Heinlein’s “Gulf”, The Dark Triad and Sanity

Posted on 1/06/2017

Homo Novis

I’ve made a few posts here about the writer Robert A. Heinlein and his immense influence on my weltanschauung; while in my maturity I don’t agree with everything he wrote and stood for, to my child self devouring his works circa 1971 he bestrode the world as a Colossus. His “juveniles” written from the late 1940s through the late 50s inspired a generation of bright young boys to put Americans on the Moon. He emphasized duty, honor, work, intelligence and grit, and his ability to draw the reader into strange new worlds and make them seem possible and, indeed, plausible, was unique.

The novella Gulf was quite unusual, for Heinlein or any writer, in its conception and execution. In the November 1948 issue of Astounding Science Fiction a letter had been published critiquing the…November 1949 issue. As editor John Campbell wrote:

“Generally, a desirable, practically attainable idea, suggested in prophecy, has a chance of forcing itself into reality by its very existence. Like, for example, this particular issue of Astounding Science Fiction.”
A good explanation of the “Prophecy” issue of the magazine is here. In the event, Heinlein was asked to write Gulf, having been given nothing but a title. The result was something that has fascinated me as much or more than anything else he ever produced, despite his multiple Hugo awards and best-sellers later in his career.

Gulf is available free (and legally) online now, so if you’re not familiar with it, here you go. You don’t have to read it to get the rest of this post, but I suggest you do. There are enough new, intriguing ideas in this brief novella to keep you thinking about it for a long time: an artificial, highly compressed, efficient and logical language (“Speed-talk”); a secret society of “Supermen” working behind the scenes to discover and regulate major scientific and technological discoveries; bar codes (in 1949!); but what I note here is focus, mental attitude, and what are now called “Dark Triad” traits and their usefulness in getting things done, rather than emoting and “virtue signaling.”

Intelligence Agent(s)
The details of the plot need not concern us, but if you haven’t read the story yet, our protagonist is one “Joseph Gilead” (pseud.), intelligence agent for a kind of future super-CIA. We begin cold, in the middle of a courier mission going bad:
When he had stepped out of the tube car he had been reasonably sure, first, that the persona of Joel Abner, commercial traveler, had not been penetrated, and, second, that the transition from Abner to Gilead had been accomplished without arousing suspicion. The pocket-picking episode had not alarmed him, but had caused him to reclassify those two propositions from calculated certainties to unproved variables. He had proceeded to test them at once; they were now calculated certainties again—of the opposite sort. Ever since he had spotted his erstwhile porter, the New Age runner, as standing outside this same drugstore his subconscious had been clanging like a burglar alarm.

It was clear not only that he had been spotted but that they were organized with a completeness and shrewdness he had not believed possible.
We’re bombarded these days with “scientific research” that purports to prove that we don’t actually make rational decisions about most things, most of the time; we make emotional, instinctual, subconscious decisions and then consciously rationalize and invent reasons for why they’re good. Perhaps this is true for most people, most of the time. However, instead of saying “that’s just the way people are,” should not we instead be taking action to improve on this ridiculously low standard of thought?

On to our next quote/lesson:
Joe, what is a man? What is man that makes him more than an animal? Settle that and we’ll take a crack at defining a superman—or New Man, homo novis, who must displace homo sapiens—is displacing him—because he is better able to survive than is homo sap. I’m not trying to define myself, I’ll leave it up to my associates and the inexorable processes of time as to whether or not I am a superman, a member of the new species of man—same test to apply to you.”


“You. You show disturbing symptoms of being homo novis, Joe, in a sloppy, ignorant, untrained fashion. Not likely, but you just might be one of the breed. Now—what is man? What is the one thing he can do better than animals which is so strong a survival factor that it outweighs all the things that animals of one sort or another can do much better than he can?”

“He can think.”

“I fed you that answer; no prize for it. Okay, you pass yourself off a man; let’s see you do something. What is the one possible conceivable factor—or factors, if you prefer—which the hypothetical superman could have, by mutation or magic or any means, and which could be added to this advantage which man already has and which has enabled him to dominate this planet against the unceasing opposition of a million other species of fauna? Some factor that would make the domination of man by his successor, as inevitable as your domination over a hound dog? Think, Joe. What is the necessary direction of evolution to the next dominant species?”

Gilead engaged in contemplation for what was for him a long time. There were so many lovely attributes that a man might have: to be able to see both like a telescope and microscope, to see the insides of things, to see throughout the spectrum, to have hearing of the same order, to be immune to disease, to grow a new arm or leg, to fly through the air without bothering with silly gadgets like helicopters or jets, to walk unharmed the ocean bottom, to work without tiring—

Yet the eagle could fly and he was nearly extinct, even though his eyesight was better than man’s. A dog has better smell and hearing; seals swim better, balance better, and furthermore can store oxygen. Rats can survive where men would starve or die of hardship; they are smart and pesky hard to kill. Rats could—

Wait! Could tougher, smarter rats displace man? No, it just wasn’t in them; too small a brain.

“To be able to think better,” Gilead answered almost instantly.
I fed you that answer; no prize for it.

Illusions and Their Discontents
Those of you follow me on Twitter know I’m an admirer of Scott Adams and have often linked articles like this one, “The Illusion of Knowledge“:

And so we have an odd situation in which both sides of the debate are in deep illusion, even if one side is right and the other is wrong. The illusion is that one side is obviously correct – and the belief that you could see that too, if only you would spend a little energy looking into it on your own. If you hold that belief, no matter which side you are on, you can be sure you are experiencing an illusion.
Adams also talks a lot about hallucinating certainty, about how when it comes to persuasion, emotion/ beats tribe/ beats mere facts.

But none of this ought to apply to Heinlein’s homo novis, who by definition must think better, a whole lot better, than the average emotionally driven tribalistic LDD (Little Deluded Dupe), and not just about one thing but about many things, about reality.

As convincing a persuader as Scott Adams is, I’m not convinced by radical subjectivism. We don’t live in an “illusion” after all, though most live, much of the time, “inside their own head.” I’m still of the solid conviction that the world is hard, and you are soft; that if you jump off the Empire State Building, you are going to die. If you’re really lucky, you won’t look so bad afterward…


A Perfect Landing

Mostly you won’t be so lucky.

There is indeed a Gulf, between a Peter Thiel and the “average” #AltRight shitposter doing it for lulz (i.e., emotional reasons), between a John von Neumann and a professor of “Womyn’s Studies.” Many of our “cognitive elite” are elite in only their specialized disciplines, though. Picture Einstein and his childish socialism.

Of a Vital and Necessary Hardness
Thinking better has never been and never will be replaceable. Neither will the “Dark Triad” traits of Psychopathy, Machiavellianism and Narcissism–properly understood. I touched on this in an earlier piece, The Good Psychopath, the Dark Triad Man and Me, and won’t go into detail here, but it struck me when reading Gulf how Gilead exhibits these traits, always at the appropriate time:
Mrs. Keithley pursed her lips. “Frankly, I do not expect to learn anything from her. I may learn something from you.”

“I see.”

The leader of the two men looked questioning at his mistress; she motioned him to go ahead. The girl stared blankly at him, plainly unaware of the uses of the equipment he had gotten out. He and his partner got busy.

Shortly the girl screamed, continued to scream for a few moments in a high adulation. Then it stopped as she fainted.

They roused her and stood her up again. She stood, swaying and staring stupidly at her poor hands, forever damaged even for the futile purposes to which she had been capable of putting them. Blood spread down her wrists and dripped on a plastic tarpaulin, placed there earlier by the second of the two men.

Gilead did nothing and said nothing. Knowing as he did that the tube he was protecting contained matters measured in millions of lives, the problem of the girl, as a problem, did not even arise. It disturbed a deep and very ancient part of his brain, but almost automatically he cut that part off and lived for the time in his forebrain.

Consciously he memorized the faces, skulls, and figures of the two men and filed the data under “personal.” Thereafter he unobtrusively gave his attention to the scene out the window He had been noting it all through the interview but he wanted to give it explicit thought. He recast what he saw in terms of what it would look like had he been able to look squarely out the window and decided that he was on the ninety-first floor of the New Age Hotel and approximately one hundred and thirty meters from the north end. He filed this under “professional”.

This is hard-edged stuff. The very fate of the world is at stake, but I’m sure your average 2017 Ivy League undergrad would diagnose Gilead as a monster. He ought to at least break down into sobs, vomit, and need drugs and therapy for the PTSD, afterward.

There is indeed a Gulf, between a U.S. Army Ranger and a Social Justice Warrior, even, perhaps, between a Rex Tillerson and a John Kerry. My examples are not perfect, but I’m sure you get the point.

Us “HBDers” understand well that the thinking part of homo novis is mostly genetic and not very amenable to training. The attitude part, the detachment from crippling and useless sympathy, the maximization of one’s physical assets, are.

As you can tell, I have a special fascination with this story and again, urge you to read it. If not, well, take the previous paragraph under serious advisement.


Neovictorian is a writer from the U.S. He can be reached on Twitter and his blog, where this piece was originally posted.

Bare Bones

Posted on 12/08/2014

by Christopher Pankhurst

You tread through the collected litter, anonymous and branded, paving the path for you.  The garages set back behind the allotments, at the end of an unused road, now fallen into a disrepair beyond hope of redemption.  Bindweed trumpets white flowers  and plays the final notes for the last of the brickwork.  This frozen architecture already hinting at the rubble to come in years yet to be.

Two garage doors are broken and lost, the other two sit firm, faded to a muted shade beyond colour, the bright dreams of a forgotten past long lost in an already forgotten future.  Even the graffiti has died, its decades old anger passing away into peace perfect peace.

My God, why hast thou forsaken this place?  Only the litter comes here, the excrement of a diabetic civilisation, ebbing and flowing with random breezes, finally settling in this place that no longer exists, the road erased from maps, going nowhere.  Literally nowhere.  At the end of the broken road a rusted metal fence supports the highest of the weeds, pink buddleia, growing to 10 feet or more, pushing through the metal bars like starving prisoners.  It is a trellised garden of the uncultivated fauna of the city.  The buddleia grows to the edge of the railway line beyond the fence where it reaches the border of its possibility.  Here, between the speeding commuters anxious to be somewhere else and the city facing in the other direction, there is a possibility of solitude.

The garages which have lost their doors do not sit next to each other, so as you walk past you alternate between a closed, flat face and an open, damp cave, a closed, flat face and an open, damp cave.  The open caves invite the music of the wind which whistles like an idea of a ghost.  Rainwater drips in all weathers, no matter how dry.  These caves are never dry, they always drip to a time signature that defies human understanding.  And the patchwork of potholes that was once a road collects the rain in small pools that mirror the clouds.  Desolate tarns awaiting a drought.

Behind the garages the weed life is somewhat calmer, the lack of sun stunting growth.  Here, the litter is settled, the detritus comes to the end of the road and embeds itself into the earth beginning its aeon long journey to degradation.  The reds of flattened drinks cartons fade to mauve and the blues and oranges of carrier bags combine and wash out to shades of autumn skies.  The suggestive stink of death is never entirely absent.

This place is a church of rejection, a cathedral of exclusion and disenfranchisement.  This is your patch and you regard it as your temple and canvas.  You drag a stick along the metal fence posts drumming an invocation to a God who doesn’t exist in a temple of the unsublime.  Everything here is manageable; you have no fear.

At the heart of the patch of yellowing grass you see bones.  Walking closer you discern the shape of a bird, a pigeon.  Three days ago you last came here and now there is the skeleton of a pigeon in this place.  It is positioned as though artistically depicted in flight: wings both stretched back behind the body.  But the neck cranes back to a ghastly extent so that the head is upside down, looking back behind itself.  

There seem to be no feathers around the bones; just the perfect skeleton framed forever in an impossible flight.

How could it have got here?

You look more closely at the bones lying flat on the ground flying nowhere forever.  They are the colour of dirty cream but they have been totally picked clean.  Surely they have not been here long enough for the weather to have washed away the flesh and feathers?  Could a fox or a cat have caught the bird and stripped it clean to the bone?  You look around the wasted space and confirm that there are no feathers lying around.  Maybe it was carried here by some filthy stray cat, drunk with the stink of death, its taste buds dribbling saliva down its jaws and onto the dead bones.  In any case, here it lies, here it flies.  The beak is pulled open by the weird positioning of the head, though it’s destined to never sing again.  There must be some meaning to this ghostly intrusion into your patch.  You stare at the bones with greater attention.  The bird is looking back to where it has come from.  Why?  Is it seeking the life that it has departed from, flying inexorably towards death but looking back on life, clinging to it in eternal memory?

You extract a sun-bleached carrier bag from beneath other litter and put the skeleton into it.  You roll it tight and carefully place it at the base of the metal fence.  These bones seem to signify something but a clear interpretation eludes you.  You leave the skeleton at rest and return home.

The next day you are distracted and surly all through school.  Each lesson is a tiresome chore relieved only by the sketches of the strange bird that you deface your school books with.  Not until the sound of the final bell do you feel alive and then you rush out and run to the supermarket.  The comics are all the same as yesterday and at your age you are too old for their magic to be effective.  Still, you look again through the Dr Who comic and attempt to induce a sense of awe at the science fiction world it presents to you.  But the pictures are staged and caricatured, and the words are shouted slogans.  You leave the comics and walk up and down each aisle, slowly losing touch with reality as the hypnotic displays of pop art multiply and echo along corridors of efficiency.  You have arrived here before the mothers and it is as quiet as it ever will be.  The music of a lady singer is all around.  “Here you come again,” she sings, and though you don’t recognise the song you wonder if it might be meant for you to hear.  In the frozen aisle the air is chilled and the freezers hum like an unwatched ocean.  There are no shadows here yet the light is cold and its ubiquity carries an air of totalitarian indifference.  This is a place of restless anaesthesia.

You come to the end of an aisle and face the checkouts.  The momentary spell is broken so you leave and head to your patch. As you enter the dead road the rest of the world recedes and the sacred opens itself up to you.  You pass a closed, flat face and an open, damp cave, a closed, flat face and an open, damp cave.  And you stop.  There are low voices.  Quickly but quietly you enter the last garage and the darkness falls upon you.  A wet, dirty, threadbare carpet lies on the floor and muffles your footsteps.  You walk to the rear of the garage where a thin spillage of sunlight leaks through displaced masonry.  You put your blinking eye to the gap and look through.

On the yellowing grass where yesterday you found the bird’s skeleton you see Angela Watkins lying on the ground.  Her trousers and knickers are around her ankles and a boy is lying behind her.  You don’t remember seeing her at school today but she is in the year above you so you cannot be sure.  Her eyes are turned down to the earth and her lips, painted with red lipstick, are parted.  Her hips are dancing in time with the boy’s.  You do not recognise him but he has certainly already left school.  You guess he must be at least eighteen.

His hand reaches around inside Angela’s unbuttoned shirt and holds her breast, still cupped inside her bra.  His fingers pull the bra cup down and her full breast falls out, milk-white.  He rubs her nipple and then cusps the whole breast in his hand.  Angela moans and raises her eyes.  She looks into the gap through which you are looking.  She looks right at you even though you are hidden in a dark cave looking through a tiny slit, no more than a centimetre wide.  It can only be a coincidence, she cannot really see you through a tiny slit, hidden in darkness.  But still she looks right at you and you feel a need to run.  Your muscles are poised but you reason that it must be impossible for her to see you and that if you move you will make your presence known.  You remain deathly still.

She is still looking right at you, even though she can’t possibly be seeing you, and she is still moaning through parted, painted lips.  You look at her naked breast and legs and realise that you’re getting a hard-on.  As she continues to stare at you, as though besotted with your voyeurism, her parted lips stretch to a grimace; her eyes widen, the whites growing larger.  The lips continue to pull back and the eyes continue to widen.  Her moan becomes a groan and skin pulls back from her face.  You still have a hard-on as the skin continues to pull back revealing the white of the bone beneath.  Her eyes are still staring at you, grotesquely exposed in bone eye sockets.  The skin has all gone, pulled back behind the head, and the eyes stare stupidly at you from the skull; the mouth grins in savage, toothy mockery.

Still the boy is fucking her from behind but her head is now pure skull, the eyes disappeared into their black sockets.  The black holes still seem to look within you and you are transfixed in fear clutching your hard-on.  And then you hear the groan turn into hollow laughter and you turn and run.

You snag your school blazer on rusted metal as you bump around the corner of the garage but you don’t stop; the fabric pulls and tears.  The clattering laughter chases you down the road and you run and run, skipping over the pot holes and dirtying your trousers with unclean water.  The laughter gets no quieter with distance and you turn the corner back towards the main road still fleeing from that tawdry epiphany.  Still you run, forever fleeing her laughter.


Christopher Pankhurst is a writer from England.  

Namaste Narasimhaya: 
Black Metal versus Postmodernity

Posted on 9/01/2014

by Colin Liddell and Francisco Albanese

Several years after the rise of National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM), it is time to finally realize that a true Black Metal sense has been lost. This has come about through a number of events and developments, including the imprisonment and release of Hendrik Möbus, the emergence of a depressive strain of Black Metal, Jon Nödtveidt's suicide, and a symbiosis between the underground and the mainstream.

The uniformity of the post-modern world pushed Black Metal towards the abyss of recursiveness, to reinvent itself, to be both product and producer – a complex construction that, despite its message, tends to its own destruction and devastation.

The primeval spawn of the NSBM movement started with its adoption of Hollywood nazi-fascist elements that were designed simply to shock and scare, but this later evolved in a more ‘positive’ direction that became tied to the goal of explicitly affirming racial survival. This created the ultimate irony of a musical genre that had been focused on the metaphysical aspects transversal to life and death becoming instead focused on life. 

In place of totemic National-Socialist aspects, there was an incorporation of ideological National-Socialism and identitarian elements, usually of a nostalgic and anachronistic nature. This also tended towards a domestication and softening of the movement, as well as some loss of spirituality in the counterculture (or “occulture”). 

What was once frightening and radical thus became focused on the technical and accessible to the masses, effectively becoming a demystified and ‘secular’ Black Metal. This move, which separated the music from its roots, was welcomed and supported by the audience.  But as the ‘positive’ aspects were highlighted, Black Metal also lost much of its primal nature – its fundamental negativity, the abyss from which it drew its energy, as, in essence, Black Metal was the glorification of death as a core of transcendence, not an ultima ratio.

Through this reinvention, this so-called counterculture and attack on society, underwent a process of beautification, selling out its mythic power in exchange for banalities like brotherhood and philanthropy. From existing as a heresy in the contemporary music scene, it mutated into something more like folk music. The true Black Metal spirit was lost under layers of flutes, ocarinas, and good wishes for all. 

Some argue that the decline of the West lies in individualism, and that we should therefore strive to escape from it and turn towards such collective bonhomie, but at the same time there can be no place for socialism in the Black Metal domain.

How, then, can we create an potent individualist antithesis in Black Metal to oppose to the atomization of modernity that is turning the world into an effeminate cage focused on human rights beloved by leftists? To answer this I will use a metaphor from the Narasimha Purana, one of the Upapuranas, a genre of Hindu religious texts, and invoke the Dionysian thought of Nietzsche. Let us make the following equations:

  • Hiranyakashipu = the post-modern world (a consequence of the modern world)
  • Vishnu = the true Western ethos
  • Narasimha = the form and function of Black Metal

In the Narasimha Purana, Hiranyakashipu (the post-modern world) cannot be killed by a human, deva, or animal. Vishnu (the Western Ethos), takes form through Narasimha, a beast/man deity. In a cruel world, Vishnu makes his avatar crueler, so Narasimha (Black Metal), if it is to have a meaningful existence, must go beyond all parameters and acceptable boundaries, and not be limited to established standards, which merely lead it into anachronism.

This reliance on a degree of individualism may seem paradoxical, but rather than the self-seeking narcissism of the post-modern world, it is actually a pure negation of the Self and a pulverization of all human aspects. It is pure desire separate from reason because in an Apollonian world, the Apollonian man has become mass-man. 

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law: this Will-to-Power must deny the main rule of the Modern World, i.e., reason. 

Because progressive values and science go hand in hand, there is no real separation between State and Religion. This is despite the view of atheists that only a religion with explicit gods is an actual religion. In fact, the secular rational atheist liberal has many other “gods.” To move away from such spiritual banality it is important to conceive of the world as it truly is, as something more irrational, superstitious, sinister, amoral, and transcendent.

The religiosity and fanaticism expressed by sectors inside Black Metal go beyond mere aesthetic elements or devotion as an end in itself. They open up an attack on post-modernity from two time flanks: past and future. 

Black Metal has served not only as a tool of apostasy – a means to opt out – but also as an archeofuturistic precursor of old and new spirituality. But even the elements of resentment have acted as a catalyst of knowledge/wisdom. Without Black Metal to blast the scales away, many would not have been able to investigate more enlightening avenues.

On the basis that all the great civilizations and their manifestations, except those of the East, have been product of Indo-European peoples, it is not hard to understand the reason why the occult – that is religions and spirituality of past ages – tends to evoke degrees and forms of racial awareness and white nationalism that focus on cultural and identitarian claims (Kultürkampf) rather than the defence of the modern nation-state (an ideological polity). This points to the awakening of archetypes as small islands in Modernity, tribal islands in a uniform world.

Rock, the ‘grandfather’ of Black Metal, also, just like Black Metal, appeals to the basic, carnal, awakening aspects suppressed by centuries of Apollonian white music. The emergence of Rock marks a return of the Dionysian that rejects, mocks, disrupts, and destroys the neat, rational pop sound (a celebration, embodiment, and stasis of the banality of modern life). It is an impulse to overthrow the universal order rooted in the catacombs of Rome that has castrated the beast in man. 

I will finish this brief commentary with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, who we could perhaps claim as a proto Black Metaller, drawn from The Birth of Tragedy:

“[L]est the Apollonian tendency freeze all form into Egyptian rigidity, and in attempting to prescribe its orbit to each particular wave inhibit the movement of the lake, the Dionysian flood tide periodically destroys all the little circles in which the Apollonian will would confine Hellenism.”

[Birth of Tragedy 9.]

Id est, “Against the odds, black metal gods.”

The Hope of Reese Grymodion

Posted on 8/12/2014

by Paul Fallavollita

“Reese Grymodion, it’s almost as if you’re the Devil incarnate,” my ex-girlfriend Tara announced as she stormed out two weeks ago.  Oh, how I wish, I thought.  I love it when attempts to introduce balance into a system result in its radical distortion.  It validates me as a black magician.

When I wasn’t crawling among the stacks in the campus library, I retreated to Room 1109 of the Goaz Residence Hall.  My home doubled as a laboratory where I strove to unlock the vault containing “humanity’s” negativity in between my classes at the University of Massachusetts - New Dana.  The day before Valentine’s Day I’d shown Tara my 188 page paper titled “Nature, Form, and National Socialism.”  It was amusing to hear her use the phrase “too sympathetic” as if it weren’t a compliment.  

Tara must have complained to someone. Gang members donning caps embroidered with the “Galinas 16” logo bounded up the stairwell toward my room, brandishing lead pipes.  I heard them refer to me as “Suspect 33” amidst the broken English.  The gang operated under a tacit agreement with the local police, who had informed the student body that leaving to go home during this latest period of civil unrest would be considered an act of “trespassing.”  

I was in the middle of a ritual when they came for me. I combined a bottle labeled C101 with the contents of another marked C2 and poured the fluid into a burlap sack atop my trapezoidal table, finally inserting a grayish-pink parchment containing runes written in red ink.  I took a deep swig of apple liquor and arranged five candles on the floor, forming the points of a pentagram.  I signed the back of a two-dollar bill with my full name using a fresh pen, lit it, and touched it to the bag.  A column of green flame rose for an instant.  Fascination with the dark side does not mean total indulgence, but necessitates control and discipline so one is not held in bondage to the appetites.  Yet I could not content myself to forever look upon the fruits around me without partaking one last time.

I’ve since had ample opportunity and desire to meditate on the better days of my childhood--the honey stand I’d opened on the roadside, the edge of the rock well pool I’d balance upon as I walked in circles, and the fragrant cedar smell of my mother’s perpetually locked wood chest of drawers.

Now, there’s only the chain link fence to peer through with the hope that attempts at creating balance might again run awry.


Paul Fallavollita, 36, grew up in Massachusetts but moved to the South as fast as he could. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Political Science at Loyola University New Orleans and his Master of Arts in Political Science from Purdue University, specializing in International Relations, Political Theory, and English (Theory and Cultural Studies). Jesuit-trained, Fallavollita believes writing is the key to the human mind, and he became interested in the flash fiction medium as a means of holding a broader audience in light of the shortened attention span of we moderns. Suspecting that C.G. Jung was on to something about the collective unconscious that links our people, Fallavollita often incorporates themes and symbols from dreams into his writing. His work explores the dark and magical side of European man, the active threat of the global surveillance state, and the plight of our youth who find themselves in the midst of a world robbed from them before they were born. He currently works in the financial services industry and enjoys watching movies, spending time with friends, and playing with his cat, Mocha. He can be contacted via email here.

Jonathan Bowden on Ezra Pound

Posted on 11/30/2013

Unseen footage of the late Jonathan Bowden (1962 - 2012) speaking at the 33rd London New Right meeting which was held on Saturday 11th June 2011. A transcription of this talk, along with many other speeches by Bowden, feature in the book Jonathan Bowden: The Speeches, published by Black Front Press. To order a copy please click the link here.

An Experiment in Relativity

Posted on 10/31/2013

by Christopher Pankhurst

Memories fall around me like fragments of a casual defenestration.  Some cut and draw blood, others break into latent shards, the hidden detritus of a wasted life.  What remains to show for a life?  What has been gained except knowledge that can’t be unknown?  To what end?  We really are millions of yesterdays.

Memory is all I am now but even that is fallible.  I can’t remember exactly how I heard about it all to begin with but there used to be a whole slew of underground magazines that dealt with occult topics.  From one or other of those I probably first came across the term ‘chaos magick’.  There used to be a small hippy cum pagan shop close to the university when I was a student and I do remember buying a few of those magazines from there: Pagan News, Talking Stick, and others whose names I don’t remember.  One afternoon in my small, hated room in halls, flicking through this esoteric and weird material, lighting joss sticks and getting stoned.  Somehow, the ideas and praxes presented in those journals seemed to fall on fertile ground with me.  It was as if part of my psyche, or perhaps my genetic constitution, was waiting to find these notions; they were the key to parts of me that had always been present but which had always been locked away.

And then, soon after, talking with someone at the Pagan Society.  He mentioned to me the idea (or slogan, rather) of ‘fake it then make it’.  And the door to another room seemed to open inside me.  Somehow there seemed to be the prospect of a different level of reality coming into focus in my life.  It was not pure, it was tainted with the aspirations and hopes I projected on to it, and also with the pseudo-glamour its adherents sought to veil it with; but it was primary and immediately accessible.  This was the thing that animated it for me.

Within all this the name Austin Osman Spare seemed to be of singular importance.  It was not easy to track down material of this nature back then; several trips to London and a number of mail order purchases ensued.  The various books I obtained delineated an obscure philosophy and, still worse, it was expressed in complex, almost private terms.  After some study I came to understand the thrust of this strange magician, or at least I came to my own understanding of him.  The works themselves, short and explosive sub-Nietzschean tracts, expressed a sort of reversal of conventional ontology.  Instead of regarding man as a subject who perceives a prior external reality, Spare posits the notion that we create our reality as some kind of lucid dream.  Our belief about the world is not limited to opinions and superficial notions but rather the very act of perceiving is itself an act of belief.  The existence of the world, after the German idealists, is not taken to be a separate, autonomous reality but neither is its existence questioned.  Its objective existence derives from the fact that we believe in it.  The deeper the belief the more it appears as an independently existing entity.  The entire field of our awareness is a manifestation of our beliefs.

For Spare, whose artistic vision appears to have guided his entire approach to life and metaphysics, the existence of the world as manifested belief raises the intriguing notion that by changing the belief you can thereby change the world.  And this is no mere solipsistic conceit.  He really does mean that a change in belief about something causes reality to change.  But this is not as easy to achieve as it might sound.  The required change in belief cannot be merely the adoption of a different philosophy, or the promulgation of a changed opinion.  It must, for the magick to be successful, be an actual change of belief.  The difficulty of this method soon becomes apparent.  If I want a new job it seems impossible to actually believe that I have a new job if I don’t; at this level it would be mere delusion.  And this is where Spare’s sorcery takes a novel turn.  In order to change belief about the manifested world it is necessary to trick the consciousness.  Spare achieves this sleight of mind with the ontological conjuring trick of sigilisation.  A desire is written down and the letters are merged and simplified until only a symbol remains.  This symbol embodies the desire, and it becomes the focal point for a magickal rite which seeks to charge it with potency through a frenzied state of mind, and then bury it deep within the unconscious.  A few weeks later you will find that you are unexpectedly offered a new job.  As if by magick.

For most of the occult ‘scene’ this element of Spare’s work seems to be sufficient.  A concise and efficient magickal praxis that offers results, and offers them quickly.  And it certainly bestows a glamour upon the practitioner of these artes.  But I soon became bored with the practise of sigilisation and with what I came to perceive as its haphazard results.  I came to realise that the formulation of any particular desire could never be achieved with purity.  There was always the possibility that submerged elements of the psyche would be manipulating the magickian in unseen ways, and to achieve quite unexpected things.  This louche suspicion proved to be astute.

I once performed a spell to gain wealth.  I used the sigilisation technique to turn the desire into a symbolic form and meditated on it as I burned its painted image in a candle flame.  This destruction of the symbol of desire ensured that it should embed itself in my subconscious.  I tried not to think about the spell for the next few days but it proved impossible.  I kept hankering after results, and my impatience was not entirely due to my interest in magick.  In fact I needed money, unemployed as I was. After several weeks I genuinely did forget about the spell and my interest in chaos magick also waned somewhat.  Then I received a phone call from my mother who informed me that an aunt on my father’s side had died.  I could barely feign interest in the conversation; I had the TV on mute and suddenly became very interested in the daytime game show that I had previously been ignoring.  I had never liked my aunt who was an unbearable snob of a woman.  She had grown into a bitter and childless old age that fitted her like a gauntlet.  If anything I was mildly pleased that she was dead.

A few days later my mother phoned me again.  My aunt’s will had instructed that her estate be divided equally between her nieces and nephews, just five of us.  The house she had died in was her childhood home and was a large Victorian building in a quiet road that had somehow avoided the decline that had taken over some of the neighbouring areas.  In short, it was a desirable property for a greedy landlord.  I salivated at the prospect of a fifth of its market value all the way to the pub.  In the beer garden I bumped into some friends but I kept quiet about my good news.  I didn’t want to seem crass.  A crow landed in a tree opposite me waiting for spilled crisps.  As some people moved away from a nearby table he saw his chance and descended to finish off a half-eaten packet.  We all watched him as he pecked away.  Then he tried to look for more at the bottom of the packet.  He took the packet in his beak and lifted it to try to tip out any remaining crisps.  And I saw the manufacturer’s logo on the packet upside down.  It was identical to the sigil I had created many weeks earlier.  A sickly, drunk frisson lapped over me as I realised that the spell conjured to bring me wealth had worked by killing my aunt.

As the implications of this realisation fell upon me, or rather emerged from within me, I came to see that the desire to obtain wealth was just a pretext.  Whilst I thought that I wanted, in fact needed, money this was not the real reason for the performance of the spell.  ‘I’ was not really aware of what ‘I’ wanted at all.  The part of me that felt no compunction in killing my aunt for money had manipulated me into performing a spell that could result in just such a thing.  Whilst I would have never consciously wished for anyone to die for so base a motive as monetary gain, my indifference to the news of her death, and my delight at hearing of my inheritance convinced me that this was my secret desire all along.

This was a fearful and demeaning revelation.  How could I begin to accept the fact that ‘I’ was such a Machiavellian person beneath the conscious layers of personality?  And if those ‘layers of personality’ were so superficial, so much artifice, then what did that say for my individuality, the very thing that I had always previously assumed was the entirety of me?  The thought was somewhat sickening, like one of those science fiction films where the reality the characters (and the audience) had believed in all along is shown to be false and a sinister sub-stratum is revealed as the truth.  My truth had surfaced and I didn’t think I could bear to look at it.

And so, gradually, and without consciously noting the fact, I started to drift away from anything to do with the occult.  This was facilitated by the inheritance that came my way.  My lifestyle began to alter for the better and I found that I had better things to do with my time than try to alter reality.  Reality had begun to seem rather benevolent to me.  I certainly continued to buy occult books; in fact my ill-gained wealth insured that I could buy precious editions that I had previously only dreamed of.  But my deeper interest in the subject was waning.  In truth, I read barely a word of the pristine hardback volumes that decorated my growing library; I was content with gazing at the pictures.

This proved fortuitous.  On one of my shopping expeditions to the occult booksellers of London I visited a favourite and venerable store.  As soon as I set foot inside I saw her: a perfect execution of one of Spare’s more sublime series of portraits.  She was predominantly green in appearance, the background hue suffusing the facial structure with a reflected, refracted glow.  The short, disciplined hairstyle hid a protean labyrinth of pencil lines winding and meandering their way to nothing and everything.  And the face itself, which was unmistakeably that of a twenties or thirties film star, was mildly elongated as if viewed through one of those distorting mirrors popular in fairgrounds.

It was one of Spare’s sidereal paintings, an experiment in relativity.  The slight twist to normal visual representation was a sign that these paintings were intended to put the observer into an uncanny position.  As I gazed at the picture I understood this immediately and pre-verbally.  Over the course of the intervening years I have been, however inadequately, able to articulate this effect with some degree of precision.  At least, this is my hope.  The experiments in relativity alert us to the fact that we are observing the subject of the painting in a fundamentally weird way, and from a peculiar perspective.  They achieve visually what Spare’s ontology and sigilisation achieve magickally: they alert us to reality’s malleability to our beliefs.  These observations may not have much purchase with those custodians of art history whose careers depend upon the precise demarcation of oeuvres and periods, and whose bottom line is a figure in pounds.  But they are observations that I have experienced with my own eyes.  Or rather, they are observations that I have experienced with my own faculty of perception.

In any case, I knew immediately that this was a painting I wanted to buy.  Upon enquiry, I found that it was well within my means and so it was purchased there and then.  The lady who packaged it up for me (very carefully it has to be said) seemed most keen to ensure that I would be a good custodian of the painting.  She chatted away, seemingly idly, but expertly pumping me for information about my knowledge of occult subjects, trying to ascertain whether I would be worthy of the picture she was selling.  It was a strange feeling.  I had the money, in cash; yet I felt that I was being judged as to my suitability.

Evidently, she was satisfied as she handed over the newly wrapped parcel, safe in bubble wrap and brown paper.  My dalliance with the esoteric had obviously borne some fruit.  I was not quite the dilettante I had begun to perceive myself as.  Holding my new acquisition with some care I was about to leave the shop when the lady proprietor came to open the door for me.  She seemed reluctant to let the painting leave her shop, although she obviously knew that it was inevitable.  “I hope you will enjoy your painting,” she said to me, propping the door open.  “But I would avoid hanging it in your bedroom.  Or even sleeping in the same room as it; it can provoke very bad dreams.”  It seemed like a very poor after-sales pitch but I was unperturbed.

Of course, I was never going to hang the picture in my bedroom; I wanted it in the living room where everyone could see it.  There would have been something entirely perverse about buying such a beautiful painting only to hide it away for private contemplation.  And it became a sort of talking point, although no one else was as taken with it as I was.  Probably because Spare was such an obscure artist, it was rare for anyone to comment on the painting without being prompted to do so.  Whilst this was initially a source of frustration for me, I came to accept it and to reconcile myself to having a more highly developed aesthetic sensibility than my friends.

One evening as I was flicking through one of my esoteric volumes, I came across a very unusual word that jumped out at me: karezza.  As I read backwards and forwards around this word, I discovered that it denotes a particular form of sigil magick.  According to this author, one creates a sigil to fulfil a desire in the usual way and then concentrates on it before sleep.  The charging of the sigil is achieved through the nocturnal vice of onanism, although without emission; the aim being to inseminate the desire.  The sigil should take the form of a pendant hanging around the neck of an otherwise naked, beautiful woman.  When sleep grants its pleasing dreams to the practitioner, the unconscious mind will be freed to unravel the locked mysteries of desire and allow the granting of the wish to the subsequently awakened self.

Naturally, this was the sort of magick that appealed to me.  I could even do it in my sleep.  And if there was a creeping sense of apprehension prompted by memories of the collateral fall out from my previous sigil work I can honestly say that I was unaware of it.  I resolved to set to somnolent work immediately.

I sorted out an old sleeping bag that had been bought for ever-deferred camping trips and lay down in it on the floor of the living room beneath Experiment in Relativity No. 20.  I had earlier prepared a suitable sigil, simple enough in its pictographic form to be visualised easily.  Perhaps there was a subliminal remembrance of my previous worry about this type of magic because this time I had selflessly prepared a sigil to gain wisdom.  It seemed safe enough.

The preamble to sleep was completed efficiently enough but the dreams I had seemed to bear no relation to the sigil.  The following night I went through the motions again thinking that this was perhaps a rather vacuous and stupid ritual.  Again, the dreams of the evening were seemingly random.  I decided to give up on this enterprise but then I remembered that in my Magickal diary I had dated four empty pages ready to receive the notes I had expected to be filling it with.  The diary was woefully sparse as it was and it undermined my impression of myself as one of the occult cognoscenti.  I decided to persist for two further nights just to fill in the prepared space.

This proved fortunate.  On the third night I had dreams, very bad dreams, of death.  I shall quote from the magickal diary verbatim:

4th August 1998.  I had a very bad night last night but at the same time my dreams were vivid and full of meaning so maybe it will prove to be useful?  For the first time in my life I have experienced a recurring dream but in my case the recurrence has occurred all in one night.  I spent the night running through the same dream again and again.  Probably, I only spent ten minutes or so in this one dream but I feel exhausted this morning and it feels to me as though I have genuinely spent the whole night just repeating the same dream.  My hands are still shaking and only now is the utter terror beginning to recede.  It begins with sunlight.  I come to awareness with the blinding dawn sun directly before me.  As I become aware of my surroundings it becomes apparent that I am standing very far from the ground.  There is a great distance beneath me and it seems too much to take in. 

Gradually (or so it seems) I come to realise that I am standing on a vast, skeletal wooden structure.  Like some sort of primitive scaffolding, it consists of long, thin wooden posts lashed together with twine.  I have no way of seeing the ground clearly, and I wouldn’t want to look down in any case, so I can’t tell how securely it is embedded in the ground.  It feels perilous.  I am standing on a thin pole, perhaps two inches wide, and I have only a single vertical upright to cling to.  I can feel my legs trembling wildly at the horror of my predicament.  Further along I can see another man screaming with absolute hopeless terror at his predicament.  I also begin to sense that there are other men above and below me in similar states of fear.  I have no knowledge of how I got here or why.  All I can feel is the terror of the drop beckoning below me and the convulsive weakness in my legs.  In the manner of dreams a great deal of time appears to pass very quickly.  It feels as though I had spent many hours in such a horrible situation.  Then I begin to see the bodies falling past me.  Evidently, others higher up than me have become unable to continue holding on and are plummeting to the ground.  The horror is unbearable.  Not just the fear of death but the fear of the manner of death.  I stand, trembling, looking out at an indifferent sky waiting to die.  Then I feel my legs beginning to buckle and I lose my grip on the wooden post.  I am falling and I can feel the sickening feeling in my belly from the swift drop.  Then I start to become aware of my surroundings and realise that I am standing very far from the ground.  And so it begins again.  My impression is that this went on all night but, as I said, this is probably not so.  Even writing this account down has again rekindled the horrible, sickening feeling within me: the terror of an horrific death.

Perhaps it is unnecessary to add that I abandoned the fourth night’s ritual.

Rereading the notes from my magickal diary I can see that something is missing.  Despite my attempts to capture in words the essence of the terror that I experienced the actual feeling is absent.  The words simply point to a half understood state of mind, they evoke no angst in themselves; they are easily classified and filed away.  I do not have the means to convey the nature of the horror I felt that night, but it might give some indication if I mention that there was a sharper flavour to the dream.  Each time that I felt the experience of waking to consciousness, and seeing the dawning sun, there was a deep feeling that I was returning from death.  It doesn’t make any sense because death is the one thing we can’t return from, but I cannot express it any more clearly.  The whole dream was infused with the taste of death.  From waking into the light to falling towards the darkness I feel as though I experienced a great cycle of living and dying with full consciousness of the reality and inevitability of its imminent annihilation.

Despite the genuinely affecting nature of this experience life continued relentlessly on and, as is the way with dreams, the feeling faded back into a background texture, barely noticed during daylight hours.  But sometimes at night I would find that I awoke with that recognisable dread, staring into blackness with the touch of death on my fingertips.  Each time this happened I had a strong, though inchoate, sense that I had just returned from the edge of the event horizon; that I had been permitted a temporary escape, but that soon I would return to the black nullity that consumes everything, and that sooner or later I would never return.  I don’t think it added a sense of gravitas to my personality.  On the contrary, it simply contributed to a morose stoicism that saw little point in getting out of bed in the mornings.

Over time my inheritance was pissed away.  I ended up back where I was before I came into money, but older.  I began to sell my limited occult books, many of which had become ridiculously expensive.  This helped to stave off the inevitable for a short time.  When they had gone the only thing I had left worth selling was the painting.  I advertised it in the usual channels (taking great care to emphasize its authentic provenance) and eventually found a buyer in the person of the head of one of the more interesting occult organisations.  We arranged a meeting where money changed hands and the picture left my life.  The buyer was a pleasant and gregarious man, and an interesting conversationalist.  I didn’t consider mentioning the casual curse that seemed to hang over the painting; perhaps I told myself that with his greater occult skills he would be protected from such things.  I don’t know, but in any case I needed the money.

And now, when I wake into the blackest part of the night with the sickening feeling of falling twisting my stomach to a sharp nauseous fear, I sense that this recurring dream of life will sooner or later end, and that I will finally awake to an infinite nullity.  Such is the gift of wisdom.