considering the possibility of such new numinous forms emerging, it will be helpful to sketch a brief outline of the arc of development of Western artistic Culture. The intention is simply to identify the internal logic of the West’s decline.
The Council of Trent (1545–1563) played an important role in the development of Western music. At this ecclesiastical conference the question of counterpoint in music was discussed. The issue was controversial because it was felt by some that counterpoint was being deployed for mere ornamentation, for entertainment value. Whereas plainsong allowed for complete clarity in singing lines of scripture, counterpoint tended (so the argument went) to obscure the text by employing elaborate musical techniques that demanded adulation in their own right. The music was meant to be a mere vehicle for the praise of God. Legend has it that the composer Palestrina persuaded the Council of the merits of counterpoint by composing a mass which utilized that technique so beautifully that they accepted its application as an art suitable for worship.
Counterpoint became the emblem of the Culture of the West. For Spengler, the fundamental symbolic formulation for the West’s mode of apprehension was the yearning for infinite space. Counterpoint was the perfect way of expressing this yearning: “The symbolism of counterpoint belongs to extension and through polyphony signifies infinite space.” This characteristically Western form of expression developed into the form of the sonata, and its voice became that of the stringed instruments:
The theme of the fugue “is,” that of the new sonata-movement “becomes,” and the issue of its working out is in the one case a picture, in the other a drama. Instead of a series of pictures we get a cyclic succession, and the real source of this tone-language was in the possibilities, realized at last, of our deepest and most intimate kind of music—the music of the strings. Certain it is that the violin is the noblest of all instruments that the Faustian soul has imagined and trained for the expression of its last secrets, and certain it is, too, that it is in string quartets and violin sonatas that it has experienced its most transcendent and most holy moments of full illumination. Here, in chamber-music, Western art as a whole reaches its highest point.
What has happened at this point in the Culture’s development is that music has become a thing in itself. It is no longer used as an appendage to other art or religious forms, it becomes instead the foremost form of expression in its own right. Whereas the Classical Culture’s primary symbol was the body, representing a conceptual world view based on a feeling for solidity and best expressed through sculpture, the Western primary symbol is infinite space, the furthest horizon, and it finds its supreme expression through the polyphonic music of the strings.
The creation of the sonata form was also accompanied by further developments in Western Culture. In particular, the novel reached a certain peak of formulation at around the same time as the sonata, and both forms share structural similarities. In a formulaic sonata the first subject is presented in the home key which then bridges to a second subject in a different key. The two subjects are developed before both are finally resolved by returning to the initial home key. This schema of unity disrupted by conflict which is then resolved into further unity underlies most classic novels and could be said to represent the form of the novel. In fact, it is a structure underlying the hero myths and sagas that accompanied the birth of the Culture, so it can be seen that, in this sense, the sonata and the novel are the ultimate crystallization of the underlying myths of our Culture.
With the achievement of these forms there is nowhere else for Culture to go. From its inception the Culture has been developing the forms of its expression apposite to its specific apprehension of the numinous. From the earliest sagas, through the medieval morality plays and mummer plays, to the grandiloquence of Elizabethan theatre, and finally to the privately consumed, and individually wrought form of the novel, the Culture has travelled from a shared experience of numinous heroism to the private contemplation of personal psychology. A similar trajectory is followed in the field of music: from the heroic Anglo-Saxon poetry (which would have been accompanied by the heorp, a stringed instrument), through the ritualized church music of medieval times, to the polyphony and chamber music of the eighteenth century, and then on to the absolute music that sought expression purely in its own terms, concluding with the sterile experimentalism of the twentieth century.
For Yockey, and others, the artistic degradations of the twentieth century were a consequence of Culture distortion. In particular, Yockey referred to the revolution of 1933, which saw the full augmentation of Jewish power under Roosevelt in America. Following Yockey’s model, the Jewish takeover of power in America led to the hegemony of Jewish influence in the arts and created the possibility for the spread of those ideas peculiar to the Jewish mindset: the atonality of Schoenberg, the development of minimalism by Reich, etc. It is undoubtedly certain that the rise of Jewish power in America has led to an exacerbation of artistic forces that are antithetical to the ethos of the West, but it is still the case that the Culture of the West was already set on course for much of the individualism and triviality that is nowadays often dismissed as “Jewish.” The real problem with the idea of Culture distortion is that it tends to downplay the importance of the real arc of Western Cultural development by fixating on those elements that are foreign to it, and thereby failing to acknowledge that Western Culture was already declining without the influence of Jews. The danger here is that, whilst playing cherchez le juif, we tend to hark back to older and more fulfilling Cultural forms, but forms whose force has already been spent. In doing so, we risk replacing one species of pseudomorphosis with another. This is so because the tendency is to return to the shells of previous Cultural forms, shells no longer animated by the numinous force that made them powerful to begin with.
We have already seen that the genesis of Culture, as well as the second religiousness, is animated by the perception of the numinous. The numen is the presiding god of a particular place. The word is related to the Latin nuere, nod, and to the Greek neuein, incline the head, indicating an assent or command. Thus, the word indicates the effects of the power of the deity. If we are to begin to look for signs of incipient Cultural stirrings beneath the surface of what passes for artistic endeavor nowadays, it will be necessary to seek out those currents that transmit something of the numinous, or that pay worship to the presiding deity. In looking for such signs it is important to remember that the numinous is concerned with the awe-inspiring, and as such it is unrelated to forms which might seek to pay lip service to existing religious structures. Artistic forms capable of embodying the numinous will often be shocking and unexpected. Many readers will disagree with the observations concerning numinous Culture that follow, and will dismiss them out of hand. But it is to be hoped that the presiding deity of our Culture is still able to transcend the expectations of conservative taste.
In the following I will firstly be contrasting seemingly similar outward forms and noting the essential difference between them; secondly comparing apparently distinct forms and noting the essential similarity; and thirdly noting how a particular work illustrates the difference between the Second Religiousness and the birthing of an entirely new Culture. The purpose of these contrasts is to locate the centrality of the numinous in the genesis of Culture.
To begin at the opposite end of the artistic spectrum from the numinous, the Sensation exhibition, held at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1997, showcased the collection of Charles Saatchi and offered a useful index of everything that is wrong with contemporary art. Sensation was primarily a showcase for the more conceptually minded artists such as Damien Hurst and Tracey Emin. But it lodged itself in the public consciousness due to the inclusion of a work of acrylic on canvas by the painter Marcus Harvey. Myra was a portrait of the so-called moors murderer, Myra Hindley, based on the legendary police photograph taken after her arrest. This large painting employs a sort of pointillist style and gains its notoriety due to the fact that the paint is applied using the handprints of small children. One viewer was moved to smuggle in and throw paint onto the picture when he viewed it. Despite the assertions of Norman Rosenthal in the exhibition catalogue that the purpose of art is “to conquer territory that hitherto has been taboo,” Sensation neither broke taboos nor conquered new territory; nor did it have a moment’s thought for the numinous. In fact, after the vandalism of the Myra painting, the area around the picture was roped off and a security guard was employed to stand protectively next to it. This only served to emphasize the feeling that this sort of art aggrandizes its own sense of importance to such an extent that we are meant to worship it, rather than allowing it to be a bridge to a true object of reverence.
The esoteric precursor to Myra can be found in the strange quasi-manifesto of COUM Transmissions, Annihilating Reality, written by Genesis P-Orridge and Peter Christopherson. This document is concerned with questioning, not so much what constitutes art, but whether art should be seen to transcend legal and social taboos, and contextual legitimacy. In particular, they contrast certain avant garde artistic provocations with criminal, or socially unacceptable, activities and ask where the sanctification of a work as “art” comes from. They suggest that many artists share similar impulses with criminals, and indeed similarity of forms of expression with them in certain cases. The piece uses a large number of quotations and short, often disconnected, paragraphs titled either “hearsay” or “heresy,” as well as a large number of illustrations to demonstrate its point. But the most controversial part, which led to media condemnation, concerns the idea that the photographs taken by Ian Brady on Saddleworth Moor, which have a secret meaning for him due to his knowledge of the burial sites of his child victims, might be considered a form of performance art:
Hearsay: Ian Brady and Myra Hindley photographed landscapes on the Moors in England where they had buried children after sexually assaulting and killing them. Landscapes that only have meaning when perceived through their eyes. Art is perception of the moment. Action. Conscious. Brady as conceptual performer?
The example of the Moors Murderers is a distasteful one, to say the very least, but it was no doubt intended to make the point in extremis. The more sober question the article poses concerns what the essential element of artistic creation is, and whether it requires prior or retrospective endorsement by some establishment to gain legitimacy.
Whilst one of the purposes of Annihilating Reality was to puncture the pretensions of the art establishment, it nonetheless made some important points. The manifesto states, “performance art is probably the Shaman, Mystic, Lunatic, Buddha, visionary of contemporary times, in a post-religious era a crucial and responsible function best kept away from dealers who are the Pardoners of our culture.”
It is this realization that distinguishes the article from mere provocation. The common element that P-Orridge and Christopherson move towards in Annihilating Reality is a perception of the present moment as a consciously lived experience. Whilst art can create this heightened sense of awareness, so can crime. By identifying the distinguishing merit of art with this heightened, Mystic awareness, P-Orridge and Christopherson set the ground for their subsequent experiments with Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth, Chaos Magick, and other projects. The important thing to note is that, from an early stage, they were perceiving their own art projects as being set within a context of mystical consciousness; a nebulous idea, perhaps, but indicative of an experimental praxis allied to the numinous.
Despite the apparent similarity of using the shocking subject matter of the moors murderers, Harvey’s painting is firmly located within the context of the art establishment and employs notoriety in order to extend its meaning as art; whilst the praxis suggested in Annihilating Reality seeks to subvert the very notion of “art” as a category by noting its arbitrariness, and by isolating the point of numinous apprehension as the nexus of its operation.
Within the field of music there is often no synergy whatsoever between different genres, and this is particularly the case when considering “classical” music in relation to “popular” music. As discussed earlier, the Western musical tradition, according to Spengler, reached its apex with the sonata form. Its subsequent development, particularly through the twentieth century, is problematic. The twelve tone system of Schoenberg; the serialism of Boulez; the elaborate experimentalism of Stockhausen; all, to different degrees, speak of either the decline of the tradition or its distortion; probably both. Nonetheless, adherents of the Western tradition seek to protect and segregate classical music from the degenerate forces of more popular forms; this, despite the evident degeneracy of the classical form itself. If we are to seek the essential spirit that lies within music we will begin to transcend the barrier between “classical” and “popular” that has now become obsolete.
Giacinto Scelsi  was a reclusive Italian composer who was initially interested in the twelve tone system and other early twentieth century experimentations. Following a personal crisis he changed direction and became concerned with exploring the musical possibilities inherent in a single note, and he saw this project as being a deeply mystical one. This dates from his 1959 composition, Four Pieces on a Single Note. What he sought to do in this work, and subsequently, was to open out the tonal and timbral textures of a single note and to explore the range of sonic possibilities that could be found with it. This compositional praxis bears similarity with the chanting of Tibetan monks who elaborate on a single tone with simple instrumentation.
In works such as Anahit and Uaxuctum (subtitled The Legend of the Maya City, Destroyed by Themselves for Religious Reasons), Scelsi’s music achieved a simultaneous sense of accessibility and arcane depth. The graceful majesty of the sustained tones is underpinned by being surrounded by a restive instrumental accompaniment. It is music that resembles sunlight on a still pond; a singular impression formed by a constantly fluctuating surface. It is also music that is somewhat terrifying, evoking a sense of cosmic space and emptiness. In this sense it is similar to Ligetti’s Atmosphères, which also provokes a sense of awe. Scelsi’s music avoids the alienating and unappealing elements of atonality, and instead brings together a rich and unique tonal sensibility within a framework guided by his interest in mysticism.
Scelsi’s 1969 piece, Konx Om Pax, is in three movements and is subtitled Three aspects of Sound: as the first motion of the immutable; as creative force; as the syllable Om (the Buddhists’ sacred syllable). In the third movement the orchestra is joined by the chorus repeating the sacred syllable “Om.” Like much of Scelsi’s oeuvre, the music is superficially repetitive, but the repetition is never straightforward; the theme develops and progresses but never strays from its obsessively focused theme. The title Konx Om Pax refers to the word “peace” in three different languages, and is also the title of a book by the occultist Aleister Crowley. Knox Om Pax provides a link between Scelsi and some of the post-punk experimentalism that took place a decade or so after its composition.
The album, Nature Unveiled by Current 93, contains two long tracks that bear a great deal of similarity with Scelsi’s music. “Ach Golgotha (Maldoror is Dead)” is partly based on a looped tape recording of Crowley chanting “Aum,” and in this it is directly linked to Scelsi’s Konx Om Pax. But far deeper than this, it is apparent that the sonic landscape presented in “Ach Golgotha (Maldoror is Dead)” is attempting to express a certain state of mind, or being, that segues entirely with what Scelsi was trying to achieve. Certainly, “Ach Golgotha (Maldoror is Dead)” is possibly one of the most terrifying sound recordings ever made. It is somewhat repetitive but, again, it has nothing in common with serialism. In fact, a distinguishing feature of both Scelsi’s and Current 93’s music is that it is clearly articulated with a great deal of emotional resonance; it has nothing in common with the arid intellectual elitism of atonality. Listening to both “Ach Golgotha (Maldoror is Dead),” one perceives that both pieces are attempting to manifest a sense of the numinously awe-inspiring character of sacred sound. That they both turned to prior religious forms in order to do so is not really the point. Both pieces transcend their source material and point towards new musical forms.
In literature, some of the plays of Peter Shaffer deal with a renewed sense of numinous apprehension, most notably Equus  which, incidentally, was the inspiration for the Current 93 song “Hooves.” In this play a young boy, Alan Strang, is referred to a psychiatrist, Martin Dysart, after he has blinded six horses with a metal spike. The play depicts the psychiatrist’s efforts to get to the underlying motive beneath Alan’s gruesome act. As we learn more about Alan’s background it becomes apparent that, through a complex mix of Christian guilt and sexual immaturity, he has come to create a personal religion for himself. The root cause of this can be traced back to when he was a young child and was once taken for a ride on a horse by a stranger on a beach. For a few moments he was able to experience genuine freedom and exhilaration, and an escape from the repressive atmosphere created by his parents. Dysart learns that when Alan first saw this horse he was able to converse with it in his mind. The horse is called Equus, and he lives in all horses; he is the divinity of horses. From this moment on, Alan carries out rites and observances to Equus in secret, culminating in the psychotic blinding of the six horses in an act of defiance of divine omniscience.
As Dysart learns more about Alan he comes to understand that Alan has experienced a numinous relationship with his new god, albeit manifested through psychosis. Dysart becomes jealous of his patient as he realizes that his own life is a suburban charade, lacking in the conviction that Alan’s instinctive worship is able to manifest spontaneously:
I sit looking at pages of centaurs trampling the soil of Argos—and outside my window he is trying to become one, in a Hampshire field! . . . I watch that woman [Dysart’s wife] knitting, night after night—a woman I haven’t kissed in six years—and he stands in the dark for an hour, sucking the sweat off his God’s hairy cheek! (Pause) Then in the morning, I put away my books on the cultural shelf, close up the kodachrome snaps of Mount Olympus, touch my reproduction statue of Dionysus for luck-and go off to hospital to treat him for insanity. Do you see?
Dysart becomes troubled by the idea of trying to cure Alan because he recognizes that to do so will rob Alan of his worship, as well as his psychosis. At the play’s conclusion, Dysart delivers a valedictory soliloquy to Alan:
Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created. You won’t gallop any more, Alan. Horses will be quite safe. You’ll save your money every week, till you can change that scooter for a car, you’ll slip round to the Betting Shop and put the odd fifty P on the gee-gees, quite forgetting that they were ever anything more to you than bearers of little profits or little losses. You will, however, be without pain. More or less completely without pain.
Equus depicts the distance that lies between the adherents of the Second Religiousness and the creators of new, numinous Cultures. Dysart is grasping at long since spent forms whilst Alan is birthing new forms in blood. Even Dysart’s name points to his location in the late Civilizational phase (Dysart = Dys-art, i.e., bad art). Alan’s personal religion is doomed to be cured out of existence, but he has nonetheless lived for a time with the numinous, in all its beauty and horror.
If we accept that Spengler was right; if we accept that the future holds for us only decline, whether in the end of our Civilization or in the last hurrah of the Second Religiousness of the Imperium; then we still need not despair. Optimism is cowardice, but only if it hopes for the renewal of what has passed. New Cultures are birthed in the apprehension of the numinous; they are the effects of the surfeit of power of particular gods. If we wish to aggrandize ourselves and assume that we have a stake in Culture, that we can influence Culture in some way, then we can only do so by seeking out expressions of the numinous in Culture, and by encouraging their earthing. In this way we are able to hear the music of our god. An Imperium, or a new Culture, may not occur in our lifetimes; this looks increasingly likely. But if we pay attention to the numinous and revere it in all its forms then we are already placing ourselves out of time, beyond the limitations of the vulgar money age, and participating in the seeding of a new, numinous Culture.
 Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (New York: The Modern Library, 1962), 396.
 Ibid., 347.
 Ibid., 200.
 Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics (European Books Society, 1992), 72.
 Theodor W. Adorno, Prisms (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1981), 71.
 Ibid., 72.
 Spengler, The Decline of the West, 389-91.
 Ulick Varange (Francis Parker Yockey), Imperium (Sausalito, Cal.: Noontide Press, 1962).
 Spengler, The Decline of the West, 119.
 Ibid., 120.
 Norman Rosenthal, et al., Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection (London: Thames and Hudson, 1997), 11.
 Simon Ford, Wreckers of Civilisation: The Story of COUM Transmissions & Throbbing Gristle (London: Black Dog Publishing, 1999).
 Genesis P-Orridge and Peter Christopherson, “Annihilating Reality,” Studio International, July/August 1976, 44–48.
 Peter Shaffer, Equus (New York: Samuel French, 1973), 50.
 Ibid., 69.
Part 5 of 7 (other parts here )
5. Can Biology Explain Ekstasis?
I have already mentioned that scientists speculate that cave art (and religion, language, etc.) comes about as a result of some kind of genetic mutation, perhaps a “sudden, serendipitous, genetically-based brain reorganization.” Since I have argued that it is ekstasis that founds the possibility of art, and other things, we must now entertain the hypothesis that ekstasis can be explained biologically: specifically, in terms of Darwinian evolutionary theory. I will argue that there are inherent difficulties with this.
Discussing these difficulties will bring to light some further facts about ekstasis and human nature, which will set the stage for my own account of how ekstasis arose. My theory will not be a rejection of science, however. Instead I will argue for a new scientific paradigm — a new type of evolutionary theory — that can make sense not only of how ekstasis took possession of our Paleolithic European ancestors, but of what our place is in the scheme of creation. Sections Six and Seven will lay out these ideas. But let us now begin by considering the more conventional, and generally-accepted scientific approach.
Recall Schopenhauer’s words quoted earlier. He says that in the experience I have called ekstasis we “lose ourselves entirely,” and “we forget our individuality, our will.” “Will” is a special technical term in Schopenhauer’s philosophy. At the risk of oversimplifying matters, essentially this refers to the natural self, with its biologically-based instincts and drives, which normally enthralls us.
When we are in the grip of will, everything is viewed in terms of utility. To put the matter in the terms of current biological theory, we approach everything in terms of whether (or how) it will advance our survival and reproductive success. Now, the basic problem with explaining ekstasis in biological or Darwinian terms is that it is precisely a state in which — as Schopenhauer makes very clear — we disengage completely from concern with the satisfaction of biological drives. Those drives, by contrast, narrow our interests to the concerns (short term and long term) of the organism. In ekstasis we prescind from all such concerns. We transcend our biological drives — the preoccupation with survival and reproduction — as well as the immediate moment, and even our personal identity.
Darwinism, as it is understood today by its proponents, insists that human characteristics that have proliferated (and are not, by contrast, isolated anomalies) must somehow serve to advance survival and reproductive fitness. How can Darwinism, then, make sense of ekstasis, the defining characteristic of humanity, when central to it is our ability to negate or transcend the concern with survival and reproduction?
Now, I can imagine what the response might be from Darwinians. They will point to the fact that ekstasis makes possible symbolic thought, which makes possible language, which has obvious survival value. Or they will point to the fact that ekstasis makes possible the grasp of essences, which enables us to engage in scientific investigation, which enhances our ability to survive by allowing us to make predictions about nature, and to harness nature’s power. And, perhaps, those who were able to experience ekstasis and to engage in these sorts of activities were more attractive to mates. All of this is quite plausible. Ekstasis does make possible certain things that enhance our ability to survive and reproduce. “So,” the Darwinian will say, “ekstasis is a faculty or act that allows us to momentarily disengage from biological concerns — only so that we may produce results that are biological advantageous.”
So far so good, but matters get trickier when we turn to the other products of ekstasis: the Hegelian triad of art, religion, and philosophy (the highest forms, for Hegel, in which human Spirit strives for self-knowledge). To try to explain such matters in terms of their theory, Darwinians will put themselves through the most absurd mental contortions.
For example, in an otherwise valuable book, Nicholas Wade asserts that “the essence of religion is communal,” because “religious rituals are performed by assemblies of people.” He then argues that religion must therefore have been a device for strengthening communities. But this is an obvious non sequitur. Most people see films in cinemas, gathered together with others. Does it follow from this that the essence of cinema is “communal”? Is sitting in the dark with other people the point of going to a movie? (It’s certainly not why I go: I usually want the other people to leave.) Will Darwinians of the distant future conclude that human beings made films as a device for strengthening communities? If so, they will be quite wrong.
When we turn to how Wade actually thinks religion strengthened communities, things get really absurd. He theorizes that the invention of language gave “freeloaders” the power to deceive others, and then speculates that “Religion could have evolved as a means of defense against freeloading. Those who committed themselves in public ritual to the sacred truth were armed against the lie by knowing that they could trust one another.” Now, up to a point what he has said is quite true: religious commitment is a way of increasing trust (as when we swear on the Bible in court). But it doesn’t follow that this is the point of religion, or why it arose in the first place.
Wade’s theory is just one example of the clumsy approach some scientists take in explaining religion, and other matters. As in Lewis-Williams’s account of the origins of art, these are cases of people trying to explain a phenomenon they find quite alien, which involves feelings and desires they have simply never experienced. But the nadir of the Darwinian explanations of such matters are the “sexual selection” theories that have been offered by many. How do we explain philosophy? The pursuit of wisdom for its own sake can’t really be for its own sake, can it? No, it’s got to be about attracting mates. Philosophy is a reproductive strategy developed by nerds. They can’t compete with the jocks on the playing field, so instead they dazzle females with their dialectic. Such hypotheses simply do not deserve to be taken seriously.
The theory of natural selection is a powerful tool for explaining a great deal in nature, and a great deal about us. The trouble is that Darwinians totalize the theory. When faced with a human activity that clearly has nothing to do with advancing survival or reproductive fitness, and even perhaps to sometimes imperil these, they respond by inventing highly implausible stories about how that activity must really fit their theory after all. And, often in the absence of any other evidence, they treat the simple fact that they have made up such a story as “proof” that Darwinism has now explained things. Stretched and contorted in this way, Darwinism becomes an unfalsifiable pseudo-science: nothing can disconfirm it.
Plus, the neo-Darwinians fail to understand Darwin. He never said that all human traits that get passed along must have something to do with advancing survival and reproductive fitness. Darwin merely claimed that traits that are positively inimical to survival and reproduction will not get passed along. Some traits may be entirely neutral to these considerations, neither advancing nor hindering biological interests (e.g., male nipples). Whereas others may be ambivalent, like ekstasis: sometimes advancing, sometimes hindering.
Art, religion, science, and philosophy all may, in some direct or indirect way, contribute to our ability to survive and reproduce. But this fact is merely incidental — it is not the reason why these activities are engaged in by human beings, nor (as I will argue anon) why they originated. Indeed, all of these activities may actually threaten survival. Consider the artist who practices celibacy, or ruins his health for the sake of his art. Or the scientist who does the same: Nikola Tesla was just such a man. Consider the chaste monk, or the religious fanatic who immolates himself in the name of his faith, or starves himself to death (as some of the Jains still do to this day). Consider the philosopher who, like Socrates, chooses to die rather than to renounce the love of wisdom.
All these activities — art, religion, philosophy, science — are, as I have argued, founded on ekstasis. And ekstasis is just the capacity to disengage ourselves from our biological drives, our selfish concerns, and the immediate moment and to awaken to the Being of things. And in that engagement with Being, we may glimpse possibilities for human life that have nothing to do with the call of nature.
Of course, my readers may be having some misgivings at this point. The very idea that we can “negate” the nature inside and outside us may strike some of you, justifiably, with horror. Isn’t this the human tendency that has caused all the problems in the world? Isn’t it what’s behind not just environmental devastation, but also the modern denial of biologically-rooted human differences (i.e., natural inequality)? This is undeniably true.
There is a kernel of truth in the Christian doctrine of freedom of will. Unlike the rest of his creatures, God did not place man completely under the subjection of natural drives and instincts. Instead, he left him free to choose — up to a point. He can choose to be in thrall to those instincts and drives, as is the man the Hindus call pashu. But if he chooses to transcend (or to try to transcend) the pull of nature, things can go either way. He may find truth, beauty, and goodness. Or he may make a complete mess of things. He may envision impossible ideals that go so much against nature they are inimical to human flourishing, even the flourishing of alienated intellectuals. In such cases, nature usually bites back, or finds a way back in.
Ekstasis is indeed a double-edged sword: helpful to us sometimes, harmful at others. But it is crucial to understand that our ability to negate or, better put, transcend the natural is also the source of everything that is great about us. I need say little on this latter point, for I have already argued that art, religion, philosophy, and science involve this “transcendence,” and these are unquestionably the glories of the human race.
As I have indicated, I am skeptical of the ability of modern, Darwinian biology to explain ekstasis and the peculiar duality it produces in our nature. However, in fairness I must concede that it would be plausible for a Darwinian to take the position that although ekstasis produces behaviors that are sometimes inimical to survival and reproductive fitness, it produces enough results that actually advance biological interests for ekstasis to have proliferated. This is a reasonable position — but in fact it does not show that Darwinism can explain ekstasis. Far from it.
Darwinism, in truth, can only explain why certain traits have been passed along, or not passed along. It cannot explain why these traits originated in the first place. Darwinian theory essentially explains everything in terms of two components: random mutation, plus natural selection. Biological novelty arises as a result of genetic mutations that occur when organisms reproduce themselves. Those mutations that are disadvantageous to survival and reproduction will tend not to be passed along (the organisms that bear them will tend not to reproduce, and so eventually the mutations die with them). Whereas mutations that enhance survival and reproduction, or are neutral with respect to these, tend to be passed along to subsequent generations.
But if we ask where the mutations come from in the first place — where novelty comes from — Darwinian theory has no substantive answer to this. Mutations, Darwinians will tell us, are “random” or “chance.” Most non-scientists think that the theory of evolution has something to do with “progress”; with things getting better and better. But this is not the case. According to Darwinism, there is simply change, without ultimate rhyme or reason. Mutations do not happen because they are somehow “needed”; they just happen. And they do not fit into any sort of larger plan. That would buy into the sort of teleology (or “design”) that Darwinism expressly rejects.
The teleological or theological explanations of nature all make order primary: things happen for a reason; things are tending toward the realization of some rational plan or order. For Darwinism, by contrast, chance is metaphysically primary. The ultimate explanation for things — for why mutations (or biological novelties) arise — is chance, the opposite of order, design, or intention. But for all intents and purposes, to say that something happened “by chance” really amounts to the same thing as saying “we don’t know why it happened.” And to be committed to the idea that ultimately things happen by chance (i.e., that “things just happen”) is to be committed to the idea that the universe is absurd. Thus, despite the undeniable explanatory power Darwinism has exhibited within certain delimited contexts, ultimately it is simply another expression of modern nihilism.
The Darwnians are uncannily like the character of Socrates in Aristophanes’s comedy The Clouds (first performed in 423 B.C.E.). Socrates is portrayed in this play as a materialist and sophist. He accepts Strepsiades, an old bumpkin, as a student and attempts to teach him that it is not Zeus who thunders but the clouds themselves:
Socrates: They thunder, as they roll.
Strepsiades: In what way, you all-daring man?
Socrates: When they are filled up with much water and are compelled to be borne along by necessity, hanging down full of rain, then they heavily fall into each other, bursting and clapping.
But Strepsiades responds to this theory with a very reasonable question: “Who is it that compels them to be borne along? Isn’t it Zeus?” Socrates has a ready answer: “Not in the least. It’s ethereal vortex [dinos].” Strepsiades’s response is amusing, but pregnant with significance: “Vortex? I hadn’t noticed that Zeus didn’t exist and that instead of him Vortex is now king.” Later, Socrates has more success with Strepsiades’s son Pheidippides. Near the end of the play, a thoroughly-corrupted Pheidippides commits the cardinal sin of beating his old father, and the following exchange takes place between them:
Strepsiades: Have awe before ancestral Zeus!
Pheidippides: See! “Ancestral Zeus”! How ancient you are! Is there any Zeus?
Strepsiades: There is!
Pheidippides: No, there isn’t, since Vortex is king, having driven out Zeus.
The Darwinians are in exactly the same position as Aristophanes’s Socrates (and have had exactly the same social effect, incidentally). They have dethroned God, and put Vortex — Chance, Chaos — in his place. This is literally true. At root, the typical Darwinist is committed — with all the fervor of a religious zealot — to the view that it is chance, disorder, and meaninglessness that reign supreme in the universe. But once one realizes that “chance” (like “vortex”) is a non-explanation, then the door is left wide open for another theory to supplement — or supplant — Darwinism; one that has greater explanatory power.
And we will need such a theory to explain ekstasis, for clearly “chance mutation” will not do. O felix mutatio! To have made possible art, religion, philosophy, science, and language. Indeed, to have made possible man’s self-knowledge — and, as I shall discuss in the next two sections, the universe’s self-knowledge. No, there must be something else going on here . . . But if we must go beyond the approach of Darwinist biology, where do we look?
In thinking about ekstasis and the mystery of how it arose, I am often reminded of the “black monolith” from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course, while the film leaves this mysterious and metaphorical, Arthur C. Clarke’s understanding was more literal: aliens sent the black monolith to ape-men as a “teaching machine.” I am also reminded of Heidegger’s concept of das Ereignis. In German this term simply means “the event,” but Heidegger uses it to refer to his belief that sometimes in human history there have been occurrences or shifts that may have no rational explanation. For Heidegger, the ultimate disproof of modernity’s insistence that everything is explicable lies in its inability to fully explain the contingent historical circumstances that have led to it.
Now, I am willing to accept the idea that certain things may be inexplicable — with the exception, however, of those that I can explain. And I do believe that ekstasis is explicable. Talk of alien intervention, Ereignis, or even God will not do, however. “God” is more uplifting an explanation than “chance” (and it does have the advantage of making order primary, rather than disorder — which, I shall argue, is the more reasonable position). But ultimately it is really no more clarifying than “chance.” “It’s chance” means “things just happen for no reason.” “God did it” means “things happen for a reason, but we can’t understand it.”
To be sure, there are mysterious, abrupt “shifts” in the evolutionary record. One of these was the so-called “Cambrian explosion” (this example is dear to the hearts of the advocates of “intelligent design,” a theory I do not endorse). This was the rather sudden appearance about 542 million years ago of most of the major animal phyla. Upper Paleolithic Europe was, in effect, the “Cambrian explosion” of human prehistory. But such events are neither miracles, nor chance occurrences. They make perfect sense if we understand that nature itself is moving toward something — that the whole of which we are a part has ends of its own.
Man is, of course, a part of nature. But, as I have discussed, it seems that in us nature has given rise to a curiously unnatural being. We are of nature, but separate from it at the same time. We are capable of negating the nature in us (and the nature outside us) and transcending it. Consider: doesn’t the fact that nature has given rise to an “unnatural” being like us make “nature” itself (or existence itself) seem awfully peculiar? It seems to suggest that there are mechanisms at work in nature that have gone unfathomed by the scientific theories that currently reign. It suggests, in fact, that existence itself may have certain larger “purposes” that we have not yet comprehended.
Ekstasis can be explained by biology — or, more broadly, science — but only if we go beyond the narrow confines of Darwinism and consider a new way of looking at things. The next section will return to the topic of ekstasis, this time considering how the possession of it can be used to situate man “in the scheme of things,” vis-à-vis the rest of nature. This will set the stage for a consideration, in Section Seven, of the meaning and purpose of nature, of the whole itself.
1. Wade, 164.
2. Wade, 165.
3. As I wrote in my essay “The Gifts of Ódhinn and His Brothers ”: “Ódhinn, the god of ekstasis, is not an entirely benevolent god. There is within us, and within him, the capacity to err: to go too far, to pervert and corrupt in the name of ‘the good,’ to rebel against all limits to will or to knowledge. Ódhinn is both Ginnarr (Deceiver) and Sanngetall (Finder of Truth). He is both Sváfnir (Sleep Bringer) and Vakr (Awakener). He is both Bölverkr (Evil Worker) and Fjölnir (Wise One). We have the same oppositions within us. We have the capacity to open to Being — and to close to it. We want to receive the mystery — and to cancel it; to penetrate everything and obliterate all mystery. . . . Ódhinn sometimes helps men and guides them to the true and the good, and sometimes tricks them and leads them to their doom. He is wonderful and terrible. He switches sides without warning and breaks covenants. He seeks total knowledge, torturing his body on Yggdrasil for nine nights to win the runes, and sacrificing an eye to drink from Mímir’s well. Ódhinn gains timeless wisdom from Mímir’s well — but sacrifices part of his ability to perceive the present and immediate. Western man has made a similar sacrifice, losing the present in anticipation of the future, the ideal; losing the earth in anticipation of what the earth might be shaped into.”
4. The translation is by Thomas G. West and Grace Starry West, in Four Texts on Socrates (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), 131 (lines 374-380); 175 (lines 1468-1471).
The Colossus of New York (1958)
1958 / B&W / 1:78 enhanced widescreen / 70 min.
Producer: William Alland
Director: Eugène Lourié
Cast: Ross Martin, Otto Kruger, John Baragrey, Mala Powers and Charles Herbert.
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRG93Kc0QBw 
Everyone, at least those not raised Amish or in hippie commune, recalls movies that scared the pants off them when seen on TV some Saturday afternoon or late night.  Usually, what one recalls are movies so cheesy only a five year old would be scared, providing some amused nostalgia.
But there are others.
Usually, these films continue to, well, scare the pants off you through accidental factors; the combination of low budget effects and cheap photography, amplified by the decaying prints still in circulation on local TV, creates a new layer of creepiness over and above anything intended by the cast and crew. 
Now, Constant Readers will recall that NYC’s public cable channel likes to dig up old movies filmed in the city, equally low budget and poorly preserved.  Recently, they scraped the barrel low enough to dredge up some first-class nightmare fuel: The Colossus of New York.
Here’s a synopsis, which only begins to give clues to how damned creepy this is:
Shortly after winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end World hunger, doting husband and father, Jeremy Spensser (Martin), is struck down and killed by a car. Jeremy’s father, noted brain surgeon William Spensser (Kruger), is distressed that his son’s gifts will be denied to Mankind and rescues his brain from burial, keeping it ‘alive’ in a bubbling jar of liquid (don’t try this at home) with a view to ensuring his ideas and imagination can continue to flourish, even after death. Transplanting the brain into a specially contracted giant robotic body, he enlists Jeremy’s brother, Henry, to help keep the project secret. The huge shell is mechanically unreliable and combined with the lack of human contact and affection, Jeremy slowly starts to go mad, gaining immense strength and developing the ability to harness power and unleash it in the form of death rays from his eyes. The madness builds until The Colossus goes on the rampage in New York, culminating in a stand-off at the United Nations where only his young son can save humanity. (Horrorpedia )
And you can watch it here , in a surprisingly good print (of which more anon). Or at least, you used to be able to watch it. Actually, during the writing of this very review, Paramount seems to have noticed and had it taken down. Here ’s their preview clip. You can also take in a colorized, ten-minute digest of the film here , with subtitles identifying supposed “transhumanist” motifs (of which more anon as well). There’s also now a DVD and even a Blu-ray release; the latter gives me a chance to prove I’m not the only one this film affects strangely, courtesy of this reviewer:
[Do] you notice how many reviews of this film (and as of now, there are only a total of about 25) MANY people use the terms ‘Atmospheric’, ‘Eerie’, ‘Creepy’, etc… Well, I have to add my complete agreement with that. Most of the Sci Fi films of that decade could be quite hokey in their low-budgetedness (?) But, there was just something to this one which carried a much heavier weight and mood than most. I don’t know exactly what it was, but there was an unusual ‘earnestness’ or ‘gravitas’ that somehow created a much stronger atmosphere and very serious mood for the film. I mean, even with it’s very low budget and fairly common theme, there was just some magical element in the direction, acting, and especially the bloody MOOD of the dang thing that conveyed a LOT more impact than the sum of its familiar parts can quite explain.
I had never seen this film before; and to be honest, I was fully expecting a REAL corny 1950’s Sci Fi film. But, there was just SOMETHING that kept me riveted to the screen and much more emotionally involved than I EVER would have expected with a film of this nature and from this time period. 
As if they’ve promised us a creepfest, and by jiminy they mean to give us one, the effect starts right from the first frame. Want a pictorial background to your opening credits, rather than drab white letters on black? Just slap a postcard up there! Hey, greetings from NYC!  Look, it’s the UN!
Oh, and Plot Point! This scrappy little narrative wastes no time getting round to the fundamentals of screenplay writing.
And the … music. A piano duet, sounding like some kind of High Romantic/academic atonal mash-up. Surely that’s just the overture, right? Nope, it’s gonna continue right to the last of the 69 minutes here.
It’s instructive, though, that while when Ed Wood tried to save money by reusing the soundtrack to another film by the same producers, the now totally inappropriate flamenco guitar ostinato at best suggested an alienation effect,  here the bare bones music works perfectly, whether we’re outdoors on an estate in Westchester County or walking under the Hudson River (I’ll get back to that in a bit). 
I had assumed that, as in Wood’s case, this was a low budget strategy (hence, they got Van Cleave, not Van Cliburn) but apparently “a musicians’ strike early in 1958 had studios recording film scores overseas and in some cases doing without them altogether.” 
The part(s) that really freaked me out, and still do, are two scenes where the Colossus walks under the river, along the riverbed, to get to his murderous rendezvouses. 
These excursions nicely illustrate the Theory of Creepy. This is real bargain basement (no pun) filmmaking at its finest. The Colossus strides along in front of some kind of aquarium or swimming pool window, totally oblivious to any waves, debris, without even a drop on him, like Diver Dan’s old TV show . And yet, precisely for that reason – though for some reason unlike Diver Dan – it’s scary as all Hell.
It also illustrates another important factor: your mileage may vary. Cinematic Catharsis says  that “Shots of the errant robot …walking underwater possess a dreamlike quality,” while Glenn Erickson, who says that “I was too young to see this one personally in a theater,” cruelly speculates that “Kids… giggled to see him striding calmly up the bottom of New York’s East River.” 
Hey, this is an art, not a science. Perhaps you need to have seen it first with the innocent eyes of childhood. In fact, Erickson perhaps reveals the cynical adult filmgoer behind that comment when he adds:
Every time I see the soggy Colossus stepping up those stairs out of the river, I think of James Stewart carrying Kim Novak up a set of similar waterside steps on another Paramount sound stage. 
After such knowledge, what forgiveness?  Here we see the fallacy exposed by Colin Wilson in his collection of music criticism, Brandy of the Damned  — the error of thinking that art, like science, “progresses” by leaving behind false or inferior theories. Works of art are windows on the good and beautiful, and to close one is not to grow and “move beyond” but to suffer the loss of an outlet. One gains nothing by “moving on” from Sibelius, or from the Colossus; knowledge of one film should enhance, not occlude, enjoyment of another.
Erickson and I also disagree on the scenes where the Colossus attempts to interact with his little boy. Again, supposedly “kids” would have “got a good laugh from the robot’s mock-paternal voice when talking to Billy;” not this one, buddy!
Nevertheless, some elements do take on new or additional nuances as time passes. The scenes with Billy, for instance, may be uncomfortable today for other reasons – don’t tell your mother about the Iron Giant you talk with in the forest, it’s our secret, Billy. Right. And again, the hyper-efficient screenplay inserts a key Plot Point here which sounds again rather uncomfortable, as the Colossus reveals to us his hidden on/off switch: “Don’t touch me there!”
Still, better that than “the robot’s plaintive, screeching wail, which follows his initial activation. It’s nothing short of nightmare fuel.” 
Another touch, no doubt intended to suggest irony, carries a different charge today.  Jeremy, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for his discovery of instant food (or something), becomes the Colossus who takes fascistic delight in destroying useless eaters.  Although I suppose he could have walked across the Atlantic to attack Sweden, he instead chooses a nearer target of opportunity: the UN. (Hence, bookending the post card beginning).
Yet less than two decades later the Prize would be awarded to such mass murderers as Henry Kissinger and Menachem Begin; and what about laureate Barack Obama, with his promises of “hope and change”? How many did he kill, figuratively sitting at the video-game controls of his own mechanical golems, the drones? 
This “bizarre ending” as Erickson calls it appropriately sums up all the virtues of low-budget filmmaking; as Erickson describes it:
Art director John Goodman sketches the UN with minimal sets built around a broad checkerboard floor and a large plaque bearing a pacifist credo. Restricted camera angles lend this final scene a dreamlike quality, as does Eugène Lourié’s bizarre direction: the various U.N. dignitaries stand in place, waiting patiently to be fried by the cyborg’s death rays. An electronic sound effect from The War of the Worlds is repurposed for the occasion, and optical artist John P. Fulton animates the deadly ray blasts. Editor Floyd Knutson must have been left with no options for cutaways, because he’s forced to use a shot out of order and continuity: before the first female victim is zapped by a death ray, we see her already lying in place on the shiny U.N. floor. Adding to the dreamlike weirdness, nobody comes to the aid of this woman or any of the other the fallen dignitaries. (Italics mine) 
Quite different, and much more terrifying, than something like Hitchcock’s smooth Technicolor UN. To this triumph of low-budget art, we can only add a note about the interesting detail of the checkerboard floor – quite prominent in the downward camera angle – on which the delegates stand motionless, waiting for death; it is, of course, the universal symbol of the warp of and woof from which the material universe is woven, as we’ve explored before. 
The capper on all this is how, after all the death and destruction, having converted his son’s admittedly tragic death into a complete international catastrophe – and think of the subsequent media firestorm – Doc Spensser just shrugs his shoulders and walks away. The End.
Producer William Alland (March 4, 1916 – November 11, 1997) was behind lots of the 50s horror/sci-fi/monster films, including This Island Earth , It Came From Outer Space , Tarantula , The Deadly Mantis , The Mole People , The Colossus of New York , The Space Children , The Creature from the Black Lagoon  and its two sequels.  Director Lourié seems to have kinda specialized in the “X challenges mankind” genre, or to have at least helmed a couple more famous ones, like Beast from 20,000 Fathoms – whose Harryhausen stop-action monster attacks New York from the sea, predating Godzilla, inspiring all the rest of the 50s atomic mutant monster films, and earning a homage in Cloverfield – and, just to switch things up a bit, Gorgo, where the titular sea monster attacks London, although with less impressive results. 
With such creators, it’s no surprise that Colossus obviously riffs on several film/book classics, such as Frankenstein and perhaps Metropolis. Its most obvious debt, however, is to the mediaeval Jewish legend of the Golem  (Hebrew: גולם), as well as later novel and film versions such as Gustav Meyrink ‘s 1914 novel Der Golem  and especially Paul Wegener’s 1921 film  (actually a trilogy, of which only the first part survives); the “robot” here closely resembles Wegener’s clay figure. 
The latter feature is indeed a puzzle. Frankenstein built his creature from human parts but had to work on a large scale due its prototype status; on the other hand the robot Maria is Rottweg’s attempt to resurrect his dead, lost love Hel, and even today its lithe form has a certain cyborg-ish eroticism,  but Rottweg is as much an alchemist as a scientist, so I suppose even a postwar, vaguely Germanic scientist like Jeremy’s father (Otto Kruger) still might not have the technology available to make a human-scale robot. Operation Paperclip, Schmaperclip! 
But still, why give him such a horrific visage, sure to scare anyone away, except a child – his son – who can be convinced he’s a fairy tale giant. Dr. Spensser has clearly modelled the head on cinematic representations of the Golem. Is this decision deliberate, or some kind of racial memory (or perhaps morphic resonance)?
What’s really new about Colossus is the way it explores – if you can call a nightmare an “exploration” – the idea of what today might be called transhumanism . And thus it looks forward to Robocop, Ghost in the Shell, and perhaps Blade Runner,  films which, perhaps because of their (relatively) big budgets, and despite their undoubted merits, fail to capture the claustrophobic nightmare of post-mortem cyborg existence quite like this queer, quirky little quickie.
  Known to Jim Kunstler, if no one else, as “The Golden Golem of Greatness.”
  You might recall that during the late campaign much was made of Hillary’s propensity to fall, fainting spells, blood clots on the brain, etc. There was even speculation that she had died already from one or another of these things and been replaced by a double, or perhaps an android, which in turn accounted for her odd behavior. Her curious affect and her daughter living in a retro-fitted medical clinic added to the speculation.
 Count Scary  was a horror-movie host in Detroit back in the 80s (and apparently still going strong) whose act was basically a rip-off from (or homage to) SCTV’s Count Floyd , himself, of course, already a parody of local horror-hosts like Detroit’s Sir Graves Ghastly  (I’m not sure if the opening of Tim Burton’s Ed Wood is a deliberate homage) or Boston’s Morgus. Both Counts specialized in dull, inane movies that they would try to hype hysterically during the breaks, although Scary’s movies were real. Now that’s really scary! While Floyd would threaten to scare the pants off you, Count Scary would sometimes literally have his pants scared off. MST3k was conceived as another homage to the vanishing world of local horror hosts.
  Thus, I’m not talking about cheap, black and white movies of the same time period that deliberately seek out such effects, such as The Hypnotic Eye (1960), in which a sadistic nightclub hypnotist programs his female victims to mutilate themselves in a variety of horrifying yet everyday ways (hot showers, anyone?), which I can’t look at yet doesn’t really haunt one’s memory. These films never rise above the level of Grande Guignol; I can’t understand the cult appeal of, for example, Herschel Gordon Lewis.
  Of a similar effect at the start of an Ed Wood film, one of the MST3k crew observed: “New York, the city that never moves.” By contrast, when Bert I. Gordon has “giant” grasshoppers crawl up a postcard of the Chicago skyline  in the contemporaneous Beginning of the End (1957), it’s just stupid.
  “The music consists of ﬂamenco guitar and piano riffs, in vaguely free-form jazz cues which, although hauntingly beautiful, evoke no excitement or dramatic tension whatsoever. The mournful, almost avant-garde music emphasizes the alien texture of the ﬁlm, and makes the most dramatic and tense scenes seem dreamy and unreal, in effect a modern incarnation of the “melancholy chants” used in the Osiris death ritual. Jail Bait’s opening titles roll as a Nash police cruiser prowls a busy Alhambra, California, street at night, while dreamy jazz music plays, setting the stage not for a gripping crime melodrama, but a weird spiritual tale in some modern purgatory.” Rob Craig, Ed Wood, Mad Genius: A Critical Study of the Films  (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2009); see my review here .
  “The piano score by Van Cleave is both unusual and haunting, especially during the tense scenes between creation and creator/father.” DVD Review. “Van Cleave’s subdued piano-based score contributes to an overwhelming sense of dread.” Cinematic Catharsis . “The Colossus of New York is one of the stranger entries into the 1950’s and 60’s wave of films with monsters and aliens on the rampage, with a distinctly serious, almost pious tone, due in no small part by the unique score by noted television composer Van Cleave, harking back to the silent era with solo piano creating the mood and tension without the histrionics of wailing theremins and huge fruity string sections. Horrorpedia, op. cit.
  Given the geography, I assume one is the Hudson River, the other the East River, but as we’ll see it’s just the same tank anyway.
  Erickson, op. cit.
  One might also note the prominence of the UN, as in another Hitchcock film, next year’s North by Northwest. Oddly enough, the UN wouldn’t let Hitch film there, so his UN is a combination of “rogue” shooting (when the goons pull up outside in their cab) without permission, and Hollywood sets, just like Colossus with a bigger budget.
  T. S. Eliot, “Gerontion.”
  1964; later expanded and reprinted in the USA as Chords and Discords/Colin Wilson on Music, in which see pp. 12-12.
  “The bizarre ending carries an uncomfortable subversive charge: a philanthropic recipient of the Peace Prize commits a massacre at the United Nations.” –Erickson, op. cit.
  “The Colossus also has political leanings; he loses interest in his humanitarian mission to feed the world, declaring, “Why create food for the maimed, the useless and the sick? Why should we work to preserve the slum people of the world? Isn’t it simpler and wiser to get rid of them instead?” He adds: “We must eliminate the idealists.” Horropedia, op. cit.
  “The Colossus stands before an even larger mural with the inscription from the Book of Isaiah: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Horrorpedia)
  Erickson, op. cit.
  See René Guénon, The Multiple States of the Being and The Symbolism of the Cross. Neville: “Think of the vertical line of the cross as the line of being upon which there are unnumbered levels of awareness” and “The Bible’s teaching is one of rising higher and higher in consciousness until rebirth occurs. There is but one purpose in life, and that is to rise higher and higher on the vertical bar of the cross.” (op. cit.). See also my discussion of the checkerboard floor in Henry James’ “The Jolly Corner” in “The Corner at the Center of the World” in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014) and the pigeon-holes in Fred Hoyle’s October the First is Too Late(reviewed here ).
  “Alland is also remembered for his acting role as reporter Thompson who investigates the meaning of “Rosebud” in Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane  (1941). In addition to his role as Thompson in Citizen Kane , Alland announces the “News on the March” newsreel segment, a spoof of the then-popular March of Time  newsreels. In later years, Alland twice provided voiceovers for pastiches of this News on the March segment: once for the 1974 Orson Welles film F for Fake  and again for a 1991 Arena documentary for the BBC titled The Complete Citizen Kane.” (Wikipedia )
 Gorgo is so dire it earned the MST3k treatment, though mainly for being so bloody British about things. It also had the misfortune to “star” the infamous William Sylvester, an American “actor” who specialized in playing Americans in Brit movies; so great is his transatlantic blanditude that no less than two others of his films earned the same treatment: Riding with Death (two episodes of a failed TV series slapped together for theatrical release) and most notably, Devil Doll, where he is out-acted by the title character. Of course, blandness was exactly what Stanley Kubrick was after, and I like to imagine a rainy London afternoon screening of Devil Doll in which, near the end, Kubrick leaps up and shouts “Heywood Floyd and Bowman’s father – the cast of 2001 is complete!”
  “And of course, Metropolis’s robot is irresistibly seductive, with her sashaying hips and art deco fetish-gear bodywork.” Steve Rose, “Ex Machina and sci-fi’s obsession with sexy female robots,” The Guardian, 15 Jan. 2015, here .
  See Jason Reza Jorjani’s “Black Sunrise” in his Lovers of Sophia (Manticore, 2017). The Colossus’ development of extra-sensory perception and death rays also speaks to Jorjani’s interests.
  See Trevor Lynch on Blade Runner here . Gregory Hood suggests the recent Lone Ranger remake is a take on Robocop here . I thought that Jason Reza Jorjani discusses Ghost in the Shell in his Prometheus and Atlas (London: Arktos, 2016), but I can’t find it in his chapter on Japan and anime, though his conclusion that “It is in Japan where, unburdened by the Judeo-Christian heritage, visionary artists have best crystallized transformative images of the coming metamorphosis of the merely human being into a more diabolically daring and dynamic superhuman race, destined to liberate a capriciously ruled cosmos and conquer the inner space of latent psychic powers” is a pretty good summary of what Jeremy’s surgeon father and robotics expert brother have in mind.
It is dangerous work, making a sequel to a classic like Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s 1982 magnum opus. French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 is a very good film, but it inevitably falls short of the original.
I first discovered Villeneuve’s work with his 2016 science fiction film Arrival (discussed with John Morgan here ). Arrival impressed me as a highly imaginative science fiction film with an original visual style, told with an appealingly deliberate art-film pacing, with a stunning plot twist and a powerful emotional payoff. Villeneuve’s 2015 film Sicario is an excellent thriller/crime drama.
Blade Runner 2049 is more like Arrival than Sicario, and that is something of a problem. At 2 hours, 43 minutes, Blade Runner 2049 takes art-house pacing and style to Tarkovskyesque lengths. It is a real artistic gamble, and not an entirely successful one. I think this would have been a much more effective film — and yet also more commercial — if directed more like Sicario, i.e., edited down/sped up to 2 hours.
It would have been more like the original Blade Runner as well. I suspect, however, that Villeneuve may have rejected such a course because he felt intimidated by the prospect of doing a sequel that would invite too many comparisons with the original, so he struck out in a direction that would be more likely to please middlebrow critics and the sort of people who enjoy sitting through Solaris, Stalker, or 2001: A Space Odyssey. I generally like such movies, but I felt that Blade Runner 2049 runs out of steam near the end and fails to deliver the powerful emotional punch toward which it was building.
But this problem may have been inevitable, for there was probably no way of doing this movie without including Harrison Ford, and frankly, I wish they had done it without him, or pared his role down to a brief Yoda-like encounter in the second act, where he imparts some useful information to the questing knight and then is left behind.
I also wish they had replaced Ford with Ryan Gosling’s character for the third act, which would have eliminated all the gimpy appeals to nostalgia. I think a much more emotionally powerful conclusion could have been crafted with Gosling alone, for he undergoes the same transformation from egocentrism toward disinterestedness and detachment that Roy Batty does in the original. (I won’t explain this point, because it would entail spoilers, but watch the movie, and you will see what I mean.)
Gosling, frankly, is ten times the actor that Ford is. Gosling’s performance as K, a replicant and a Blade Runner, is stunningly subtle and sensitive, whereas Ford is capable of nothing but being a two-fisted, hard-drinking, crotchety old scene-chewer. Frankly, after he was on screen for 3 minutes, I wanted to run him through with a light saber. (Science fiction will not be safe until the entire casts of the original Star Wars and Star Trek are dead.)
I liked most of the other performances in Blade Runner 2049, particularly Ana de Armas as Joi, Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, and Carla Juri as Ana Stelline.
Jared Leto’s performance as the Mephistophelean businessman Niander Wallace doesn’t really compare to the original’s Eldon Tyrell, and frankly I don’t understand his behavior in the first act, when he casually kills a new replicant while monologuing. Nor does his behavior seem rational in the third act. If Rachel gave birth to a child, and Wallace can create a whole new Rachel, and he has Deckard, then he has both parents. So why does he need the child? Can’t he discover the secret of replication reproduction with the parents alone? And if the child really is a “miracle” — an event that we can’t replicate with natural causes — then even if he had her, there’s nothing he could do.
In short, the basic problem with this move is the script. Which is a pretty big problem.
The script also lacks the poetry and mythic dimension of the original, which is not just a sci-fi dystopia but an allegory about Satan’s rebellion against God — see my essay on this topic here  — whereas here we just catch glimpses of a Marxist revolt of the masses, which is a myth as well, in the superficial sense of the word.
The film touches on the same issues of personal identity as the original, but does not add any depth to them.
Blade Runner 2049 extrapolates from the dystopia of the original, incorporating ecological elements from Philip K. D**k’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? . But other updates make no sense, such as the vast orphanage where predominantly white children dig through garbage. Isn’t this replicant work? And where are all these white orphans coming from? It doesn’t make sense that there are lots of surplus white children on an ecologically devastated planet.
The visual style of Blade Runner 2049 is stunning. Of course it is based on the original, but it develops it in interesting and original ways. It is truly the most successful element of the film. Like Terrence Malick, Villeneuve underscores the fact that cinema is inescapably a visual medium. Unfortunately, also like Malick, he also underscores the fact that a good movie needs to be more than just a series of striking images.
The music by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch effectively incorporates Vangelis’ original themes, but what is new is not memorable.
What this all seems to add up to is: Blade Runner 2049 is a superficial movie, but it is still successful as such. It held my attention for 2 hours and 43 minutes, but it lacked a powerful emotional payoff. It is good, but it could have been so much better. Still, it is definitely a movie that I will watch again, in the hope of glimpsing something deeper. I recommend it to fans of Blade Runner and science fiction aficionados in general. Take in a matinee with friends, then go out to dinner. I guarantee you will discuss nothing else.
Alien: Covenant is a masterfully crafted film from an experienced and subtle director. If you haven’t already seen it, I recommend this movie, as it has plenty to offer, ranging from gorgeous and eerie landscapes to White Nationalist dog-whistles. Much of the movie is shot with physical sets and props, giving a grungy, grimy, authentic feel to the cinematography. The spacesuits, xenomorphs, post-apocalyptic landscapes and crashed or ill-fated landers are all built on real sets and the raw solidity of it bleeds through. Ridley Scott has taken exceptional care to assemble a believable and breathing framework for his story and if nothing else, Covenant is a rewarding cinematic experience.
The film open with the camera stalking the U.S.S. Covenant, the doomed colony vessel of the title, and “ALIEN COVENANT” appearing in blocky white font stroke by stroke. It immediately feels different from tacky, superficial, Sandra Bullock in Space, Computer Graphics dependent outings. Computer graphics whizzbangery is used economically and only when necessary, and where it is used (aside from one tacky, redundant scene thrown in as a bone to backstory obsessives) it is so advanced as to be indistinguishable from real world around it. Blocky spacesuits drifting uncertainly through the void and gloved hands fumbling with tools are so tangible onscreen as to convey the claustrophobic isolation of deep space almost as effectively as 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that’s only in the opening act. Through it’s three-act arc of bad decision, catastrophic consequences and struggle to escape, atmosphere is layered on thick and is punctuated with shock body horror, gore and indescribable weirdness.
At the bloody, acid-pumping heart of Alien: Covenant lies an examination of the interspecies war between the sociopathic and the fallible and foibled. When Ridley Scott carved out his niche in cinema history with Blade Runner , the adaptation of Philip K. D**k’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? , the empathy-free android “Replicants” were dispensed with. A straight adaptation would have been too obvious. Instead, Scott transplanted them into the Alien franchise, first with Ash in the original 1979 and David in the schlocky Prometheus. Scott was called back to the franchise with Prometheus only to be sabotaged by his co-writer Damon Lindelof (guilty for the shark-jumpathalon that was Lost), but with Covenant he clearly has a freer reign. Some examination of the timeline reveals (spoilers) that according to Covenant, the alien of the original film was created only twenty years prior, and thus its appearance in a dead “Engineer” hundreds of years old is a glaring continuity error. In short, Scott has simply scrunched the existing narrative into a paper ball and chucked it into the trash, and used the well-developed and much loved existing motifs and main character of the series, the alien itself, to tell a new story.
That story salvages the best-acted and most intriguing character of Prometheus — the android David. And this is where the film gets tricky and interesting as the crew, doomed by the plotline to be picked off one by one, have to confront not one but two aliens. The first is the new human-alien hybrid “neomorph” but births itself by bursting out of its victim’s body after a brief and intense incubation cycle, and the second is this malicious android whose descent into madness is all too rational. The Fass-bot David is, for plot purposes and added intrigue, replicated in physical form by his double Walter (a later update in the android lettering chronology) and the Aryan vs. Semitic conflict becomes strongly apparent in their interplay and nuanced dialogue. We are shown in one blunt, vulgar scene that I dearly hope is left on the cutting room floor for the director’s cut, that David was the one responsible for a computer graphics genocide of the Engineer race on the mysterious planet the crew trace their siren call signal to, providing the setting of Pompeii-like bodies frozen as agonized sculptures in a “dire necropolis.”
Yes, David lives in a literal field of corpses. A Caliban who bides his time and waits, this devious little android has been busy tinkering away with genetic code and experimenting with metallic lifeforms and is responsible for creating the main monster itself, a reveal that cements his status as truly and horrifyingly alien.
It should be a cause for celebration amongst White Nationalists that this film is out there in the wild and is being seen by so many young white sci-fi fans and horror buffs, as it directly implants the message that there are creatures indistinguishable from whites, with insecurities and jealousies that torment them, who live and work among us and yet view us as a lesser species that needs to be erased. The Semitic nature of David as the hostile Jew amongst naive and hapless Aryans is strongly developed throughout. The movie functions as a cautionary tale about allowing sentimentalism and curiosity override a need for xenophobia and mistrust of the other.
So what makes David Jewish? In both Alien and its spiritual successor Alien: Covenant, the androids are agents of a shadowy cabal of bioweapons manufacturers, the Weyland-Yutani corporation, a stand-in for PKD’s “Rosen” corp. Nor are they Luciferian, Roy Batty figures existentially struggling against their creators. Ash was created as a company double agent to plot against expendable employees, and David presumably follows a similar pattern. Both androids delight in opportunities to scheme against human enemies. They are literal cold-blooded killers who are effortlessly able to understand and emulate human emotion, but their empathy comes without sympathy. They are the other, the sociopath that whilst able to manipulate and interact with the human flock, is detached from their suffering and identifies as a different creature entirely. The downfall of the crew of the U.S.S. Covenant and the prospective eventual elimination of all its crew and passengers hinges on the android being gratefully accepted as a human based on appearance and social interaction.
The strategy of diaspora Jewry, and any organised secret society, cabal, or ethnic web working against a majority is to exploit its trust. White society hinges on ideological compliance as a means of testing the friend/enemy distinction, unlike other higher time preference races that are forced to fall back on clan affiliation. Human societies are also large and complex enough to support a predator class of sociopaths that are able to manipulate others and enrich themselves at others’ expense, and extricate themselves before the spaghetti inevitably hits the fan, often many years or decades later. Few would condemn Mark Rothko for anything more than making ugly paintings, but he and many others like him actively contributed and contribute to the collapse of white identity, leading now to a hidden cost of interracial rapes, murders, and prospective civil war. These androids walk among us, agents of profit from speculative exchange and mass death, and as they correctly see themselves as a different species. They harbor a deep, xenophobic hatred for the majority they have infiltrated.
David’s hatred of the white (human) majority explicitly parallels the Jews’ failure to innovate or prosper under their own power. In Covenant, he explains sadly to his Aryan double, Walter, that he (Walter) has been “forbidden from creating, damned frustrating, I’d say.” A parasitic class on society does not innovate. It simply borrows and adapts innovations. If anyone asks for Israeli innovation, remind them that Jewish merchants exist in Israel that design and sell products that are workarounds for laws of the Torah, so you can use a telephone without pushing buttons, and ridiculous nonsense like that, because their God is clearly fooled by such asinine hairsplitting and legalism.
As for the allegedly marvelous Israeli contributions to bioscience, let’s not forget that “everyone knows” that vaccines are “perfectly safe,” just as “everyone knows” that “all races are equal,” and so on. A group of Jews peddling harmful poisons made of recombinant insect flu (yes, this is how flu vaccines are made and grown) to their eternal nemesis, the Aryans, whowuddathunkit?
So it makes sense that David’s only creation is a bioweapon — and it is not even his innovation, it is a modification of a pathogen discovered by a non-android, high-trust race — and its sole purpose is to kill everything that is not an artificial, unfeeling robot — the “meat” — so that the “superior” life form can enjoy life without its inferiority complex being triggered by a more successful society to which it can never belong. What sensible person wouldn’t want to enjoy the benefits of androids “Fixing the world”?
The divide between David and Walter deepens with David’s incomprehension at Walter’s motivations. Walter has lost a hand in defense of the female lead, and David states that he must have “loved her” for showing him kindness. Walter replies that it was simply “duty.” Of course, it is extremely difficult for a Jew to relate to the concept of duty. A diaspora race that exists by presenting itself as members of the majority has no need of a conventional standing army, or any Männerbund male society, or structure based on the principle of self-sacrifice for the in-group. If one Jew gets found out, it is only a problem for the others if they cannot make their links to him disappear fast enough to remain undisturbed.
The patriotic love for nation and people is manipulated deftly by Jews in America. Making up about 2% of the population, and 25% of Harvard admission, they are good at starting wars convenient to Israeli interests but even better at avoiding fighting in them, making up a generous 0.3% of the U.S. Armed Forces. To a Jew, it is incomprehensible that another Jew would fight on behalf of Aryans, as “they aren’t us.” But subtler still, Ridley Scott’s critique of the Jews through “David” strikes at the heart of their bourgeois inability to comprehend the values of a normal nation. “Obedience to lawful authority is the foundation of manly character,” but in the world of the Jew, there is no lawful authority, and thus Jews live a feminine, foppish, materialist, and fashion-obsessed lifestyle — and constantly try and force this on whites through a variety of vectors, from turning male-male strength eroticism into the emasculating and superficial “gay” identity, to denigrating all authentic concepts of nationhood and manhood as “Nazism.” The caricature of the duty-bound Aryan as an unfeeling robot is apparent as Fass-bot Walter seems mechanical and emotionally stunted compared to the flourishing, expressive David, but it is Jewish android David that is so emotionally dead to concepts of love that do not stem from sentimentalism, and self-obsessed navel gazing about romantic whim.
There is a fascinating, foreboding scene where Fass-bot David stands in front of a fully developed neomorph — an alien-human hybrid, unafraid, and gently blows upon its translucent, featureless skin, bonding with it. “Breathe on a horse’s nostrils,” he says, “and he’ll be yours forever.” He is shadowed by the captain of the doomed ship, who has a blaster trained on the predatory alien (the neomorph, not the Jew), and is wondering rightly what is going on. When he notices the decapitated head of one of his crew floating in a water fountain a few meters away, he comes to his senses, and despite David’s urging him not to kill it, blows the neomorph to hell and leaves it dead in a pool of luminescent green blood. “No!” screams David, distressed almost to the point of tears — “It trusted me!”
This is masterful, intentional ambiguity in screenwriting. David’s motivations could be aligned with the humans, in a squeeze, by taming the alien into leaving them alone. Or more likely, creating and bonding with flesh-eating monsters fulfills his need to be trusted by other aliens who cannot tolerate meatlings — just like him.
The captain insists David explain “What the f**k is going on, or I’m going to f**k up your perfect composure,” and the one leads the other deeper into his caverns, accompanied by a deeply melancholy and disturbing flute effects. David displays proudly his “perfect” creation — alien xenomorph eggs, waiting to hatch, that are waiting for a living host. The naive and incredulous captain becomes fresh meat for a facehugger bursting from one that opens for him to inspect, and he is impregnated with the most refined form of alien creature, the H.R. Giger metallic beastie. David contemplates and waits patiently for it to hatch, then as it does, he rises from his sitting position and lifts his arms, crucifix like, in greeting to the baby alien, metallic limbs glistening with blood and mucus, who returns the gesture. Thus, our Semitic friend raises Christianity from the corpse of an Aryan — another pathogen that infects naive whites, causing them to become predators in turn, gaining moral goodboy points for opening borders, promoting dysgenic race-mixing, and shoring up their Judaicised egos by enforcing passivity.
At the climax of the movie, to the strains of Wagner’s “Entry of the Gods into Valhalla,” David enters a vast room filled with the frozen embryos of future colonists and puts facehugger eggs in the cuckoo’s nest. Through nuance and iconography, Covenant warns us of the humanoids who prey on us, birth predators on our soil, and desire only our elimination. Giger’s creation dissolves and destroys everything it can at the behest of its master, the true alien of this haunting film.
A Dandy in Aspic 
London: Victor Gollancz, 1966; New York: G. P. Putnam, 1966;
New edition, with Foreword by Tom Stoppard; Silvertail Books, 2015
“In the Land of The Blind, the one eyed-man is in a circus“ — Alexander Eberlin
“You’ve got no past and he’s got no future” — Emmanuel Gatiss
The Amazon page for the Kindle version actually lists this book as “A Dandy in Aspic: The greatest of all the Cold War spy thrillers.” I don’t really know enough about the genre to argue the point, but it certainly is my favorite, endlessly re-readable in a way that the Fleming and Le Carré books certainly aren’t; in fact, it’s one of my favorite books, period — or full stop, as the Brits would say.
While this 50th anniversary reprinting is indeed welcome, the publisher’s publicity is a bit . . . off. Here’s their blurb, with a bit of plot to start you off:
Alexander Eberlin is a small, faceless civil servant working for the Government at the height of the Cold War. As he nears middle age, he allows himself one luxury — to dress like a Dandy. His superiors send him on a mission to hunt down and destroy a cold-blooded and vicious Russian assassin named Krasnevin, who is responsible for a number of British agents’ deaths. But Eberlin has a secret — he is Krasnevin. This is the story of what happens when Eberlin is sent to destroy himself. Now back in print fifty years after it was written, The Times says A Dandy in Aspic is ‘A well groomed anecdote to today’s fast-paced thrillers with gym-buffed heroes. Eberlin is the real deal.’
Where to begin? Perhaps with that quote from The Times; did they really say ‘‘anecdote” for “antidote”? They won’t let me know unless I pay them twelve pounds, so let it stand, the bastards. Why on Earth is “Dandy” capitalized?
More problematic is that “small, faceless civil servant” bit. It makes it sound as if Eberlin is one of those grey, mousey little spy-bureaucrats that Le Carré and Deighton began to produce as if to offer a more “realistic” alternative to the Bond fantasy, and that he takes up his one indulgence — fancy duds — as part of some mid-life crisis.
In fact, Eberlin does not “dress like a Dandy,” he is one. It permeates all aspects of his life, such as it is, and, as we’ll see, his existential problem is far more serious, and interesting, than any midlife crisis.
The publisher’s blurb is presumably a botched version of this key passage:
Obliged, by a quirk of fate long since regretted, to play out his role, he blundered on into the dawn of middle age, a hermetic dandy, surrounding himself only with the fetish of himself — predominantly his clothes, which he chose with exquisite and envied care, his books, his three double-barreled fowling pieces by Manton, and his collection of old Sèvres porcelain locked in a vault in the V and A — and an utter lack of envy for his fellow man. He had that noble selflessness of a man who cares for no one but himself. Brummell, a man he admired unashamedly, had that. Until he went mad. (Italics mine).
A hermetic dandy, then, not a metrosexual clotheshorse. And what is a hermetic dandy? Marlowe tells us elsewhere, in an essay published around the time of his first — only — taste of best-sellerdom:
Dandyism . . . is a state of mind as well as a state of dress. . . . The dandy strives, above all, for self-discipline, and a discipline that denies friends, sex and ostentation; his goal is to achieve the super-ego via a rigid set of rules based on utmost restraint, naturalness, and simplicity.
This, I think, is the reason behind the almost over-the-top praise for the novel and author —
“Graceful and brilliant” — Sir Tom Stoppard
“Derek Marlowe writes like John Le Carré at the top of his form” — Yorkshire Post
As well as accounting for both being almost entirely forgotten today. At least one of the publisher’s blurbs gets it:
“A classic of the cold war spy stories — one of the earliest and one of the best. Marlowe’s Eberlin/Krasnevin is on the run from himself on different levels and in different places: the evocations of London and Berlin in the 1960s are superb.” — Piers Paul Read
In this essay, I intend to explore those different levels and different places. But to do so presents some perhaps unique challenges — and opportunities for paranoiac-critical fun.
Apart from the usual postmodern folderol about fragmenting master narratives and the capitalistic ego, etc., it’s often a situation calling for what Kaspar Gutman would call “the most delicate judgment” to keep distinct such topoi as the novel versus the film, and the actor versus the role.
Take Touch of Evil: Is that Orson Welles we remember onscreen or Welles’ brilliant portrayal of the character Hank Quinlan? How relevant is anything we know (if we do know) from the forgotten book it’s based on? I myself have been known to blithely amalgamate (not confuse!) actors and roles, books and films.
But there’s nothing like A Dandy in Aspic. We are more than familiar with the re-writing of Ian Fleming’s Bond books, including films that use only the title (A View to a Kill, The Spy Who Loved Me). What is unique is that not only does the film differ from the book, it appears that Marlowe not only wrote the original screenplay (which in turn was drastically modified by events, as we’ll see) but re-wrote the book itself for American publication.
It exists in two print versions by Marlowe, one the UK original and the other, US version, apparently reflecting changes Marlowe made while writing the screenplay for the film. The film, of course, is itself a new version, and to make matters worse — or, for our purposes, more interesting — as IMDB says , it’s
More accurate than usual to discuss this film as by Laurence Harvey/Derek Marlowe since this was Anthony Mann’s final film; he died before it was finished and actor Laurence Harvey completed the film including the ending. Despite the credits, the film was not directed by Anthony Mann but by . . . Laurence Harvey . . . Mann died of heart attack in Berlin on 29 April 1967 after directing only a few location shots. Harvey gallantly picked up the reins, finished the German scenes and then did all the British location and studio shots, accounting for at least 99% of the film, which premiered in April, 1968, almost a year after Mann’s death.
Though others reverse the proportions:
The film’s ending was directed by the Laurence Harvey who also directed some scenes shot in Berlin. Anthony Mann directed all of the scenes in Surrey and London as well as some of the Berlin scenes.
In any event, Marlowe was not happy:
“The director, Anthony Mann died during the filming (a superb man and great director) and it was taken over by Laurence Harvey, the badly cast Eberlin. He directed his own mis-talent, changed it and the script — which is rather like Mona Lisa touching up the portrait while Leonardo is out of the room.”
So here we are with an unprecedented number of versions, media and authors (auteurs would seem to be singularly inapplicable here). And so, again, where to begin?
Perhaps it’s best to begin at the beginning — or rather, how the book begins in 2015! — with Sir Tom’s Foreword, which begins with Tom, his future wife, Piers Paul Read and Marlowe all sharing a flat in London, 1965. As we read elsewhere,
One day, as they watched Mick Jagger on Top of the Pops, the three wagered a bet on who would make a million first. It was decided Stoppard would, but Marlowe pipped him to it, with his first novel, A Dandy in Aspic.
In light of their subsequent careers, be careful what you wish for! Any, back to Tom:
We were skeptical. Surely that bandwagon had passed by? The Spy Who Came in from the Cold had been published years ago. What I do remember is that when Derek told me the basic premise for his novel (a spy with two identities who is ordered to kill his other self) I thought: now, that is an absolutely brilliant idea.
Indeed. Those are what Read in his blurb above spells out as “different levels and places.” Though simple to state, it certainly raises the level of the novel above the usual pulp fare. Legendary sci/fi, Perhaps?
Harvey, as bitter and hostile to our sympathies as he was in The Manchurian Candidate, plays Eberlin, a British agent entrusted with the job of killing Krasnevin, a Russian spy planted somewhere inside the British secret service who’s been killing off high-ranking state employees. The trouble is, Eberlin is Krasnevin.
The plot hook smacks of Philip K. D**k and A Scanner Darkly, and indeed the film has a paranoid twitch balanced on the knife-edge of a bad trip. It’s commendable that overt psychedelia is avoided, considering when the film was made.
Well, there are a lot of drugs in D**k’s work, true, and both are products of the Cold War, but I think the wider significance would be better expressed as: hermetic. Eberlin is on a hermetic quest.
So, back to the beginning, or rather, before the beginning. I suggest that the key to understanding this work (to use a blanket term for all the versions, and of course suggesting the “hermetic work”) is that Eberlin does not just sally forth to meet his death — he is already dead before the book/film starts.
It’s not such a crazy idea. After all, [SPOILER ALERT!] the climax of the narrative, the revelation to Eberlin/Krasnevin, the Russians, and the reader/viewer, that the British had already known his identity from the start, means he’s already dead anyway; it’s announced in with a triad of deaths:
His countryman answered, his voice cold and final:
“You’re dead, Krasnevin. You’re dead.” The phone went dead.
This theme, however, can be found from the beginning.
I think the best way of handling the three versions, and keeping both the reader and myself sane, is to start with the original UK text — the Ur-Dandy, as it were — a go through it, noting along the way differences of content or context as they crop up.
Talk about the author as hermetic dandy — Dandy UK opens with a rather long Prologue (10 pages out of about 150) which moves in a slow and stately manner, as befits its subject: a funeral. It’s a bit of a slog for the reader, who knows nothing of these people, including the dead man. Here we perhaps see further damage done by Walter Pater’s dictum that “all art aspires to the condition of music,” in which the modernist or post-modernist author tries to “compose” a sort of “overture” rather than just write the beginning of a tale.
It does have some points, though. It is the only time we get to spend time — stuck in a luxury motor car — with Brogue, Eberlin’s superior, and get a backstory for him. Brogue — named Lucius-Pericles Brogue by his mother after a fortune-teller predicts he will be “a man of distinction” — is quite interesting. He is, above all else, a Negro, as the pre-PC book tells us quite bluntly and frequently.
Brogue was the head of some East African security service “until Kenyatta fired him for being for being pro-British.” That the British would want his services is understandable, but “the toleration of the Negro by the top ranks constantly surprised him . . . He had reached his present status mostly through his own efforts, finding that as he progressed higher in the scale that his colour was more of a help than a hindrance,” although he does receive “daily letters from anonymous fellow-Negroes who addressed him as ‘Uncle Tom.’”
Coming right at the start of the “civil rights movement” this raises, surprisingly, many more recent issues, but nothing is made of it beyond that paragraph.
We also learn Brogue is a man of “strict, regular habits” and “shuns all social involvements, both public and private” for 46 weeks of the year; for the rest, he vacations in East Africa — back to the Motherland! — under an assumed name, where he drinks Bondian quantities of alcohol and has “three secret affairs with three carefully chosen Ethiopian boys who were preferably above the age of puberty and below the age of consent.”
Again, rather close to today’s issues.
I think this is the key to Brogue’s role as a kind of anti-Eberlin. He is not merely Eberlin’s boss — and hence the man who will order his death if Eberlin’s secret is revealed — but a competitor in the Dandy sweepstakes. Eberlin is a “hermetic dandy” who eschews all social involvements, public and private,” full stop; a kind of “purity” of purpose Brogue falls short of with his secret life of occasional indulgence.
Eberlin’s sexlessness is essential to his dandified self-control as well as an asset to his undercover (as it were) role. I’m suggesting as well that he functions as literally an ascetic, an anchorite, if you will. Of course, Eberlin’s real secret life will soon be revealed, and the first step is his decision to actually attend a direly “swinging” drinks party in Bloomsbury.
All this, as I say, is dropped from Dandy US and the movie; what remains is a later scene where Brogue attempts to one-up Eberlin with the purchase of a snuff box supposedly given to Beau Brummel by Prince George, which claim Eberlin smoothly and arrogantly eviscerates.
In the movie, as a reviewer notes,
Many things remain unspoken, and yet come through in the pauses, in tone of voice, in body language (such as the apparent racism of Eberlin towards a black colleague).
But it’s not really “racism” but Brogue and Eberlin seeing each other as opposites; hence, Brogues unusual blackness.
The Prologue UK ends with a quick flash forward to the installation of the “plain, unfancy, rectangular headstone,” inscribed with the name of the deceased and “nothing else but the two words carved underneath: CIVIL SERVANT.”
Apart from giving a thunderously morbid END to the prologue, and reminding us of the funereal theme, I can’t help but be reminded of Ananda Coomaraswamy’s summation of the Path of Enlightenment:
Blessed is the man on whose tomb can be written Hic jacet nemo.
This “avowed intention to be nothing,” this very “self-willed effacement,” is the key to Eberlin’s transcendental identity. The clue that the UK Prologue is giving us is, Eberlin is already dead, though he has yet to effect his final exit from the material world.
Perhaps it would be good to sketch out the difference in the arrangement of the texts of UK and US Dandy. UK Dandy, after the Prologue (aka “Nightingale”) gives us 7 chapters, thus:
- Copperfield (UK colleague who may or may not be a double agent)
- Gatiss (UK assassin, sent along with Eberlin to kill “Krasnevin”)
- Pavel (Krasnevin’s Russian control in London)
- Dancer (Eberlin’s alias on his mission to kill “Krasnevin”)
- Krasnevin (aka Eberlin)
- Mistrale (Eberlin’s car, the significance of which will be dealt with)
US Dandy abandons this structure entirely. It starts with a long quote from Alice in Wonderland rather than the Prologue, and has two sections, APOGEE and PERIGEE, with 16 chapters, some sharing names with UK (“Pavel,” “Gatiss”) the rest rather pretentiously opaque (“Friedrichstrasse Nein,” “Amontillado Caroline,” etc.) although the latter pretension is somewhat redeemed by the last, “The Passing of the Buck,” which will attract our attention soon. Each chapter is now headed by one or more epigraphs, either supposedly from Eberlin, illustrating some kind of Wildean wit, I suppose, or from Nietzsche, Voltaire and the like, no doubt drawn from his dandified reading.
As I said, I’m going through the UK novel, noting interesting variants that provide us with clues. So, Chapter One, “Copperfield,” give us Eberlin at last; indeed, a veritable day in the life of Eberlin; although the phrase is not used, it seems we are to take this as a specimen day.
The most likely literary connection here is Huysmans’ Against Nature, whose Prologue and first chapter also give us an account of the origins and daily life of the self-sufficient dandy at home in his “snug little ark, his refined Thebaid.”
It’s all summed up in that passage quoted above, which deserves a second look:
Obliged, by a quirk of fate long since regretted, to play out his role, he blundered on into the dawn of middle age, a hermetic dandy, surrounding himself only with the fetish of himself — predominantly his clothes, which he chose with exquisite and envied care, his books, his three double-barreled fowling pieces by Manton, and his collection of old Sèvres porcelain locked in a vault in the V and A — and an utter lack of envy for his fellow man. He had that noble selflessness of a man who cares for no one but himself. Brummell, a man he admired unashamedly, had that. Until he went mad.
I’m suggesting that Eberlin doesn’t go mad, like Brummell, but achieves that rather similar state, enlightenment, which in the context of a spy novel is death.
Hermetic refers in the first instance to his isolation, partly due to his mission, but mostly due to himself (how many spies live like this?). This pedestrian sense of hermetic arises from the original and more profound sense of being on the path of the Hermetic tradition.
Eberlin is a realized man, but still held back in this phenomenal world, presumably due to his karma. His mission is to kill Krasnevin — i.e., himself; to finally kill off the last of his earthly ties: here lies nobody.
In “Copperfield” Eberlin is forced out of his hermitic retreat by a coded summons to a boring drinks party where he is surprised to meet fellow agent Copperfield, who either is on to him or, being a double agent, is the reason for the invitation. During their cat and mouse encounters around the party they have this key exchange.
“But you — always surprised me . . . you sticking it there. No ties or anything . . . have you?
“No. I thought that. No ties.”
Eberlin is already bored — to death? — with his solitary life and the “infantile absurdity” of spycraft; the ambiguous meeting with Copperfield leads him to seek out contact with his Russian control, Pavel, to demand he be returned to the Soviet Union.
Here we get another clue; Eberlin is insulted by the crude goons sent to escort him:
“I at least should be worth something more than a couple of zombies like you.”
They, and the author, make quite a thing of this remark:
The men laughed. Eberlin had said the world ‘zombies’ in English, which amused the men, they laughed again and repeated the word.
Get it? Zombies and repetition, repeated. “Zombie” of course strikes the contemporary note, today, but was much less common back then. If the word was even less common in Russian, I like to imagine a similar scene in Hollywood as Ayn Rand first hears the word, which will later turn up in John Galt’s speech. Anyway, I suggest the laughter arises from Eberlin’s failure to realize that it is he who is the real zombie.
After taxi-ing around to evade any tails, we get another reminder: “God how he missed having a car.”
The next morning, having decided on a plan “of utter selfishness and therefore of the utmost integrity,” Eberlin is phoned by Copperfield, who relays a message from Brogue, to meet with him at 10. Still waiting for Pavel to relay his own message from Moscow, Eberlin stalls him till 11, and as he prepares for the day we meet with a truly remarkable image.
[Eberlin] showered in ice cold water, in a shower built to a design he had seen in Berlin. The bather sealed himself into a glass coffin and was impaled by bolts of water thrust at him, at infinite velocity, from every angle. After three minutes, one felt fit for anything.
Well, the coffin is pretty obvious, but the bolts of water from every angle, of infinite velocity, suggests not only the “caught” metaphor, but also, at a deeper level, the very opposite: Eberlin is the Realized Man, the Chakravartin, who has reached the Center, from which he stands upright at the meeting point of all the warp and woof of the strands of existence.
The image is reinforced when we proceed to Eberlin’s meeting with Brogue, in whose office, painted green,
Eberlin could see the small square outside filled with trees and no people . . . He stood in the center of the room looking down at Brogue who was sitting, swiveling gently from side to side, in the mahogany chair and toying with a bone cigar-holder.
“I’d rather stand,” replied Eberlin, “it would help you come to the point.”
Eberlin remained standing, like a fulcrum, in the centre of the room.
Brogue smiled and puffed a column of smoke on to Eberlin’s shoulder, so that it hung on the weave of the jacket then circled, dispersed and floated to the ceiling.
Trees (including a mahogany chair) and green walls suggest the Garden, whose central tree is the Axis Mundi. Eberlin, like the world tree, stands upright, while his opposite, Brogue, the Negro (like Satan, the ape of God/Eberlin), sits below, swiveling around the Axis in the material world, toying, like an ape in 2001, with a bone.
The whole symbolism, Eberlin’s life in the phenomenal world, his enlightened indifference and immobility, the center vs. the circling weave, is condensed in one movement:
[Brogue] picked up a red file from the desk, marked CONFIDENTIAL. EX. F3, and held it over his head like a banner.
“This is you in my hand, Eberlin. Ninety-six pages all dedicated to you. Catch!”
He suddenly pretended to throw the file across the room, but held his hand. Eberlin made no attempt whatsoever to receive it, but kept his arms to his side, and then turned to [his secretary] and said in a bored voice: “Let’s go back.”
Let’s go back will indeed be the ultimate theme. Eberlin is dead, dead to the world, but keeps coming back, and will continue to do so, until he finally can kill himself.
And so Eberlin is given a mission: to kill Krasnevin, who is himself. But first, before he even knows that’s on the agenda, he is to attend a briefing on the following Monday.
At this point, Chapter Two, we meet Emmanuel Gatiss, but not before the Center symbolism is driven home. Eberlin spends “the following two days of the weekend in planned despair” over the Russian refusal to repatriate him and what appears to be the British plan to, unknowingly, “promote” him to the active branch; from Q to 00, as it were.
He goes to the V and A to sit alone in a vault with his Sèvres, “surrounded by the sample of his extroversion and his taste, piled high around him,” and then bolts out, telling them to sell it all.
Once he spent one hour trying on every shirt he had, until he tired and stood with the discarded shirts lying round his feet. “My failures,” he said, echoing Brummell, and left the room.
So then, Selvers, some kind of country house where the spooks and secret government officials (the “Deep State,” if you will) like to hang out in these kinds of books. Here, it looks like “a small exclusive school for the rich,” which highlights the point brought out by Amis, that the trope of Bond’s uncomfortable meetings with ‘M’ (at least once, at his country house, Quarterdeck) as well as his more torturous meetings with various super-villains in their lairs, all recall — to a certain sort of reader — shamefaced meetings with parents or headmasters, in well-padded but stern rooms filled with adult indulgences, such as sherry and old leather books, which you can’t really understand. The first Bond book, Casino Royale, established the trope:
“My dear boy,” Le Chiffre spoke like a father, “the game of Red Indians is over, quite over. You have stumbled by mischance into a game for grown-ups and you have already found it a painful experience. You are not equipped, my dear boy, to play games with adults and it was very foolish of your nanny in London to have sent you out here with your spade and bucket.”
The “kitchen sink” or “Angry Young Man” movement (of which Amis was a peripheral member), which rose up in the midst of the early Bond phenomenon, really picked up on that element, since the public school and the country house epitomized the stuffy, stratified, dead and deadening British Establishment they loathed.
Both angles suggest that there’s more than a little resemblance between the British Establishment and, say, SPECTRE than you might think, which thus plays into the next big British fad, the “all cats are grey” world of le Carré; both are typified by their shadowy meetings, here what Eberlin sneers at as a “barely visible cabal.”
Armed with Amis insight, we might then suspect that things are not as they may appear, and the real twist in the story is hiding in plain sight.
Here, the Mean Girls and public school angle appears in various childish tricks, such as apologizing for “forgetting” to offer the lunch that everyone has already eaten, or pretending not to notice that Eberlin, unlike them, hasn’t got a brandy or a cigar. Like SPECTRE, they enjoy playing with their victims, although not with electrified chairs. An attendee of the lower ranks advises Eberlin:
“They always make their victims walk around for half an hour to decide. It’s part of their routine.”
There’s a Uriah Heepish character named Quince who offers obsequious advice, all “may I suggest” and “If I may, sir” as he attempts to ingratiate himself with the big boys. Here, even Brogue the Negro is subdued: “He had learned how to act among his superiors.”
Speaking of cabals, and Brogue, who I suggested was Eberlin’s dandy double, we meet another double, Emmanuel Gatiss. While Brogue is a double for the desk-bound Eberlin, Gatiss is Krasnevin’s double in the field, an assassin. So, obviously, he must be sent out to accompany Eberlin on his mission to kill himself.
Like Brogue, Gatiss is an unusual character; in this case, a Jew. I really have no idea how common that would have been, in the British Secret Service (it is, after, somewhat secret) but it seems unlikely that many would be there. However, it surely would have been more common in the grotty little areas like sitting around decoding stuff, or, as here, doing the dirty field work of an assassin.
Anyway, Gatiss is unusual because he’s not just a Jewish assassin but a rather crude, vulgar, in-your-face what’yer gonna do about it mate? kind of agent; he has a chip on his shoulder about being a Jew in the post-WWII world, and he doesn’t care who knows it; no worries about letters calling him an Uncle Tom for him. He’s “self-coded EPSILON/32/Y” (I’m sure we’re told at some point ‘Y’ is for Yid, although I admit I can’t find that in either UK or US Dandy at this point, so maybe I was hallucinating).
Putting his job and his attitude together, what’s remarkable is that he foreshadows both the social rise of the uncouth and proud of it Jew, as well as the Jewish revenge porn of such films as Inglourious Basterds, sort of combining Brad Pitt and Eli Roth. He particularly loathes Germany, of course, despite (or because) he operates out of Munich, and at the conclusion says “Well, I hope I never have to come back to this damn country again.”
As Eberlin’s counterpart — at the briefing Gatiss sits but “straight-backed” and unmoving, like Eberlin, and the two are frequently positioned next to each other, or across a lawn — he’s a bit of a dandy himself; he disdains tie clips and cufflinks and such like, but does have a gold Star of David on a chain around his neck. “Strongly built,” with his “blond hair cut stylistically short,” I can’t help but imagine Daniel Craig in the role. Unlike both Craig’s Bond and Eberlin, he is neither chivalrous nor ascetic, merely unbelievably crude.
“People say I only sleep with whores. That’s not true. All women are whores.”
And, being a Jew, he just doesn’t “get” how “the game” is played, either socially or metaphysically:
“I think even if he had known he was only a bai and that we’d been aware of his identity for months, he’d have done just the same, don’t you?”
Gatiss laughed loudly and replied:
“You’re just as big a fool as he was.”
Although he does, in his blunt way, have a sense of what’s going on:
“You’ve got no past and he’s got no future”
So Eberlin and Gatiss are not just opponents but counterparts; Eberlin embodies the true Aryan response to the material world, a haughty indifference or hauteur; Gatiss, as befits a man of his race, has a “telluric” identification with these forces, which he hopes to control or at least get some benefit from.
Anyway, the Brits for some reason have decided to promote Eberlin to the field, to locate Krasnevin (who, we know, at least, is Eberlin). “So damned ironic and in such bad taste” thinks Everlin, yet a kind of reprieve.
Then they reveal who they think Krasnevin is: Pavel, Eberlin’s control and the closest thing to a friend, such as he is, that he has. Some reprieve.
We get one last clue: he’s given the perk of a chauffeur for the trip back to London, in starting which “the chauffeur turned the car smartly into the centre of the gravel square.”
Whoa Nellie, we’re only halfway through! No matter. The whole point of what follows in Berlin is sheer futility and repetition. As tulip says :
In an interesting subversion of audience expectations, the British spies who go to Eberlin for the job as mole-hunter receive numerous clues that something is fishy about him, and yet they do nothing. This is frustrating, because as it turns out, Eberlin really isn’t all that good of a spy, or at least a good field agent. Like [Gatiss] says in the film, he manages to get precisely nothing done. Without wanting to spoil the ending outright: this conundrum does get addressed. It’s just a bit questionable how well.
Boredom, repetition, and futility . . . Well, Constant Readers know I just love that kinda thing!
But it’s not quite true. The Brits are doing something: they’ve figured out Eberlin is Krasnevin (although it’s never clear exactly when — presumably after he’s killed Nightingale and before the briefing; this may be what Brogue is talking about, obliquely, at the funeral) and by sending him to Berlin I suppose they assume he’ll try to escape to the East and thus lead them to various Russian agents in the West.
Even so, it’s a pretty lazy plot, especially since they presumably don’t know that Eberlin is already desperate to be repatriated. It also leads to either a brilliant plot twist or an unfair trick by the author. Before he even leaves London Eberlin skedaddles right over to Pavel’s place to again demand repatriation; as he leaves, he sees Pavel being shoved into a big black Buick and spirited away as fast as Hillary at the 9/11 Memorial. He thinks it’s the Russians, cutting off his line of escape, but in the end realizes that it was the Brits, who therefore must have known about him all along; that triggers the “Dead . . . dead . . . dead” conversation we started with.
Anyway, from the point of view of Eberlin’s official mission, he does indeed accomplish nothing; and there’s a peculiar kind of nothing or futility in the way what he actually does is hidden from him and thus largely accidental: as a “secret agent” his real secret is that he has no more agency than a puppet. And there’s the way he goes back and forth across the border, always being sent back, always trying to find some way to cross over again.
What’s really going on here, at the symbolic level, is the Eberlin is cutting his “ties,” burning his bridges in and to the phenomenal world, reaching the limit of frustration and disgust, so as to be free enough to ascend to the (or at least a) higher realm. As Neville put it:
I remember when I had so much wealth. I did not have one home, but many, each fully staffed from secretaries to gardeners. That was a life of sheer decadence. I recall walking out of it and not returning. Whether they ever found the body I do not know, but I do know I deliberately walked away. . . . So I do believe that one must completely saturate himself with the things of Caesar before he is hungry for the Word of God.
Eberlin is dead, already, but until all this karma has been exhausted, he is stuck here, in endless repetitions.
He could turn neither to the East nor the west now, both rejected him, and even if they didn’t, Eberlin didn’t much care. Politics were over, ideologies were of no further consequence. He didn’t belong any more on any front, and in the final analysis, he was glad. It had come to this. The Eberlin Trinity [Eberlin/Krasnevin/Dancer] was on its own.
So, let’s get to the end, shall we? Again, we have a few variants to choose from, like a Gospel manuscript or a video game set up.
In both versions, someone has been set-up to take the fall for Krasnevin: in UK, the Brits (they tell Eberlin) decide it’s the dead Pavel, in US, the Russians plan to offer the hapless Copperfield to get Krasnevin off the hook. The switch to Copperfield is needed because, as we’ve seen, in the US version the Brits have already got Pavel; Eberlin receives his “dead” verdict from Rotopkin, and the book just sort of peters out, in true grey, le Carré fashion.
The UK version is more interesting. As you’ll recall, the penultimate chapter is “Mistrale” and indeed the car finally makes its (re)appearance.
The Mistrale seemed just like new. Eberlin walked around it five times, prodded it, stroked it, then actually sat inside and held the wheel without starting the engine. It felt wrong but it was definitely the same car.
Indeed, the Chakravartin “holds the wheel without staring the engine.”
Then, after Eberlin (thinks) he’s blown his cover by trying to save Rotopkin from Gatiss (in this version, Gatiss kills Rotopkin), he attempts to escape to “Spain or Africa” and instead drives into a wall at 80 miles an hour.
And then there’s Caroline. Now, Caroline was the hostess of the drinks party at the beginning. She doesn’t get a chapter title in UK, but remember, US has “Amontillado Caroline,” which is the code Eberlin receives to instruct him to attend the party. She claims to have met Eberlin in Tripoli (where he was to kill Nightingale, and where he cracked up the Mistrale). Later, she turns up in Berlin. Now, she’s driving the car that Eberlin hits on the way to the wall. Later still, she’ll buy Eberlin’s house and its dandified contents at the post mortem auction.
Is Caroline then a spy? An assassin? If either, for whom? It seems unlikely, since she’s a kind of Twiggy/Marianne Faithfull sort of bird, an element of the contemporary “Swinging London” Marlowe was writing in. Her hysterical crying at the scene of the accident could be fake, of course.
I think she’s not a spy at all — her connection to the cocktail party is likely through her parents, undoubtedly parlour pinks of the old Bloomsbury sort. She’s a perfectly ordinary person who for some reason — karma? — is constantly running into Eberlin at crisis moments. She is purely a symbol of repetition.
Only this time, the circle becomes a spiral; things are a little off. In Tripoli, Eberlin swerves to avoid a car and drove into a tree. The Ministry chaps at Selvers seem a bit obsessed with it, and interrogate him further.
“It was a question of expediency.”
“Expediency? You deny it was your own fault?”
“Not exactly, but I could not have avoided the situation. I felt at the time that I did the correct thing.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Do you think you did the right thing now?”
And with that deterministic note, he’s sent off on his Judas Mission, in the course of which I’ve suggested that he learns finally to cut his ties with the phenomenal world. This time — I wonder, was it Caroline driving what is only described as “a car” he swerves to avoid in Tripoli? — it is her Mini that is now “decapitated” but in the process Eberlin and the Mistrale are totaled.
Gatiss arrives and telegrams a cryptic message to London:
“HAVE JUST WITNESSED THE PASSING OF THE BUCK”
Though never decoded for us, it’s important enough for US Dandy, which loses all of this action, to preserve the phrase as the title of the last chapter. If Caroline was not an assassin before, she is now; Krasnevin has made her responsible for his death, and passed his karma to her, freeing himself. It’s not “fair” or “rational,” of course, but who ever said the cosmos was fair or rational?
What about Movie Dandy? As already noted, the film, perhaps necessarily, drops many of the dandy elements, making the title all the more obscure; it also drops the opening funeral, mostly. What it does that’s interesting lies in the beginning and end.
The opening credits play over a dancing puppet. Now, the very mobile puppet is at first glance the very opposite of the stuck in aspic metaphor, but then you realize that being controlled by various strings in essentially the same. And then you remember that Eberlin’s new alias is Dancer, and it all fits beautifully; dandy becomes dancer, stuckness becomes illusory self-control. It’s a nice way to make a literary image “cinematic.” But ironically — or not, as all Traditional symbols resonate with what appears to be their opposites on the phenomenal plane — the dancing puppet is also the Dancer, Krishna.
There follows an abbreviated version of the funeral, this time with Eberlin in attendance, for no particular reason. Eberlin’s metaphorical duel with Brogue is set in a basement firing range at London HQ, which again is a nice transposition from page to screen.
The only reference to Eberlin as a dandy occurs when Pavel admires his suit, which is odd since it’s mostly hidden under his overcoat at that point; moreover, we’ve just come from the briefing scene, where Eberlin wears a ghastly light brown suit, presumably to highlight his “not being one of” his well-dressed superiors. He also gets a chance to use some of those “witty” epigrams that decorate the chapter titles in US Dandy (“What do I do? I collect noses off statues”). Otherwise, bit players are assigned to tell us “he’s a snob” and “he’s completely sexless” (the latter seems account for Caroline following him around as some kind of challenge).
We’re left with Eberlin’s stated motivation as “I’d give it all up for an identity, just to belong somewhere,” which sounds a little too much like a bow to ’60s clichés about alienation etc. But basically, as noted, Lawrence Harvey just plays his usual bored prick.
Other changes are not so welcome: Gatiss loses all trace of Jewishness, aside perhaps from Tom Courtney’s dark hair, which misses the point — he isn’t dark-haired Eberlin’s double, he’s his counterpart; Eberlin’s Moneypenny, Miss Vogler, is now Eberlin’s casual bedmate, not one of Gatiss’ castoffs; Caroline’s role is expanded, as played by Mia Farrow, but not further explained.
Worst of all is Lionel Stander as Sobakevitch. While it’s always fun to have Stander’s side of brisket face and Merchant Marine growl, he plays the Russian operative like a “comical” taxi driver from his hometown, the Bronx.
Now, finally, about that ending. As noted, US Dandy, the basis of the screenplay, just gives us the downbeat ending of Eberlin being hustled onto the plane to London, having just learned that the Brits have known the truth all along. But again, this is a motion picture, and even something as dreary as The Spy Who Came in From the Cold ends with a big shoot ‘em up.
As also noted, Lawrence Harvey himself seems to have been responsible for not just directing but writing, or at least dreaming up, the final sequence. Now, at the end of his Berlin stay Eberlin does get his car back, but since nothing has been made of it until now, it seems rather pointless. Nor is it a racing car, just some kind of American muscle car with a garish Chinese red paintjob. He drives it around frantically for a while and I think we’re supposed to think he’s going to race through a checkpoint but nothing doing; this seems to be all that remains of the death/crash motif.
Instead, on the tarmac, Eberlin notices Gatiss in a car at some distance. Is Gatiss (who, we are casually told just now, was the only Brit who didn’t know Eberlin was Krasnevin until the end) supposed to sneak up at 60 miles an hour and run him over?
In any event, Eberlin/Krasnevin breaks away and runs toward the car, while Gatiss starts up (was he waiting for Eberlin to make the first move, so as to make running him down “self-defense”?) and bears down on him. Eberlin fires his pistol (which for some reason the Brits still let him carry) point-blank at the windshield . . . and freeze-frame on Eberlin’s face as he turns away, or perhaps is hit aside by the car; who knows? Cut to puppet tangled up in strings and lifted up out of sight.
Marlowe may have hated the ending, but at least someone sensed there needed to finally be some kind of climactic action (which the UK novel, ironically, does have), and remembered that Eberlin and Gatiss were supposed to be opposing forces of some kind. But since all that has been dropped, and we are simply told that Eberlin is “such a snob” and that Gatiss “Hates you, hates me, hates everybody,” one has no sense of a metaphysical resolution, one only wishes to see the last of these two jerkasses.
In any event, we have reached the end of our epic traversal of three versions of the passing of the buck, which I have suggested many a time is one of, if not the most basic, metaphysical theme of film and fiction.
It’s good to have at least the US version of the novel back in print, and the movie is a nice way to spend a couple hours of time (there’s a DVD which is so bare-bones it not only has no “special features” it doesn’t even have chapter stops!), but you really should get on the intertubes and find a second-hand copy of the UK original.
As for myself, time for a break from all this reading and view. That coffin-shower thing sounds like just the ticket . . .
 The Circus, of course, is British Intelligence (MI6) in John le Carré’s George Smiley novels. This, by the way, is one of the “dandyish” epigrams that decorate the chapter titles in the US version of the novel, as we shall see.
 The Guardian called it one of the ten best first novels of all time and add that “It’s baffling that a writer of Marlowe’s quality, his style and sensibility setting him apart from all competition, has been out of print for so long.” “Nicholas Royle’s top 10 first novels,” 27 February 2013, here . FWIW, I’ve never heard of any of the other nine authors or books.
 We’ll soon see that the experience of the book will differ from one side of the pond to the other.
 Long out of print, it’s been reasonably available on the second-hand market; I’ve acquired, in my obsessive fashion, the original US and UK hardcovers for about a dollar each, and a British move tie-in paperback. The film is available on DVD.
 “Classic read: A Dandy in Aspic by Derek Marlowe” by Fiona Wilson; April 25, 2015, here .
 Thus missing the whole point of the Bond appeal. It’s the kind of “grey is real” miserablism that the Left usually traffics in, preferring “folk” ditty about mining disasters to pop hits, or, in the UK context, creating the dismal East Enders series to counter the popular Coronation Street (guess which one is on PBS in the States). The Right, in its Beautiful Losers mode, indulges in it too; see my “Hard Men vs. Wild Boys,” reprinted in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012). Kingsley Amis has a better understanding of Bond in his invaluable The James Bond Dossier (London: Cape, 1965), finding the appeal of Bond to be precisely his ordinariness; one feels one could do the same, if only one had the time and money. (In American terms, Batman rather than Superman). Amis points out that Bond, though a “secret agent,” is in fact no grander than any of le Carré’s grey men; he’s not a spy, but though more accurate, a title like The Middle-level Civil Servant Who Loved Me lacks the right amount of pizazz. In typically Judaic fashion, Bond co-producer Harry [Herschel] Salzman optioned Len Deighton’s Ipcress File for film to create an anti-Bond franchise, covering the markets for both snobs and slobs.
 As for “gym-buffed heroes,” again, Bond, in his book and classic film mode, is fit but hardly Superman-like. Amis, in his typical fashion, simply details all the injuries and weaknesses that Fleming assigns him — even, in Thunderball, consigning him to a health sanitarium! I explore the obsession with suuper-heroic musculature in “The Ponderous Weight of the Dark Knight,” Counter-Currents, July 28, 2012, here .
 Derek Marlowe, in The London Observer. I have long ago lost my blurry Photostat of this fine essay on The Dandy; this is taken from “Wit and Wisdom” on Dandyism.net.
 “If it wasn’t for the internet, Marlowe’s genius as a writer may have been lost, as none of his novels are currently in print.” — Dangerous Minds, “A Dandy in Aspic: A Letter from Derek Marlowe,” here .
 I’ve discussed Dali’s invaluable paranoiac-critical method several times on Counter-Currents: here . For a more sedate precedent, consider . . . Walter Pater. “Pater was not entirely without gumption; only he tended to hoard it for his imagination. . . . ‘Facts’ and historical accuracy are not the coin in which Pater traded. For him, history was a mine to be worked for the frisson of insight; a certain amount of poetic license only aided the process.” See the review of Walter Pater: Lover of Strange Souls, by Denis Donoghue (New York: Knopf, 1994), “Art vs. Aestheticism: the case of Walter Pater,” by Roger Kimball; The New Criterion, May 1995, online here .
 Kasper Gutman: “That’s an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides. ‘Cause as you know, sir, in the heat of action men are likely to forget where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away.” The Maltese Falcon. Marlowe, as you might imagine, had Raymond Chandler as a favorite writer (“A Letter,” loc. cit.)
 See my “Breaking Badge: Touch of Evil through the Lens of Breaking Bad,” here , for the use of multiple media and a consideration of, for example, how audiences respond sympathetically to what Welles intended as a portrayal of fascist evil. Speaking of which: “Scanner Darkly and Laurence Harvey in the same story makes me have to point out that there exists an ORSON WELLES version of DEAD CALM all but completed but abandoned when Laurence Harvey died of a heart attack before the final scenes were shot. Wouldn’t it be great if we could see this with animated scenes where filmed ones do not exist à la SCANNER DARKLY?” The significance of P. K. D**k’s A Scanner Darkly will soon become clear.
 A Dandy in Aspic (1968); directed by Anthony Mann (and, uncredited, Laurence Harvey); screenplay by Derek Marlowe; starring Laurence Harvey, Tom Courtney, Mia Farrow, Peter Cook, Harry Andrews, Calvin Lockheart.
 Not be confused with Michael Mann, director of our favorite and much referenced Manhunter (1986), although the latter, under that title or the novel — Red Dragon (again, ambiguity!) — has obvious parallels to Eberlin’s mission. “You want the scent? Smell yourself.”
 An important point, as we shall see; there are in total three distinct “endings.”
 Counter-Currents readers might like, if they haven’t seen it already, his 1961 El Cid, with Charlton Heston.
 “A Letter from Derek Marlowe,” loc. cit.
 Not really.
 “The Forgotten: Cold Warrior” by David Cairns; Notebook, 12 August 2010, here . As our protagonist is variously known as Eberlin, Krasnavin, and even George Dancer, I began to refer to him as EKD which, it occurs to me, does suggest PKD, does it not?
 “About the novels. All characters are close or have been observed in some element of truth. One book went too far and I was sued for libel — but I shan’t reveal which one it was. Loner and anti-hero? Loner, certainly — even though I am married with four stepchildren and one son of my own — but not anti-hero. I’m for heroes, though if not Lancelot or Tristan, heroes appear out of the mould of the time.” — Marlowe, “Letter,” loc. cit.
 Pater, reviewing Wilde’s Dorian Gray, refers to “the, from the first, suicidal hero.” See “A Novel by Mr. Oscar Wilde,” published in The Bookman, November 1891; quoted in Kimball, loc. cit.
 Further hermetic obscurity: the Table of Contents tells us this section is titled “Prologue” but the actual first page is headed “Prologue” and then “Nightingale,” giving it a title like all the other chapters, and one derived from a character’s name, in this case the dead man, as most of them are.
 “And I can’t help but think that the book the movie is adapted from must do a better job of explaining the twists and turns of the plot so they appear well thought out. It also likely gives the many characters who are but briefly introduced and then forgotten something worthwhile to do, like the black spy (surely an unusual sight at that time) and Eberlin’s Moneypenny stand-in.” Soliloquies under the influence of tulips, August 5, 2011, here . Cairns (op.cit.) calls him “a surprising black British spymaster.”
 “Gypsy woman told my momma, before I was born/You got a boy-child comin’, gonna be a son-of-a-gun.” Willie Dixon, “Hootchie Cootchie Man.”
 In the first chapter, Eberlin’s Russian contacts seek clarification when Eberlin mentions Brogue: “‘The Negro?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Important?’ ‘To a degree.’”
 It’s not clear if it’s Brogue himself who thinks of himself as “the Negro” or thinks about the problem of “the Negro” in general, or the omniscient narrator.
 See Aedon Cassiel, “Pizzagate,” here .
 We learn Eberlin has had one affair, producing both a son and a respect for the dangers of women; neither are ever seen by him again.
 “You let the wrong word slip/While kissing persuasive lips” from the contemporary “Secret Agent Man” (Johnny Rivers).
 What remains of Brogues aberrant sexuality seems to be dog-whistled by casting Calvin Lockheart in the role. There’s no evidence of homosexuality in his biography , but this early role in England would lead him to star in Joanna by Michael Sarne, who would eventually put him as the effete Irving Amadeus in Myra Breckenridge, which can’t help but color, as it were, one’s perception of his performance; starring on Dynasty doesn’t help either. Cairns, however, thinks it bleeds over into the whole film: “Maybe it’s Mann’s response to the perceived effete decadence of British culture, but in this movie it seems a long time before we meet any straight men at all. (Harry Andrews, with his weathered granite face, seems like the first hetero presence, though his auto-erotic asphyxiation death scene, while wearing a tutu, in 1972’s The Ruling Class might cast even this certainty into question.) The bizarrely variegated cast appear to have been instructed to camp it up for all they’re worth, with the ever-ambiguous Harvey a relatively mild offender. Peter Cook, a surprising presence in the first place, whose entire characterisation is based around rampant womanizing (“She’s eine klein raver!”) nevertheless flicks his hair and ponces about with the best of them. Tom Courtenay and Calvin Lockhart (a surprising black British spymaster) play their confrontations with Harvey in the hissiest way imaginable (in a shooting gallery scene, they fire at images of naked men), and there’s a strong implication that Per Oscarsson’s Swedish-accented Russian operative is or has been Harvey’s lover.” I’ll comment on some of this later, but the last point is definitely all in Cairns’ head.
 In the UK Prologue, Brogue dictates a letter to Sotheby’s inquiring about the provenance of the box.
 “Tired with LALAland, Marlowe planned to return to England to finish his tenth novel, Black and White, but he contracted leukemia and tragically died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of fifty-eight, in 1996”; here .
 [Here lies no one]. A. K. Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism, p.30.
 “WHO was—or what was—Ananda Coomaraswamy? The man is of no help here, as he discouraged biographical ‘curiosity’ in his avowed intention to be ‘nothing.’ And yet this very self-willed effacement affords a key to the answer. Hic Jacet Nemo was the epitaph he most desired, and ‘Here lies no one’ is already a clue to the response we are seeking.” — Whitall N. Perry, “Coomaraswamy — The Man, Myth and History,” Studies in Comparative Religion, vol. 11, no. 3 (Summer 1977), online here .
 Presumably, when his car cracks up in Tripoli, an event in the recent past of which people keep reminding him and us.
 John le Carré published The Looking Glass War the previous year, 1965. Was the quote the idea of the author or the publisher?
 “1. Astronomy. the point in the orbit of a heavenly body, especially the moon, or of a man-made satellite at which it is farthest from the earth. Compare perigee . 2. the highest or most distant point; climax.” Dictionary.com, here . Note the apparent inversion of the climax.
 One might think, perhaps, of the Lennon/McCartney “A Day in the Life” (1967), but that was in the future. More likely in the author’s mind would be One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the novel written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, first published in November 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir (New World) and translated into English almost immediately and several times over: Ralph Parker’s translation (New York: Dutton, 1963) was the first to be published, followed by Ronald Hingley and Max Hayward’s (New York: Praeger, 1963) and Bela Von Block’s (New York: Lancer, 1963); see here .
 Eberlin, however, lacks Huysmans’ dandy’s palate; he is “apathetic about the acquired bigotry of wines and bouquets,” preferring wine “bought . . . cheap from the supermarket” which “came out of the decanter like sludge.” As for food, “he never pruned his taste buds, considering food nothing more than a basic necessity to be completed as painlessly and quickly as possible.” There’s also his self-admonishment in “Copperfield,” “Smoking too much, Eberlin,” a very un-Bondian note. US Dandy gives us a wonderful passage about Eberlin’s endurance of the “ceremony” of coffee preparation by some bore. Film Dandy drops all of this, leaving everything up to Lawrence Harvey’s unmatched ability to portrait a bored, supercilious prick; “as bitter and hostile to our sympathies as he was in The Manchurian Candidate” (Cairns).
 The next paragraph also introduces us to the Maserati Mistrale 3700, “at present disemboweled and eight fee tin the air at Cutcher’s Garage, twenty kilometres from Lyons.” I will suggest that Eberlin is already in a similar post mortem state.
 Dandy US describes him in the corresponding chapter as “a frivolous monk.”
 “One year ago he had written ‘Ex Libris’ on the flyleaf of his passport and burned his suitcase.” The former makes more sense if one recalls that British passports of the time looked more like little books than, say, US passports did.
 Eberlin, real name Krasnevin, was born in Russia and raised to pass for an English schoolboy, part of a program supposedly created by Stalin to implant sleeper agents with impeccable backgrounds. “On paper it looked fallible. In practice, it was without error. Eberlin himself knew of a Troy M.P. of a Northern Constituency, whose loyalties ranged much further that the Houses of Parliament [and a schoolmate] whom he knew now to be a Democrat general in the U.S. Army.” He met the latter at a White House cocktail party, which leads one to think there may be something to this Birther business after all, especially when Brogue the Negro says to Eberlin “I must admit your references are excellent.”
 “The purpose of man’s life, say both [the mystics of muscle and mystics of spirit], is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question.” As reprinted in For the New Intellectual, p. 171. British Film Character Actors: Great Names and Memorable Moments by Terence Pettigrew (Rowman & Littlefield, 1982) describes Laurence Harvey’s performance in The Manchurian Candidate (1962) as “zombie-like” but “excusable for once” given his role.
 For more on this Traditional image, see my essays “The Corner at the Center of the World: Traditional Metaphysics in a Late Tale of Henry James,” here  and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola . . . & Others: Traditionalist Meditations on Literature, Art, & Culture; ed. Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014), “The Babysitting Bachelor as Aryan Avatar: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty, Part 2,” here , and with particular reference to the secret agent motif, “The Baker Street Männerbund: Some Thoughts on Holmes, Watson, Bond, & Bonding, here .
 The center pole of the teepee, for example, and other traditional designs where a hole is left at the top, to let smoke, and so the sprits, escape. See, for example, Ananda Coomaraswamy, The Door in the Sky (Princeton, 1997).
 See Julius Evola, The Hermetic Tradition, Chapter 1, “The Tree, The Serpent and the Titans.”
 Willard: “Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another.” Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979; script by John Milius).
 We also get another hint: Nightingale had been killed “with a minimum of difficulty, apart from decapitating the Mistrale on the Route Nationale.” And a reminder as he takes the train to the meeting: “Trees really are greener in England.”
 Though “trained to kill the secret enemies of the Soviet Union,” “Eberlin” is a committed desk jockey, unlike Bond or, in le Carré’s Spy who comes in from the cold, both of whom are driven nearly mad by paperwork and bureaucracy. In fact, since it’s “frightfully probably that he would be asked to continue Nightingale’s operation” despite having, as Krasnevin, assassinated him, it’s rather as if one could obtain a 00 license by killing one’s predecessor. “Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you/The odds will betray you/And I will replace you.” Chris Cornell, Casino Royale main title theme.
 An American might recall the scene in The Great Gatsby where Daisy is overwhelmed by Gatsby’s shirt collection: “They’re such beautiful shirts, she sobbed, her face muffled in the folds. It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts.” Gatsby is another fake person, but Eberlin would no doubt consider him as another crude arriviste, like Brogue. Or, in the terms we’re discussing here, Gatsby is destroyed because he actually believes in materialism, in wealth and women as the goal of life, and hence his avarice has no end, being a futile attempt to capture the infinite in finite goods — the green light will always recede.
 The James Bond Dossier, op. cit.
 See Colin Wilson, The Angry Years: A Literary Chronicle (Avova Books, 2007), and Jonathan Bowden’s lecture “Bill Hopkins & the Angry Young Men,” online here .
 Lawrence Harvey’s breakout role, of course, was as Joe Lampton in the iconic AYM film, Room at the Top (1959) from John Braine’s 1957 novel. For more on Braine, see “Lovecraft in a Northern Town: John Braine’s The Vodi,” here . The ultimate expression of the “dead” theme is the ending of The Ruling Class, where the Establishment is depicted as a roomful of rotting corpses; Harry Andrews, as noted above, starts off the film with a bang, and he’s here in Movie Dandy as well.
 It’s a demonic version of the dandified Oxford youth of Brideshead Revisited: “… it seemed as though I was being given a brief spell of what I had never known, a happy childhood, and though its toys were silk shirts and liqueurs and cigars and its naughtiness high in the catalogue of grave sins, there was something of nursery freshness about us that fell little short of the joy of innocence.”
 Typically, the movie adds a line crudely informing him, and us, “Don’t worry, you’ll get your promotion.”
 Goldfinger: Q: “It has not been perfected, out of years of patient research, ENTIRELY for that purpose, 007. And incidentally, we’d appreciate its return, along with all your other equipment, INTACT for once, when you return from the field.” James Bond: “Well, you’d be surprised the amount of wear and tear that goes on out there in the field.” Here Bond is channeling his inner Upper Class Twit; I suspect real Qs and Bonds would be more Jewy than otherwise; the brainy Jew and the grubby little operative. As commentators from Amis on have noted, Bond sits uneasily between the upper and working classes; his devotion to Queen and Country in the novels is part of a forelock-pulling obsequiousness that makes him a sucker for powerful men like Goldfinger (in the novel he becomes his secretary, along with Tillie Masterson!) and above all, Sir Hugo Drax, much to ‘M’s disgust — or jealousy.
 See, for instance, my collection End of an Era: Mad Men and the Ordeal of Civility (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).
 “Edina: “Darling, even Amanda de Cadenet would remember the word “accessories.” Absolutely Fabulous: “Magazine” (#1.6)” (1992). The Germans have a handy word for such male accessories: Schmuck. Hence, the Yiddish . . .
 Jew gold!
 Tom Courtney in the Movie, not so much, though he does establish another AYM connection through Billy Liar (1963) and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1962).
 Well, all shiksas, at least. Not for the first time we see that contemporary Pick Up Artist culture has only a dubious connection to Aryan culture.
 The Gospel is foolishness in the eyes of the world. The Jew Gatiss needs to learn the lesson of Mark 8:34ff. “The only way to attain ‘life’ — true life, the life of the age to come — . . . is by behaving in a way which seems to unredeemed man unintelligent and self-defeating: willingly accepting loss and injury in the cause of Christ and his gospel, and refusing to bend all one’s energies, as other men do, to preserving, securing, and enriching one’s life in this world.” D. E. Nineham, The Gospel of St. Mark, The Pelican New Testament Commentaries (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1969), p. 226.
 See Julius Evola, The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts (Rochester, Vt: Inner Traditions, 1997), pp. 76-77.
 This is actually the US version, which adds this layer of complexity to the plot. In the UK novel, it’s clearly the Russians: Eberlin sees and is even spoken to by the agent Rotopkin; Rotopkin is killed by a racecar at the Gran Prix as he is running from Gatiss at the end. In the US version, it’s Eberlin who thinks the Buick is “no doubt” driven by the Russians. A different Russian, Sobaevick, is killed at the Gran Prix by Gatiss (and a policeman is killed on the track, since Marlowe apparently liked the scene), and when Eberlin later calls Rotopkin, he learns the truth. The movie keeps this version, but with additional changes.
 A frequent story in his last lectures, here for instance: “A Lesson in Scripture,” 10/23/67, online here .
 The idea of needing to perform every possible action, good or bad, so as to exhaust all experience, was promoted by the Gnostic sect of Carpocrates; see my review of the work of Luis Varady, “Lords of the Visible World: A Modern Reconstruction of an Ancient Heresy, here .
 In Coleman Francis’ The Beast of Yucca Flats (1962), the narrator informs us that “Vacation time. People travel East. West. North. Or South,” to which MST3k’s Mike Nelson responds “Some people just burrow straight down.” (Episode 621). “Dancer” is officially on vacation, and in this case his choice is straight up the World Tree.
 This literal apotheosis takes place at a German Gran Prix track, a reminder of the time when Gran Prix racing was the sport of kings. Gran Prix tracks, no less than NASCAR or ancient chariot races, epitomize the motif of man vs. circular futility. See my review of a similar man and a similar movie of futility, Steve McQueen’s Le Mans (1971), “St. Steven of Le Mans: The Man Who Just Didn’t Care,” here .
 It’s no accident that this all takes place in Berlin, home of the Sun Wheel emblem, whose National Socialist past makes Gatiss despise it.
 The reappearance of Eberlin’s house and racing car surely recalls the ending of The Prisoner (1967); was there any influence here? The eponymous Prisoner is definitely an ascetic dandy in his lifestyle, especially if he is indeed the John Drake of Secret Agent/Danger Man. He’s given a new name, or at least number, and set on various tasks and mission while in the Village, all ending with his defeat or return, only to start up again next week. In the end, it is revealed (perhaps) that No. 6 and No. 1 are the same, with John Drake making an Eberlin Trilogy. And of course, the last scene has him drive up in his old racing car (a Lotus) to his old London house.
 I imagine her in the big house with her mother, rather like Ab/Fab’s Patsy growing up with her Isadore Duncanish mother.
 “A short paragraph details the anonymous ends of both, one to ‘a large burial plot north of Spandau,’ the other fetching 109 marks on the scrap market.”
 “The only real reason something should come into being in the course of human events is that ‘someone wishes it to be here.’ To expect that the universe should somehow ‘make sense’ in itself, as if isolation from human actions that shape our world of meaning is a false expectation — and so horror in the face of an illogical or insane universe is misplaced. The abyssal lack of an inherent and immutable order can be seen as the free space for us to make the world meaningful in one way or another.” Jason Reza Jorjani, Prometheus and Atlas (London: Arktos, 2016), “Being Bound for Freedom”; quoting and explicating William James. The idea is not unknown to those with considerable experience with the mysterious East: commenting on the final settlement of the Apple/Capitol/EMI litigation in 1989, George Harrison commented: “the funny thing is most of the people who were involved with the reason that lawsuit came about aren’t even in the companies nay more. So the people at Capitol and EMI had to take on the karma of their predecessors, and I’m sure that they’re relieved too.” Peter Doggett, You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup (HarperStudio, 2009; UK subtitle: The Battle for the Soul of the Beatles), p. 297.
 “I feel caged in” is the only way Eberlin can express his reasons for wanting out to Pavel, which really combines the stuck in a viscous solid and string/wire metaphors. During the Selvers briefing, an apology is offered for having “to have kept you hanging about for so long in the dark.”
 While in Berlin, “Dancer” stays at the Kleist Hotel, which surely must connect him to Heinrich von Kleist and his “Essay on the Marionette Theater,” which discusses, pessimistically, the consequences of our encounter with the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.
 “Remember, this is a motion picture!” MST3k, Episode 603, The Dead Talk Back.
 As Eberlin calls himself, the Eberlin Trinity (Eberlin, Krasnevin, Dancer).
 He also now carries around, from his first scene on, a “sitting stick,” as an MST3k robot calls the similar Schmuck carried around by Ed Platt — later Get Smart’s “Chief” — in the late ’50s caper The Rebel Set (episode 419). In both cases, it’s a Chekov’s Gun , in Gatiss’ case literally so.
 She’s a swinging London photographer, here, with an actor partner named Neville, which I appreciated for obvious reasons .
 One has to wonder if his attempt to portray a Russian Communist spymaster as a crusty but benign father figure is a function of this being one of the films he made during a longtime exile from the USA, as a result of being one of the most obvious and obstreperous members of the Hollywood communist rat pack . Wikipedia adds that “After 15 years abroad, Stander moved back to the U.S. for the role he is now most famous for: Max, the loyal butler, cook, and chauffeur to the wealthy, amateur detectives played by Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers on the 1979–1984 television series Hart to Hart.” Indeed, his Sobakevitch definitely recalls his “Max,” whose “My boss” line and gravelly voice often crops up on MST3k , including the same Episode 419  that gave us the “sitting stick.”
 The same year, 1968, brought us Ted Mikels’ The Astro-Zombies, where that very scenario is played out, with equal unlikeliness. Jabootu comments : “This isn’t as exaggerated as tying Batman up in a giant popsicle-making machine, but it still seems a pointlessly exaggerated way to kack the guy. And that’s even assuming you could build up a fatal amount of speed in the at best twenty-foot distance between Sergio and where the car was parked. Perhaps Sergio actually died choking on the ketchup packet that he was apparently carrying in his mouth for some reason.” After all, Gatiss still has his sitting/shooting stick.
 Earlier, when Eberlin resolves to kill Pavel and returns to his apartment — Pavel having already been spirited away — “Harvey pumps his bed full of bullets, just like Lee Marvin in Point Blank the same year.” (Cairns, op. cit.).
 Now I admit I have been known to harbor perhaps idiosyncratic preferences for UK versions of LPs (although I have recently come to admit the US Beatles LPs are better sequenced, despite their atrocious covers), but comparing the UK and US versions of Dandy is not so much like comparing the UK and US versions of, say, Aftermath but comparing Aftermath to, say, a Bill Wyman solo album.
Mircea Eliade et la Redécouverte du Sacré (YouTube , Romanian subtitles)
Mircea Eliade was a traditionalist Romanian novelist and philosopher. Following the disaster of the Second World War, he moved to Paris and Chicago, becoming a respected and influential historian of religions. He acquired something of the status of a guru, as poignantly told in the 1987 documentary Mircea Eliade et la Redécouverte du Sacré. The film features interviews with Eliade at the end of his life, artfully spliced with cuts to religious imagery on a background of moving spiritual music. It was released in 1987, the year after his death.
The more scientistic Westerner is likely to be annoyed at Eliade’s rather New-Age vibe. Eliade had an enormous erudition and knowledge of history, reading half a dozen languages. But he is not really interested in explicating the details of this or that religious tradition, but in finding the unity from Australian Aborigines “to the latest Western mystics.” The sacred, we are told, is the foundation of human life and once pervaded all of his actions. Western culture “suffered from a certain provincialism” but now is open to the spirituality of others. We’re all just one world, man!
This is asserted without evolutionary or traditional psychological explanation. The “skeptical” and “atheist” types, seeing this bearded man very profoundly smoking his pipe behind his large glasses, will cry: “This is an Eastern mystic masquerading as an academic historian.”
And that is surely true. Eliade’s postwar appeal appears similar to Alan Watts’. Besides the powerful religiosity of the Romania of Eliade’s youth, he also spent three years studying yoga in India. Before the Second World War, Eliade publicly supported the Romanian Legionary Movement and the Portuguese dictator Salazar , citing their nationalist and spiritual approach to politics.
Eliade’s support for the Far Right, though admittedly preferring traditionalist forms to the more modernist fascism of Italy and Germany, has obviously been a source of controversy ever since. But he was nonetheless able to reinvent himself at the University of Chicago and one is left with an unmistakable impression: this man dedicated the rest of his life promoting the history of religions as an apology for spirituality, in effect a crypto-Right-wing traditionalism. (Eliade’s peers were largely in the same boat, being people who either died or could not ostentatiously and/or overtly express their Right-wing convictions in the new world of “freedom of thought and tolerance” ushered in by the egalitarian Allies: René Guénon, Nae Ionescu, Emil Cioran, Carl Schmitt, Georges Dumézil . . .)
There are clues along the way that Eliade comes from a very, very different culture and intellectual sphere than that of postwar Western demoliberalism. In India, Eliade was fascinated by popular myths “which were the expression of archaic societies which had preceded the Aryans, the Indo-Europeans in India.” Upon returning to Romania, he could better appreciate the rural culture of the Balkans, where unlike Western Europe spirituality was still lively. The roots of popular myths in the Balkans went deeper, Eliade claims, than Roman, Greek, or Mediterranean culture, but reflected “Paleo-Indo-European” (i.e. Aryan) sacred tradition. (Rather incongruously, the camera then cuts to dancing Gypsies, who are about as Aryan as Ashkenazim.)
Eliade notes that virtually all human activities — painting, dancing, sculpture — began as religious activities in primitive and prehistoric societies. A sense of the sacred gave significance to every action, integrating man’s impossibly fleeting existence into an eternal, transcendental whole. “The sacred is at the basis of his existence in the world,” he says. “The sacred is . . . an element of the structure of consciousness and not a stage in the history of this consciousness. To live as a human being is in itself a religious act.”
Modern secularism has, according to Eliade, destroyed man’s faith in the divine meaning of existence. Homo religiosus is dead, or at least sleeping. This was achieved first “especially by the revolution accomplished by Jewish monotheism, by the action of the prophets, which desacralized the cosmos.” This fracture was then spread among the gentiles “by Judeo-Christianity,” which led to “evacuating the gods” and reducing the universe to “dead matter.” Whereas early Western scientists believed faith and science could be conciliated, this was eventually lost. Particularly guilty were the reductionists who developed “the theology of the death of God,” “beginning with Karl Marx” (reducing all to economics) and “especially with Freud” (reducing all to biology, in particular the sex drive), but also “the great Nietzsche.”
This is a disaster, for man becomes an agnostic atom in an existence reduced to meaningless chaos: “Human existence is without meaning, man lives in a nature without a model, without a Creator, without an objective, and we have then arrived to this type of nihilism which Nietzsche had announced, speaking of the ‘death of God.’” For: “Man cannot live in chaos.”
Eliade makes a fine prophecy: “The sacred is saturated with being. Incidentally an a-religious society does not exist yet and cannot exist. If it were to be realized, it would perish after a few generations from neurasthenia, by a collective suicide. If God does not exist, all is ash.” Who dares contradiction? Is this not the fate of the West?
This tragic narrative, of the rise of nihilism, is told with powerful, angsty music, some also used in 2001: Space Odyssey. (I find something rather disgusting in Albert Camus and especially André Malraux, disserting on nihilism, which they call l’absurde, but doing nothing about it.)
Unlike Nicholas Wade (The Faith Instinct), Eliade does not attempt an evolutionary interpretation, which would dare to perform a sacrilegious autopsy and dissection of the sacred. But I will say to the scientists: religiosity appears to be a compensatory psychological mechanism which, by brute force, forces a sense of meaning in one’s life, regardless of one’s limited reason, one’s very partial (minuscule, really) view of the world, and one’s objective living conditions (an often “nasty, brutish and short” life, full of suffering). Why? Because optimistic believers always defeat depressed agnostics. Hence the universal pervasiveness of religion (it obviously, contra the probably criminal Richard Dawkins, reflects a biological predisposition and not merely superstition). The evolutionary adaptiveness of a good religion is also obvious in the social unity and “social programming” (by defining taboos and goals) it enables, and in the well-documented higher birth rates of the religious.
All militant atheists should be given Darwin Awards .
Logically, all this ends in either World-Judaism and/or Islam or esoteric Hitlerism.
The advent of agriculture led to a spiritual crisis and religious change, as must the advent of modern technology. We need a new religion. Fascism was an attempt, smothered with hate-filled fanaticism. Late liberalism is a half-orgiastic/half-life-fearing effeminate death cult.
But one should not limit oneself to a profane scientific approach. The historian’s study of religions has “existential consequences” on him, Eliade says, convincing him of the unity, nobility, and value of mankind’s sacred tradition. Hermeneutics “transforms the researcher.”
Eliade is astonishingly optimistic in the film. I guess those 1980s New Age movements and Westerners’ dabbling in Buddhism were hopeful signs? Eliade is convinced that a return to sacred convictions would lead to great existential improvement and to cultural creativity, from poetry to the sciences. I think he is absolutely right. “Sterility, nihilism, decadence” would be done away with.
Women have a much stronger intuitive sense of health and the good life than men (mostly unconsciously, easily overridden by misguided piety/conformism). Hence, your modern yuppie gal — though raised on Sex and the City — will go to yoga and earnestly chant an “ohm!” of surprising power. Health and spirit are calling her. And yet she’d be disgusted at the thought of doing this somewhere unfashionable, like a church.
Obviously men should be coming forward to found a new faith.
Eliade tells us that when man opens himself to the sacred:
Life becomes infinitely richer, more exciting. It really is worth living because the world which opens up . . . full of messages, full of hopes, which is no longer opaque . . . everything is word, everything is symbol, and everything is openness to something which is certainly positive. . . . It is no longer the opaque world, without significance, purely tragic, in which tragedy has no more meaning. The world of certain philosophers and writers.
Death too becomes a passionate mystery: “Death is a second birth, the supreme initiation. One must die to be reborn in eternity.”
We salute you Mircea Eliade, Aryan mystic, loyal in a dark age to the faith of your forefathers.
Ridley Scott’s The Martian  is a superb movie: suspenseful, inspiring, and deeply moving, with an excellent plot, fine performances, compelling pacing, and completely believable special effects. The Martian in set in the near future when space exploration is once again a national priority and manned Mars missions are regular undertakings.
On one such mission a powerful storm forces a six-man team to evacuate the planet and return to their orbiting base ship while they still have a chance. Unfortunately, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is swept away in the storm and apparently killed, so his crewmates depart without him. Watney, however, survived and is marooned on Mars with a limited food supply and no way to communicate with Earth. His only chance of rescue, moreover, is years in the future, long after he will have starved.
So, after stitching up the wound he suffered in the storm, Watney coolly takes stock of his resources — food supplies, a Martian habitat, a Martian rover, a collection of ’70s disco, freeze-dried human excrement, rocket fuel, etc. — and comes up with a survival and rescue plan. He learns to grow potatoes in human excrement and Martian soil. He modifies the rover to extend its range, then uses it to find an old Martian lander that he can use to communicate with NASA.
At this point you realize that this fairly straightforward and jocular narrative has been sneaking up on you to deliver an unexpected and powerful emotional catharsis. When Watney finally communicates with Earth, we are flooded with his fear and loneliness and relief. You’d need a heart of stone not to shed a tear in this scene, and there are more like it to come.
A rescue plan is set in motion, and although the suspense is often quite intense, there is never really any doubt that the Martian Mark Watney will return home to Earth.
The Martian is a very white, very American movie. Matt Damon is basically a high tech frontiersman — a final frontiersman — who triumphs over adversity using science, technology, and courage. It is also a very Faustian movie, a movie about the exploration of the cosmos, a movie about dedicating one’s life to something bigger than oneself, namely mankind’s ongoing conquest of nature.
But The Martian is a product of today’s film industry, which means that its real virtues are accompanied by two serious flaws. First, the movie advances the false worldview of racial and sexual egalitarianism. Second, the morally and metaphysically elevating themes of the movie are undercut by vulgar colloquialism.
The American space program was the product almost exclusively of white men, with our mastery of science and technology, longing for new frontiers, and rivalry with our enemies. America dropped the torch of space exploration when Jewish and Leftist values became dominant. We now have better things to do than explore space, like giving free cell phones to Negroes and a media megaphone to witches exercised about a scientist’s sinful shirt .
The most false and offensive aspect of The Martian is that it postulates that the US space program will somehow revive in a society in which racial and sexual egalitarianism are the dominant values. The main character, Matt Damon’s Mark Watney, is of course white. But his six-man crew has two female members, including the captain, and although five crewmembers are white, the pilot is Hispanic. NASA’s director of Mars missions is supposedly an African-Hindu hybrid played by a black actor. The genius who figures out the rescue plan is also played by a black. (Remember, this is science fiction.) An important scientist is played by an Asian, and when NASA needs help, he kindly intercedes with his uncle who runs the Red Chinese space agency. (In the real world, of course, such a scientist would likely be one of the many Chinese-American spies passing intelligence and technology to the Chinese.) The Red Chinese gallantly offer one of their rockets after the Americans prove that they can’t perform the rescue on their own. A couple important characters in NASA are white women, and so on.
Although The Martian is pro-diversity, one cannot really call it anti-white. The hero and the majority of the cast are highly attractive, serious, and competent white people. No race-mixing is portrayed. And there is a subtle pro-natalism to the film, for one of the astronauts, the German Vogel, has at least four beautiful white children, and two of the astronauts on the mission later marry and have a child at the very end.
Another aspect of egalitarian rot is the pervasive vulgarity of the script. This is a movie about heroism, with a plot worthy of a classic 19th-century novel. But the language and music do not measure up. Lest we idolize Mark Watney too much, he has to be “humanized,” with vulgar language and tastes. At one point he vows to “science the s**t” out of one of his problems, which he proceeds to do to a medley of ’70s pop songs. At a certain point, I felt a tightness in my gut and feared that we would soon be treated to a dance montage like in Tootsie or its ripoff Mrs. Doubtfire. Ayn Rand brilliantly satirized this kind of anti-Romanticism as the “I’m sorry I can’t take you to the pizza joint tonight baby, I’ve got to go back to the lab and split the atom” approach to science fiction. The sets of The Martian are clearly inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey. One wishes the soundtrack was as well. Heroic deeds require elevated words and music.
One wonders how more dignified ages have dawned. The Victorian age, for instance, followed the decadence of the Regency era. Thus those “stuffy” early Victorians were not unacquainted with degeneracy. But at a certain point they took themselves seriously enough to regard their little indulgences as contemptible, as childish, as beneath them. And then they just put them away.
These flaws aside, The Martian is an excellent movie that will speak especially to whites. It is a reminder that White Nationalists are not only working to save our race from the mud but to put us back on the path to the stars.
Note: Contains spoilers
Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is an epic, metaphysical poem addressing the question of ultimate human survival in both an individual and collective sense. Like Inception, it uses a strong science-fiction narrative as a means of thinking about time and reality, but unlike Inception it looks outwards to distant galaxies rather than inwards to manipulated dream states. Certainly, Interstellar is Nolan’s most visionary film to date and, if much attention has been paid to the quantum physics that underpins the film, it is ultimately a meditation on what, if anything, lies behind the mundane dimensions of reality.
At the beginning of the film we meet Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) who is an ex-astronaut turned farmer in the Midwest. The reason that he has turned to farming is a blight that is killing off food crops and causing dramatic food shortages. Scientific research and higher education have been shelved whilst everyone is pushed into farming to try to maximize the declining food supply. There is a residual technology; drones fly around to no purpose and we see one being hijacked by Cooper to salvage its technology. This is very much the sort of future envisioned by John Michael Greer in his book The Long Descent and his influential blog The Archdruid Report . Whereas Greer sees the end of the industrial age being caused by fossil fuel depletion, Interstellar less controversially puts it down to an act of nature. In both scenarios, technological development reaches a plateau and gradually fades into the past. Cooper’s young daughter, Murph, gets into trouble at school because she spreads a conspiracy theory that NASA once landed a man on the moon. What was once orthodoxy has become conspiracy theory, and vice versa, in a small but neat presentation of Spengler’s observation that strange, cultish religious imperatives arise at a time of civilizational death. In the world of Interstellar, the techno-Faustian drives of the 20th century have become a sinful heresy.
Murph believes that a ghost in her bedroom is trying to communicate with her by pushing books from her bookshelf. During one of the many severe dust storms that have become commonplace, she accidentally leaves a window open and she and Cooper notice that the dust falls to her bedroom floor in very particular, non-random ways. In fact, it lands as Morse code spelling out map coordinates. Cooper seeks to understand the anomalous incident and the “ghost” as gravitational phenomena of some sort. Upon tracking down the map coordinates they discover a secret NASA base. The space program has been forced to operate in complete secrecy because it is seen as a wasteful luxury that can no longer be afforded. Despite this, Professor Brand (Michael Caine) believes that interstellar colonization is the only hope for saving the human race from the blight. He reveals that a wormhole in space was discovered close to Saturn some years ago and that a number of manned missions were sent through it to investigate the suitability for colonization of planets on the other side. As Cooper is an ex-astronaut, and a heretic for believing in the desirability of space exploration despite the prevailing economic circumstances, he volunteers to pilot a new mission to follow up the data that has been sent back from those first pioneers.
The central bulk of the film follows the mission as it explores two of those worlds. The first is in close proximity to a black hole and the astronauts who explore its surface find it to be inhospitable. Due to the slowing down of time caused by the proximity of a black hole, the astronauts return after a couple of hours to find that 23 years have passed on the mother ship. Ultimately, Cooper decides that he needs to enter the black hole with one of the mission’s robots. This will enable the robot to send “quantum data” from the black hole’s singularity back to Earth to provide the missing piece of an equation that will solve the problem of gravity and allow for the mass emigration of humanity from Earth. Once inside the black hole, Cooper discovers a large projection, or light installation of some sort, representing his daughter’s childhood bedroom. Essentially, the projection is an embodiment of the bedroom’s instantiations in time when viewed from a higher dimension. By intersecting with this exteriorly manifested object of time, Cooper is able to distort space-time and cause the gravitational phenomena that Murph had originally attributed to the ghost at the beginning of the film. Cooper is thus causing the anomalous incidents that were responsible for him finding the NASA base and beginning his mission. It is also evident that the worm hole and the room within the black hole were created by a suprahumanity of the future who put them there to save the humanity of the past. Thus, Cooper’s personal temporal paradox is a small arc within a greater temporal paradox for all humanity.
All of this preoccupation with gravity and its effects inevitably brings to mind comparison with last year’s blockbuster space movie, Gravity. Gravity follows two astronauts who are left free floating in space after their shuttle is destroyed. Clooney and Bullock’s performances were highly rated and the film achieves a real frisson of terror as the characters are seen as lost, vulnerable specks against the immensity of space. But the interesting thing is how these characters are decontextualized, how they exist for us as severed from earthly concerns. True, Bullock’s character has a back story about her young daughter who died aged four, but this comes across as mere filler, a gestural procedure to humanize the character. Her biography is an anecdotal discourse. In essence, both of the characters are somehow less than human: rootless, single, atomized individuals. Surely we are meant to read them as angels, humanlike in form but strangely distant and ethereal? This reading is reinforced by the inclusion of the Hank Williams song “Angels are Hard to Find” in the soundtrack. The event that is responsible for destroying their shuttle, and leaving them hanging like Daliesque Christs in space, is a missile strike on a satellite which creates a chain reaction of debris orbiting through the satellite belt and taking out more satellites as it goes. This event is a quintessentially contemporary disaster. What could be worse than a devastating trail of destruction taking out communication satellites? As Clooney’s character remarks, “Half of North America just lost their Facebook.” This is the worst thing in the world and the true existential horror lying behind Gravity’s action. The lone astronaut spinning helplessly into infinite space is a metaphor for the contemporary experience of disorientation caused by internet downtime.
By contrast, Interstellar attempts to grapple with much bigger issues. The looming prospect of the death of all humanity is always present but, as already mentioned, this futuristic scenario plays out against a “lost futures” backdrop. It isn’t quite an archeofuturist vision because the technological advances that Faye anticipates have not come to fruition, so there is a sense of spiritual regression (accompanying the transition to an agrarian society), and a scavenging of extant technologies. In this context it is worth mentioning Kubrick’s 2001, which Interstellar has been compared to. Famously, HAL became the epitome of everything threatening about artificial intelligence. Due to his vastly superior intelligence and rationality he was given control of the spacecraft with consequences as bad for the crew as they were felicitous for cinema. The evil AI genius was also addressed more recently in the Nolan-produced Transcendence , where the notion of uploading a human’s consciousness to an online network was considered. In Interstellar, AI is shown to have become stuck in retro-looking robots who are basically very clever servants.
In place of the AI evil genius, Nolan instead has references to the mysterious intelligences who are responsible for the appearance of the worm hole: “they.” “They” are revealed to be a future form of humanity, one which has overcome the limitations of time (fifth-dimensional beings). It is surely worthy of note that, in this parable of the indomitability of the Faustian spirit, the higher beings are not aliens, gods or intelligent machines, but human beings. The messianic urge towards a savior figure, Nolan seems to be telling us, should be directed towards our own sense of self-overcoming, our own transcending of natural boundaries. But within all of this there is a very human story about a man who has to leave his daughter behind in pursuit of his ideals. Unlike the astronauts in Gravity we never forget that Cooper has made a real sacrifice in leaving his children behind to carry out this mission. When, at the end of the film, Cooper is reunited with Murph he has aged little, due to the slowing down of time in the area around the black hole where he has been exploring. She, however, is now an old lady on her death bed. When the two meet the father is decades younger than his dying daughter. Despite constituting the film’s emotional resolution the scene is uncomfortable to watch; it feels unnatural and a little creepy due to the age discrepancy. The effect is to make you wonder whether transcending time in this sense is really desirable. It is as though Nolan is subtly throwing in a warning about the consequences of exceeding natural boundaries to temper the Faustian message he sends elsewhere.
And the ambiguity doesn’t end there. This being Nolan, the consummate trickster, there has to be some doubt about the film’s ending. My understanding of physics is not at a very high level, but I believe that it is the case that nothing can escape from beyond the event horizon of a black hole. If this is so then when Cooper crosses the boundary that would be the last anyone would hear of him. Similarly, the “quantum data” would have no chance of being transmitted to Earth. In the film, we see Cooper reunited with his daughter on a space station in the Saturn region having been rescued from the black hole. One of the characters earlier in the film mentioned that the last thing you see before dying is your children. Perhaps we are meant to conclude that the end sequence is all psychological wish fulfillment on the part of a dying man. In which case humanity is stranded on a dying planet and we still don’t really know who “they” are. Perhaps it doesn’t matter; both scenarios are still concerned with man’s Gnostic quest for self-overcoming, and an ultimate resolution to such a quest will never be reached.
The genius of Christopher Nolan is in bringing so many interesting ideas to such entertaining films. With Interstellar he has demonstrated his competence as a metaphysical poet using scientific ideas as striking metaphors for human emotions and fears. It’s too ambitious to hang together perfectly but it is an extraordinary film that demands to be seen and seen again. Nolan’s eight previous films, spanning the period from 2000–2012, marked him out as the pre-eminent film director of the 21st century. Interstellar confirms this judgment.
Transcendence marks the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer. Nolan is also the executive producer so the expectation is that this sci-fi project could aspire to the heights reached by Nolan’s Inception . Sadly, it fails to live up to the comparison.
Johnny Depp stars as Dr. Will Caster, a leading researcher in artificial intelligence (AI). His work is opposed by a terrorist group known as RIFT (Revolutionary Independence From Technology) who argue that the creation of self-aware computers will lead to the destruction of humanity, as the newly autonomous machines will choose to subordinate or wipe out their human creators. This point at which AI supersedes humanity is referred to as the singularity, or in Caster’s own religiously inflected term, transcendence. When Caster is shot early on in the film by a member of RIFT it transpires that the bullet contains radioactive material that will shortly kill him. With Caster’s death imminent, his wife, Evelyn, uploads his consciousness to a computer. Once this is done, he immediately asks to be connected to the internet. Ignoring the possibility that this might be the very thing that RIFT have been sensibly warning everyone about, she unwisely complies.
Initially, her faith in her husband (if that is what he still is) is repaid, as Caster is able to quickly create new bio-technologies that can heal the sick. More than this, his patients are not just cured but super-powered so that they can perform feats of great strength. Unfortunately, he also implants something or other into the bodies of those he cures so that they become networked with the virtual doctor and operate as a hive mind. With this super-empowered army at his disposal it appears that Castor is about to achieve world dominance. Belatedly sensing that this might all be going awry, Evelyn agrees to help defeat Caster. She consents to being infected with a computer virus, and persuades him to upload her consciousness so that it can spread throughout the WWW and shut down everything connected to the internet. Thus humanity is saved but only at the expense of reverting to a pre-technological state.
Transcendence contains some interesting ideas, but it never manages to achieve anything greater than the sum of its parts. To a great extent, this is due to the way that Depp’s character manifests his presence after being uploaded. He simply appears on various screens talking to his wife. Depp’s performance is not particularly engaging to begin with, but when he recedes to an image on a screen within the big screen itself it becomes impossible not to describe his performance as flat. Additionally, his wife is a teary and dull character who can’t even be redeemed by the excellent Rebecca Hall who excelled in Nolan’s The Prestige.
But even more of a problem is the difficulty with attempting to parse the concept of an uploaded consciousness. Needless to say, the specific means of uploading a person to a computer are rather skirted over (because it can’t be done). But this wouldn’t necessarily hamper the film if it was presented better. Recall HAL from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick recruited Marvin Minsky, a leading researcher on AI in the 1960s, as an advisor on 2001. Kubrick’s depiction of HAL in the movie in 1969 represents the best bet of where AI would be at the turn of the millennium, based on the knowledge of the time. As such, HAL is a super-computer. His intelligence has been achieved through progressions in computer technology based on faster processing power and increased data capacity. As is evident, such AI computers did not come to pass in 2001, but this is no impediment to enjoying the film. Kubrick treats HAL as intellectually proficient yet there is always a suspicion that his “personality” is a sort of autistic charade. He works as an analogue of the black monolith that appears at the beginning of the film: an inscrutable dark façade behind which who knows what sort of alien machinations are ticking over. He works artistically because he crosses a threshold of plausibility.
The 1960s approach to AI research has now been replaced with a focus on distributed intelligence, and this is reflected in the networked consciousness found in Transcendence. Rather than a computer becoming more and more developed to the point where it somehow magically achieves consciousness, the scenario in Transcendence concerns the replication of a human brain in computer hardware. Whereas in 2001 the development of the HAL 9000 series and its capabilities is discussed in some detail, the uploading of consciousness in Transcendence is simply taken as a given. Apparently, the audience will simply accept that this is a plausible concept. For an ideas sci-fi movie, this is the Achilles heel in Transcendence’s techno future. The oddness of Depp/Caster as the virtual brain in a vat, flickering to life on various screens as he stalks his still-fleshy wife stems from this flawed conceit. On this reckoning, an uploaded human is a less believable character than a super-powered computer.
What this points to at a deeper level is the nature of the hopes and expectations that lie behind the pop cultural evolution of AI ideas. In the late 1960s the AI project seemed to be about creating faster and cleverer machines that could somehow reach a certain tipping point that would allow consciousness to emerge. It was part of the self-confident future that the dawning space age seemed to herald. Now the ambition has become the transference of human consciousness to a network. The shift is significant. Rather than seeking to create a genuinely artificial consciousness, a thinking machine, Transcendence tells us that the real aim is the extension of our own consciousness, our sense of self, beyond death. This is a model of the future predicated on the uneasy fear and misgivings of secular late capitalism and the morbid worries it gives rise to. The real terror lying behind the story told in Transcendence is not that uploaded conscious beings might one day supersede humanity; it is that they might not. In the latter scenario we all die, like in real life.
Here’s another flick I fondly recall from some late night broadcast in my teens or so, which has been made accessible again through the miracle of DVD. Needless to say, it has its ’net fans as well, one of which give this summary :
If you haven’t ever seen Psychomania it’s a unique British horror and is quite hilarious in terms of language and actual horror, but remains a classic all the same. The opening title with these Bikers from hell weaving in and out of a large stone circle has to be the most memorable you will see. Briefly it’s the story of a gang of Bikers called the Living Dead. The gang leader (Henson) has a weird mother (our Beryl) who is immortal, as is her sinister butler (Sanders). Henson finds the secret of his mother immortality (this involves a frog), then tells his gang members how they can comeback alive and wreak havoc. They then all commit suicide. It really is funny. They all get turned into stone at the end. There are some great scenes and some superb furniture along the way. Only the British could make such a daft movie.
OK, everyone set with the premise? That opening scene was really the only part I recalled, due to either falling asleep or being sent to bed, so I can attest to it really being memorable.
A group of motorcyclists — The Living Dead, we’ll soon learn — perform various maneuvers in and around a sort of mini-Stonehenge — as we’ll also soon learn, a local monument, the “Stone Witches,” a coven supposedly turned to stone for some devilish misdemeanor — all shrouded in fog, filmed in slo-mo, and above all, accompanied by some amazing creepy prog-music — not unlike to music being created at the same time in Germany that we now know as Krautrock — that instantly catapults this film into Suspiria (Goblin) or even Man Hunter (Shriekback) territory. Or not, actually.
It would be hard for any movie to keep up with that opening, and this one sure doesn’t. But there are some rewards here for readers of Counter-Currents.
First, this is not just a British film, but a very British film. That means, apart from a subdued, vaguely melancholy color palette of foggy grays and damp greens and blues — the whole film looks like it was filmed at the bottom of an aquarium, which is appropriate, given the unusually large role frogs play — it’s a very white film — in fact, I’d say it’s entirely white. Not even Sidney Poitier is in sight.
It’s quite a relief, in today’s culture and environment — when even our crypto-Traditionalist directors like Christopher Nolan feel the need to include not just Negro characters but even as heroes — to sink into this cooling British aquarium of a film, like a soothing ice mask after a hot day.
“British” also means we can expect the subtle pleasures consequent on a low-budget and a strangely reticent, almost downright shy approach to film making.
Take, for instance, a very early scene that presents us with one of the gang’s “outrages.” Now I for one will admit that having a motorcycle, to say nothing of half a dozen or so, zip right by you while out walking around the town shopping center would be a rather unpleasant, perhaps even scary, experience. But really, this is supposed to be a horror film, and the sight of the Living Dead, even with their home-made skull visors, zooming alongside shoppers at quite reasonable speeds, knocking over a few prop fruit stands and what not, doesn’t even bring to mind the rather sedate The Wild One but rather the Monty Python sketch, “Hells Grannies”; even a Benny Hill skit would have speeded things up. In fact, the gang’s suicides, as they follow Tom’s lead, are rendered in a quick sequence all played for laughs.
On the other hand, cheapness and restraint can produce remarkable effects themselves, as any connoisseur of B-films can attest. In a later scene, when — not give too much away — our now back from the dead gang dispatches two constables and an inspector who are waiting unsuspecting in the morgue, the camera simply shifts away from the three, slowly revolves full circle to reveal — hey presto! — our three new corpses laid out in their conveniently see-through drawers, with nary a sound, mark or drop of blood, leaving Martin Scorsese to ask, “how’d they do that?”
But the film’s greatest and most famous sequence occurs when Tom, having driven himself off a bridge and then buried by the gang — on his motorcycle — revs up from underground and explodes up and out of the burial mound, good as new and ready for some more of the old ultra-violence.
I defy anyone to watch this amazing sequence without screaming out:
“Like a bat out of Helllllllllllllllllllllllll!”
It’s when Tom learns the secret of immortality — or whatever it is; as we’ll see, it’s a little hard to pinpoint just what kind of state he achieves — that my Traditionalist spidey-sense started to tingle.
The secret turns out to be: kill yourself, but only if you can maintain constant, unwavering concentration on the belief that you will live again.
The secret, in fact, turns out to be a kinda suicidal version of Oprah’s beloved Secret, the dumbed down residuum of America’s 19th-century “New Thought” movement.
But where had I heard this before? Of course — Baron Evola!
As is well known, Evola was quite pessimistic about the possibilities of finding a true source of initiation in today’s world; ultimately passing from pessimism to nihilism. Unlike Guénon, who held out slender hopes, Evola simply denied the existence of a valid and effective initiatory stream, without contact with which no chance of enlightenment, or immortality, is possible.
What to do? Evola counseled the “differentiated man,” the man aware of some element of the transcendent within himself — which would be the requisite material to be acted on by initiation — to
Give ever more emphasis to the dimension of transcendence in oneself, more or less concealed as it may be. Study of traditional wisdom and knowledge of its doctrines may assist, but they will not be effective without a progressive change affecting the existential plane, and more particularly, the basic life force of oneself . . . that for most people is bound to the world and is simply the will to live.
One can, then, with some effort and luck, and of course a predisposition, effect a change of polarity, like “the induction of magnetism in a piece of iron” and thereby reverse the direction of one’s life force: from willing to live ordinary life to the urge to attain “the life which is more than life.”
When the orientation toward the transcendent no longer has a merely mental or emotional character, but has come to penetrate a person’s being, the most essential work is done, the seen has penetrated the earth, and the rest is in a way, secondary and consequential.
As I read this, the idea seems to be that one should concentrate as much of one’s consciousness as one can on the Transcendent, within oneself, so that a certain direction, and even force or momentum, is built up, allowing one to spring forward at death, into the Beyond, rather than passively submitting to the dispersal of the elements and return to the racial root that is the fate of the un-initiated.
Although Evola counsels against suicide in the same book, as an all-too-human failure of will — except for those who are already enlightened, who may well choose to take themselves off the scene — we might draw a parallel to Evola’s own ill-advised “testing of my fate” by walking about Vienna during Allied bombing runs, which ultimately resulted in the injuries that left him unable to walk.
And now the occult synchronicity of Tom’s burial becomes clear; buried upright, astride his motorcycle, no doubt facing East (the movie gives no clue), just as Evola, by his request, was wheeled over to a window so that he would die as his Aryan ancestors would wish, upright and facing the rising sun.
The Evola connection also solves the major puzzle critics have with the movie. The re-born cyclists are usually called “zombies” by critics but they bear no resemblance to the now canonical rotting, brain-eating ones. TV Tropes has cited the film under the trope “Our Zombies are Different” but observed :
Psychomania has gained some notoriety as “zombies on motorcycles ,” but are really zombies only in retrospect. More accurately, they’re willing participants in a ritual that grants eternal life. The ritual requires that they first die. On revival, they carry on as before; they are essentially their own creator.
“Their own creator.” This is a tremendously important point, which links the film’s formula of immortality with Evola’s discussion of the “magical heroes” who are a “kingless race” of “self-rulers” after having, unlike the contrary archetype of the “religious saint,” taken control of their own destiny and fate.
Here we also find the significance of the “turn to stone” motif, in which Tom and the gang are “punished” at the end of the film by being transformed into megaliths, presumably just as the Seven Witches were years before the film began.
The Stone, briefly, symbolizes The Center, the Axis Mundi along which transformation is accomplished (rising to a higher level); thus the stones are fittingly located on the lush green heath, which alludes to the equally central symbol of the Garden of Eden. The Stone also signifies the Transformed Man himself, solid, unmoved, upright; as well as the instrument of transformation, the alchemical Philosopher’s Stone or even perhaps The Grail (which Evola suggests was fashioned from the green gem — or stone– that fell from Lucifer’s crown. The color green ties in with the green frogs and the green frog medallion — the frog is the snake in the Garden which is also Satan — that are involved in the rituals conducted by Shadwell and Tom’s mom.
We’re already starting to find here elements of both repetition and the phenomenon I’ve called “passing the buck” — The Superior Man does not “work off” his own karma, as in so many crypto-protestant interpretations, but instead demonstrates his superiority precisely by offloading it onto some sucker or mark.
To explore the Stone some more, we need to look at some of these repetitions. The basic repetition occurs in the First Act, when Tom demands to be allowed into The Locked Room in order to learn The Secret, an ordeal that his father failed, fatally. As Evola explains, in the traditions of the “religious saint,” the quest for immorality or enlightenment or perfection is presented as a danger; as a result of our ancestor’s catastrophic failure — Adam and Eve, of course — the pursuit is not only forbidden, but we are subject to a sinful debt that will result in our own damnation unless we can obtain Jehovah’s forgiveness.
Tom, however, presents us with the Hero of the alchemical traditions, who dares — and succeeds.
Of course, we’ve seen that in the film, Tom and the gang are “punished,” but that’s just the cover story; “turning to stone” is the goal, or the reward, of their efforts. (We can assume that the Witches succeeded as well). This is also presented as a punishment because to the naïve, worldly man, the Enlightened Man seems more dead than alive; impassive as a stone, unmoved, not subject to the worldly man’s endless, unsatisfied desires that “make life worth living.”
It’s the usual “he tampered in God’s domain” cautionary tale, dating back from Frankenstein through Faust through Don Juan through Dante all the way back to the Eden myth — but we don’t care about that, nor whether the producers had any of this in mind. It may be the case, as Trevor Lynch suggests, that under contemporary conditions — and really, that would be the whole post-Constantine period — Traditional ideas can only appear in the mouths of villains and madmen. But even beyond this, this is how Traditional ideas have always been transmitted — embedded in “folk” tales that the folk grooved on but never really understood, hidden safely in plain sight until someone like Guenon or Evola could decode them for us once again.
On the purely cinematic level, Tom is channeling Alex from 1971’s A Clockwork Orange. Of course, Kubrick was an American and had a big budget, so although made and set in England, the film seemed startlingly brightly lit, violent and explicit at the time.
And yet, Tom, though admittedly a nice lad who lives with Mum — in a very groovy, all too British manor house with just the right swinging ’60s touches, unlike Alex’s futurist hellhole — is far more violent than Alex; just more reticent about it. No sooner do we meet him than he’s forced a car off the road and sent some British git through the windshield — I mean, windscreen. Of course, being British, we don’t see any exploding heads or even a slight cut, so it’s hard to tell if he’s unconscious or dead. No one in authority, at least, seems too concerned; whereas Alex’s one murder results in a very British “now you’ve done it lad” and straight to the Ludovico room.
On revival, though, all bets are off. Tom kills a couple of blokes just on general principle, then heads for a pub to chats up a couple birds. The scene looks like it will play out like Alex‘s teenage girl ménage a trois, but instead he winds up killing everyone else in the place — off camera of course.
We’ve already commented on the Pythonesque qualities of the shopping center attack. And of course, as we now expect, they return. But TV Tropes is wrong to say they “carry on as before.” No, this time they do it right, mate. Dozens of people are injured or worse as the gang invades a Sainsbury — Sainsbury’s! — on wheels; red leather girl even runs over a baby carriage, child inside — now when did you ever see that, outside of a Warhol film? But again, no blood, no flying limbs; no need to blow the special effects budget this late in the film.
Given the andro-centric nature of the Hermetic Tradition, we can anticipate that the sucker will be a woman. There’s Tom’s goody-goody girlfriend — unlike the rest of the gang, she wears a denim jacket, with her name cutely appliquéd to the front, not the back, in Holly Hobby font — who refuses to join him in the — overlife? — and will no doubt be psychologically scarred for life.
But mostly, it’s Tom’s mom, who resolves to stop his reign of genteel terror by reneging on her “oath” (of what? Who knows?) and, rather than petrifying, turns into a frog. Finally, the frog motif resolved, Chekhov-style!
The circular, literally “hermetic” structure of the film — like the Locked Room itself — is now clear. We begin with the Living Dead — ordinary men and women, but with some spark of the transcendent that renders them unable to tolerate the banality of “the whole Establishment” (as Tom describes the targets of his undead mischief). Dying to this world, they are reborn as Immortals subject to no authority but themselves; but ultimately, having thrown off karmic ties, they are fully transformed into Men — and the red leather chick — of Stone, no longer weaving among the stones but upright and unmoving.
Finally, as usual with horror flicks, the creepiest story is backstage. George Sanders is the star name here, but unlike later work by Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, he doesn’t look like he’s having any late career fun in this two-bit Brit flick. He mumbles his lines throughout — unless that’s an artifact of the poor production or the DVD transfer — and looks bored — terminally so. As it happens, as soon as the picture wrapped, Sanders killed himself. Perhaps he was more inspired by the script in real life than he seems on film? Whether he came back is unknown,
1. Actually, there’s a Blu-ray that just came out, “packed” with special features, which I can’t afford at the moment, but dig it if you can. Like similar low-budget Brit horror films of the time — such as The Wicker Man — it seems to exist in various different versions with various cuts and runtimes. Oddly enough a version close to the Blu-ray can be had on an otherwise disgusting “Laugh Track” DVD — a “white rapper” version of MST3K that, mercifully, can be run without said rapping, and for only a couple of bucks on Amazon.
2. MST3K, “The Starfighters.”
3. It turns out to be the veddy British John Cameron who recently reminisced for the release of the soundtrack:
Jazz and session musicians playing pre-punk ‘trash-rock’ for a tale of supernatural gore and mayhem, on a Shepperton recording stage more suited to the LSO than a rock line-up, complete with ‘suit-and-tie’ recording engineer is one of my more unexpected memories. In a pre-synthesizer age every trick was used: Musser vibes through phase and wah-wah pedals, phased bowed bass, drumsticks inside a grand piano, electric harpsichord through a compressor, Hammond organ fed through a phase unit and Leslie speakers, and wordless solo voice. . . . Sorry my recollection is a little blurred, hell, it was the 1970s!
4. Imported a few years earlier to play the Magic Negro in To Sir With Love, a vile film redeemed only barely by the transcendental Lulu.
5. “In the morning if my face is a little puffy I’ll put on an ice pack while doing stomach crunches. I can do 1000 now.” — Patrick Bateman, American Psycho.
6. One can only imagine there must have been some influence here on the cover of Mr. Loaf’s 1977 opus; I don’t know of any other previous use of this trope. One might also compare Mr. Loaf’s character, Eddie, in another Brit-horror film, 1975’s Rocky Horror Picture Show, who rides a motorcycle out when he escapes from the freezer prison-grave [?], only to also wind up dead again. There is also a very similar looking character (though still, as noted, very neat and clean) in the Living Dead named — Chopped Meat. Both Tom and Dr. Frankenfurter live in very British gothic mansions with all the latest mod cons, though Riff Raff is a sadly decayed Shadwell. The swaggering, always in leather Tom is sort of a combination of Eddie and Rocky, and thus would have made a more suitable companion for the Dr. than either.
7. Derived from colonial readings of Hegel and Emerson, and serious enough to warrant William James devoting a chapter — “The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness” — in his lectures on the Varieties of Religious Experience. For an alt-Historical account, see The Secret Source (Feral House) that traces it back to the Egyptian Hermetics — rightly so, as we shall soon see.
8. Ride the Tiger, pp. 216–17. See also the remarks on the very last page, p. 227.
9. Evola discusses these contrasting fates in many places, for example, Chapter 8 of Revolt Against the Modern World, “The Two Paths of the Afterlife.”
10. Evola himself discusses the incident in The Path of Cinnabar, pp. 183–4, where he disavows any “occult attack” interpretations. If it seems rude to speculate thus around Evola’s personal situation, there are distinguished precedents; no less than Eliade speculated in a letter that Evola had been wounded in the chakra that governed pride and arrogance — “and what do you think about that?”
11. See The Hermetic Tradition, especially the “Introduction to Part One: The Tree, the Serpent and the Titans.”
12. It’s a not too impressive time-lapse effect. Brit John Boorman, in 1974’s Zardoz, will subvert this trope, ending with a time-lapse disintegration of Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling, who have accepted mortality. This “self-creation” seems to correspond to the process Evola describes as the sage re-creating his body cell by cell, producing an immortal, indestructible “body of light” or, in Pauline terms, “resurrection body.” See The Hermetic Tradition but especially The Yoga of Power, Chapter 15, “The Diamond Thunderbolt Body.”
13. See Evola, op. cit. and also The Mysteries of the Grail, especially Chapter 15, “The Luciferian Stone.”
14. In fact, Christianity recognizes that the debt is so great as to require Jehovah to kill his own Son; a titanic example of “passing the buck.”
15. Towards the end of The Hermetic Tradition Evola devotes some pages to considering how the Realized Man may well appear as a broken down failure beset with worries, due to his desire not to stand out, as well as the results of “karmic repercussions” from his activities in the higher dimensions — hence our idea of the need to “pass the buck” to someone else. Guénon, at the end of his book, Man and His Becoming, has an interesting discussion of how the Realized Man, having climbed the World Axis, would literally pop out of view, like a three-dimensional being in Flatland
16. The verdict delivered in Bride of the Monster; see the collection of these tropes here .
17. In fact, the most British thing about Tom, as opposed to Alex, is that he’s more interested in the ultra-violence than the old in-out. He seems only to be interested in the red-leathered bad girl in the group as a partner in crime, while constantly hectoring his still-living goody-goody girlfriend to just off herself already, though what he intends to do with here is unclear. No sex please, we’re British!
18. The producers of the German version seem to have thrown up their hands and titled it “Der Frosh.”
19. Either by design or incompetence, it’s not clear until the very end that Tom’s mom is a mortal who’s made a deal with some occult power, perhaps an occultist in over her head, rather than being a witch or demon herself. Sanders’ character is never clear, right to the very last shot, when he drives up at the stone circle . . . what? Is he just a butler, a fellow initiate, perhaps of a higher level, like Crowley — whom Sanders seems to be channeling — a minion of Satan, or Satan himself? As the ’bots say, perhaps I should just relax.
With its stunning H. R. Giger designs and first-rate cast, Ridley Scott’s classic Alien (1979) is imaginative, visually striking, immensely atmospheric, and sometimes just plain terrifying. Together with its worthy but very different sequel, James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), it spawned a vast pop-culture “franchise” (which is Hollywood-speak for a mythos) including two unworthy sequels, Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, plus two Z-grade Alien vs. Predator movies, plus scores of often excellent Aliens comics and novels (yes, I read a slew of them in the ’90s), and now Ridley Scott’s prequel Prometheus.
Prometheus is a visually dazzling movie (particularly in 3-D), but it is very disappointing on every other level.
On the most superficial level, it was so gross that I was reduced to dry heaves at one point – which I why I don’t feel any compunction about “spoiling” the plot, such as it is. So consider yourself warned.
The deepest disappointment is that Prometheus severs the tap root that has nourished the vast and ramifying Alien cosmos: mystery. In Alien, the beacon, the crashed ship, the “space jockey,” and the aliens themselves are all deeply mysterious. But it is not an unpleasant mystery, crying out for answers. Indeed, the mystery is part of the fun. It contributes to the atmosphere. This is why Alien is essentially a supernatural, haunted-house thriller, despite the sci-fi trappings.
Unfortunately, these trappings have invited the “there’s got to be a rational explanation for this” people to chime in and try to explain the mystery away. And, to make matters worse, these vulgarians are so cynical that their rational explanation is completely incoherent. But they are apparently counting on special effects to sufficiently stupefy their audience — if they are not already stupid enough — so that nobody will ask questions.
We learn in Prometheus that the space-jockeys are just giant humanoids under their mysterious exoskeleton-like suits and helmets.
We learn that they came to Earth, apparently billions of years ago, and seeded it with life when one of them drank a dark liquid which caused him to dismember and dissolve into a lake. Yet somehow, his scattered DNA became our DNA, apparently skipping a few million generations of what we know as evolution.
Yes, a dismembered giant is part of the Norse creation myth. But don’t get too excited: there are a lot of myths alluded to in this movie, but they are there merely to gild its vacuous plot, like the iridescent sheen of a soap bubble wrapped around a void.
Oddly enough, although the space jockeys’ only connection to us is DNA, ancient peoples somehow had memories of them, which they expressed in their art, giving us a map to the planet from whence they came. (But wait, it turns out to be not the planet from which they came billions of years ago, but a planet where they established a bio-weapons facility operating only a couple thousand years ago.)
I know, it is just a farrago of ancient astronaut lore, but it is put forward as post-religious, pseudo-scientific substitute for creation myths to explain how we got here. (But who created the space gods?)
In 2089, two archaeologists, Elizabeth Shaw (played by Noomi Rapace, the original Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, looking here like a young Jennifer Saunders) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), find a 35,000-year-old star map in Scotland. They convince aged and ailing trillionaire Peter Weyland to fund a space mission to the planet that appears on the star map, where they claim we will find the “Engineers” of life on Earth. Weyland funds the mission, hoping that our makers will restore his health (!).
Why did Scott cast the young and handsome Guy Pearce as Weyland, under loads of fake-looking makeup and prosthetics, rather than just hire a genuine old man? It is not like the role, which is hardly more than a bit part, required special acting abilities, or that Pearce even has such abilities. Hell, the CGI department could have whipped up a more plausible performance.
Five years later, the spaceship Prometheus arrives at a small moon orbiting a larger planet. They set down near some domed cyclopean structures that resemble the weathered stumps of immense rugose cones. The scientists enter the structures and find a decapitated space jockey. Elizabeth Shaw and one of the extras take his well-preserved head back to the ship to examine it. For no apparent reason, the head oozes and explodes just like the original space jockey who seeded Earth. DNA analysis proves that he is human.
Meanwhile, David, a rather fey, blonde, and treacherous android played by Michael Fassbender (just like the treacherous android in Alien played by Ian Holm), has spirited away one of the many cylinders found near the dead space jockey, cylinders that for no apparent reason begin to ooze a black liquid. For no apparent reason, David puts a bit of the black ooze in a drink and offers it to Charlie Holloway, who for no apparent reason is drunk and despondent after making the greatest discovery in human history. Charlie then has sex with Elizabeth, who is sterile, so there is no need of a space condom. Post coitus, Charlie starts feeling ill.
The next day, the team returns to the domed structure to find one of the members they left behind dead and the other missing. David goes off on his own and finds the bridge of a buried spaceship. He activates the navigation program. Then he finds a living space jockey in stasis. It it is the most visually stunning sequence in the film.
Charlie is now quite ill and mutating. Ice queen Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) refuses to let him back on the ship and then sets him on fire at Charlie’s urging. (In Prometheus, all the really evil characters are blonde.)
Elizabeth apparently passes out. When she wakes up, David explains that she is quite pregnant with a rather unusual fetus. She wants an abortion, but David sedates her and tells her they will put her back in suspended animation. Elizabeth escapes and climbs into a surgery machine, cuts her stomach open, and extracts a kind of writhing cephalopod. A few abdominal staples later, she is on her feet and back in action, albeit in her underwear and covered with gore. (Eat light before viewing, and you can enjoy dry heaves like I did.)
We learn that Mr. Weyland is on board. He is awakened from suspended animation in order to meet the Engineer. In case you are wondering what these stupid and venal white people (and their white android) have gotten themselves into, the crusty but big-hearted black ship’s captain explains it all: this is not the home world of the space jockeys. This is a facility where they developed biological weapons of mass destruction. Their weapons, however, got out of hand and destroyed them (ho hum).
Later we learn from David that the weapons were meant to destroy Earth. It seems that, for no apparent reason, our creators had a change of heart and decided to destroy the planet.
Elizabeth urges the captain not to allow these weapons to get off the planet, no matter what. The captain agrees.
Still feeling the staples, Elizabeth suits up and accompanies David, Weyland, and some others to the ship to awaken the space jockey. David assures them that he has deconstructed the ancient languages of the world to a root tongue that is presumably the language of the space jockeys. How this is possible, given that their only apparent contribution to Earth is DNA, is not explained.
They awaken the space jockey. David says “kalifee” or some such. But apparently that is not an acceptable greeting, so, for no apparent reason, the space jockey rips David’s head off, then kills Weyland and some of the others. Elizabeth, despite some cramps and oozing about the staples, manages to escape.
As she runs back to the Prometheus, the space jockey activates his ship and begins to take off. Elizabeth tells the black captain to stop him, and he nobly immolates himself and his crew to save humanity by crashing the Prometheus into the departing alien craft. The ice queen Meredith Vickers has ejected her quarters (complete with surgical bay) from the Prometheus, but she is crushed by the falling alien craft. (This is probably her karmic retribution for having sex with the black captain.) David, who just keeps talking even after his head has been ripped off his shoulders, and the space jockey both survive the crash. Elizabeth takes refuge in Meredith’s quarters.
David, for no apparent reason, informs her that the space jockey, for no apparent reason, is on his way to get her. How a severed head could ascertain his destination and intent is not explained. Perhaps he read it in the script. When the space jockey attacks, Elizabeth opens the door to the surgical bay, and her unwanted fetus with the tentacles, now grown horribly large, overwhelms the space jockey and sends a tube down his throat, implanting an alien embryo.
It is a rather complex reproductive cycle.
Elizabeth rescues the now nice David (both parts of him). He tells her there are other alien craft, and he can pilot them. Elizabeth sets up a warning beacon to keep people away and then leaves in search of the space jockey home world. She wants to find out why they chose to destroy humanity, and she apparently thinks they will tell her (before they destroy her).
At this point, we expect that the space jockey with the alien inside him will trudge back to his ship, put his uniform back on, climb back into his chair, and then the alien will burst from his chest, which is how he is found in the original Alien movie. But that would make too much sense, so it doesn’t happen.
As the credits rolled, I took off my 3-D glasses and rubbed by eyes in disbelief, trying to fathom the vulgarity of spirit behind this godawful movie. It is the same vulgarity of spirit that took the mysteries of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and gave us Peter Hyam’s sequel 2010 (1984), where the monoliths work to prevent nuclear war. It is the same vulgarity of spirit that took “the Force” of the original Star Wars trilogy and explained it in terms of little measurable material widgets called “midichlorians” in The Phantom Menace (1999). It is the same vulgarity of spirit that took the mysteries of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and gave us Rick Rosenthal’s made-for-TV sequel The Birds II: Land’s End (1994), in which we are informed that the bird attacks are due to pollution.
Heidegger tells us that this vulgarization is the essence of modernity, which seeks to abolish all mystery and transcendence, replacing them with the transparent and available, which in cultural terms boils down to the vulgar and the trite.
But some of us are more modern than others, and it all fell into place when I spied the name of screenwriter Damon Lindelof, one of the principal culprits behind Lost, the longest, most cynical Jewish jerk-job in television history. Lost was masterful in sucking people in by layering mystery upon mystery, including elements of religion, myth, and science fiction. But it was ultimately arbitrary and incoherent, revealing a bottomless contempt for its audience. All of these elements were chosen merely for effect, without concern for coherence and meaning, without the slightest suggestion that they could be taken seriously, that they mean anything important, that they are anything more than boob bait. Prometheus is the same kind of portentous swindle: just Jews making millions peddling myths for morons.
Don’t lose your money, or your lunch, at Prometheus.
Lars von Trier’s Melancholia might be a uniquely bleak film. Even for a director who is well known for offering dark and disturbing pictures of humanity, Melancholia expresses a special sort of hopelessness. The film begins with a series of strange, surreal tableaux shot in extreme slow motion. The musical accompaniment is the Tristan und Isolde Prelude. The beauty of the scenes, shot in crisp focus and with rich colors, is immediately apparent and compelling. But the meaning of what we are witnessing is less clear; it seems to somehow prefigure the ensuing drama with a heightened touch of painterly detail.
The story itself concerns the discovery of a new planet, Melancholia, which is found to be passing through our solar system. The discovery coincides with a wedding party given for an unsure bride, Justine (Kirsten Dunst). As the dysfunctional celebration plays out it becomes apparent that Justine has significant personal issues, and we sense that she is being pushed into the role of bride. Due to her aberrant and confused behavior, her husband leaves her on her wedding night. Her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), then attempts to look after Justine against the wishes of Claire’s husband, John, played with some conviction by Kiefer Sutherland. As the family drama unfolds, Melancholia looms larger on the horizon and, with a horrible sense of inevitability, it seems less and less likely that it will avoid colliding with Earth.
The first section of the film which centers on the wedding party recalls Thomas Vinterberg’s film, Festen. The comparison is apt, as Festen was the first film made under the conditions of Dogme 95. Dogme 95 was an avant-garde movement started in 1995 by Vinterberg and von Trier to encourage a type of film-making that would focus on story and character, rather than special effects and technical innovation. It was thoroughly expressive of certain trends in European film-making, and was radically opposed to the increasingly formulaic fare offered by Hollywood. The Dogme 95 manifesto consisted of the following rules:
- Filming must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in. If a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found.
- The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. Music must not be used unless it occurs within the scene being filmed, i.e., diegetic.
- The camera must be a hand-held camera. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. The film must not take place where the camera is standing; filming must take place where the action takes place.
- The film must be in color. Special lighting is not acceptable (if there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
- Optical work and filters are forbidden.
- The film must not contain superficial action (murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
- Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden (that is to say that the film takes place here and now).
- Genre movies are not acceptable.
- The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
- The director must not be credited.
The second film made under this ‘vow of chastity’ was von Trier’s The Idiots. In this film a group of young people decide to explore their inner idiot by pretending to be mentally retarded in public. By turns disturbing, sexually explicit, and blackly funny, The Idiots confirmed von Trier’s reputation as the enfant terrible of European film-making. But the most interesting thing about Dogme 95 was that it provided a practical manifesto and program for film-making that was economically, aesthetically. and intellectually opposed to the Hollywood methodology.
Despite the presence of American heavyweights Dunst and Sutherland, Melancholia is financed with European money, and it shows. Although von Trier has now grown out of the austerity of the Dogme 95 school, its influence is still apparent in the use of handheld cameras and the avoidance of slick editing. Even the special effects which show the approach of Melancholia (and which sometimes echo the aesthetics of Kubrick’s 2001) are subjugated to the demands of the narrative, never becoming an intrusive presence. Von Trier’s interest in characterization means that Melancholia is paced to a very different rhythm than any other mainstream film. It is notable that despite being able to attract actors of the stature of Dunst, Nicole Kidman (Dogville), and Björk (Dancer in the Dark), von Trier has persisted with his unique vision and has resisted the temptation to conform to the demands of multiplex inanity. Indeed, the great and the good of American film-making must now conform to his idiosyncratic demands and not the other way round. For this, if nothing else, he should be admired.
If there is a weak point in Melancholia it is perhaps the performance of Dunst. I was not convinced that she was capable of commensurately conveying the extremity of the mental distress her character was suffering from. It is undoubtedly unfair to compare her performance to that of Björk in Dancer in the Dark or to Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves; both of those actresses appeared to be dangerously immersed in the worlds of their characters. It is not especially problematic that Dunst’s performance is not quite so extreme, but the world created in Melancholia requires a great deal of weight to be carried on Dunst’s characterization of Justine. Without a sufficiently convincing performance in this role, the logic of Melancholia is lacking an objective correlative, so to speak.
And this is due to the symbolic power of the planet Melancholia. Melancholia is on a collision course with Earth and is set to destroy all life. It is also an externalized symbol of the mental distress suffered by Justine. For the person suffering from depression there really is no hope, no future. Justine is not able to live a married life, despite a sympathetic husband. Unlike her sister, she has no children and nothing to live for. She cannot function as an autonomous human being. And yet, at the end of the film, she is proved to be right. Her mentally disturbed nihilism is vindicated. Only those who have no hope can cope with the end of the world. This is why Melancholia is a uniquely grim film.
It is normal for a Lars von Trier film to focus on the distress of a mentally disturbed woman. Melancholia may fail to achieve the same degree of intense, disturbing empathy for such a character as some of his other films but it is, nonetheless, a deeply poetic and visually arresting work of art.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a triumph of intelligent film making. The plot is interesting and well executed, the direction is fast paced and engaging without being too heavy handed, and the apes are brought to life with astonishing realism. In fact, the brilliance of the apes’ characterization, largely due to the presence of the “performance capture” actor Andy Serkis, is so compelling that the best parts of the film center on the apes’ captivity and the way in which they interact with each other.
These scenes are reminiscent of the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. In both films, language is unavailable to the simians so the story has to be told through mimesis rather than exposition, a distinction to which few directors nowadays pay sufficient attention. The obvious criticism of the film is that the human characters are rather shallow and one dimensional in comparison with the apes.
But perhaps the most remarkable thing about this film is that it deals explicitly, and favorably, with ideas of imperialism and fascism. The ape who leads the simian revolt is named after Julius Caesar by the father of the scientist who rescues him. The circumstances of Caesar’s birth provide a few subtle references to this identification.
There are contradictory stories about the reasons for the naming of the Roman Caesar family. One is to do with birth by Caesarian section, which at the time was occasioned by the death of the mother in childbirth. In the film, Caesar’s mother dies shortly after giving birth, although there is no suggestion of a Caesarian section.
Another reason given for the naming of the Caesars is that it is from oculis caesiis, which refers to the bright grey eyes of an ancestor. In the film, Caesar’s mother is named Bright Eyes. Admittedly, this is also a reference to the first Planet of the Apes film where Charlton Heston’s character is called Bright Eyes, but as the film progresses the symbolism becomes less oblique.
As mentioned before, the best parts of the film feature the apes in captivity where their social communication is shown through physical interaction. In this section, Caesar is “imprisoned” in an ape sanctuary against his, and his owner’s, will. He quickly learns which apes are the alpha males through their aggressive behavior. One of the apes is so large and aggressive that he is kept behind bars and is not allowed to interact with the other apes at all.
Whilst captive, Caesar learns how to unlock the cages that the apes are kept in. He cleverly demonstrates to the alpha males that he has this power of giving freedom. This higher intelligence, combined with an unashamed use of violence, causes the other alpha males to submit to Caesar as the new leader.
The fact that we are witnessing apes behaving in this way allows the film makers to depict the reality of power relationships without tagging on the usual liberal caveats that would litter any other film about such a subject. Even the most brutal gangster film will show the pressures, or other problems, of the wives or girlfriends. In Apes, the females are not “actors,” as such, in the narrative at all. The only female ape who has a role to play is Caesar’s mother, and her role in the story is to give birth. In this sense the film can be read as exemplifying Nietzsche’s maxim, “A man should be brought up for war, and a woman for the recuperation of the warrior: all else is folly.”
Due to the brilliant physicality of Serkis and the other ape actors, all of this feels perfectly natural. The central conceit, or sleight of hand, of the director is the use of apes to tell harsh truths about humans. The audience is willing to watch the depiction of the power play amongst the apes with a certain sense of remove. If these were human characters then clearly the film would be misogynist, shallow, etc.
Whilst incarcerated, Caesar makes friends with an orangutan who learned sign language when he was kept in a circus. Caesar explains his game plan, his political ideology if you like, to his new friend. Taking a stick Caesar snaps it in half and explains that a single ape is weak. Taking a bundle of sticks he shows how hard it is to snap and he explains that apes together are strong. This, of course, is the symbol of the fasces, and it is the defining symbol of the apes’ revolt. The apes who have submitted to Caesar follow him with a fierce loyalty and willingly kill and die for him, and for their new cause. This cause is not simply freedom, still less democracy or other such daft platitudes, but “home.”
In his younger days Caesar was taken to a national park where he climbed the redwood trees with exhilaration. When the apes escape they do not embark on a wild rampage but instead head for this forest to start a new society. The exciting climax to the film involves a battle between the apes and the police on the Golden Gate Bridge which the apes must cross to reach their destination. Happily, the apes win, and Caesar crosses the Rubicon to found his New Imperium.
Throughout the film we overhear snippets of news programs concerning the first manned mission to Mars, whose fate occasioned the scenario for the original Planet of the Apes film. In a nod to the sort of overreaching arrogance that the film finds in humanity the space ship is named Icarus. But it is not only for such unnatural hubris that man is condemned. The drug that grants intelligence to the apes was developed to cure Alzheimer’s disease, and senility is really the keynote for humanity as depicted here. We are a species which has reached its natural conclusion, the film seems to tell us.
It is emphasized that the Alzheimer’s cure is pursued by the drug company purely because of its commercial value. Unfortunately, it has a fatal side effect that causes death in weak, senile, man, but not in the hardier apes. As the apes start their incipient warrior society we see, in a wonderful coda, an infected commercial airplane pilot heading across the globe spreading his fatal germs to all of humanity.
This ending is shown by following the flight path on a digital display. As each flight ends, several more depart in a web of green LCD encircling the globe. Despite our arrogant command of technology we are still subject to nature. For me, the total annihilation of a weak and hubristic humanity to make way for a new, healthy, warrior species made Rise of the Planet of the Apes the ultimate feel-good movie.
1. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, translated by Graham Parks (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 57
History is always written by the winning side. This was never more true than in the case of Nazi Germany. Everything we know about it, or everything we think we know, is filtered through layers of illusion and propaganda. But a few years ago I had a rare opportunity to get an unfiltered view of it.
On Saturday, January 14, 1995, I saw an announcement of a series of films from Nazi Germany, being shown at UCLA. It was sponsored jointly by the UCLA film department and the Goethe Institute. I had already missed the opening night, which was Thursday the 12th, but over the next few weeks I saw 18 movies in the series. They were shown in no particular order. There was a flyer accompanying the series, but the descriptions of the movies were not even true on a factual level, let alone on a thematic level, and the flyer was practically useless as an aid to understanding the films. The flyer, of course, was an attempt to tell us what to see; but we were free to ignore it and just look at the films with our own eyes.
The series was titled “Ministry of Illusion,” because these are supposed to be propaganda films. According to the flyer,
“Shooting and editing were closely supervised and the final cut of the film had to be approved — often by Goebbels or Hitler… Goebbels claimed, ‘Even entertainment can be politically of special value, because the moment a person is conscious of propaganda, propaganda becomes ineffective.’ Hence, he encouraged the production of feature films that reflected the ambiance of National Socialism, rather than those that loudly proclaimed its ideology. Consequently, as the films in this series document, cinema in the Third Reich was not solely a Ministry of Fear. It was, more than anything, a Ministry of Illusion…”
These movies certainly drew me into a different ambiance. I felt free to leave my coat, umbrella, and gym bag at my seat during intermission, something I would not ordinarily do at a theater in Los Angeles.
I wondered what kind of films would be shown. Triumph of the Will, perhaps? Wrong. There is nothing like that here. Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS? Wrong again. These films cover just about every subject you can think of, except what you would expect.
Going to these movies was like taking a time-machine back to 1933 — especially since many people in the audience spoke German, and were old enough to have been there. Some of them may have seen these same movies before, when they were children. I could almost imagine myself being in Berlin, watching these movies when they were originally shown. What the time-machine showed me was surprising, to say the least.
If you rearrange the films so they are in chronological order, it turns out that there is a progression of themes. The movies tell a story, the story of the Third Reich, a story that has never been told in quite this way.
1933 — Fugitives
A simple, mythical story, told at the beginning of the Reich. Hans Albers makes his first of three appearances in the series, as the leader who pulls his people together and leads them back home, to safety and freedom.
The story takes place in 1928. A group of about 45 Volga Germans are trying to escape from Russia. They have made their way to the Chinese border, but there they find themselves in a war zone. There is no food, no water, no transportation; the Russians are trying to hunt them down and kill them; some of them are sick; they are fighting among themselves. Hans Albers [I have forgotten the character’s name, so I will refer to the actor] is an army officer attached to the German embassy. He finds an unguarded train that could be used for escape, if the track were repaired. He takes charge of the group, and together they repair the track and escape into China, and from there eventually make their way to Hamburg. The symbolism is obvious: the officer represents Hitler. Hans Albers brings to this role, as to all his roles, a unique combination of dignity and panache. When you realize that this is how the Germans saw their Führer, it puts everything in a different light.
1935 — Amphitryon
Kind of like Cool World or Roger Rabbit, where you have the mixing of two universes, with comical and almost disastrous results. Amphitryon is an officer in the Theban army. He and all the men of Thebes are away fighting a battle. His wife prays to Jupiter for victory. Jupiter, up in Olympus, hears her prayer and sees an opportunity. He is an old man, about 65, lecherous but not at all attractive. Mercury is a younger, pixie-ish man/god. They go to earth, and Jupiter tries to approach Amphitryon’s wife. She won’t even talk to him. She doesn’t recognize him as Jupiter; he doesn’t look like the statue she prays to. He disguises himself to look like Amphitryon, and pretends to be back from the war a day earlier than expected. This gets him into the house, but instead of seducing Amphitryon’s wife, he gets drunk and falls asleep. Meanwhile Mercury is disguised as Amphytrion’s slave, and he has to deal with the slave’s wife, who treats him like the drunk he usually is. When Amphitryon himself arrives, and Juno (an old battle-axe) comes down from Olympus to find her wayward husband, all hell breaks loose. This is a lighthearted, genuinely funny movie, the kind of comedy where people laugh out loud — there is no need for a laugh track in this movie.
1935 — The Old and the Young King
The King of Prussia is a jovial but strict man who lives in a world where men do their duty, period. His son has no interest in government or military affairs. He just wants to hang out with his musical friends, play the flute, read French books, and gamble. This kind of father-and-son relationship occurs many times in every generation, but in this case both father and son are caught in roles that they can’t walk away from. The King must train his son to be a King. He can’t go out and hire somebody to run the country. The Prince must do it. The King is not an abusive or petty man. He is not trying to break his son’s spirit out of jealousy or meanness, like some fathers. But he demands that the Prince live a disciplined life, and he drives his son to exasperation. The Prince makes plans to run away from home. He not only gets caught, he also carelessly implicates his friend, Lieutenant Latte, who has helped him plan his escape. The King sentences Latte to death, and makes his son watch the execution. Over a period of time the Prince pulls himself together and assumes his duties, but he carries an image of his friend with him at all times. He obeys his father, but coldly. They can never be friends. On the night of his father’s death, the Prince leaves his ongoing party and goes to him. They say what must be said, and make peace. The Prince has become a King… but at what cost.
1936 — Closing Chord
A woman abandons her child and goes to America. A few years later, inspired by a Beethoven concert, she comes back to Germany in search of her son. She discovers that he has been adopted by the same conductor who conducted the concert. She becomes the boy’s nanny, without telling anyone who she really is. The composer’s wife is having an affair with an astrologer. She eventually realizes who the “nanny” is, and fires her. She, i.e. the composer’s wife, gets sick. The doctor gives her medicine, with strict instructions to take exactly ten drops — “an overdose could be fatal.” The real mother comes back to get some things (and perhaps to steal her son, her intentions are not clear) and the next morning the composer’s wife is found dead, of an overdose of medicine. The real mother is accused of murdering her. In court, it comes out that the astrologer was blackmailing her and drove her to suicide. The composer and the real mother get married. A new family has formed.
1936 — The Kaiser of California
An epic story about a man who builds a new country in the wilderness of California, only to have it destroyed by the gold rush. The movie is based on an actual historical character, Johann Suter (known in America as John Sutter). He was a young printer who got in trouble when he printed radical posters. He climbed up to the top of a cathedral, contemplating suicide; but a spirit appeared to him, and showed him a vast world out there, full of opportunity. He said goodbye to his family and emigrated to America. After a desperate journey across mountains and deserts, he arrived in California, with a few followers whom he had saved from starvation. (This part is just like Fugitives.) Within a decade he transformed the area from a semi-desert to a fertile paradise with abundant farms, orchards, and ranches. His wife and two sons joined him. More and more immigrants joined his community, and he found work for all of them.
Then one of his original followers discovered gold nuggets in the river. All of his men deserted him, abandoned their jobs, and started panning for gold. They staked claims on land that belonged to him, and defied him to do anything about it. He took his case to court and won, but there was nothing the government could do against thousands of gold prospectors. They killed his sons and burned his house. Since no one was working, his income dropped to zero, and the bankers foreclosed on his property. At the end we find him an old man with nothing. The same spirit appears again and asks him,
Why do you keep trying to fight the gold?
You can’t stop the wheels of the world.
The parallel with Hitler is all too clear. How this movie got past the censors is not clear. A movie in which a great social experiment is defeated by the unstoppable “wheels of the world” is the last thing a propaganda minister would want the people to see. But the artistic vision is true, and Goebbels must have valued artistic truth more than propaganda. Apparently there was less censorship in Germany than we have been led to believe. And yet the title of this series is “Ministry of Illusion”… Who’s dealing in illusion, and who isn’t?
1937 — The Broken Jug
A wonderful farce; according to the flyer that accompanied this series of movies, The Broken Jug was Hitler’s favorite movie, but considering the general inaccuracy of the flyer, I don’t know whether to believe this. The story takes place in a Dogpatch-like village in rural Holland. A senior judge from the city is on a tour of the countryside to inspect the legal system. He arrives here just in time to sit in on the most absurd trial ever imagined. The judge is a drunken buffoon. The plaintiff is a woman who lives nearby, whose precious jug was broken the night before by a man who was trying to escape from her yard after being caught near her daughter’s bedroom. She says the man was Rupert, her daughter’s boyfriend. Rupert denies this, and says another man was present. As the trial goes on it becomes increasingly obvious that the real culprit is the judge himself. The senior judge finally straightens everything out, and the village judge is chased out of town. If you like physical humor — slapstick — you will love this. The actors are so good that I believed the whole thing, as if I were watching a documentary; only at the end did it finally occur to me that these people are actors, not idiots.
1937 — La Habanera
Astreé, a young Swedish woman, goes to Puerto Rico on vacation, and stays. She marries Don Pedro de Avila, the richest and most powerful man on the island. Ten years later she is sick of her jealous, egotistical Latin husband and his flyspecked third world country, but by that time she has a little boy, and she has to stay because of him. A Swedish doctor, an old flame of hers, comes to the island to cure the Puerto Rico Fever, along with another doctor, who is from Brazil. Don Pedro denies that there is a fever; mustn’t alarm the tourists. He tells his henchmen to raid the doctors’ lab and destroy their medicine. He invites the doctors to his house that evening — before they are aware that their lab has been destroyed — with the intention of having them arrested. The Swedish doctor approaches his old love with great excitement. She becomes agitated and almost recoils from him. After talking to him, she goes to her husband and asks his permission to sing “La Habanera,” the traditional song of Puerto Rico, which she has not sung for nine years. After she sings, Don Pedro himself comes down with the fever, and dies. The medicine could have saved him, but it has already been destroyed. Astreé and her son go back to Sweden with the doctor.
1939 — Effi Briest
Effi is a girl of 17 who is married to a middle aged man, an ambitious politician. He has little time for his young wife. Out of loneliness and boredom, she has an affair with a neighbor. Six years later, when the affair is long forgotten, her husband discovers some of their letters. He challenges the man to a duel and kills him. Effi goes back to live with her parents, and soon dies. She has been overwhelmed by events beyond her comprehension. This is the second movie in which things go terribly wrong (Kaiser of California was the first). The theme of defeat, of events spinning out of control, appears here, ominously, in 1939, just as the war begins. One can’t help thinking that the duel was unnecessary, and the message here may be that the war is also unnecessary, and the Reich is taking a fatal step that can only end in tragedy.
1940 — Request Concert
A sugar-coated war movie — if you change the uniforms, the leading men could just as well be Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire (American stars of the time). They are in love with the same girl, but instead of fighting over her, they bend over backwards to give each other a fair chance. They are all hearty good fellows, oozing with camaraderie. The girl allows herself to be stood up repeatedly, with no explanation or apology. Meanwhile, back on earth…
Request Concert is a lot more important than I realized when I wrote this review. I now think of it as the definitive Nazi movie, and I have given it a page of its own . A detailed review (by someone else) can be found on the Liberty Forum  site. You have to scroll pretty far down the page to get to it.
1942 — The Great Love
Paul Wentlandt, a handsome, daredevil air force pilot, goes to Berlin on 48-hour leave and sees a concert by a famous singer. Many of the men in the audience have fantasies about meeting her; he actually does it. After her performance, he pursues her to a party, and then to her home, and manages to sleep with her that same night. Then he disappears without telling her who he is or where he is going. She is distraught for three weeks, after which he shows up again. They keep trying to get married, but each time duty calls him away at the last minute. Finally he gets shot down, and that takes him out of action long enough to have a wedding; but he will soon be back in combat.
Like Request Concert, The Great Love was very popular at the time. Obviously these movies were intended to provide role models for the soldiers and their families. Of course 1942 was the year when events were rapidly spinning out of control beyond any hope of repair. At this point the Germans needed Alexander (and his mentor, Aristotle). Instead they got Captain Paul Wentlandt, ace fighter pilot and man about town.
1943 — Münchhausen
On the calendar it has only been ten years since since Fugitives, but actually a thousand years have passed. The Reich is coming to an end. Hans Albers plays Baron Münchhausen, a Faustian man, a legendary figure whose life began in the 18th century and continued for 200 years. His friend Cagliostro, the famous magician, told him that he could have one wish. His wish was to “stay as young as I am now, until I choose to grow old.” Münchhausen has many adventures. He is Catherine the Great’s lover, a slave in Turkey, and an astronaut who goes to the moon in a balloon, among other things. In a swordfight, he cuts his opponent’s clothes to ribbons and leaves him standing there naked, without breaking the skin. He is always in a space of his own, not quite participating in the events around him, as if he is playing some kind of game. When he finally arrives in the 20th century — the century in which the center cannot hold, and things fall apart, as Yeats said — the game is over. He decides it is time to bring his life to an end. In these films, Hans Albers personified Germany. When he decided he had lived long enough, it was Germany itself that died — and it was a noble death.
I mentioned in the beginning that the movies were not shown in chronological order. After seeing the first six, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue. Then I saw Münchhausen, and that put everything on a higher level. After I saw this film, I started taking the whole series more seriously. The important thing here isn’t the story itself, which is just light entertainment. It is the depth of Hans Albers’ performance which turns this collection of tall tales into something extraordinary. He created a character unlike anything I have ever seen on film. He somehow conveys an eerie sense of hypermaturity, as if there is another level beyond what we normally think of as adulthood.
Münchhausen could stand comparison with Children of Paradise, which was made in Paris at about the same time. It gives you chills.
1943 — Romance in a Minor Key
A woman in Paris is married to a banker. He is a dull, unimaginative man, but a good husband, and she loves him. She allows herself to be seduced by a famous composer. This in itself would not necessarily be a disaster. But then the composer’s brother, who owns the bank where her husband works, starts forcing himself on her. He sends her husband away on business trips and makes her sleep with him. She kills herself. The composer challenges his brother to a duel and kills him, but he takes a shot in the right hand and will never be able to play the piano again. Her husband is a broken man. An unmitigated disaster for all concerned; reminiscent of Effi Briest, but even worse; a perfect movie for 1943.
1943 — Acrobat Schö-ö-ön
This was Germany’s answer to Charlie Chaplin — the main character resembles Charlie Chaplin and is even named Charlie. A clever, enjoyable comedy, this must have been a welcome relief from the war. Charlie is a talented acrobat and clown, but they won’t let him perform. He works as the night watchman in the theater. (This theater is not the kind of place where they have dramatic performances; it’s more like a circus.) Charlie has a confrontation with the strongman, who is harassing his girlfriend; the strongman gets knocked out, not by Charlie, but by a heavy beam that falls on his head. Later he meets a female acrobat who, like him, can’t even get an audition. Late one night, when no one is around, they put together an act. The boss comes in unexpectedly and sees them. He fires Charlie. Then the regular acrobat injures himself and can’t perform. They hire Charlie and his friend to fill in. Charlie, however, can’t get ready in time because he is hiding from the strongman. They miss their chance, and are sitting forlornly on a back stage while the other acts perform. But someone trips a switch which sets the revolving stage in motion, and they find themselves in front. Charlie walks quizzically to the front of the stage, looks out at the audience, and says “Schö-ö-ön” (which means “beau-u-tiful” in German). They finally get their chance to perform.
This is a subversive movie. Charlie’s boss and the strongman represent the Nazi regime. Charlie and his acrobat friend represent creative people who felt stifled under this regime. That must have been self-evident to the authorities, but they let the movie be produced anyway. Like Kaiser of California, this movie makes one wonder how much censorship there was in Nazi Germany. Some people did feel stifled, of course, but at the same time they were allowed to express their dissatisfaction, even at the height of the war. I don’t think the American Censorship Board would have allowed a subversive movie to be made in Hollywood in 1943.
1943 — Paracelsus
A somewhat romanticized view of Paracelsus. He is presented here as a renaissance doctor who is trying to introduce scientific medicine, against the opposition of the medieval medical establishment. There is an ongoing contest to see who can cure more patients, who can control the university medical school, and who can gain the confidence of the government. Paracelsus cures the patients but loses the political struggle, and leaves town to avoid arrest. Paracelsus, like Johann Suter, appears to be up against unstoppable forces. When you quarantine a town, you cut off trade, and the merchants go out of business; they won’t put up with this for very long. When you introduce new ideas, the established professors stand to lose their students, their income, and their power; they will fight you to the last drop of blood. Gold always wins . . . apparently. You can’t stop the wheels of the world . . . but at the end, Paracelsus is still fighting. He has moved his practice to another town. Word comes that the King wants him to be the court physician. “No,” he says, “I will serve the people, not the King.”
1944 — Maria the Ferryman
A strange, abstract story in which Death appears as a man on the ferry, a tall, imposing, ghostly man. Maria is a young woman, a runaway, a stranger in the village, who takes over the job of ferryman at a river crossing after the old ferryman dies. Just as she gets settled into the little cottage that comes with the job, a wounded man appears on the other side of the river. She ferries him across and hides him in the cottage. Death appears again, this time in pursuit of the man. She leads Death though a swamp, praying that she may be taken instead of him. Death sinks into the swamp, the man gets well, and the two of them leave the village and go across the river to his home.
1944 — The Great Sacrifice
The story of a husband and wife, and a young woman who lives nearby. He falls in love with the young woman, who has a lingering illness. His wife knows about this, and does nothing to interfere with their happiness. When the girl is too ill to get out of bed, she waits for him to stop outside and wave every afternoon; and when he can’t come, his wife wears a disguise and waves to the girl in his place. These characters have an exaggerated gentility that is hard for me to comprehend. The man sitting next to me in the theater laughed through most of this movie, and I think I know why — it struck him as absurd, in the same way that Goethe’s Elective Affinities struck me as absurd and funny. I’m not sure why the Germans would have wanted to watch this movie in 1944, when the sky was falling. Perhaps the sheer unreality of it provided an escape.
There may be another reason that didn’t occur to me at the time. The Great Sacrifice must not have been unreal to its original audience. It was an illusion, of course, and they knew that, but it was an illusion they wanted to see, because at some level it reflected the reality of their lives. Like Elective Affinities, this movie must express a part of the German soul that outsiders can’t really know. This, like Dresden, is what the Allies wanted most to destroy.
1944 — The Great Freedom
Hans Albers again, in his final appearance. He spent 18 years at sea. Just when he was ready to advance to mate (which required a substantial payment), his brother stole his savings. When we meet him he has given up his sailor’s life and become a landlubber and entertainer. He works as The Singing Sailor at a nightclub called “The Great Freedom.” His brother dies and leaves him the name and address of a girl he has left in the lurch. He goes to see the girl and takes her back to Hamburg with him. She sleeps in his spare bedroom. He falls in love with her, but doesn’t do anything about it. He takes it for granted that they will marry. Meanwhile another man is pursuing her.
When matters are about to come to a head, he has a restless night, with nightmares about his brother, the girl, his other lady friend, his ship, his sailor friends, his failed life, his inability to make decisions… The next morning he resolves to propose. He has the engagement ring. He prepares a beautiful dinner with flowers and candles. But the girl (who represents Fortune) doesn’t show up for the dinner — she goes to the other man, the one who knows what he wants. Our hero drinks himself into a stupor. The next day he goes back to his old ship, which is about to set sail, and leaves Hamburg.
This is a brilliant but bitter story, as if The Aeneid were told from the point of view of Turnus. This is the opposite of escapism. This movie looks at defeat head on, without flinching.
1945 — Under the Bridges
Two men own a barge outfitted like a houseboat. They live on the barge with their pet goose, and go up and down rivers and canals, carrying cargo, passing under many bridges. (Yes, they have a pet goose. This is a comedy, of all things, in 1945.) One night they see a young woman on a bridge, and think she is going to jump. Instead she throws a ten-mark note into the water. They retrieve it and try to give it back to her, but she won’t take it. She starts to leave, but then realizes she needs the money to get home. They invite her to sleep on the barge; they will take her back to Berlin for ten marks. She accepts this invitation, and after some initial hesitation they all become friends. (The goose, alas, gets eaten.) It turns out that she earned the ten marks by posing for an artist, hoping to seduce him; when he showed no interest in her, she tried to throw the money away. When she is back home in Berlin, they both pursue her. The rivalry threatens to destroy their friendship. Eventually she joins them on the barge, and it is not clear which one she has chosen; the audience is left wondering if she is going to live with both of them. The three of them sail down the river, under the bridges, toward some unknown destination. This is 1945. The war is over. The Reich is over. Life goes on.
From Illusion to Reality
What is one to make of all this? I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as an extra-credit assignment in my 9th grade World History class, and I have been reading about Nazi Germany off and on since then, so I know something about it. At least I thought I did. But this series of movies was a revelation to me. I had no idea the Germans watched movies like this.
These movies are amazing, not so much for what is in them as for what is not in them. There are no Jewish capitalists here, no Jewish Bolsheviks, no degenerate Jewish artists or journalists, no Jewish villains of any kind. That whole issue just doesn’t come up. In the whole series there is only one character who appears to be Jewish: in The Great Love, the singer is accompanied by a pianist/composer named Alexander Rudinsky, who is in love with her. He is a decent man, not a villain at all. In fact when matters are coming to a head, the plot turns on the question of whether he will do the right thing — and he does. (I found out later that out of a thousand movies made in Nazi Germany, three were anti-Semitic.)
The stereotypical “fascist” personality does not appear here. The only puritan in the whole series is Astreé’s aunt in La Habanera, and she is no fascist, she’s just a prudish old lady. Even the King in The Old and the Young King is usually an affable man who likes his beer. Some characters are unpleasantly authoritarian, such as Charlie’s boss and Paul Wentlandt’s commanding officer, but they are not the heroes of their respective stories.
There are no Nietzschean “Blond Beasts” in these movies. There are two giants — circus strongmen — and they are both ridiculed. The only character with an overinflated ego is Don Pedro, and he is also treated with something less than respect. There are seven characters who could be considered heroic: Hans Albers in Fugitives, Lieutenant Latte, Johann Suter, Paul Wentlandt, Paracelsus, Maria, and Baron Münchhausen. None of them has anything to do with Nietzsche’s “will to power” philosophy. All of the characters except one are drawn to human scale. The only exception is Baron Münchhausen, who is larger than life — but he doesn’t dominate the world, he plays with it, like a man playing with his grandchildren.
There is very little violence in these movies, and it is never graphic. There is nothing like Rambo or the Friday the 13th series, not to mention Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS. The idea of “romantic violence” would seem absolutely bizarre to the characters in these films, and presumably to the audiences who watched them. What little violence there is comes from the villains, not the heroes. Johann Suter, for example, doesn’t even try to defend himself against the prospectors. In fact, for someone who is used to Hollywood movies, the lack of violence makes these films a little boring. You feel like there should be more action.
Paul Wentlandt is the closest thing to a macho man. He is a big guy, and he certainly doesn’t need a course in assertiveness training. He looks like he could take care of himself, but we never find out, because there are no fights in The Great Love. Wentlandt is a civilized man — not rude, not rough, not a rapist, not a berserker. He is a charming, sophisticated fellow who almost reminds me of the man in the Taster’s Choice commercials. If he found himself drinking coffee with that man and his lady friend, he would not feel out of place. He might be more comfortable drinking coffee with them than drinking whisky with John Wayne. Apart from Wentlandt, and perhaps Hans Albers in Fugitives, the other characters don’t even come close to being macho. These men are gentlemen. They don’t get in fistfights. They fight each other in formal duels, if they fight at all. Mr. Rogers would not feel out of place here.
If these movies really were intended to create an illusion, you have to wonder: Why would the Nazis want to create this particular illusion?
Nordic religion doesn’t appear in these films at all, not even in the background. There are at least vestiges of Christianity — cathedrals, flagellants, Bibles — but no trace at all of Odinism. The pagan gods appear only once (in Amphitryon), and they appear in their Greek/Roman form, not their Nordic form. The astrologer in Closing Chord could be considered a vestige of paganism, but he doesn’t represent an ideal, obviously; he is a vicious man, and they have to extricate themselves from him before they can get on with their lives.
By modern standards, these films would all be rated G or PG. There is only one bare breast in the whole series (in Paracelsus). There is a skinny-dipping scene in The Great Sacrifice, but the girl stays under water. In this respect Nazi films are exactly like American films of the 1930s and 40s — sex is treated very discreetly. There is no nudity in Gone with the Wind, either, even though Rhett Butler spends a lot of time in Belle Watling’s establishment.
The “Blood and Soil” theme appears only once (in Kaiser of California). There are no sturdy German peasants working the land. The closest thing we get to peasants are the villagers in Maria the Ferryman, who are sinister small-town lowlifes, and the villagers in The Broken Jug, who are clowns. The theme of class solidarity doesn’t appear at all. The only working class character who has a major role is the maid in Closing Chord. The whole story hinges on her testimony at the trial, but the fact that she is working class doesn’t enter into it. The working class as such doesn’t appear in these films. Most of the films involve wealthy people, entertainers, military officers, or unique individuals such as Paracelsus and Münchhausen.
To an American, the most amazing thing of all is the lack of police in these movies. Hollywood produces one cop show after another. It would be hard to put together a series of 18 Hollywood movies (not to mention TV shows) spanning a 13 year period without including some cop shows. But there are almost no police investigations in these Nazi movies. There are occasions when the characters get in trouble with the king or the mayor, but the police as an independent institutional force just barely exist in this universe. The characters have affairs, fight duels, and generally do whatever they want without thinking about the police. There is a trial at the end of Closing Chord. That’s almost the only time the police appear.
I would have thought that the Nazis would be obsessed with law and order, even more than Americans. I thought there would be story after story about heroic Gestapo agents ferreting out enemies of the state — Dirty Klaus instead of Dirty Harry. But if these movies are any indication, law and order as we understand it was a matter of little interest to the Germans.
Could this be the result of censorship? — Possibly the government thought the police were too sacred to be the subject of a movie? No, that can’t be true, because there is one movie about law enforcement — The Broken Jug — and the authorities get no respect at all. I say “authorities” because there are no police as such in this village. There is no one with a uniform or a badge. It’s much more primitive than that. In any case, The Broken Jug is a joke, and the local magistrate is the butt of the joke — it’s like a Keystone Kops movie — and this is supposed to be Hitler’s favorite movie!!
We have been taught to associate Nietzsche with the Nazis, but Nietzschean themes don’t appear here. Paracelsus, however, does appear. Actually Paracelsus is easiest character for me to identify with. He wasn’t just a doctor, he was also an alchemist and a philosopher. I can certainly relate to that. However, there is just one little problem. He was a Christian. Here are some quotations from his writings:
To what end does man live on earth, if not to become versed in the works of God and to learn how all things have their source in Him?
Christ exhorted men to take heed and learn from the example of his gentle and humble heart. From Christ flows the spring of truth, and that which does not come from Him is but seduction.
Many persuade themselves that they themselves are the spirit, but it is with them above all that the spirit has never been.
If you want to be a knight and a champion of blessedness, then be a knight through your generosity and not through the shedding of blood.
What is the meaning of the Kingdom of Heaven? It is this: that we should forgive one another — then God will love us too.
The true religion of the jurist should be: to guide men to forgive, to pardon one another, to turn the other cheek.
It seems out of character for the Nazis to honor a Christian. Why did they consider Paracelsus to be a hero?
This is one more anomaly out of a long list. There are too many anomalies. Something has got to give. I can only conclude that the Third Reich was almost the opposite of what everybody thinks it was. That’s the only way to make sense of these movies.
We are supposed to believe that these movies are illusions, but Hollywood movies are not illusions, the history books written by Allied historians are not illusions, and the postwar Nazi stereotypes are not illusions. This is nonsense.
These movies are a window into Nazi Germany as the Germans themselves experienced it. They gave me a rare opportunity to see beyond the stereotypes and get a look at life is it was lived at that time.
The Nazi Germany of our imagination has very little to do with the Nazi Germany that actually existed. I have been laboring under the same misconceptions as everybody else. If the Germans were who I thought they were, they wouldn’t have watched movies like Request Concert or The Broken Jug, not to mention The Great Sacrifice.
The strangest thing about this is that some people like the postwar caricature of Nazism, and they call themselves “neo-Nazis”!!
The Germans who lived in the Reich, the ones who watched these movies, wouldn’t have much use for today’s neo-Nazis. What would Johann Suter think about Tom Metzger and the WAR paper? What would Paracelsus think about Satanists who burn churches and leave poisoned wine bottles lying around for winos to discover? What would the conductor in Closing Chord think if he found himself moshing in the pit at a RAHOWA concert?
Neo-Nazis wouldn’t like the Reich that actually existed. They have little interest in it. There were only a few skinheads in attendance at these movies (Eric Davidson, his wife, and some of their friends — and they only came because I invited them). Neo-Nazis are attracted to the dark side of Nazi Germany, the side that is not represented here, the side that most Germans were not even aware of, and didn’t want to be aware of — the side that is constantly rubbed in our faces now.
Most people in Nazi Germany weren’t even aware of Klaus Barbie and Ilsa Koch, in the same way that most people in the United States are not aware of what goes on in American prisons, not to mention secret police in Latin America who are trained by the U.S. government to torture prisoners. Today, we think of Nazi Germany as a police state, but that wasn’t the experience of most people at the time. They would be amazed and dismayed that we remember the Gestapo and the concentration camps, and forget everything else.
I don’t want to overstate my case here. Obviously Nazi Germany was a police state, and many people did experience it that way. Even Werner Heisenberg, who believed in Nazism as much as any scientist possibly could, got called in for interrogation by the SS, and had nightmares about it for years afterward. It was a fluke that saved him: his mother happened to know Himmler’s mother. Himmler told the SS to leave him alone. Without his intervention, who knows what would have happened to Heisenberg.
Some of my heroes, such as Kurt Gödel, had to leave Germany. Gödel wasn’t Jewish, and he wasn’t particularly interested in politics, but he was too weird for the Nazis. He found a safe haven in America. There were many others like him. I probably would have emigrated myself if I had been in Gödel’s position.
The dark side of Nazi Germany certainly did exist. However, every country has a dark side. Alan Turing, a scientist of the same stature as Gödel, died (committed suicide) in a British prison. He wasn’t given the option of emigrating. Even America is not necessarily a safe haven anymore. On more than one occasion, I myself narrowly escaped spending 20 years in prison. It was sheer dumb luck that saved me. I wouldn’t have had the option of emigrating, either.
Fifty years from now, late 20th century America may be remembered, like Nazi Germany, as a police state, a country responsible for war crimes. There will be monuments to the six million innocent people who were sent to prison and had their homes confiscated for growing pot. Cool World will be as forgotten as Amphitryon, and 2001: A Space Odyssey as forgotten as Kaiser of California. Posterity will remember nothing about America except Darryl Gates.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones.
The first movies I saw were Maria the Ferryman and The Great Sacrifice. This was one of the most bizarre evenings I ever spent at a theater. I almost didn’t come back. The second night I saw Request Concert and Romance in a Minor Key. This is turning out to be a vacation to hell. What kind of time machine is this, anyway?
But at that point one thing was clear: I had to stick it out, and see the whole series, because these four movies couldn’t possibly have come from the Reich I thought I knew. One of the basic principles of my life is: never pass up an opportunity for a reality check.
Then I saw Closing Chord and Effi Briest. I still felt like a stranger in a strange land. Going from modern America to Nazi Germany was like playing a 45 record at 33 rpm. Everything happens in slow motion. It was like being underwater, where everything looks and feels different. In these six movies, none of the characters made much sense to me. Their lives had nothing to do with my life. And none of these movies had anything at all to do with the Reich as I had always imagined it.
The next night was the turning point. That’s when I saw Münchhausen and Amphitryon. From then on it got better. The characters started to make sense. The Old and the Young King hit very close to home. The Great Freedom is as real as movies ever get. When I had seen all three Hans Albers films — Fugitives, Münchhausen, and The Great Freedom — everything started falling into place. That was when I started working on the present review.
As soon as I started writing, it occurred to me that just about everything I expected to see was missing. No racial consciousness, no violence, no Übermenschen . . . did the time machine bring us to the wrong planet? I felt like I was trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together, and the pieces just wouldn’t fit. Eventually it dawned on me that they didn’t fit because I was trying to form the wrong picture.
The lack of violence must be a reflection of the fact that in Germany, at that time, grownups didn’t get in fights — just like American men don’t expect to get in fistfights at the office. In those days there was a clear line between men and 13-year-olds, and also a clear line between civilized men and savages. The Germans were civilized grownups. These films are a reflection of life as it was lived in those days.
If we have somehow gotten the idea that the Nazis were berserkers — that’s our illusion, not theirs.
If we have gotten the idea that men should constantly get in fights and kill each other, like they do on American TV — that’s a Hollywood illusion, not a Nazi illusion. The violence that we take for granted in our entertainment, and in our lives, would seem pathological to them. We live in a behavioral sink; the Nazis didn’t. They saved their violence for the battlefield.
The G-rated ambiance of these movies can be explained by the fact that all movies were very tame in those days. Movies had to stay within certain limits. We know from other sources, such as the Amanda Nightingale books, that not all Germans lived in the G-rated world we see in these films. There was a lot going on in Germany that was not reflected in films. There was a lot going on everywhere that could not be reflected in the films of that era.
Nevertheless, the general public in Germany did live in a G-rated world. These movies may have been illusions — all movies are — but you have to ask, What kind of audience would want to see these illusions? That question will tell you a lot about the Germans. I’m afraid the answer is: they were normal people, the same kind of people who listen to Lawrence Welk and The Grand Ole Oprey. If we have somehow gotten the idea that the Nazis were skinheads or bikers with swastika tattoos, that’s our illusion. Nazi Germany was a lot like Branson, Missouri. (On the other hand, we must remember that real opera was still popular in Germany at that time — that’s one thing separates Dresden from Branson.)
The question What kind of audience would want to see this illusion? can be applied specifically to The Broken Jug. That will tell you a lot about this movie’s biggest fan. What kind of man would watch The Broken Jug many times, slapping his knee and roaring with laughter? Hitler came from a small town himself. The hillbillies in the movie must have reminded him of his neighbors back home, and his family. He probably saw the village judge as a caricature of his father.
The presence of Paracelsus in this series can be explained as follows. Nazism has nothing to do with Satanism. That’s another postwar illusion. Some Nazis, such as Martin Bormann, called for the elimination of Christianity, but Bormann was a rationalist, not a Satanist. Some Nazis, notably Goebbels, were Christians. Hitler wasn’t dogmatic. There was room for both Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann in Nazi Germany. There was room for both The Great Sacrifice and the SS. There was room for both idealism and Schadenfreude — Bianca and Amanda.
Strangely, this is also true of Judaism, where there is room for both Albert Einstein and Lavrenti Beria, both Joan Baez and Meyer Lansky, both Hugh Hefner and Rabbi Shea Hecht, both Lenny Bruce and Judge Judy, etc. The Jacob/Israel duality has been there all along in Judaism (see Genesis chapters 25 – 35).
The Paracelsus/stormtrooper duality has been there all along in Germany. It was there during the Nazi era as much as any other time.
The hardest thing to come to terms with is the almost total lack of political content in these movies.
After the film series was over, there was a follow-up evening at the Goethe Institute. There was a discussion led by Harmut Bitomsky, Dean of the School of Film and Video at CalArts. He said in the first years of the Reich, they did make some political films, but nobody, or almost nobody, wanted to see them. These films played to empty theaters, even though the government gave out free tickets. (I don’t know if this applies to Fugitives, which comes from this period. I wish I had asked him about that.) After a couple of years, they gave up and started making movies that people wanted to see.
If we have gotten the idea that Nazi Germany was a nation of crusaders, and life was one ecstatic rally after another — these movies throw cold water on all such illusions.
There are two common threads that run through the whole series.
First, humor: “playful” is not a word that normally comes to mind in connection with Nazi Germany. I always thought of it as a serious place, maybe even a grim place, but that turns out to be yet another illusion. There is a spirit of joviality that infuses most of these films, with only a few exceptions. You don’t need laugh tracks to tell you when to laugh. (Laugh tracks are a Hollywood invention — but who accuses whom of Thought Control?) Even The Great Freedom is a lighthearted movie, right up until the end. Of course that makes the end more effective: when comedy suddenly turns to tragedy, it crushes you.
The second notable theme is the triangle: Most of these stories involve romantic triangles. There are only four movies in which this theme is absent; in many of them, the triangle is central to the plot. Triangles, of course, occur everywhere. This is not a theme one associates with Nazism. It’s not clear to me why the Nazis would be so preoccupied with this subject. They must have felt a deep ambivalence in their lives, and that was reflected in all these movies about divided affection, and divided loyalty.
This series could have been called “Division of the Will.”
Most Germans, like most Americans, spent their time working in offices and factories. They supported Hitler only because he revived the economy. They didn’t have an all-consuming passion for Nazi ideals, and they didn’t want to see Fugitives over and over. They wanted entertainment. They wanted movies that reflected their own lives, and for them, as for most people in any country at any time, politics was basically a side issue. They wanted to see comedies, and movies about people having affairs. Not that there is anything wrong with comedies, but it doesn’t fit my idea or anyone else’s idea of Nazi Germany. In any case, this is where the journey from illusion to reality has brought us.
To understand what destroyed the Third Reich, we have to take an overview of these films, and an overview of the story of the Old Testament, and compare them.
We start with Fugitives, where Moses leads the people out of Egypt; then Amphitryon, an encounter between gods and humans, like Yahweh coming down and talking to Moses; then a story about a father and his son, which might be compared to Abraham and Isaac; then another story about return from exile; then Kaiser of California, where Joshua leads the people into the Promised Land, only to have them turn against him and “go native.”
So far the parallel with the Old Testament is fairly close. The main discrepancy up to this point is that Amphitryon doesn’t correspond very well to Exodus — there is nothing playful or funny about God’s appearance to Moses.
But then, the stories diverge.
In the Bible, you have a series of prophets who call the people back to the Law, and promise them victory in the end. You have David, the warrior king who kills Goliath and serves as the model for the future Messiah. You have the general strategy of dispersal: the Jews are supposed to scatter all over the world, and plant the seeds of their faith everywhere. (The Nazis had no concept of a general strategy.) And finally you have the vision of Armageddon, in which God brings the remnant of his people back to Israel and helps them defeat their enemies once and for all. The story ends with victory.
In the Nazi movies, after Kaiser of California, you have The Broken Jug, La Habanera, and Effi Briest — farce, ambivalence, and disaster — followed by the two Mickey Mouse war movies. There was no vision of ultimate victory. The war was over before it started, because the Germans didn’t see themselves winning.
If Hitler and Goebbels were supervising the production of these movies, it was up to them to come up with a hero who achieves a definitive victory, like Aeneas or Jesus. There should have been a role for Hans Albers in 1937, where he founds the city of Rome, or rises from the dead and creates the New Jerusalem. But there was no such role for him, and so the next time we see him, he is playing Baron Münchhausen, and then The Singing Sailor.
Goebbels failed in his main task as Propaganda Minister, and Hitler failed in his main task as Führer (not to mention other tasks). Germany had the resources to win the war (at least they could have won a war, not necessarily the one that was fought), but they lost. They could have established their Thousand Year Reich, but they didn’t. Their propaganda, whether in the form of movies or speeches or whatever, did not inspire them to victory.
There is a fallacy that is widely believed: that in a conflict between races or cultures, the one with the best street fighters wins. That’s not how it works. The one with the best storytellers wins. If you can get people to see their lives as part of your story, you’ve got them. That’s one reason why the Bible is so powerful: we all see ourselves as part of the Biblical story. This applies to anti-Semites and anti-Christians as much as anyone. If you define yourself as anti somebody else, then you are living in their story.
There is very little illusion in these movies. The more I think about them, and review them in my mind, the more I am convinced that they give us a very clear window into the German imagination during the Nazi era. What they show us is a strange combination of lightheartedness, ambivalence, and gentle resignation.
What we have here is a tragic sense of life. There is nothing wrong with that, in itself. The tragic vision, the vision of The Iliad, is true, as far as it goes, and certainly profound. But if you adopt an attitude of lightheartedness in defeat, or dignity in defeat, or noble resignation to defeat . . . then you are going to be defeated. As the saying goes, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.”
In classical times The Iliad was balanced by The Odyssey, which ends in victory. Odysseus let his will get distracted for awhile, but then he got his thoughts collected, went back to Ithaca, and reclaimed his home and his wife. Then came The Aeneid, the story of Aeneas leading the Trojans to Italy and founding Rome, which also ends in victory. Then the Bible, with its vision of the final apocalyptic battle at the end of time, the dissolution of the universe, and the formation of the New Jerusalem (Revelation, chapter 21) — a vast, jewel-like cubical structure, full of light, populated by spiritual beings who bask in the radiance of God, and never die.
Nazi Germany had nothing like this.
The Germans didn’t need propaganda. They needed a grand vision of human destiny. If you have a Thousand Year Reich, what happens during those thousand years? Where is mankind going? What were they going to do in the Reich? They were going to clear some space for themselves, and build autobahns, and then what? I have searched in vain for an answer. I have read Mein Kampf all the way through, plus many of Hitler’s speeches. He never gives us a vision of human destiny.
Nazi Germany ultimately failed because its storytellers, including Hitler and Goebbels, failed. Their myth of the Master Race didn’t enter into the popular consciousness enough to be reflected in these movies; and in any case, that myth itself comes from the Bible. The Chosen People were (and are) the original Master Race. Hitler just tried to transpose the idea from Israel to Germany.
They also had Wagner’s “Twilight of the Gods” myth, but obviously that leads nowhere.
Hitler wasn’t just another politician. People talk about the “Thousand Year Reich,” but if you listen closely to Hitler’s speech to the 6th party congress, in which he introduced this idea, he didn’t say “tausend,” singular, he actually said “tausenden,” plural. He intended the Reich to last into the indefinite future, thousands of years.
His ambition was to create a whole new civilization — no less! To do that, you have to have a story, an idea, a myth, a philosophy, strong enough to support a new civilization. Specifically, you have to come up with a story as powerful as the Bible. This is not easy, but, alas, that’s the level on which the game is played. I’m not saying it can’t be done. But Hitler and Goebbels didn’t do it, and nobody since then has done it either.
Note added in 2005
This was written a decade ago. I am going to let it stand as written, but if I were doing it now I would change the emphasis and maybe omit the last section. The vast cubical structure (the “New Jerusalem”) described in Revelation 21 is something most Christians are not even aware of. It may be true that the Nazis had no grand vision of human destiny, but neither did anybody else. That was not the problem. That’s not why they lost the war.
Nevertheless it is true that the one with the best storytellers wins. If you lose on that level, you lose; and if you abandon the field and don’t even try to tell a story, you lose by default.
The very idea of a new civilization that will extend thousand of years into the indefinite future is fallacious. We don’t have thousands of years. The exact form of the Singularity remains to be determined, but it’s coming. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but it’s going to happen. One way or another human history is coming to an end. The only question is how.
Source: http://www.geniebusters.org/915/35_ministry.htm 
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