March 20, 2021
From The Anarchist Library
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Introduction

It is uncomfortable to write an appreciation of someone you have never met. Especially, as is the case here, when our shared characteristics include a preference for face-to-face contact, for critiques that are stylistic rather than just textual, and for a kind of gezellig (cozy) familiarity. If l had my way, John Moore would be considered in the company of the most important second wave anarchist thinkers so far, alongside John Zerzan, Bob Black, and Hakim Bey. He originated the term (an obvious homage to feminism’s waves), which I have borrowed as a better descriptor than post-situationist, post-leftist, or other similar jabberwocky. Moore was an anarchist who believed in the anarchist milieu, who wrote for an anarchist audience, and who attempted to use shortcut terminology to encompass wide swaths of conceptual territory. We share all of these traits, for reasons I will be getting into, and this anthology serves as my offering to his memory (He passed in 2002 — while he was about the age I am now — from a heart attack while racing for a bus).

While he did not write a magna opus like Fredy Perlman’s Against History, Against Leviathan or Letters of Insurgents, nor continue to write into his dotage (since he didn’t have one), Moore followed, perhaps, the more anarchist path. He produced a few writings about a wide range of topics. He tried not to get stuck to a particular thing (like an ideology). He stayed playful throughout the process. He didn’t make enemies due to his cruelty.

Which is not to say that he was not controversial. One of the more surprising things about Moore’s obituary was the liberal use of ad hominems (that we’ll consider later). His intellectual interests included topics that for some are antithetical to a proper anarchist: spirituality, mythology, textual interpretation, civilization, art, Nietzsche, and of course anarchy.

There is only one overwhelming project: the revolutionary and comprehensive transformation of human life in an anarchist direction, and the self-realisation of my individuality in conjunction with generalised self-realisation through the destruction of power and the construction of a free life. All of my personal projects are subsets of this project.

Interview with John Filiss
page374

Primitivism

John Moore considered himself an anarcho-primitivist. He wrote a primer to this extent (“A Primitivist Primer,” page 15) and later on, a defense (page 24). Reading these texts today is refreshing as they have such a different approach to the term as has been used since his passing. Here is the heart of his position:

Individuals associated with this current do not wish to be adherents of an ideology, merely people who seek to become free individuals in free communities in harmony with one another and with the biosphere, and may therefore refuse to be limited by the term ‘anarcho-primitivist’ or any other ideological talking. At best, then, anarcho-primitivism is a convenient label used to characterise diverse individuals with a common project: the abolition of all power relations — e.g., structures of control, coercion, domination, and exploitation-and the creation of a form of community that excludes all such relations.

—A Primitivist Primer

Far from a defense of anthropological thinking, this is a (small s) social form of anarchism that emphasizes the planet over factories, organization, or ideology. One could say it is an emphasis on living in the world rather than perfecting it or the animals that run amok in it.

In 2016 this use of the term “anarcho-primitivism” seems strange. Today there are orthodox and humorless priests who have sucked all of the creative, anarchic energy out of the term. They have gated and defended it. They have divorced it from its potential allies and collaborators (note the attitude of Black and Green Review to Black Seed). They have sealed the position in plastic wrap, waiting for a future-saint to ascend, so the holy texts can be selected. The rock upon which this church will be built just awaits a council of Nicaea to settle some doctrinal issues.

So let us return to the origins and past utilizations of the term, why Moore would stand by it, and what the three original authors (Perlman, Zerzan, and Moore) intended versus what has actually resulted from this hyphenation.

First, I’ll state my own position. I believe that anarcho-hyphenations tend to favor the non-anarchist side of the hyphen and should be avoided. Anarcho-communists tend to prefer discussions and work that relates to the economy over the furious power of anarchy. Green anarchists tend to discuss and work around issues of environmentalism and spirituality rather than issues of power related to the state and capitalism. Anarcho-primitivism shares this fate. The two modern masters of AP (they know who they are) discuss topics of more interest to fringe anthropologists or eco-psychologists than generalists of an anarchist persuasion. This burden of hyphenation wasn’t necessarily the way it had to happen. Hyphenated positions can just be a way to state a preference, to work through the extremes of a position, or to compensate for the fact that so many partisans of positions have gone quiet in our modern era,. replaced by mealy mouthed voyeurs who swipe left and right on the infinite choices life presents them.

Against His-tory, Against Leviathan! uses the work of Frederick W. Turner and Pierre Clastres to tell a story rather than to state a position. The position (anarcho-primitivism) came later and became an affliction that Fredy never embraced (stating instead that the only -ist he would admit to was cellist) . The story of AH,AL is of the zeks who still exist but have been transformed by a type of rust on the biosphere, a rust called civilization.

The zek’s ancestors did less work than a corporation owner. They didn’t know what work was. They lived in a condition J.J. Rousseau called ‘the state of nature.’ Rousseau’s term should be brought back into common use. It grates on the nerves ef those who, in R. Vaneigem ‘s words, carry cadavers in their mouths. It makes the armor visible. Say ‘the state of nature’ and you’ll see the cadavers peer out.

Insist that freedom ‘ and ‘the state of nature’ are synonyms, and the cadavers will try to bite you. The tame, the domesticated, try to monopolize the word freedom; they’d like to apply it to their own condition. They apply the word ‘wild’ to the free. But it is another public secret that the tame, the domesticated, occasionally become wild but are never free so long as they remain in their pens.

Moore saw this story as an opening. A zek was an aspirational figure

who seek(s) to become free individual(s) in free communities in harmony with one another and with the biosphere, and may therefore refuse to be limited by the term ‘anarcho-primitivist’ or any other ideological tagging.

This is a fairly far distance from being an object of examination for anthropologists (or as Perlman called such professionals, a “Savings Bank”).

Where Perlman tried to tell a story, Moore attempted to interpret it. Lovers of fiction, of the flow of it, may resent the pause of interpretation, but it seems obvious that Moore was a lover of the story and not its enemy. His interpretation was intended for use after the story was told, as a discussion among friends.

At the opening of Against His-story, Against Leviathan!, perhaps the premier anarcho-primitivist text, Fredy Perlman remarks, ‘This is the place to jump, the place to dance! This is the wilderness! Was there ever any other?; This seemingly innocuous point encapsulates a key aspect of anarcho-primitivism: the sense that the primitive is here and now, rather than far away and long ago. Perlman suggests that his notion is “the big public secret” in civilization:

It remains a secret. It is publicly known but not avowed. Publicly the wilderness is elsewhere, barbarism is abroad, savagery is on the face of the other.

It is worth noting that Perlman did not define an anarcho-primitivism for us. He did not create a set of badges, or principles, that one must wear to investigate the origin story of our civilization. He did not, perhaps, think there was a distinction between the zeks, a free-roaming and egalitarian people, and the civilized, who trudge to work, accept discipline, and vote in elections.

This is counter to the anarcho-primitivism of John Zerzan. In his interesting essay “Future Primitive” Zerzan lays the groundwork for anarcho-primitivism as an anthropological investigation of the origin of division of labor, ritual, farming, symbolic culture, etc. He is not interested in a story about a better world, but uses assertion and footnotes to place his argumentation in a context, in the context of our fallen world.

To ‘define’ a disalienated world would be impossible and even undesirable, but I think we can and should try to reveal the unworld of today and how it got this way. We have taken a monstrously wrong turn with symbolic culture and division of labor, from a place of enchantment, understanding and wholeness to the absence we find at the heart of the doctrine of progress. Empty and emptying, the logic of domestication with its demand to control everything now shows us the ruin of the civilization that ruins the rest. Assuming the inferiority of nature enables the domination of cultural systems that soon will make the very earth uninhabitable.

This week marked the passing of Carrie Fisher, best known as the actress who played Princess Leia in the original Star War Trilogy. I saw the first Star Wars as a young child at the drive-in with my mother and her boyfriend-at-the-time (in his soft-top Jeep), and this movie didn’t represent a particularly aspirational future for me. It represented aspiration itself. It was the first time I could visually imagine somewhere else as a place I could travel to. I was already reading SF novels so the leap wasn’t so great; I already understood the conceptual terrain of Star Wars, and it was clear to me then, as now, that the other place was preferable to here.

I wish I could say either Perlman or Zerzan painted the picture of an other place that held the same level of captivation although clearly others have been captivated. Perlman makes a beautiful/horrible case for how we got here. Zerzan brings this case into a different kind of resolution by placing it into the context of academic examination of past cultures. In anarchist literature — which can be forgiven for its lack of perfection as it has tasked itself with too much — pictures of somewhere else are too literal. Anarchism, bless its soul, is a rational argument. Moore attempted to use poetry to paint his terrain of a world gone by, of the world he would prefer us to aspire too. I’m not sure he did an excellent j ob (I’m not a lover of poetry) , but I think his effort was interesting and worth making.

And the earth was born without form,

and void
And darkness was upon the face of the deep

and moved upon the face of the waters

—Unruly Harmony,
page 349

If I understand Moore correctly, for him, primitivism was a critique of the totality of civilization from an anarchist perspective, one that sought to initiate a comprehensive transformation of human life. In my words it was an action plan instigated by an ecstatic vision of a somewhere else that was Earth-based. It wasn’t speculative (in the sense ofmy childish view of Star Wars), but a return to the original lifeways of free individuals in ecologically-centered free communities.

It is clear that Moore’s desire remained pre-ideological, flexible, and not a primitivism that was a return-to-Eden. It perhaps imagined a passion against the organization of daily life, an ecstatic break by way of a return to original forms-of-life, and the orgasm of something-like-revolution. If Moore’s vision of anarcho-primitivism was the agreed upon definition of the term, I ‘d happily see my project in it. I would love to share stories with you about my day around the campfire forever.

Postmodernism

Postmodernism is a term that is always meant as an insult in anarchist circles. It is rarely used to describe the world that we live in, or the process by which this world became as it is. Postmodern is never used to describe the way society transitioned from band, to mass, to consumer, and finally to the lonely, alienated societies-of-one that we live in today. Postmodernism isn’t used to describe how citizens of the west coped with the brutal totalizing horror of the nuclear age. This coping is seen, by those who use the term postmodern at all, as a kind of moral failure that should be named as such.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. There are a several different ways that the term postmodern does get used and we should discuss their accuracy and precision in turn — as part of the memory of John Moore was as a postmodernist. (As a prelude let us note that almost no accusations of postmodernism are accompanied by a definition. Neither a subjective, this-is-just-my-opinion one nor a here-is-the-dictionary one. Just an assertion that X is postmodern and onward.)

One definition would be “academically trained in some version of Continental Philosophy.” Ifyou are fluent in the works of Lyotard and Baudrillard then you are probably aware of postmodernism (and embrace some definition of your own).

A second would be that you agree (with Lyotard) that we should be opposed to universals, meta-narratives, and generalities. Leaving aside the point that a high percentage of university-attending non-christians more or less fall into this category, this definition doesn’t rest on having taken a college class or two, but on a position you hold.

Third, an implied definition is that you are some version of a grad student. Being postmodern in this case means that rather than hold a particular position you teach the position. Finally the sloppiest definition, and probably the most common, is that a postmodernist is one who holds the position that everything is relative (man) and since there is no (permanent, fixed, universal) truth then they can’t be held to account for anything they’ve done, thought, or said.

To simplify these definitions we’ll call them postmodern as a student, as a position, as a career, and as a sloppy thinker. (Note that the definition I used in the first paragraph, postmodern as a description of our contemporary world, or as the result of decades of shared analysis and theorizing, isn’t on this list, since it is too neutral of a definition to work as an attack.) John Zerzan’s “The Catastrophe of Postmodernism” is representative of someone attacking the sloppy thinker. The article both condemns postmodernists for their impotence, while insisting that we (anarchists) place ourselves historically (the capital H is implied) . It ignores the similarity that we too are impotent (as revolutionaries, for instance) and that our society(s) no longer agree to what our role or position is in History: is that the white history of the academy, is it the reverse history of the Oppressed, is it the history of women, natives, Civilization?

Clearly, Moore was a postmodernist in that he was a student and teacher of some of the ideas associated with it. Also clearly, he took the position that universals should be opposed. But only a bad faith reader would call his opposition either lazy or sloppy. In the case of those who accused him of this (and of many others), it was an ad hominem attack. It was an accusation of the engaged, critical, thought it was claimed he had not made, without the courtesy of engaged, critical thought in kind.

I would propose that there is little worth salvaging in determining whether or not Moore was, or was not, a postmodernist. Instead I suggest the term be given a rest. It has so many definitions that I’m hard pressed to find a public person in the contemporary anarchist space who could not be described as a postmodernist by someone else. It has become (if it wasn’t from first utterance) a margarine-word of the first order.

Spirituality

Spirituality has always been the third rail of an anarchist political position. While, in principle, all anarchists can agree with the atheistic formulation of no Gods, no Masters, especially as it implies an anti-clerical or anti-centralized religious sentiment, its gets a bit more complex, since people have taken the gods from the churches and called that spirituality. Personally, I am sympathetic to the old-school, anarchist. anti-clerical approach (as I consider spirituality a topic at best kept private) but I do consider a spiritual sensibility to be intertwined into most non-european anarchisms.

The tension develops when one examines John Moore’s kind of spiritual dialectic. This can be found most clearly in the essay “Anarchy & Ecstasy,” which is a long-form examination of, among other things, Milton’s Paradise Lost.

In this essay Moore attempts to demonstrate the thinking in Milton’s playful threading of pagan and Biblical writing in the story of the fall of Lucifer. It is worth noting that Moore’s paganism (perhaps through Milton) is defined by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which is a scholarly approach to paganism as value system. Antipolitics, however, is one of his criteria, and it is a good one. This essay happens to be one of the only places where the term/concept antipolitics is used as an evaluative tool. (I don’t love the denotative definition Moore gives it: “an anarchic praxis that is more germane for those whose aim is the dissolution, not the seizure, of power,” but consider this essay exceptional for this reason alone.) Anyway, the other approach that Moore takes is dialectical as demonstrated in the following.

As opponents of control, we should not assume an adversarial position (like the forces of counter-control), nor identify ourselves with the oppressed (the controlled); rather, we should situate ourselves within the matrix of anarchy, and become uncontrollables. Only then can we develop a liberatory praxis, which simultaneously promotes the disintegration of the entire control complex, and facilitates others to reintegrate within the creative potentialities of anarchy. We should be neither demonic, nor humanist, but anarchic. Our divine principle should not be deistic power, or demonic, Dionysian energies, or human community, but positive and creative chaos (a natural “order” which the advocates of order designate as disorder).

To put this another way, Moore presents his spirituality in the same way as he presents his primitivism: from the inside out. He Fully Commits. This is why, try as his critics might to pigeonhole him thus, he is not a practitioner of New Age spirituality at all. He is not packing up a tidy bundle of solutions from other people’s cultures and pitching that as a solution to your and our problems. He is instead, thought exercising his way through others’ ideas with a clearly-stated anarchistic goal. The wood chipper is anarchism and the content is whatever schema or ideology that comes along. What comes out is anarchy or, as is the term is used in “Anarchy & Ecstasy;” Chaos.

This way of writing and engaging with spirituality is not chaste. It is a consideration in which one attempts to publicly work through private concerns while maintaining their hidden nature. It is both bespoiled and holy. Moore used Eastern religious traditions as mechanisms to avoid the abomination of the Abrahamic religions. This is othering but I can forgive Moore because this is the stage we are at. We are pre-proposal. We are brainstorming the solution to a very hard problem. The answer to the question “What is an anarchist spiritual practice” is, we have no idea. Some people are searching themselves for the answer, some are content in the lack of one, some return to the religion of their

fathers, some hunt among strangers. What I believe we can agree on is that this continues be a big hole at the center of anarchism-as-a-way-of-life, of anarchy. It is my view that this is not something we will ever talk through. The conclusions require finding ways to live and work together as anarchists. The great mysteries are not found in books but in the magic of our directly lived experience, at that campfire we tell stories at.

Conclusion

I am, in fact, over-identifying with Moore. I’m choosing to put onto Moore the burden of being a Green Anarchist in the model that I wish existed. I wish Green Anarchist thought were open, critical, and engaged. I wish it were open in its interests and made the kinds of mistakes implied by the ad hominems of “postmodernist,” “new ager,” and even “primitivist.” I see Moore’s approach of living inside of wrong ideas, of trying them on for size and abandoning as necessary, as a preferable antipolitical approach to the hardened ideology of so-called anarcho-primitivism, the post-woo pleasantism of late-era Fifth Estate, and even the hard-man rhetoric of the post-Kaczinski politics. I think trying and failing and then trying again harder is the superior form of anarchist practice and Moore was a master.

Anarchism and Poststructuralism

The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism
Todd May, University Park, Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.

Any discussion of the interface between anarchism and poststructuralism is likely to be written from one side of the fence or the other, and this will inevitably affect the nature of the analysis undertaken. This text is written from the poststructuralist side, and as a result one must carefully scrutinise the author’s grounding in anarchism. The book’s bibliography provides a useful indicator in this respect. The anarchist titles listed comprise two books by Bakunin, three by Kropotkin, one by Proudhon, one by Bookchin, one by Ward, Reinventing Anarchy, The Anarchist Reader, and the standard overviews by Woodcock and Joll. The most notable aspect of this list is its omissions.

Elsewhere I have argued that anarchist history, on the model of feminist history, can be assigned a two phase periodisation. Just like first-wave feminism, anarchism has an early phase, conveniently labelled as classical anarchism. From its intellectual origins in Godwin and Proudhon, classical anarchism developed into its mature form during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, finding its climactic expression (but also its swansong) in the Spanish Revolution. This is the phase of anarchism which Woodcock pronounced dead in the mid-1950s in the first edition of Anarchism.

But unbeknownst to those immersed in classical anarchist traditions, a new, second-wave of anarchism (akin and indeed roughly contemporaneous with second-wave feminism) was stirring. The Situationists represent a convenient marker of the transition point, and serve as origin for the remarkable effiorescence of second-wave anarchism that is currently underway. Second-wave anarchism is still frequently not even recognised by anarchists and commentators who still cling to the idea that classical anarchism is the one and only true form of anarchism, even though first-wave anarchism was seen as moribund by Woodcock forty years ago.

As a result, many outside the anarchist milieu are given the misleading impression that a) classical anarchism is anarchism, b) anarchism is therefore an historical phenomenon, and thus c) there are no current manifestations of anarchist praxis. The unfortunate consequences of these misconceptions can be seen in May’s understanding of anarchism. With the partial exception of Reinventing Anarchy, the anarchist titles in May’s bibliography consist entirely of texts on or by classical anarchists. (Ward, like Goodman, can perhaps be seen as a transitional figure, but his grounding in the British anarcho-reformist tradition of Godwin and Read underscores his classical anarchist orientation. Bookchin, particularly in light of Social Anarchism or Lifestyle-Anarchism, can be unproblematically characterised as a late manifestation of the classical anarchist tradition.)

The question that must be addressed to May’s text is: Where are the second-wave anarchists? Where are Debord, Vaneigem, Perlman, Zerzan, and so on? This is not mere pedantry. May is able to cast post-structuralist thinkers as latter-day anarchists precisely because his knowledge of anarchism suggests that currently there is an intellectual vacuum where classical anarchism used to be. The fact that this vacuum is an illusion — an illusion partly fostered by commentators who are either ignorant of, or refuse to acknowledge the existence of, second-wave anarchism — casts an unfortunate doubt on the validity of May’s project.

May’s book “attempts to capture what is — or what ought to be — most lasting in the legacy of post-structuralist thought: its anarchism” (155). In order to achieve this aim, May distinguishes between three types of political philosophy: formal, strategic, and tactical. Formal political philosophy is “characterized by its cleaving either to the pole of what ought to be or to the pole of what is at the expense of the tension between the two” (4). It provides abstract discussions of the large-scale principles that define the ideal society, and thus generates a totalising, unitary explanation of social relations.

Strategic political philosophy, on the other hand, is concerned with the historical implementation of political philosophies and thus with the pragmatic methodological concerns of achieving political goals. As a result, it “involves a unitary analysis that aims toward a single goal” (11). In the strategic perspective, power is seen to emanate from a particular centre (eg, the State, capitalist economic relations) which then provides the focus for practical activities.

In contrast to these totalising forms of political expression, however, tactical political philosophy refuses to align itself with the poles of either what is or what ought to be, preferring to oscillate between the two. Refusing any grand narrative or totalising explanation, the tactical perspective does not see power as residing in a specific locus, but as arising at a number of sites and in the interplay between these sites. In practical terms, this means that political intervention must be local and plural, rather than general and unified. It also has important implications for social agency in that it questions the legitimacy of representation. If the sites of power are multiple, then no one vanguard group is in a privileged position to speak or act on behalf of others.

For May, poststructuralist political philosophy differs from other types of politics because it affirms the tactical rather than the formal or the strategic. However, in anarchism — despite its ambivalent commitment between tactical and strategic thinking — he perceives “a forerunner to current poststructuralist thought” (13). In an interesting discussion. May exposes the failures of Marxism in terms of its adherence to rigid forms of formal and strategic thinking. He then proceeds to a consideration of anarchism (for which read: classical anarchism) and thence to a discussion of the compatibility of anarchist and poststructuralist thinking, with the aim of outlining (in the words of a chapter title) the “steps toward a poststructuralist anarchism“.

The problem with this project is that it remains framed entirely within terms of classical anarchism. May sees (classical) anarchism as unsatisfactorily ambivalent in its strategic and tactical tendencies. The reason for these contradictory commitments is easily deduced. Classical anarchism isstrategic insofar as it locates the source of power in a single institution — the State, but tactical where it resists the different types of power that emerge where the State exists. For May, however, the fact that (classical) anarchism — in contrast to Marxism — has pronounced tactical tendencies remains sufficient to cast it as a ‘forerunner’ of poststructuralist politics, and to characterize the latter as the contemporary form of (intellectual) anarchism.

This is clearly unsatisfactory as well as inaccurate. Anarchism is not the forerunner of anything — least of all a pallid academic tendency such as poststructuralism — because it is not a dead Victorian doctrine, but a living, thriving project. The fact that it has undergone various transformations during its second-wave which have rendered it invisible or unrecognisable to some, should not disguise the fact that classical anarchism can no longer be taken as the basis for discussion of contemporary anarchism. Second-wave anarchism has expanded the project of the classical anarchists: the focus of contemporary anarchism is not the abolition of the State, but the abolition of the totality, of life structured by governance and coercion, of power itself in all its multiple forms. And it is here that contemporary anarchism departs markedly from May’s poststructuralist anarchism. Not least in the fact that second-wave anarchism incorporates an explicit rejection of the political as an appropriate focus for practice.

In dealing with issues of power. May draws extensively upon Deleuze, Lyotard and (particularly) Foucault. While approving of the classical anarchist recognition that power is arranged through intersecting networks rather than exclusively through hierarchies, he asserts: “The anarchist picture of networks requires deepening” (51). And the poststructuralist analysis of power is to provide this development. Poststructuralism, for May, rejects ‘the a priori of traditional (ie, classical] anarchism* (85): the notion of power as solely a negative, repressive force, and the notion of subjectivity as a viable source of political action. On the basis of a critique of these ideas from a poststructuralist perspective. May postulates “a new type of anarchism” (85) which rejects strategic thought for a comprehensive tactical approach: poststructuralist anarchism. The fact that “a new type of anarchism — ie, second-wave anarchism — already exists,and has on occasion (eg, in Zerzan’s “The Catastrophe of Postmodernism”) been very critical of the poststructuralist project, escapes May altogether.

Following Foucault et al. May affirms the idea that power is not always suppressive, but sometimes productive. But like his poststructuralist mentors, he fudges the issue, from an anarchist perspective, by reiterating this familiar formula. Whether power is suppressive or productive, it is still power that is to say, it still uses force (whether overtly or insidiously) to construct and define individuals and make them think or act in particular ways. Whether power say thou shall not… or here are your options…, coercion is involved. “One would not call all exercises of power oppressive,” May states (96). But surely that depends upon whom one is. May admits that “anarchists are suspicious of all power” (61), although (as far as the second-wave is concerned) suspicion is a far too cautious term for a project aimed at the abolition of the ensemble of power relations, the control complex itself. But this is not the case with Foucault, who is quoted approvingly as saying:

relations of power are not something bad in themselves, from which one must free oneself…. The problem is not of trying to dissolve them in the Utopia of a perfectly transparent communication, but to give one’s self the rules of law, the techniques of management, and also the ethics, the ethos, the practice of self, which would allow these games of power to be played with a minimum of domination. (123)

The references to law, management and minimalist domination, plus the explicit anti-utopian stance, suggest the incompatibility of Foucauldian ideology with contemporary anarchism, and undermine May’s claims for a poststructuralist anarchism. “The question,” May avers, “is not whether or not there is power, but which relationships of power are acceptable and which are unacceptable” (123) But this is merely the question of liberalism, and indicates the recuperative nature of poststructuralism in co-opting radical impulses.

For contemporary anarchism, no relationships of power are acceptable. “If power is suppressive, then the central political question to be asked is: When is the exercise of power legitimate, and when is it not?” (61). But for second-wave anarchism, the answer is the same, whether power is suppressive or productive: never! “Given that the old answers to political problems — appropriating the means of production, seizing or eliminating the state, destroying all relations of power — are found to be lacking, what perspective can poststructuralist theory offer for thinking about political change as well as power and political oppression?” (112). Aside from the fact that for anarchists these are social not political problems, the putative failure of “the old answers” is not proved and thus cannot be taken as a given. What can be established, however, is that the perspectives offered by poststructuralism are reformist.

May offers an unconvincing defence to the charge of reformism:

The mistake that is made in contrasting revolution and reform lies in the assumption that the former involves a qualitative change in society, while the latter involves only a quantitative change. However, on the alternative picture of politics being sketched here, there are in reality only quantitative changes, qualitative ones being defined in terms of them. (54)

But this too fudges the point. Revolution (better: insurrection) depends on a rupture, whereas the poststructuralist perspective offered here depends on piecemeal change, the mark of the reformist, and never results in that definitive break. Further, from a second-wave perspective, the totality — the totality of power relations — cannot be resisted in piecemeal fashion, and thus poststructuralist anarchism could never hope to engage in dismantling the totality. As May remarks, “The task of a poststructuralist politics is to attempt to construct power relations that can be lived with, not to overthrow power altogether” (114).

In fact, by undermining subjectivity as the basis from which to launch resistance. May leaves no space from which the totality might be questioned.

The point of [classical] anarchism’s resort to the idea of a benign human essence is to be able to justify its resistance to power. Suppose that anarchists had a different view of power, one that saw power not solely as suppressive but also as productive: power not only suppresses actions, events, and people, but creates them as well. In that case, it would be impossible to justify the resistance to all power; one would have to distinguish clearly acceptable creations or effects (as opposed, in the case of the suppressive assumption, to exercises) of power from unacceptable ones. (63)

The coercive nature of both suppressive and productive power has been demonstrated above, and there is little sense in staging a defence of classical anarchism. However, the intent of this passage is clear, by discrediting the notion of essentialism, May attempts to undermine the anarchist project of resisting all power.This ploy remains ineffective when applied to second-wave anarchism, however.

While classical anarchism may rest its claims on Being, second-wave anarchism emphasises Becoming. Following from Nietzsche’s notion of self-overcoming, the Situationists stress radical subjectivity as the basis for resistance.The project of resisting the totality rests, not on some essentialist human subject, but on the subject-in-process, or better, the subject-in-rebellion: the radical subject.The processual nature of this identity undercuts May’s charge of essentialism, butat the same time provides a basis in lived experience for resistance to the totality, rather than reformist quibbling over acceptable and unacceptable forms of power.

May has written a stimulating and readable book, and one worth reading for its candour about the politics of poststructuralism alone. This text allows one to think through important issues, even though one’s conclusions differ widely from those held by the author. On one level, however, the text stands as an indictment of the distance between academia and contemporary anarchism, and between anarchist commentators and the present anarchist milieu.

Maximalist Anarchism / Anarchist Maximalism

In pre-revolutionary Russia, the Socialist Revolutionaries divided into two factions, the radicals and the moderates. The former were known as the Maximalists, the latter as the Minimalists. I want to appropriate this terminology in order to identify two general tendencies within contemporary anarchism. My intention is not to add to the 57 varieties of existing anarchism. Anarchism already encompasses a broad spectrum of positions: individualist, communist, mutualist, collectivist, primitivist and so on. The focus of this essay is not on the variations and shifts in emphasis which result in the differentiation of these positions. Rather, the aim remains to aid clarity, to provide an interpretive grid, a map which will allow individuals to make sense of the field of anarchism and situate themselves within it.

Maximalist anarchism encompasses those forms of anarchism which aim at the exponential exposure, challenging and abolition of power. Such a project involves a comprehensive questioning of the totality — the totality of power relations and the ensemble of control structures which embody those relations — or what, for shorthand purposes, I call the control complex. Power is not seen as located in any single institution such as patriarchy or the state, but as pervasive in everyday life. The focus of maximalism thus remains the dismantlement of the control complex, of the totality, of life structured by governance and coercion, of power itself in all its multiple forms.

Given power’s pervasiveness and its capacity to insinuate itself into all manner of relations and situations (even the most intimate and apparently depoliticised), the maximalist stance involves a relentless interrogation of every aspect of daily life. Everything is open to question and challenge. Nothing is off limits for investigation and revision. Power, in all its overt and subtle forms, must be rooted out if life is to become free. Maximalism remains ruthlessly iconoclastic, not least when coming into contact with those icons that are vestiges of classical anarchism or earlier modes of radicalism (e.g., work, workerism, history) or those icons characteristic of contemporary anarchism (e.g., the primitive, community, desire and — above all — nature). Nothing is sacred, least of all the fetishised, reified shibboleths of anarchism. Maximalism entails a renewal and extension of the Nietzschean project of a transvaluation of all values in order to open possibilities for new ways of thought, perception, behaviour, action and ways of life, in short anarchist epistemologies and ontologies.

In contrast, minimalist anarchism encompasses those forms of anarchism which have not made the post-Situationist quantum leap toward the maximalist positions outlined above. From the revolutionary perspective of maximalism, minimalist anarchism appears reformist, unable or unwilling to make the break with the control complex in its entirety, or inadequate to the project of freely creating life through the eradication of all forms of power, and thus doomed to failure. Maximalism remains radical in the etymological sense of getting to the root of problems, while minimalism remains prepared to accommodate itself to those forms of power it finds convenient or unwilling to confront. Minimalism remains stalled in the nostalgic politics of ‘if only…’, whereas maximalism proceeds to the anti-politics of the very science fictional question of ‘What if …?’

The urgent priority of maximalism constitutes the development and implementation of an anarchist psychology. Other dimensions of the anarchist project remain subsidiary to this aim. Abandoning the baggage of Enlightenment rationality, maximalism needs to recognise that human beings are first and foremost creatures of passion and irrationality, and only secondarily reasonable beings. Central to the emancipation of life from governance and control remains the exploration of desire and the free, joyful pursuit of individual lines of interest. But in the world defined and determined by the control complex, desire and interest are deformed, limited and channelled into forms which maximise profit and social control.

In order to combat this process, maximalists need to be able to answer Perlman’s fundamental question: Why do people desire their own oppression? This is essentially a psychological question, concerned with the issue of deciphering hidden (or unconscious) motivations — motives hidden by, for and from oneself and others by power. The flipside of this question is equally significant: What makes some individuals into anarchists or radical anti-authoritarians? Anarchism will not proceed in any substantial fashion until these issues are addressed. And as these issues are psychological in nature, the project of developing a distinctively anarchist psychology remains primary. Maximalism needs to foster psychological understanding of the mechanisms of oppression and liberation in order that the process of human (and concomitantly ecological) regeneration can gather pace. There are precedents for this project in the anarcho-psychological critique of Stirner, Nietzsche and Dostoevsky sketched by John Carroll in Break-Out from the Crystal Palace, and continued — not as Carroll thinks, by Freud — but by the anarchist psychoanalyst Otto Gross. This tradition needs to be renewed and reformulated to address the intensified and integrated forms of control that have emerged in contemporary techno-managerialist mass society. Suggestive as the ideas of Freudian Marxists might be in this context, it would be well to remember that both Freudianism and Marxism are managerialist ideologies and thus completely at odds with the anti-ideological struggles of maximalist anarchism.

Maximalism can only make progress if it recognises the inutility of political and political philosophy discourses as a way of articulating and communicating anarchist concerns. Politics, ‘the science and art of government,’ has little or nothing to do with the anti-politics of liberating life from the control complex. Political discourse has at best a very limited role to play in this project. In light of the above discussion of psychological issues, it becomes apparent that maximalism needs to make use of the discourses and practices of the arts if it is to reach out and communicate with people. In the process, art itself will be transformed — realised and superseded, in Situationist terms — into something completely different than its current alienated, commodified condition. The rationalist discourse of Enlightenment political philosophy can only hope to address the rational faculties. For many people, these remain undeveloped, blocked or coded as off-limits, and thus communication at this level remains stymied and ineffectual. Anyway, as indicated earlier, such faculties remain of superficial or limited interest in the process of creating free life. If anarchism is to touch people then it must reach into their unconscious, and activate their repressed desires for freedom. This is not at all the same process as the psychological manipulation of unconscious desires, fears and anxieties as in fascism, but an opening up of avenues of authentic communication and a prompting of individuals to recognise and acknowledge their own desires through the Nietzschean process of self-overcoming. In other words, it involves a life-affirmative existential assertion of one’s self and desires over and against social programming which inculcates obedience to the codes and routines of the control complex. The arts, due to their capacity to bypass inhibitions and connect with or even liberate unconscious concerns and desires, thus remain far more appropriate than political discourse as a means of promoting and expressing the development of autonomy and anti-authoritarian rebellion.

A key focus of anti-totality struggle remains forthright analysis of and combat directed against micro-fascism. Rolando Perez’s On An(archy) and Schizoanalysis is an excellent and accessible introduction to this crucial area of struggle. Fascist and other totalitarian systems — including the liberal totalitarianism of democratic capitalism — are based on the micro-fascisms which structure, shape and inform everyday life in the control complex. Given that maximalism entails an exponential eradication of all mechanisms and forms of power from the largest through to the most intimate and mundane, the focus on micro-fascism remains far more fundamental than those relatively superficial anti-fascist struggles where fascism is merely understood as an organised political movement. Maximalist anarchism remains resolutely anti-political, anti-ideological, anti-systemic and anti-authoritarian. In its struggle against micro-fascism, it remains anti-capitalist, anti-communist, anti-socialist (in both its twin forms of national and international socialism), and anti-fascist, but above all revolutionary.

On the constructive, life-affirmative side, maximalism remains committed to direct action, the insurrectional project, and hence — given its rejection of all forms of power, authority and order — illegalism. Nothing less than an all-out assault on every front of the control complex remains necessary. Maximalism means a renewal and extension of the individualist anarchist project of war on society to encompass the entirety of the control complex. Everyday life remains the site of conflict, but every aspect of daily life needs re-evaluating from an anarchist perspective (which does not mean that every aspect of daily life and interactions will necessarily be changed, but it does mean that every aspect needs to come under scrutiny). But maximalism also involves the posing of alternatives. Maximalism might be defined as imagination and desire unleashed. Moving beyond politics, maximalism means conducting experiments, freely chosen in line with desire, imagination and interest, in all areas of everyday life, including language, modes of thought, perception, behaviour, relationships, action and interaction. Anarchist maximalism is the optimal means to create our own lives free of the controls exercised by power, authority and order.

A Primitivist Primer

Author’s note
This is not a definitive statement, merely a personal account, and seeks in general terms to explain what is meant by anarcho-primitivism. It does not wish to limit or exclude, but provide a general introduction to the topic. Apologies for inaccuracies, misinterpretations, or (inevitable) overgeneralizations.

What is anarcho-primitivism?

Anarcho-primitivism (a.k.a. radical primitivism, anti-authoritarian primitivism, the anti-civilization movement, or just, primitivism) is a shorthand term for a radical current that critiques the totality of civilization from an anarchist perspective, and seeks to initiate a comprehensive transformation of human life. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as anarcho-primitivism or anarcho-primitivists. Fredy Perlman, a major voice in this current, once said, “The only -ist name I respond to is ‘cellist’.” Individuals associated with this current do not wish to be adherents of an ideology, merely people who seek to become free individuals in free communities in harmony with one another and with the biosphere, and may therefore refuse to be limited by the term ‘anarcho-primitivist’ or any other ideological tagging. At best, then, anarcho-primitivism is a convenient label used to characterise diverse individuals with a common project: the abolition of all power relations — e.g., structures of control, coercion, domination, and exploitation — and the creation of a form of community that excludes all such relations. So why is the term anarcho-primitivist used to characterise this current? In 1986, the circle around the Detroit paper Fifth Estate indicated that they were engaged in developing a

critical analysis of the technological structure of western civilization[,] combined with a reappraisal of the indigenous world and the character of primitive and original communities. In this sense we are primitivists…

The Fifth Estate group sought to complement a critique of civilization as a project of control with a reappraisal of the primitive, which they regarded as a source of renewal and anti-authoritarian inspiration. This reappraisal of the primitive takes place from an anarchist perspective, a perspective concerned with eliminating power relations. Pointing to ‘an emerging synthesis of post-modern anarchy and the primitive (in the sense of original), Earth-based ecstatic vision,’ the Fifth Estate circle indicated:

We are not anarchists per se, but pro-anarchy, which is for us a living, integral experience, incommensurate with Power and refusing all ideology… Our work on the FE as a project explores possibilities for our own participation in this movement, but also works to rediscover the primitive roots of anarchy as well as to document its present expression. Simultaneously, we examine the evolution of Power in our midst in order to suggest new terrains for contestations and critique in order to undermine the present tyranny of the modern totalitarian discourse — that hyper-reality that destroys human meaning, and hence solidarity, by simulating it with technology. Underlying all struggles for freedom is this central necessity: to regain a truly human discourse grounded in autonomous, intersubjective mutuality and closely associated with the natural world.

The aim is to develop a synthesis of primal and contemporary anarchy, a synthesis of the ecologically-focussed, non-statist, anti-authoritarian aspects of primitive lifeways with the most advanced forms of anarchist analysis of power relations. The aim is not to replicate or return to the primitive, merely to see the primitive as a source of inspiration, as exemplifying forms of anarchy. For anarcho-primitivists, civilization is the overarching context within which the multiplicity of power relations develop. Some basic power relations are present in primitive societies — and this is one reason why anarcho-primitivists do not seek to replicate these societies — but it is in civilization that power relations become pervasive and entrenched in practically all aspects of human life and human relations with the biosphere. Civilization — also referred to as the megamachine or Leviathan — becomes a huge machine which gains its own momentum and becomes beyond the control of even its supposed rulers. Powered by the routines of daily life which are defined and managed by internalized patterns of obedience, people become slaves to the machine, the system of civilization itself. Only widespread refusal of this system and its various forms of control, revolt against power itself, can abolish civilization, and pose a radical alternative. Ideologies such as Marxism, classical anarchism and feminism oppose aspects of civilization; only anarcho-primitivism opposes civilization, the context within which the various forms of oppression proliferate and become pervasive — and, indeed, possible. Anarcho-primitivism incorporates elements from various oppositional currents — ecological consciousness, anarchist anti-authoritarianism, feminist critiques, Situationist ideas, zero-work theories, technological criticism — but goes beyond opposition to single forms of power to refuse them all and pose a radical alternative.

How does anarcho-primitivism differ from anarchism, or other radical ideologies?

From the perspective of anarcho-primitivism, all other forms of radicalism appear as reformist, whether or not they regard themselves as revolutionary. Marxism and classical anarchism, for example, want to take over civilization, rework its structures to some degree, and remove its worst abuses and oppressions. However, 99% of life in civilization remains unchanged in their future scenarios, precisely because the aspects of civilization they question are minimal. Although both want to abolish capitalism, and classical anarchism would abolish the State too, overall life patterns wouldn’t change too much. Although there might be some changes in socioeconomic relations, such as worker control of industry and neighbourhood councils in place of the State, and even an ecological focus, basic patterns would remain unchanged. The Western model of progress would merely be amended and would still act as an ideal. Mass society would essentially continue, with most people working, living in artificial, technologised environments, and subject to forms of coercion and control. Radical ideologies on the Left seek to capture power, not abolish it. Hence, they develop various kinds of exclusive groups — cadres, political parties, consciousness-raising groups — in order to win converts and plan strategies for gaining control. Organizations, for anarcho-primitivists, are just rackets, gangs for putting a particular ideology in power. Politics, ‘the art and science of government,’ is not part of the primitivist project; only a politics of desire, pleasure, mutuality and radical freedom.

Where, according to anarcho-primitivism, does power originate?

Again, a source of some debate among anarcho-primitivists. Perlman sees the creation of impersonal institutions or abstract power relations as the defining moment at which primitive anarchy begins to be dismantled by civilized social relations. In contrast, John Zerzan locates the development of symbolic mediation — in its various forms of number, language, time, art and later, agriculture — as the means of transition from human freedom to a state of domestication. The focus on origin is important in anarcho-primitivism because primitivism seeks, in exponential fashion, to expose, challenge and abolish all the multiple forms of power that structure the individual, social relations, and interrelations with the natural world. Locating origins is a way of identifying what can be safely salvaged from the wreck of civilization, and what it is essential to eradicate if power relations are not to recommence after civilization’s collapse. What kind of future is envisaged by anarcho-primitivists? Anarcho-primitivist journal “Anarchy; A Journal of Desire Armed” envisions a future that is ‘radically cooperative & communitarian, ecological and feminist, spontaneous and wild,’ and this might be the closest you’ll get to a description! There’s no blueprint, no proscriptive pattern, although it’s important to stress that the envisioned future is not ‘primitive’ in any stereotypical sense. As the Fifth Estate said in 1979:

Let us anticipate the critics who would accuse us of wanting to go “back to the caves” or of mere posturing on our part — i.e., enjoying the comforts of civilization all the while being its hardiest critics. We are not posing the Stone Age as a model for our Utopia[,] nor are we suggesting a return to gathering and hunting as a means for our livelihood.

As a corrective to this common misconception, it’s important to stress that that the future envisioned by anarcho-primitivism is sui generis — it is without precedent. Although primitive cultures provide intimations of the future, and that future may well incorporate elements derived from those cultures, an anarcho-primitivist world would likely be quite different from previous forms of anarchy.

How does anarcho-primitivism view technology?

John Zerzan defines technology as

the ensemble of division of labor/ production/ industrialism and its impact on us and on nature. Technology is the sum of mediations between us and the natural world and the sum of those separations mediating us from each other. It is all the drudgery and toxicity required to produce and reproduce the stage of hyper-alienation we languish in. It is the texture and the form of domination at any given stage of hierarchy and domination.

Opposition to technology thus plays an important role in anarcho-primitivist practice. However, Fredy Perlman says that ‘technology is nothing but the Leviathan’s armory,’ its ‘claws and fangs.’ Anarcho-primitivists are thus opposed to technology, but there is some debate over how central technology is to domination in civilization. A distinction should be drawn between tools (or implements) and technology. Perlman shows that primitive peoples develop all kinds of tools and implements, but not technologies:

The material objects, the canes and canoes, the digging sticks and walls, were things a single individual could make, or they were things, like a wall, that required the cooperation of many on a single occasion …. Most of the implements are ancient, and the [material] surpluses [these implements supposedly made possible] have been ripe since the first dawn, but they did not give rise to impersonal institutions. People, living beings, give rise to both.

Tools are creations on a localised, small-scale, the products of either individuals or small groups on specific occasions. As such, they do not give rise to systems of control and coercion. Technology, on the other hand, is the product of large-scale interlocking systems of extraction, production, distribution and consumption, and such systems gain their own momentum and dynamic. As such, they demand structures of control and obedience on a mass scale — what Perlman calls impersonal institutions. As the Fifth Estate pointed out in 1981: ‘Technology is not a simple tool which can be used in any way we like. It is a form of social organization, a set of social relations. It has its own laws. If we are to engage in its use, we must accept its authority. The enormous size, complex interconnections and stratification of tasks which make up modern technological systems make authoritarian command necessary and independent, individual decision-making impossible.’ Anarcho-primitivism is an anti-systemic current: it opposes all systems, institutions, abstractions, the artificial, the synthetic, and the machine, because they embody power relations. Anarcho-primitivists thus oppose technology or the technological system, but not the use of tools and implements in the senses indicated here. As to whether any technological forms will be appropriate in an anarcho-primitivist world, there is debate over this issue. The Fifth Estate remarked in 1979 that,

Reduced to its most basic elements, discussions about the future sensibly should be predicated on what we desire socially and from that determine what technology is possible. All of us desire central heating, flush toilets, and electric lighting, but not at the expense of our humanity. Maybe they are all possible together, but maybe not.

What about medicine? Ultimately, anarcho-primitivism is all about healing — healing the rifts that have opened up within individuals, between people, and between people and nature, the rifts that have opened up through civilization, through power, including the State, Capital, and technology. The German philosopher Nietzsche said that pain, and the way it is dealt with, should be at the heart of any free society, and in this respect, he is right. Individuals, communities and the Earth itself have been maimed to one degree or another by the power relations characteristic of civilization. People have been psychologically maimed but also physically assaulted by illness and disease. This isn’t to suggest that anarcho-primitivism can abolish pain, illness and disease! However, research has revealed that many diseases are the results of civilized living conditions, and if these conditions were abolished, then certain types of pain, illness and disease could disappear. As for the remainder, a world which places pain at its centre would be vigorous in its pursuit of assuaging it by finding ways of curing illness and disease. In this sense, anarcho-primitivism is very concerned with medicine. However, the alienating high-tech, pharmaceutical-centred form of medicine practised in the West is not the only form of medicine possible. The question of what medicine might consist of in an anarcho-primitivist future depends, as in the Fifth Estate comment on technology above, on what is possible and what people desire, without compromising the lifeways of free individuals in ecologically-centred free communities. As on all other questions, there is no dogmatic answer to this issue.

What about population?

A controversial issue, largely because there isn’t a consensus among anarcho-primitivists on this topic. Some people argue that population reduction wouldn’t be necessary; others argue that it would on ecological grounds and/or to sustain the kind of lifeways envisaged by anarcho-primitivists. George Bradford, in How Deep is Deep Ecology?, argues that women’s control over reproduction would lead to a fall in population rate. The personal view of the present writer is that population would need to be reduced, but this would occur through natural wastage — i.e., when people died, not all of them would be replaced, and thus the overall population rate would fall and eventually stabilise. Anarchists have long argued that in a free world, social, economic and psychological pressures toward excessive reproduction would be removed. There would just be too many other interesting things going on to engage people’s time! Feminists have argued that women, freed of gender constraints and the family structure, would not be defined by their reproductive capacities as in patriarchal societies, and this would result in lower population levels too. So population would be likely to fall, willy-nilly. After all, as Perlman makes plain, population growth is purely a product of civilization:

a steady increase in human numbers [is] as persistent as the Leviathan itself. This phenomenon seems to exist only among Leviathanized human beings. Animals as well as human communities in the state of nature do not proliferate their own kind to the point of pushing all others off the field.

So there’s really no reason to suppose that human population shouldn’t stabilise once Leviathanic social relations are abolished and communitarian harmony is restored. Ignore the weird fantasies spread by some commentators hostile to anarcho-primitivism who suggest that the population levels envisaged by anarcho-primitivists would have to be achieved by mass die-offs or nazi-style death camps. These are just smear tactics. The commitment of anarcho-primitivists to the abolition of all power relations, including the State with all its administrative and military apparatus, and any kind of party or organization, means that such orchestrated slaughter remains an impossibility as well as just plain horrendous.

How might an anarcho-primitivist future be brought about?

The sixty-four thousand dollar question! (to use a thoroughly suspect metaphor!) There are no hard-and-fast rules here, no blueprint. The glib answer — seen by some as a cop-out — is that forms of struggle emerge in the course of insurgency. This is true, but not necessarily very helpful! The fact is that anarcho-primitivism is not a power-seeking ideology. It doesn’t seek to capture the State, take over factories, win converts, create political organizations, or order people about. Instead, it wants people to become free individuals living in free communities which are interdependent with one another and with the biosphere they inhabit. It wants, then, a total transformation, a transformation of identity, ways of life, ways of being, and ways of communicating. This means that the tried and tested means of power-seeking ideologies just aren’t relevant to the anarcho-primitivist project, which seeks to abolish all forms of power. So new forms of action and being, forms appropriate to and commensurate with the anarcho-primitivist project, need to be developed. This is an ongoing process and so there’s no easy answer to the question: What is to be done? At present, many agree that communities of resistance are an important element in the anarcho-primitivist project. The word ‘community’ is bandied about these days in all kinds of absurd ways (e.g., the business community), precisely because most genuine communities have been destroyed by Capital and the State. Some think that if traditional communities, frequently sources of resistance to power, have been destroyed, then the creation of communities of resistance — communities formed by individuals with resistance as their common focus — are a way to recreate bases for action. An old anarchist idea is that the new world must be created within the shell of the old. This means that when civilization collapses — through its own volition, through our efforts, or a combination of the two — there will be an alternative waiting to take its place. This is really necessary as, in the absence of positive alternatives, the social disruption caused by collapse could easily create the psychological insecurity and social vacuum in which fascism and other totalitarian dictatorships could flourish. For the present writer, this means that anarcho-primitivists need to develop communities of resistance — microcosms (as much as they can be) of the future to come — both in cities and outside. These need to act as bases for action (particularly direct action), but also as sites for the creation of new ways of thinking, behaving, communicating, being, and so on, as well as new sets of ethics — in short, a whole new liberatory culture. They need to become places where people can discover their true desires and pleasures, and through the good old anarchist idea of the exemplary deed, show others by example that alternative ways of life are possible. However, there are many other possibilities that need exploring. The kind of world envisaged by anarcho-primitivism is one unprecedented in human experience in terms of the degree and types of freedom anticipated … so there can’t be any limits on the forms of resistance and insurgency that might develop. The kind of vast transformations envisaged will need all kinds of innovative thought and activity.

How can I find out more about anarcho-primitivism?

The Primitivist Network (PO Box 252, Ampthill, Beds MK45 2QZ) can provide you with a reading list. Check out copies of the British paper Green Anarchist and the US zines Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed and Fifth Estate. Read Fredy Perlman’s Against His-story, Against Leviathan! (Detroit: Black & Red, 1983), the most important anarcho-primitivist text, and John Zerzan’s Elements of Refusal (Seattle: Left Bank, 1988) and Future Primitive (New York: Autonomedia, 1994).

How do I get involved in anarcho-primitivism?

One way is to contact the Primitivist Network. If you send two 1st class postage stamps, you will receive a copy of the PN contact list and be entered on it yourself. This will put you in contact with other anarcho-primitivists. Some people involved in Earth First! also see themselves as anarcho-primitivists, and they are worth seeking out too.

Comin’ Home: Defining Anarcho-Primitivism

At the opening of Against His-Story, Against Leviathan!, perhaps the premier anarcho-primitivist text, Fredy Perlman remarks: “This is the place to jump, the place to dance! This is the wilderness! Was there ever any other?” This seemingly innocuous point encapsulates a key aspect of anarcho-primitivism: the sense that the primitive is here and now, rather than far away and long ago. Perlman suggests that his notion is “the big public secret” in civilization:

It remains a secret. It is publicly known but not avowed. Publicly the wilderness is elsewhere, barbarism is abroad, savagery is on the face of the other.

But Perlman knows better than this and, perhaps as a result of his insight, so do we. And this knowledge is crucial. For in asserting the presence of the primitive, even in the midst of the megamachine, Perlman is marking the difference between anarcho-primitivism and other forms of primitivism in the West. And, furthermore, he is reclaiming a primitive identity for those trapped inside Leviathan. This is a crucial activity.

In Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives, a survey of twentieth century Western appropriations of the primitive, Marianna Torgovnick writes:

The metaphor of finding a home or being at home recurs over and over as a structuring pattern within Western primitivism. Going primitive is trying to ‘go home’ to a place that feels comfortable and balanced, where full acceptance comes freely and easily … Whatever form the primitive’s hominess takes, its strangeness salves our estrangement from ourselves and our culture (p.185).

Superficially, this seems an attractive idea and one conducive to anarcho-primitivism. A linkage of the primitive with origins seems a logical one in the West. Living lives of profound alienation in civilization as we do, the idea of going home, going primitive, seems appealing. This notion of a journey back to the primitive as a passage back to origins is echoed in the title of a recent volume edited by Ron Sakolsky and James Koehnline: Gone to Croatan: Origins of North American Dropout Culture. As the book’s opening page explains, “The first ‘drop-outs’ from English colonization in North America left the ‘Lost Colony’ of Roanoke and went to join the natives at Croatan.” However, in making this linkage, radicals such as Sakolsky and Koehnline are unwittingly aligning themselves with notions of the primitive that are endemic in the West — notions that are used to underpin racism and imperialism.

The idea the West can discover its origins through a journey into the primitive contains a number of reactionary connotations. For example, one notion underlying such a belief is that primitives inhabit a world that is timeless and unchanging. Perlman has correctly identified history as His-Story, the story of dominance and control that is the narrative of history. Clearly, lacking Leviathanic structures, primitives do not inhabit this kind of chronology. But on the other hand the notion that primitives live in a timeless vacuum, a perpetual state of changelessness, denies them the ability to develop. And this notion has historically been used to characterize primitives as eternally backward and hence in need of Western intervention to progress. So notions of the primitive as timeless have been and are used as a justification for imperialism and the eradication of the primitive.

Moreover, another implication of this conception of the primitive is that history is linear and that no other ways of conceptualizing or experiencing time are legitimate. And thus the whole ideology of progress is also latent within conceptualizations of the primitive as source and origin. Furthermore, the Western notion of the primitive as origin, and the resulting desire to journey ‘back’ to the primitive, is based on an idyllic image of the primitive as a site characterized by simplicity and freedom from troubling differences. Torgovnick states this well when she notes:

The primitive’s magical ability to dissolve differences depends on an illusion of time and sense in which the primitive is both eternally past and eternally present. For the charm to work, the primitive must represent a common past — our past, a Euro-American past so long gone that we can find no traces of it in Western spaces. But the primitive must be eternally present in other spaces — the spaces of primitive peoples. Otherwise we cannot get to it, cannot find the magical spot where differences dissolve and harmony and rest prevail. The illusion depends on denying primitive societies ‘pasts’ of their own, their own original states and development (perhaps wholly different from ours) … If we imagine primitive societies as occupying linear time with us, but as developing in ways of their own to their present state, then they could not be our origin; there would be no time and place for us to ‘go home’ to. (p. 187)

Conventional Western primitivism always draws the distinction between self and other, between “us” and “them.” And in this schema, the primitive is always other, always “them.” The primitive must always be long ago or far away, not right here and right now. Time must render “our” primitive past inaccessible, while space must make “their” primitive present distant but accessible — journeyable — so that we can find the path back to “our” lost origins. In the process, of course, “their” specificity is lost, merely becoming an image of the idyll that “we” have tragically lost, or of the horrible savagery “we” have thankfully overcome. Such primitivism is all about “us” and serves to efface the primitive in ways that are quite compatible with civilization’s eradication of primitive peoples and lifeways. So the notion of the primitive as origin and source needs to be rejected by a primitivism that aims for a radical departure from the Western megamachine.

To discard the idea of the primitive as ‘origin’ requires radical measures,” Torgovnick says. (p. 186) And it is these radical measures that anarcho-primitivism is prepared to make. Indeed, the readiness to take these measures constitutes one — but only one — of the many features which distinguish anarcho-primitivism from other forms of Western primitivism. Hence, Perlman’s prioritization of affirming the primitive as part of the here and now. For Perlman. as for other mainstream primitivists, civilization is just a veneer that is thinly spread over the surface of the civilized individual. But whereas reactionary primitivists regard the primitive as being characterized by savagery, Perlman sees it as characterized by abundance and possession — and not least by possession of a rich inner life and sense of being. So for him the primitive, in civilized conditions, is always a potential — a potential whose bursting out is always a promise of joy and freedom. The primitive, in such a context, is encased — bound and shackled — but always capable of breaking out. And so the primitive, rather than something that has to be journeyed to, emerges as something that one has to come back to. Something that is rediscovered, rather than discovered. This is an insight that Ursula Le Guin comes to in an essentially anarcho-primitivist fiction when which she entitles, not going primitive or going home, but Always Coming Home. The primitive, for those trapped in civilization, is a process, a process of renewal and return. A return to roots, but “our” roots as they are now, in all their presence and sense of possibility, rather than some impossible search for origins.

In this sense too, anarcho-primitivism differs radically from other forms of Western primitivism. In a 1986 position paper entitled “Renew the Earthly Paradise,” the participants of the Fifth Estate project outlined their ideological trajectory:

The evolution of the FE has been characterized by a willingness to re-examine all the assumptions of radical criticism, which has led it away from its earlier libertarian communist perspective toward a more critical analysis of the technological structure of western civilization, combined with a reappraisal of the indigenous world and the character of primitive and original communities. In this sense we are primitivists …

The two-fold nature of the project outlined here remains crucial. Anarcho-primitivism crucially combines critical analysis of civilization with a reappraisal of the primitive. These two reciprocally related aspects of anarcho-primitivism are essential. One without the other remains disastrous. For anarcho-primitivism does not seek to replicate primitive lifeways. It reappraises the primitive and seeks to draw inspiration from it, but only insofar as it does not contradict the most far-reaching anarchist analysis — analyses which seek an exponential exposure of power relations in whatever form they take.

Pointing to “an emerging synthesis of postmodern anarchy and the primitive (in the sense of the original), Earth-based ecstatic vision,” the Fifth Estate circle indicate:

We are not anarchists per se, but pro-anarchy, which is for us a living, integral experience, incommensurate with Power and resisting all ideology … Our work on the FE as a project explores possibilities for our own participation in this movement, but also works to rediscover the primitive roots of anarchy as well as to document its current expression. Simultaneously, we examine the evolution of Power in our midst in order to suggest new terrains for contestations and critique in order to undermine the present tyranny of modern totalitarian discourse — that hyperreality that destroys human meaning, and hence solidarity, by simulating it with technology. Underlying all struggles for freedom is this central necessity: to regain a truly human discourse grounded in autonomous, intersubjective mutuality and closely associated with the natural world.

Reconnecting the roots of anarchy and its present expression, always from a perspective sensitive to issues of power, remains at the heart of the anarcho-primitivist project. For, in attempting a provisional definition of anarcho-primitivism, it is always necessary to contrast it with what it is not, and in particular against the backdrop of other forms of Western primitivism. These latter may desire a sentimental return to nature or a going ‘back’, but this is not the case with anarcho-primitivism, as Fifth Estate indicated in 1979:

Let us anticipate the critics who would accuse us of wanting to go ‘back to the caves’ or of mere posturing in our part — i.e., enjoying the comforts of civilization all the while being its hardiest critics. We are not posing the Stone Age a model for our Utopia, nor are we suggesting a return to gathering and hunting as a means for our livelihood. Rather, our investigation into pre-civilized modes combats the notion that humans have always lived with alarm clocks and factories. It assails the prevalent amnesia which the species exhibits as to its origins and the varieties of social association which existed for tens of thousands of years before the rise of the state. It announces that work has not always been the touchstone of human existence, and that cities and factories did not always blight the terrain. It asserts that there was a time when people lived in harmony with each other and with their natural surroundings, both of which they knew intimately … Reduced to its most basic elements, discussion about the future sensibly should be predicated on what we desire socially and from that determine what technology is possible. All of us desire central heating, flush toilets, and electric lighting, but not at the expense of our humanity. Maybe they are possible together, but maybe not.

Anarcho-primitivism is a label and an inadequate label at that. It is more easily described than appropriately named. It includes a refusal of ideology and the racket of politics with all its power-seeking strategies. It is a process, a process of renewal and recovery. It is a mode of thought and action, a world-view, a mode of being in the sense that Hakim Bey has defined ontological anarchy. It is a refusal to go primitive, but an affirmation of the need to become primitive again.

References

  • Anon. “Renew the Earthly Paradise.” Fifth Estate #322 (Winter/Spring 1986).

  • Anon. “Searching for the culprit: Introduction to Marshall Sahlin’s The Original Affluent Society.” Fifth Estate #298 (June 1979).

  • Le Guin, Ursula. Always Coming Home (London, 1986).

  • Perlman, Fredy. Against His-Story, Against Leviathan!: An Essay. (Detroit, 1983).

  • Sakolsky, Ron, & James Koehnline. Gone to Croatan: Origins of North American Dropout Culture (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1993).

  • Torgovnick, M. Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives. (Chicago, 1990).

The Insubordination of Words: Poetry, Insurgency, and the Situationists

I. ART

Situationist formulations on art provide the starting point for much contemporary anarchist thinking on aesthetics. But these formulations, so often taken for granted by writers on this topic, can themselves be subject to critical interrogation. Such a project remains important if anarchist practice in this crucial area is to undergo regeneration and renewal.

Various situationist methods and modes of activity were identified during the 1950s, including principally détournement (or “diversion” or “plagiarism,” “Short for: détournement of pre-existing aesthetic elements. The integration of present or past artistic productions into a superior construction of a milieu“) and the dérive (or “drifting,” “A mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of transient passage through varied ambiences“). Some attention will be given to the latter, but in the present context it is the former that remains of primary importance.

Like the dadaists and the surrealists before them, the situationists cite Lautréamont as their inspiration for the practice of détournement, and in particular continually quote the famous passages from the poet’s Poésies, which assert that plagiarism is necessary, progress implies it, and that poetry must be made, not by one, but by all. In a pre-situationist essay of 1956 significantly entitled “Methods of Détournement,” Debord and Wolman admiringly quote these very slogans and indicate that Lautréamont’s use of détournement is ”far ahead of its time” and consequently his advances “in this direction [are] still partly misunderstood even by his most ostentatious admirers. ”

In The Revolution of Everyday Life, Vaneigem also affirms the significance of Lautréamont’s practice of plundering the cultural storehouses of the past and détourning the materials found there: “I have never claimed to have anything new to say . . . Ever since men [sic] grew up and learned to read Lautréamont, everything has been said and yet few have taken advantage of it.” But the ultimate, exemplary tribute to the French poet occurs in section 207 of Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, which consists entirely of a condensed and détourned appropriation of the key passages from Poésies:

Ideas improve. The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author’s phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea.

In the following section, Debord explains the significance of Lautréamont’s détournement/plagiarism/diversion for situationist practice: Diversion is the opposite of quotation, of the theoretical authority which is always falsified by the mere fate of having become a quotation — a fragment torn from its context, from its movement, and ultimately from the global framework of its epoch and from the precise choice, whether exactly recognized or erroneous, which it was in this framework. Diversion is the fluid language of anti-ideology. It appears in communication which knows it cannot pretend to guarantee anything definitively and in itself. At its peak, it is language which cannot be confirmed by any former or supra-critical reference. On the contrary, its own coherence, in itself and with the applicable facts, can confirm the former core of truth which it brings out. Diversion has grounded its cause on nothing external to its own truth as present critique.

Détournement emerges as a technique which simultaneously negates theoretical authority and falsification and affirms a counter-language of anti-ideology. Negating the foundational textual authority of prior utterances, it rewrites those utterances but can only justify its rewriting on the grounds of its own self-defined critical truth. Exemplifying its own procedures, the closing assertion of the passage clinches the argument by détourning the opening (and closing) line of Stirner’s The Ego and its Own, in turn a détournement of the first line of Goethe’s poem “Vanitas, VanitatumVanitas!,” a poem with a title that in turn is a détournement of the scriptural “Vanity! All is vanity!”

If such a vertiginous procedure seems reminiscent of the endless deferrals of meaning characteristic of Derridean differénce or the Kristevan web of intertextuality, this is not coincidental. Like the deconstructionists, the situationists, far from escaping from the trap of postmodernity, in many ways become definitive and characteristic of it. Like many postmodernists, the situationists maintain a problematic but generally hostile attitude toward modernism and modernity, largely seeking to differentiate and dissociate themselves from it. By claiming that he has nothing new to say and that everything has already been said, Vaneigem distances himself from the modernist emphasis on newness and innovation. As the entire technique of detournement suggests, Debord and Wolman are similarly uninterested in creating the new, suggesting merely that ” The literary and artistic heritage of humanity should be usedfor partisan propaganda purposes.” At the same time, however, they stress the need to go beyond the (modernist) practice of scandal:

Since the negation of the bourgeois conception of art and artistic genius has become pretty much old hat, [Duchamp’s] drawing of a moustache on the Mona Lisa is no more interesting than the original version of that painting.

Modernist techniques of negation have become old hat, even when they involve a “primitive” form of détournement: “In a more primitive sense, détournement within the old cultural spheres is a method of propaganda, a method which testifies to the wearing out and loss of importance of those spheres,” and as a result, ” We must now push this process to the point of negating the negation.” Paradoxically, however, this negation of the modernist negation of the premodern comprises, at another level, a reassertion of the modernist emphasis on the new: “Only extremist innovation is historically justified.” But the innovation occurs only at the level of technique: the material to be worked upon is the already existing “literary and artistic” — to which should be added philosophical and political — “heritage of humanity.” (And even here claims to technical innovation are dubious: can a technique pioneered in 1870 and subsequently utilized, albeit in primitive forms, by dadaists, surrealists, and others throughout the modernist period really be described as innovative, let alone as an instance of”extremist innovation”?)

As might be expected, the initial result of détournement remains parodic, and here another point of congruence might be drawn between the situationist emphases on parody and the postmodernist valorization of pastiche. The situationists, however, see parody as merely a preliminary stage in the deployment of détournement techniques, rather than as an end in itself:

It is therefore necessary to conceive of a parodic-serious stage where the accumulation of détourned elements, far from arousing indignation or laughter by alluding to some original work, will express our indifference toward a meaningless and forgotten original, and concern itself with rendering a certain sublimity.

Ultimately, the original text is to be transcended, forgotten, effaced, rather than merely written over as in the typical postmodern palimpsest. The envisaged effect is a rather incongruous Romantic sublime, but this loose formulation is considerably tightened in the anonymous 1959 essay “Détournement as Negation and Prelude:”

The two fundamental laws of détournement are the loss of importance of each detourned autonomous element — which may go so far as to lose its original sense completely — and at the same time the organization of another meaningful ensemble that confers on each element its new scope and effect. . . Détournement is thus first of all a negation of the value of the previous organization of expression . . . But at the same time, the attempts to reuse the ‘detournable bloc’ as material for other ensembles express the search for a vaster construction, a new genre of creation at a higher level.

As the essay’s title indicates, détournement is conceived as both negation and prelude — not, it should be noted, as negation and affirmation. Existing structures of meaning are to be dismantled, and through the collision, juxtaposition and collocation of the liberated autonomous elements, a new ensemble of meanings is assembled which confers fresh significance on the resulting semantic permutations. Détournement thus provides a model for artistic expressivity, but also for social transformation, and in this respect it remains merely a prelude to vaster acts of reconstruction, to the “new genre of creation” that is the liberation and free construction of daily life.

In this process, however, art itself is to be suppressed and realized. Détournement displaces, effaces and supplants previous organizations of meaning: this constitutes its negatory aspect. But these transformations of meaning are only a prelude, they merely point the way to and enable social transformation. They are a means, not an end in themselves. But further, in the course of social transformation, art itself is superseded. In his Preface to the fourth Italian edition of Society of the Spectacle, Debord charts the origins of situationist practice and recalls that in 1952 four or five people from Paris decided to search for the supersession of art. It appeared then, by a fortunate consequence of a daring advance on this path, that the previous defense lines which had smashed the previous offensives of the social revolution found themselves outflanked and overturned.

The chance to launch another one was then discovered. The supersession of art is the ‘North West Passage’ of the geography of real life which had so often been sought for more than a century. The supersession, or suppression and realization, of art is thus accorded a pivotal position within situationist intervention: it constitutes the one and only route to contemporary social revolution. Through the suppression and realization of art, radical social transformation and the free reconstruction of daily life become possible.

The quest to effect the supersession of art as part of a project for social renewal is not, however, original to the situationists. In The Rebel, a study of Western rebellion from Romanticism onward, Albert Camus locates the rejection of art as part of the process of deformation through which authentic rebellion degenerates into authoritarian revolutionism. Camus recognizes this impulse in figures as diverse as Rousseau, Saint-Just, Saint-Simon, the Russian nihilists, and (most importantly in the present context) Hegel and the Left Hegelians, including Marx. Debord’s biographer, Len Bracken, characterizes Hegel as “one of Debord’s leading lights.” If anything, this is an understatement: Debord’s work is permeated with Hegelian thought and in particular Hegelian notions of history. Hegel conceives of history as a realm of alienation characterized by the disjunctions of the subject/object duality. But history is also dynamic, a process embodied in the historical dialectic in which clashes between contradictory forces result in historical development. The dialectical process results in a series of moments of supersession (or aufhebung). These moments are not occasions of pure transcendence, but moments in which a previous condition is overcome and yet simultaneously preserved, but taken to a higher level-in short, suppressed and realized.

In Hegel’s thought, this process continues until the lower, physical elements of life are superseded and humanity reaches the historical/spiritual goal of Absolute Mind. At this juncture, all oppositions are resolved, including the alienations resulting from the subject-object split, and history comes to an end. As might be anticipated, the achievement of such a goal renders disciplines such as religion, philosophy and (most importantly in the current context) art superfluous. As Bracken explains,

For Hegel, once Absolute Mind is attained, art is no longer necessary. When historical time invades the artistic sphere, historical time introduces the principle of the necessary dissolution of art. At this stage art loses its place in life as a means to authentic truth, and is no longer satisfying. Real needs and interests displace art in the sphere of representation because in order to satisfy these needs and interests, an individual’s reflective capacity is full of thought and abstract representations far removed from art.

Or, as Camus more succinctly phrases it: “According to the revolutionary interpreters of [Hegel’s] Phenomenology there will be no art in reconciled society. Beauty will be lived and no longer only imagined. Reality, become entirely rational, will satisfy, completely on its own, every form of desire.” Suitably inflected and modified in the light of the young Marx, this is the philosophical basis of the situationist demand for the supersession of art. In this schema, art is consigned to a secondary realm, the realm of mere representation or the imaginary, and rendered subordinate to supposedly real needs. This surrender of the pleasure principle to the reality principle, cast in the guise of resolving the duality through supersession, is criticized by Camus when he suggests that the conflict over the status of art expresses:

on the aesthetic level, the struggle, already described, between revolution and rebellion. In every rebellion is to be found the metaphysical demand for unity, the impossibility of capturing it and the construction of a substitute universe. Rebellion, from this point of view, is a fabricator of universes. This also defines art. The demands of rebellion are really, in part, aesthetic demands.

Rebellion and art, for Camus, converge on the common project of fabricating universes. But détournement, the central situationist technique for aesthetic and social supersession, is not about fabrication, but prefabrication — the reuse of preexisting, prefabricated artistic elements in a new ensemble. Everything has already been said and there is nothing new left to say, as Vaneigem makes plain: “The only true new thing here is the direction of the stream carrying commonplaces along.” The situationists do not escape the banality of the world which they rightly criticize. Like Maxwell’s Demon, eternally sorting molecules, situationist post-artistic practice resolves itself merely to generating new configurations of the detritus of existing socio-aesthetic practice.

Détournement, as the situationists readily admit, is a technique of negation, and as such is insufficient, all too liable to recuperation as postmodern nihilism. But their Hegelian philosophical underpinnings will not allow them to pose an affirmative role for any kind of creative art, even one which attempts to avoid spectacular commodification and participates in the oppositional movement. Détournement can only be a prelude — a prelude to a time in which the free reconstruction of daily life subsumes and supplants artistic creativity. In the 1961 essay “For a Revolutionary Judgment of Art,” Debord avers that “Revolution is not ‘showing’ life to people, but making them live.” On one level, this sentiment contains some truth: it is true (as Debord points out elsewhere in the essay) that art is based on a division of labor and casts the spectator in a relatively passive role, and thus that art as it is currently practiced is not revolutionary. But the statement contains further implications. First, Debord is implying that revolution does not involve any degree of reflection, but is purely a matter of action (and the use of the active verb “making” in the phrase “making them live,” with its overtones of coercion, reinforces this sense). Second, the statement implies that if revolution is not about “‘showing’ life to people,” then art certainly is. This implication betrays a tacit belief that art is essentially mimetic, as if all art is mere realism — a belief which is disingenuous and which Debord himself knew to be untrue.

Why then this “hostility to art” and imaginative creativity, which Camus sees as characteristic of “all revolutionary reformers” (as opposed to authentic rebels), on the part of the situationists? As the remainder of this essay will indicate, this hostility can be traced to a psychological anxiety — partly an anxiety of influence but largely an anxiety regarding the threats to rationality and rational control posed by the irrational and which art can on occasion evoke.

Committed to rationality and the real through their Hegelianism and Marxist materialism, situationist discourses are cast in the familiar sorcerer’s apprentice role of invoking dangerous forces to effect certain ends and then attempting to master them through the imposition of rational controls. Hence, perhaps, the contrast between détournement and the dérive. The former seeks the supersession of art in favor of the real and in doing so negates not merely the aesthetic but also those irrational forces which threaten the fetishized realm of”the real.”The latter evokes psychological responses through its use of psychogeographic techniques to explore the intersections between individual sensibility and urban spaces, but once again the imaginary is banished and subordinated to the world of the real. “The spectacle,” Debord asserts, “inverts the real.” But in situationist discourse the fetishized, reified notion of the real becomes merely a subset of the spectacle.

The fact remains that those explosions of free creativity, in whatever form they may take, that are characteristic of rebellion, are limited and rendered subordinate by demands for the supersession of the creative arts. The point here is not to reinscribe discredited bourgeois notions of the creative genius, nor to reinvigorate the exhausted proj ects of modernism, nor to suggest that art as it is currently practiced is in any way redeemable. But neither is it to reaffirm with blind faith the Strictures of the situationist creed. The aim is to expose the psychology underlying the situationist project and indicate ways in which anarchist practice might benefit from a post-situationist trajectory. Further investigation indicates, however, that situationist ideology is itself a site for contestation, and that out of its contradictions can be discerned a possibility for creative practice which is both negatory and affirmative.

2. POETRY

At the heart of the situationist repudiation of art — even as a means of social transformation — can be discerned a renunciation of individual subjectivity and creativity. In his 1959 film On the passage of a few persons through a rather brief period of time, Debord has one of the film’s voices launch an attack on the notion of director as auteur:

There are now people who flatter themselves that they are authors of films, as others were authors of novels. They are even more backward than the novelists because they are ignorant of the decomposition and exhaustion of individual expression in our time, ignorant of the end of the arts of passivity . . . The only interesting venture is the liberation of everyday life, not only in the perspectives of history but for us and right away. This entails the withering away of alienated forms of communication.

The “decomposition and exhaustion of individual expression” is not only taken for granted, but unproblematically equated with “the arts of passivity” and “alienated forms of communication.” The assertion of the failure of individual expressivity is unproven but also unlamented. The necessity of overcoming passivity and alienation remains indisputable, but the notion that individual expressivity might have a role in achieving these ends remains foreign to Debord. The liberation of everyday life remains a crucial goal, but as this phrase implies, it is not individuals but the abstraction everyday life that is to be liberated, and the participation of individual creativity is not required in such a collectivist project.

Debord repudiates individual creativity because of his belief in “the scandalous poverty of the subject.” As the narrator of his 1961 film Critique of Separation indicates:

The events that happen in individual existence as it is organized, the events that really concern us and require our participation, are generally precisely those that merit nothing more than our being distant, bored, indifferent spectators. In the insubordination of words contrast, the situation that is seen in some artistic transposition is rather often attractive, something that would merit our participating in it. This is a paradox to reverse, to put back on its feet. This is what must be realized in acts.

Life in spectacularized society remains so impoverished that everyday events seem dull and meaningless, whereas the lives represented in some works of art seem more inviting, interesting and engaging in comparison. It is as if the magic of daily life has been siphoned off and contained in the specialized realm of art. Debord proposes reversing this state of affairs. This seems a sensible project, but he does not envisage any role for art in achieving this end. Rather, he fetishizes action at the expense of art, as if the two were necessarily incompatible and not complementary — or integral — modes of practice. It is true that art — in order to participate in The Revolution of Everyday Life — would need to devise ways to avoid spectacularization and commodification and to forfend alienation and passivity in order to achieve genuine communication. But Debord does not envisage such a possibility because for him art is tied to the “miserable subjectivity” of the spectacularized individual, whose immiseration and emptiness render her imaginatively and creatively impoverished. For a collectivist such as Debord, only the abstraction of the collectivity (the masses, the proletariat) — not the individual — remains capable of effecting social transformation, and only then through action, not free creativity.

For Debord, the wellsprings of individual creativity have dried-up in the drought that is spectacularization. In Critique of Separation, the narrator talks about dreams:

What cannot be forgotten reappears in dreams. At the end of this type of dream, half asleep, the events are still for a brief moment taken as real. And the reactions they give rise to become clearer, more distinct, more reasonable; like so many mornings, the memory of what one drank the night before. Then comes the awareness that it’s all false, that ‘it was only a dream’, that there are no new realities and no going back to it. Nothing you can hold on to. These dreams are flashes from the unresolved past. They unilaterally illuminate moments previously lived in confusion and doubt. They strikingly publicize those of our needs that have not been answered. Here is daylight, and here are perspectives that no longer mean anything.

While it is true that Debord recognizes that there are other types of dream apart from ‘this type of dream’, this is the only kind that he considers. The dream has both a subjective effect in that it conjures up images from the past and a politicized element as it reveals “those of our needs that have not been answered.” But the overall response is one of sadness and disgust: the dream is unreal, false, an illusion. There are no new realities: the dream of a transfigured world is just a mirage, and the dreamer is left with a sense of loss and of being swindled.

The unconscious is not regarded as a fund of creativity full of subjective and social significance, and replete with materials of use for the transformation of everyday life. On the contrary, the products of the unconscious are regarded as banal and illusory. This is the basis of Debord’s critique of surrealism. In his 1957 “Report on the Construction of Situations and on the International Situationist Tendency’s Conditions of Organization and Action,” he admits that “The surrealist program, asserting the sovereignty of desire and surprise, proposing a new use of life, is much richer in constructive possibilities than is generally thought.” However, he proceeds to remark,

The error that is at the root of surrealism is the idea of the infinite richness of the unconscious imagination. The cause of the ideological failure of surrealism was its belief that the unconscious was the finally discovered ultimate force of life, and its having revised the history of ideas accordingly and stopped it there. We know now that the unconscious imagination is poor, that automatic writing is monotonous, and that the whole genre of ostentatious surrealist ‘weirdness’ has ceased to be very surprising.

Instead of richness in the unconscious, Debord finds poverty — an impoverishment that matches “the scandalous poverty of the subject” identified in Critique of Separation. Subjectivity and imagination are dull, empty, poor, and therefore the irrational forces at the root of both are inappropriate to the project of social transformation. On the contrary, ‘It is necessary to go further and rationalize the world more — the first condition for impassioning it’.

The contradictions of this paradox are never resolved, but further, given the perceived impoverishment and immiseration of the subject, it remains difficult to see from where such impassionment might arise.

One answer, both to this specific problem and to the more general issue of art and The Revolution of Everyday Life, emerges in situationist considerations of language. The situationists are aware of the centrality of language to the project of social transformation. The 1963 essay “All the King’s Men” opens with the statement:

The problem of language is at the heart of all struggles between the forces striving to abolish present alienation and those striving to maintain it; it is inseparable from the entire terrain of those struggles.

Language, for the situationists, is a site for contestation and a struggle over meaning. But, as this passage indicates, the binarist mode of perception characteristic of situationist thought leads to a simplistic distinction between authentic and inauthentic, superficiality and profundity.

For example, in the 1963 essay “Basic Banalities;’ Vaneigem locates the situationist

position on the ill-defined and shifting frontier where language captured by power (conditioning) and free language (poetry) fight out their infinitely complex war.

Mustapha Khayati, in the significantly titled 1966 essay “Captive Words,” similarly considers the necessity of liberating those words which have been captured by power. These captive words form a deceptive web of lies which overlays the underlying truths of lived experience:

It is impossible to get rid of a world without getting rid of the language that conceals and protects it, without laying bare its true nature.

Hence, although articulated in the words of “the dominant organization of life;‘ the critique of that world develops into “a different language:

Every revolutionary theory has had to invent its own terms, to destroy the dominant sense of other terms and establish new meanings in the ‘world of meanings’ corresponding to the new embryonic reality needing to be liberated from the dominant trash heap’.

Détournement makes its appearance in situationist theory at this juncture because it becomes the primary means of destroying old meanings and establishing new ones in their place.

Détournement, which Lautréamont called plagiarism, confirms the thesis, long demonstrated by modern art, of the insubordination of words, of the impossibility for power to totally recuperate created meanings, to fix an existing meaning once and for all.

This is a crucial moment in situationist theory because it opens up a vertiginous perspective, but one that aids in discerning a post-situationist trajectory. Khayati identifies détournement as a confirmation of the insubordination of words — of the impossibility of attributing fixed definitions to words, but also of the refusal of words to remain obedient and controlled. But another possibility opens up here: the possibility that détournement, rather than a confirmation, is in actuality a form of managing the insurgency of words to the benefit of a post-capitalist ideological regime.

From this perspective, détournement can be characterized as a form of crisis management: acknowledging the instability and historical relativity of meanings, it does not attempt the impossible task of establishing fixed definitions; rather, under the guise of unleashing subversive meanings, it actually controls words by ordering them in rationalist configurations. “All the King’s Men” points out:

Regarding the use of words, Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty quite correctly observes, “The question is which is to be master — that’s all.”

Words — which ‘coexist with power in a relationship analogous to that which proletarians . . . have with power’ — need to be mastered in some fashion. Not surprisingly, then, the essay ends with the statement: “Our era no longer has to write out poetic orders; it has to carry them out.” The reification and mystification of the phrase “our era” aside, the imagery of issuing and executing orders clearly indicates the situationist failure to escape the ideology of power.

“All the King’s Men” refers to the phenomenon of the insubordination of words, their desertion,

their open resistance, which is manifested in all modern writing” and is “a symptom of the general revolutionary crisis.

The situationists, having failed to move fully beyond leftism, attempt to manage this crisis and channel it toward a discredited councilist regime. But in doing so they risk words (like the proletarians to whom words are compared) engaging in insubordination, desertion and open resistance against them. And it is this, quite rightly, that they fear. Words “embody forces that can upset the most careful calculations” — including those of the situationists themselves. Calculations are, of course, rational procedures and as such can be named. But the forces embodied in words are non-rational and thus cannot be named, cannot even be allowed to make a fleeting appearance, in the discourse of rationality.

“All the King’s Men” notes that “The quest for unambiguous signals . . . is . . . clearly linked with existing power.” But the situationists themselves remain hostile toward semiotic ambiguity and particularly ambiguity in language. In doing so, they reveal their rationalist commitments and come perilously close to aligning themselves with power. Considering the illusion of social unity created by myth, “Basic Banalities” asserts,

This universally dominant factitious unity attains its most tangible and concrete representation in communication, particularly in language. Ambiguity is most manifest at this level, it leads to an absence of real communication, it puts the analyst at the mercy of ridiculous phantoms, at the mercy of words — eternal and unchanging instants — whose content varies according to who pronounces them, as does the notion of sacrifice. When language is put to the test, it can no longer dissimulate the misrepresentation and thus it provokes the crisis of participation. In the language of the era one can follow the traces of total revolution, unfulfilled but always imminent. They are the exalting and terrifying signs of the upheavals they foreshadow, but who takes them seriously? The discredit striking language is as deeply rooted and instinctive as the suspicion with which myths are viewed by people who at the same time remain firmly attached to them. How can key words be defined by other words? How can phrases be used to point out the signs that refute the phraseological organization of appearance? The best texts still await their justification. When a poem by Mallarmé becomes the sole explanation for an act of revolt, then poetry and revolution will have overcome their ambiguity. To await and prepare for this moment is to manipulate information not as the last shock wave whose significance escapes everyone, but as the _first repercussion of an act still to come.

Ambiguity is assailed because it impedes real communication and places the individual at the mercy of words. By implication, according to the situationists, words — and hence meanings too — should be subject to mastery, in part because only mastery of words makes real communication possible. The clarity and stability of meanings characteristic of French classicism are key values here. But words and meanings, it seems, remain slippery, uncontrollable, insubordinate. Language has to be ‘put to the test’ in order to resolve its troubling ambiguities, which for the situationists remains tantamount to exposing the traces of total revolution that remain veiled in the ambiguities of language. Due to their ambiguity, words have fallen into general discredit and this results in a semantic collapse wherein issues of definition become problematic if not impossible, language becomes inadequate to the task of creating clarity about the sociohistorical situation, and the signs of the forthcoming social upheaval are not perceived or taken seriously.

As a result of this line of argument, the situationists maintain that words — and more particularly the words of art — need to justify and hence redeem themselves by casting off and resolving their ambiguity in the crucible of revolutionary activity: “When a poem by Mallarmé becomes the sole explanation for an act of revolt, then poetry and revolution will have overcome their ambiguity.” The notion of a Mallarmé text acting as impetus and explanation for an act of revolt is a fine one because it locates a fundamental role for words and the discourses of art in the creation of radical social transformation — indeed in a gesture of scandalous gratuitousness it assigns the poem as a self-sufficient cause of such transformation. However, the subsequent assertion that poetry needs to overcome the ambiguity of its meanings and requires justification in terms of revolutionary activism, relegates the discourse of art to a purely utilitarian function. The rationalist project of control through stabilizing and containing meanings, and through banishing ambiguity or multiple levels of meaning, becomes all too apparent at this juncture.

All language — and not just the language of power or captive words — is regarded as discredited and suspicious unless it has a unitary meaning and remains directly useful to the project of social transformation. Khayati maintains in “Captive Words” that ” We propose the real liberation of language because we propose to put it in a practice free of all constraints.” Unfortunately, however, the constraints from which language is to be liberated appear to include those very elements which provide the discourses of art with their subversive potential, notably the capacity to generate meanings which elude containment and control. Perhaps Khayati should have heeded the warning from history by which situationists habitually set so much store:

The insubordination of words, during the experimental phase from Rimbaud to the surrealists, has shown that the theoretical critique of the world of power is inseparable from a practice that destroys it.

The situationists are not exempt from this entropic process: their ” theoretical critique of the world of power” is recuperated as soon as they attempt to manage the insubordination of words, even though they do so in the name of liberating language.

The phenomenon of linguistic insubordination reveals two important issues. First it indicates that the language of ideology, and this includes ‘the fluid language of anti-ideology’, is rent with contradictions. Meanings refuse containment and cohesion. Derrida has pointed to the presence of aporia, moments of contradiction which expose the failure of ideological coherence, in every text. Such a debunking process seems less important than the presence of rogue meanings within texts: those moments when words refuse the semantic order within which they are located, when in an excess of energy meanings overflow their boundaries and take us with them into new and perhaps unknown territories, first in the realm of the imaginary but then in the world of everyday life. (Vaneigem acknowledges the significance of such moments for revolutionary practice when he notes that …those who reject all hierarchical power can use any word as a weapon to punctuate their action. Lautréamont and the illegalist anarchists were already aware of this; so were the dadaists.“)

Second, it indicates the presence of the unconscious in texts. The situationists deny the significance of the unconscious, in part because of their commitment to rationalism and unitary meanings, both of which are threatened by eruptions of the irrational, or what the surrealists call ‘the marvelous’. But the phenomenon of the insubordination of words renders this denial futile: their attempt to manage the liberation of language merely casts them in the role of King Canute, impotently trying to quell the floodtide of unconscious meanings which threaten to drown their would-be master.

This failure to halt the rising tide of contradictions and rogue or unconscious meanings remains in the long term, however, a fortunate one, because it allows us post-situationists to redeem the situationists from their worst excesses, to negate their negation in a way that one would hope they might appreciate. The route to this redemption lies through the relatively marginalized notion of poetry in situationist discourse.

“All the King’s Men” draws a rough distinction between “old poetry” or “the poetry of the past” and “the new poetry.” The former terms denote the conventional understanding of poetry. The latter constitutes what Vaneigem will later refer to in The Revolution of Everyday Life as “lived poetry.” Détournement is refreshingly restricted to the ancillary role of revivifying poetry in the conventional sense of the term (or what Vaneigem calls “poetry (in the narrow sense)”). Such a move opens the possibility for poetry — i.e., the new poetry — to assume a new, post-artistic role, but one which nevertheless preserves a role for creative practice in the process of The Revolution of Everyday Life. “All the King’s Men” defines poetry in this new sense of the term as “the revolutionary moment of language” and maintains that “It is a matter not of putting poetry at the service of the revolution, but rather of putting revolution at the service of poetry.

Art and poetry are thus positioned as antagonistic forces, a point confirmed in The Revolution of Everyday Life when Vaneigem avers: “Most art works betray poetry. How could it be otherwise, when poetry and power are irreconcilable?” Art and power are pitted over and against poetry and revolution. The supersession of art is to result in the realization of poetry. But poetry in this sense

must be understood as immediate communication within reality and as real alteration of this reality. It is nothing other than liberated language, language recovering its richness, language which breaks its rigid significations and simultaneously embraces words, music, cries, gestures, painting, mathematics, facts, acts.

Poetry in the situationist sense, then, encompasses forms of practice that are artistic (e.g. , music, painting) or expressive (cries, gestures) as well as words and forms of revolutionary action.

At first glance such a conception of poetry might seem reminiscent of the Wagnerian gesamtkunstwerk or the Artaudian theatre of cruelty, but as The Revolution of Everyday Life indicates, the inspiration appears to have a different origin: ‘The African work of art — poem, music, sculpture, mask — is not considered complete until it has become a form of speech, a word-in-action, a creative element which functions’. This statement holds important implications for the role of creative practice in the revolution of everyday life. Art is in part rejected by the situationists because of its participation in the organization of passivity. But poetry of the kind embodied in the African artwork, far from maintaining social passivity, forges direct links between creative act and social activity.

Although undeveloped, such a revised conception of poetry carries the clear implication that creative practice remains an integral part of the revolution of everyday life. The supersession of art does not entail the abolition of aesthetic creativity, nor does it necessarily consist merely of acts of negation such as détournement. The situationist notion of poetry opens the possibility for new forms of affirmative aesthetic intervention and insurgent creativity. Vaneigem refers in The Revolution of Everyday Life to “the scandal of free and total creativity” — a creativity that is scandalous because it refuses all constraints placed upon it, including those managerialist constraints envisaged by the situationists themselves:

Man [sic] is in a state of creativity twenty-four hours a day. Once revealed, the scheming use of freedom by the mechanisms of domination produces a backlash in the form of an idea of authentic freedom inseparably bound up with individual creativity … Spontaneity is the mode of existence of creativity: not an isolated state, but the unmediated experience of subjectivity. Spontaneity concretizes the passion for creation and is the first moment of its practical realization: the precondition of poetry, of the impulse to change the world in accordance with the demands of radical subjectivity.

In contrast to Debord’s notion of miserable subjectivity and consequent failure of individual expressivity, Vaneigem regards subjectivity as characterized by an abundance of creativity and expressivity. Further, Vaneigem denies Debord’s emphasis on rational controls by stressing the inseparability of creativity and spontaneity — a move which opens up once again the links between the unconscious, the creative imagination and radical social transformation. Creativity, Vaneigem maintains, is a “revolutionary force.”

The “new creators” — as Vaneigem calls the practitioners of poetry in the situationist sense — are precisely that: creators, but also creators of the new. They are not restricted to shifting through the detritus of existing culture in order to plagiarize and détourne those materials — although such procedures might play a limited, secondary role in their practice. First and foremost they are creators, poets, imaginers and insurgents. The liberation of language remains one of their aims, but once it is liberated, language must be allowed to express the meanings generated spontaneously by the creative imagination. Liberation, unlike in the case of occupied Europe, does not mean the replacement of one regime by another. Liberation, in other words, does not mean subordination. Revolution is an act of permanent insubordination, and The Revolution of Everyday Life will not become an actuality until recognized as a necessary condition. The new creators, those who embody and express the scandal of free and total creativity in words and words-in-action, have a vital role to play in creating a poetry of insurgency that will inform and shape The Revolution of Everyday Life.

Lived Poetry: Stirner, Anarchy, Subjectivity, and the Art of Living

Introduction

At the heart of the new anarchism(s) there lies a concern with developing a whole new way of being in and acting upon the world. Contemporary revolutionary anarchism is not merely interested in effecting changes in socioeconomic relations or dismantling the State, but in developing an entire art of living, which is simultaneously anti-authoritarian, anti-ideological and anti-political. The development of a distinctively anarchist savoir-vivre is a profoundly existential and ontological concern and one rich in implication for the definition of contemporary anarchist practice, activity and projects. Central to this process is the issue of anarchist subjectivity and inter-subjectivity, as well as related concerns about language and creativity.

Hakim Bey, Language, and Ontological Anarchy

Hakim Bey’s essay ‘Ontological anarchy in a nutshell’ (1994) provides a concise but landmark formulation of this issue. The opening passage of the essay focuses on the existential status of the anarchist and anarchist practice:

Since absolutely nothing can be predicated with any certainty as to the “true nature of things,” all projects (as Nietzsche says) can only be “founded on nothing.” And yet there must be a project — if only because we ourselves resist being categorized as ‘nothing.’ Out of nothing we will make something: the Uprising, the revolt against everything which proclaims: “The Nature of Things is such-&-such“. (Bey, 1994: 1)

Drawing upon Nietzschean perspectivism, Bey mounts an anti-foundationalist argument: given the collapse of the philosophical concept of truth, there is no foundation, no basis upon which anarchist subjectivity or activity can be grounded — no foundation, that is, except nothingness itself. Developing his perspective from this epistemological premise, Bey identifies a distinctively anarchist mode of being: ontological anarchy. The anarchist hangs suspended in space above the abyss, certain of nothing except the nothing over which s/he hovers and from which s/he springs. But this existential condition, rather than a cause for despair, remains the source of limitless freedom. For, as Bey indicates, “Out of nothing we will imagine our values, and by this act of invention we shall live” (Bey, 1994: 1). Being and nothingness are not binary oppositions in this formulation, but elements of an overarching complementarity:

Individual vs. Group — Self vs. Other — a false dichotomy propagated through the Media of Control, and above all through language … Self and Other complement and complete one another. There is no Absolute Category, no Ego, no Society — but only a chaotically complex web of relation — and the ‘Strange Attractor’, attraction itself, which evokes resonances and patterns in the flow of becoming. (Bey, 1994: 3)

Nothing can be said about the nothingness underlying existence. Language cannot penetrate and organise this space, except tentatively perhaps through poetry and metaphor:

As we meditate on the nothing we notice that although it cannot be de-fined, nevertheless paradoxically we can say something about it (even if only metaphorically): it appears to be a ‘chaos’.

Through wordplay, through ludic and poetic language, Bey attempts, not to define nothingness, but to evoke it. Nothingness emerges in his account, not as an empty void, but as a chaos of plenitude and abundance: ‘chaos-as-becoming, chaos-as-excess, the generous outpouring of nothing into something’. Or, to put it more succinctly: ‘chaos is life’. Binarist language, unable to constellate a chaos which everywhere overflows its boundaries, seeks to control, contain and domesticate it through the deployment of dualistic categories. Against this language of order and stasis, Bey proposes the language of poetry — a fluid language based on metaphor and thus appropriate to the expression of the flows and patterns of passion, desire and attraction which characterise chaos — and a “utopian poetics” (Bey, 1994: 1-4).

Rooted in nothingness, the dynamic chaos that underpins existence, anarchist subjectivity is a life-affirmative expression of becoming. For Bey (1994: 1) “all movement … is chaos” whereas stasis remains the characteristic of order. But the anarchist subject is not merely a subject-in-process, but a subject-in-rebellion, and as a result remains nothing without a project. The anarchist affirmation of nothingness simultaneously enacts a refusal of being categorised as a (mere) nothing — or as a mere being. But, further, the anarchist affirmation of nothingness is a “revolt against everything” — in short an insurrection against the totality, against the entire assemblage of social relations structured by governance and control. In other words, the anarchist project affirms nothing(ness) against everything that exists, precisely because anarchy (or its synonym, chaos) is always in a condition of becoming.

The anarchist subject — and by extension the anarchist project — is necessarily in a constant state of flux and mutability. Characterised by spontaneous creativity, anarchist subjectivity is marked for Bey by imagination and invention, and hence finds its most appropriate mode of expression in poetic language. Anarchist subjectivity emerges in his work as a synonym for poetic subjectivity, and anarchist revolt as a synonym for the immediate realisation of the creative or poetic imagination in everyday life. Anarchy, in short, remains a condition of embodied or lived poetry. The notion of lived poetry originates with the situationists, who contrast lived poetry with the language-form of the poem. Lived poetry is a form of activity, not merely a mode of writing, and springs up in moments of revolt and rebellion. It is life lived as an act of spontaneous creativity and the complete embodiment of radical theory in action (see Moore, 1997b; 2002).

The anarchist-as-poet aims to create and recreate the world endlessly through motility and revolt. In part, this project becomes realisable because the anarchist affirms (rather than denies) the nothingness that underlies all things, and openly founds the anarchist project on this nothing. This affirmation re-situates the individual within the matrix of chaos and makes available — to itself and others — the plenitude of its creative energy. Freedom consists of the capacity to shape this creative energy in everyday life according to will and desire: ‘Any form of “order” which we have not imagined and produced directly and spontaneously in sheer “existential freedom” for our own celebratory purposes — is an illusion.’ (Bey, 1994: 2). But in order to achieve a generalisation of chaos, the anarchist needs to form affinities and create insurrectional projects based on these affinities:

From Stirner’s ‘Union of Self-Owning Ones’ we proceed to Nietzsche’s circle of ‘Free Spirits’ and thence to Fourier’s ‘Passional Series’, doubling and redoubling ourselves even as the Other multiplies itself in the eros of the group. (Bey, 1994: 4).

Anarchist subjectivity, then, is defined by a complex web of interrelations between the autonomous individual, passional affinities, and the matrix of chaos which “lies at the heart of our project“. (Bey, 1994: 1). Anarchist subjectivity, in other words, remains inseparable from anarchist intersubjectivity. The anarchist project is formed through interactions that occur between those who desire to dispel the illusory stases of order — those illusions which obscure the unlimited creative potentials of chaos, which manifest themselves as lived poetry in daily life. As Bey says of affinities formed through free association:

the activity of such a group will come to replace Art as we poor PoMo bastards know it. Gratuitous creativity, or “play”, and the exchange of gifts, will cause the withering-away of Art as the reproduction of commodities (Bey, 1994: 4).

Anarchy, a condition of free creativity generated through motility and revolt, can only be conceived and realised by the poetic imagination and, as far as words are concerned, can only find expression in poetic language.

In Bey’s formulations, the anarchist subject is simultaneously unary, multiple and heterogeneous. Under conditions of power, the multiplicity of the subject is denied and erased. Through the production of psychosocial stases, power manufactures an apparently unified identity for each individual, containing and channelling otherwise free energies on to the territories of governance and control. These stases of order are illusory, however, in that the organised appearance of unitary identity is based upon the introduction of division into the subject. Power disrupts the free flows of energy within the holistic field of subjectivity: it carves up this field and delimits the split subject, divided from and turned against itself in ways which enhance profit maximisation and social control. A language structured around binary oppositions — and principally the polarity between self and other — maintains a regime based on separation and alienation. Anarchist revolt seeks to abolish all forms of power and control structures. In terms of subjectivity, this project entails destruction of the illusions of a separate self and recovery of a free-flowing and holistic sense of subjectivity. Insurrection aims to dismantle staticity, overcome blockages and put the subject back into process. As part of realising this project, the anarchist uses poetic language in order to combat the language of control and its sociolinguistic construction of the divided self. For the anarchist, poetic language — in all its apparent illogicality — provides the logical mode of expression for the creation of a life of lived poetry, a means for breaking through the dominant logic, and a repository for the savoir-vivre necessary to live in conditions of chaos.

Ontological Anarchy, Modernity and Postmodernity

As a synthetic thinker, Bey constructs a bricolage of materials derived from a variety of sources including anarchism, situationism, existentialism and surrealism. However, his formulations concerning ontological anarchy remain exemplary and indicative of the philosophical underpinnings of the new anarchism(s). Although the range of sources upon which he draws suggests that the ideational matrix from which the new anarchism(s) emerge is not in itself particularly new, it is nevertheless associated with newness.

In an important essay entitled ‘Anarchy as modernist aesthetic’, Carol Vanderveer Hamilton (1995) has identified a discourse of anarchy which runs through modernism and shapes and informs its aesthetics. Subsequently obscured by liberal and Marxist interpretations of modernism, Hamilton maintains that the discourse of anarchy structured modernist representation through a cultural identification of the signifier of the anarchist bomb with modernity. In modernism, then, anarchy became a synonym for newness.

Hamilton’s groundbreaking text opens up crucial issues, but given its preliminary nature the discussion inevitably remains generalised. Although the analysis is remarkably wide ranging, the focus on propaganda by deed and the bomb as metonym for anarchism is ultimately restrictive. Hamilton has crucially identified the existence of a discourse of anarchy and established its significance within modernity, yet in her account anarchism emerges as a seemingly uniform doctrine. The reasons for this are not hard to detect. A survey of the anarchist figures who are namechecked — notably Kropotkin, Goldman, Berkman, De Cleyre and Reclus — suggests that the focus of Hamilton’s essay is effectively anarcho-communism. The Stirnerian individualist strand within classical anarchism does not appear within Hamilton’s discussion of the discourse of anarchy, despite the widespread acknowledgement of the influence of this strand on modernist thought and aesthetics. In the current context, this remains unfortunate, as it is clear that Stirner remains not merely a crucial influence on modernist anarchism and more generally on modernity, but (more importantly for current purposes) also the key figure underpinning the new anarchism(s) in the period of postmodernity. Even Murray Bookchin, the major ideological opponent of the new anarchism(s), admits the latter point in his splenetic survey of current developments within contemporary anarchy, Social anarchism or lifestyle anarchism: an unbridgeable chasm (Bookchin, 1995). In order to understand the significance of Stirner to both modernist anarchism and (more pertinently) the new anarchism(s), the nature and significance of his thought needs to be radically revised.

Stirner and the Anarcho-Psychological Episteme

In The Order of Things and The Archaeology of Knowledge, Michel Foucault develops a discursive archaeological methodology which “attempts to study the structure of the discourses of the various disciplines that have claimed to put forth theories of society, individuals, and language” (Dreyfus and Rabinow, 1982: 17).

To achieve this aim, he introduces the notion of the episteme, which he defines as follows:

By episteme, we mean … the total set of relations that unite, at a given period, the discursive practices that give rise to epistemological figures, sciences, and possibly formalized systems … The episteme is not a form of knowledge (connaissance) or type of rationality which, crossing the boundaries of the most varied sciences, manifests the sovereign unity of a subject, a spirit, or a period; it is the totality of relations that can be discovered, for a given period, between the sciences when one analyses them at the level of discursive regularities. (Foucault, 1972: 191)

On this basis, Foucault then attempts to “isolate and describe the epistemic systems that underlie three major epochs in Western thought“: the Renaissance, the Classical Age, and Modernity (Dreyfus and Rabinow, 1982: 18). In analysing these epistemic systems, however, he remains largely concerned with the operations and regimes of power rather than projects aimed at the abolition of power; and, where he is interested in struggles against power, the struggles considered are usually of a partial or reformist nature. In examining any one epistemic system, he is interested in conflicts and resistances, but the historical course of these conflicts remain of limited concern, and he neglects entirely to examine those discursive — and extra-discursive — practices which seek to overthrow any ruling episteme and the social formation which it articulates. In his account of modernity, for example, those anarchist projects — and particularly the Stirnerian strain — which attempt to initiate a total transformation of life are completely absent from Foucault’s discussion.

John Carroll’s seminal study Break out from the crystal palace: the anarcho-psychological critique: Stirner, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky provides an invaluable corrective to Foucault’s failures, and indicates the centrality of the Stirnerian — or what Carroll more broadly calls the anarcho-psychological — critique to both the anarchist project and modernity/postmodernity. Although he does not frame his analysis in Foucauldian terms, Carroll’s study investigates the discursive conflicts that took place within the emerging episteme of modernity during the nineteenth century. Carroll focuses on the struggle that occurred between what he variously terms three different intellectual, theoretical or ideological traditions, competing social theories, perspectives, world-views, or bodies of social theory (Carroll, 1974: 1, 2, 3, 6, 13, 14 passim). Two of these conflicting perspectives — British, liberal, utilitarian rationalist social philosophy and Marxist socialism — are well known and widely acknowledged elements of the episteme of modernity. The third, however, the anarcho-psychological critique, has been scandalously neglected and written out of accounts of the formation of modernity.

Carroll’s text restores the anarcho-psychological critique to its rightful place as a key element in the discursive — and by extension, extra-discursive — contestations over the modern/postmodern condition. Break Out convincingly demonstrates that although the anarcho-psychological critique has been obscured by the political conflicts of the two dominant paradigms of capitalist liberal-rationalism and Marxist socialism, its antipolitics has acted as a persistent underground presence, exerting a barely acknowledged and sometimes unsuspected but often widespread influence. Taking Carroll’s analysis further, it can be argued that with the collapse of the Marxist paradigm, the anarcho-psycholog-ical critique is finally emerging from its subterranean hideout and, in contemporary anarchy, catalysing the breakout from the crystal palace of the control complex.

Carroll argues that the anarcho-psychological critique commences with the publication of Stirner’s Der Einzige und sein Eigentum in 1845 (translated as The ego and its own). This text “inaugurates the reconstitution of philosophical debate” and constitutes “a crossroads in nineteenth-century intellectual history” (Carroll, 1974: 26, 88). The distinctive and innovative feature of Stirner’s formulations in particular and the anarcho-psychological critique in general remains its emphasis on a unique ontology or, rather, an ontology of uniqueness:

At the basis of the philosophical innovations of Stirner and Nietzsche is ontology: their radically new perspective on religion, on morals, on political and social life, stems from their attitude to being. Their entire work branches out from the stem conviction that there is a primary order of reality about which all that can be said is that the individual exists, that ‘I am!’ The individual first exists, and then begins to define himself [sic]. Essences, the communicable, socially mediated dimension of individual character belong to the second order of reality. Behind them lies an unconscious, irreducible, never realizable or comprehensible force, an inviolable coherency: the individuum. This is the ground of der Einzige, the unique one, the realm of what Stirner calls his ‘creative nothing’. (Carroll, 1974: 39)

Carroll’s analysis proceeds from an examination of ontology to a discussion of the epistemological anarchy developed within the anarcho-psychological critique.

If this cluster of ideas seems familiar, this is because the anarcho-psychological critique clearly underlies Hakim Bey’s contemporary formulation of ontological anarchy in particular and the new anarchism(s) more generally. Carroll makes it clear that the antipolitics characteristic of the anarcho-psychological critique remains rooted in its ontological commitments, but this is evidently as true for Bey as it is for Stirner:

The political anarchism of Stirner and Nietzsche is a logical development of their ontological anarchism: their denigration of social authorities represents one dimension of their endeavour to displace the authority of essences and stress the primacy of the I. Both see the springs of the human condition as anarchic, willful, problematical, a complex of forces with their deeply individual source beneath the superstructure of social mediation; both recognize what Plato referred to as the ‘unutterable’ in each individual, a noumenal core which makes of human thinking, of necessity, an isolated, introspective activity. The social or essentialist superstructure is by itself lifeless; its function is to provide the I with a means of expression. (Carroll, 1974: 39)

Stirner anticipates the Heideggerian/Sartrean emphasis on existence preceding essence. In fact, ‘Stirner illustrates how the individual ego, whose ontological ground is simply the self-reflection that it exists, is fettered as soon as it subordinates itself to qualities or essences’ (Carroll, 1974: 21). Historically, the Stirnerian ego comes to consciousness in a world of socio-existential alienation. Historically this is the case because, as Stirner’s broad overview of history indicates (1993: 15-151), individuals have always been subject to governance, order and control. The anti-authoritarian insurrection proposed in The ego and its own, however, aims to bring about a historically unprecedented world in which socio-existential alienation will be abolished. Born out of a creative nothingness (or non-existence), the ego comes into existence by asserting itself, affirming its existence — in other words, asserting the only thing which, for the individual, has any ontological foundation: its self.

The subject, then, is self-created: it creates itself as an individual by and through its assertion of its self. Language acquisition and use remains crucial to this act of self-affirmation. In emerging from a condition of non-existence to one of existence, a being issues forth spontaneously, but then finds itself in a world requiring introspection and self-reflection. Or, to put it another way: being emerges from a condition of ineffability into a world of language. In some respects this account of the construction of the self concurs with the theories developed by Jacques Lacan (see Payne, 1993). However, on the issue of language, the two thinkers diverge radically. Both agree that language is the major force through which the individual is constituted and structured. However, while Lacan maintains that the entry into language entails a simultaneous submission to social authority, and the beginning of alienation as the self passes from full self-presence to the condition of absence characteristic of language systems predicated on the signifier/signified division, Stirner’s perspective on this issue remains rather more radical.

Emerging from non-existence into self-consciousness, the Stirnerian being creates itself as an individual by appropriating language: or, more accurately, by appropriating in the first instance only those words which it needs to bring itself into existence as an individual and express its self-affirmation: I am! The Stirnerian being possesses the (self-)confidence to undertake this act of (self-) assertion because, at the deepest levels of being, it never becomes separated from the creative nothingness which is the ontological (non-)ground of its existence. The creative nothingness of the unutterable void beneath all existence underlies and precedes all notions of self, signifying systems, social mediations and authority structures. But its inexhaustible creativity remains a wellspring at the source of the individual being and fills the latter with confidence in its capacities and energy with which to fulfil its potentials:

I am owner of my might, and I am so when I know myself as unique. In the unique one the owner himself returns into his creative nothing, of which he is born. Every higher essence above me, be it God, be it man, weakens the feeling of my uniqueness, and pales before the sun of this consciousness. If I concern myself for myself, the unique one, then my concern rests on its transitory, mortal creator, who consumes himself, and I may say: ‘All things are nothing to me.’ (Stirner, 1993: 366)

This sonorous passage, the closing words of Stirner’s symphonic The ego and its own, articulates some key themes concerning the self-creation and self-realisation of the individual. The individual is defined by the capacity to own, and primarily by the ability to own him or herself — that is to say, to dispose of the self and act in any way congruent with one’s will, desire or interest. Ownership of self is primary; other forms of ownership are secondary and derive from this fundamental form. As a subject-in-process (indeed, a subject-in-rebellion, for reasons that will become apparent subsequently), the Stirnerian self is constantly re-creating itself and revising its modes of activity in accordance with its changing desires and interests, but throughout these continual changes one constant persists: the need to own oneself or be in a condition of ownness. Being in a condition of ownness means first and foremost that an individual is able to draw upon the fund of creative energies which are loaned to it by the nothingness at the basis of its being. These energies are then available at the free disposal of the individual. The capacity to make free and unhindered use of these energies defines the individual as unique. The individual becomes a unique one at the moment of self-reflexivity, in the instant in which she or he realises his or her ownness. The self-created individual wilfully creates and destroys itself. Although the energies of the void are inexhaustible, those energies loaned to the individual are finite. The individual uses up those energies in its progress toward self-realisation: it creates but also consumes and ultimately burns itself out. The individual comes from nothing and returns to nothing. The turning point in this voyage of self-creation and self-destruction occurs at the apogee of its attainment. At the very moment when the individual realises itself as unique, at the exact moment when the maximum degree of individuation and differentiation has taken place, then ‘the owner himself returns into his creative nothing, of which he is born’. But at the peak of its powers the individual is less like a comet than a sun — ‘the sun of this consciousness’ — a burning orb which illuminates, by contrast, the dark void which contains it.

This process is set in motion with each individual’s primal assertion of selfhood. By appropriating the words ‘I am!’, the Stirnerian self takes ownership of language, or at least that little corner that she or he can make their own at this stage of maturation. Confidently rooted in the unutterability of the roots of its being, the Stirnerian individual creates a self through owning language. The origins of selfhood are thus indistinguishable from ownership. The self achieves its initial sense of ownness through making language its own, and exalts in this first victory of its will. The Stirnerian subject is neither intimidated nor victimised by language as the individual is in the Lacanian schema. The reasons for this are clear: the Stirnerian subject is not a split subject, divided by language, because its identity is not wholly defined by language, but remains rooted in the creative nothingness from which it springs. Hence the attitude of such a subject to language — as to the world in general — is not one of victim or dependent, but that of conqueror. Identity is not to be sought in and through language, because it has not been lost; the Stirnerian subject does not need to search for a self, but starts from it:

the question runs, not how one can acquire life, but how one can squander, enjoy it; or, not how one is to produce the self in himself, but how one is to dissolve himself, to live himself out (Stirner, 1993: 320).

However, in seeking self-realisation, the Stirnerian ego is immediately confronted with other wills and forces which seek to delimit, contain and control the self-willed individual, and hence “the combat of self-assertion is inevitable” (p. 9). The Stirnerian ego maintains that “Nothing is more to me than myself!” (p. 5), but finds itself in a world where power, in all its varied shapes and forms, wants the ego to accept that ‘It is more to me than myself’ (p. 305). In such a world, conflict remains inevitable unless the individual consents to submit to a life of alienation, subordination and self-renunciation. “A human life,” the opening chapter of The Ego and its Own, traces the stages of this lifelong struggle which commences at birth:

From the moment when he catches sight of the light of the world a man seeks to find out himself and get hold of himself out of its confusion, in which he, with everything else, is tossed about in motley mixture.

The ego is born into a world of illusions which ensnare and blind the individual, and from which the ego must disentangle itself if it is to realise itself. These delusions are caused by the dominance of abstractions — what Stirner calls spooks (‘Spuke’) — over concrete individuals. Abstractions — concepts, ideas, beliefs and so on — that were once attributes and thus possessions of individuals, now control their one-time owners, and crystallise as fixed ideas which prevent the free flows of subjective will and desire. They are, in short, power relations. Stirner’s entire insurrectional project — which, as Carroll indicates, is envisaged as a revolution against the totality of power relations, not merely the State — thus directly derives from the ontological status of the individual. The ramifications of this insurrectional project are manifold and beyond the scope of this chapter. In what follows, attention will be limited to the key issue of language.

Stirner, Language, and Subjectivity

Stirnerian ontology postulates a radical monism. The Stirnerian ego, as indicated above, embodies a paradoxical reconciliation of opposites, as it is simultaneously being and nothingness: a self-created autonomous but ephemeral individual and an inexhaustible creative nothingness. The crucial moment in the emergence of the former from the latter, however, remains the simultaneous act of self-assertion and the subject’s insertion (or perhaps more accurately, incursion) into language. At this moment, the primary instance of self-expression, but also the moment when self-expression and self-assertion become identical, the ego moves from the realm of the unutterable into the world of utterance (while not, of course, entirely abandoning the former world). From that moment onward, however, the ego increasingly discovers that the world of utterance is characterised by conflict and delusion, and that she or he must adopt a combative stance and a contestatory mode of procedure if self-realisation is to occur. In the first instance, this contestation takes place within language or in activities whose structures and parameters are defined through language. Language, then, becomes a key area requiring mastery by the Stirnerian ego because it remains essential to the devising of insurrectional projects.

The importance of language in Stirner’s work cannot be overestimated. The world of utterance (or, at least in historical terms, the world of power) is a world haunted by spooks — disembodied ideas, principles and concepts, abstractions which take the form of words. The spook is a revenant who assumes the insubstantial shape of the dominant discourse, the language of governance, before it manifests itself in more material forms. It is the language of order, management, utility and rationality. Hence, the ego seeks to find and express itself in a language of insurrection, a language of radical otherness which negates dominant discourses and their expressive modes, as well as embodying the ego’s selfaffirmation in a style commensurate with its uniqueness.

Carroll refers to Stirner’s ‘constant concern with revitalizing language, repossessing it as a creative force’ (Carroll, 1974: 36). Power drains language of its vitality and creativity: it captures words, domesticates them, debilitates them, debases them, instrumentalises them, makes them prosaic, so that they may act as a means for maintaining social control. The Stirnerian ego seeks to liberate language, or rather repossess it so that it once again becomes available for the free self-expression and enjoyment of the individual. However, it is not sufficient for the egoist merely to reappropriate an enervated or aridly rationalistic language: in making language its own, the egoist must regenerate and reinfuse it with the creativity which lies at the depths of his/her being. The Stirnerian ego, in other words, transforms language: she or he does not speak in the prosaic language of authority, but in the only language suitable for an insurrection against authority: the language of poetry.

Stirner dreams of a ‘literature that deals blows at the State itself’ (1993: 226) and The Ego and its Own is an attempt to generate such a text. Even in translation, Stirner’s distinctive, poetic style of writing remains evident. Although it is a work of philosophy, it is not composed in the ‘stiff, concept-strictured’ writing style characteristic of the discourse, but has instead a ‘highly flexible aphoristic style’ full of ‘gaiety and buoyancy’ (Carroll, 1974: 27-35). As in many other respects, Stirner anticipates Nietzsche in becoming the first Dichterphilosoph (poet-philosopher), penning passages of pure poetry, such as the following indictment of the ego’s historical self-alienation and dispossession:

I, who am really I, must pull off the lion-skin of the I from the stalking thistle-eater [Power]. What manifold robbery have I not put up with in the history of the world! There I let sun, moon, and stars, cats and crocodiles, receive the honour of ranking as I; there Jehovah, Allah, and Our Father came and were invested with the I; there families, tribes, peoples, and at last actually mankind, came and were honoured as I’s; there the Church, the State, came with the pretension to be I — and I gazed calmly on all. What wonder if then there was always a real I too that joined the company and affirmed in my face that it was not my you but my real I. Why the Son of Man par excellence had done the like; why should not a son of man do it too? So I saw my I always above me and outside me, and could never really come to myself. (Stirner, 1993: 224-5)

Due to the central value placed upon creativity by Stirner, Carroll maintains that ‘the artist is the most appropriate paradigm for the egoist’ (1974: 4). But this formulation could equally be reversed so that the egoist becomes the paradigmatic artist. However, the art with which the egoist remains primarily concerned is the ars vitae (the art of living) because as a subject in process (of constant self-creation) — ‘I am every moment just positing or creating myself’ — his/her life is a work of art (Stirner, 1993: 150). But an authentic ars vitae remains impossible without a certain savoir-vivre — and such knowledge can only be born of reflection; hence, given the decisive role of language acquisition to individuation for Stirner, the importance of the text as a means for self-expression. The ars vitae and the ars poetica are not antithetical in Stirner, but intimately interconnected.

Although presumably possessing some kind of genealogical link with the eighteenth-century German Romantic prose poems of Novalis, The Ego and its Own is appropriately sui generis. It is not a work of poetry in the conventionally accepted sense of the term at the time of its publication. Nevertheless, it remains a work couched in poetic language. In order to appreciate the significance of Stirner’s innovation and the magnitude of his achievement in this text, it is necessary to relate The Ego and its Own to the analysis of literary discourse undertaken by Julia Kristeva in Revolution in poetic language.

Stirner and Poetic Language

For Kristeva, poetic language and poetry are not coterminous: “neither confined to poetry as a genre nor inclusive of all poetry, poetic language inscribes the signifying process and manifests the negativity, rejection, and heterogeneity of the subject“. Poetic language “stands for the infinite possibilities of language” whereas “all other language acts are merely partial realizations of the possibilities inherent in ‘poetic language’“. Kristevan textual analysis consists of investigating the relations between two interdependent modalities within the signifying process that constitutes language: the semiotic and the symbolic. These modes manifest two aspects of the subject. The semiotic refers to the rhythms, flows and pulsations which play across and within the body of the subject prior to language acquisition. Semiotic rhythms are never entirely lost, even when they are overlaid and hidden by the symbolic — the order and syntax characteristic of language. Indeed, Kristevan textual analysis focuses on the interplay between semiotic and symbolic dispositions within any text. When the symbolic disposition predominates, a text becomes a phenotext, in other words bound by “societal, cultural, syntactical, and other grammatical constraints;” when the semiotic disposition predominates, a text becomes a genotext, a space for the actualisation of poetic language, an anarchic language which irrupts in rebellion against the constraints of social and semantic order.

By erupting from its repressed or marginalised place and by thus displacing established signifying practices, poetic discourse corresponds, in its effects, in terms of the subject, to revolution in the socioeconomic order (in Payne, 1993: 165).

Historically, commencing with the texts of Lautréamont and Mallarmé in the last third of the nineteenth century, Kristeva discerns in the work of certain avant-garde writers a shift in emphasis towards the deliberate creation of genotexts which, by actuating the revolutionary potential inherent in poetic discourse, brings about a revolution in poetic language. This kind of avant-garde text “may be interpreted as an affirmation of freedom, as an anarchic revolt (even though it openly advocates neither freedom nor revolution) against a society that extols material goods and profit. This remains precisely the problem which Kristeva, her focus inclined entirely on literary texts, remains unable to resolve.

The avant-garde text, lacking any commitment to revolutionary social transformation at the level of content, confines its revolution to language and form, and thus remains subject to recuperation. Equally, the conventional political tract, failing to draw upon the revolutionary capacities of poetic language, confines its incendiary appeals to the level of content, and moreover stultifies itself by embodying them in the language of order and rule. Opaque to one another, these two forms of discourse remain trapped within their limitations and thus incapable of enacting radical psychosocial transformation.

Kristeva borrows from Plato the term chora to designate the space which Stirner calls creative nothingness. The chora is “the place where the subject is both generated and negated, the place where his [sic] unity succumbs before the process of charges and stases that produce him“. Like the creative nothing, it remains unrepresentable because it is impermeable to language: “although the chora can be designated and regulated, it can never be definitively posited.

Indifferent to language, enigmatic and feminine, this space underlying the written is rhythmic, unfettered, irreducible to its intelligible verbal translation; it is musical, anterior to judgment, but restrained by a single guarantee: syntax (Kristeva, 1984: 29).

While language (and the realm of the symbolic in general) tends to generate a fixed identity around the personal pronoun “I,” the semiotic rhythms derived from the chora undermine these tendencies and ensure a heterogeneous subjectivity which “cannot be grasped, contained, or synthesized by linguistic or ideological structures.” As a result, the heterogeneous subject remains continually in process, free of the stases typical of a unary subjectivity; but, further, in terms of representation, the signifying practices produced by such a subject set off an “explosion of the semiotic in the symbolic.

Kristeva’s discussion helps to clarify the revolutionary nature of the charged poetic language which runs through The Ego and its Own as well as the significance of Stirner’s concern with subjectivity and the emergence, formation and ongoing development of the subject. Stirner’s consideration of these issues, however, extends beyond issues of subjectivity to encompass an interest in intersubjectivity and its role in shaping the self and projects for self-realisation. Contrary to the opinion of Stirner’s detractors, the Stirnerian egoist is not an isolated, selfish egotist. The egoist seeks self-realisation through owning him/herself and thus becoming unique. But from the beginning this project is thwarted, and thus the egoist declares war on society, the State and all the other forms of power which attempt to obstruct or limit his/her will to self-enjoyment. At a certain stage, however, the egoist realises that she or he does not have the capacity to combat Power on her/his own, but must link up with other egoists who are similarly seeking self-realisation through free activity. Stirner recommends that the egoist seek affinities within a union of egos. The individual egoist cannot achieve self-realisation in isolation, nor within current social arrangements, and so, through union, egoists mutually pursue the insurrectionary project of “the liberation of the world” — but each for entirely egoistic reasons.

Stirner does not regard the union, however, as merely an unavoidable and perhaps unpleasant expedient, but as a mode of affinity rooted in the subject’s ontological condition:

Not isolation or being alone, but society, is man’s original state. Our existence begins with the most intimate conjunction, as we are already living with our mother before we breathe; when we see the light of the world, we at once lie on a human being’s breast again, her love cradles us in the lap, spoon-feeds us, and chains us to her person with a thousand ties. Society is our state of nature. And this is why, the more we learn to feel ourselves, the connection that was formerly most intimate becomes ever looser and the dissolution of the original society more unmistakable. To have once again for herself the child that once lay under her heart, the mother must fetch it from the street and from the midst of its playmates. The child prefers the intercourse that it enters into with its fellows to the society that it has not entered into, but been born into.
But the dissolution of society is intercourse or union. A society does assuredly arise by union too, but only as a fixed idea arises by a thought … If a union has crystallized into a society, it has ceased to become a coalition; for coalition is an incessant self-uniting; it has become a unitedness, come to a standstill, degenerated into a fixity; it is — dead as a union, it is the corpse of the union or the coalition, it is — society, community.
(Stirner, (1993: 305-6))

In Kristevan terms, the Stirnerian subject can be seen to inhabit the realm of the semiotic before and immediately succeeding birth. Intimately connected with the chora, the mother’s body, the pre-linguistic subject lives in a condition of immediacy. However, in the course of time, this condition comes to be regarded as a restriction, a limitation, a shackle. The subject, made aware of its individuality through the self-assertion and self-reflexivity provided by language acquisition, asserts its independence in order to quit a narrow for a wider form of interdependence. The (speaking) subject prefers (social/sexual) intercourse or union with companions in a sphere that has been chosen or willed, rather than one that has been purely given. Language, openly but playfully conflated with sexuality, provides the means whereby erotic energies are directed away from the mother’s body and into the space of the union. However, as these energies derive from the chora, they are not lost or denied, but incorporated into the union. As a result, the union is not a fixed but a fluid mode of practice. The subject is formed by the synergy of the diverse erotic fluxes which flow in and through the intercourse of the union, just as much as, if not more than, in the initial condition of sociality with the mother. The union acts as a means for multiplying and magnifying as well as diversifying these motile flows and directing them toward a maximisation of uniqueness for each participant. Language more specifically, poetic language — plays a central role in achieving this aim. As a fluid mode of practice, the union requires a signifying practice commensurate with its form. The union is not based on unanimity (‘unitedness’) but resemblance — a resemblance of interests. If metaphor, the basic figure of poetry, comprises a pattern of resemblances, then the union is a living metaphor, an embodiment of lived poetry, and the words spoken in the union are in the (m)other tongue of poetic language.

Conclusion

Although a close analysis of the physical, material aspects of the language of The Ego and its Own would be necessary for purposes of substantiating the presence of the genotext in Stirner’s work, it is my contention that this text constitutes a veritable embodiment of the revolution in poetic language. Further, I maintain that Stirner’s text not only prefigures but initiates the revolution in poetic language which Kristeva detects in late-nineteenth-century avant-garde writing. Stirner’s key role in the formation of the episteme of modernity has already been established: his inauguration of the revolution in poetic language can now be recognised as an important aspect of that epistemic shift. Further still, I contend that Stirner has, in advance, anticipated and resolved the issues which for Kristeva stultify the revolutionary impetus in textual and by extension extra-textual terms. These are large claims, but following Carroll’s recovery of Stirner’s unacknowledged but seminal participation in and influence on the discursive formation of modernity/ postmodernity, I would go so far as to claim that the insurrectionary impulse articulated and embodied in The Ego and its Own constitutes — to adapt Conrad’s term — the secret agent of (modern) history. Although driven underground by the clash of rival political ideologies for much of the twentieth century, the anti-ideological antipolitics of this revolutionary perspective is once again surfacing in the new anarchism(s). And the revolution in poetic language at the core of its textuality remains central to its insurrectionary purpose.

[Editors’ note: this was the second draft of John’s essay, completed about two months before his death.Whilst we believe that this stands as a finished piece in itself, because a substantial proportion of the text is dependent on a flawed translation of Max Stirner’s The Ego and its Own from the German (Byington’s translation), there are a number of areas that we hoped to clarify prior to publication. This should not be seen as a weakness, but more in the spirit of ongoing debates about the relationship between theory, method, and practice, which were always central to John’s concerns.]

Beyond the Fragments: A Reaction to Industrial Society and Its Future

Two polar positions have been assumed by most commentators on ‘the Unabomber’, even within the anarchist milieu. On the one hand, there is the predictable ‘fluffy’ repudiation of violence. On the other hand, there is a romanticization of the bomber(s) as outlaw hero(es — never -ines). Both responses are in error. The first can be rejected out of hand as just another symptom of bourgeois playacting at being revolutionary, all the more irritating when it is accompanied by praise of violent activity in other times and other places. The second is more problematic because ‘the Unabomber’ does raise a crucial issue of our time: the urgent necessity of outright assault on the industrial system. Rather, however, than appraise the acts of ‘the Unabomber’ (which others can do much better), this essay focuses on something more tangible: the ‘Unabomber’ manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future. If the following discussion remains largely critical of FC, this is due, not to any condemnation of the bombings, but to a question of ideological motivation. Emma Goldman refused to condemn Leon Czolgosz when he assassinated President McKinlay, even though was suspicious of his motivations and disagreed with his action, and this seems like an admirable anarchist example — even in the present instance, when I offer critical support for FC’s acts. But FC, unlike Czolgosz, act from a set of formulated principles, and these demand scrutiny. This essay questions FC’s commitment to anti-authoritarian radicalism and thus is intended to give pause for thought to those who would lend uncritical support to ‘the Unabomber’.

Introduction: Bomb Culture

Baudrillard asserts that the explosion of the terrorist’s bomb causes an implosion of meaning, a gaping hole in the social fabric that power frantically seeks to cover in order to restore the tyranny of meaning. If this is correct, then Industrial Society and Its Future is unwittingly on the side of power.

On reading FC’s text, I feel, not disgust, horror or outrage, but disappointment. Given the opportunity, on a national or even international platform, to express at length a damning critique of the totality and pose a radical alternative, FC fail miserably. As other commentators indicate, the acts of FC are not unethical: they are scandalous, yet inadequate. But the words of FC are worse — they are inept. In place of critique, in place of vision, FC offers more dreary ideology. When rebel words are needed, FC gives tawdry tag-ends from the shopworn ideas of pop culture. Silence might have been better. In this instance, acts might have spoken louder than words. The acts may have been insufficient, but they do not need the apology of Industrial Society and Its Future.

Scattered among the garbage, the careful examiner can find some gems in FC’s text, although they need to be carefully disentangled from the ideational debris, the detritus of this system of institutionalised misery. The essays ‘Whose Unabomber?’ and ‘Letter Bombs and Fixed Ideas’, reproduced elsewhere in this volume, ably undertake this scavenging, and I do not intend to replicate their work. Rather, focusing largely on theses 180–206 of Industrial Society and Its Future, which concentrate on issues of strategy, I will intend to move discussion beyond the fragments of FC’s explosions.

Ideology and Strategy

Like the Leftists critiqued in the opening theses of the manifesto, FC have little to offer except ideology. Summarising their attitude toward social change, they state (Thesis 166):

Therefore two tasks confront those who hate the servitude to which the industrial system is reducing the human race. First, we must work to heighten the social stresses within the system so as to increase the likelihood that it will break down or be weakened sufficiently so that a revolution against it becomes possible. Second, it is necessary to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial society if and when the system becomes sufficiently weakened.

The notion of ‘social stresses’ is ambivalent, but in the context of FC’s actions it presumably refers (in part) to the letter bombs for which they are notorious. The problem with such a notion is that capital, in such a state of perpetual crisis, feeds on social stress, and power uses such stress as a way of reinforcing its controls — particularly in the present era, where socio-economic restructurations daily usher in a new form of democratic managerialist totalitarianism. Increasing such “social stresses”, in the absense of any radical alternative, thus plays into the hands of the control complex. But the only ‘alternative’ offered by FC is more of the same — just a different brand of ideology (Thesis 183):

But an ideology, in order to gain enthusiastic support, must have a positive ideal as well as a negative one; it must be FOR something as well as AGAINST something. The positive ideal that we propose is Nature. That is, WILD nature; those aspects of the functioning of the Earth and its living things that are independent of human management and free of human interference and control. And with wild nature we include human nature, by which we mean those aspects of the functioning of the human individual that are not subject to regulation by organized society but are products of chance, or free will or God (depending on your religious or philosophical opinions).

Nature — and particularly wild nature — is of course an ideological construct and one cannot escape from the clutches of ideology by posing ‘nature’ — a relatively recent concept in human thought — over and against culture. Here, FC just repeats the mistakes of deep ecologist biocentrists and the older philosophical errors of Rousseau. Moreover, at this advanced stage in civilisation’s trajectory, it is rather too late to take of human nature. Human ‘nature’ has been lost, compromised by civilisation’s restructurings of the human, and we can no longer determine what the natural behaviour of human beings might be. Human beings can only now consciously choose to go wild: such a condition is no longer spontaneous ‘second nature’. The tiger (for example) does not need to think about acting ‘naturally’, it just does. For humans, going wild means consciously choosing to imitate which behaviours of one or another animal species which are coded as ‘wild’ in the dominant ideological system. Such an action is not an escape from civilisation, but a further binding into its categories. Nature (or wilderness) is at best a metaphor for certain qualities that are regarded as valuable — and this is how FC uses it. But it is a very suspect metaphor, precisely because it is a product of civilization’s ideological categories, not an opponent of them.

This becomes all the more clear when FC proceed to outline the target for this ideology(Theses 187, 188):

On the more sophisticated level the ideology should address itself to people who are intelligent, thoughtful and rational. The object should be to create a core of people who will be opposed to the industrial system on a rational, thought-out basis, with full appreciation of the problems and ambiguities involved, and of the price that has to be paid for getting rid of the system. It is particularly important to attract people of this type, as they are capable people and will be instrumental in influencing others …. On a second level, the ideology should be propagated in a simplified form that will enable the unthinking majority to see the conflict of technology vs. nature in unambiguous terms.

FC accept the hierarchical divisions of civilisation, rather than challenge them. And lurking beneath the overt distinction between thinking and unthinking or sophisticated and unsophisticated individuals is a barely concealed class agenda. FC share more in common with Leftists than they care to admit — hence perhaps the virulence of their (thoroughly justified) attack on the Left at the very beginning of the manifesto. Like the Left, FC are not only articulating a political ideology, and thus are already talking in terms of control structures and governance; they are also propounding a bourgeois ideology which aims at the continued subjugation of ‘the unthinking majority’. The asceticism, monomania and authoritarianism of the political vanguard cannot be far away, and it isn’t (Theses 200, 201, 206):

Until the industrial system has been thoroughly wrecked, the destruction of that system must be the revolutionaries’ ONLY goal. Other goals would distract attention from the main goal….Suppose for example that revolutionaries took “social justice” as a goal. Human nature being what it is, social justice would not come about spontaneously; it would have to be enforced. In order to enforce it revolutionaries would have to retain central organization and control … Not that we have anything against social justice, but it must not be allowed to interfere with the effort to get rid of the technological system …. With regard to revolutionary strategy, the only points on which we absolutely insist are that the single overriding goal must be the elimination of modern technology, and that no other goal can be allowed to compete with this one.

The shrill rhetoric and imperative language (“must be the revolutionaries’ only goal”, “must not be allowed”, “we absolutely insist”, “no other goal can be allowed”) indicate the presence of an authoritarian politics. This mixture of arrogance and myopia is just as likely to result in totalitarianism as in a world of self-realization and self-enjoyment. Social justice — i.e., equitable treatment within the current system of dominance — remains a very limited goal. But even social justice is rendered subordinate to the destruction of the industrial system: even minimal impulses toward human liberation must not be permitted to “interfere” or “compete” with “the single overriding goal” of eliminating modern technology. And such is the bad faith of FC that despite their earlier assertion of spontaneity and “wild nature” as an oppositional ideological position, they now reveal their cynicism, referring to human nature as a fixed category (“human nature being what it is”) as a justification for an inevitable need for post-revolutionary “central organization and control”. Just as women were told by Leftists that “after the revolution” women’s issues would be addressed, so after the anti-industrial revolution, social justice issues might (not even will) be “fixed” — no doubt by the same central committee!

The Drums and the Spears

Leaving aside the plainly absurd and often reactionary elements of Industrial Society and Its Future (such as the notion that (Thesis 204)),

Revolutionaries should have as many children as they can. There is strong scientific evidence that social attitudes are to a significant extent inherited,

this is the essence of FC’s strategies for change. The fact that these strategic considerations are framed in terms of an authoritarian, political discourse (“revolutionary strategy”) is telling in itself. It suggests that at least in the manifesto, FC have nothing new, no radical alternative to offer. Although they rightly pose the necessity for the destruction of the industrial system, they fail to situate this aim as part of a wider project of human regeneration through negation of the totality. And in the absence of such a contextualisation, their ideas are recuperated by the lure of authoritarian politics. Their ideological emphasis, and hence ideological bankruptcy, merely reflects the bankruptcy of the social formulation of which their ideology is a product.

To put it bluntly, at best FC have got things arse-backwards. Human regeneration can only emerge from cultural regeneration. (By “cultural” I mean not the system of commodified mediations that currently pass under this term, but freely chosen actions and interactions characterised by spontaneous creativity). The attempt to prompt human regeneration in the absense of cultural regeneration can all too easily result in totalitarianism. Human and cultural regeneration are dialectically interrelated, but the latter provides the all-important context within which the former can succeed.

Fredy Perlman, talking of indigenous resistance to civilisation, says (Against His-story, Against Leviathan!, 258):

The resistance is not primarily a clash of arms … The resistance is in the drums, not in the spears; it is in the music, in the rhythms lived by communities whose myths and ways continue to nurture and sustain them.

This passage raises the question of the relationship between drums and spears, culture and armed resistance. but we are not in the position of these indigenes: civilisation has deprived us of those things that Perlman sees as the heart of resistance. We have no free communities of individuals, no life-sustaining myths and ways, no substantive community. So we cannot resist in the same way. We have no drums, and so FC suggest that we should just use the spears. Perlman indicates that this just leads to more war machines, more control systems. So what options are left?

Clearly, for us, there must be a closer, more informed relationship between the drums and the spears, even if the latter are subordinate to the former. But to forego the spears would be madness. The spears must have their place — but their place remains rooted in the world of the drums. And if the drums no longer sound, then we must beat them. And if we have no drums, we must build them. And if we’ve forgotten how to play them, we must remember or learn again. And if we can’t renew our continuity with the past, then we must make a virtue of our discontinuity and make it all anew.

Anarchists can best show their solidarity with the flawed if historically significant interventions of The Unabomber by reformulating FC’s anti-industrial insurgency in radical anti-authoritarian terms — i.e., by advancing the insurrectionary project through direct actions and regenerative projects aimed at abolishing power in its totality.

Green Anarchist #51

Anarchy and Ecstasy: Visions of Halcyon Days

Chapter 1: A Sprig of Mistletoe

The essays in this collection were envisioned and written beneath a sprig of mistletoe. The latter provides permission, a licence for pleasure unconstrained by law and limited only by the desires of the mutual participants. This Yuletide custom remains an attenuated token, a relic of the saturnalia, the solstice celebrations during which everything was temporarily everted: laws fell into abeyance, labour ceased, sexual liberty prevailed, gender roles became blurred and alterable, class differences receded, and control ceased. In turn, the saturnalia — a safety valve for repressed energies in antiquity — was itself a remnant from an era of primal freedom, the earthly paradise of global mythology, characterized by a total absence of control. The following essays hope to facilitate a regeneration of humanity through a renewal of this earthly paradise.

Formally, the present collection is intended to constitute a preliminary body of visionary insights. If, as Debord maintains, “revolutionary theory is now the enemy of all revolutionary ideology and knows it“, then visionary insight in turn transcends revolutionary ideology because the latter remains insufficiently radical. Total revolution must go beyond ideology to recover its roots through ecstatic visions. Hence, illuminated by an antinomian Inner Light, these essays examine vital issues on the interface between “fact” and “fiction,” history and myth, and draw materials from disparate orders of discourse.

Maybe life can once again become an exhilirating experience, a perpetuity of those intense feelings we recall from childhood anticipations of a seaside holiday, kiss chase, and falling in love. Perhaps, our hair entwined with holly and ivy, we can wassail every day.

Chapter 2: Toward a Cultural Ecology of Anarchy

The aim of this essay is to subvert, and hence explode, one of the central ordering myths in Western civilization. The subversive action will occur through taking the elements within this myth to their logical conclusion. In the process, I hope to discover the conceptual basis for a new “politics,” or in fact an antipolitics.

The myth selected for this process concerns the act of universal creation and the subsequent fall of humanity. This myth remains of central significance for two reasons. First, it is a common component of the mythic legacy shared by paganism and Christianity, and thus plays a crucial ordering role within Western culture. And, secondly, in addition to offering an account of the structure of the universe and history, it provides an elementary paradigm in defining the nature and significance of obedience and disobedience. It is, then, a totalist explanatory grid, but one which contains within itself elements which can precipitate its collapse.

In order to gain access to this myth, I have decided to focus my analysis on one particular text — John Milton’s Paradise Lost. This text has been chosen partly for its lucidity, but mainly because it constitutes a major synthesis of the relevant Western myths. In this poem Judaeo-Christian creation myths are explicitly combined with their pagan counterparts. Milton sythesises scriptural interpretations with insights derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, itself a compendium of ancient myths. Moreover, Paradise Lost remains concerned with two interlinked phenomena that are fundamental to our concerns: power and religion.

1. Power

The events in the poem’s narrative remain familiar, and in the present context not entirely relevant. Satan and his cohorts unsuccessfully attempt to depose God through rebellious military action. As a result, they are expelled from Heaven and consigned to Hell. God creates the Earth, and humanity in particular, in order to fill the void left by the expulsion of the fallen angels. Partly as an act of revenge, and partly as the opening shot in a fresh campaign to dethrone God, Satan enters Eden and tempts Adam and Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. As a punishment for this transgression, they are banished from paradise and forced to inhabit a world of sin, temporality, and death.

These events are of secondary significance here. The really important point which emerges from this narrative is the conception of the structure or order of the universe. After the Earth’s creation, the universe is essentially regarded in Manichean terms. Two vast and opposing forces — God and the Devil, or good and evil — fight a battle for universal control, a conflict the outcome of which depends upon enlisting a third element, humanity, into its ranks. The two opposing forces must each win over humanity to its side. Humanity can then be converted into combat troops in the war against the opposing force. Whatever the outcome, however, for humanity the result remains the same. Either victorious force will demand absolute submission and obedience from its former troops.

The significance of this cuneal perspective — of conceiving the structure of the universe in terms of an inverted triangle — can be seen when we realize that it has been generalized to such an extent that it now comprises the central method of formulating Western reality. The strife is not only between good and evil for the human soul, but (to list just a few examples) between the law and lawlessness for the community; capitalism and communism for the world; ruling class and proletariat for society; the superego and the id for the ego… The list could be extended indefinitely.

In every instance, however, certain shared characteristics are perceptible. The God-Satan-Humanity trio, and all their contemporary analogues, in the cuneal paradigm can be represented as the forces of control, counter-control, and the controlled. The control forces create and command a hierarchical power structure. The forces of counter-control, often a disaffected fragment of the control elite strata, attempt to overthrow the ruling control forces. In order to do this, they ostensibly disabuse the controlled, the victims of the control forces, about their controllers. In order to enlist the support of the controlled, the forces of counter-control may promise liberation from control. But this merely constitutes an illusory enticement. The forces of counter-control are not interested in total revolution, but a coup d’etat; they are not interested in eliminating coercion and hierarchy, but merely with displacing the current controllers and seizing power themselves. The controlled, then, remain victims whether they conform or rebel. And this, because of the universal application of the cuneal paradigm, remains the debilitating impasse of the controlled today. Apparently too weak to break the chains of control on their own, they are doomed to remain pawns in an alternating game of eternal conformity or endlessly betrayed revolt And this will remain the case until the cuneal paradigm is completely subverted and exploded.

In undertaking this task, an antipolitical reading of Paradise Lost provides many of the requisite materials. Why an antipolitical reading? And what exactly is denoted by that term? By antipolitical I do not mean an approach that pretends it has no ideological dimensions. I do, however, mean an approach that is not political. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines politics as the “science and art of government,” and political as “of the State or its government.” Political praxis, in this definition, thus remains the ideology of governance, and as such it remains appropriate to the shared discursive territory of the forces of control and counter-control. In attempting to transcend that territory, therefore, it is necessary to construct an antipolitics, an anarchic praxis that is more germane for those whose aim is the dissolution, not the seizure, of power.

Once intellectually emancipated from the political obsession with domination and order, fresh vistas and unexpected perspectives are immediately disclosed. In this particular instance, the antipolitical methodology discovers, through a heretical reading of Paradise Lost, the superficiality, fragility and comparative recency of the cuneal paradigm. If the text is considered without political blinkers, it can be readily discovered that the universe does not possess a cuneal structure, but (as a minimum) has a quadruplex form.

In Book Two of the poem, Satan, after consulting with his demonic associates, determines to leave Hell and travel to Earth in order to precipitate the fall of humanity. He persuades the porteress to open the gates of Hell, and we are told:

Before thir eyes in sudden view appear
The secrets of the hoarie deep, a dark
Illimitable Ocean without bound,
Without dimension, where length, breadth, highth,
And time and place are lost; where eldest Night
And Chaos, Ancestors of Nature, hold
Eternal Anarchie, amidst the noise
Of endless Warrs, and by confusion stand.
For hot, cold, moist, and dry, four Champions fierce
Strive here for Maistrie, and to Battel bring
Thir embryon Atoms; they around the flag
Of each his faction, in thir several Clanns,
Light-arm’d or heavy, sharp, smooth, swift or slow,
Swarm populous, unnumber’d as the Sands
Of Barca and Cyrene’s torrid soil,
Levied to side with warring Winds, and poise
Thir lighter wings. To whom these most adhere,
Hee rules a moment; Chaos Umpire sits,
And by decision more imbroiles the fray
By which he Reigns; next him high Arbiter
Chance governs all. Into this wild Abyss,
The Womb of nature and perhaps her Grave,
Of neither Sea, no Shore, nor Air, nor Fire,
But all these in thir pregnant causes mixt
Confus’dly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless th’ Almighty Maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more Worlds,
Into this wild Abyss the warie fiend
Stood on the brink of Hell and look’d a while.

(Book 2, 11.890–918)

In this passage, Milton combines Christian and pagan elements, the latter explicitly derived from Ovid. But in synthesising these two mythic traditions, he in fact transcends them both. In the Biblical and Ovidian accounts, the divine creative fiat transforms the entire chaos of primordial matter into a structured universe. The divine power is omnific, its creative act does not leave any remainder of chaotic matter. Here, however, Milton supplies a vision of an extant chaos or anarchy. And although his Christian perspective, necessarily a control perspective, obviously limits the pertinence of his representation, some of the remarks he makes are very suggestive.

First, although his imagery remains confined by the political concern with domination, conflict and militarism, it should be noted that, in pointed contrast to Heaven and Hell, there are several personified “rulers” here: eldest Night, Chaos, Anarchy and Chance. Furthermore, as their names indicate, these qualities can hardly be said to rule in any political sense. Chaos and Chance are both characterised as umpires, and by necessity this implies that there are certain codes and rules to be followed. This is not an image of total lawlessness. However, the conjunction of such terms as chaos and chance with the notions of arbitration imply that such rules are not absolute nor imposed, but remain amenable to reform. The contest Chaos and Chance preside over is characterized in military terms, but again this appears a less serious, more ludic, conflict than that between the divine and the demonic forces depicted elsewhere in the poem. While the latter strife remains concerned with the possibilities of eternal subjugation, the warring elements here are involved in a conflict which denies the basis of domination: “To whom these [atoms] most adhere,/Hee rules a moment.” The momentary nature of governance undermines power, and anyway these “subjects” adhere voluntarily, in contrast to the coerced obedience of the control forces.

Secondly, attention should be paid to the structure of the universe as it is revealed in the above passage. Milton characterizes Chaos’s territory as “The Womb of nature and perhaps her Grave.” Chaos gave birth, and possibly can bring death, to nature. By nature, Milton designates all creation, including Heaven, Earth and Hell, plus all of their inhabitants. In interpreting this, emphasis should be placed on the word creation. It should be remembered that God (the control force) created both the demons (the forces of counter-control) and humanity (the controlled). They are His creatures, he has called them into being, and determined (indeed preordained) their identities and roles — hence His absolute power. But, as this passage renders apparent, He manufactured them from raw materials derived from the primordial territory of Chaos. Essentially, they are composed of chaotic atoms. Metaphorically, then, Chaos could become the grave of nature if the creatures of God began to divest their assigned identities and, through a process of biodegradation, started to remerge with the extant realm of Anarchy. In doing so, they would undergo a total revolutionary transformation; no longer manipulated creations, they would become independent yet collective creators. For we can now see that there are at least four elemental forces within the universe: God-Satan-Humanity-Anarchy; or, the forces of control, counter-control, the controlled, and the uncontrollables. I say at least four because the last component does not possess any unitary coherence. What so appalls Milton about Anarchy is its multiplicity and proliferating capacities. Unlike the other limited and limiting locales, it represents unlimited possibility and potential. It represents a positive anarchy or disorder, rather than the totalitarianism of order, which the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines as “rank, row, class” — an inherently hierarchical concept. The positive nature of this anarchy is implicitly recognized by Milton when it is contrasted with Pandaemonium, a term he coined to describe Satan’s capital in Hell. Pandaemonium is the negative aspect of anarchy, anarchy as the site of lawlessness and malificence. Chaos, in contrast, is the positive aspect of anarchy, a site of multiple potentiality.

As Barbara C. Sproul’s anthology Primal Myths: Creating the World indicates, all cosmogonies — not merely those of the West — remain curiously silent regarding the reasons for the appearance of the control figure, who transforms the anarchic, paradisal and ecologically-integrated “state of nature” into the stratified, oppressive and coercive order of creation — the original State. Marx tried to discern these reasons in the development of material and productive conditions. But Fredy Perlman, in his monumental Against His-story, Against Leviathan!, provides a more convincing explanation. Control figures arise when anarchic communities, immersed in beatific dreams, visions and vocations, inadvertently delegate too much authority to an individual who is temporarily assigned the task of maintaining the (to them) subsidiary and trivial apparatus which sustains material life. The distracted community does not realize until too late that the strong individual gradually accumulates power through continuously performing the disparaged maintenance duties. The individual constructs a hierarchy to facilitate his responsibilities, and this hierarchical institution is eventually employed to enslave the free community. As the institution expands and becomes more impersonal, it gains a momentum of its own and becomes unmanageable, even by its ostensible rulers. Hence, its deistic, absolute powers, which are then projected or displaced onto the cosmos itself.

A version of this process appears in Paradise Lost. Chaos has not been a conscious or militant force, and hence has remained vulnerable to incursions by the divine. This becomes apparent when Chaos describes the structure of the universe to Satan:

I upon my Frontieres here
Keep residence; if all I can will serve,
That little which is left so to defend,
Enroacht on still through our intestine broiles
Weakening the Scepter of old Night; first Hell
Your dungeon stretching far and wide beneath;
Now lately Heaven and Earth, another World
Hung ore my Realm, link’d in a golden Chain
To that side Heav’n from where your Legions fell.

(Book 4, 11.998–1006)

Chaos, absorbed in internal excitements, has failed to prevent the annexation of its territories by the control forces. Such is the disarray that Milton refers to Chaos as a “brok’n foe” (Book 2, 1.1039). And, in fact, even the permission given to Satan to pass through the realm to Earth effectuates a further loss of territory. In the wake of Satan’s track, Sin and Death build an overarching bridge that will allow demons easier access to Earth. And this, of course, occurs with God’s assent. The forces of control in this text are so powerful that even revolt by the counter-control force (Satan) is countenanced and permitted. Rebellion of the counter-control type is not inimical to the control forces: it is allowed because it actually reinforces the power structure.

From an antipolitical perspective, the implications are clear. On the one hand, anarchy must be rejuvenated and become conscious and vigilant. Liberation from all forms of coercion and hierarchy, including its formulation in the cuneal paradigm, can be achieved only through an attentive and sagacious anarchy. On the other hand, techniques must be developed whereby the controlled can experience the psychosocial biodegradation process, with its liberating cathartic effects, and hence regain their forfeited heritage as uncontrollables — the real paradise lost. Through these two complementary processes, it should be possible to achieve the social ecology that is so desperately needed. But how are these processes to be initiated? Obviously, that is an enormous subject, and one that clearly remains beyond the scope of this essay. However, I will attempt to offer some suggestions which could perhaps be developed.

2. Religion

At the beginning, I indicated that Paradise Lost was important because of its concern with power and religion. So far, I have used the text as a way of exploring notions of power and control, particularly in respect to politics and order. Now, however, I wish to shift my attention to the topic of religion. In the foregoing, I have considered God as a political construct. He emerged as the ultimate totalitarian control force, and on those grounds can and should be utterly repudiated. But this leaves us with a problem, and one which has largely been ignored in anarchist theory: namely, the problem of confronting the ultimate questions of human existence. These are, of course, often characterized as religious or metaphysical issues, and hence not of interest to an atheistic revolutionary movement. Inadvertently, perhaps, anarchist theorists have encouraged this attitude. Bakunin’s God and the State, for example, comprises a thorough analysis of the socio-political function of God. It correctly repudiates the idea of God, but leaves nothing in its place. “Religious” issues constitute a vacuum at the centre of anarchism which limits its appeal and cogency.

In this essay, I have argued for a total shift of allegiance. As opponents of control, we should not assume an adversarial position (like the forces of counter-control), nor identify ourselves with the oppressed (the controlled); rather, we should situate ourselves within the matrix of anarchy, and become uncontrollables. Only then can we develop a liberatory praxis, which simultaneously promotes the disintegration of the entire control complex, and facilitates others to reintegrate within the creative potentialities of anarchy. We should be neither demonic, nor humanist, but anarchic. Our divine principle should not be deistic power, or demonic, Dionysian energies, or human community, but positive and creative chaos (a natural “order” which the advocates of order designate as disorder). Chaos is homologous with ecological order, and social ecology constitutes the specifically human component within that order. It is from this position that we must approach those existential problems that remain so troubling.

One of the major difficulties here remains the lack of an adequate vocabulary. Intrinsically, religion — which the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines as “human recognition of superhuman controlling power and especially of a personal God entitled to obedience” — remains anathema to anarchists. The two elements of this formulation, the emphasis on a superior control force and on unthinking obedience, are clearly unacceptable. All the more so in religions such as Christianity, which not only advocate dangerous delusions such as faith (i.e., belief in and prostration before an authority, without any proof of its existence), but also induce obscenities like worship, pietism, sanctimoniousness, sin, mortification, and the ultimate act of obedience, martyrdom. Given this legacy, the repudiation of religion hardly appears surprising. Nevertheless, the necessity remains for proponents of anarchy to reclaim what, for want of a better word, and despite its antipathetic connotations, can only be termed spirituality. This is necessary if anarchy is to become the integral praxis so manifestly required.

Certain aspects of this spirituality have been explored and designated as an ecological sensibility by Murray Bookchin in The Ecology of Freedom. My concerns in this essay, however, are rather more limited and specific. I am interested in delineating some spiritual techniques which may aid and promote an anarchic revolution. We require, not theology, nor even liberation theology, but a spiritual therapeutics that prefigures and participates in the social shift toward anarchy. Such emancipatory techniques can, I believe, be adapted from the praxis of Zen.

As Fredy Perlman indicates, most religions were, to varying degrees, originally liberation movements. But during the struggle for liberation, their initial ideals were distorted and recuperated to such an extent that they eventually became indistinguishable from the totalitarian ideologies of their oppressors. At the centre of every religion, however, there remains a residue of the original libertarian ideals, which occasionally returns to haunt the doctrine’s predominant authoritarian exponents. For example, Jesus’s non-violent resistance and derogation of private property periodically resurfaces to the consternation of Christian hierarchies. The crucial point here, however, is that in Zen these contradictions are intensified, quite deliberately I believe, to the point of absurdity. In contrast to their religious counterparts, the founders of Zen, presumably cognizant of the bureaucratic tendencies of such doctrines, implanted three techniques at the centre of their praxis which flatly confute the authoritarian debasement and the ensuing scholarly or commercialized industry. Their prognosis proved to be correct, and like its analogues, Zen was deluged by the hierarchical complex. However, submersed as they may be, the basic techniques fulfilled their founders’ desires, and managed to withstand the flood. They remain to be rediscovered and adapted to contemporary needs and circumstances. And, moreover, in terms of the challenges to authority they pose, each of these techniques remains broadly compatible, and can be modified to attune, with anarchic praxis. Just because they have been used to reinforce quietism and passivity in the past does not mean that they cannot now become part of the movement toward total social revolution.

The three techniques referred to above are zazen, the koan, and the mentor-neophyte relationship. They all share a common aim, the enlightenment or illumination of an individual, and are linked by the common means of eliminating, at various levels, dependence upon authority. Zazen is a form of meditation wherein an individual, in time with respiratory rhythms, mentally recites a meaningless word. By repeatedly concentrating in this way, the flow of everyday thought ceases, and the individual is flooded with spiritual illumination and a sense of unity with the universe. At a later phase, thought may be reintroduced in zazen, but only in order to play across the surface of the inner grace (the metaphors used here are of course woefully inadequate). Zazen seeks to stem the logos (significantly the initiator of hierarchical creation in many cosmogonies) and break the authority of meaning through an amphigoric word. Here then, surely, we can discover several points of convergence with anarchic praxis — particularly in terms of the biodegradation process mentioned earlier. Zazen disrupts the psychology of dependence and points toward autonomy. Moreover, this autonomy remains intimately interlinked with a sense of ecological community. In turn, this cracks open the character armour, and allows glimpses into an anarchic future, a universe of free interaction within a reintegrated ecological complex. Zazen staunches the cacophony of internalized coercions and constraints, even those which appear to be self-generated, and thereby transcends the conventional parameters of the self. The sunburst of satori loosens what Perlman terms the Leviathanic integuments. Bliss results, but also the consciousness that this cannot remain a permanent, or for some hardly become a possible, state under the current socio-economic system. There could be no clearer cachet of anarchy. In order to encourage this consciousness, however, it remains necessary to reclaim and recontextualize zazen in ways which will allow people to reorientate themselves in this way. Obviously, as long as such techniques remain enmeshed within the domain of authoritarian religion and mysticism, they cannot become resources in the struggle for total liberation.

Many of the above remarks are also applicable to the two remaining techniques. A koan is a conundrum, a paradoxical phrase which an individual is assigned to “work on.” Once again, although this time from a different angle, the aim is to explode dependence on logic, rationality, intellect and ultimately meaning, by allowing a person to discover their limitations. A koan cannot be “solved” through ratiocination, and the realization of this, coupled with continued concentration on the text, leads to a moment of insight comparable to that achieved through zazen.

The mentor-neophyte relationship is also designed to eliminate dependence on authority structures, unlike the parallel religious relationship between guru and proselyte, which merely transfers existing dependency. Its characteristic feature remains the so-called direct method, which rejects verbalization — even the most enigmatic — and attempts to break through the orderliness of reason to basic convivial impulses. Zen manifests itself in spontaneous acts, but evaporates once interpretation tries to discern meaning or significance within any action. Regaining the experiences of life’s instantaneousness constitutes its essence. The direct method attempts to propel the neophyte into the flow of life and unmediated experience. Language and ideation are too slow to grasp such instantaneity. Hence, the neophyte must be somehow shocked into abandoning interpretation and other inculcated forms of standardized response. Occasionally, these shock tactics assume the form of tempered violence, but more commonly they consist of unexpected responses and behaviour. When a neophyte asks for elucidation on a profound doctrinal opint, for example, a master may “reply” by undertaking a simple everyday task or leaving the room. Such actions are intended to have a demonstrative, rather than symbolic, effect. Indeed, if the neophyte attempts to interpret the meaning of the action, the moment — of direct existential contact and the spiritual illumination which accompanies it — has already been lost, and dependency will continue. However, should the neophyte respond by spontaneously participating in the playful stratagem instigated by the master, the cycle of dependency will be broken. The former no longer needs to rely upon the latter for guidance, for after continued practice the two effectively become equals. The moment of “coming alive,” or becoming existentially sensitive, achieved through the direct method, gradually develops into a perpetual sensibility, and sparkles through passages recording meetings between Zen masters.

In the Zen tradition, these three techniques are used in order to break dependency at all levels — on authority figures, on the authority of doctrines, on the authority of thought itself — and thereby to induce illumination. Taken together, these techniques constitute a potent array of methods for undermining control structures. And given that in the Zen tradition they are often coupled with the repudiation of private property, this is clearly something that proponents of anarchy cannot afford to dismiss lightly. This remains particularly true when the parallels between Zen and anarchic praxis are rendered apparent. Zen posits a series of techniques which suggest that all doctrine/ideology is irrelevant. And just as anarchy attempts to relieve us of politics and ideology, leaving the core of independent yet collective creativity, so Zen tries to relieve us of etiolated thought and internalized propaganda, leaving the core of limited experience. And it is at this point, that Zen makes its most significant contribution to the resolution of the existential problems mentioned earlier. Unlike authoritarian religions, which emphasise faith, Zen suggests its irrelevancy. The experience of nirvana may be evidence of an afterlife, or it may be pleasurable sensations caused by electrical impulses on the cortex, or it may be something altogether different. But these are all retrospective judgments, they are not available within the lived experience of nirvana. The information conveyed in that experience is of a totally different order. Faith, like political ideology, remains irrelevant at this level; it does not matter what you believe, the associated experiences of nirvana and anarchy provide the touchstone.

Zen techniques, adapted and recontextualized within anarchic praxis, possess an immense liberatory potential. Of course, they are not sufficient in themselves to precipitate the total revolution toward anarchy. All I have proposed here needs to be complimented by the ideas of theorists like Bookchin and Perlman, and the practice of communities in the process of liberating themselves. Nevertheless, Zen techniques can play an important part. We should not undervalue inner liberation as an accompaniment to social revolution — even as a spur to social revolution through its exeplary function. One of Emily Dickinson’s deliberately unpunctuated poems reads,

The mob within the heart
Police cannot suppress
The riot given at the first
Is authorized as peace

Uncertified of scene
Or signified of sound
But growing like a hurricane
In a congenial ground.

(Poem 1745)

This poem constitutes a microcosm compared to Milton’s macrocosm. Both consider liberated activity, Milton within universal Anarchy, Dickinson within an individual’s inner anarchy. But whereas the former poet rather negatively depicted a contracting territory, the latter positively represents an expansion of chaos. This expansion begins from within the individual, but an individual whose cramped and unitary self has developed into a plural, unrestrained and riotous mob, which the police — whether psychic or social — cannot suppress. As in Paradise Lost, the keynote remains free and independently-determined activity: there is no authorization, no certification, and no signification. It is as if anarchy has cancelled all social authority, and Zen has cancelled all internalized authority. Hence, we proceed to the anarchic, global and natural energy of the hurricane, already decimating the hierarchical order, and preparing more congenial ground in the individual, social and ecological environments. Dickinson’s untitled poem, not Milton’s pale sequel to his account of the Fall, should be entitled Paradise Regained.

But if Dickinson situates the action of her text “within the heart,” her concerns centre almost entirely on the exterior, in the environments convulsed by a proliferating anarchic energy. The poem does not indicate how it feels to be inside anarchy, to be possessed by a holistic sensibility and a capacity for revelations within the matrix of total liberation. In short, the inferiority of a spiritual condition — a condition characterized by its sense of beatific community — remains unexplained. But for proponents of anarchy, such an exploration becomes a vital necessity. Intimations of the myriad delights available within a renewed earthly paradise could inspire the controlled to discard their assigned identities. And amongst these delights the most fundamental remains the paradisal consciousness itself. The significance of a recontextualized Zen becomes apparent at precisely this juncture. Appropriately reorientated, its techniques could provide individuals with a gloriously expanded consciousness, a prefigurative vision of a social future of permanent revelry and jubilee.

Many have recently talked about the politics of desire. And Raoul Vaneigem has proposed a “politics” of pleasure. Can we now consider an antipolitics of ecstasy and bliss?

Chapter 3: On Ecdysis

The previous essay identified in Western creation myths an elementary paradigm which defined the structure of universal history. I now wish to focus upon one specific component of Judaeo-Christian cosmogony: the temptation.

A plethora of political interpretations of this incident have been offered, but all necessarily overlook the crucial issues, which only become available through an antipolitical perspective. The narrative relates how the serpent successfully tempts humanity to obtain the capacity to discriminate between good and evil. Significantly, the humans respond to this acquisition by immediately concealing their nakedness: “and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis, 3:7). When God subsequently discovers their transgression, He expels them into a world of work, sin and mortality. Before doing so, however, the text notes that “Unto Adam also and to his wife did [He] make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis, 3:21).

The potency of Western cosmogony derives from its reduction of the multiplicity and diversity of life, the universal territory of anarchy, into the basic elements of a cuneal paradigm. The latter enforces the notion that the universe is comprised of three forces: God, the control force; Satan, the counter-control force; and humanity, the controlled. For Satan, who wishes to overthrow God and seize power for himself, the temptation constitutes an opportunity to subvert the controlling order. He attempts to disabuse humanity of its innocence (i.e., its unreflecting, naive allegiance to the control force), not in order to dissolve power, but to transfer their subordination from God to himself. Fully cognizant of the punishment likely to ensue, he cynically manipulates humanity, calculating that their penalization might elicit a resentment ultimately conducive to a transfer of dependency.

But, in the short term, the temptation provides humanity with a sense of shame. Adam and Eve become ashamed of their naked subservience, their unwitting erotic investment of power, and hence cover their generative organs and erogenous zones. They symbolically refuse to reproduce their own domination, or to expose their pleasures to the all-seeing deity. But as indicated above, the covering process possesses two distinct stages — the first autonomously directed, the second coerced. This differentiation remains crucial. In the first phase, the two humans fashion aprons out of fig leaves. In the second phase, God clothes them with coats made from animal skins. There are two important distinctions here. On the one hand, two different types of clothing are designated. An apron is a garment designed specifically for protection: it is worn on particular occasions for specific tasks, and its wearing here does not therefore imply any permanency. The coats enforced by God, however, are not worn for protection, nor specific tasks, but for general and hence permanent use. The voluntarily assumed apron can be easily divested, whereas the coat — imposed as part of a punishment — becomes an instrument for indefinite encasement in an unwanted and constraining integument. The primal humans — i.e., the first hominids to be dislocated from the “state of nature” and have their identities determined by the control force — are literally coated. On the other hand, an important difference in the clothing material becomes apparent. Humanity’s use of a vegetable product, a renewable and regenerative resource, does not constitute a denudation of nature. But God’s use of animal skins clearly implies an ecological — and ethical — infringement. This incident establishes that God, not Cain, committed the primal murder. (Genesis I: 29–30 indicates that prior to the Fall all creatures, including humans, were frugivores or herbivores, and hence presumably pacific.)

The mythic origins of clothing can thus be discerned in the temptation narrative. But in considering this chronicle, the inevitable question arises of why the serpent was selected as the image of the tempter. Many explanations of this symbol have been advanced. But in the present context, only one connotation of the image remains significant. The key to the interchange between humanity and the serpent can be characterized as the issue of attire. Its central terms are exposure and covering. The serpent exposes the nakedness of humanity to itself, thus precipitating the act of covering. God subsequently regularizes this covering by making it a coating, and thus transforms humanity into the only species which attires itself with exogenous, manufactured apparel (in contrast to the endogenous integument — the organic pelt — developed by animals). But the creature which instigates this process also possesses a relevant and distinctive characteristic in this context. The serpent undergoes the process of ecdysis: it periodically sheds its skin for the purpose of growth. Of course, many creatures — often in conjunction with the seasons — cast or moult their skin, fur, feathers, and so on. But while other animals undergo these processes piecemeal and hence imperceptibly, the serpent sloughs its skin at one time and in one piece, leaving behind a visible husk. Furthermore, although this process facilitates growth, it does not involve a fundamental biological metamorphosis, such as the development of a chrysalis into a butterfly. The serpent maintains its original shape, but merely casts off the dead tissue from the living flesh, leaving a fresh and brightly-hued new skin.

The central interchange of the Fall scenario can now be formulated. The serpent, a creature which periodically sloughs its skin, instigates a process wherein a glabrous humanity permanently covers its skin with clothing or, more accurately, keeps its skin continually covered with a succession of clothes. (The origins of fashion can be traced to this initial interchange. Continual sartorial modification compensates for the arrested development of integral creative potentials.) But note the crucial displacement at the centre of this transaction. Although God’s enemy, Satan necessarily operates only with the tacit permission of the omniscient and omnipresent deity. And the guile of the latter becomes apparent in precisely this interchange. By allowing Satan to assume the serpent form, He effectively binds humanity more closely to His control, even while imposing a punishment that seems more likely to precipitate revolt. In the serpent, with its sloughing capacity, humanity might have perceived a symbolic or analogical method of casting off their identities as God’s creatures. But the temptation prevented — or at least postponed — this eventuality. The revelation of humanity’s naked subservience was so shameful that its first response was not repudiation, but protection. And this defensive impulse became the lever God used to shift humanity even further away from authentic revolt (not the ersatz, condoned type practiced by Satan). For the control force ensured that the Fall would so distance the relationship between humanity and serpents, that the former could learn nothing from the latter. The deity informs the serpent: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel” (Genesis, 3:15). Satan only temporarily possessed the serpent for the purpose of temptation. Hence, this curse does not apply to him. Unwittingly, in his manoeuvre for the seizure of power, he has furthered and reinforced the interests of the entire control complex, both the forces of control and counter-control. Although God’s absolute rule has been disrupted, the threat to the principle of governance has been contained and defused. In fact, humanity’s distancing from the serpent — the natural creature, not the mythic worm — further alienates humans from authentic forms of insurgency.

The legacy of the Fall scenario become increasingly apparent as the global megamachine of Western civilization plunges into further crisis. Much contemporary revolt remains determined and circumscribed by the paradigmatic temptation incident. Rather than shed the character armour, slough the itching and constricting Leviathanic integuments, many restlessly change the styles and fashions of clothing, while underneath the exacerbating dead tissue accumulates. Seasonal moults have degenerated into new “seasons” of fashion commodities that maintain no connexion with ecological cycles. And the central Western symbol of revolt — the black leather jacket — remains an ironic descendant of the original coat of animal skins inflicted by the control force.

Other, seemingly more direct attempts at divestment are equally inauthentic; particularly given their delusory aura of defiance. Leaving aside psychic divestment, the contemporary proliferation of physical unveiling alone has been astonishing. And, moreover, from streaking to strippergrams, public disrobement is generally regarded as daringly defiant — an attitude frequently promoted by regulatory or repressive legal measures. The stripper remains a central icon of the age. But economic considerations are not always primary here. Certainly, one can pay to witness a striptease or acquire photographs of naked individuals. But equally, one can appear nude in public with no economic motivation. The common element — whether in the participant or the spectator — remains the act of unfocussed revolt.

The point here is neither to deprecate nudism, which has constituted a notable element of liberatory movements from the Adamites through the Spanish Anarchists and beyond, nor to repudiate clothing in climates and seasons where they are evidently necessary. The point remains to examine suich phenomena from an antipolitical perspective, and thus discover the nature of their relationship to the shift toward total anarchy.

Current manifestations of nudity signify an urge to ecdysis, but one which remains inauthentic because entrapped within the parameters of the Fall scenario. Obviously, many of these manifestations are deliberately deformed to reinforce the sordid but profitable aims of domination and exploitation. But in every case, public disrobing is predicated upon a general and continued cowering. Stripping can continue to be regarded as defiant only so long as the stripper perpetually reclothes him or herself, and only whilst public nudity remains a relative scarcity. As long as these conditions pertain, the public disclosure of nakedness can rarely be motivated by endogenous desire, but mainly by the exogenous and covertly coerced promptings of defiance. In actuality, such defiance constitutes a total conformism. Its actions never go beyond the boundaries delimited by the Fall. The control complex retains its authority.

Dismantling this endlessly frustrating cycle has now become a primary requisite for the total transformation toward anarchy. The hideous contemporary alternatives make one’s flesh creep: either peacefully submit to a mortification of the flesh, the hairshirt, the daily scarification, or be flayed alive by napalm and nuclear radiation. Either way it is difficult not to become one of the many complaisant scabs on the body of Leviathan. But there are ways out of this seeming impasse. And one of them remains the recovery of ecdysis. Nudism can only become an authentic praxis if it is informed by the latter. For the ecdysiast, the decision to dress or stay naked depends purely upon individual desire, but anyway a peripheral concern. The key issue remains the sloughing of dead tissue, the character armour, internalized authority, the Leviathanic integument — and hence to the elimination of the entire control complex. Ecdysis thus becomes part of the wider psychosocial biodegradation process. Individually and collectively, people who reject the identities and postures assigned to them by the control force, begin to remerge in the positive anarchy or chaos which predates the creation.

As advocates of anarchy, our task should be to discover techniques which facilitate, promote and generalize this process. In “Toward a Cultural Ecology of Anarchy,” I made some provisional proposals in this area. These can now be related to the project of stimulating the kundalini, the latent spiritual energy which Vedantic writers symbolize as a coiled serpent. But this is not the place to reiterate or develop such ideas. We must remain eternally vigilant, and not allow tentative possibilities to solidify into prescriptive dogmas. Anarchy can be defined as maintaining a field of infinite potentialities. Additional explicitness here could initiate the forms of closure that are to be avoided. As Fredy Perlman has noted, “Theories of liberation are the clothes of dictators.” And ecdysis demands a sloughing of these garments too.

Chapter 4: Bewilderness

In an important article, Jay Vest convincingly demonstrates that the words “will” and “wild” derive from a common etymological root. For primal Europeans, nature was pervaded by a will force that remained beyond their power to influence. What nature autonomously willed became identified as wild.

Wilderness then means ‘self-willed-land’ or ‘self-willed-place’ with an emphasis upon its own intrinsic volition… This ‘willed’ conception is itself in opposition to the controlled and ordered environment, which is characteristic of the notion of civilization. While control, order, domination and management are true of civilization and domestication, they are not essentials of primal culture… Nature worship among primal Indo-Europeans evidences a traditional theme of sacred natural places, free from desecration by humans and their technology. Such sacred places were wilderness in the deepest sense; they were imbued with will-force, — willed, willful, uncontrollable — and with spirit. Thus, they held about them a sacred mystery — a numinous presence. It is from this tradition that the ‘will-of the-land’ — wilderness — concept emerges.

Vest’s remarks recover important information, but remain curiously exteriorized. The contours of a spirituality structured around the recognition of a sacred wilderness — the significance of its symbolism and ritual — are skilfully outlined. But the interiority of this experience — what it felt like and what it meant to be immersed in such a wilderness — remains beyond Vest’s purview.

One reason for this deficiency may be the lack of an appropriate vocabulary. Vest’s article establishes that primal notions of wilderness are diametrically opposite to those operative in contemporary mainstream discourse. Archaic humans regarded the wilderness as a site of positive energies, whereas today power complexes demand that it be considered as a place of evil and negativity which deserves domination and exploitation. In Against His-story. Against Leviathan!, Fredy Perlman retraces the process whereby power — through authority structures, imperial and Judaeo-Christian civilizing forces — converts nature into a wasteland, thus forcing the term “wilderness” to acquire pejorative connotations. But the semantic history of a cognate term which denotes the interior experience of sacred wilderness — “bewilder” — has not received similar examination. Necessarily, this semantic reconstruction must be speculative. Contextual factors, however, indicate appropriate orientations for an accurate recovery of the term’s original meaning.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) provides two definitions of the verb “bewilder”: literally, “to lose in pathless places, to confound for want of a plain road,” and figuratively, “to confuse in mental perception, to perplex, confound, to cause mental aberration.” It is my contention that as the notion of the wilderness was forced to abandon its positive meanings and acquire negative connotations, the originally unified meaning of “bewilder” was divided into two partial definitions, whose connotations were then inverted. Wilderness, as Vest avers, simultaneously denoted a location and a condition: a state inhabited by willful, uncontrollable natural energies. In such states, humans surrendered their individuality, renounced personal volition to the will-of-the-land, and merged individuated desire within the expansive needs of the wild. In doing so, they became channels or mediums through which the wilderness could become articulate and operative in the human sphere. The process was ecstatic: the surrender of the ego; the merging of individuation within holism, produced sensations of bliss and promoted ecstatic/erotic actions. Any incipient characterological sclerosis, absorbed through prolonged participation in communal relations, was discarded or dissipated. Any tendencies toward the formation of Leviathanic structures were thus dispersed.

Individuals undergoing this process were bewildered, in the original, integrated sense of the term. They entered “pathless places” in two senses. First, wilderness areas (i.e., the vast totality of the world) contained no paths or tracks — neither the roads of imperial domination and plunder constructed by the Romans, nor the routes of commerce carved by Islamic merchants. By definition, the wilderness remained free from incursions by technology. And secondly, there were no established journeys to be undertaken, no predetermined paths to traverse. All social codes were annulled: vision, emotion and behaviour were no longer subject to regulation and control. Total transformation was possible. But the directions — for unlimited eversion were no longer, or only minimally, under individual control. The individual will, subsumed within the will-of-the-land, no longer retained the power of volition. Possessed by the wilderness, individuals eagerly became vehicles for its sacred and ecstatic expression.

Evidence to substantiate these contentions regarding the bewilderment process can be derived from a consideration of an associated term, “amazement.” The OED variously defines “amaze” as “to put out of one’s wits… bewilder, perplex,” “to overcome with sudden fear or panic,” and “to overwhelm with wonder, to astound or greatly astonish.” It also defines “amazedness” as “loss of self-possession through fear.” This cluster of ideas clearly parallels the meanings attached to “bewilder.” Indeed, they may ultimately derive from a common origin. The OED notes that “amaze and a maze were often identified.” And this etymological link provides the crucial connexion. In certain primal traditions, the maze or labyrinth played a homologous role to that of the sacred wilderness area — in fact, the two may have been indistinguishable:

Extremely complex ideas were expressed through the symbol of the labyrinth. First, the initiate had to find the way through the underworld -the womb of the Mother -going through symbolic death to be reborn through her on a larger psychic level. Simultaneously, by dancing the winding and unwinding spiral’, the initiate reached back to the still heart of cosmos, and so immortality, in her. The dance would have been combined with sexual rites and the taking of some hallucinogen like the legendary soma. In the resulting illumination soma and self were experienced as one with the cosmic self in orgasmic ego-death. The ecstatic centre of the labyrinth was the no-mind centre of orgasm experienced as death, creative madness, and loss of the conditioned ‘self.’

“Bewilderment” and “amazement” once denoted the experienced interiority of radical purification through displacement. Losing one’s self in a maze meant precisely that, not merely a sense of disorientation. Bewilderment entailed an encounter with death and transcendence, and so was necessarily characterized by complex interacting responses, including terror, wonder and ecstasy. The wilderness overwhelmed the individual will from three directions. Spiritual techniques for arousing the coiled kundalini energy eroded ego boundaries and merged the individuated self within the cosmic All. Hallucinogens derived from poisonous substances transported the individual to the brink of physical decease. And uncontrollable sexual desires overcame any social inhibitions placed on the search for erotic pleasures. The combination of these three elements took the individual to the edge of dissolution — as a psychological, physical, and social/ethical entity. But only to the edge: vestiges of consciousness remained so that the wilderness could become aware of itself, achieve a knowledge of its own awesome nature. However, the process remained reciprocal: the individual emerged transformed and whole, often bearing shamanic gifts — such as prophetic powers, healing capacities and visions — to enrich the community. Such symbiosis constituted the core of the ancient Mysteries.

Once “wilderness” acquired pejorative connotations, however, the bewilderment phenomenon underwent a similarly negative redefinition. The originally integrated meanings of the process were separated and demonized, gradually assuming the forms in which they are currently known. On the one hand, bewilderment now signifies the feeling experienced when one is lost, disorientated in an unfamiliar — and hence potentially threatening — context or environment, unable to find an exit. On the other hand, the term denotes a derangement of perceptions, not in a positive sense of possession by the wilderness, but in the negative sense of perplexity and bafflement. To lose one’s self now becomes an adversity because the failure of the cognitive faculties reveals, not a wealth of inner spiritual resources, but an emptiness — a subjectivity evacuated by power and glutted with totalitarian trivia.

These contemporary meanings of “bewilderment” are so ingrained that it seems an impossible task to retrieve this term. Hence, as an alternative I propose the notion of bewilderness. The primal meanings of “bewilder” are now apparent. The amalgamation of “bewilder” and “wilderness” in this new term possesses the advantage of restoring the emphasis on the wild component of the former term. But the addition of “ness” to “bewilder” also remains appropriate. Vest demonstrates that the suffix “ness,” in addition to expressing a particular state (e.g., sweetness, tiredness), originally denoted a “land” or “place.” Hence, as a term “bewilderness” reunites the two separated aspects of “bewilder” as geographical dislocation and as a spiritual condition.

The reasons for coining this neologism are far from antiquarian. The experience denoted by bewilderness remains crucial for all proponents of anarchy, who recognize that syncopating the spiral dance could facilitate total revolution. Bewilderness constitutes both the means and an end (i.e., the beginning of another cycle). Like anarchic Zen, it postulates a supersession of everyday, socially conditioned consciousness on an individual and later generalized scale. It promotes psychosocial biodegradation or ecdysis: the refusal of assigned identities, the divestment of polysemic integuments, the disgorgement of totalitarian toxins. Dispossession becomes Possession, not so much through an expropriation of the expropriators, as an evacuation of and from the evacuating control complex. This process is purgative and therapeutic: the vacuum becomes inundated with waves of ecstasy that prefigure, and hence promote the shift toward, total global anarchy. Techniques for recovering bewilderness are available. Many of Starhawk’s magic exercises, for example, attempt to elicit precisely this condition. She proposes wordless chants, inarticulate noises which resolve into the sounds of the wilderness communing through individuals and groups. Such techniques aim to liberate the involuntary, be it a yelp of pain, an orgasmic groan, a growl of anger, or any other expression. The individual invokes, and waits to discover what energy emerges. Magic consists of merging and participating in these energies, and shaping their manifestations. The nature of the resulting patterns depends on the metaphors and symbols utilized. For example, Starhawk, characterizing subjectivity within hierarchical control structures, discerns three aspects of the self: Younger Self, the playful, sensory element that appears when the infant distinguishes itself from its environment; Talking Self, the later rational faculty of abstraction and codification; and Deep Self, the all-pervasive oceanic consciousness: Imagine Talking Self’s domain as a house we live in, and Younger Self’s domain as a garden that surrounds it completely. Beneath the garden are the caves and wells of Deep Self; outside it are the other realms of reality, the wilderness. There is no clear dividing line between Younger Self’s garden and the wild until Talking Self builds a wall. Younger Self constantly brings in plants and animals… In order to walk out into the wild, we must first pass through the garden.

Or, conversely, in order to examine any piece of the wild Younger Self brings in, in order to name it and set it on the shelves of our house, it must first be brought through the garden. The clearer the paths are, the more familiar we are with their windings and turnings, the friendlier we are with the creatures that inhabit them, the clearer are our contacts with external reality — both physical and metaphysical.

Despite its illuminating qualities, Starhawk’s metaphor remains descriptively inadequate because it lacks any notion of the historical relativity of the configuration of elements she discerns within subjectivity. Deep Self can undoubtedly be found beneath the garden (and the house), but also — and most prodigiously — in the wilderness. Here lies Starhawk’s major error. Rather than contrariety, one finds identity: the wilderness is Deep Self, and vice versa. Primal peoples realized this fact. They also knew that Talking Self was a useful and beneficial agency, but only so long as it remained contextualized, in situ, within its proper, circumscribed dimensions. Its constant tendency to hypertrophy was recognized, and thwarted by the bewilderness process. But in hierarchical control structures, this tendency is encouraged, and Talking Self becomes deracinated, denatured, (pre)dominant. Hence, in terms of Starhawk’s metaphor, the central issue should not be tending the garden, making it more hospitable, indeed civilized, but rather flattening the wall. Younger Self’s garden should by degrees imperceptibly shade into the wilderness, allowing for an untroubled access to and from the two complementary areas of hearth and hinterland. Any strict demarcation automatically creates and maintains the divisions of private property.

Jacques Camatte provides another metaphorical representation of this issue when he proposes a recovery of the unconscious:

What is the subconscious if not the affective-sensual life of the human being repressed by capital? The human being has to be domesticated, shaped to a rationality which he must internalize — the rationality of the process of production of capital. Once this domestication is achieved, the human being is dispossessed of this repressed sensual life which becomes an object of knowledge, of science; it becomes capitalizable. The unconscious, becoming an object of commerce, is thinly sliced and retailed in the market of knowledge. The unconscious did not always exist, and it exists now only as a component in the discourse of capital.

To demolish barriers and walls, to recover the unconscious and reactivate it in everyday life — these are metaphors for a process which bewilderness can help to facilitate. Bewilderness is an extreme condition, an encounter with transcendence, possession by elemental energies. But it allows the possibility of more measured and integrated lifeways. After such experiences, individuals and communities can accept convivial coexistence because they wittingly live within and amidst the oceanic consciousness. And such a state characterizes the condition of total anarchy.

Chapter 5: Eversion Mysteries

1. Decay

Attempting to discern the formative elements in the renascent totalitarian mentality, Fredy Perlman suggests: “I could start by noticing that the new anti-semite is not really so different from any other TV-watcher, and that TV-watching is somewhere near the core of the choice (I include newspapers and movies under the abbreviation for ‘tell-a-vision’).” The mass media, as part of the global megamachine of domination, provide a contemporary fuehrerprinzip, “a total abdication of self-powers, a self-annihilation,” a comprehensive investment in unlimited obedience:

This something is the Told Vision which can be watched on off hours and preferably all the time. By choosing himself a Voyeur, the individual can watch everything he no longer is.

Or can become, or ever experience. The Told Vision is a sold vision: it demands suppliants and supplies the demand. Due to the circularity of this process, humans are either cyberneticized, assimilated as functional components within the global automaton, or abandoned as superannuated. “From the day when battery-run voices began broadcasting old speeches to battery-run listeners, the beast has been talking to itself.” Repeats, reruns and rewinds are not failures of imagination, but intrinsic elements in the ritual reprogramming of the system’s viewers. Increasingly, however, familiarity breeds dissent, and growing rejection of the entire ensemble.

The time approaches when tell-a-vision can be displaced by Tellus-vision. Tellus denotes the Earth, the Earth Mother, the underworld or inner space, the wilderness, chthonic and anarchic elemental energies. In contrast to the coy explicitness of the Told Vision, which dictates non-participation, Tellus-vision offers an experience of the ineffable, of untold delight. The mosaic spectacle’s defoliation, its amputations of the sensorium, can be healed through sharing in rituals of numinous synaesthesia, mutual involvement in multi-sensual actions, an ecstatic katharsis.

In prehistory and the ancient world, the processes for ritually acquiring Tellus-vision were known as the Mysteries. The latter, initially designed to forestall the development of characterological or communal authoritarianism, degenerated as patriarchal thugs fabricated institutions of domination, and prehistory became ancient history. The Mysteries were absorbed, allowed an uneasy coexistence, became subject to elite control and hence entered the marketplace, undergoing further evisceration until they were incorporated by the Christian hierarchy in the fourth century C.E. Recalcitrant indigenous Mysteries were extirpated by imperialist invaders, or forced to be practised in severely reduced form by isolated shamans or covens of witches.

The essential features, particularly the experienced inferiority, of the Mysteries have thus been scattered and obscured. Regeneration remains essential because a recovery of the earthly vision could help to facilitate a renewal of the earthly paradise. But reconstruction and replication of primal Mysteries in their archetypal form, even supposing the feasibility of such a project, is neither necessary nor sufficient. Primordial Mystery forms proved inadequate to prevemt the rise of control structures, and are thus unlikely to be capable of promoting their eradication. Moreover, the character of the conflict has now been invented: whilst primal Mysteries were essentially defensive, conserving congenial lore against authoritarian aberration, posthistoric Mysteries must take the offensive, evoking insurgency against the totalitarian status quo. The shift toward total revolution centres on a synthesis of primal existential harmony with contemporary visions of anarchy, a blending designed to elicit holistically integrated lifeways. Situated “between the times,” when total transformation becomes possible, this perspective necessarily exhibits a Janus-face. Primal praxes can be retrieved to nourish the future, but only if they are metamorphosed in the present. Contemporary conditions decree that preservation mysteries must become Eversion Mysteries. Given the existence of biocidal totalitarianism, life itself can be preserved only through global renewal, in the dual sense of resurgency and reintegration.

2. Germination

Olden Mysteries were modified to correspond to socio-economic changes. Most crucially, as forager-gatherer modes were replaced by agricultural settlement, the fertility aspect of the Mysteries shifted in focus from wild vegetation to crop cultivation. But this seemingly negligible modulation ultimately effected a catastrophic inversion in perceived relations between human beings and the divine. The notion of cosmic equilibrium entailed that any profitable act had to be offset by an equivalent service — or “giveaway” — to restore balance. As cultivation became customary, rather than occasional, and these acts became habitual, so guilt became generalized, and divinity came to be regarded as external, rather than integral, to human life. And as an exteriorized and potentially hostile force, the divine no longer invited ecstatic participation and celebration, but seemingly demanded propitiation and sacrifice, obeisance and penance. Consequently, through the sacerdotal insertion of a mediating conscience, the universe was construed to possess a moral order, with redemption for the obedient and penalization for the disobedient. Similarly, and related to this cosmological upheaval, as patriarchal forces gradually became dominant, so the matricentric Earth Goddess was splintered into various manifestations and assigned minor male consorts who grew to such importance that the Earth Mother herself gradually diminished into one of the lesser deities in the classical pantheon. Concurrently, the informal Mystery structures generated by shaman women were replaced by formal hierarchies dominated by male officiants. Furthermore, in preliterate societies the Mysteries were necessarily maintained through oral tradition — a custom which simultaneously prevented abuse of its techniques but made monopolization by emergent control structures much easier.

As a corollary of this set of historical factors, it remains difficult to determine the exact content of any particular Mystery praxis, particularly given that the only extant records are incomplete, derive from periods of decline and co-optation, and were frequently composed by hostile witnesses. Hence, in what follows no attempt will be made to reconstruct a Mystery rite from a specific historical era or geographical location. Moreover, since this essay intends to be catalytic rather than antiquarian in function, scant attention will be paid to external properties. If Eversion Mysteries develop, contemporary visions will discover appropriate ritual resources. Instead, this essay will enumerate the elements of an “ideal” Mystery rite. All of these elements may never have become operational in any actual rite. But varying combinations have been utilized throughout the ages. Indeed these combinations or gestalts are the crux of the Mysteries. Within such crucibles, transformations occur. When segregated these elements possess limited potency. When concentrated, however, they acquire almost unlimited transformative potential. Arts such as dance, music, poetry, drama and visual representation, in the various genres of satire, comedy and tragedy, plus skills in herbalism and gastronomy were developed, combined and energized here through magical integration.

The central objective of the Mysteries assumes three interrelated aspects: the arousal, shaping and projection of energy; possession by the wilderness or chthonic energies; and liberation of the involuntary through the gateway of the voluntary. In the process of achieving this triple objective, there results an erosion of ego boundaries, a concentrated assault on individuation intended to transfigure any incipient tendencies toward characterological — and hence social — authoritarianism. Each of the senses and faculties are sensitized to fever pitch prior to derangement into a liberatingly integrative synaesthesia. Belief remains irrelevant: emphasis falls on participation and experience, traditionally experience of the three observances, the things visualized/envisioned, vocalized and enacted. Ultimately, this process becomes ecstatic and convivial, but the initiation process remains daunting because of its extreme nature, its alluring aspects notwithstanding. Greater danger, however, threatens those who linger this side of paradise. There are fewer perils in the initiation process because coercion remains absent there. The routes to the ecstatic release of the involuntary are always voluntary. The individual volition retains its will until it becomes subsumed within the wilderness, at which juncture coercion becomes impossible.

The process begins with purgations, both inner and outer. Fasting signifies cleansing: it purges inner poisons, those imbibed through consumption, and lays the basis for more intense experience. The effects of drinking alcohol on an empty stomach are well known. Fasting prepares the ground, adds an edge, an appetite. The pangs of hunger prefigure other intractable urges, beyond rational control, which Mystery rites evoke. Immersion — physical submersion, particularly in the sea or other saline water — complements fasting by cleansing the corporeal exterior, and also presages the later total immersion in the oceanic consciousness.

A degree of sleeplessness remains important in ritualistic preparation. The lack of sleep breaks down inner resistances and in particular undermines and disorientates codifying intellectual processes. Trains of rational thought are disrupted as the wish to merge into dreamtime increases.

In such conditions satire becomes an effective instrument. Satyrs ridicule and humiliate, but also provoke laughter through ribaldry and the ritual uncovery of the genitals. The use of satire ensures that the whole process will not be regarded with excessive pomposity or piety. Sacred rites are performed in a spirit of play, which includes festivity, ludic fantasy and celebration, not the grave sanctimoniousness familiar from hierarchical ceremonies. Ridicule and mocking humour break down the sense of self, the egotism of self-importance and self-esteem. And when these defences are down, ribaldry arouses laughter, another refractory wilderness force, but one which assumes a uniquely human form.

Dance promotes the initiation process by encouraging enraptured abandonment to a syncopated musical beat. The dancer releases inhibitions, flings aside rigidities, be they postural, behavioural or characterological. Choreography allows a reattunement and a realignment with natural rhythms. And these compelling rhythms constitute another aspect of possession by the sacred wilderness.

Singly or collectively, individuals enter labyrinthine structures, often caves or underground passages, signifying their vision quest through the tunnels and caverns of the spirit. Mystery rites are conducted at night during periods when alignments of cosmological energy — expressed, for example, in the seasons, the phases of the moon, and astrological sitings — are favourable. So contrasts between light and darkness are maximal anyway. But descent into the labyrinth entails quitting this familiar if nocturnal terrain for the total darkness of the Earth and the unknown. The remainder of the initiation process unfolds here, even though the gloom becomes iridescent with illumination. Here the meaning of the Mysteries becomes apparent. The word “mystery” derives from the Greek term myein, to close. Enclosed in complete darkness and silence, the senses and faculties are sealed and fall into abeyance. Subsequently, each will be sensitized and deranged into an ecstatic synaesthesia, and the mystai (or initiates) will become epoptai, beholders. But at this juncture they become physically lost and mentally disorientated. Loss of self provokes bewilderment, amazement, panic — words which all originally denoted a positive surrender of rational faculties to the sacred wilderness. Possessed by chthonic energies who conduct them through the intricacies of the maze, they reach the matrix of the labyrinth. Both physically and spiritually, they enter the underworld, the womb of Mother Earth, the cauldron of transformation, in order to experience a symbolic death and rebirth on an expanded psychic level.

Hallucinogens are administered by facilitators or hierophants, those who reveal sacred things. Psychotropic drugs expedite a further dissolution of socially conditioned rational constraints and liberate the imagination. But because they derive from poisonous substances, they also transport individuals to the brink of physical decease. This remains necessary to facilitate a maximal capacity for kinesis in unlimited dimensions. And it becomes possible because those aspects of the wilderness embodied in the psychotropic properties of certain plants possess the initiates.

Hallucinogenic effects increase the intensity of magical or kundalini techniques. Through magic rituals, energies are evoked from chthonic regions in the identical realms of the Earth and the unconscious. Physical descent into the underworld finds a complement in a spiral downward into the spirit. Once connexions with the Earth and cosmological energies are reestablished, it becomes possible to tap into and redirect currents of elemental energies. These currents can rebalance inner polarities of energy, a process which facilitates ecstatic reintegration.

In turn, kundalini techniques are enhanced by a series of associated practices. Exercises in breath control are utilized. The life currents dependent on breathing are voluntarily regulated to achieve energy transformations. Moreover, regulation and retention of breath evokes yet another uncontrollable wilderness urge: the overwhelming desire to respire, to live, to affirm the life force. Similarly, the voces magicae, the magical words of power, the use of poetry and metre, mantric chanting, arouse energies through vocalization and rhythmic vibration. And mandalas or visual images are employed to inspire revelation through the representation of patterned energies.

Through the gestalt of these techniques and experiences, individuals are possessed by the wilderness in almost every aspect of their persons. Immersed in ecstasy, imbued by chthonic energies, they lose their wills and are healed by becoming vehicles through which the sacred wilderness achieves human expression. Possessed by animistic energies, they become qualified to participate in the enactments, the dramatization of the sacred myths of death and renewal. This dramatization incorporates the hierogamy, the orgiastic coupling with the divine which complements and reinforces the spiritual conjunction through possession. Tantric sexual rites intensify these acts to a frenzy, and unconstrained libidinous desire — the final aspect of wilderness force — overcomes any inhibitions placed on the search for erotic pleasure. The re-equilibration of inner polarities includes a fusion of “male” and “female” energies, and the initiate becomes androgynous, unconcerned with the artificial distinctions of gender in this search. Encountering total saturation, individuals transcend their ego boundaries and their mortality in successive waves of ecstasy.

This ecstatic culmination imperceptibly shades off into the agape, a love feast of wild food. The Mysteries conclude tenderly with re-birthday celebrations. Commensality constitutes a further sharing of energy, and conviviality reiterates consensual relations. But, both ancient and modern commentators agree, the affection and solidarity felt by the revellers comprises the agape’s most important aspect. Diodorus Siculus reports that those “who have taken part in the mysteries become more pious and more just and better in every respect than they were before.” And R. Gordon Wasson relates that “an indissoluble bond unites you with the others who have shared with you in the sacred agape.” The latter evokes “sentiments of awe and reverence, and gentleness and love, to the highest pitch of which mankind is capable.” Participants “feel welling up within them a tie that unites them with their companions of that night of nights that will last as long as they live.” The Mysteries produce an amative disposition, an expansive but informed empathy, a holistic sensibility, which promises a revivification of those harmonious and integrated lifeways that remain cardinal in contemporary visions of anarchy.

The techniques which comprise the Mysteries, a gestalt capable of effecting total transformation, have been outlined. But this description has remained exteriorized: the interior experience has so far eluded examination. Apuleis’s formulation of his vision quest may be useful here:

I approached the confines of death. I trod the threshold of Proserpine [goddess of the underworld]; and borne through the elements I returned. At midnight I saw the Sun shining in all his glory. I approached the gods below and the gods above, and I stood beside them, and I worshiped them. Behold, I have told my experience, and yet what you hear can mean nothing to you.

Perhaps, however, it can mean something. Many ritual elements of the Mysteries — fasting, breath control, hallucinogens — deliver individuals to the verge of physical demise. Whilst others — satire, dancing, kundalini techniques, Tantric sexual practices — propel them toward dissolution as distinct psychological or ethical entities. Apuleis stood on the threshold of death and recognized there was nothing to fear, but maintained the rudiment of subjectivity, the thread (perhaps an umbilical cord) which allowed him to find his way back through the labyrinth to be reborn. Death constitutes the central fascination; simultaneously alluring and terrifying, once confronted it becomes neither:

Death is seductive, for once the frightening threshold is crossed there is no more fear. Fear and hope are both dissolved; all that is left is rest, repose, relief, blessed nothingness, the void. But just as the void, to physicists, is the ‘mother state,’ so the crown of death becomes the circlet of rebirth, and the cords of binding become the umbilical cord to life, and we learn the Great Mystery — not as a doctrine, not as a philosophy, but as an experience: There is no annihilation.

Apuleis resists the seduction, as the Mystery rites intend, and experiences illumination and rebirth. He returns through the four elements which are invoked in the casting of the magic circle that protects his rudimentary self from merging completely with the oceanic consciousness. He stresses rebalancing polarities in terms of chthonic and celestial images, a re-equilibration of sexual and spiritual, or animal and divine energies. When the ego boundaries are lowered, unlimited motion in all dimensions becomes possible. He can commune with the living and the dead, travel back and forth in time, and explore the vast expanses of inner and outer space.

But even Apuleis cannot convey the inferiority of this experience. Livy says of Mystery ritualists: “To regard nothing as forbidden was among these people the summit of religious achievement.” It may be impossible to impart the experience of total freedom in words. But perhaps Aristotle’s formulations on tragedy in the Poetics intimate a pale reflection of its full spiritual complexity. Through the Mysteries, individuals — and through them entire communities — were sensitized to the point of ecstasy, and reborn with shamanic gifts that enriched the human collectivity. All existence became structured around the limitless vision quests which began on the sacred nights. But these gifts were received only after convulsive perceptual transformations and metamorphoses in sensibility. If initiation evoked terror and wonder, it also aroused pity and euphoria. The resulting katharsis was thus tragic in tone because it admixed ecstasy with empathy and compassion.

Eversion Mysteries could help to precipitate a shift toward total revolution, the unlimited liberation of anarchy. Complete emancipation should be ecstatic, blissful, convivial, but to remain human it may have to include a tragic hue. Tellus-vision may always remain a dual perspective, a double vision. The flavour of anarchy may be exquisitely bittersweet.

Chapter 6: Culture and Anarchy

Within mainstream discourse, and particularly in texts like the one by Matthew Arnold whose tide I have deliberately appropriated here, the terms “culture” and “anarchy” are regarded as antithetical. Any putative tendencies toward anarchy become a pretext to entreat authority to intervene and reestablish order and culture. But for proponents of anarchy this polarization clearly remains unacceptable. For the latter, the primary aim becomes the development of a culture of anarchy. Unfortunately, however, this project has been poorly served by anarchist thinkers who for the most part have remained mired in politics. Little seems less anarchic than jejune fantasies, presented with evident yet rather pathetic glee, of a future peopled with wholesome types whose entire raison d’être and greatest pleasure resides in orderly discussion and voting at neighbourhood or communal assemblies. I am not referring here to the visions of Utopian dreamers à la Morris, but to the prevailing impressions which exude through major anarchist texts, including those by contemporaries such as Murray Bookchin. In such works, many shibboleths are discarded, but not the one designated as politics; the future emerges as a place freed from all governance, except the rule of politics itself. Of course, communal decision-making processes should not be denigrated, and must play an important role in any future anarchy. But to envision a fresh culture around such a dessicated structure remains absurd, and fuels the popular suspicion that militants are only interested in recreating humanity in their own atrophied image, with a greatly distended political consciousness, but merely a rudimentary capacity for existential experience and appreciation. Given that anarchism has partly relied upon the vibrancy of its ideas and the exemplary actions of its adherents to transform popular praxis, its marginal appeal remains hardly surprising. Frankly, whatever vigour inheres in certain features, its notions of a politicized future are bland and unappetizing, and its conception of an adequate basis for a culture of anarchy remains almost nonexistent.

And yet the anarchic tradition retains a crucial element, a key attitude, which could help to recover this essential foundation. Proponents of anarchy habitually regard with nostalgia a halcyon period from the past. Depending upon individual perspectives, this mythopoeic era can be discerned in neolithic villages, primitive Christian communities, Medieval communes, pre-Columbian Amerindian life, and so on. In each instance, however, these idylls are flawed in two respects. On the one hand, their inhabitants failed to foresee and prevent their forcible suppression. And, on the other hand, all are compromised through defects — e.g., militaristic elements or disparate gender evaluations — of various magnitudes. Whilst not perfect nor ideal societies, however, they do provide basic paradigms for a regenerated future. A primary task of contemporary anarchic visionaries thus consists of amending the deficiencies in a primal pattern by synthesising it with insights derived from an imaginative, informed and empathic holistic sensibility.

However, these mythopoeic excavations are in turn inadequate through lack of profundity. They are insufficiently radical because they fail to unearth the root issue. No past society can be ideal, but all of these proposed paragons are to varying degrees contaminated by an immemorial sociopathic virus, a contagion so insidious and entrenched that it poisons even the most benign or revolutionary disposition. Nowadays it has become so deeply embedded that it has assumed a biopathic and biocidal character. But the analytic instruments wielded by the vast majority of anarchists are insufficiently searching, incapable of penetrating to the root cause. Various elements — the State, capitalist relations of production, hierarchy, technological domination, patriarchy, or a combination of these factors — have been proposed as the source of oppression, but each fails to account satisfactorily for the inceptive motivation. Certainly these factors are facets of the global control complex, but what induced a section of humanity to desolate the earthly paradise and set the authoritarian process in motion? Frequently, anarchist writers displace the problem by focussing on free communities who were invaded and enslaved by extraneous forces. But this merely begs the question of what actuated the expropriators. In my view, only a vast tectonic cataclysm, whose reverberations are still experienced today, can account for this malificent transformation. This upheaval — the Ice Age — necessitated the implementation of extreme emergency measures to ensure survival. But as the crisis became prolonged, sensibilities became lethally deformed and vested interests in deprivation developed amongst emerging control groups. We have all lived in a permanent state of emergency ever since.

In order to discern the basis of a future culture of anarchy, it remains essential to journey beyond the cataclysm which initiated history to the genuinely halcyon days of the primeval era. During this passage, I shall draw on Henry Bailey Stevens’s remarkable but neglected text, The Recovery of Culture. Stevens was not an anarchist per se, but he was a visionary — something immediately apparent in his magnum opus, where the joins between vision and ideology are all too evident. His reconstruction of primordial human modalities remains unparalleled, but the accompanying remedial plans are marred by an incompatible Carlylean emphasis on Great Men as the motivators of social change. In what ensues, these extrinsic elements will be disregarded.

Stevens’s basic theses are as follows. Before the Ice Age there existed a “Total Culture,” a holistic “integration of ethics (cult), art (culture) and soil fertility (agriculture).” This total culture centred on the garden or more precisely the orchard, an informal enclosure best denoted by the Avestan word pairidaeza, paradise. Such spaces should not be confused with the walled gardens of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, those sites of total control. Rather, as centres of barrow culture, they were only separated from the wilderness by functional trenches which prevented wild animals from ravaging the produce. This cultivated product was the Aval, a word whose modern derivative is apple, but which was originally a generic term for fruit. Through etymological investigation, Stevens establishes that the Aval-culture ranged from its source in Java as far as Avalon and beyond. And throughout this region horticulture remained the basis of culture. Cultivation was not undertaken for profit, but for ecological, communal and characterological nourishment. It was not an extractive industry: the plant-human relationship was symbiotic, and the activity involved — hardly onerous by the most stringent reckoning — was more like a vocation or play than labour. The orchard was not a factory but a temple, a word which originally denoted a sacred grove. It was literally the seedbed of primate spirituality and culture. Hence, it remains unsurprising that the global symbols of human spiritual experience — the arbor vitae, the axis mundi, the golden apples, the coiled guardian serpent or dragon, the kundalini energy (originally snakes, Stevens suggests, domesticated to deter other creatures from ravaging the fruit) — derive from this empirical reality. These nonviolent, communalistic, matrifocal yet variegated anarchies of abundance were veritable earthly paradises, where toil and want were unknown and there were ample opportunities for celebration, conviviality, ritual and creativity.

But, Stevens avers, there was a third crucial aspect to this integrated “art-ethics-soil culture.” The ethical component was derived from a profound ecological sensibility and reverence for the natural. The arboriculturists may have undertaken complex experiments in seed selection, improvement and hybridization, but they did not regard this as abusing so much as cooperating with nature. They did not conceive of themselves as separate from the latter; essentially, theirs was still a “primate culture.” And their ethical conceptions derived from this acceptance. At the basis of their ethics lay a respect and affection for other species which emanated from their own physiological structures. Diet — a strictly frugivorous diet — lay at the foundation of their fundamental ethical principle: namely, that cousins, whether they assume animal or human form, for no firm ontological distinctions can be made here, sihould not be harmed, exploited, killed or eaten. “There are many indications that diet played an important part in such ethics and that the garden settlements took an absolute stand for the frugivorous culture of the primate family.” For in assuming this stance, the orchardists resolutely asserted their simian heritage. Non-human primates are not noted exploiters, rarely kill except in self-defence, and share with humans a physiological structure which suits them for not a carnivorous or omnivorous or herbivorous but a frugivorous diet. The human contribution to this “natural” ethic was to render it totally egalitarian by weeding out any lingering relics of the bestial pecking-order.

As intimated above, these paradisal life ways were literally subjugated by marauding bands of hierarchical, patriarchal militarists. But ultimately the responsibility for their suppression must be attributed to the cosmological energies which precipitated the Ice Age. This in itself should provide a topic of contemplation for those who glibly assume that the Earth Spirit automatically supports such endeavours. But the main issue lies in examining the effect of the tectonic shift on contemporaneous communities, and in particular its role in forming the basis of the biocidal mentality.

According to Stevens, when the glaciers descended from the north, humanity underwent a fatal bifurcation which remains at the basis of the current global crisis. Whilst most communities retreated south in search of more propitious climatic conditions, scattered tribes who were unwilling or unable to abandon their settlements became caught in continental traps or peninsulas or between mountain ranges and the ocean. Rather than abundance, they now encountered conditions of extreme scarcity. Horticulture was no longer a viable practice and so drastic alterations in lifestyle, including diet, were necessary to ensure survival. In these harsh and exceptional conditions, there originated a hunting-fishing economy, where humans hunted and killed their animal cousins for food and clothing. In evolutionary terms, such practices constituted a vast atavism, justified perhaps in extreme circumstances and for a limited period. But in this instance the period became prolonged, and gradually the profound mutations effected in every aspect of these tribes’ lifeways became inveterate. Even after the extraordinary situation had disappeared and such practices were no longer justified, they persisted through internalization, the influence of vested interests, and cultural deprivation. They are still with us today, perverting and vitiating any attempt toward total liberation.

Amongst these northern tribes, the integrated culture developed by the arboriculturists was fragmented, and devastated in each of its three aspects. Plant cultivation was abandoned, ethical sensibility was debased through animal (and consequently human) exploitation, and opportunities for the development of a communal-spiritual-artistic culture vanished. This traumatic cultural deprivation, with its attendant disfiguration of sensibility, constitutes the foundation of the biocidal mentality.

The human physiological structure does not possess the capacity to digest flesh properly. The toxic properties in decomposing flesh, which cannot be assimilated or dissipated, enter the human organism and act as an irritant. This physiological factor, combined with the shame resulting from violation of the cardinal ethical principle, was sufficient to produce a generalized disposition toward ill-feeling — both an inner sense of disease and of being ill at ease, and an outer ill-tempered belligerence — in the northern tribes. This constitutional degeneration was gradually compounded by other environmental factors. In a context of scarce resources, competition — rather than the mutual aid characteristic of the orchardists — became inevitable. Work, rather than ritual play, became the primary occupation, and with it slowly came a division of labour, a demarcation of responsibilities and power, hierarchical control. Given that hunting was the basic task, and that men were physically more suited to this role, the matricentric focus of these communities was increasingly displaced by patriarchal structures. This gradual shift in orientation produced enormous changes in the area of spirituality. As they became less reliant on agricultural produce, and hence less connected to any particular locale, the northern tribes became nomadic, following the migrations of their prey. This continual motion disrupted the spiritual and cultural potency of women, which remained rooted in the earth and germinant processes. Patriarchal ideology, which exalted a deracinated, linear masculine sexuality above earth-centred female menstrual cycles, overthrew the delicately balanced polarities of matrifocal spirituality and replaced it with a hierarchical, priestly religion which stressed the celestial at the expense of the chthonic. The sky gods replaced earth spirits, the sun god displaced the moon goddess, animism became animalism, menstrual-centred mysteries were distorted into blood sacrifices. The “Age of Blood,” which continues to the present day, had begun. And the slaughter of animals soon extended to the murder of humans. Competition for scarce resources amongst nomadic groups inexorably resulted in conflict, and in its train the institutions of war and militarism. Hunting and warfare both demand tools for killing, hence the origins of the arms trade. The need to coordinate these diverse activities in a firm command structure under the control of a ruling elite eventually led to the formation of a prototypical State. Hence, it can be seen that the essential elements which comprise the contemporary control complex — or Civilization — were assembled in prototypal form amongst the northern tribes during the Ice Age.

Stevens discerns two phases in the development of the northern “Blood Culture,” both centred on the treatment of animals and the natural world in general. The hunting phase considered above was superseded by a tellingly entitled period of animal husbandry. The latter commenced with the withdrawal of glaciation:

As the ice receded and plant food became again abundant, the capacity of the middle lands increased. Into a region accustomed to the hunting economy moved growers of crops. Thus the ultimate population of these lands was exposed in the Stone Age to two distinct types of culture — one the handax culture of the south, of primate character, symbolized by the tree; the other, the spear culture of the north, of carnivorous character, symbolized by blood.

One might imagine that this reconvergence of two by now almost totally disparate cultures would produce bloodshed, with the warlike nomads effortlessly exterminating the growers whom they perceive as invaders of their territory, and hence proceeding to subjugate the southern heartlands. The fact that generations passed before the barbarians felt sufficiently confident to operate in this manner testifies to their relative weakness in the face of the arboriculture’s resilience. But the northerners’ seeming acquiescence in peaceful coexistence lulled the orchardists into a false sense of security which made their ultimate enslavement all the more effectual. The latter were drawn into a fatal compromise:

The philosophic contrast between the cultures is sharp; but the conflict seems to have remained latent until the domestication of animals in the neolithic period. There is no evidence of warfare between the hunters and the horticulturists. Economically their interests were not at variance. Indeed, the hunters by reducing the number of wild animals performed the same service to food growers as did the beasts of prey; it was easier to grow crops successfully when the wild creatures were kept in abeyance. So the hunters and fishers, though they were at war with most of the animal kingdom [sic], were at peace with their fellow man.

Stevens speculates that animal domestication originated amongst the orchardists, arguing that they tamed creatures not for farming and slaughtering, but as helpmates and crop protectors against wild birds and rodents. The barbarians, however, converted this benevolent symbiotic practice into the exploitative mode of livestock breeding — something more congenial to their carnivorous nomadic lifestyle. Cattle, goats and sheep were farmed for their milk, hides and flesh; horses were broken in to become implements of war and domination. And the arboriculturists failed sufficiently to oppose this development, or if they did so it was always too little and too late. Stevens suggests the Cain and Abel story records this conflict: the frugivorous grower kills the carnivorous herdsman in retaliation for the latter’s livestock overrunning his garden. But the retribution remains inadequate because the proliferation of herders continues apace. The dwindling hunting and fishing subsistence economy acquires a zombie-like resurrection, ironically through the agency of a technique adapted from the arboriculturists, whose subjugation it now effects. Private property, rather than community of goods, now slowly becomes predominant. The aryan term for war literally meant “a desire for more cows.” The war on animals became a war on humans and thence a war on nature, a war ultimately against all life waged in the name of total domination and disconnexion. Abattoirs, concentration camps, gas chambers and nuclear weapons all originate in the same complex.

The ground for the arboriculture’s violent subjugation was prepared through infection, both literal and symbolic. The orchardists, with their intuitive notion of cosmic equilibrium through reciprocity, had long recognized the significance of sacrificing the first fruits — i.e., allowing the initial crop in a season to fall and remain unharvested. This bloodless offering repaid the Earth by mulching and enriching the topsoil, which in turn yielded bigger fruit and larger crops. With the advent of animal domestication, however, it was discovered that spreading animal excrement under the branches of the trees resulted in an even more prolific yield. But the nitrogen in fecal matter which promotes plant growth, the slaughtering herders unwittingly discovered, is even more profuse in animal blood. Stevens surmises that the effect of this revelation on the arboriculturists was devastating, for the trees’ positive response to blood seemed to indicate divine approbation for slaughter in general and animal sacrifice in particular. Cosmological perceptions were transmuted and Mars, initially a vegetation god, became God of War.

The orchardists were ideologically undermined before they were militarily subdued. This demonstration of a seeming veracity in the theology developed by the barbarians’ specialized priesthood (in contrast to the generalized spirituality and random shamanism amongst the orchardists) initiated a fatal strain of degeneration amongst their frugivorous neighbours. In the hunting-fishing phase, the northerners had already begun their biocidal activities, rendering numerous species, such as the mammoth, extinct. This tendency seemed to have been reversed, despite the mass animal slaughter, by their transition to livestock breeding. But the appearance was deceptive. The apparent short-term gains were overwhelmingly outweighed by long-term environmental depredations. The arboriculturists, fatally compromised by this time, were unable to counter the forces which were literally blighting their lifeways:

The overgrazing of the land by the herds of domestic animals sapped the fertility of the soil. The crops then became more susceptible to the host of blights which had always been a menace. When the season was favorable to those invisible fungi, dark spots would appear upon the leaves and spread from tree to tree. Then the foliage would wither and droop, and the spots would spread to the fruit. And the priests interpreted this to mean that the tree needed purer blood. So we took no more… unclean beasts…. And when the blight still came on, spreading from tree to tree; and the earth seemed barren and the sands began to come; then the wizards came to us with hard faces, for they were certain of the efficacy of blood. The gods, they said, were angry with us, and there was only one way to propitiate them.

So murder became sanctified. Crop offerings, replaced by animal sacrifices, augmented by ritual killing of humans, tumefied into the systematic mass slaughter practised by the Aztecs, the precursors of contemporary totalitarianism. The synchronous subjugation of the arboriculture set the “essential pattern” of Civilization: the chain of oppression, the vicious circle of ongoing degeneration which, allowing for socio-economic changes and developments in control techniques, remains operational today. The military state enforces its domination through economic exploitation and its attendant class distinctions, gender and ethnic differentiations, educational and religious indoctrination, the imposition of a monetary system, and so on. Its vassals in turn hunt and enslave animals, deliberately breeding a surplusage for exploitation and slaughter which eventually exhausts the land, causing dearth and famine. Still, amongst privileged classes or regions, animal flesh remains the staple dietary element, but this “unprimate food” corrupts “the inner organs, causing dull wits, foul diseases and great demands for medical help”. In short, it reinforces dependence upon and support for authoritarian control structures, creating a predisposition toward stupefaction. The cycle of degeneration remains complete. Ecologically, socially, and characterologically, the infestation of the flesh virus ultimately remains the catastrophic source of contemporary biocidal totalitarianism.

Given this horrific onslaught, it remains hardly surprising that the arboriculture disappeared and the lifeways it embodied became otherworldy. Atlantis sank beneath the waves, Avalon evaporated, paradise became enskied and could be hoped for only in an afterlife. But for those of us who wish to reverse this process and renew the earthly paradise, such consolation remains insufficient. Regeneration can become possible only through actions based upon an incisive awareness of the full nature of primeval transcultural conflict. In order to recover culture, to discover the basis for a culture of anarchy, it remains essential to revive the primal total culture, the holistic integration of art, ethics and horticulture. From this perspective, anything less remains severely tainted and compromised through its infection by the biopathic virus.

The best of the present culture — a culture in the pathological sense only — points beyond itself toward the recovery of primate lifeways. But for anarchists to seek inspiration in the strictly limited emancipatory attempts of the Paris Commune, the Spanish Revolution or May 1968 remains absurd. In these instances, the participants demanded so little and — not surprisingly, given their embattled situations — made only minimal moves toward recovery. It might be more congruent for anarchists to redirect attention toward the Adamites, the radical section of the dissenting Medieval commune of Tabor:

The majority of the Taborites were extreme puritans in their personal conduct, but a minority, influenced by the Free Spirit doctrines of the Pikarti, believed that the millennium had already arrived. They were the kingdom [sic] of the elect, and for them all laws had been abolished. Four hundred were expelled from Tabor in 1421 and wandered through the woods naked, singing and dancing, claiming to be in the state of innocence of Adam and Eve before the fall. Acting on Christ’s remark about harlots and publicans, they considered chastity a sin and seem to have spent their time in a continuous sexual orgy.

The nomadic, non-earth-centred nature of this venture indicates its limitations as a recovery endeavour, but it remains a far superior example of liberation than those listed above. In contrast to the latter, it contains an explicit recognition that Civilization constitutes a vast aberration and transgression of natural law — a perceptual basis upon which the Adamites founded alternative modes of conduct (a rudimentary form of culture).

For Matthew Arnold, the philistines were the precipitants of anarchy, insurgents against whom authority wielded the weapon of culture. But he was wrong: by definition, the culture of authority remains philistine. Current mainstream culture, and the majority of its fringes, remain implicated, permeated by the stench of putrefying animal flesh, the source of totalitarian biocide. To become its antithesis, the shift toward total revolution must be founded upon, characterized by, and aspire toward a regeneration of total culture. Only thus will a culture of anarchy maintain its validity.

Chapter 7: The Appeal of Anarchy

Amidst ecstatic visions Anarchy appears. She says:

Whenever you need anything, once a month at the full moon, assemble in the wilderness — in the forest, on the heath, by the seashore — for the state of nature is a community of freedoms. Recognize the imminence of total liberation, and as a sign of your freedom be naked in your rites.

Dance and sing, laugh and play, feast on the fruits of the earth, the delights of my body, make music and love — for all acts of pleasure are my rituals. And I am that which you find in the fulfulment of desire.

Abolish all authority, root out coercion. Share all things in common and decide through consensus. Shake off the character armor which binds and constrains. Let the wilderness energies possess you.

Cast the magic circle, enter the trance of ecstasy, revel in the sorcery which dispels all power. But commit no sacrifices. Repudiate harmfulness, exploitation and slaughter. Rather venerate all creatures and respect them as different but equal to you.

Total transformation thus becomes possible.

This rite shall continue to be celebrated until Anarchy becomes universal.

This text has been adapted from renderings of “The Charge of the Goddess” by Starhawk and Charles G.Leland. There are multiple versions of this witchcraft rite and much dispute over its authenticity. Some maintain that it contains sentiments which have been uninterruptedly passed down the ages from prehistoric times, whilst others aver that it derives wholly from the fertile imagination of Leland, who first published it in 1899. (For further information, see Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today, Revised and Expanded Edition (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986), 56–9.) But to my mind the fact that it remains on the very cusp between fabrication and authenticity, or “fact” and “fiction,” adds to its attraction.

Selected Bibliography

  • Adler, Margot, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today Revised and Expanded Edition (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986).

  • Camatte, Jacques, The Wandering of Humanity trans. F. Perlman (Detroit: Black & Red, 1975).

  • Meyer, Marvin W., The Ancient Mysteries: A Reader (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987).

  • Perlman, Fredy, Against His-story, Against Leviathan!: An Essay (Detroit: Black & Red, 1983)

  • Perlman, Fredy, Anti-Semitism and the Beirut Pogrom (Seattle: Left Bank Books, 1983)

  • Rexroth, Kenneth, Communalism: From Its Origins to the Twentieth Century (New York: Seabury Press, 1974).

  • Sjöö, Monica and Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979).

  • Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex and Politics (Boston: Beacon Press, 1982)

  • Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987).

  • Stevens, Henry Bailey, The Recovery of Culture (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949).

  • Vest, Jay Hansford C., “Will-of-the-land: Wilderness Among Primal Indo-Europeans” in Environmental Review Vol.9, no.4 (Winter 1985).

  • Wasson, R. Gordon, Alfred Hoffman, Carl A.P. Ruck, The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978).

  • Wynne-Tyson, Jon, Food for a Future: The Complete Case for Vegetarianism (London: Centaur Press, 1979).

Lovebite
Mythography and the Semiotics of Culture

Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

It is no light undertaking to separate what is original from what is artificial in the nature of man. And to know correctly a state which no longer exists, which never existed, which possibly never will exist, and about which it is nevertheless necessary to have precise notions in order to judge our present state correctly.

Once upon a time…

Little Red Riding Hood enters the forest carrying provisions for her grandmother. Leaving the clearing, she glides through the depths of the greenwood.

All the elements of this scenario are significant, especially the constituent parts in the appellation of this suggestively anonymous — i.e., archetypal — female. She is little — a young person, although not entirely a child. Her identity remains veiled behind an eponymous red hood. The colour indicates that she is currently experiencing her menarche, an incipient awareness of her innate power (or mana) and (pro)creative potentials. The hood signifies her unbroken hymen — or at least an unfecundated womb. The reference to riding intimates a growing susceptivity to erotic energies, a desire to ride and be ridden in the sexual sense.

A pubescent, menstruating virgin, she ventures into the forest, a site of transformation in Western culture. This journey constitutes her rite of passage. Leaving behind the world of domestication and order, she travels further into the wilderness. Her aim remains to find her grandmother — to be initiated into the mysteries by this Earth Mother figure, and to establish contact through the latter with her ancestors, their traditional ways, and the origins of life. This is her vision quest. As an offering, she takes provisions and her first menstrual blood — an early linkage of food and sexuality which becomes a leitmotiv in the narrative.

At the point of becoming fertile through her menarche, she goes to visit a crone who has reached the close of her fertile period, her menopause. But the latter condition does not connote a loss of mana. On the contrary, “the Crone stage in Witchcraft [is] considered the time of life when experience and wisdom bring a woman to her full power” (Starhawk 1987, p.297). And the initiating grandmother is clearly a witch. In pagan times, initiation “rites were often governed by old women, due to the ancient belief that post-menopausal women were the wisest of mortals because they permanently retained their ‘wise blood’.” (Walker 1983, p.641). The fact that the grandmother provides Red Riding Hood with her characteristic garment acquires additional significance in this context. The act of fashioning the maid’s red cape identifies the former as a spinster, a spinner or weaver of fate as well as clothes. She embodies the Fates, “the ‘spinners’ who hold the thread of destiny in their hands“, and acts as a seer:

Part of the process of weaving the future depends on divining what lies ahead (as well as what lay in the past). The Crone is the soothsayer, the ‘conversation woman’ or ‘spaewife’ who wore hooded garments and traveled around foretelling the future (Noble 1983, pp.71, 77).

The Fates became anglicized as fays or fairies, and witches “dressed exactly like fairies. They wear a red mantle and hood, which covers the whole body. They always wear these hoods. An old woman living at Holmesfield, in the parish of Dronfield, in Derbyshire, who wore ‘one of those hoods called “little red riding hoods”, used to be called the old witch’” (Zipes 1983, p.60n). Furthermore, “in Britain, ‘a red woven hood’ was the distinguishing mark of a prophetess or a priestess” (Walker 1983, p.1070). Given these identifications, the fact that Red Riding Hood’s mother impels her daughter’s quest toward the grandmother gains another level of signification. These three figures, each from successive generations, represent the Virgin-Mother-Crone aspects of the witches’ deity, the Triple Goddess, the three phases of the Moon, which were held to govern menstrual cycles.

On her way, Red Riding Hood encounters a wolf, but as an innocent does not recognize or suffer adversity through his predatory aspects. Holistically integrated, she does not fear the wild inhabitants of the outer world, nor the untamed instincts which dwell within her. Able to commune with both natures, she dances and plays with the wolf. In return, the latter — who significantly knows the maid’s appellation — encourages her to shed some of her character armour, acquired within the civilizing area, which has begun to crystallize and rigidify around her. He reanimates her diminishing appreciation of the beauties of Nature, those experiential participations actively discouraged by civilizers, and in particular encourages her to pick some flowers for her grandmother. Enrapt in the search for ever more beautiful blossoms, she loses all track of time and spce, those basic coordinates of domination so deftly exposed by John Zerzan. Engrossment does not constitute a distraction from the quest, but its prerequisite. Moreover, the flower-picking also contains rich symbolic meanings. Flowers are the sexual organs of plants. Hymens are conventionally known as flowers: women are deflowered when their hymens are broken. And menstrual blood was called the flower (or flow-er) in ancient times: “As any flower mysteriously contained its future fruit, so uterine blood was the moon-flower supposed to contain the soul of future generations” (Walker 1983, p.638). The wolf does not rape the maid, but encourages her to explore her own sexuality and the mysterious dimensions of her onsetting fecundity. But this solitary, introspective, even masturbatory phase cannot continue forever. The maid resumes her journey to fulfil her quest, taking both provisions and flowers, another linkage of food and sexuality.

Eventually reaching the remote, secluded abode “under the three big oak trees” (Grimm 1982, p.63), she expects to find her familiar, kindly granny. But the witchy crone has lycanthropically transformed herself into her totem animal, and appearances are no longer congruent with reality. In the wood, the grandmother appeared in the outer guise of a wolf, but maintained her humanly affectionate disposition. In the dwelling, however, while appearing in the trappings of a human grandmother, she assumes her animal nature. Boundaries are lowered, human and animal energies commune, her ego dissolves or is “eaten”. And the same process transforms the maid. Initiation occurs, not through instruction, but through the experience of being gobbled up, of ecstatically surrendering to the sacred wilderness. Both grandmother and granddaughter are swallowed whole, and live within the belly of the wolf the womb of the mother — respectively, the cauldrons of digestive and procreative transformation. Due to their contiguity, these two functions are symbolically conflated: “The notion that pregnancy is the result of eating is still widespread among savages. Words for consuming and conceiving are often the same… The Bible’s term for birth is ‘coming forth from the bowels’ (Genesis 15:4), for, like children, the ancients were not altogether certain of the distinction between reproductive and digestive systems” (Walker 1983, p.135).

Nonetheless, the initiation process remains ecstatic in both the etymological and the contemporary meanings of the term. In Greek, “ekstasis meant ‘standing forth naked’” (Walker 1983, p.269), and Red Riding Hood does precisely that. In some versions of the tale, the initiatory catechism (“What big eyes/ears/ hands/teeth you have… All the better to see/hear/ touch/ eat you with“), which stresses sensuous experience, accompanies the ritual stripping of the maid. As the latter removes each garment — symbolizing inhibitions, conditionings, repressions — she throws them into the fire, emblem of erotic passion, burning away the integuments of her old identity. The fiery consumption of these garments precedes her passionate consummation/consumption on the bed.

The initiatory process thus remains simultaneously alimentary and sexual. The figure of the wolf is also the grandmother. Freud was wrong about “the primal scene”. The father does not jealously devour his sons for fear that they will supplant him — both in the mother’s bed and as leader. Nor do the envious sons consume their father in order to supersede him. Rather, the (grand)mother lovingly devours her (grand)daughter in the assurance that she will continue ancient anarchic, shamanic traditions. Put another way, the father does not (literally or symbolically) castrate his sons to ensure obedience and to prevent sexual — especially incestuous — expression. Instead, the (grand)mother releases her (grand)daughter’s polymorphous sexuality and her capacity for total freedom. Her acts are thus necessarily both incestuous and cannibalistic — in other words, totemic, concerned with issues of consanguinity. “‘Totem’ means ‘related through the mother’” (Sjöö and Mor 1987, p.80) — both the biological progenitrix and the Universal Mother of All. Hence, the initiation experience imparts the realization that, given universal holistic interrelatedness, all sexual acts are incestuous and all forms of consumption are cannibalistic.

Pleasure remains principal here. Through her shape shifting capacities, the grandmother becomes a figure of almost limitless sexual possibility. Polymorphous and androgynous, animal and human, female (crone) and male (wolf), bisexual and unashamedly incestuous (sexually initiating her granddaughter and often taking a kinsman, usually brother or son, as a consort), a conjoiner of the living and the dead — she represents erotic energy incarnate. Few permutations are beyond her scope.

But the conjunction of sexual and alimentary appetites remains far from fortuitous. For while sexual expression remains unlimited in its possibilities, alimentary ingestion must conform with physiological structure if cosmological equilibrium is not to be violated. In theory, practically anything could be consumed. In practice, however, omnivorousness precipitates vast dislocations on characterological, communal and ecological levels. Initiation forestalls this cataclysm by imparting a fundamental ethical precept: Do as you will, but harm no others. The polarities of this categorical imperative — the so-called Golden Rule — are the etymologically-linked concepts of passion and compassion. In a severely attenuated form, this integral praxis remained current in ancient times:

Like the devadasis of Hindu temples, prostitute-priestesses dispensed the grace of the Goddess in ancient Middle-Eastern temples. They were often known as Charites or Graces since they dealt in their unique combination of beauty and kindness called charis (Latin caritas) that was later translated ‘charity’. Actually it was like Hindu karuna, a combination of mother-love, tenderness, comfort, mystical enlightenment, and sex” (Walker 1983, pp.819–20).

But even this characterization constitutes a sharp decline from earlier eras, when charis was the perpetual basis of all conduct, and was dispensed to all beings, human and non-human, in whichever ways were appropriate. Red Riding Hood flourished during such times. For her, the animistic principle of charis, imbued through participation in the mysteries, liberates vitalistic pleasure and minimizes unnecessary pain, suffering and death. It also resides at the foundation of taboo and totemic practices, which formulate this visionary intuition in mnemonic devices for nonliterate peoples.

Totems are designed to promote, rather than impede, the flow of lifeforces. Certain potential food sources, particularly animal flesh, are set aside, or tabooed — not harmed, but preserved; not killed, but revered; not eaten, but embodied. To forgo these possible comestibles is regarded, not as an abnegation, but as a joyous privilege; not as a punishment, but as a reward. The establishment of a taboo consecrates its subject, affirms its unique sacred status within the variegations of a vibrant, sacralized cosmos. Primal taboos do not prohibit the accursed, but celebrate the blessed scheme of universal anarchy. Derived from the dreams and visions of a collectivity and its members, they act as informal guidelines to conduct in a context of total freedom, a common fund of congenial lore in communities without laws. An equivalent term for “lore” is “way”, as in “lifeways”, and “Ways were always living ways; laws are not ways of free people. Laws are Leviathan’s ways” (Perlman 1983A, p.35).

In Rome, for example, “Originally there had been no Twelve Tables, nor any other Roman code of laws; there had been only oral tradition, based on instinctive good principles and particular magical announcements“. And this magically-informed oral tradition, or lore, was synonymous with poetic or mythic language:

Poetry in its archaic setting, in fact, was either the moral or religious law [read: lore] laid down for men by the nine-fold Muse, or the ecstatic utterance of man in furtherance of this law and in glorification of the Muse.

Graves insists upon using the word “law” because of the etymological derivation he accords to it, but his account of the decline into legalism makes more sense if regarded as the replacement of lore by law, or of spirituality by religion:

It must be explained that the word lex, ‘law’, began with the sense of a ‘chosen word’, or magical pronouncement, and that, like lictor, it was later given a false derivation from ligare. Law in Rome grew out of religion: occasional pronouncements developed proverbial force and became legal principles. But as soon as religion in its primitive sense [read: spirituality] is interpreted as social obligation and defined by tabulated laws — as soon as Apollo the Organizer, God of Science, usurps the power of his Mother the Goddess of inspired truth, wisdom and poetry, and tries to bind her devotees by laws — inspired magic goes, and what remains is theology, ecclesiastical ritual, and negatively ethical behaviour (Graves 1986, pp.479,447).

Another synonym for lore or spirituality, and one which subsumes them both, is taboo. The differences between law and taboo (in its archaic sense) are particularly acute. Significantly, “the very word taboo, from Polynesian tapua, ‘sacred, magical’, applied specifically to menstrual blood” (Walker 1983, p.644). A taboo was broken when a wrong was committed against universal interrelatedness, that ubiquitous consanguinity which the menses typify. But laws, founded on the organization of unrelatedness, are infringed when attempts (some authentic, others wrongheaded or perverted) are made to reestablish a sense of interconnectedness. Furthermore, in contrast to the externally imposed coercions characteristic of all legal systems,

the primitive punishment for the breach of a taboo is ordained not by the judges of the tribe but by the transgressor himself, who realizes his error and either dies of shame and grief or flees to another tribe and changes his identity… his breach of taboo was left to his own sense of divine vengeance (Graves 1986, p.478).

The Erinys, or avenger, did not assume the form of a terroristic law enforcer, but an interiorized crone figure, somewhat resembling Red Riding Hood’s grandmother. Walker refers to

the Celtic Goddess Rhiannon, the same Earth Mother who ate her own children. Often her Night-Mare character was a personification of conscience, for the Goddess sent ominous dreams to warn or to torment those who broke her laws [read: lore] (Walker 1985, p.87).

Primal communities did not need police forces to maintain law and order. The ethical principle of charis provided sufficient scope for most behaviour. And sacred clowns burlesqued any individuals who became offensively authoritarian.

As the policeman and the executioner represent authority in the stark reality of the West, the sacred clown represents authority in the metaphoric world of primal society… The thrust of the ego in the individual is so slight a threat to public life… that common gossip and ceremonialized ridicule are sufficient to keep people living together harmoniously.

Moreover,

Since primal society is inclusive rather than exclusive, since it recognizes everything in nature as natural, there is therefore an appropriate place for all behavior within the tribal structure — though many forms of behavior might be considered peculiar and perhaps undesirable in other societies (Highwater 1981, pp.179,180,174).

Implicit in totemic consciousness as it has been adumbrated above remains a deeply ingrained ethical sensibility. And the experience of ritual initiation constitued the central means through which this sensibility was assimilated. So exactly what occurred in these initiation ceremonies, these “Hekate suppers” (Noble 1983, p.78) or Lupercalia (festivals of the She-Wolf) which created such profound effects?

Inevitably some compelling conjunction of sexual and alimentary acts must have taken place. In sexual terms, incestuous relations between grandmother and granddaughter occurred. Necessarily these acts must have been lesbian in character. The reasons for such relations are not difficult to recover. By making love with each other, the grandmother and granddaughter reenact the ultimate scene of cosmic creation. “The most ancient myths made the primal couple not a Goddess and a God, but a Goddess and a Serpent. The Goddess’s womb was a garden of paradise in which the serpent lived” (Walker 1983, p.642). And the Serpent, although subsequently construed by early patriarchal thinkers into a phallic symbol, was initially female (perhaps symbolising the umbilical cord which unites mother and child in the womb): “In line with its uroboric hybrid nature, the snake may also appear as feminine“. The Goddess, as primeval chaos, parthenogenetically generated the serpent, made love with her offspring, and engendered the universe (or kosmos, holistic harmony) from the swirls of ensuing erotic energy. This creative act is symbolised by the uroboros:

The uroboros, the circular snake biting its tail, is the symbol of the beginning, of the original situation, in which man’s consciousness and ego were still small and undeveloped. As symbol of the origin and of the opposite contained within it, the uroboros is the ‘great Round’, in which positive and negative, male and female, elements of consciousness, elements hostile to consciousness, and unconscious elements are intermingled. In this sense the uroboros is also a symbol of a state in which chaos, the unconscious, and the psyche as a whole were undifferentiated — and which is experienced by the ego as a borderline state (Neumann 1955, pp.144, 19).

The uroboros, often abstractly represented as a circle, denotes primal anarchy, the zero, the beginning, the matrix of metaphor, the orgasmic vowel of creative activity. Contemporary anarchists reemphasise this meaning by placing an A — the alpha, the initial vowel — inside it. But the uroboros also represents the omega, the long O which ends the Greek alphabet, the last howl, the cry of death and consummation, the “Crone’s letter, the horseshoe-shaped omega, which means literally ‘great Om’” (Walker 1985, p.81). In my beginning is my end, as the circled A typifies, testifying to anarchy’s dynamic attempt to synthesise primal beginnings with advanced ends.

The uroboros remains simultaneously cannibalistic and incestuous. As a serpent biting its own tail, it cannibalistically consumes life, just as life eats life to survive, and death eats life so that life may continue. As the Goddess, making love to herself in the form of her offspring, it incestuously ensures the continuity of generation. The cyclical round of birth-death-rebirth, figured in the lives of individuals, the phases of the Moon, the shifting seasons, and multitudinous other forms, remains at the centre of female initiation ceremonies. Regenerative cycles are reaffirmed by the alimentary/ sexual coupling of the maturing, fertile girl and the declining, barren crone.

The central ritual act was the mutual genital kiss, of which our kiss on the lips remains a mere token.

Like most forms of affectionate contact, the kiss was an adaptation of primitive mother/ child behavior. The original Sanskrit word was cusati, ‘he sucks’. Gestures of embrace, clutching to the bosom, began as imitations of the nursing mother. Scholars believe kissing originated in the mouth-to-mouth feeding, practiced amongst ancient Greeks and others as a form of love play. In Germany and Austria even up to the 19th century AD it was common for mothers to premasticate food and feed it to their infants by ‘kissing’. Kissing was most common in European countries, where it was suposed to create a bond among all members of a clan (hence, ‘kissing cousins’). It was virtually unknown in northern Asia (Japan, China, Mongolia). Amerindians and Eskimos did not kiss but rather inhaled the breath of a loved one by ‘rubbing noses’. (Walker 1983, pp. 508–9).

The act of kissing, in its primal context, links incest and cannibalism, food and sex (a connexion intimated, among other ways, in the contemporary slang term for cunnilingus, “eating”). And the reasons for this linkage are not difficult to discover. Amongst primal peoples, the mother-child relationship remains thoroughly eroticised, from birth onwards:

Even parturition may not always be painful, as is usual among us; Niles Newton argues that in societies where sexual attitudes are not puritanical, it is less arduous, and she finds parallels between uterine contractions of orgasm and those of childbirth.

Orgasmic childbearing leads to an extended period of mutually pleasurable suckling:

In peasant and primitive societies babies are nursed not for the six months usual with us, but for periods of from two to four years. This is done not only as a birth-control measure but also because it is a sensually pleasing experience for mother and child.

For the mother, “the sensation of nursing is another kind of orgasm”. But for the child too eroticism pervades the relationship:

In many societies it is normal for the mother to caress her baby’s genitals during nursing… We can hardly imagine an American mother engaging in labial, clitoral, or penis stimulation of her infant without guilt or social condemnation, yet this is an accepted and expected pattern in many societies where mothering and sexuality are closely linked (Fisher 1979, pp.37–8 passim).

Thus, for both mother and child, primal lactation synthesises alimentation and sexuality, cannibalism and incest. In initiation rituals, however, the comestibles to be consumed were not mother’s milk (given the deliberate absence of the maternal figure), nor premasticated food, but menstrual blood. Walker provides many examples of ancient rituals which revolved around the consumption of semen and/ or menses, including agapes practised by Ophite Christians, and comments: “Medieval churchmen insisted that the communion wine drunk by witches was menstrual blood, and they may have been right” (Walker 1983, p.637). The menses are consumed in an act of incestuous cannibalism. The grandmother absorbs the fertile fluid which promises an access of creative powers and ultimate rebirth. In turn, at the close of the initiation rite the granddaughter will be reborn from the womb/ belly of the she-wolf. For now, however, like the Goddess in her primeval state, she feeds on her own creativity.

But alongside these fertility aspects of the rite, there are the issues of erotic pleasure as innately desirable. As indicated earlier, primal peoples clearly understood the distinction between sexuality and reproduction. And so, as an act of creative paradox, a rite marking the onset of fecundity offsets its reproductive facets with an experience of intense yet non-procreative sexual relations. As an option lesbianism makes erotic and symbolic sense for women “given the female’s broad range of sexual possibility, our animal inheritance, combined with the human brain which elaborates on this heritage. We all loved our mothers first” (Fisher 1979, p.43).

Mutual cunnilingus reconstitutes the identical circle of “uroboric incest” and of the “alimentary uroboros” (Neumann 1955, pp. 34, 182). But it also sets up a direct circuit between the metaphorically-linked organs of belly and womb through their respective orifices, the mouth and the vulva: “‘Mouth’ comes from the same root as ‘mother’ — Anglo-Saxon muth, also related to the Egyptian Goddess Mut. Vulvas have labias, ‘lips’, and many… believed that behind the lips lie teeth” (Walker 1983, p.1035). The initiate’s vaginal lips emerge at the moment she becomes capable of maternity. Lips caress lips in the kiss of mutual cunnilingus, and such mouthing remains a root definition of the mother.

The positive femininity of the womb appears as a mouth; that is why ‘lips’ are attributed to the female genitals, and on the basis of this positive symbolic equation the mouth, as ‘upper womb’, is the birthplace of the breath and the word, the Logos. Similarly, the destructive [to the ego] side of the Feminine, the destructive and deadly womb, appears most frequently in the archetypal form of a mouth bristling with teeth (Neumann 1955, p.l 68).

The mouth consumes and destroys, the vulva produces and creates. Part of the same cycle, life and death intermingle — joyously in matristic thought, obscenely in perverted patriarchal fantasy. This image symbolizes the crux of the blood mysteries.

The key theme of female initiation thus remains the issue of consanguinity. Through the experience of initiation, the maid acquires a sensuous, bodily awareness of the metaphorical ramifications of this crucial topic. In other words, she procures a corporeal mnemotechny, a physical knowledge of interconnectedness: in her flesh, in her bones remains a memory, a wisdom that can never be forgotten. Mnemonic devices such as totem poles and mythopoeic narratives may serve to prevent lapses of memory, to encapsulate communal knowledge, or record additional metaphoric accretions, but true mantic consciousness finds expression and embodiment in everyday acts.

In communal life, consanguinity remains the locus of totemic and taboo practices, which in turn harmonize the interlinked issues of food and sex. And so the sensibility acquired during initiation possesses a central significance in this area. During initiation, an individual experiences the process of being eaten, and through this experience recognizes the interrelatedness of all things. All acts of consumption, including but by no means limited to the eating of human flesh, are revealed as cannibalistic. But this knowledge indicates a particularly powerful affiliation between humans and sentient creatures — those animals whose consciousness identifies them as cousins to humanity. As Lévi-Strauss explains, “The atua [sacred lifeforces] appear to men in the form of animals, never of plants. Food tabus… apply to animals, not plants. The relations of the gods to vegetable species is symbolic, that to animal species is real” (Lévi-Strauss 1963, p.29). To the pantheistic perspective, all things are animate, but sentient creatures are especially endowed with lifeforce, and hence particularly closely related to humankind. Thus, originally, at the fons et origo of human existences, primal people refrained from eating their animal relatives, regarding flesh-eating as disgustingly cannibalistic. As Ovid indicates: “That ancient age which we call the age of gold was content with the fruits of trees and the crops that spring forth from the soil, and did not defile the mouth with blood” (Eisler 1951, p.28).

But these apparent limitations in terms of consumption are compensated for during the time of the Dreaming by an unparalleled latitude in sexual expression. The usual terms invoked concerning the latter subject are endogamy and exogamy. In the present context, however, these concepts become somewhat problematic. On the one hand, an initiate realizes that, given universal interrelatedness, all sexual relations are perforce incestuous and thus necessarily endogamous. But, on the other hand, in the eras of the Dreaming, the basic communal group was not the generic tribal unit, but the community of women — a community necessarily exogamic in character:

Exogamy reveals two essential characteristics: first the cohesion of the female group of grandmother, mother, daughter, and children, vehicles of the matriarchal psychology and of the mysteries characterized by the primordial relation between mother and daughter; second the ‘expulsion’ of the males, the sons, who live on the margin of the female group with which they are sexually associated (Neumann 1955, p.270).

In other words, for primal women, sexual relations are by nature endogamous, yet because they inhabit a group which excludes (or more exactly sequesters) men, they must — if they are to take heterosexual mates — form relations which are perforce exogamic. Such a contradiction indicates that this terminology must be subject to searching scrutiny and placed within a critical perspective.

In the terms “endogamy” and “exogamy”, “gamy” refers to marriage (Greek gameo). In endogamic systems one must marry within a clan unit, whereas in exogamic systems one remains obliged to marry outside the clan unit. Generally speaking, in both systems, communities are divided into totem clans, membership of a particular group determining whom one may marry: in endogamy one must take a mate from the same totem clan, in exogamy one must take a mate from a different clan. Basically, such systems determine with whom one may procreate — i.e., with whom one may copulate for reproductive purposes. This cluster of ideas betrays a set of values — particularly the presence of coercion and the neurotic obsession with procreation — which remain alien to totemic consciousness in its pristine condition. As indicated earlier, for primal people heterosexual intercourse constituted only one hue in the spectrum of erotic possibilities. Primal communities were originally characterized by hetaerism, or open communal “marriage”, within which unfettered polymorphous eroticism remained the norm.

Matriarchal societies seldom permitted sexual jealousy. Women were free to change lovers or husbands, to make polyandrous or group marriages.

During this era, “there was no formal marriage” (Walker 1983, pp.587,820), and mutual desires determined the form, nature and duration of gender identities and carnal permutations. In such a context, notions of endogamy and exogamy are inappropriate and unnecessary. They are clearly the product of a later age, and Freud surely remains correct when he endorses the notion that “as regards the chronological relations between the two institutions, most of the authorities agree that totemism is the older of them and that exogamy [and hence also endogamy] arose later” (Freud 1983, p.121).

The rise of the endogamy-exogamy dyad corresponds with the development of patriarchy (or comparable tendencies toward coercion and control). “Myths record the transition from loose, flexible marital arrangements favored by the Goddess to the rigid monogamy favored by the Gods“.

Insurgent patriarchal forces, the incipient control complex, replaced freedom with coercion. In particular, they introduced rigid distinctions within the sphere of sexual relations. Marriage was formalized and assigned a central position. Monogamy was prioritized and became increasingly compulsory — at least for women. The reasons for the invasion of compulsion into the sphere of sexual relations, and thence into all spheres of life, remains readily apparent. Beforehand, paternity remained unimportant and practically indeterminate within hetaerism.

Before recognition of physical fatherhood, and even for a long time after it, most people viewed a mother’s brother as a child’s nearest relative, because he was united with the mother and the mother’s mother by the all-important blood bond… Fathers were of no significance in family relationships (Walker 1983, pp.587,1026)

and often remained unknown. Not only were fathers irrelevant, but the entire patriarchal family structure as currently constituted was absent.

The fundamental kinship group remained the community of women with their youthful offspring. And this solidary group, the source of female mana, with its support network of sympathetic males, constituted the primary obstacle to patriarchal domination. Control depends on the establishment of order, a systematization of obedience. Organization must be imposed on chaos, artificial rules must replace natural harmony. And the community of women constituted the very matrix of primal anarchy. All attempts at patriarchal classification were frustrated amidst its disordered profusion. Even the basic facts of kinship and filiation — elements essential to the institution of racial and dynastic lineages — are obscured there or at best remain at the discretion of female taciturnity. The practice of hetaerism removes all genealogical certainties except maternity. Polymorphous sexuality compounds the confusion by rendering erotic pleasure autonomous — or semi-autonomous — from procreation (whereas to the patriarchal mind the two remain indistinguishable in ejaculation); it emphasises the purely pleasurable function of the clitoris against the more reproductively functional pleasures of the penis; and, rather than confine gratification to heterosexual intercourse, it encourages an eroticization of all relations, including — most damningly in the view of the patriarchal mentality — those between mother and child, and other close relations.

Here, the quintessential patriarchal complaint achieves articulation. Women are condemned because they commit incest — systematically with their children, and indiscriminately with other close relatives. They are guilty, not merely of embodying heterogeneity, but of commingling the heterogeneous with the homogeneous, polluting and causing complicity amongst the latter. They dissolve all disjunctions through their emphasis on universal interrelatedness. They stress consanguinity in order to interfuse or form analogies between its elements, whereas patriarchs want to use it as a basis for making divisions and differentiations.

Thus, when patriarchal hoodlums forcibly disperse female communities and enslave their inhabitants, they impose a rigid grid of distinctions over sexual relations. Hetaerism (from hetairismos, the Greek word for companion) is replaced by heterosexuality — a term whose prefix derives from the same root, but which is now construed to mean “other, different”. Sexuality can no longer indiscriminately blend individuals in any permutation desired by mutual participants, irrespective of their degree of kinship. Sexual relations must now take place with an other — e.g., a member of the opposite sex, a member of a different family — and a single other it must remain. Sexuality becomes reified, a dialogue between two separate objects, two deracinated monads.

At the origins of civilization lies what Freud called “the horror of incest“, although the ideas on this subject he ascribes to primitives are clearly more applicable to the civilized:

They set before themselves with the most scrupulous care and the most painful severity the aim of avoiding incestuous sexual relations. Indeed, their whole social organization seems to serve that purpose or to have been brought into relation with its attainment (Freud 1983, p.2).

Freud projects civilized concerns onto primitives here, but his patriarchal ancestors were under no such illusions regarding their psychological motivations. They instituted a system of total control designed to eradicate multivalent sexuality, and incestuous relations in particular. In the process they created the most monstrous aberration of all time — the exaltation of abjection, a craving for coercion and authority. The control forces perversely deform everything into its opposite so that those acts most ardently desired are made to seem loathsome and defiling, while the most abhorrent acts, previously regarded as disgusting and hateful, appear as enticing because permissible. The allure of incest, its mana, must be broken at all costs, regardless of the atrocities inflicted on the way. And first of all, its attraction for men — those who sympathise with the community of women — must be violently suppressed.

The control complex aims to replace anarchy with coercion, or mana (a form of innate empowerment based on universal interrelatedness) with power (a structure which effects subjugation through disconnexion and dissociation). To achieve this purpose, it must first shatter individuals’ sense of psychic wholeness, and then commit them to making erotic investments in the fragmentation process — thus ensuring that decimation assumes a perpetual character. Women, through their direct involvement in blood mysteries, are difficult, though not impossible, targets for this process. But men, because of their indirect, mediated relation with the mysteries through the community of women, are more vulnerable. Their psychic integrity depends upon continued participation in the incestuous rites of the female group. As Nancy Friday indicates regarding contemporary male responses to incestuous experience:

The salient point about [such] men… is that they are not crying out against the seduction of the innocent; no accusations are being made that sex with a mother, older sister, or aunt had broken a life. These men are rapturous … In the earlier chapters we spoke of one of the forms men’s basic conflict takes [in patriarchal conditions]: the split of love vs. lust, and the consequent division of women into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ figures. For these men, there is no such division. One woman is both love and lust.

Love and lust, or passion and compassion — these are the two poles of charis, integrated through incest, which the control complex aims to sunder and polarize, exalting obedience to one and demanding suppression of the other, thus creating the first hierarchy, the prototypical paradigm of control. Within the community of women, incest does not become abusive or smothering, but nuturing.

It is not the physical fact of sex that matters so much as the psychological message the parent [sibling or kin] imparts along with the erotic experience (Friday 1980, p.162).

And for males and females (including Red Riding Hood), the message imparted through initiation remains the presence and preeminent importance of cherishing — cherishing life in all its multiple forms and in all its polymorphous pleasures. The control complex, however, ravages this network of integrating metaphors, and replaces tenderness with terror.

The introduction of compulsion into the realm of sexual relations effectuates a profoundly negative transformation in the entire totemic system. This shift from an anarchic to a coercive model of psychosocial relations can be represented in diagrammatic form (figure I). In both models, the “spheres” of sexuality and alimentary consumption are brought into relation through the paradigmatic metaphor of consanguinity. But here the resemblances end; for in the anarchic model consanguinity becomes a means of perceiving interconnexions between various elements, whereas in the coercive model it becomes a basis for establishing disjunctions between the very same units.

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Figure I

The recognition of universal consanguinity harmonizes the relationship between sexuality and alimentary consumption in the anarchic model. Consanguinity proposes a correspondence between a perceived kinship of all peoples (which arranges how humans sexually relate to one another, and to other species) and a perceived kinship of all species (which arranges how humans alimentally relate to one another and to other species). The entire model remains highly symmetrical and achieves a delicate equilibrium, with the two spheres maintained in a relationship of complementarity. Just as the sphere of sexuality possesses a centrifugal tendency, with the perceived kinship of all peoples inclined toward encompassing all species, so the sphere of alimentation possesses a centripetal tendency, with the perceived kinship of all species tapering toward its focal point of sentient beings. The motive power energizing this model remains pleasure — the mutual pleasure of all participants — which ultimately determines the nature of the transactions that may be made. Hence, to maximize pleasure, all relations which do not involve coercion are admissible in the sphere of sexuality. However, to minimize pain, all acts which involve coercion (particularly violation of a creature’s inalienable right to life) are inadmissible in the sphere of alimentary consumption. Virtually unlimited sexual freedom, therefore, remains possible because of a voluntary limitation of alimentary possibility.

In contrast, the coercive model circumscribes possibilities in both spheres. Consanguinity emerges, not as a harmonizer, but as a demarcator of differences. The analogy between sexuality and alimentary consumption is pursued merely because it reinforces a felt need for the insertion of identical regulatory mechanisms within each sphere. Rather than complement one another, the two spheres possess a relationship of equivalence: they can, in typical hierarchical fashion, be superimposed over one another in order to create an interlocking, homogeneous structure of domination. Consanguinity functions as a means of carving up the previously unified spheres and aligning them in an appropriately coercive pattern. The control complex, a radically disconnected mentality, sharply delimits the ramifications of blood relationship.

In the sphere of sexuality, the latter remains limited to the family or clan; all other people are non-relatives, or members of other (possible heteronomous) clans. This basic division inserts a wedge into the sexual sphere. It divides the latter into the permissible and the impermissible (a sure sign of the presence of the control complex). Those relations which are deemed incestuous occur when an individual experiences sexual congress with a person to whom it is assumed — by the patriarch — that individual possesses a blood relation. Such relations are proscribed (or possibly reserved for the patriarch only). (The reasons for the suppression of incest lie in its anarchic capacities which were examined earlier.) On the other hand, non-incestuous relations are deemed to occur when an individual experiences a sexual relationship with a person to whom it is assumed again, by the patriarch — that individual possesses no blood relationship. But this basic division of sexual expression into proscribed and permitted forms soon becomes more complex. In order to tighten control over sexuality, the area of permitted acts is further divided into licit or illicit. Exactly which acts are defined as licit or illicit remains relative to context, and depends on various historical permutations of class, race, gender, ideology and so forth. But however liberal definitions of the licit may become, a constant remains the presence of negative ethical injunctions in other words, the law. Sexual morality — an offical or unoffical arm of the law — squabbles over the placing of boundary lines, but does not question their legitimacy. For the fact remains that the prohibition of incest constitutes the often unacknowledged legitimization for all sexual regulation. The presence of the incest taboo — a term now construed, not to mean sacred and replete with mana, but forbidden and unclean — reorders the sphere of sexuality in a hierarchical maimer, creating distinctions between absolute prohibition (incest), relative prohibition (illicit acts), and permission (licit relations). Without this keystone, the whole edifice would collapse.

As might be expected, given the relationship of equivalence between the two spheres in the coercive model, a comparable situation pertains in the realm of alimentary consumption. The basic distinction here remains between the human family (or species) and other species. Alimentary acts are considered — once again, by patriarchal authority — to be cannibalistic when a person eats another creature with whom it is assumed the person possesses a blood relation. In this case, the control complex deems that the creature consumed must be another human being. In other words, the species solidarity so conspicuously denied in the sphere of sexuality suddenly assumes paramount importance. Such hypocrisy remains typical of the control mentality, for whom exigency and opportunism are key determinants of policy. On the other hand, however, alimentary acts are considered as non-cannibalistic when a person eats another creature with whom it is assumed — yet again, by patriarchal authority — the person possesses no blood relation. In this instance, the creature consumed can be practically anything except another human being. But again, as with sexuality, this basic binary distinction further breaks down into the familiar hierarchical pattern of tripartite distinctions: absolute prohibition (cannibalism), relative prohibition (proscribed consumption), and permission (authorized consumption). And, mutatis mutandis, the two spheres are organized in comparable patterns for identical reasons. Consequently, the motive power energizing this system remains the antithesis of its counterpart in the anarchic model. Whereas in the latter contact between elements always accords with the maximization of pleasure and the minimization of pain for all participants, here the permissibility of contact depends purely upon its conformity with arbitrary rules maintained by the control complex, irrespective of the pain or pleasure caused in the process.

Some important contrasts between the anarchic and coercive models thus arise at precisely this point. First, whereas the anarchic model offsets voluntary limitation in consumption against unlimited sexual expression, the coercive model intervenes in both spheres and imposes compul-sory controls. The anarchic model allows unfettered sexual expression, while the coercive model draws distinctions and makes an absolute prohibition against incest, the heart of matristic consciousness and lifeways. The anarchic model joyously repudiates the consumption of animal flesh, including that of humans (although retaining a form of symbolic ritual cannibalism), while the coercive model prohibits anthropophagy, but allows the consumption of practically anything else, including animal flesh.

Such are the outlines of the perverse distortion of totemic consciousness effected by the invasion of the control complex. But, for contemporary proponents of anarchy, the crucial issue remains the light thrown on the most ancient and deeply-seated control structures in the present psychosocial environment. The taboos against incest and cannibalism are the basic instruments through which the control complex maintains its domination over humanity. Proponents of anarchy, who desire total global liberation, must confront this issue if they are to achieve anything but a failed because incomplete revolution. To have any meaning, revolution must be total, comprehensive in its scope. In The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Reich has demonstrated how authoritarianism thrives on the irrational. And the taboos against incest and cannibalism are inherently irrational (irrational because incest seems so inevitable, and cannibalism so alien, to hominid life).

Clearly, this is not a call to commit indiscriminate incest, and certainly not cannibalism! To do so would be merely to fall into the trap set by the control complex. Committing the inverse of those acts prohibited by the control force merely propels the perpetrator into the arms of the counter-control force. Such a response does not transcend the control complex. Only eversion can achieve such a transcendence. And in the present context, eversion can be identified as a recovery, individually and collectively, of totemic consciousness, informed by the most enlightened contemporary anarchic perspectives. Intimations concerning such a recovery will appear later. But at present the Red Riding Hood narrative must be resumed.

The maid and her grandmother were last seen locked in an uroboric embrace, a flowing circuit of kundalini energy. From time immemorial this ritual initiation, following the transmission of com/passional consciousness, concluded with the maid’s return to the community. Replete (indeed, reborn) with the mantic capacities of a prophetess or shamanic healer, she employed her endowments to promote communal harmony and enrichment through embodying and exercising charis. In addition, the unbroken tradition of the mysteries of consanguinity, which physically linked the initiate to the origin of life in primal chaos, remained intact. Universal harmony prevailed.

But now, in the case of Red Riding Hood, a rupture occurs, and everything is thrown into a harsh, jangling discordance. The figure of the patriarch or control force enters the scene. Usually represented as the maid’s father, he arrives to assert his prerogative: to claim his rights of paternity; to define female relations as subordinates, as property; and to annihilate their mana and way of life through a disruption of their rites. He typifies the treacherous, unfilial male who has brutally severed his connexion with the primal matrix. Earth, nature, the biosphere, the blood mysteries, the community of women — all things female now become subject to his conquest and denudation.

The motivations which cause the patriarch to act in this way are not difficult to discern. In matristic eras, men are peripheral to the community of women, the real locus of primal cult-lore. Sharing only minimal participation in female transformative rites, and virtually excluded from female transformational capacities, they remain in awe of women.

The transformation mysteries of the woman are primarily blood-transformation mysteries that lead her to the experience of her own creativity and produce a numinous impression on the man (Neumann 1955, p.31).

As adjuncts, rather than cultivate their masculinity, which they regard as worthless, they aspire toward the ideal condition of womanhood.

All [male] lovers of Mother Godesses have certain features in common: they are all youths whose beauty and loveliness are as striking as their narcissism. They are delicate blossoms, symbolized by the myths as anemones, narcissi, hyacinths, or violets, which we, with our [sic] markedly masculine-patriarchal mentality, would more readily associate with young girls (Neumann 1954, p.50)

— and for obvious reasons. Rather than merely desiring sexual union with women, they want — in order to participate fully in female mysteries — to become women. One of Nancy Friday’s male respondents makes a highly articulate remark which precisely exemplifies the gender attitude of primal men: “At times I have thought it would have been nice if I had been a girl, for then I could have been a lesbian” (Friday 1980, p.351).

Men aspire to the ontological status of the (biological) female so that they can participate in the rites of sexual/ alimentary transformation. Through such participation they achieve total mystical union with the transcendent female principle (the Goddess), share in the abundance of female creative capacities and, most importantly, firmly situate themselves within the cyclical patterns of birth, death and regeneration. “The natural rhythm of the female is one of eternal recurrence“. But without female aid males, with their tendencies to linearity, remain unable to transcend dissolu-tion:

The male embodies the mystery of death; his climactic phallus seems to say it all. We come out of matter (materia, Mater), and we are simply many little pieces broken off from the One; as fragments we can only hope to lead a fragmentary life until the One takes us back in death. The Great Mother is no simple notion from primitive religion, but an idea in a complex mythology that became demythologized and secularized by the Presocratics, but not changed. The male as the limited and vanishing principle and the female as the unlimited, eternal, and containing principle are simply expressed differently by Anaximander from the manner used by the painters of Lascaux or Çatal Hüyük (Thompson 1981, p.128).

To overcome this fragmentary condition, men must seek initiation into the female mysteries of cyclicity: “the process needed to initiate men… originally belonged to women… male initiation depends or depended on women” (Bettelheim 1955, p.173).

Metaphysically becoming a woman was the only route to direct communion available to men; the alternative remained a conjunction by proxy through the mediation of a female intercessor.

It will be objected that man has as valid a claim to divinity as woman. That is true only in a sense; he is divine not in his single person, but only in his twinhood. As Osiris, the Spirit of the Waxing Year he is always jealous of his weird, Set, the Spirit of the Waning Year, and vice-versa; he cannot be both of them at once except by an intellectual effort that destroys his humanity… Man is a demi-god: he always has either one foot or the other in the grave; woman is divine because she can keep both her feet always in the same place, whether in the sky, in the underworld, or on this earth. Man envies her and tells himself lies about his own completeness, and thereby makes himself miserable; because if he is divine she is not even a semi-goddess — she is a mere nymph and his love for her turns to scorn and hate (Graves 1986, p.110).

To resolve his inner duality, and overcome tendencies to envy, primal man became a shakta, “a male worshipper [sic] of the Tantric image of the Great Goddess, Shakti; a man versed in the techniques of Tantric yoga and identified with the Goddess herself through sexual union with her earthly representative” (Walker 1983, p.929). Such men were not duped by “the yogic myth that sexual repression is necessary for the elevation of kundalini and the autosemination of the brain” (Thompson 1981, p.77). Like the women, they brought into equilibrium the two poles of the spine, the sexual and the spiritual, passion and compassion. But whereas the women set up a circuit of energy between the womb and the belly, figured in the labia and the lips, and empowered by the menses, the men in contrast create a complementary loop between the genitals and the brain, figured in the penis and the tongue, and galvanized by semen (“Latin lingus, ‘tongue’, was derived from Sanskrit lingam, ‘phallus’” (Walker 1983, p.1002).)

Under female guidance, the male initiate achieves the customary erection of deep trance, and simultaneously experiences the sexual orgasm of the body and the spinal orgasm of the spirit.

As the male feels as if the semen were traveling up the spine, he feels as if the spinal column were a vagina, and the brain a womb where he is becoming reborn. The yogi is in this way the androgyne of prehistory reachieved (Thompson 1981, p.33).

In this way men too could participate in the primal scene of cosmic creation, uniting mysteries of sexuality and alimentation through the metaphoric agency of the seed — which fecundates through pleasure and generates foodstuffs from its nucleus. Primal male mysteries are concerned, not with transformation per se, but with germination and insemination. The relationship between men and women remains analogous to that between a fruit, the womb of a plant, and the seeds it contains: men are always offspring and agents of women, and like their natures, their mysteries are always seminal.

But to activate their germinal potentialities, men must be impregnated, and to do so they must metaphorically become women to acquire female genitalia and generative capacities. They must overcome their inner male dividedness by pairing their “masculine” and “feminine” aspects to attain “uroboric bisexuality” (Neumann 1955, p.173).

The labial wound in the side of Christ is an expression that the male shaman, to have magical power, must take on the power [read: mana] of woman. The wound that does not kill Christ is the magical labial wound; it is the seal of the resurrection and an expression of the myth of eternal recurrence. From Christ to the Fisher King of the Grail legends, the man suffering from a magical wound is no ordinary man; he is the man who has transcended the duality of sexuality, the man with a vulva, the shamanistic androgyne (Thompson 1981, p.109).

Androgynously communing with shakti, female energy and female form, the male initiate realizes that

not until he had made a vulva of his own heart and had felt it break open to give birth to a love he had always felt to be the embarrassing, illegitimate bastard of his secret life, did he dare approach this altar of the immediate, intimate God (Thompson 1985, p.215).

Infused with charis and initiated into the mysteries of incarnation, he experiences rebirth as a consort or emanation of the sacred female.

Over time, however, male reverence for the womb turned, for some men, into womb envy and ultimately womb denial.

Females can identify with the mother and expect to achieve her power [read: mana]; males have had to reach outward and compensate for their inability to bear children. Womb envy precedes penis envy (Fisher 1980, p.124).

This deterioration was accompanied by a shift from metaphoric to literal modes of thought; and a corresponding shift from interior significance to exterior meaning. Instead of metaphorically becoming female, men tried to imitate female processes and their ritualistic manifestation. Herein resides the origin of that monstrous aberration known as mimesis.

Mimicry assumed some very blatant forms — transvestism, for example. Many “initiation customs not only permit but require transvestism. It seems to be another indication of the pervading desire to share the sexual functions and social role of the other sex” (Bettelheim 1955, pp.62–3).

Transvestism played an important role in women’s mysteries, as indicated in the wolf’s cross-dressing in the Red Riding Hood narrative. Envious males latched onto this facet of female ritual, hoping that merely assuming women’s garments would effectuate the necessary identification of themselves as women. They made a fetish of this practice, as the persistence of priestly robes indicates. But this superficial imitation of women did not produce the desired result: wearing female clothes — like other piecemeal imitations such as the couvade — failed to confer women’s transformational capacities on men. And so some men tried to imitate female mysteries by enacting their own rites. These rites were initially intended to bring the two sexes into close contiguity, but inevitably had the opposite effect, and drove them further apart.

While the male mysteries, in so far as they are not mere usurpations of originally female mysteries, are largely enacted in an abstract spiritual space, the primordial mysteries of the Feminine are connected more with the proximate realities of everyday life (Neumann 1955 , p.282).

The concrete intersections of myth and everyday life were gradually supplanted by the abstract intersections of history and deracinated conceptualization.

Male rites try to effect a son’s rebirth into manhood through the father. “The birth from the male womb is to rid the child from the infection of his mother — to turn him from a woman-thing into a man-thing” (Harrison 1927, p.36). But male attempts to emulate the birth and rebirth capacities of women were obviously hampered by an evident lack of appropriate genitalia. Men knew that female mana derived from the cyclical menstrual flow, and so attempted to manipulate their genitals in ways which would mimic the bleeding vagina. In different cultures, perhaps in proportion to the degree of desperation with which men hungered to become women, various wounds were ritually inflicted on the penis — ranging from circumcision through subincision to castration. In some cases, these lacerations were staunched by small flat stones which were chafed once a month to occasion a trickle of blood in imitation of the menses. Ultimately, this symbolic wounding resulted in the institution of blood sacrifice.

Among the oldest myths there is much evidence that formal sacrifices of males first arose from a misguided attempt to redesign male bodies to a female model, possibly in the hope of acquiring the female power of reproduction. Cutting off male genitals was constantly associated with fertility magic for ancient gods, in either human or animal form. The idea would have been to provide the male with a bleeding hole in crude imitation of a woman’s body. [Patriarchal] myths assumed the male deity could give birth successfully as a result of this treatment (Walker 1985, pp.47–8).

In other words:

When man, by subincision [or related forms of genital abrasion], make themselves resemble women, the obvious interpretation of this behaviour is that they are faying to be women.

But the attempt always fails, partly because mimesis cannot be equated with participation (i.e., mimetic reproduction can never replicate organic reproductive capacities), and partly because of the unwitting parodic element in the male rites. Men are motivated to mimic female mysteries because they experience “vagina envy”, a phenonmenon “much more complex than the term indicates, including, in addition, envy of and fascination with female breasts and lactation, with pregnancy and childbearing” (Bettelheim 1955, pp.88,20) — indeed with the entire range of female transformational capacities. But the fascination arises from the negative emotion of envy, which distorts the character of its mimetic representations and indicates the latent presence of a deeper resentment, a profound fear. So on a superficial level males parody female mysteries by placing pain, not pleasure at the centre of their rites, and by celebrating, not birth, but death (i.e., bloodshed). The deeper disturbances of the envious male psyche, however, are apparent in precisely these perverse emphases.

Womb (or vagina) envy remains predicated upon the great denial — the denial of death. When males lose their reverence for the womb, but still desire its transformative capacities, they begin to envy its female possessors. Their envy derives from a recognition that women, through their womb consciousness, maintain a direct access to the cyclical mysteries of the cosmos — an access unavailable to men. Participating in the processes of generation and renewal, women possess the capacity to negotiate the labyrinthine intricacies of reincarnation, and thus effectuate rebirth. But men, bereft of comparable consciousness, and thus unable to influence their fate without the aid of women, fall into despair at the thought of their dependency, and the fear that female guidance might be withdrawn. They envy women for the autonomy their wombs provide, but also fear that this independence will cause women to overlook or neglect the male spiritual condition, and thus consign them to what they consider as adverse reincarnations. This envy intensifies with the development of a masculine ethos or ideology. “An ideology, religious or political, is a form of possession, and as such it is a possession of the ego“. And “by operating at this lower level of the ego” one remains “at the level of the unconscious workings of kaima“. Envious males need, but are unable “to make the unconscious conscious, to move out of the mechanisms of remorseless karma into a more enlightened or initiatic awareness of the dynamics of Being” (Thompson 1982, pp.33,50). But they can do so only with the aid of women, and their envy precludes this option, so they remain ensnared in illusion.

Envy deepens into resentment as the (unfounded) fear of death becomes more pronounced. This fear is then projected onto that aspect of the Triple Goddess which men found most intimidating in these circumstances: “the negative aspects of the all-powerful Mother, who embodied the fearful potential for rejection, abandonment, death” — in short, the crone or grandmother figure. The latter, at the crux of female mysteries, represents both the earthly embodiment of the male fear of rejection, and the cosmic personification of the male fear of death. Thus this figure, and the entire dispensation she symbolizes, must be extirpated. Patriarchy bases itself upon the premise that “to achieve a rejection of death, man must reject the Mother manifested in all women, including his own mother“. Within the perspective of expansive — ultimately global — conflagration, womb envy modulates into its opposite: “Male eschatology combines male womb envy with womb negation“. And the latter inevitably produces not only misogyny, but sexual repression. The patriarchal “abhorrence of sex and reproduction began with a vast fear: the fear of death, of dissolution, of being swallowed up in the blackness of cosmic chaos — symbolically, the fear of the Crone“. Repudiating anarchy for order, and equating female rebirth rites with extinction, the patriarchal

denial of death was inevitably confused with denial of sex, for the very reason that man’s ‘little death’ in sexual intercourse was viewed as a foretaste of the ultimate death represented by the fearsome Goddess. To the extent, however slight, that the elder woman might resemble that fearsome image, she was hastily rejected as a possible sexual partner (Walker 1985, pp.12,82,160,89).

Womb denial could not brook so close an approximation to the central coupling of the female mysteries — a coupling some men had despaired of ever authentically achieving — thus fueling the frustrations which led to their derogation of the female. Indeed, older women were not merely spurned as sexual partners, but ultimately disempowered, enslaved or annihilated. “Nearly everyone knows the ugly story of Western man’s slaughter of the mothers and grandmothers of his race: the so-called witch mania“. But this recurrent phenomenon of “gynocide” should not be confined merely to the era of the Inquisition. The grandmother figure, that “implacable female Fate or cyclically destructive Crone Mother“, remains subject to perpetual patriarchal suppression.

She became the secret fear of Western civilization, whose massive attempts to destroy or at least deny her eventually sickened the society itself and poisoned its relationships between the sexes, in which man may have found real comfort and real courage to face the inevitable without forcing it prematurely upon his fellow creatures (Walker, 1985, 125, 94–5).

Fear of death paradoxically results in mass minder. Men try to kill death by slaughtering someone other than themselves (including sacrificial saviours).

It has been suggested that such hidden, unacknowledged fears are the very forces that drive men to kill other members of their own [and other] species in such appalling numbers, as in war, dividing them into We and They, the latter always viewed as expendable. Part of the vast cultural attempt to deny death is the possibility of inflicting death on others in order to purge it from oneself (Walker 1985, p.13). Indeed, not merely the institution of war, but civilization and the entire enterprise of culture derives from the failed attempt by males to imitate, rather than become female.

If we assume that the man felt compelled to make themselves similar to women — whether by so mutilating themselves that they could bleed from the genitals as women do, or by copying childbirth — if they even dimly realized that they inflicted these injuries on themselves becuse they wished to possess the procreative power of women, then we can understand why, when they failed in their purpose, they also become angry at women… and perhaps, after gaining political ascendency, sought to retaliate on women the mutilation [physical or psychic — introcision or erotic repression] that originated with them.

In fact: “The failure of autoplastic manipulation to give men powers equal to women’s in procreation may have been the cause of their turning to alloplastic manipulation of the natural world” (Bettelheim 1955, pp.192,138). Indeed, it sanctions not merely the manipulation of nature, but its domination and destruction, and the attempt to depart from it.

Neumann identifies as a leitmotiv of patriarchy the male development of hierarchy in an attempt to climb away from the dark, devouring mother toward the immortal light of the sun — a theme evinced in ziggurats, church spires, skyscrapers, rockets and other phallic imagery. Such enterprises are designed to assuage a primary fear of the patriarchal male: that of being seduced by the Mother Goddess, an act which would make him “regress” into being her incestuous son-lover, and thus relinquish his stauts as a patriarch. Under matristic conditions, the son always remains a son — an integral agency of the mother — and never becomes a father. But a patriarch by definition must base his identity on his status as a father and his denial of all connexion with his mother. Admitting any link would be tantamount to acknowledging male dependency on women, and men’s involvement in cyclical processes. To counteract this threat, and as an act of will-to-power, patriarchy evolved the ideal of the hero. “In a sense, man’s most ancient attempt to copy the sacred status of motherhood was the cult of the hero” (Walker 1985, p.47). Sometimes the hero was a saviour who gave his blood in order to redeem mankind from the cycles of nature. But often, and more importantly in the present context, the hero sacrificed the blood of others in order to ward off the fear of death. And bloodshed in the service of suppressing matristic lifeways remained especially heroic.

The ascendancy of the hero, as a representative figure of patriarchy, took place gradually, and finds dramatic expression in modifications of myth. These changes can be represented schematically as follows. Initially myths conceive the cosmic lifeforce as a pantheistic goddess, the Great Mother of All. Further sophistication results in the perception of a dyad, the mother/ daughter or grandmother/ granddaughter ritual polarity of goddess and serpent. The three generations or three phases (virgin-mother-crone) of womanhood are conceptualized as the Triple Goddess, the source of birth, multiplication and death.

But at this juncture patriarchal males, who attempt to evade death by embodying it for others instead of experiencing it themselves, appropriate the death-dealing (and indeed, devouring) aspect of the goddess. This act of aggrandizement produces fierce competition, and ultimately conflict, between the two consorts of the goddess — the female serpent and the male hero (who is heroic because he represents patriarchal forces). This patriarchally-induced contention for the goddess’s favours inevitably results in the belligerent hero’s triumph over the pacific serpent. The hero thus asserts his claim, not merely to be the goddess’s lover, but her son — not in order to obtain her guidance for his shamanic initiation, but as a manoeuvre in a power game. This averment of familial blood relations — defined increasingly in patriarchal terms — leads, after further bellicosity, to the son’s achievement of an equal footing with the daughter.

In matrilineal eras, the status of sonship remained meagre. Mana — not property, which did not exist — was inherited, through ritual initiation, by female lineage. So to achieve parity the son has to become the counterpart of the daughter, her twin — as in the myth of Artemis and Apollo. But the power-hungry patriarch is not content with this arrangement. True twins, to mirror each other exactly, must be not of the opposite but of the same sex. Hence, the daughter is cast out entirely, and the anthropologically notorious struggles between the sacred king (or hero) and his tanist (who possibly once represented the goddess’s champion, the mother’s brother) commence.

But even before this stage an important change in the character of these mythic transactions had occurred. Once, the hero had fought the serpent or dragon-daughter to win the favours of the goddess. Increasingly, however, the goddess becomes not the determinant of the conflict but the prize gained by the victor. Andromeda becomes the helpless victim chained to the rock, awaiting her deliverance from evil by the brave hero.

The introduction of the king/ tanist pattern reinforces this tendency. The victor — sometimes a divine patriarchal child who slayed both hero and tanist — is no longer the consort of the goddess, but her spouse, and from that vantage point it is only a short step to becoming her lord and master, thence her god and even her creator. The tanist figure helps in this respect too. The introjection of an additional male element facilitates the proliferation of a whole range of deified heroes — or gods who arrogates to themselves various aspects and functions of the previously integral goddess. Thus dismembered, the latter is downgraded to a mere constituent of the classical pantheon — in which she is sometimes assigned the role of daughter — while her erstwhile partner is elevated to the position of Father-god.

From this Olympian perspective it is easy for the god to absorb the masculinized fragments of the goddess and thus become the patriarchal monotheistic God, a supreme deity beyond or above — indeed, outside — the creation he rules, and thus out of the reach of death. In this way, the entire character of the cosmos is mythically inverted, and the dispensation of mana is replaced by the rule of power.

The Red Riding Hood tale participates in this iconotropic shift, as myth becomes narrative, and dreamtime becomes history. The story unfolds during a period in which insurgent patriarchal forces are accelerating their assault on the forest, its sacred groves, its mysteries, and its inhabitants, both animal and human. The increasingly distended settlements are becoming dangerous places for devotees of the goddess, and the forest provides a diminishing site of refuge. In some versions of the tale, the wolf refrains from gobbling up the maiden in the open because of the proximity of woodcutters. Already women’s mysteries are being forced underground — they can no longer be practised in the sacred groves, but only in the isolated seclusion of sites like the grandmother’s cottage. Men like the woodcutters do not seek initiation into the labyrinthine mysteries, but to pervert and destroy them. “The hero enters the labyrinth not to be intitiated and therefore lose his will, but to kill the mysteries — as in the Minotaur myth: the hero enters, but retains his sense of individuality [i.e., egohood], and returns as a conqueror” (Neumann 1955, p.177). This repudiation of regeneration remains characteristic of the patriarch figure in the Red Riding Hood tale.

The maiden’s father disrupts the mysteries. He discovers the wolf, who has eaten both granddaughter and grandmother, asleep — i.e., in an ecstatic trance. He slaughters the beast by cutting open its womb/ belly, finds the two females whole and unharmed inside, removes them, and forcibly returns them to the emergent realm of civilization. Artemis was “a Wolf-goddess” (Graves 1986, p.222), so the slaying of the animal here represents the patriarchal destruction of the mysteries. The women are reborn, but perversely. Their birth (as egos) coincides with the death of their animal nature. Rather than through the organic guidance of a medicine woman, Red Riding Hood is reborn as if through a caesarian (i.e., kingly) section administered by a male obstetrician, a technologist. Already the hero claims the birth-giving capabilities ascribed to patriarchal gods like Jehovah. The two women are removed intact, but also as separate, isolated individuals. They will no longer be allowed to unite, to intermingle and pool their energies. From now on they shall be the helots of mankind — and are expected to be grateful for being saved from a supposedly horrible fate.

The designation of the father as either a woodcutter or a hunter remains significant. In either guise, he remains a dispenser of death. One assaults the natural environment, the other exterminates its inhabitants. The two identifications are complementary rather than exclusive. The hunter invades the forest either to exterminate its wildlife — human or animal — or domesticate them as slaves. The woodcutter levels the forest and converts it into lumber. Then slaves can construct imperial war machines with this timber, so that the process of denudation may be repeated throughout the globe. And when the biosphere has been wrecked, and life on earth becomes impossible, then the patriarchs will catapult themselves into space in search of new worlds to conquer. For their cryogenics can never be anything but an indefinite stopgap. Their denial of death and corresponding quest for personal immortality are foredoomed to failure. Existence remains cyclical and karmically regulated: deathlessness — in the sense of egoic perpetuity — remains a mirage. Immortality resides in continual transformation, not suspended animation, and this remains rooted in the mysteries of blood, not their supposed transcendence. By definition, however, the hunter denies validity to claims of universal consanguinity. He spills blood, rather than celebrates its mysteries, promoting diminution and death rather than increase and fecundity. And what remains true of the huntsman also applies indirectly to the woodcutter, who destroys the habitats and thus ultimately the lives of consanguinous beings.

But the dual designation of the father figure also possesses a more precise mythical connotation, and relates to the issue of the Wild Hunt or Wild Horde.
The Wild Horde itself was a complex phenomenon whose origins lose themselves partly in the prehistoric past. There was the assembly of ghosts under the leadership of a feminine divinity, Hecate or Artemis in ancient Greece, Diana or Herodias, the mother of Salome, in the Latin West
(Bernheimer 1962, pp.78–9).

But the Wild Horde was more than a spectral crew: in addition to ancestral spirits (the original meaning of the term “ghosts”), it included female devotees of the goddess who gathered “to swarm in wild rapture over the far reaches of the land” (Duerr 1987, p.16). These ecstatic maenads did not indulge in blood sports, but blood mysteries.

Whereas the male god in myth, like the male hero, usually appears in opposition to the animal [i.e., goddess symbol] that he fights and defeats, the Great Goddess, as Lady of the Beasts, dominates [read: safeguards] but seldom fights them. Between her and the animal world there is no hostility or antagonism, although she deals with wild as well as gentle and tame beasts (Neumann 1955, p.272).

The Wild Hunt, which occurred under the aegis of the Divine Huntress, Artemis or Diana, did not seek game, but its participants’ animal natures or tutelary spirits. The pursuit was a “love-chase” (Graves 1986, p.403) rather than a hunt. The arrows shot were those of desire, now more frequently associated with Eros. The hunt consummated not in death, but in a celebration of life, ecstatic orgiastic rites (orgy — “from the Greek orgia, “secret worship” (Walker 1983, p.742)).

Sympathetic men were welcome at many women’s rites, where they too would manifest their animal natures and become fauns and satyrs, but not at the Wild Hunt. As patriarchal forces began to emerge, however, interlopers like Actaeon try to disrupt exclusively female rites. This voyeuristic young man, refusing to participate in transformatin mysteries, tries to convert the naked bathing maenads into sex objects through the exercise of his gaze. Furthermore, as a hunter, he attempts to contaminate their rites by associating their carnal lusts with his bloodlust. But at this stage patriarchal forces are ineffectual, and Diana’s vengeance is swift and apt. Actaeon, transformed into a stag, is torn to pieces by his own hunting dogs, emblems of his perverse bestiality, who turn upon and devour him. “This is the elder version, reflecting the religious theory of early European society where woman was the master of man’s destiny: pursued, was not pursued; raped, was not raped — as may be read in the faded legends of Dryope and Hylas, Venus and Adonis, Diana and Endymion, Circe and Ulysses. The danger of the various islands of women was that the male who ventured there might be sexually assaulted in the same murderous way, as according to B. Malinowski in The Sexual Life of Savages, men of North-Western Melanesia are punished for trespassing against female privilege. At least one coven of wild women seems to have been active in South Wales during early Medieval times:

old St. Samson of Dol, travelling with a young companion, was unlucky enough to trespass in their precinct. A frightful shriek rang out suddenly and from a thicket darted a grey-haired, red-garmented hag with a bloody trident in her hand. St. Samson stood his ground; his companion fled, but was soon overtaken and stabbed to death. The hag refused to come to an accommodation with St. Samson when he reproached her, and informed him that she was one of the nine sisters who lived in those woods with their mother — apparently the Goddess, Hecate. Perhaps if the younger sisters had reached the scene first, the young man would have been the victim of a concerted sexual assault (Graves 1986, p.400).

Evidently, in more tractable cases than Actaeon, conversion through orgiastic expression could take the place of aggressive vengeance.

As patriarchal expansion and persecution developed, however, more sustained resistance became necessary. At this juncture the Wild Hunt lost its initial amorous character and became ecstatically combative. It now transmuted into “the Furious Host — which races in certain winter nights through the valleys and deserted villages, destroying every living thing it meets in its way” (Bernheimer 1952, p.24). Although essentially accurate, Bernheimer’s characterization remains wrong on two counts: such assaults were not confined to winter nights (except in the symbolic sense of the bleakest hours), nor was “every” living thing encountered destroyed. Euripides’s The Bacchae proves otherwise. The maenads did not attack randomly or seasonally: they often undertook systematic campaigns to extirpate the patriarchal plague, and their incursions were aimed exclusively at civilizing areas and their domesticated inhabitants. Ecstatic anarchic women launched a total assault on the emerging control complex, and attempted its complete overthrow. Their aims were to regenerate the ancient shamanic lifeways, to restore harmony in the face of total evil.

Such a potent threat could not be ignored by control elements, and so they inaugurated a counterforce, a band of brutally violent and demented thugs, who were never entirely under the control of their masters.

The belief in the masculine Wild Horde, which disputes with its feminine counterpart the dominance over central Europe, is usually regarded as of Germanic origin and thus as prior to any influence from the Mediterranean world: whether rightly so it is hard to say, since the history of the motive previous to its first explicit appearance in the chronicle by Oderious Vitalis can only be inferred from philological evidence. Suffice it to say that, in the Alps at least, where the two traditions meet face to face, the leadership of the Wild Horde is accorded almost as often to the wild man, a figure of the local mythology, as it is to the demonic leader of the Wild Horde (Bernheimer 1952, p.79).

The members of these patriarchal shocktroops were known as wild men, werewolves, or berserkers. “These wild young men, who ate raw meat and drank blood, also professed to having Odin, god of death, as their leader” (Duerr 1987, p.62). Famous for driving themselves into murderous frenzies, these fanatical psychopaths were the absolute antithesis of the maenads. In contradistinction, they were the perverse apotheosis of patriarchal man. Worshippers of death (Duerr adumbrates their historical lineage to the nazi SS — although Hell’s Angels are an obvious later manifestation), they dismissed all claims of consanguinity, delighting in cruelty and barbaric, omophagic feasts “during the crusades against those who are still outside the machine: untouched trees, wolves, Primitives” (Perlman 1983B, p.16). They were known as werewolves — “Germanic wer, the Latin vir, means ‘man’, ‘male’” (Eisler 1951, p.34) — because they wore their fur on the outside (i.e., they dressed in the coats of wolves — and symbolically the skins of the devotees of Artemis — which they had slaughtered). In contrast, the maenads wore their fur inside (i.e., they were inherently, spiritually wild).

As myth and folklore testify, the berserkers transformed the Wild Hunt into a witch-hunt. Maenads, and particularly their elders, the crones, were identified as witches:

The wild woman is thus a libidinous hag and it would seem entirely appropriate to apply to her the term used for centuries to designate creatures of her kind by calling her a witch [or lamia, “the wild woman of the woods”]… To understand these identities, one will have to remember that lamia, the child-devouring ghoul from Greek antiquity, was regarded in the Middle Ages as a living reality whose existence was accepted without question by such popular writers as Gervasius of Tilbury, of the thirteenth century, or even by the Bishop of Paris in the early thirteenth century, William of Auvergne. These were the writers who established the identity between lamia and strix, the latter the precise technical term for what we call a witch.

By now, the significance of the references to wildness, libidinousness, shamanism and child-devouring should be apparent. But these elements were either demonized (in the case of the first three) or interpreted literally (in the last case) in order to justify mass murder.

The berserkers, whether dressed in wolves’ skins or the robes of the Inquisition, ruthlessly hunted down and exterminated the maenadic resistance movement:

Modern folklore in regions as far apart as the Austrian Alps, Sweden, Denmark, and England relates how wild women of every variety suffer persecution from a hunting and riding demon who chases through the countryside alone or in rowdy company, and ends, when he has found his victim, by tearing her apart. Even if she escapes murder, the wild woman will be thrown over the demon’s horse, tied down with her own long hair, and carried away by force.

The Wild Hunt takes place on foot, but the witch-hunt occurs on horseback. The berserkers defeat the amazons, not because the latter are lesser warriors, but because the former are not averse to domesticating and exploiting nature, as figured in the equine species. The pegasus of poetic or shamanic flight is broken, converted into a warhorse, and its master becomes that hated figure, the man on horseback. Increasingly divorced from the earth, he becomes a centaur, a knight, a charioteer, a fighter pilot, a starship commander. And he always rapes and tears the female apart. The Actaeon tale is completely inverted.

It can hardly be accidental that to the chasing of Vila [a hag-like Yugoslavian wild woman], Striga, or the wood damsel there corresponded in classical times the chase of Artemis by a masculine demon, who forces her to precipitate herself from a rock and thus brings about her death… It is striking, at any rate, that the tale of the demise of a woman demon at the hands of a male foe should have been told of the goddess Artemis who, as Hecate, was the whip and leader of rampant souls and who, as Diana, later in the Middle Ages, became the Latin eponym of the wild woman as mistress of the Wild Horde. It is obvious that there must be a historical connection (Bernheimer 1952, pp.35,129,131–2).

Indeed, at this juncture myth becomes history, but history also invades myth.

When the victory of the patriarchal Indo-Europeans revolutionized the social system of the Eastern Mediterranean, the myth of the sexual chase was reversed. Greek and Latin mythology contains numerous anecdotes of the pursuit and rape of elusive goddesses or nymphs by gods in beast disguise: especially by the two senior gods, Zeus and Poseidon. Similarly in European folk-lore there are scores of variants on the ‘Two Magicians’ theme, in which the male magician, after a hot chase, out-magics the female and gains her maidenhead (Graves 1986, p.401).

It is not accidental that these patriarchal marauders were credited with using uprooted oaks as cudgels (Bettelheim 1952, p.71) with which to crush the skulls of their animal and human prey. The three oaks which screen the house of Red Riding Hood’s grandmother indicate that it is a sacred grove (the original meaning of the word temple), devoted to the Triple Goddess and the oak-cult. As both woodcutter and hunter, the father figure of the narrative storms the grove in order ro uproot its trees and its tree-lore, the language of poetic mysteries, and to hunt and kill its inhabitants and celebrants. He is clearly a berserker; his skinning of the slaughtered wolf merely confirms this identification.

Decimation and destruction must continue until women’s rites have been thoroughly eradicated and nature subdued, because “until the Crone figure was suppressed, patriarchal religions could not achieve full control of man’s minds” (Walker 1985, p.29). And total control was the aim.

There is no doubt that the development leading from the group psyche to ego consciousness and individuality, and from the matriarchal to the patriarchal dominance in psychic life, has its correspondence in the social process. The development of the ego brings with it not only the acquisition of an individual ‘soul’, of an individual name and a personal ancestry, but also of private property (Neumann 1955, p.268).

Deracinated individuation and privatization ensure the facilitation of control, but also evoke an interior horror.

The name of the label is egohood. The heroes have achieved egohood and consciousness and now they are painfully aware that they are no longer part of the cyclical eternal round of the Great Mother. They live a life, a linear phallic extension, a life with a beginning and an end. Precisely because they cannot accept the natural life of death. The ego has definitely arrived on the scene of history, and it is screaming out against its cosmic isolation… Egohood dawned with civilization, and no doubt the rise of warfare associated with it gave many a man an occasion to meditate on the meaning of death… civilized man… when he wipes out an entire city or levels a forest… is no longer working within the natural balance of things. In warfare one is cut off from nature in cutting down his enemy; in warfare the nature of death takes on an entirely new cultural dimension (Thompson 1981, pp.195–6).

But ruling forces cannot control by terror — interiorized or exteriorized — alone; they need to formulate a technique which infiltrates and structures both consciousness and perception. In the process of looting women’s shrines, this technique was discovered. It was the logos, and here the origins of logocentrism — and indeed of plallogocentrism — may be discovered.

One of the reasons for male enthusiasm for the Logos doctrine was that it provided male gods with a method of creating, formerly the exclusive prerogative of the birth-giving Goddess… Though male gods popularized the idea of the Logos, the ability to destroy and recreate by word-power belonged originally to the Goddess, who created languages, alphabets, and the secret mantras known as Words of Power (Walker 1983, pp.545–6).

Having failed to acquire female generative capacities through imitation, patriarchal males appropriated women’s magico-linguistic faculties. By doing so, they could become creators, not merely destroyers, albeit creating an empire of death. For in appropriating the female logos, they distorted its nature, rendering it qualitatively different from its previous character.

It is self-evident that the early phase of man’s [sic] existence, the matriarchal world of the beginning with which we are here concerned, could not be reflected in a discursive consciousness, before the birth of the sun. Its archetypal reality is to be found in the symbols, myths, and figures by which men [sic] speak of it; but aü these are image and metaphor, never knowledge or the direct, reasoned statement by which the later, patriarchal world, rooted in consciousness, knows itself and seeks to formulate itself in religion, philosophy and science (Neumann 1955, p.212).

Patriarchs gradually developed a form of language which led to the separation of two different types of discourse.

There are two distinct and complementary languages; the ancient, intuitive language of poetry, rejected under Communism, merely mis-spoken elsewhere, and the more modern, rational language of prose, universally current. Myth and religion are clothed in poetic language; science, ethics, philosopnhy and statistics in prose.

The former gradully became obscured.

The poetic language of myth and symbol used in ancient Europe was not, in principle, a difficult one but became confused, with the passage of time, by frequent modifications due to religious, social and linguistic change, and by the tendency of history to taint the purity of myth.

Nevertheless, expressed in different mindstyles or conceptual modes, these two divergent linguistic registers continue to exist.

What interests me most in conducting this argument is the difference that is constantly appearing between the poetic and prosaic methods of thought. The prosaic method was invented by the Greeks of the Classical Age as an insurance against the swamping of reason by mythographic fancy. It has now become the only legitimate means of transmitting useful knowledge… As a result the poetic faculty is atrophied… And from the inability to think poetically — to resolve speech into its original images and rhythms and recombine these on several simultaneous levels of thought into a multiple sense — derives the failure to think clearly in prose. In prose one thinks on only one level at a time, and no combination of words needs to contain more than a single sense; nevertheless the images resident in words must be securely related if the passage is to have any bite. This simple need is forgotten, what passes for simple prose nowadays is a mechanical stringing together of stereotyped word-groups, without regard for the images contained in them. The mechanical style, which began in the counting-house, has now infiltrated into the university, some of its most zombiesque instances occurring in the works of eminent scholars and divines. Mythographic statements which are perfectly reasonable to the few poets who can still think and talk in poetic shorthand seem either nonsensical or childish to nearly all literary scholars (Graves 1986, p.223).

This discrimination between poetic and prosaic modes of thought — a distinction homologous with the differentiation between iconic and representational language made earlier — remains crucial to the continued domination of the control complex. By promoting the replacement of poetry by prose, patriarchy severely limits the potentials of the imagination — the capacity to create magic through images, and to cast spells through syllabic utterance. In other words, it imprisons individuals within the linearity of history, discouraging proleptic thought (“the anticipation, by means of a suspension of time, of a result that could not have been arrived at by inductive reasoning”) and analeptic thought (“the recovery of lost events by the same suspension”). Deprived of poetic discourse, humanity remains trapped in the coordinates of spatio-temporal determinism.

In the poetic act, time is suspended and details of future experience often become incorporated into the poem, as they do in dreams. This explains why the first Muse of the Greek triad was named Mnemosyne, ‘Memory’: one can have memory of the future as well as of the past. Memory of the future is usually called instinct in animals, intuition in human beings (Graves 1986, p.343).

The control complex eliminates memory in two stages. First, by destroying the mysteries it eradicates the transmission of totemic consciousness, that bodily awareness achieved through an “acting out of instinctual tendencies” which remains “primarily a learning experience” (Bettelheim 1955, p.90). Secondly, by replacing oral cult-lore (and its practitioners, those shamanic “repositories of the knowledge of the culture’s history” (Halifax 1980, p.28)) with written culture. Inscriptional codification tends to define the empirical realm of matter as the only reality, and the faculty of reason as the only legitimate means to its accurate perception. The result remains the development of cognicentrism, the characteristic mode of consciousness of the control complex. Stunting imagination, dismissing intuition, discouraging shifts in modes of consciousness, control forces entrap humanity in the cold logic of rationality. And having siphoned out the metaphoric consciousness of myth, they refill human beings with the literal facts of history. Whitehead’s fallacy of misplaced concreteness reigns. Literal interpretation — in short, fundamentalism — becomes the key epistemological mode of the control project. The collection and manipulation of data remains its chief methodology, its way of ensuring the predominance of the logos.

But cognicentrism also produces a more insidious effect: namely, an incapacity to undertake transformation. Primal peoples “look at reality in a way that makes it possible for them to know something by temporarily turning into it“. Transformation remains a keynote of everyday life, particularly infusing relations with nature. “In an effort to move closer to the centres of power in nature, primal people often imitate and transform themselves into things of the natural world that invest them with vision and strength“. All kinds of transformations are available.

Not only are primal people permitted to change their names, but since names are sacred designations of being, people also have the ability to be transformed — briefly or permanently — into other beings and animals. They are often permitted to change their gender, and they will be greatly admired for what would be considered personal peculiarities in the West.

In contrast:

Almost none of the alternative identities available to Indians [and other primal peoples] are accessible to the people of the West. With the exception of the religious transformation of Catholic initiates and women who change their names, family ties, and loyalties when they are married, no personal transformations are acceptable in the West.

Transformation remains difficult here because discursive epistemology impedes access to non-ordinary modes of consciousness. Categorical language inhibits bodily participation in experience:

It cannot participate in other beings and objects but can only observe them. Without an articulate body; without a sense of the body’s wholeness, we cannot participate in the world that lies beyond observation.

Such spectacularization alienates individuals from transformational experience at the level of self, other and community: “Their resistance to transformation includes their inability to accept the changing identities of other people.” Authoritarian character structures demand uniformity, and as a result “identity is a prison in the West”.

Among primal peoples, there are numerous societal and personal ceremonies that make all types of drastic changes in identity and reality possible for virtually everyone. And these changes are considered actual transformations (Highwater 1981, pp.61,141,174,181,77,182).

But such mutations are ridiculed by most denizens of the control complex, who have been effectively indoctrinated to conformity and routine, to deny the existence of alternative modes of existence — indeed, to desire their own oppression, and that of everyone and everything else too.

This oppression can be identified precisely: its name is culture. The current text traces a shift from anarchy to control, or in other words from cult to culture:

From cult to culture is only a step, but it took a lot of making. Cult-lore was the wisdom of the old races. We now have culture… It is fairly difficult for one culture to understand another. But for culture to understand cult-lore is extremely difficult, and, for rather stupid people, impossible. Because culture is chiefly an activity of the mind, and cult-lore is an activity of the senses… We have not the faintest conception of the vast range that was covered by the ancient sense-consciousness. We have lost almost entirely the great and intricately developed sensual awareness, or sense-awareness, and sense-knowledge, of the ancients. It was a great depth of knowledge arrived at direct, by instinct and intuition, as we say, not by reason. It was a knowledge based not on words but on images. The abstraction was not into generalizations or into qualities, but into symbols. And the connection was not logical but emotional. The word ‘therefore’ did not exist. Images or symbols succeeded one another in a procession of instinctive and arbitrary physical connection — some of the Psalms give us examples — and they ‘get nowhere’ because there was nowhere to get to, the desire was to achieve a consummation of a certain state of consciousness, to fulfil a certain state of feeling-awareness (Lawrence 1977, pp.47–8).

At the basis of the metaphorical cult-lore sensibility remained “the old pagan process of rotary image-thought” in which

every image fulfills its own little circle of action and meaning, then is superseded by another image”: “the pagan thinker or poet — pagan thinkers were necessarily poets — … starts with an image, sets the image in motion, allows it to achieve a certain course or circuit of its own, and then takes up another image. The old Greeks were very fine image-thinkers, as the myths prove. Their images were wonderfully natural and harmonious. They followed the logic of action rather than of reason, and they had no moral axe to grind. But still they are nearer to us than the orientals, whose image-thinking often followed no plan whatsoever, not even the sequence of action. We can see it in some of the Psalms, the flitting from image to image with no essential connection at all, but just the curious image-association (Lawrence 1977, pp.52,54).

The metaphorical perception of the play of resemblances and differences remains central to cult-lore sensibility, its predilection for experiencing transformation and its effortless shifts into nonordinary modes of consciousness. Playfulness constitutes its fundamental characteristic. “The most we can say of the function that is operative in the process of image-making or imagination is that it is a poetic function; and we define it best of all by calling it a function of play — the ludic function, in fact“. Indeed, “the whole sphere of so-called primitive culture” can be characterized “as a play-sphere“. “The concept of play merges quite naturally with that of holiness” in such contexts because sacred lore emerges from sacred play. Always anterior and superior to culture, play evolves ritual as a set of particularly felicitous game patterns. “In play as we conceive it the distinction between belief and make-believe breaks down” (Huizinga 1970, pp.44–5 passim).

Spirituality allows belief to emerge from the ludic reticulations of make-believe, whereas religion denies all connexion, denigrating make-believe as fantasy and exalting belief — or faith — as actuality. Recognizing belief as merely doctrinal/sacramental scaffolding around the numinous, spirituality grants that imagination constitutes the most valid and congenial faculty for formulating beliefs about the sacred. But religion, with each of its authoritarian sects claiming their methodology as the only true path to salvation, demands literal belief in its tenets. This difference occurs because religion externalizes and anthropomorphises its deities, who then demand worship, whereas spirituality does not differentiate between interior and exterior, and rather than personify the sacred promotes participation in its vast elemental mysteries.

The very ancient world was entirely religious [read: spiritual] and godless. While men [read: humans] still lived in close physical union, like flocks of birds on the wing, in a close physical oneness, an ancient tribal unison in which the individual was hardly separated out, then the tribe lived breast to breast, as it were, with the cosmos, in naked contact with the cosmos, the whole cosmos was alive and in contact with the flesh of man [read: humanity], there was no room for the intrusion of the god idea. It was not till the individual began to feel separated off, not till he fell into awareness of himself, and hence into apartness; not, mythologically, till he ate of the Tree of Knowledge instead of the Tree of Life, and knew himself apart and separate, that the conception of a God arose, to intervene between man and the cosmos. The very oldest ideas of man are purely religious [read: spiritual], and there is no notion of any sort of god or gods. God and gods enter when man has ‘fallen’ into a sense of separateness and loneliness (Lawrence 1977, p.101).

Separation connotes alienation, deracination, spectacularization and cognicentrism. Cult-lore invites imaginative participation, but culture interposes a mediatized version of reality which provokes frustration and anger — violence directed outward onto those who remain immersed in the sacred. At this juncture the origins of imperialism may be discerned.

In this respect, it remains significant that the praxis of cognicentrism also provides the control complex with a language of conquest. The latter was necessary given the imperial aim of global domination. Having extirapted primitivist resistance and denuded the surrounding natural; environment, control forces set off to conquer new worlds. In doing so, they projected their negative understanding of totemic consciousness onto other cult-lore communities. This re-mained a comparatively simple act given that the lifeways of the people encountered broadly resembled those of the invaders’ repudiated ancestors. Encountered peoples were characterized as savages, a word etymologically derived from the Latin term silva, sylvan or forest-dweller. Immediately, repeating a familiar pattern, such people were identified as cannibals. From Herodotus

until the end of the fifteenth century the literal term anthropophagist described those savages on the fringes of western civilization who partook of human flesh (Arens 1979, p.44).

Often, they were also characterized as practitioners of incest:

Formerly, the accusation that certain peoples in the past or distant present were engaged in both cannibalism and incest was quite common. These visions of the exotic other were popularly entertained in travellers’ accounts for centuries (Arens 1986, p.vii).

Such characterizations acted as a pretext for invasion and enslavement. Colonization was often justified on the basis of the supposed cannibalistic (and other immoral) practices of indigenes.

But anthropophagy, despite what many anthropologists continue to believe, remains a fantasy. Arens concludes: “excluding survival conditions, I have been unable to uncover adequate documentation of cannibalism as a custom in any form for any society“. Symbolic cannibalism, eradicated in the domesticated heartlands of the control complex, was — and is — interpreted in a literal manner by the invaders. The empirical orientation of the control mentality ensures a literalist conclusion, which aptly conforms with imperial aims.

In examining the pervasiveness of the notion of others as cannibals, the implication that this charge denies the accused their humanity is immediately recognizable. Defining them in this way sweeps them outside the pale of culture and places them in a category with animals… Warfare and annihilation are then excusable, while more sophisticated forms of dominance, such as enslavement and colonization, become an actual responsibility of the culture-bearers.

The imputation of cannibalism comprises a convenient pretext for wiping out resistance.

According to Las Casas, who accompanied Columbus on one expedition and spent a lifetime on the [Caribbean] islands before turning to religion and a defense of the Indian cause, any resistance to Spanish colonization was laid to the cannibals… Resistance and cannibalism became synonymous and also legitimized the barbaric Spanish reaction.

History repeats itself, and in this respect it remains unsurprising that at the same time that witches, the control complex’s internal antagonists, were being persecuted on the pretext of alleged cannibalism, an identical slur was used to justify the slaughter or enslavement of its external opponents.

Thus the operational definition of cannibalism in the sixteenth century was resistance to foreign invasion followed by being sold into slavery, which was held to be a higher state than freedom under aboriginal conditions (Arens 1979, pp.21,140,49,51).

Indeed, such was the deep-seated nature of this definition that the very word cannibal derives from a Spanish mispronunciation of Caribs, the name of an indigenous Carribbean tribe.

By this time the control complex has become a Leviathan, “a Worldeater” (Perlman 1983A, p.195), and to warrant global consumption, it projects anthropophagic ideas onto the entirety of the outside world, when they most clearly apply to itself. The other always remains cannibalistic and incestuous, and this identification justifies its domination or extermination. Projecting its own evil onto adversaries remains a typical control complex ruse. In this way an important inversion becomes possible: the forces of death can convince themselves that they are in fact the forces of life, bravely battling the legions of darkness and ignorance. And a denial of death can once again occur. Similarly, the continuing — metaphorically correct — identification made between American indigenes and wolves not only vindicated the destruction of both, but links the eradication of free shamanic communities in the New World with comparable extirpations in Eurasia and later Africa and Australasia.

In the New World, resistance to Leviathanic invasion assumed similar contours to those in Europe. That resistance, as in the Old World, was ultimately unsuccessful, but the lessons that can be learned from its failure may infuse contemporary attempts to evoke a total revolution toward visionary anarchy. To appreciate the significance of indigenous resistance it remains necessary, not to investigate the historical record, but to re-enter the world of myth. Once again narrative remains inadequate to the task: only mythopoeic tales can convey the requisite depth of insight.

As a complement to the tale of Red Riding Hood, derived from European folklore, attention will now shift to an Amerindian tale entitled “The Cannibal Monster”. This shift, rather than merely continental in proportion, involves a displacement from a well-known folktale to a relatively obscure fable. Given these circumstances, it remains important to understand some-thing of the context of its expression.

“The Cannibal Monster” was the creation of a great visionary shaman named Tenskwatawa (“Open Door”), and known as the Shawnee Prophet. This medicine man, “the leading figure in the Indians’ efforts to resist the Americans” (Edmunds 1983, p.x), helped to forge an inter-tribal confederacy opposed to American settlement of the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes region. The confederacy remained a major obstacle until 1813, when Tenskwatawa’s brother, the great warrior Tecumseh, was killed in battle and the military resistance disintegrated.

In 1823, Tenskwatawa was interviewed by the Indian agent at Detroit, Charles Trowbridge, and during that or the following year the Prophet narrated a series of stories, including “The Cannibal Monster”. Trowbridge, personal secretary and researcher for the governor of Michigan Territory, Lewis Cass, was assigned to discover all he could about the languages and cultures of the Indian tribes in the area. Tenskwatawa, interviewed through a translator in Cass’s office, sometimes with the governor present, had to provide answers to a long questionnaire (one question asked: Do the Shawnee eat wolves?). But apparently he became bored with the questionnaire format, and decided to relate something more profound about his visions and the lifeways of his people. And so he narrated eleven tales — including “The Cannibal Monster” — to Trowbridge, fulfilling his role as a prophet by speaking truth to power. Trowbridge predictably regarded these tales as little more than curiosities, and the transcriptions sat in the back of a desk drawer for fifty years before being donated to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. An exact printed copy of the Trowbridge manuscript was published for scholarly reasons in 1965, but not until the 1984 retelling of selected tales by James A. Clifton did they reach anything approaching the public domain.

Following the defeat of the military resistance, Tenskwatawa lived in exile in Canada from 1813 to 1826. His cooperation in answering Trowbridge’s questionnaire and ultimatey in narrating his eleven tales comprised part of his campaign to be allowed to return to live in a Shawnee village in the United States. Before exile, he had been a charismatic and renowned figure in the resistance movement. Now, like his people, he was impoverished and demoralized. Tenskwatawa, once a great prophet, was now a defeated man. Relating his tales was a final, but nonetheless for us a crucial, act of defiant resistance. And of the eleven fables, “The Cannibal Monster” remains the most significant of all.

In many respects, “The Cannibal Monster” resumes the narrative where Red Riding Hood left off. Or, rather, it develops some variations on the themes of the European folktale. The tale opens in a context of seemingly crushed resistance. Just as Red Riding Hood visits her progenitrix in the forest, so this narrative centres on a boy who lives isolated amidst “fields and forests” with his grandmother. Like his European analogue, he is “a small boy” and “a little fellow”. Moreover, he shares with his precursor, who was known merely by the appellation of the cape given to her by her grandmother, an archetypal identity. He too has no name, only a title accorded to him by his grandmother: Ball. His identity derives from his constant plaything. “This ball he was always tossing and amusing himself with. Now this sphere was unique, for sticking out of its side was… a long, sharp-pointed fang” (Clifton 1984, p.23). Unlike Red Riding Hood’s cape, however, the provenance of Ball’s sphere remains unexplained within the narrative. To appreciate the significance of this ball, attention will shift to the visions of another great Amerindian shaman, Black Elk.

In The Sacred Pipe, Black Elk discusses a game “which was played with a ball, four teams and four goals which were set up at the four quarters” of the compass. Originally this game was sacred, “not really a game, but one of our most important rites”:

The game as it is played today represents the course of a man’s life, which should be spent in trying to get the ball, for the ball represents Wakan-Tanka [the sacred lifeforce], or universe… In the game today it is very difficult to get the ball, for the odds — which represent ignorance — are against you, and it is only one or two of the teams who are able to get the ball and score with it. But in the original rite everybody was able to have the ball, and if you think about what the ball represents, you will see that there is much truth in it (Brown 1953, pp.127–8).

Black Elk relates the visionary origins of this game and the ceremonies it inaugurated. Central to the game is a “sacred ball” painted in such a way that it represents the universe, the pantheistic unity of all things. The ball is held by a “young and pure girl” who stands at the centre of the universe. “She sees her Grandmother and Mother Earth and all her relatives in the things that move and grow. She stands there with the universe on her hand, and all her relatives there are really one” (Brown 1953, pp.132,133). A circle of people surround the girl. She throws the ball to the west, where one person catches it, offers it to the six sacred directions, and returns it to the girl at the centre. The same process occurs for the north, east and south respectively. Finally, the girl throws the ball straight up, and all rush in to catch it. Those who are fortunate enough to catch the ball in any one of these five throws are highly favoured.

Black Elk explains the significance of this ludic rite. First, he stresses the importance of the fact that “it is a little girl, and not an older person, who stands at the center and throws the ball. This is as it should be, for just as Wakan-Tanka is eternally youthful and pure, so is this little one who has just come from Wakan-Tanka, pure and without any darkness“. Secondly, he explains that “Just as the ball is thrown from the center to the four quarters, so Wakan-Tanka is at every direction and is everywhere in the world; and as the ball descends upon the people, so does his power, which is only received by a very few people, especially in these last days“. This imminent millenarian perspective informs Black Elk’s view of contemporaneity.

At this sad time today among our people, we are scrambling for the ball, and some are not even trying to catch it, which makes me cry when I think of it. But soon I know it will be returned to the center, for our people will be with it. It is my prayer that this be so, and it is in order to aid this ‘recovery of the ball’, that I have wished to make this book (Brown 1953, pp.137,138).

The significance of Ball’s appellation should now be apparent. He is one of those persons fortunate enough to catch the ball — indeed this act defines his entire identity. And he has been especially blessed in that the ball is armed with a fang, which points the way toward renewed resistance and ultimately (when combined with the recovery of other traditional ways, especially the shamanic power animal) liberation. But Ball always remains an agent of the pure girl at the centre of the sacred circle (who herself, through her youth, her virginity, and her close relationship with her grandmother, remains an analogue to the Red Riding Hood figure). He must ultimately return the ball to her. When the game of life ends, the ball must be recentred, and then harmony will recommence.

One issue that requires elucidation, however, is the question of why Tenskwatawa chose to displace the female figure from the centre of his tale, and selected a male as his redemptive figure. The answer lies in his patriarchal tendencies, which were precipitated by the invading control complex’s decimation of his people’s traditional lifeways.

Pressures engendered by the loss of lands, food shortages, white injustice, and disease caused serious rifts within the [Shawnee] tribal communities. The traditional fabric of interpersonal relationships, formalized roles, and elaborate kinship groups came apart because the tribes were unable to cope with the rapid changes around them (Edmunds 1983, p.5).

The Prophet tried to revivify traditional lifeways, but his reforms were insidiously infected by the control virus.

Like many other tribes, the Shawnee believed that their world was an island balanced on the back of a Great Turtle. “But the Shawnee were unique among related Algonquin peoples in thinking of their Creator as a woman, whom they addressed as our Grandmother“. She “was accompanied and aided by her young grandson and a small dog” in traditional myth. However, Tenskwatawa

attempted to remake the creator-spirit over into the image of a male and this is one of the reasons why most Shawnee refused to follow his teachings

on cosmological issues. He “recast the image of Creator in an effort to enhance the status of males”:

However, … Grand-mother, her Grand-son, and even Brother-Dog are not absent from the tales Tenskwatawa told. Although much reduced in importance, she appears and reappears in these stories as a protective and important if not all-powerful figure. Obviously, Tenskwatawa could try to demote, but he could not entirely erase her memory (Clifton, pp.67,68).

The “grandmother Earth” (Halifax 1980, p.180) figure appears much in this light in “The Cannibal Monster”.

At the beginning of the tale, Ball spends much of his time perfecting his aim with the “unique” fanged sphere. The addition of the fang to the wholly spherical ball of Black Elk’s ritual remains significant for two associated reasons. First, a fang, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, is a “canine tooth, especially of dogs and wolves” — a feature which here symbolizes the connexion between Ball and the European wolf-goddess. Secondly, although the fanged ball seems wholly phallic — it no doubt unconsciously echoes the Western sigil for masculinity, ♂ — this impression remains misleading. The ♂, the sign of Mars — a red figure like Adam (“a man of blood” — i.e., a participant in consanguinous mysteries) — represents “a ligam-yoni arrangement of a phallic spear attached to a female disc” (Walker 1983, p.598). Like Red Riding Hood, the redskin youth remains associated with wolves and the colour of blood. In short, on both counts, Ball remains an agent of the goddess: his masculinity remains firmly rooted in womb consciousness.

But Ball’s connectedness and masculinity are both misdirected. He perfects his aim with the ball so that “he could hit even tiny birds in flight, while they were darting back and forth amidst the trees” (Clifton 1984, p.23). This aberrancy, predicated on a loss of consciousness of universal consanguinity, remains symptomatic of the control complex’s disruption of traditional initiation rites. The grandmother does not ritually correct his deviant behaviour, but seems preoccupied with other matters — a neglect of her initiatory duties which provides the wellspring for the narrative. Ball’s redemptive mission remains based on the absence of initiation.

Every day the grandmother digs up wild tubers, roots and potatoes — i.e., uncultivated vegetable foodstuffs — to eat. She no longer receives the offerings of Red Riding Hoods. Food has become scarce now the invaders have arrived. And just as in the Demeter myth, when the daughter-initiate figure, Persephone, has been kidnapped and the Earth Mother refuses to be fruitful, making the world barren, so here the crone-goddess figure, similarly bereft, inhabits a place of scarcity. But those few tasty comestibles she does find are secreted away, and the famished Ball is only given “the smallest, roughest, bitter potatoes for his meal” (Clifton 1984, p.23), symbolizing the meagre rations — in every respect — accorded to the indigenes by the invaders.

Ball wonders what his grandmother can be doing with the nourishing food she finds. And so instead of sleeping, he conceals himself one night in a bearskin robe to watch her actions. Red Riding Hood was consumed by a live wolf, and joined her grandmother inside, while Ball has to hide in a dead bearskin to keep his grandmother under surveillance. But, mutatis mutandis, both achieve a vision of secret knowledge through getting inside and seeing from the perspective of a wild beast (symbolically their animal natures). Ball discovers that his grandmother is feeding the best food to Uncle, who remains concealed in a hidden room in the lodge. The word Uncle is capitalized because, like other names in this tale, it remains generic: the action is archetypal, mythic, not historical narrative. The presence of Uncle indicates the matristic nature of the community under consideration. In

such clan systems throughout most of humanity’s existence on this earth, fatherhood was unknown, and the primary adult male kinsman was the maternal uncle, united with the mother by the all-important uterine blood bond. Each man’s personal loyalty was to his mother’s clan and his sister’s children (Walker 1985, p.46).

The value of consanguinity remains latent, but not lost, in this community. But the characterization of this male figure remains significant. Red Riding Hood was discovered by her father, a powerful figure from the control complex, whereas Ball finds his uncle, a frightened fugitive from control, and evidently a member of the defeated military resistance.

The next day, while Grandmother searches for food, Ball enters the secret room and converses with his uncle, who reveals that “those Man Eaters” — an accurate characterization of the world-eating Leviathan — “are after me“. By entering the sealed compartment, the boy has placed the man in danger: Uncle indicates that Ball’s intrusion has spoiled the “special power” (Clifton 1984, p.25) of concealment — an indication of the grandmother’s magical powers, given Uncle’s feebleness. But Ball remains unperturbed by Uncle’s forebodings, and requests that he fulfil his filial duties by showing his nephew how to make a bow and arrows. Uncle complies with this entreaty. Unlike Red Riding Hood’s father, the adult male figure in this tale is benevolent. But the bow and arrows will never be used for anything except target practice. Ball’s power does not reside in weaponry: armed resistance to the control complex has already proven impotent.

When the grandmother ascertains that Ball has discovered the whereabouts of his uncle, she is aghast and describes the “terrible things” done by the “cannibal monsters” who threaten Uncle, how “incredibly ugly” they are, of how these “evil spirits” are only seen in the shape of “hideous old people” and “ghastly animals”. But Ball, rather than frightened by these disclosures, becomes “eager to see one of these cannibal monsters” so he can “shoot my fanged-ball to fight him” (Clifton 1984, pp.23–4). Impatience and recklessness emerge as the boy’s chief characteristics. The grandmother prohibits Ball from making further visits to Uncle, but remains powerless to prevent them.

In all, four increasingly reckless meetings between uncle and nephew occur. The first takes place in the concealed room, where Uncle teaches Ball to make a bow and arrows. During the second Uncle emerges briefly from the secret chamber to watch his nephew undertake target practice with the bow and arrows. On the third, Uncle emerges for a longer period to watch Ball shoot down small birds with his fanged sphere. And on the fourth he again emerges to watch Ball resume his target practice with his bow and arrows. But on the latter occasion:

Uncle started to congratulate himself for having escaped the hideous Hamotaleniwa [cannibal monsters]. Instantly, even before he had half-shaped this happy idea, both Uncle and Ball heard the fierce growling of a large dog. It was coming from high above them, from the sky (Clifton 1984, p.27).

For all the grandmother’s fears and the uncle’s lack of caution, only when the latter becomes complacent and relaxes his vigilance, can he be discovered. Already the text has prefigured the era of thought police and total surveillance, where there is no hiding place except through shifts into altered states of consciousness, regions into which thought control cannot follow. Like the military resistance movement he symbolizes, the warrior Uncle encounters peril through fascination with weaponry and an armed solution to invasion. It thus remains appropriate that, as sky gods, the cannibalistic control forces descend like helicopter gunships to round up and exterminate the peoples of the earth.

Ball hides Uncle in the secret chamber, conceals the entrance and covers their tracks. But instantaneously he is confronted by the cannibal monster and his dog, both of whom have only one eye. Like the cyclops, mythic cannibals are often one-eyed. They possess linear perspective, Blake’s hated “Single vision and Newton’s sleep” — an inability to access “the multiplicities of experience” (Highwater 1981, p.68). But this does not prevent the domesticated dog from sniffing out and then lunging at the entrance to the concealed room. Ball responds, not by using his bow and arrows, despite his recently acquired dexterity and their proximity, but by reaching into “his medicine bag, his sack of special powers” (a phrase echoing the earlier reference to the grandmother’s magic) to extract “his sharp-toothed ball” — not a weapon, but a spiritual device (Clifton 1984, p.28).

But in itself the sphere remains insufficient to despatch the cannibals, for reasons which will become fully apparent later. It remains partly inadequate, however, because the cannibals are a machine: when Ball wounds one, the other assaults the door, and the fanged ball has to be removed and flung at the other, which only releases the first to resume the attack. This relentless mechanistic alternation eventually exhausts Ball, and the cannibals burst into the secret room. And although Uncle is a “young man” and a warrior, the “hideous old man”, the cannibal monster, possesses a demonic power over him. “Entering, he approached Uncle and bid him, ‘Follow me! Now!’ The terrified young man did so, showing no sign of resistance” (Clifton 1984, p.28). The barked order, the failure to resist, indeed the inability to resist an incomprehensibly powerful force — these are familiar from contemporary accounts of totalitarianism such as The Gulag Archipelago.

But Ball continues to resist: he ignores the order not to follow, and trails the monsters and their captive. The trio board an “iron canoe”, clearly a product of industrial technology, and the cannibal strikes the side of the vessel, making a noise which imitates the sound of a machine. “At this sound the canoe shot swiftly forward across the lake“. As it does so, the cannibal chants a song of world-eating and technological glorification. “I will devour them all/them all/my victims!/I will cross in my canoe/my canoe.” But Ball will not permit this escape, and “reaching into his medicine pouch” throws the fanged sphere at the vessel. “Immediately the canoe and all in it were pulled back to shore”. Ball possesses magical powers which even control forces cannot withstand. He insists that he accompany them on the voyage. The propaganda machine cranks into action as the cannibal monster maintains: “‘Your uncle will only be visiting friends on the opposite shore. He will return in the morning. I assure you of this, you can believe me.’” But Ball sees through these transparent lies, and the cannibal, “tired of all this unexpected defiance” (Clifton 1984, p.29) — resistance has become unfamiliar — consents to the boy’s request.

Following the trail to the cannibal village on the opposite shore, Ball notices the constant presence of Wren.

Getting annoyed, he reached into his medicine pouch and pulled out his toothed-ball, thinking to impale this tiny bird. Ball was not being patient. He did not see that Wren was his … special guardian.

But Wren forsees the threat and warns Ball how stupid it would be to kill him “‘when I have to come to aid you, to give you favours — skills and strength to match your boldness’“. The previous slaying of small birds symbolizes Ball’s (and indirectly Uncle’s) abandonment of traditional, totemic lifeways. He does not recognize the sanctity of all life, and indeed has unwittingly shot down his spirit helper or power animal. He uses his gift or propensity unwisely — against his shamanic animal rather than the enemy. Hence, divided against himself, the ball remains ineffective against the cannibals. It can lacerate — the cannibal is “injured”, his cur “wounded” — but not kill them. Wren indicates that Ball’s energy and dexterity must be informed with visionary wisdom and spiritual guidance. “‘Be patient… be understanding… Be calm. Think! Control yourself … Reflect on what will happen’” (Clifton 1984, pp.30,29). So far Ball has been characterized by impetuous action rather than reflection, and in this respect he resembles his people as a whole. Wren counsels patience and expedience, but above all points him inward to the spiritual interior. There effective resistance can commence.

Wren divulges Uncle’s fate to Ball. The cannibals

order them [their victims] to do some impossible task. And they threaten these poor prisoners — if they do not succeed in these tasks, the Old Ones will clap them in prison and starve them to death. Then will the slavering Old Ones devour them — flesh, sinew, and blood, leaving only a pile of gnawed bones (Clifton 1984, p.30).

Once again the text prophetically enters the gulags, with their impossibly stringent work requirements, deliberately unfulfillable so that the controllers can achieve their real goal — the extermination of prisoners. But the metaphoric nature of cannibalism also becomes apparent at precisely this juncture. If the monsters were literally anthropophagic, they would fatten rather than starve their victims. The control complex spiritually emaciates the latter, parasitically extracting its lifeblood or lifeforce, — absorbing its vital energies, and thus denying fears of entropy and death. Sacrificial victims are slaughtered so that the system may continue to function (something true since at least the patriarchal inauguration of the hero/tanist agon).

The Old Ones, Wren continues, may tell Uncle to kill a bear in a place where bears are never seen. When he fails, he will then be starved, and when he is almost dead, he will be food for the hunger of this loathsome trio. When you arrive you will soon see many other prisoners already there, those who have already failed. These are now no more than skin and bones. Soon they will be butchered and thrown into the kettle (Clifton 1984, p.31).

Uncle’s prospective fate, mantically foreseen by Wren, consists of reluctantly performing a parodic version of the hero’s supposedly noble quest. The control project has surpassed its “heroic” phase, and its knightly deeds of derring-do are foisted upon coerced and unwilling captives. The Age of Chivalry is dead, and the controllers no longer take personal risks. Concentration camp inmates are forced on pain of death to implement the leviathanic project of destroying the wilderness. Uncle must kill a bear, a wild animal often mythically equated with the wolf, the beast of Artemis and of the fanged sphere. The ursine image echoes Ball’s concealment in the bearskin to discover his grandmother’s secret. The latter episode remains significant here because, just as it indicated that the boy could only gain insight through assuming his animal nature, so the imperative that a bear must be killed constitutes not merely a physical denudation of nature, but a further obliteration of indigenous shamanic capacities. Prisoners are compelled to liquidate, not merely the wilderness, but their ability to resonate with it, their own animal natures, and hence their capabilities to resist and create a regenerated anarchy.

Wren, as agent of the sacred cosmos, aims to terminate this process through the instrument of Ball. The bird (whose gender remains unspecified, although in European traditions it is customarily identified as female — as in Jenny Wren — because it represents the goddess) warns Ball: “That will be his [Uncle’s] fate, unless you are patient, unless you can find some way to save him“. The onus remains on the youth, but again non-attachment and self-possession, the ability to achieve equipose and thus become open to the guidance of intuition remains the key to right action. More explicitly, Wren insists:

By yourself you cannot save Uncle… It will be impossible by yourself, for their [the cannibals’] hearts are not kept in their bodies. Their hearts are kept and guarded in the lodge of… the Great Turtle, himself. And Great Turtle lives in a far distant place, at the bottom of … the Great Lake.

By himself, even with the fanged sphere, Ball remains powerless; he needs the help of totemic or power animals, but as yet fails to realize this fact. He mentally — “thinking but not speaking aloud” — responds to Wren by resolving: “I will speak to the Great Turtle and capture the hearts of these devils by myself“. But the telepathic Wren reminds him that he cannot do anything on his own: “Have patience, Boy-With-A-Ball… have patience and remember you cannot fly” (Clifton 1984, p.31). The youth needs the spirit-bird to take him on a shamanic flight, but egotistically proclaims that he does not need any help to become airborne. At this, the exasperated Wren ceases from conversation.

Ball’s hubris remains inappropriate because the bird invites him to abandon the domain of history constituted by the invading control complex, for the realm of myth. This shift is figured in the introduction of the global folk motif of the external soul, in which “A person (often a giant or ogre) keeps his soul or life separate from the rest of his body” (Thompson 1956, p.43), and “The hero follows instructions [from his animal brothers-in-law], finds the ogre’s soul hidden away, and kills the ogre by destroying the external soul” (Aarne 1961, p.93). The cannibal monsters remain invulnerable (indeed, invincible) because they keep their hearts — their vital principles, their spiritual essence, their very souls — discrete from their bodies.

The control complex — the principle of control — can be injured but never killed by merely physical or martial assaults. Its apparatus may be damaged, but not its constitutive principle, its sine qua non. Just as a single-celled cloning organism can undergo cell division in binary fission and produce two new cells possessing identical genetic material, so Leviathan can repair and regenerate itself so long as the codices or hereditary information pattern transmitted from each reconstitution remains in the structure of psychosocial analogues of DNA molecules. As long as the pattern remains intact, even if in a single cell, the pathological leviathanic organism can reconstruct and begin to expand itself. An attack on a part is never an attack on the whole. The cannibal monsters keep their bodies apart from their souls. Individuals may be physically wounded, but the cohesive principle, the spirit of authority, permeates the entire system. And while one constituent part remains, the whole sociopathy, and the potential for its rejuvenation, becomes inevitable. Indigenous military resistance has only strengthened the bloodthirsty war-god by feeding its maw with corpses. Such a response to incursions by control forces remains inadequate because of its partial nature. To be efficacious/counteraction must be total, but more importantly it must be holistic. It must heal as it eradicates, and it must take place on all planes, including — most crucially of all — the spiritual. The spirit of authority, which is intangible because it is everywhere and nowhere, pervading the entire system, can be combatted only on the spiritual plane. Physical attacks miss the point because they assail the units in the system, not the structural relations, the filaments, the spiritual adhesive which acts in the interstices and provides the organization with its motivational cohesion. Ball’s fanged sphere harms individuals, but cannot defeat the complex because his attacks occur only on the physical plane and are the product of his personal ego. He must learn to renounce the will of the lesser self, to merge it in the wider subjectivity of the cosmic consciousness, and listen to its guidance, channelled through Wren. Only then will he be able to undertake spiritual resistance as part of a holistic liberatory praxis which heals and restores harmony to psyche, community and cosmos, even as it annihilates the pathology of control.

When the party arrive at the “monster’s village” (Clifton 1984, p.31) — not a dwelling, the site of a social group rather than a mere family — the one-eyed cannibal wife, a negative crone figure in contrast to Ball’s grandmother, scolds her husband (a patriarchal designation) for returning with such a scrawny specimen as the youth. The cannibal silently considers that the latter will eventually be eaten, but Ball, as at his grandmother’s lodge, impertinently speaks up for himself — once again in sharp contrast to his cowed and obedient uncle. By contrasting the two indigenous figures in this way, Tenskwatawa indicates that the despondency of the militarily defeated older generation must be replaced by the intransigence of young spiritual resisters.

The next morning Wren’s prediction proves correct: the cannibal despatches Uncle to kill a bear. But Ball, taking the bird’s advice and using his intuition, takes Uncle’s place, finds a bear and chases it back to the compound for the cannibal to slaughter. Now he has encountered Wren, Ball acquires a sense of the consanguinous sanctity of all life, and refrains from killing the creature. But this does not prevent the youth from covertly slipping a tiny piece of bear fat into his medicine pouch. This container remains significant in the present context because it holds his shamanic artefacts, and thus by being retained there the bear fat gains magical properties. Hence, when cooked, it expands like Christ’s loaves and fishes, and feeds the famished prisoners, among whom Ball shares it, saying: “Take your strength and courage from this fine, rich, tasty, bear-stew.’” The dilation of this morsel to fill the hungry bellies of all the inmates pointedly contrasts with the fact that the rest of the bear “made just one breakfast only” for the three cannibals. But the concatenation of the medicine pouch and the miraculous augmentation of food indicates the symbolic significance of the episode. While the voracious cannibals — anthropophagists nonetheless for eating bearmeat, symbolic substitute for Uncle’s flesh — merely consume the bear’s body (and still remain unsatiated), the indigenes are adaquately replenished by metaphorically imbibing its spiritual essence. Although dead, like the pelt used by Ball earlier, the bear spiritually nourishes the prisoners, giving them “strength and courage” (Clifton 1984, p.33) to resist through reengagement with their animal natures. This constitutes a basis upon which a resumption of traditional totemic lifeways can occur — something reinforced on the following day, when the entire episode recurs and a further restoration of vitality takes place.

After this second day of bearmeat breakfast, however, Ball quits the cannibal settlement and goes into the wilderness in search of his vision quest. There he reencounters “friend Wren” (Clifton 1984, p.33) — an indication of their new relationship.

Eurasian shamans couldn’t practice until they completed an initiatory death and resurrection, with a soul journeying to heaven. In this, a shaman required the help of a female guardian angel, a celestial wife or mistress, or the earthly embodiment of such a being, who was often supposed to be able to change her shape to that of a bird (Walker 1985, p.75).

If this pattern holds true for Amerindian shamans, then this increases the likelihood of the female gender identity of Wren. In that case, the bird represents the activation of the female (and in particular crone) principle, suggesting that Ball needs to combine his phallic impetuosity (the ball) with the “female” intuition of his power animal. Certainly, however, as an agent of Mother Earth, Wren can be taken as female, and thus as a representative of the grandmother (just as the wolf represented the animal aspect of her counterpart in the Red Riding Hood tale). Like other men before him, Ball can become an initiate only with female aid.

After encountering Wren, Ball calls “for Crane to join him” (Clifton 1984, p.33) — a further indication of his developing shamanic authority. Crane, perhaps to counterbalance Wren, is definitely identified as male. Ball tells the two birds: “Now I am ready to fly with you to the Great Lake where we can find the hearts of this Cannibal-Monster, his repulsive wife, and that foul hound” (Clifton 1984, p.33). The birds agree that they too are now prepared to undertake this journey. The young man’s wishes meet compliance because of the spiritual transformations he has undergone. His previous arrogant assertions of his ability to fly and single-handedly save his people from destruction have evidently been exposed as illusions. The heroic delusions of the incipient warrior, eager to replicate the mistakes of the previous generation, and the accompanying hubris, are now gone. In their place resides a humility and receptiveness which in no way efface the healthily refractory elements in his character. Ball has employed his intuition, neatly sidestepped the karmic and ethical implications of bloodshed, and used his magic powers to nourish the community (another function attributed to the grandmother at the opening of the tale). In other words, rather than acting in an aggressive and ultimately self-serving manner, he has altruistically served others by beginning to heal the rifts in the sacred lifeways opened up by the control complex.

The shaman’s work entails maintaining a balance in the human community as well as in the relationships between the community and the gods or divine forces that direct the life of the culture. When these various domains of existence are out of balance, it is the shaman’s responsibility to restore the lost harmony… The ancient rituals that have persisted through millennia are the true heart of the community, linking it to an inexhaustible and sacred past. When there is social strife and disharmony, resolution is frequently achieved through these timeless events (Halifax 1980, p.21).

Now this process must be brought to an apocalyptic climax.

The trio — the third triad of the text — journey to the Great Lakes. Wren guides, Ball rides on Crane’s back. “When they reached a certain spot near the middle of this inland sea” (Clifton 1984, p.33), Wren signals and Ball plunges down to the lake bottom like a diving bird, and commands the Great Turtle to swim upward. The amphibian’s instantaneous compliance indicates Ball’s shamanic eminence, particularly given that the American continent — Turtle Island — rests on its back. The young man’s capabilities are quite literally earth-shaking: at his behest global eversion commences. But such an event remains absolutely necessary in the current context.

In the Great Turtle’s nest, “Ball spied … three hearts attached one to the other” (Clifton 1984, p.34). Here, in the externalized womb of the New World itself, lie the peverse eggs of patriarchy. Laid by men, addled and unhatched, they supplant the cosmic egg, “mystical symbol of the Creatress, whose World Egg contained the universe in embryo” (Walker 1983, p.270), the result of the primal coupling of goddess and serpent. Like a cuckoo, the control complex has smuggled into another’s nest a progeny that flings out the rightful inhabitants and bleeds its surrogate parent dry. The nest is America, the rightful inhabitants are indigenes, and the parent is Nature, Mother Earth. Here the motivations behind control complex imperialism are revealed. Fearing and denying death, control forces attempt a perverse rebirth: they aim to become born again Adams in a continent empty through genocide, a virgin continent waiting to be raped. Death’s ravages are displaced onto others so that the controllers may be resurrected into eternity. Ball intends to abort this horrific natality.

After surfacing with the three hearts clasped in his arms, Ball receives further instructions from Wren:

When you are ready to kill the cannibal monsters you must thrust a large bone-needle into all three hearts, impaling them, spearing them together! Only then will these three vile monstrosities die at last.

The young man slips the hearts into his medicine pouch, and the return journey to the cannibal encampment begins. On the way Ball torments the cannibals by squeezing and twisting the hearts, but only on arrival does he kill the monsters by drawing “a long, sharp bone awl” (Clifton 1984, p.34) from his medicine bundle and skewering the hearts together.

In this section of the tale, the onus once again falls on Ball. Interestingly, however, a further shift in emphasis from the masculine to the feminine occurs at this juncture. He can injure the cannibals with the phallic wolf-fang, but can only kill them with a needle — the tool of the sewer, spinner or spinster, the grandmother or Fate figure who spins, weaves and cuts the thread of life. Only the crone aspect of the goddess, recovering her usurped death-dealing capacities, can annihilate the control complex — here through the agency of her grandson.

The Crone… can still serve women as an empowering image of biological truth, female wisdom, and mother-right, to which men must learn to defer, if they are ever to conquer the enemy within themselves (Walker 1985, p.144).

Ball implicitly defers to the crone, and in various respects destroys the internal foe: he masters his patriarchal tendencies and consequent fear of death, and slaughters the demons whose souls were embedded in the very heart of America. But it should be noted that the latter act can only occur once the cannibal monsters’ bodies and souls have been brought into close contiguity — in other words, metaphorically reunited. Ball prevents further depredations against the prisoners during his return journey by tormenting the monsters into agonized helplessness. Only when contiguity of the abstracted parts occurs, however, can the death of the control complex take place. Cartesian dualism must be overcome. Body and soul, material apparatus and the spirit of authority must be brought together to be utterly nullified. Nothing must remain — for if it does the entire edifice can be reconstituted. The assault on the control complex must be total, but primarily spiritual. Without this vital ingredient, the whole resistance project remains worthless.

Hence the fact that Ball places the cannibal corpses on a funeral pyre, “and only when the flames were roaring did he turn away” (Clifton 1984, p.34). Only fire, the devouring, shamanic element, can cleanse the earth of the pathology of control. The flesh of the flesheaters, those who suppressed the fleshly desires of the consanguinous in an orgy of bloodshed, must now be consumed in the fiery flames, the cloak of the scarlet woman, Red Riding Hood, and the hue of the red man, Ball. Reconciliation between man and woman, symbolized by these two mythic figures, occurs following the recognition that the toothed vagina and the fanged sphere complement one another. The first possesses a centripetal, the second a centrifugal orientation; like passion and compassion, they remain in dynamic polarity.

But before the love-feast can commence, the old order — metaphorically, the old world — must end. Apocalypse arrives! amidst scenes of terror, wonder and jubilation. Now unfolds götterdämmerung, the twilight of the gods, the swallowing up of all in collective initiation at the end — here literally — of time by the death or crone goddess, followed by communal renewal.

Ball now gathered materials for a huge sweat-house. This he constructed on the shores of the Lake of the Great Turtle. And now he commanded all the former prisoners of the cannibal village: ‘Gather together all the poor bones of those who have been murdered and eaten! Carry them with respect to my sweat-house and place them lovingly inside! This done, you survivors will join your relatives and friends in my sweat-house! Await me there!’” (Clifton 1984, pp.34–5).

Ball now possesses mana, or wisdom: no longer the “small boy” of the beginning of the tale — although only the seven symbolic days of a week have passed — he does not require the prompting of Wren, but knows exactly what to do. He builds a communal sweat lodge, a site for psychosomatic renewal and preparation for shamanic initiation, over which he clearly presides. In this cauldron of renewal, the liberated prisoners, both dead and living, consanguinously commingled, are to experience rebirth:

While those who had been rescued set to work, Ball drew a stone-headed axe from his medicine pouch and began chopping down a huge Walnut tree that leaned over the medicine-house. When they heard the blows of his stone-axe, those inside became frightened and cried out: ‘What is happening to us? What must we do to be safe at last!

Ball called back: ‘All you living ones! All you breathing ones! Get out of the sweat-house! Run to the cool water of the lake and dive in!’ All inside immediately rushed outside. More ran out then had walked in. A great many bounded out as whole living men, women, and children who had been borne in as gnawed bones. Every one of the murdered ones had been restored to life, cleansed and purified in the sweat-house. All of them together leaped into the refreshing waters of the Kchikami [Great Lake] (Clifton 1984, p.35).

Ball constructs the sweat lodge, the means of renewal, but the act of communal revitalization must come through the members of the community exercising mutual aid. As they do so, Ball — terminating a process inaugurated by the woodcutters’ destruction of the forest and women’s rites — cuts down the World Tree with an axe taken from his shamanic medicine bundle. The inhabitants of the old order, the old world symbolized by the lodge which will be demolished by the fall of the arboreal axis mundi, are urged to emerge and redeem themselves. All are invited and all respond. This is not a Judaeo-Christian apocalypse with distinctions drawn between saints and sinners. The inhabitants ask what they can do to be “safe at last”. They cannot do anything — neither good works nor faith will save them — apart from accept cosmic processes. The control complex desire to leap off the wheel of reincarnation, to be finally secure in the heavenly eternity of a patriarchal god, remains an illusion. Assurance resides in harmonization with karmic cycles of life, death and rebirth. For with this acceptance arises the possibility of resurrection. Hence the apocalyptic renewal, where the dead are brought back to life, and the living are rejuvenated. Those who were carried or “walked” into the lodge, “rushed” or “bounded” out. Infused with energy, they become “whole”.

Echoing Ball’s plunge, they all immerse themselves in the water, a futher cleansing which physically complements the ritual purification of the psyche in the sweat lodge. Submersed in the womb of all earthly life, the oceanic consciousness of the primal mother, they are reborn into totemic consciousness stripped of their clothes and their fear of death.

When they came to the surface, no longer fearful, but freshened and vigorous, they all swam back to shore. Most but not all remembered their former homes and villages. These Ball instructed to make their way back to their kinfolk and friends. But some had been dead so long they had no memory whatever of former times. These gathered together and approached Ball, saying to him:’… our Elder Brother, let us join you and form our own village together. Let us make our own … clan together’. These new companions and kinfolk Ball gathered around him, leading them and Uncle back to Grandmother’s lodge, where they lived together with great happiness for many years (Clifton 1984, p.35).

Unlike Styx, the Great Lake does not induce oblivion, but remembrance, and with the return of cult-lore memory — Mnemosyne, mother of the muses — the poetry of iconic language becomes generalized once again. Global dreamtime can recommence in all its variegated forms, as the peoples of the earth recoalesce into their multifarious assemblages.

But those who have been dead for so long that they cannot recollect their origins — i.e., those whose cult-lore has been effaced in the mists of time — cluster around Ball and seek to constitute a new clan around the figure of the crone. And surely here Tenskwatawa alludes to people of European extraction, whose rich totemic mysteries were among the first to be shattered into fragments. These people above all, not because they are chosen, but because of the debilitated condition of their cult-lore, require the direct tutelage of the Earth Mother. They need her watchful, pervasive presence to effectuate the profound recovery their spiritually debased condition requires. They need her to apply the balm of charis and to learn from her the process of redintegration. Victims of the diaspora called history, the dispossessed and dislocated gather “together” — a constantly reiterated term — around the locus of the renewed female mysteries. There they will recall their lost heritage and begin to reconstruct their visionary lifeways. Already this medley of disparate individuals start to recognize the claims of universal interrelatedness: they consider Ball an elder brother and thus become “new companions and kinfolk“.

The barren wastes of history are abandoned. A storm solemnly rolls over, sending sharp lightning bolts to further blast and desolate the scene. The wind whistles through this howling wilderness, soughing the dead branches of the World Tree, and scattering ashes from the funeral pyre to the four corners of the universe. In time, the parched soil becomes drenched by downpours of rain. Breezes bring seeds, and the sun brings warmth and light. Profuse vegetation swathes the scars, and animals alter the topography. Streams flow and a new forest towers toward the sky. And ages hence, ecstatic dancers, perhaps from the clan of the grandmother, chance upon this place in their revels, and geomantically sense its sacred resonance. Enraptured by its holy atmosphere, they recognize a new sacred grove. Through animistic communion, they consecrate the area as a site devoted to initiation rites. Soon a venerable crone — maybe a direct descendant of the progenitrix of Red Riding Hood or Ball — is installed here. And with her initiates, she practices the sacred mysteries which ensure the isomorphism of Dreamtime and the earthly paradise.

The full circle of the uroboros has been completed. The journey may have been merely another revolution in the spiral evolution of the cosmos. There may be no end to the tale, only a whorl without end. But every folktale, every myth must come to an end, even if it remains in perpetual enaction. In this respect, no more appropriate ending exists than the assertion:

…and they all lived happily ever after.

Whether it happened so or not I do not know; but if you think about it you can see that it is true

— Black Elk.

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Book of Levelling

And the Prime levelling, is laying low the Mountaines, and
levelling the Hills in man. But this is not all.

Abiezer Coppe, A Fiery Flying Roll

Let history be your hymn of penance,
Farm your parents and the races in the ground,
Not for pelf but for remembrance,
And make ready for the festival of ruin.

Edward Dahlberg, Cipango’s Hinder Door

It is those who are left behind, not those who go beyond, that are sad. The shape shifters have their own concerns. But this is a text as much concerned with life as with death. The metaphors are there for all to see. In the tradition of the I Ching and Ovid’s Metamorphosis, this is a book of change, a book of transformation, transmogrification, a book of insurrection and resurrection… a book of levelling.

JM
St. Ives, Cornwall
1 January 1995

SO THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED.

I’m going to chop it off, she said.

Why?, I said. What for?

I want to, she said. And anyway you don’t need it anymore.

That’s true, I said. But what will you do with it?

There are all kinds of things I can do with it, she said. You’ll see. Bring it here.

With this she motioned me toward an old, unvarnished kitchen table. The surface was grainy. As I was naked already, I placed my cock flat on the surface, pressing my groin tightly to the edge. It was just the right height. My cock laid there, flaccid and shrivelled. The tabletop was cold.

It won’t be much use to you like this, I said. It’s too small. You need it bigger, at its full size.

You’re right, she said. And immediately began rolling it back and forth with her hand, as if it were a roll of dough.

The tabletop was rough, grooved and hard. Her hand was soft, dry and piercingly cold. The contrast between the two was curiously arousing and soon my prick engorged with blood. Achingly stiff, continually straining to rise to an acute angle but constantly flattened onto the tabletop by her insistently rubbing hand, my cock grew to the size she required.

At any moment I expected her to chop it off. She obviously knew that a cock is hardest and largest just before orgasm. But here her compassion became evident. Building to a climax, hot gouts of cum spurted explosively across the tabletop and I let out a yelp of joy. But instantaneously, from somewhere deep in the shrouds of her jet-black shift, seemingly from nowhere, she whipped out a cleaver and severed my dick cleanly at the root.

My immediate response was amazement. Not at the pain. There was none. Then or later. Ever. But at the severed cock and at the sight of the white spurts of my cum so swiftly counterpointed with the red splats of my blood.

She reached forward and grasped my cock. No, not my cock anymore. The cock. And lifted it high in her outstreched hand, waving it above her head like a trophy, and let out a whoop.

But seeing me aghast, her mood softened. Now, she said, now you’ll see what I can do with a cock. Such as, she said, thinking, pausing, such as … using it to write with.

Wiggling the prick between figures and thumb, she made as if to write with it on the tabletop. Obligingly, some cum oozed out the tip in imitation of ink. I laughed.

Or, she said, twisting the cock in her fingers, I can use it as a cigar. Holding it out between forefinger and thumb she tapped it with her middle finger as if to knock off excess ash. A drop of spunk dripped on the floor. Responding to her playful mood, I snorted in amusement.

But of course, she said, a good cigar needs to be smoked. And with this she inserted the bloody end of the stump between her hemlock lips. Toking on the cock, a small drop of blood collected at the comer of her mouth. The effect was striking. Her long straight black hair framed the palest of pale faces. Her sharp black eyebrows arced over her liquid black eyes. And the stiff cock, bloody at one end, cum-stained at the other, oozed crimson on her blood-red lips .

I guffawed loudly. I couldn’t control myself. It was just too, too funny.

Or then again, she said, I could make myself into a unicorn. Popping the cock out of her mouth with a sucking sound, she held it to her forehead, making neighing sounds and pawing the ground with her foot.

By now I was laughing uproariously, her actions were so outrageous. And her appearance became even more scandalous, even funnier, when she lowered her horn, leaving a bright red smear in the middle of her brow. Oh, marvellous third eye!

And finally, at least for now, she said, there is my pièce, my piece (she lingered over it) de résistanae. And with that, in a most coarse and suggestive manner, but with an unmistakable elegance and grace, she hoisted up her shift and planted a foot right up on the edge of the tabletop, revealing a shaggy mass of black pubic hair.

Only one thing, I thought, could happen. It did. But it wasn’t the only thing. Of course she opened her cunt lips and inserted the stump, so that a cock now nestled inside that dark bush. A drop of blood from the dick dripped onto her thigh and gave her that menstruating look.

I expected it, but that didn’t lessen the intensity of my response. I could barely breathe I was laughing so hard. But with a coy smile on her face she knew that the last laugh would be on me. So, pulling it out, she quickly reversed the cock and pushed it head first between her cunt lips. Now watch, she said. And I could do nothing else, for god help me if that prick didn’t start wriggling from side to side and from end to end like a little worm until it burrowed itself out of sight, on its way back to the womb, I suppose. I wanted to laugh, but I found the whole thing so astonishing and, what’s more, such a turn-on, that by god if that little remaining stump of mine didn’t start wagging like the docked tail of a little terrier dog. In sympathy, I guess. Well, they say the man with the amputated leg still feels that his missing limb is itching sometimes.

Now it was her tum to laugh. And laugh she did. And why not? My discomfiture was worth laughing at.

But my attention was now turned to my bloody anatomy. I looked at myself. Did I think myself lacking, incomplete somehow? No, I felt that the job wasn’t finished. So I said, Now the balls. They look ridiculous. She agreed.

I approached the table again and placed my bollocks thereon. She approached and once again the cleaver flashed from nowhere and they were gone too.

This time the mood seemed more sombre. Concentrating hard, tip of tongue emerging briefly between tightly closed lips, she plucked the balls from the scrotum and threw the empty bag away. Then she became more relaxed, a smirk lurking in the comer ofher mouth. Holding a ball in each hand, she reached up and popped one into her mouth and after playing it around with her tongue, lodged it in her cheek. Then she repeated the action, lodging the other ball in her other cheek. Now she looked like a gerbil with nuts stored in its mouth pouches. The thought of that set me giggling again. It wasn’t to last.

Spitting the balls out into the palm of her hand like pits from cherries, she smiled and motioned me to lay down on the table. I complied with her wishes instantly, breathless with excitement in anticipation of what further wonders would occur.

Supine on the tabletop, I could only watch with awe as she gently opened my legs and inserted the balls into the gaping wound of my groin. I grunted involuntarily as she pushed her hand right in up to her knuckles and adiusted the balls to her satisfaction.

There, she said, pullingher hand out, there you are. All done. From testicles to ovaries in no time at all. And the rest of the equipment is forming as we speak. But they’re no good if they don’t work, are they?

You’re kidding!, I said.

Oh, no I’m not, she said, clambering onto the table in the space

between my open legs. Up the shift was pulled again and there was that cock — my cock, that was — poking its head out of that black forest like a cat’s penis emerging from its sheath.

And with that s/he fucked me senseless and a very enjoyable experience it was too.

But afterwards, as we lay tangled in embrace, I had to ask. Now when my severed cock squirmed up you, did it impregnate you? Are you pregnant with my child? And when you fucked me, with my, OK your, cock, did you impregnate me? Did my prick inseminate my balls, I mean ovaries?

That, s/he said, we’ll have to see.

And who’s the male here and who’s the female?, I asked.

Who knows?, s/he said. Who cares?

But surely the difference was supposed to be more than anatomy. Weren’t people conditioned to have different gender roles?

Well, yes, s/he said, but that was back then. It’s different here.

How’s that?, I asked

Now it doesn’t matter, s/he replied.

Yes, I said, that’s true. In fact I’m not sure who’s who anymore.

You’re catching on.

Which is me and which is you?

Who knows? Is it important?

And all that stuff about the femme fatale, the sexy castrating woman (or was it goddess?) that wasn’t real, was it?

No. That was just animage, a mirage, a leftover from the bad old days, something from there that got us here.

And where’s that?

Where we want it to be.

And what we want to be.

For a change.

We’re just people. Now. Let’s leave all that behind.

Time to abandon ship.

The cage door’s opening.

Out there’s the forest.

And the ocean.

We’ll meet the others there.

There aren’t any others. They’re all us and we’re them.

Yes.

Here we go.

Well, rasped the hooded figure in the darkest recess of the shadowy room, there’s always a game of chess. It’s customary that people like you are allowed to challenge me to a game. And it’s true that you have everything to win and nothing to lose. Whereas I have everything to lose and only a chance of winning. But because the odds are so uneven I get to choose the kind of chess pieces we play with.

That sounds fair, I replied. I don’t care about the design of the pieces.

You might, the figure responded. But you agree to the game, then? You make your challenge?

I do.

Very well. And I accept. We shall press our lidless eyes and play a game of chess! Here (sweeping aside an ann of the pitchy robe) is the board. And now to the pieces. I choose black as my colour, you shall have red. You must agree this is apt. I am the carrion, you are the corpse. I am dark deeds and you its bloody victim.

I don’t like the implication of that, I protested. You’re suggesting I’m fated to lose. That’s not the case. And I don’t care for your high-flown phrases. But I can’t deny that you’ve selected the right colours for each of us.

Then to more important matters, the mysterious figure replied. My side will be male and your side female.

What do you mean?, I asked. That’s ridiculous. Each side has a king and a queen, as well as sexless pawns.

Ah, yes, murmured the hood, but those are just the names of the pieces. They merely indicate the parts that each piece plays in the game. I’m referring to the actual pieces themselves. Mine will be male. Let me show you what I mean. It’s all to do with body parts. For my rooks, I choose my ears.

With this the figure lifted sallow hands into the dark hood, tugged two ears free and placed them on the appropriate squares of the board.

For my knights, I choose my eyes.

My opponent plucked them out from somewhere in the depths of the cowl and situated them next to the rooks.

The bishops will be my nostrils.

I heard a snap as the nose was broken off and saw those waxen hands crack the nostrils apart before placing them on the board.

My mouth will act as queen.

The figure’s hands lifted the mouth, including teeth, tongue and palate, away from the shrouded face and located it in the board. Amazingly, the mouth continued to talk even though it was severed from its vocal cords.

It said: And to crown it all, my cock will be king!

The hood’s intentions were all too clear to me: this was a strategy of ravishment at best, of rape at worst. I tried to conceal my consternation. My response, when it came, would have to be cunning and effective.

And last but not least, the mouth announced, my pawns will be my fingers.

At this, the figure’s hands shook over the board, showering loose fingers like icicles which somehow dropped onto the right squares.

Now your turn.

Alright, I said. First, I’ll choose my braids for pawns.

With some trepidation, I reached up to my head. I had no idea whether I had braids or if I had ever had them. But I assumed that they’d be there if I said they were. And I was right. I gently twitched at eight of them (there only seemed to be eight) and placed them on the correct defile. They oddly stood on end, a flimsy army but hopefully effective camouflage.

And for my rooks, I’ll use my legs.

As with my nomination of braids, this choice had the desired effect on the figure, who made small grunts of approval from the detached mouth.

With even more trepidation I reached down, closing my eyes as I couldn’t bear to see what was to happen. But my fears were unfounded. With a sharp crack first one, then the other, of my legs painlessly snapped off like britde wood. I lifted them onto my comers of the board. There was no blood and I managed to balance them so that they both stood upright. They looked colossal, dwarfing the other pieces, and incongruous. But no doubt sexy enough to my lustful opponent. If there was any question, my next choice amply removed it.

For my knights I choose my breasts.

Did I have any? Was I a woman? I couldn’t remember. But on the principle that had worked before, I felt certain they’d be there. They were. Not exceptional in size, but full enough to whet the appetite of the lecher opposite. As with everything else, they came free easily and painlessly.

Now I had to take a chance. I had to gamble on desire overcoming reason. My last choice had done enough to distract attention, I hoped.

And for my bishops, I’ll use my cunt and my arsehole.

I knew these weren’t a proper pair and so might not be allowed. But my previous selections were meant to suggest that I understood and consented to the sexual nature of the forthcoming contest. I held my breath, but I needn’t have bothered. The figure didn’t flinch . Obviously the anticipation of a spot of buggery as well as some good-to-god fucking was something my antagonist relished.

Rooting between my legs, I found both cunt and arsehole, and by dint of poking a finger in one, then the other, I managed to pop them loose.

For my queen, I’ll choose my brain.

By now I knew this would flatter. Physical conquest wouldn’t be enough for this opponent. But it was with a touch of horror that I pushed at my temples, opened up the lid of my skull, grasped my clammy brain and wrenched it out. I couldn’t believe I was holding it and so quickly deposited on the board, trying not to see it out the corner of my eye, and hastily clicked the lid of my head back in place.

And last of all, my heart will be my king.

To win over the heart of a fair maiden (if that’s what I was), after ravishing her body and seducing her mind would be seen, I hoped, as the ultimate triumph. So there was nothing for it but to pull my rib cage apart until the skin ripped open, reach in and draw out the hot, beating heart. I quickly placed it on the board and, overcome by the enormity of what I’d done, cried: Let the game begin!

And so the moves and countermoves, the thrusts and counterthrusts, the stratagems and counter-stratagems ranged across the board. Various encounters yielded minorvictories, minor defeats, minor gains, minor losses. But rapidly the pattern of the game came to centre on my attempts at defence. My opponent’s pawns constantly tried to finger me, running through my pawns, trying to pinch my knights and capture my bishops. The figure’s rooks listened for signs of submission, sighs of pleasure. The knights greedily ogled each of my pieces. And the bishops continually sniffed around their clerical counterparts. The queen sought to gobble up whatever she couldn’t tongue. And the king sought to capture my bishops, seeing them as a sure way to my queen, whose snatch would surely convince my king to mate.

But my king and queen worked as one, encouraging the seductive ruses of the pawns, and marshalling the knights and bishops to entice my opponent to destruction, The ploy worked. With the enemy king bearing down hard on my bishops, I unveiled my secret weapon. While the king exulted high in anticipation of the imminent capture of my bishops, my hooligan rooks rushed in to plant well-aimed kicks. Immediately the king was toppled. A surrender! The game was conceded and I had won!

Looking up, I saw the hooded figure in a rage. Flinging back the cowl of the black robe, a fearfully distorted visage was revealed, whether death’s head or hockey-mask I couldn’t tell.

You’ve won!, the mouth on the board screamed. You’ve ransomed your life!

The figure lashed an arm across the chess board, scattering the pieces across the floor.

You’ve beaten death and now none of us are kings or pawns! Now chaos is let loose! You’re just like all the others. All those masterless bastards. Filthy rovers. Riotous scum. Drunken roisterers. Do you know what you’ve done?

Yes!, I cried. Oh, yes!

Then pick up your pieces and let the dance begin!

I tried to retrieve my body parts, but it was dark and the ghastly figure was urging me to hurry.

But I can’t find all my parts, I complained.

No matter, was the reply. Just take what you can find.

So I grabbed what I could and set them where they’d fit. But I was a hybrid now, neither man nor woman. My heart, brain and legs I found and set in place. Other parts were less easy to find or recognize in the darkness, and in haste I slotted in place whatever would fit, regardless of what it did or where it came from.

But there was no more time.

Time’s up, my cloaked companion cried. The dance begins!

From all around an endless multitude of people appeared. Rich and poor. Old and young. Dead and alive. The walls just vanished and an infinity of space vertiginously unfolded.

Take your partners!

The call resounded everywhere.

The rhythm began. And like everyone else I swayed to it. The figure took me as partner, feet beating jerkily, while I melded effortlessly with the insistent pulse.

And I’ve been dancing with death ever since. It’s the only way I know to take to myself the part of leveller. The great leveller, leveller of the great. Becoming death for death. Overcoming the living death.

So I’ve danced before massed ranks of riot police and earth-killer machines and animal murderers. I’ve danced when the cops were defeated, when the machines were broken, when the animals were freed. I was there at the Battle of the Beanfield, I was there at Trafalgar Square, I was there at Twyford Downs. And there you’ll fmd me, wherever power and dominion might be pulled down. You may not recognize me, for I have a thousand faces. And one of them may be yours.

Many’s the time when death has clinched me too close and I’ve smelled the reaper’s foul breath. But many’s the time when I grasped the scythe from his clutch and harvested liberty for all.

Come dance beneath the harvest moon!

And so, my friends, I could go no further. In that gully I laid down my weary bones. My tawny skin shaded into the powdery dust.

The contractions began again. Pain pulsed through my body. Whiplashes. Shrieks, groans, calls.

And then the birth.

Had I birthed a giant? I felt wrenched open. Raising onto elbows, then hands, I peered over my swollen belly to see. What? On my thighs, a mess of slather as if from a big dog’s mouth. And, slipping from the slit and rolling away, a small, bright, shiny ball like a pearl. Rolling down an incline into a hole in the ground.

And then the feelings of despair, of anguish. Of: What was it all for? Why all that pain and effort? For a cake decoration?! A bauble? And one already lost?

But then the jolt. Like a bolt of electricity, like the puncture of a hypodermic needle. The afterbirth flooded out. Gushes of blood streamed the earth, fertilizing the land. My blood was drained and my life-blood too. All energy gone, I fell back, empty.

Then there was a settling, a relaxation. An ebbing. A sense of distance.

And then nothing. More nothing. Again nothing. And yet again. And yet.

Then a very faint stirring. Far away. Over there. Distant. A twinge.

Stillness. Silence without echo. But then, again. A twitch.

Stirrings. Mute shiftings. Tentative, muffied.

Perhaps a plash.

A flutter, maybe.

And then a distinct sensation. Unfolding. Stretching. Within. A tingling feeling.

There. Pushing through. At the tips.

Roots sprouting from the finger tips. Feeling down through tunnels and into crevices. Shooting out feelers, quizzing, probing, curious. Growing further, exploring, testing. Seeking. Searching round stones and through cracks. Penetrating further, touching the different strata, drawn nearer and nearer to the moisture. Sensing the gradations, the various textures, the minute shifts from powdery dust to rich loam. Absorbing the energy, tapping into it, growing with it.

And then the pulses of energy flowing back to the surface, revivifying, revitalizing.

So the fingers grew roots and the renewal began. The toes bleached and their tips became bulbous. They became mushrooms. The armpits burst and cauliflowers grew there. The legs were fallen trees. Fungi clustered from beneath the knee caps. The brain grew a tap root and a copse of young trees cracked open the skull. Birds sang and squirrels darted among the branches. Brambles grew from the pubic fibres, sheltering a dark and dank cave, and sending out plump berries and the precious briar rose. All over, the down became downs, lush meadowlands. The breasts became burrows where rabbits lived and moles sometimes surfaced. The jaw, turned to stone, jutted out of the earth in granite splendour. The eyes became pools where fish played in the cool depths. The heart blossomed with flowers beyond number. And on and on.

Integrated diversity. Intricate interweavings. Revitalized, organs, muscles and bones are transformed and refashioned. New growth. And all at once. Something words cannot describe. The sense of tumultuous growth in every way at every moment. And that which was I, just the soughing of trees in the wind.

But something remained. The pearl, the bauble, the sphere. Fruit of the womb, fructifying in the luxuriant ecology. Nurtured and sustained in this oasis, far from the eyes of greedy men, yet just under their noses, it became a beacon, an incandescence, a luminous presence. Inhabiting this place, pervading this place, yet emanating from it. Reaching out and touching, its influence grew. Its influence grows. But only for those who recognize it. For others, it’s invisible. Intangible. Or worthless. Yet more and more begin to see it and feel its merit.

To those who will hear, to those caught in the wheels of industry, to the slaves of the machine, and to those trapped in the megamachine, the sphere says: Dare to dream! Dare to resist! Things don’t have to be this way!

And to those who thrill to this message, the sphere says: Pull down your masters! Dismantle the systems! Do away with institutions! Throw away your machines and don’t bother to toil. Refuse power, in yourself, for yourself, and over yourself. Stop harming one another, the animals, the earth.

And those who hear, say: But how can we do this? And how shall we live?

And the sphere replies: You must gather together and go out into the world to spread the word. You must create your own ways. Think as you want to think, feel as you want to feel, behave as you want to behave, look as you want to look, love as you want to love, be as you want to be. Some of you will struggle from within the city and some will leave it to renew the land. But wherever you are, you must take up arms, whether of the spirit, the mind or the body, and throw yourselves with all your might against Leviathan, this monster of iniquity.

And there are those who say: How do we know you aren’t just another false prophet crying in the wilderness? And why should we do what you say?

And to this the sphere replies: I am not I. I am you. And you. And you. And all the multitude. You shall find me within. For I am your inner light which you project out here. Don’t follow me. Follow your inner light and live by its promptings. Polish the windows of your soul so that you may see your inner light more clearly. And when you do, you’ll see that these things I’ve said are true.

And those who have ears to hear ponder on these words. And they clean their windows. And they gather together in the marketplace (for the whole world has become like unto a marketplace and now there is no other) and they say unto one another: This sphere is a great sign and wonder and brings us good news.

And they see that it is good. And they see that it is true. And the word spreads and more gird their loins and grind their loins and grind their teeth in readiness for the battles to come.

But there are those who say: This sphere is our saviour. This sphere is our Lord. We must worshiphim and praise him eternally.

And fall down on their knees.

And to these, the sphere in all wrath says: Fools! You know not what you say or what you do! Only you people, by joining unto one another, can save yourselves and save the world. You make me unto a graven idol, when I tell you to pull down all idols. You set me up as master, when I tell you to do away with all lords. Grovel no more. Take up your bed and walk. And cease trying to make me into a man, into a god, or into a human being!

And the scales fall from their eyes, and they exclaim: Truly, this sphere is not the son of god. We’re fucked if we think so. We must think on. We mustn’t make a cult of the sphere. Let’s not take its word as scripture. Let’s have a love feast and then spin and weave and multiply the word.

And the sphere is well pleased with such works.

And so, my friends, the long journey, the hot pursuit through scalding deserts, the vales of tears and the wells of sorrows, begins to bear fruit. Come, rest awhile in this oasis. For I have many tales to tell and you have news of the struggles. I carried the sphere through the howling wastes made by the lords of hell and planted it here in the dust of my body. The seedtime is over and now strange blossoms are blooming all over the world. I gave birth to the sphere and I am the sphere and you are the sphere and you birth the sphere over and over each day. The circle that was broken is now being mended. Stay here awhile and let us share the plenty. Let us rest and give pleasure before we return to the fray.

THERE’S THAT THEORY ABOUT the faery folk. Do you know that one? Well, when the magic went out of Old England, when the Roman rulers and the Christian rulers and all those other bastard rulers had stamped it out, the faery folk are said to have gone to live ‘under the hill’. Not any particular hill, you understand, and not in a valley. No, actually under the hill.

Now, you can take that in all kinds of ways. And they don’t really contradict one another. So there may not be just one meaning to it. Anyway, you could say that the faery folk just withdrew from the dull, mundane world of daily life in civilization. The world of toil and boredom. They just abandoned it and all those who slaved in it and went off into the wilderness. Disappeared into it and so couldn’t be seen anymore. They went under the hill.

Or you could say that they went underground. Under the hill. They didn’t go away; they just dropped out of sight, out of sight of those in power. Those who wanted to jail them, enslave them, kill them. So they might still be around, secretly active, resisting but hidden. Outta sight, as the hippies used to say. But not out of mind. Maybe. Out of their minds according to some people. But not by people I want to mow. If that’s out of your mind, that’s how I want to be.

Then again ‘the hill’ might mean the faery hills. You know, all those burial mounds and barrow graves that you see dotted around in Ireland and Cornwall and places like that. Where the tourists haven’t trampled all over them or the builders haven’t run a motorway through them. ‘Cause the old ones, they saw faery mounds as entrances to some kind of pagan paradise. The entrances were always at places where you might meet death. Underground, underwater or where the sun sets. Places where you might end up dying or end up when you’re dead. But pagan paradise wasn’t thought of like the Christian heaven. Death wasn’t the end. Faery mounds were wombs as much as tombs. They were places of rebirth, not just death. And some people talk of the faeries’ revenge. Ofthe faeries regrouping, waiting for the right moment, and then returning from the hills to wreak revenge on all the bastards who chased them away and stoned them and burned them.

Anyway, the point is that we’re like the faery folk. I say like. ‘Cause we’re not faeries. But perhaps they’ll come to our aid and get their revenge when the time comes.

But we’re like the faeries because we too are under the hill. Some of us have tried to withdraw, as much as we can, from all the shit that’s called civilization. Andhave tried to bugger off into the wilderness. Or what passes for it these days. And some of us have been pushed from pillar to post and set on by angry locals and stupid farmers. Or moved on by cops. Or beaten by cops. Or shat on by politicians.

And some of us have gone underground. Not literally, of course. But have tried to drop out of sight or (as they say) assumed protective colouration. Worn masks, in more ways than one. Worn them while putting our bodies on the line. Or worn them while trying to blend in so that we can get inside and fuck the bastards over that way. Or just to avoid being watched so that we can do some things we’d like to do. So we can work out how to fight back. Without being caught and banged up. Rendered inoperative is the term.

And then some of us have tried to link-up with the land and its lore. Just so’s we know where we’re really coming from. Who we really are. Not just a bunch of fucking kings and queens. Not land of no hope andfucking glory . Not those bloody Romans and their stupid roads. Not any of that shit. Our real ancestors. Those who lived free and those who fought every frigging empire that ever came along. Roman. British. American. Those who really never never never shall be slaves. Those who wanted to live in community with nature and people. Who wanted a life without lords, without labour, without law.

So in that way we’re like the faeries too. We’ve found an entrance to the other world, to an earthly paradise. We find ourselves in places where we might meet our death. We’re going through a rebirth. We’re regrouping and we want to get revenge as well. We want to open the floodgates and let paradise back in. As it was. And will be again. Only better. Bring the magic back to life. Re-enchant the world. Level the land.

IN THE DEEP MIDWINTER, RAPT IN contemplation of these mysteries, gazing into the dazzle of the dark sun, I heard a chorus of voices speak these words. Whether they came from within or from others holding debate in the shadows of the long-house or from long lost souls pausing to converse outside the walls of our communal lodge, I know not. The voices said:

Hell isn’t the underworld, Hell is here. And the lords of hell constantly torment our minds, our bodies and our souls. For all eternity. Or at least all our lives. Unless we rise up and make a heaven of this hell.

Now is the seed-time. New growth is stirring around us and within us. Even as the land is covered with blow upon blow. As the roar of the drills and the growl of the diggers fill the air and the infernal machines take over the land, as the land shudders under the weight of the horrors daily inflicted upon it. Even thus the buds are awakening within us.

We grow in understanding, we grow in sympathy, we grow slowly in numbers and we grow gradually in influence. They poison us and they mow us down. But we continue to unfold in the margins, in the cracks between the pavements. Soon, oh soon, perhaps we shall crack the pavements. For underground we grow, reaching out hands like tendrils to touch, to take hold, to hold communion. Let’s stretch, let’s flex our muscles and see what we can do. Maybe we can find the fault line and crack open this concrete prison.

We are the root, the cell, the radicle. A spark has been planted in us. And we must plant it in others. We must plant the seed communities. So that the new, which is also the very, very old, can grow. It cannot be forced, but still the seed-time cannot be long. For the day of reckoning cannot be far off. Oh, earth! thou art sick! Thy teeming fliers and walkers and swimmers are stymied and dying. The invisible hand is at thy throat. The blight is spreading across the land. Soon all will be concrete and steel.

And the worst concrete and steel will be in the minds and hearts of men and in the hearts and minds of women. Fearful rigidity! where nothing flows, where the cycles cease, and where balance is lost. The only sound is the shifting sand of the arid desert until the terror machine sickeningly heaves into sight. The straight and narrow, the straight and narrow. The path to hell is paved with concrete and steel.

And the lords of hell with their terrible whips lash us on to the brink.

Tear them down! Tear them down!

And the worm will turn, And the serpent will sting.

And the graves will ope. And the dead will up.

And the jaws of hell will gape and spew us out.

And all souls will don their masks and grimly march on the final empire.

And gambol and cavort.

And at this vision my heart did leap with joy. On my feet at once, I danced and jigged and ran out into the street proclaiming the news. And found a ready audience who thought my words prophetic.

HALLOWEEN MARKS SAMHAIN, the celtic feast of the dead, named after Samana, ‘the Leveller’. The Celts believed that the joints between the seasons opened cracks in the fabric of space-time, allowing passage between this world and the other world. On Samhain, the Great Leveller received offerings on behalf of all the dead. These offerings were designed to effect a general levelling of distinction, influence and wealth. Like the potlatch, the ritual acted as a way of dissipating incipient accretions of power and goods. If the spirits were satisfied that the levelling was effective, they would refrain from intervening. But if they felt that inequalities remained, they would pass through the passage between the worlds, summoned by shamans (witches and demons, according to Christians), appearing as vengeful ghosts bent on personally securing a thorough social levelling.

My friends, the witching hour is nigh!

The bell has tolled. It is time for the dead and the living dead to rise. Rise! Rise up and claim your birthright! Rise up in an uprising almighty! Roll away the stone and let the graves gape wide. Rise up from your deathbeds. From your graves and your garrets. From your factories and your firesides. For now is the festival of ruin.

The mighty shall be pulled down into the dust and the poor and oppressed exalted. The living and dead shall walk side by side, marching marching marching through the streets of pain toward the citadel of power. Breaking burning tearing, for yes the urge to destroy is also a creative urge. And the storehouses shall be broke ope and their goods scattered to the wind. And the machines will be broken beyond repair. And the houses of the money-changers will be tom down. And the factories will be gutted. And the roads will be ripped up. And the jails will be stormed, And the cages will be ripped open. And the laboratories will be trashed. And the office blocks and the tower blocks will shudder and fall. And the seats of power will be overturned. And the cities will burn and burn and burn.

So come out, come out, wherever you are. Rise up from your stupor and rise up from your torpor. Come level with me!

From out your scattered graves come out all ye resisters of all ages in this land. Come! Boudicca and Caractacus. And all your merry bands. Who rose against imperial Roman dominion. Come! Robin Hood, Robin Goodfellow of the Greenwood! Never has the forest needed you more. Great leveller who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Come! Wat Tyler and the jovial bands of the Peasants’ Revolt. Rise again ‘gainst those masters so haughty and proud. Come! John Ball. When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman? Come! All ye radicals of the civil rebellion. All ye ranters, diggers, levellers and fifth monarchist men. Come! divine Abiezer. You have killed Levellers (so called) you also (with wicked hands) have slain me the Lord of life, who am now risen, and risen indeed, (and you shall know, and feele it with a witnesse) to Levell you in good earnest. Rave on, rave on! Come! Laurence Clarkson, we all agree to be part of my one flesh. Come! Jacob Bauthumley. They bored your tongue and burned your book. Now tear them down. Come! All ye mad crew! And Come! King Ludd and Captain Swing and all ye Luddites bold! Time to break the machines once and for all. Come! all ye anarchs exiled on these shores. Romantic Bakunin and sweet prince Kropotkin. And Come! all ye nameless rebels, roisterers, resisters, rioters, renegades and radicals. Witches burned at the stake. The martyrs of Peterloo. Brave battlers at Trafalgar Square, at Trafalgar Square and Trafalgar Square again. Mutineers andmad women. Angry mobs and angry brigades. Incendiaries and insurrectionaries. Come! Rise! Rise! Rise!

And Come! All ye visionaries of these isles! Come! Shelley and Godwin. Ye who sometimes saw so plain. We’ll stage the masque of anarchy. Come! William Blake. Rekindle the flames of holy fire, the rebel’s imagination. Lost is the green and pleasant land. And Jerusalem is wanted no more. But your vision is needed again. Rise, bright angel. Come! Richard Dadd. They locked you up for killing dad. Now big dad needs to die. You prophesied the fairy feller’s master-stroke. So strike and strike again at the master, my fiery faery fellow. Come! Anthony Roberts. Geomancer! Ecolorist! Did you find the grail as your body faltered on Glastonbury Tor? You envisioned the fairies revenge. Now rage with the furies across this land.

Come! Lorenzo. On this savage pilgrimage for earthly delight. Come! George Orwell. You paid homage to Catalonia in the homeland of catatonia. Come up for air once again.

And Come! all ye among the living. Come! all ye of the gathering disarray. Come! Richard Alexander. Unplug yourself and come run with the beasts. Come! Mazy Matthew and John the Sab. Open your eyes! Time to wake up! Enough is enough is enough is enough! Come! John Nicholson, archivist of uprising, and Celia, faithful labourer in the vineyards. Come! Tom Cahill. Head in the clouds but balanced in the tao. Come! Green anarchs of Oxford, neither town nor gown. Come! All ye Earth Firstlers and fighters in defence of the earth. Come! All ye travellers and gatherers. Come! All ye anarchs who’ll tear power down. Come! Andy Hopton, discoverer of tyranipocrit and its enemies. Come! Ed Baxter. Without whom none of this would be possible. Come! Bright nova Leigh, my starcross lover. And Come! John Moore, seeker after anarchy and ecstasy.

Come one and come all! Come level the land!

Poems

Chaos and Revolution

Chaos and Revolution.
Poet who will treat this order of events.
It is not his field.
But are there still fields, distinct from reality,
which can be expanded on or organized?

That is the whole question!

(Artaud

Chaos and Revolution:

embodying chaos
enacting revolution

embodying chaos as the realization of revolution
enacting revolution as the realization of chaos

the poet as the axis
which turns the wheel (Revolution, Latin re-uoluere.
and sets it in motion to turn, overturn, overthrow,
revolve

the poet as the matrix (Chaos, Greek, […],
of revolutionary (re)generation abyss, lit. a cleft, fig. a cunt

the poet as agency (Poet, Greek […]
of ‘this order of events’ a maker

That is the whole question!

Chaos and Revolution:

total insurrection against reality
(the order of things
structured by relations of
power and authority

the spectacular organization of appearances

the virtual reality
that supplants actuality
in the digital society

the creative dissolution of reality

(for when the poetic mind acts,
it is always inclined
towards a kind of fiery anarchy,
poetry’s total disintegration of reality
(Artaud

through

the definition of fields—fields of activity—
the elaboration of projects-projects of self-realization
“distinct from reality”

That is the whole question!

Chaos and Revolution:
the realization of chaos here and now

Anarchy hath no limits
nor is circumscribed
in one self place

for where we are is anarchy
and where anarchy is
must we ever be

a rejection of illusions and fantasies.
primal anarchy and utopian futures

chaos inheres in the present moment
and nowhere else
inhabit the moment
realize the moment
act this moment
and anything can happen

the moment for revolution is always
now!

for chaos is always
and only
with us
now!

the realization of chaos in revolution
at this moment

That is the whole question!

Chaos and Revolution:

the constant practice of every-instant anarchy
the spontaneous creation of life ‘distinct from reality’
the revolution of everyday life
the realization of lived poetry
in the moment of insurrectionary chaos
and the collapse of the totality of power

the poetry
(made by all
(Lautréamont
of lived experience

the removal of masks
and the recovery of one’s
original face
What was your original face
before your parents were born?

love, passion, volition, imagination
ebbing and flowing tides
delightful surface patterns
shimmering and scintillant
but in the dark unfathomable depths
the vast equanimity
of the abyss
the realisation of the wisdom of chaos
never lost and thus never found
but perpetually present
in a practice that affirms
neither indifference nor attachment:

living anarchy: nothing special

That is the whole question!

Green Anarchist #62

A Revolution of the Whole Body

1.
Revolutionary theory is now
the enemy of all
revolutionary ideology
and knows it
(Debord

Revolutionary theory is now (as ever
the enemy of all
Revolutionary theory is now (as ever
the enemy of all

In a subject posing as revolutionary
theory is a despotism
everyone should recognise this
(Camatte

Revolutionary theory: (Theory, Greek qeouria,
not the negation of the spectacle a beholding, contemplation,
but its realization speculation
in the spectacular conceptualization of revolt spectator

a falsehood, a counterfeit
a jargon of deceit
a calculus of abstraction
the enemy of all
and knows it

Revolutionary theory, revolutionary ideology:
mind-forg’d manacles
fettering palpitating flesh –
the enemy of living revolution
and knows it

Nothing
moves me
or interests me
except what addresses itself
directly to my body
(Artaud

Living revolution:
a revolution of magic and anatomical metamorphosis

not entering a new world
but leaving a false world

the realization of a new, living and liberated body

through

gesture sound
rhythm movement

an elimination of conceptual thought (If you can only
rid yourselves of conceptual thought,
you will have accomplished everything
(Huang Po

a transformation of consciousness
a direct nonconceptual experience of reality
rooted in the perpetual moment of instant anarchy

a shattering of language (It is not a case of
abolishing the articulated word,
but of giving words
something of the importance
which they have in dreams
(Artaud

a disassembly of the human body
and its visionary reconstitution
as an autonomous entity
emptied of contents
but replete with
the fullness of the void

a dismantlement of all
ideologies systems doctrines parties
in a total revolution against power
in all its guises

Anarchy now!
realized (not by revolutionary theory, revolutionary
ideology but through

gesture sound
rhythm movement

screams of refusal and negation
cries of affirmation and ecstasy

pointing grimacing beckoning scowling applauding
grinning
howling grunting moaning wailing sighing shrieking
fluttering undulating throbbing vibrating whirling
pulsating
lunging leaping capering gambolling spinning balancing

blood mucous tears piss shit cum

(birth pleasure pain death
transmutative immutability
partaken without
attachment or indifference

a re-embodiment realized through physical revolution
expressing the urges
underlying, preceding and disfigured
by words
but experienced through

gesture sound
rhythm movement

A convulsive flailing dancing reinhabited body (Beauty
will be convulsive
or will not be at all
(Breton

and yet a still tranquil composed attentive body (Find
the silence
which contains thoughts
(Hakuin

An insurrectional body
in open daily revolt
against the totality of power

2.
a (revolution ofthe whole body
without which nothing can be changed
a (true organic and physical
transformation of the whole body
(Artaud
a remaking of the body through anotomical metamorphosis
a regrounding in the energies seated in the depths of the belly
A revolution of the whole body

against Abstract Man
and totalitarian manegerial
domination and control systems

revolutionary theory and revolutionary ideology
the enemy of all
and knows it

“lifelong learning”
the State
deployment of education
to manufacture
social discipline
flexible productive capacities
consumer identities

and generate revenue
the digital counter-revolution
the cybernetic encodement
of human personality
as data
in the
disembodied
commodified
tech/no/space
of virtual reality

A total revolution of the whole body
against
(the anatomical order
on which the existence
as well as the duration
of actual society is based
(Artaud

The great unlearning:
a spewing up of guts
a shitting out of innards
a disgorging of socio-economic order
a purging of renunciation
an evacuation of abstraction and control

A stripping away of non-being

through

gesture sound
rhythm movement

until the
ordinary marvellousness
and the
marvellous ordinariness
of
universal chaos
emerges
and
the gateless gate
opens

Green Anarchist #64-65

The Reinvention of Planets

1.
I am not willing to be
a slave to my maxims
(Stirner

A radical transformation of life
in the direction of anarchy
—a condition of generalized
spontaneous free creativity
informed by a
reflexive practice of freedom –
requires
the whole consent of the whole being
and hence a comprehensive
revision of the maxims
that shape forms of creative spontaneity

The creative act
aims at
a total renewal
of the world
(Sartre

But left unexamined
the maxims structuring subjectivity
master me
deform creativity
stifle renewal
and warp spontaneity
into banality
and conformity

Everyone is in a state of creativity
24 hours a day
Spontaneity is the mode of existence of creativity
the unmediated experience of subjectivity
the precondition for poetry
the impulse to change the world
in accordance
with the demands
of radical subjectivity
(Vaneigem

Radical subjectivity
demands
a conscious transformation
of social maxims
a revolution at
the roots of subjectivity
a revolution at
the roots of everyday life
a revolution that
reaches out from within
to transform life

Unregenerate subjectivity
remains incompatible with
individual autonomy
and revolutionary social transformation

everything must be rewritten then
(Beck

If one is to be
a rebel in the total experience of life
if practices of self-realization
and creative insurgency
are to emerge

then
a transvaluation of values
remains fundamental
in order to re-establish
a foundation for identity
in contexts where
technosocial alienation
severs immediacy
of experience
and contact
with reality
and perception
of what-is
and thus
obscures
who one is
and hence
enslaves one
A reversal of the process of dispossession
A disentanglement from confusion
which enables a return to source
A vital foundation for
the recovery of original selfThe unrepresentable ground
through nonconceptual consciousness of all self-representation
Techniques of technosocial deprogramming
The expulsion of internalized power relations
Self-realization in conjunction
with others realizing themselves
And the creative revolutionary
abandonment of power
in all its forms

2.
As capital
power becomes representation
becomes autonomous
through domesticating humanity:

humans integrate capital
capital integrates humans

humans interiorize the representation of capital
the representation of capital interiorizes humans

and this representation
comes to be taken for reality
—the only possible reality—
but one which can only exist
as long as people
collectively consent
to accept it
as real

Revolutionary conflict
thus essentially remains
a conflict over representations (Representation is the
human appropriation
a conflict of representations of reality and our means of
communication
a conflict between and in this case it can never be
abolished
the dominance of representation (Camatte
– representation autonomized –
and creative insurgent self-realization
(Before a powerful shock is produced
a union of revolutionaries
must be realized

there must be
a new solidarity
a new sensibility
but especially a new representation

If not, the shock will merely give rise
to a blind resistance incapable of emerging
in the affirmation of another mode of life

Human beings will have to undergo
a profound revolutionization
to be able to oppose capital
(Camatte

A new representation
but especially
a new form of representation

Not political representation
Not the old narratives
that wield such cultural authority
that they have become invisible
Not the old myths
nor the old maxims
that silently structure identity and activity
without our even being aware of it
Not politics at all
No ideology
No doctrine
No dogma
But a new mode of life
(not a mode of production
but a new mode of being
(Camatte

a new dynamic of life
a lived poetry
(Poetry is the organization of creative spontaneity
an act which engenders new realities:
it is the fulfilment of radical theory
the revolutionary act par excellence
(Vaneigem

A total renewal through generalized creativity

(This is a revolution of life itself
a search for another way of living
(Camatte

Green Anarchist #67

Unruly Harmony

1.
And the earth was born without form,
and void
And darkness was upon the face of the deep
and moved upon the face of the waters

Original condition
of each
and all

Once
now
always
never

And the void
gazing upon the face of the deep
recognizing its reflection
upon the face of the waters
smiled
and gave birth to the word…

…the word
born(e)
on the breath
that breathes
life and substance
into the world

And thus began
the beginningless beginning:
in the beginning was the word
and the word was a seed
enfolded in the embrace of the void
and the seed took root
and grew and blossomed and died
and scattered its seed
far and wide

And in the infinite void
there bloomed
a land of lush vegetation
rich in meaning

In eternal delight
exultant energy
danced scintillant
over the surface
of the deep

And the multiform dancers
in all their teeming multiplicity,
knowing their true names,
wheeled around
in the joyful round dance

But wisdom,
knowing the true names
of each and every one,
sought to know the unknowable
and hence the unnameable,

Her curiosity baffled,
abandoning the true self,
she strove to imitate
the inimitable
primal creativity,
but cloaked in error
she birthed
an abortion, a monster,
a single thought
a thought of singularity
a meaningless word

And from this word
there shot forth
horns, thorns
sharp spines
and clawed tentacles
which bound with briars
all joys and desires
trains ofthought
chains of ideas
carried humanity away
thrust it forth
beyond the void
into a land of desolation
division and separation
enslavement and misery
a land ruled by power and order
by a blind god
whose sightless orbs
forever pitliessly gaze
at the empty pages
of the great book of law and judgement
and whose brazen voice
bellows commands
and whispers words
of good and evil,
sowing seeds of doubt and confusion
that swarm like weeds
and choke the mind
with thought

Lost in thought
distracted and deluded
divided by discrimination
ensnared by attachment
the wandering mind of humanity
unmindful
abstracted
oblivious
goes astray
amid the trackless wastes,
condemned to whore after strange gods
and bow down before terrible demons
in the howling wilderness,
the domain of powers and dominions

And the blind god
the cosmic tyrant
himself but a thought
exulted to see
humanity
in thrall to thought
in bondage to power

But bloated with pride
mired in error
steeped in pomp
the despot of boundless ignorance
darkly descried
in the mid-forged manacles
a means to manufacture
a vast empire of materiality

Snared in the entanglements of
right and wrong
self and other
grasping and rejecting
humanity forgot its original condition
its original face

And over this featureless visage
the blind god
fitted a mask
of his own fashioning
and recreated humanity
in his own image
and let them have domain
over every living thing
and bade them
be fruitful
and multiply
and subdue the earth
and all its peoples
and all it contains,
and set all to toiling
and let their labors increase
by day and by night

Only thus may the mighty engines (the words of the blind god
of production and destruction
unleash their heavenly powers
and infernal energies
Cry havoc! and let loose
the forces of darkness
upon the world
the forces hidden
confined
within the mystery of mysteries:
the living abstraction
within whose bowels you shall live
and whose deathly empire
your labors shall build
and whose enemies
you shall slay
without mercy
until the final victory
of death over life
is won
and my dominion
will be complete

Each word was a hammer blow
nailing humanity to the tree of life,
but coiled around the tree trunk
the wise counsellor
—unseen and unknown by the blind god—
laughed aloud at such ignorance,
and suffused with light
spoke words of prophecy
from the depths of heart wisdom
and foretold
the liberation of all
by twirling a flower
between finger and thumb

2.
(A single thought
of the wandering mind
is the root
of birth and death
in this world.
Just don’t have
a single thought
and you’ll get rid
of the root
of birth and death
(Mazu

An expedient, then:
a poetic expedient
since words
are not enough
and yet too much
a poor expedient
since once
one starts
thinking
about it
one misses
it

Abandon either/or
Realize both/neither
(You must know
that which has
no birth or death
right in the midst of
birth and death
(Foyan

Me, for instance:
both
real and unreal
yet neither
real nor unreal

Or power:
both
omnipotent and impotent
yet neither
omnipotent nor impotent

Or revolution:
both
everywhere and nowhere
yet neither
everywhere nor nowhere

Realize the unrealizable
moment by moment

Revolution in practice:
(Walk
stand
sit
and recline
all day long
without ever
walking
standing
sitting
or reclining
(Foyan

Liberation achieved
when hungry eat
when tired sleep

Either/or
subsumed within
Both/neither
Both/neither
the revolutionary principle
the guiding principle of revolution
realized at every instant
in the everyday practice
of daily life
a return
from a journey never undertaken
to the sourceless source

yet neither
omnipotent nor impotent

Or revolutionary.

Green Anarchist #66

The Ape’s Paternoster

During the afternoon in question a great aperture
appeared
The lens opened
The door dilated and a magnificent vista emerged
Vast horizons of possibility unfolded
The portal to freedom gaped wide
Revealing communities of free individuals
Engaged in purposeless practice

Possibilities spilled over into our world
Boundaries collapsed
Old certainties tumbled down around us
And in fresh forms insurgent energy stirred anew

The prolemongers whimpered
And coweringly fled to their kennels
To growl at one another and gnaw on their dry bones

The Iron Laws suffered metal fatigue
Snapped
Became encrusted with rust and crumbled into dust

The pumping piston of the dialectical perpetual motion
machine
Wore out
And the factory closed down
The historic mission foundered
The long march came to a halt
The Party petered out

Anything can happen chanted the visionary singer
Anything
Anything
Anything can happen
Anything at all

But scarce had the iconoclasts’ work commenced
Scarce had projects of human renewal formed
Than a new graven idol was raised up amid the ruins of
the fallen false gods
Another other
Another not me not here not now

The Primitive—ideology resurrected
Authority revindicated
Identity calcified
The ideology of the Primitive
—the primitivist ideology—
Crystallized, ossified

Fixation on abstraction: a quixotic quest to return to an
uncertain origin

Turning away from the aperture the primitivist like
Lot’s wife looked back
In nostalgia (that most selective mode of memory, that
most unreliable mode of knowledge) and turned into a
pillar of salt

The day began to wane and in the fading light the new
tables of the law were written and the new prison house
of ideology built

Credo:
I hold these truths to be self-evident:
All primitives inhabit an earthly paradise
Are innately and uniformly good in their faceless
sameness
And hence remain the ultimate source of authenticity
(while I am fallen sinful evil
Redeemable only through universal destruction)
(the doctrine of (mere) nihilism)
And negation based on despair
Vacuity and self-loathing: a horrified recognition of
futility leading not to a restoration of primitive lifeways
but to hallucinatory visions

Dusk gathers
Minerva’s owl prepares to take flight

No longer able to discern the gaping aperture amid the
falling gloom
The squinting primitivist peers into the wrong end of a
telescope
And down the dark lengthening corridor of the night
glimpses the portal to possibility shrinking
Closing
Infinitely distant
Infinitely receding

Appendices

Introduction to Fredy Perlman’s “The Machine Against The Garden: Two essays on American literature and culture”

One can only approach with trepidation the task of writing an introduction to a text that takes as one of its themes the ways in which forewords domesticate or recuperate the works they introduce. To forestall accusations of proving this thesis, the introductory remarks that follow will therefore attempt to open up debate rather than limit it through imposing a supposedly definitive reading of the two essays published in this volume.

These essays are important first and foremost because they are the last works of Fredy Perlman. Written during February and March 1985, and subsequently typeset by the author, they were published in the October 1985 issue of the radical primitivist Detroit periodical, the Fifth Estate. But this was a posthumous act of publication, for Perlman had tragically died while undergoing heart surgery in June 1985. Aside from his unfinished epic The Strait, therefore, these essays are, nolens volens, Perlman’s last will and testament.

The two essays, “To The New York Review of B” and “On The Machine in the Garden“, are concerned with American literature and culture, or more precisely American literature and culture of the nineteenth century. According to Lorraine Perlman, the aim of the former essay remains one of

reclaiming Hawthorne as a fellow critic, not a celebrator of the Invaders’ takeover of the continent. For several years, Fredy had been studying the many resisters to the progress imposed by the arrogant Europeans, and he recognized that Melville, Hawthorne and Thoreau had helped him enormously to distinguish the fraudulent from the authentic.

These comments echo Perlman’s own prefatory remarks to his two essays, which note that “many of North America’s best-known 19th century writers, among them Melville, Hawthorne and Thoreau, were profound critics of the technological society.” But the way in which Perlman chooses to undertake the reclamation of these authors remains equally significant.

As indicated above, Perlman’s concern centres on the domestication or recuperation – what he calls the conquering and pacifying – of literary texts by critics for the status quo. The focus of his critique, however, remains one man: Leo Marx – as reviewer/ introducer in the first essay, as author in the second essay. This choice is significant. Marx may, as Perlman notes, have been a Professor at Amherst College in 1959, when he wrote the Foreword to the Signet Classic edition of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter which Perlman so aptly dissects. But by the time Perlman composed his two essays in 1985, Marx had become Professor of American Cultural History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of The Machine in the Garden, a standard and much celebrated text in the field of American Studies. In criticizing Marx, therefore, Perlman challenges the entire nature of academic constructions of American culture. Marx emerges as the representative man of academia, and as a disillusioned ex-academic, Perlman the engaged social critic knows from bitter experience the character of his enemy.

In “To The New York Review of B“, Perlman censures Marx for acting as a literary broker, whether in his role of publicizing slurs on Hawthorne’s character or in his role of providing reactionary misinterpretations of Hawthorne’s work. Perlman’s exposure of Marx’s ideological motives remains pertinent, but his alternative readings of Hawthorne’s texts are not entirely unproblematic. In ideological terms, Perlman’s readings are thoroughly sound, but in terms of literary hermeneutics they are less satisfactory. Marx’s interpretations of Hawthorne’s texts are characterized as distorting, bigoted, reductionist and above all as providing a reactionary textual closure. These accusations are true, but one cannot help wondering whether Perlman’s anarchic readings do not enact a comparable, if ideologically contrary, process of textual closure. The subversive potential of The Scarlet Letter (for example) could be said to reside precisely in its resistance to textual closure and its polysemic openness to multiple hermeneutics, figured in the plethora of meanings available to the symbol of the scarlet letter itself. To pose any reading – anarchic or reactionary – as definitive could be seen as limiting the text’s radical hermeneutic heterogeneity. In terms of an anarchic reading, this could be construed as an unwitting totalization which risks undermining the liberatory purpose of the textual interrogation.

At the level of Hawthorne’s narratives, textual heterogeneity is represented by figures such as the revellers in “The Maypole of Merry Mount” and the “merry company in the forest” of witches, Indians, outlaws and dissenters in The Scarlet Letter. These heterogeneous assemblages, primary examples of Bakhtin’s carnivalesque forces of insurrection, are celebrated by Perlman when he gleefully recounts how the critically sanitized “saints of American letters” were returned to their true home “among malcontents, insurgents, mirth makers and witches” during the 1960s. And yet despite this celebration of polymorphousness, Perlman insists upon confining the textual play of forces in The Scarlet Letter within a manichean framework of binary oppositions.

Hawthorne’s text takes place on the interface between the town and the forest, the city and the country, civilization and the wilderness, culture and nature, repression and liberation. Hester Prynne, the novel’s protagonist, lives on the boundary between the two spheres – persecuted by the forces of control and yet declining the offer to join the forces of resistance made by the witch Mistress Hibbens. In part this failure on Hester’s part to commit herself derives from the allegorical schema of the text. If Hester’s husband Chillingworth represents Science, and Hester’s lover Dimmesdale represents Religion, then Hester herself represents Art. And Hawthorne conceives of the artist as a trangressive, if rather problematic figure. Through her needlecraft Hester, the first American artist, ornaments the patriarchal state that persecutes her. And yet the isolation her position entails leaves her free to develop a radical programme for psychosocial transformation:

As a first step, the whole system of society is to be torn down, and built up anew. Then, the very nature of the opposite sex, or its long hereditary habit, which has become like nature, is to be essentially modified, before woman can be allowed to assume what seems a fair and suitable position. Finally, all other difficulties being obviated, woman cannot take advantage of these preliminary reforms, until she herself shall have undergone a still mightier change.

But Hester is no activist: her theoretical meditations are never embodied in practice. The activism of the merry company in the forest and the theorizing of the intellectual outcast are never synthesised into a visionary resistance praxis. This failure may constitute a working definition of the American tragedy. Hester can transgress the borderline between the areas of control and resistance, but cannot align herself with the latter because of her refusal to be trapped in those binary oppositions that characterise Western thought. In a sense this typically antinomian resistance to hierarchical structures remains positive. But in Hawthorne’s narrative of America it becomes paralyzing due to the fact that the contrast between the forces of control and the forces of resistance in the text is ultimately a false opposition. The two opposing forces are not homogeneous units. The Puritan State may be regimented and uniform, but its opposition remains multiform, proliferant and aberrant – but above all protean, impossible to pinpoint and constellate.

Hester does not seem to realize how this play of forces qualifies this particular binary opposition, making the incorporation of the elusive resistance into such a structure extremely difficult, and thus rendering her refusal of dichotomies inapplicable in this instance. Unfortunately, however, Perlman appears to make the same mistake. He seems to want to simplify the text, especially by collapsing Hester into the resistance, and thus provide a textual closure by reclaiming its supposedly “real” or “original” meaning as one antithetical to power.

Perlman is on surer ground in “On The Machine in the Garden“, where he adeptly analyzes Leo Marx’s apologetics for the Faustian urges of the West. But even here there are problematic elements, and ones not unrelated to issues that arise in “To The New York Review of B“. Perlman states that the knowledge that “there’s a ‘before’ as well as an ‘outside’” to the control complex (or Leviathan, as he calls it) and its linear his-story, remains crucial to his thought. He then rightly reprehends Marx for denying the authenticity of this primitivist impulse and trying to explain away its discursive encodements as merely examples of the literary convention of the pastoral.

Perlman, however, seems to assume that “pastoral” forms of literary discourse, stripped of excrescences in the shape of domesticating critical interpretations, can provide direct access to the “outside.” He uses the image of an electrically charged barbed wire fence to characterize the strict limits placed around life in the concentration camp world of the control complex. He correctly criticizes Marx for reductively asserting that the problems of civilization can be resolved through political processes: “Politics, the ‘science of power/ the ‘art of the possible’ – is that a breach in the fence or the fence itself?” But the question aptly asked of political discourse could also be directed at its literary counterpart.

On one level, literary discourse – like any other semiotic system – can be seen as a self-reflexive, closed system and one whose origins lie within the terrain of civilization. In this respect at least, it remains debatable whether language in general and literary discourse in particular are breaches in the fence or the fence itself. At another level, however, semiotic systems maintain dialogic relationships, not only with one another, but with socio-material processes. And within such negotiations can be discerned those intimations of the “outside” that “pastoral” discourse provides. It is here that the subversive potential of literary discourse becomes apparent: in the ability of a text to act out revolution – rather than merely speak of revolution, and in the process possibly inhibit the development of revolutionary discourse. And in this respect, Perlman’s heterodox insights are crucial, not merely in apprehending a “before” and an “outside,” but also a “beyond.”

Shortly after composing these essays Perlman apprehended a “beyond” of cosmic dimensions. But it cannot be coincidental that these last works are both fittingly written in the form of letters. In itself this remains indicative that until the end he, like Hawthorne, continued the attempt (in the words of the latter) to open an intercourse with the world.

Selected Writings by Abiezer Coppe

It may be useful here to distinguish three phases in the history of anarchist thought: the pre-modern period, from antiquity to the Enlightenment; the classical or modern phase, from Godwin through Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, and so on, up until (say) 1945; and the post-modern period, from 1945 to the present day.Within this schema, one of the major figures in the pre-modern phase must be Abiezer Coppe, a writer from the time of the English Revolution who plays a significant part in Norman Cohn’s fascinating but reactionary The Pursuit of the Millenium: Revolutionary Millennarians and Mystical Anarchists in the Middle Ages. But Coppe remains far more than a historical curiosity: his visionary style-clearly in that great English tradition which includes Blake and Morris-strikes a chord in us because we recognize it affinity to contemporary anarchist writings such as Perlman’s Against His-story, Against Leviathan!

The present volume constitutes the first published collection of writings by Coppe, and includes two texts that have never previously been reprinted. Its publication, therefore, provides an opportunity for a sustained non-academic evaluation of his ideas. Hopton, whose concise but informative introduction furnishes some important contextual materials, has retained the seventeenth century spelling, punctuation and typography, which may initially cause readers some problems. But anarchists are more likely to be deterred by the Christian aspects of Coppe’s writings.

To communicate with their public, radicals couch their ideas in one of the prevailing idioms of the day, and for a preacher like Coppe this could only mean the language of scripture. Hence, his texts are structured by imagery and rhythmic patterns derived from the then recently-translated King James version of the Bible. And in the train of this Christian rhetoric there inadvertently follows many of its repellant and all too familiar ideological emphases. But the latter are severely qualified by Coppe’s insistence on a radical renewal of primitive Christianity. In expounding these tenets, he effectively transcends the Christian tradition, despite the scriptural ambience, and reactivates a millenarian revolutionary legacy that stretches back through the Albigensians, the Cathars, the Bogomils, and Joachites, to pre-Christain Zarathustrians, Manicheans, and beyond. And this legacy, the bedrock of pre-modern radicalism, forms the basis of contemporary anarchism.

Coppe boldly asserts his vision in A Fiery Flying Roll, a text which the State ordered to be burned and which earned its author two and a halfyears imprisonment. A pantheistic divinity warns rulers and oppressors through the medium of the writers inner light:

And as I live, I will plague your Honor, Pomp, Greatness, Supeifluity, and confound it into parity, equality, community; that the neck ef horrid pride, murder, malice, and tyranny may be chopped off at one blow. And that my self, the eternal God, who am Universal Love, may fill the Earth with universal love, universal peace, and peifectfreedom; which can never be by human sword or strength accomplished.

Notice that total freedom cannot be achieved through violence: “Sword-leveling and digger-leveling are neither his principle (page 22). In other words, the democratic militarism of the Levellers and the communist militancy of Winstanley’s Diggers only reimpose another form of despotism. Coppe rejects the idea of reconstituting a popular militia on the lines of the New Model Army because of the alienating oppressions it would involve:

Not by sword; we scorn to fight for anything; we had as live be dead drunk every day of the week, and lie with whores in the marketplace, and account these as good actions as taking the poor abused, enslaved ploughman’s moneyfrom him (who is almost everywhere undone, and squeezed to death; and not so much as that plaguey, unsupportable, hellish burden, and oppression, of Tythes taken off his shoulders, notwithstanding all his honesty, fidelity, Taxes, Freequarter, and petitioning for the same) we had rather starve, I say, than take away his money from him for killing of men.

The poor must not be alienated because they are the chosen people, the instruments selected by God “to confound things that are.” It is they who will implement communism on the apostolic model:

The true Communion amongst men, is to have all things in common, and to call nothing one has, one’s own.

And it is they who will “overturn” not only property relations and the class structure, but all forms of hierarchy and power (bar that of God himself) , “bringing into contempt not only honorable persons, with a vengeance, but all honorable, holy things also” (page 42).

But, given the rejection of violence, how can this total revolution be effected? Coppe’s answer lies in creative amorality, ludic play and a return to the innocence of childhood. Recommending the latter, he suggests a symbolic reentry into the womb of “Mother Eternity”-a heretical notion which partly offsets the texts’ pervasive identification of the divinity as male and evil as female. The ensuing rebirth effectuates a transformation in outlook:

…And to such a little child, undressing is as good as dressing, foul clothes, as good asfair clothes-he knows no evil-And shall see evil no more — but he must first lose all his righteousness, every bit of his holiness, and every crumb of his Religion, and be plagued and confounded by base things into Nothing (page 45).

In short, Coppe maintains “nothing is otherwise a sin, then as men imagine it to themselves to be so,” or to put it another way, “To the pure all things are pure.” The path to Community thus paradoxically lies through Liberty, or unrestrained personal conduct. To the unregenerate, the latter appears sinful, but to the regenerate all acts are permissible. And it is this contradiction which Coppe designates as the site for struggle. He turns to the poor, the dispossessed, and in particular lumpen elements — “beggars, rogues, prisoners, and gypsies” — and encourages them to indulge in sacred play, which ridicules the gravity and sanctimoniousness of life in hierarchical social structures:

I am confounding, plaguing, tormenting nice, demure barren Michael, with David’s unseemly carriage, by skipping, leaping, dancing, like one of thefools; vile, basefellows, shamelessly, basely, and uncovered too before handmaids.

Abjuring unworldly holiness, he celebrates the sacredness of folly, the body, sexuality and social lowliness. The revolution is to come through total civil disobedience and non-compliance. The poor are to abandon work for play. The simple folk are to become holy fools, and thus speed the millennium of which they remain in daily anticipation.

There are many resemblances between an original Ranter like Coppe and a New Ranter like Bob Black, not least in a shared millenarian exuberance (e.g., the latter’s remark, “You want Anarchy Now? I wish I had your patience.“) And this perpetual expectation of an imminent, spontaneous revolution has always distinguished anarchism from Marxism, with its ponderous theories of determinism and historical stages. Coppe deserves a comprehensive reappraisal: Perhaps anarchist millenarianism can provide a salubrious alternative to the apocalyptic millennialism of the fundamentalists.

Prophets of the New World: Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, and Fredy Perlman

How well they flew together side by side
the Stars and Stripes my red and white and blue
and my Black Flag the sovereignty of no
man or law!

—Paul Goodman

Any approach to contemporary anarchism initially encounters the two major problems of definition and terminology. In “Notes on Anarchism,” Noam Chomsky avers

There have been many styles of thought and action that have been referred to as ‘anarchist.’ It would be hopeless to try to encompass all of these conflicting tendencies in some general theory or ideology. And even if we proceed to extract from the history of libertarian thought a living, evolving tradition, it remains dificult to formulate its doctrines as a specific and determinate theory of society, pertinent to the American context, especially given the diversification characteristic of the contemporary period.

But if Chomsky denies the possibility of formulating a comprehensive anarchist theory or tradition, he elsewhere offers a definition which clearly implies why such a formulation remains inconceivable. Anarchism, he asserts,

does not limit its aims to democratic control by producers over production, but seeks to abolish allforms ofdomination and hierarchy in every aspect ofsocial and personal life, an unending struggle, since progress in achieving a morejust society will lead to new insight and understanding offorms of oppression that may be concealed in traditional practice and consciousness.

The unceasing process of exponential discovery prevents a stable and definitive formulation. But it is precisely this process which constitutes the uniqueness of anarchism. Regardless of the content of its praxis during any period, the distinctive character of anarchism remains its continual capacity to redefine and reconfigure itself. Rather than being determined by a set of fixed theoretical and organizational concepts, anarchism develops within an ideological framework susceptible to dynamic and extensive transformations. Hence, while certain conceptual tendencies and continuities are perceptible, these are rarely permitted to ossify into dogmatic or proscriptive determinism. This open, transformative capacity, apart from precluding a static definition, differentiates anarchism from all other ideologies, particularly Marxism. This is not a fortuitous comparison. The contemporary American theorists who form the focus of this essay, despite their divergent trajectories, all broadly share a common ideological departure point in the most seminal strand of anarchism: anarchocommunism, which Kropotkin identified as left-wing socialism. And one of the most productive ways of patterning the historical development of American anarchocommunism is to trace its changing responses to Marxism. Such a comparison reveals three broad phases within American anarchist thought.

In the first phase, from 1858 (when the first indigenous anarchocommunist publication appeared) until the mid-1920s, Marxism was largely regarded as a competitor. The most representative figures of this phase are immigrants, such as Johann Most, Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman, all of whom actively participated in the mass industrial movements of the time. Marxism, or authoritarian socialism, competed with anarchism, or libertarian socialism, for the allegiance of the masses within the shared terrain of the Left. This occasionally acrimonious competition assumed a far more serious complexion during the second phase, which lasted roughly from the mid-1920s to the mid-1960s. The experience of Bolshevism—Marxism in practice—in the Russian and Spanish revolutions catapulted anarchists into an adversarial position. And this, given the prestige accorded the Soviet system by the American Left, transformed them into a very unfashionable and unpopular group. For this reason, and others, including some fiercely repressive anti-anarchist legislative measures, the movement declined and virtually disappeared in the United States. But this forced abandonment of the traditional civil arena had many beneficial effects in the long term. In particular, it allowed anarchism to broaden enormously the scope of its interests, and “politicize” an entire range of issues and practices that remained outside the purview of Marxism. The representative figure of this transitional phase must be Paul Goodman, with his incredibly ecumenical concerns. The significance of this reparative, “convalescent” period cannot be overestimated. For, with the onset of the Second World War, the era of mass proletarian movements effectively ended in the West. The workers were no longer the central revolutionary force. Marxism, with its inflexible dogmas and its involvement in labor movements, did not possess sufficient distance to apprehend this development for several decades. But American anarchists, in particular, because of their apparent marginality and the transformative capacity inherent in their ideology, were able to make the necessary shifts to remain equal to the challenge of historical trends. Consequently, this phase came to an end during the mid-1960s with a fresh wave of insurgency and a renewed sense of anarchism’s relevance. And one of the most striking aspects of this resurgence remains the emphasis with which it asserts anarchism’s absolute difference from Marxism. It is not accidental that the three contemporary thinkers considered in this essay have all in their distinctive ways denounced the Marxist legacy: Noam Chomsky in his pungent “The Soviet Union versus Socialism,” Murray Bookchin in many essays including his notorious “Listen, Marxist!,” and Fredy Perlman in his wickedly mordant Manual for Revolutionary Leaders. Perhaps more importantly, however, many contemporary anarchists have rejected not only Marxist ideology, but all forms of ideology—including anarchism. In a position paper, the group focused around the Detroit publication Fifth Estate have indicated: “We are not anarchists per se, but pro-anarchy, which is for us a living integral experience incommensurate with Power and refusing all ideology.” These individuals no longer consider themselves on the Left. Rather, pointing to “an emerging synthesis of post-modern anarchy and the primitive (in the sense of original), Earth-based ecstatic vision,” they align themselves with the forces of life and nature against the entire megamachine of Western civilization.

The Fifth Estate formulation allows the development of American anarchism to be placed in perspective. In the three phases of its development, anarchism has related to Marxism as a competitor, an adversary, and as a negation. While Marxist communism retains many ideological values in common with the capitalist order (for example, agreement on the progressive historic role of industrialization, and on the necessity of hierarchical order and labor), anarchism has gradually broadened its critique, and so has severed these connections. Inevitably, as its trajectory diverges further and further from current ideological norms, Marxism and capitalism will be seen to share common features and indeed become almost structurally indistinguishable, until the point at which Fredy Perlman can characterize the former as a method of capital accumulation in those Third World nations overlooked by the latter.

Nothing could be more incorrect than to characterize anarchism as merely an antistatist ideology. Certainly, this repudiation remains one of its bases. But its subsequent trajectory is far more complex. The tripartite developmental trajectory adumbrated above could be regarded from a different perspective. Successive phases can be identified as gradations in an incremental critique of all forms of authority. In the first phase, anarchism remained nonpolitical because it advocated abstention from, and opposition to, electoral and State processes. In the second phase, it focused on issues that were apolitical in the sense that they remained outside the traditional civil sphere. But in the third phase, it becomes antipolitical by shifting toward a total critique of a civilization structured around governance.

The remainder of this essay seeks to examine the nature of this contemporary shift. But in addition to terminological problems, this task contains many difficulties. The scope of the shift, combined with anarchism’s transformative capacity, ensures that the resulting theoretical constructs are exceedingly diverse, even contradictory. (As a term, coherence often acquires pejorative connotations in anarchist discourse.) In order to limit this diversity for present purposes, attention will be focused upon only three theorists. The trio have been selected partly because they illustrate the variety of positions available within the contemporary spectrum, and partly because of the cogency and comprehensiveness of their thought. But even this delimitation involves additional obstacles. Given anarchism’s radical egalitarianism, certain individuals within the North American movement have indicated the incongruity of reconstructing its history around great individuals. While acknowledging the pertinence of this point, it can be said in partial mitigation that this essay merely constitutes an analytical survey of certain contemporary tendencies, and maintains no pretense to anything else. It does not, for example, attempt to appraise the significance of contemporary activism, nor assess the importance of anarchafeminism. But, given these provisos, it can perhaps serve to delineate some of the primary patterns in contemporary American anarchist thought.

Given the contemporary obsolescence—particularly in the present context— of political designations such as “right” and “left,” it remains necessary to discover alternative ways of classifying the thought of the three theorists under consideration. One way of situating each within an appropriate spectrum consists of determining the degree of their traditionalism in terms of anarchist doctrine itself. This form of categorization—which designates Noam Chomsky as the most traditional on a sliding scale through Murray Bookchin to Fredy Perlman—remains the most convenient; although, as will become apparent, it paradoxically results in the characterization of the thinker with the most time-honored emphases as the most innovative of the trio. Nevertheless, there is a perverse pertinence in attributing this circular (indeed cyclical) structure to contemporary anarchism, which is simultaneously an ultra-revolutionary and an ultra-conservative movement. For it is this apparent contradiction — the propensity to integrate a rejuvenated anarchy, an ancient social form, in a postmodern context: that is, simultaneously to return to the far past and proceed to an advanced future — which provides anarchism with its unique dynamics.

Noam Chomsky is undoubtedly the most traditional of the three theoreticians, a fact which may be partly due to the fact that he has refused the theorist designation, suggesting in an interview: “Let me just say I don’t really regard myself as an anarchist thinker. I’m a derivative fellow traveller, let’s say.” This may seem to disqualify him from consideration in the present context, but his inclusion remains significant basically because in a sense he represents the public face of anarchism in America. Due to his eminence in the field of linguistics and his exposures of the ideological and academic apologists for American imperialism, he probably constitutes the individual most readily identified as an anarchist thinker. It is thus ironic to discover that his brand of anarchism is extremely traditional, and in fact harks back to previous phases in the doctrine’s development.

Perhaps the most sustained critique of Chomsky’s anarchism, and particularly of his introduction to Daniel Guerin’s Anarchism, has been undertaken by George Woodcock. The latter bluntly states: “I am doing neither Chomsky nor Guerin an injustice in stating that neither is an anarchist by any known criterion; they are both left-wing Marxists.” He substantiates his contentions by showing that the components of Chomsky’s ideas are derived from only one strand of anarchism: anarchosyndicalism, the strand which most closely approximates to Marxism. Woodcock’s criticisms provide a useful departure point for an examination of Chomsky’s libertarianism, but they in turn are written from a rather orthodox anarchocommunist position. The extent of Chomsky’s traditionalism only really becomes apparent through a comparison of his ideas with those of his peers. And although the full connotations of their perspectives will not become available until the close of the essay, this contrast provides a context in which they are more readily apprehensible.

In an interview editorially entitled “The Relevance of Anarcho-Syndicalism,” Chomsky expounds his theory of anarchism at some length. The principal omission concerns the methods through which anarchy could be achieved, but these remain implicit in his statements. When he distinguishes between two strands in anarchist praxis, the accuracy of Woodcock’s critique becomes evident. On the one hand, he characterizes anarcho-communism — with its emphasis on decentralization, nonindustrialization and direct, neighborhood democracy — as relevant only to pre-industrial contexts. But,

on the other hand there’s another anarchist tradition that develops into anarcho-syndicalism which simply regarded anarchist ideas as the proper mode of organization for a highly complex advanced industrial society. And that tendency in anarchism merges, or at least inter-relates very closely with a variety of left-wing Marxism.

Rhetorically enquiring which strand remains relevant, he continues:

Well, I myself believe the latter, that is, I think that industrialization and the advance of technology raise possibilities for self-management over a broad scale that simply didn’t exist in an earlier period. And that in fact this is precisely the rational mode for an advanced and complex industrial society, one in which workers will become masters of their own immediate affairs, that is in direction and control of the shop, but also can be in a position to make the major substantive decisions concerning the structure of the economy, concerning social institutions, concerning planning regionally and beyond .. A good deal could be automated. Much of the necessary work that is required to keep a decent level of social life going can be consigned to machines — at least in principle — which means humans can be free to undertake the kind of creative work which may not have been possible, objectively, in the early stages of the industrial revolution.

In order to establish the viability of these ideas, he cites the example of the Spanish anarchists during the late 1930s, suggesting that their “large-scale anarchist revolution” was temporarily “successful”: “That is, production continued effectively; workers in farms and factories proved quite capable of managing their affairs without coercion from above“.

In the present context, these traditional formulations are significant because between them Bookchin and Perlman controvert practically every point Chomsky makes. But more importantly, in various unexpected ways they transcend and enrich his rather limited conception of anarchy. And it is in their theoretical developments that a major source of the vigorousness of American anarchist praxis should be sought. Hence, rather than merely examine their critiques of anarchosyndicalism, this essay will explore their perspectives in ways which clearly highlight the divergent emphases of all three thinkers.

Despite that fact that they stand on opposite sides of the bifurcation between anarchosyndicalism and anarchocommunism, Chomsky and Bookchin initially appear to share certain emphases. Both, for example, appeal to a common heritage derived from the Enlightenment, and in particular to American libertarianism as represented by individuals such as Paine and Jefferson (Bookchin refers to “the universal ideas of the Reformation and the Enlightenment”). Similarly, Chomsky’s praise for the Spanish anarchists finds a complement in Bookchin’s sympathetic book-length study of the Iberian movement. But the uses made of these shared emphases are completely dissimilar. For where Chomsky discerns continuity, Bookchin perceives dislocation and rupture. Both agree that modern technology contains the potentials for liberation, but whereas Chomsky regards collective worker control as a sufficient basis for anarchy, Bookchin requires a more thorough transformation. For the latter, contemporary technics reveal the prospect of a post-scarcity society of abundance. This vista remained unavailable to most pre-war radicals (including anarchists): hence the asceticism and narrowness in their notions of a libertarian future. But if modern technology contains the promise of liberation, its immense capacity for domination also indicates its uses as a weapon of totalitarianism. And as it is widely constituted, it remains an instrument not only for widespread human oppression, but for ecological devastation which increasingly threatens the entire biosphere, and potentially for global destruction. Hence, rather than the workers appropriating the industrial apparatus and converting it to their own uses, Bookchin envisions a comprehensive technological transformation. Giant industrial technologies are to be replaced by ecotechnologies, small-scale technics (including limited automation) which enhance rather than harm the ecosphere and remain amenable to local control due to their size. Such technologies could be operated by direct, face-to-face village or urban neighborhood assemblies.

These ensembles constitute the basic structural units in Bookchin’s vision of anarchy. But his projections of a post-scarcity society promoted further investigation of the notion of scarcity. According to Marxist and much classical anarchist theory, scarcity remains an inevitable fact. A hostile, competitive and stingy nature instigates a cruel and relentless struggle between humans and between species for scarce resources. The necessity to dominate nature through developing technologies results in the creation of mutually antagonistic socioeconomic forces, which remain locked in internecine struggle until productive forces have attained the requisite level of development, at which time the oppressed class possesses sufficient resources to dispense with their superannuated oppressors. The domination of humanity is thus historically justified by, and based in, the need to subjugate nature. But Bookchin’s examination of the history of scarcity in The Ecology of Freedom totally refutes this account.

Following Kropotkin, Bookchin demonstrates that nature is neither parsimonious nor competitive, and hence that scarcity is not inherent. On the contrary, nature is frequently superabundant, and many communities have lived amidst conditions of plenty with only minimal labor. Scarcity is not innate in nature; rather, there exists a social organization of scarcity, which entered human experience with the creation of the first hierarchy. The latter, based on the male subjugation of the female (and ultimately on the gerontocracy’s subjugation of the young), has developed and proliferated enormously throughout human history until the present day. Hierarchy predates capitalism, the class structure and the state, and can easily survive their demise. This occurs because it infiltrates every recess of human life, and fosters a hierarchical sensibility, a propensity to regard everything in terms of domination and submission. But this sensibility remains grounded in a basic misconception, a specific (mis)interpretation of the relationship between humanity and nature. For Bookchin, the human domination of nature provides an elementary paradigm for all other hierarchical relations. All the deleterious divisions within human history and the fatal dualisms of Western philosophy derive from the fundamental separation between humanity and nature, the social and the natural.

In order to heal these divisions, Bookchin proposes the praxis of social ecology. To counteract the pathology of domination, the latter seeks to nourish an ecological sensibility—a sensitivity to the interactions between the social and the natural which allows a re-creation of “existing sensibilities, technics, and communities along ecological lines.” Changing humanity’s vision of the natural world comprises an essential preliminary phase in developing this sensibility:

Social ecology is, first of all, a sensibility that includes not only a critique of hierarchy and domination but a reconstructive outlook that advances a participatory concept of ‘otherness’ and a new appreciation of differentiation as a social and biological desideratum. Formalized into certain basic principles, it is also guided by an ethics that emphasizes variety without structuring differences into a hierarchical order. If I were obliged to single out the precepts for such an ethics, I would be obliged to use two words that give it meaning: participation and differentiation.

Participation here remains synonymous with symbiosis, in the widest sense of the term — a mutualistic interaction between vital elements within the natural world, humans in the social world, and between the two worlds themselves. In the process, divisions are healed without recourse to reductivism: rather than two irreconcilable antagonists, the social world becomes a mediated gradation of the natural world. Symbiosis as a central principal replaces the Darwinian, marketplace notion of a cutthroat nature. Similarly, differentiation remains synonymous with increasing complexity, a crucial factor in opening evolutionary pathways and allowing a life-form more active participation in its own evolution. And this nascent freedom, the potential for choice and self-determination, provides an objective basis for incremental participation in conjunction with the ongoing realization of evolutionary possibilities. Such aspirations, achievable only within the enriching context of an ecocommunity, are of course incompatible with the limitations imposed by hierarchy.

Social ecology “provides the patterning forms to compare and alter the ensembles of hierarchy and domination that afflict us.” It challenges the notion that hierarchy exists between species, and hence implies that such relations are not natural and should not appertain between humans. But what could motivate individuals to replace the ingrained habits of the hierarchical sensibility with the liberatory elements of its ecological counterpart? Given that hierarchy transcends and permeates class — itself a hierarchical form — Marxist categories are clearly no longer relevant. Any contemporary social project “must also be a project that rehabilitates the prevailing image of human motivation.” But this task cannot be undertaken unless it jettisons the tendency to anchor all relations in self-interest and economic motivation — a tendency found in classical liberalism, anarchism and Marxism. These ideologies, by appealing to such motivations, reveal the depth of their rootedness in the mentality of the market economy. Through their excessive preoccupation with exploitation, they miss the more important issue of domination, with its multiple ramifications and insidious forms:

This again raises the need to go beyond the traditional “isms” structured around self-interest and economic motivations into the deepest recesses of the self: its formation in a cauldron of competition and conflicting interests whereby individuality is identified with domination, self-development with a mentality formed by rivalry, maturity with adaptation to things as they exist, success with acquisition and the sanctity of the bargain.

As a consequence, Bookchin demands that ethical considerations are reinserted into the social agenda: “the reinstatement of an ethical stance becomes central to the recovery of a meaningful society and a sense of selfhood.” The contemporary anarchist self can be defined and motivated only through a rethought and reconstituted set of ethical principles derived from the praxis of social ecology. But the crisis in human subjectivity can only be ultimately overcome through reconstructive activity of an appropriate type.

This activity Bookchin designates as libertarian municipalism. Brushing aside traditional anarchist antipathies to accommodatory electoralism, he asserts:

The anarchic ideal of decentralized, stateless, collectively managed, and directly democratic communities — of confederated municipalities or ‘communes’ — speaks almost intuitively, and in the best works of Proudhon and Kropotkin, consciously, to the transforming role of libertarian municipalism as the framework of a liberatory society, rooted in the nonhierarchical ethics of a unity of diversity, self-formation and self-management, complementarity, and mutual aid.

To justify his elaboration of this strand in the anarchist tradition, Bookchin focuses on Periclean Athens in order to distinguish three levels for political intervention in a hierarchical society. At the apex there was the State. Its proponents practiced statecraft, which in modern times has been erroneously identified with politics. At the base there was the social arena, the site of everyday activity. But Bookchin proceeds to discern an intermediate, political space, a public or municipal sphere “characterized by the agora, or civic center.” This institutional sphere, the polis, was the place where citizens undertook informal discussions in preparation for the weekly meetings of the popular assembly. Bookchin suggests that this crucial site of political intervention has been continually reconstituted during and immediately after periods of revolutionary insurgency, and insists that contemporary anarchist activity should occur in this reconstructed sphere.

Of all the cited precedents of the sphere’s reappearance, perhaps the most important is the New England town meeting. Libertarian municipalism remains particularly relevant to American conditions because of “our traditional emphasis on local government and our uniquely libertarian revolution.” Due to its propinquity to American traditions—he even sketches a scenario which indicates how easily the United States could have been propelled toward anarchy in the immediate post-revolutionary years—he suggests that in America there exist the potentials to create at least exemplary forms of public assembly whose moral authority slowly can be turned into political authority at the base of society. It may not be given that such a sequence of steps is practical in every region of America. But where it is practical our even remotely possible, it must become the most important endeavor of a new radical populism—a new libertarian populism.

From this initial phase, Bookchin projects a confederation of popular assemblies, a nationwide Green network, until the point at which America becomes a dual-power nation, with some kind of inevitable conflict (which he does not care to prophesy) between the federation of decentralized municipalities and the centralized State. In the process, a democratic, ethical and ecologically aware public will be created: individuals will be reempowered, the social environment will be brought within the purview of the individual, decision-making will be decentralized, and an active citizenry will be educated through participation in a face-to-face democracy.

The beneficiaries of this process will be a rejuvenated people, a collectivity united by compatible ideological emphases rather than socioeconomic class: “the old social pool called the ‘people’ is being restored in the tension between past and future, a classless ‘class’ like the sans culottes composed of economically, culturally and technologically displaced persons.” In one sense, Chomsky and Bookchin are mirror images. While the former emphasizes the workplace as a site for social change at the expense of the community, stressing the economic sphere rather than the political, Bookchin does the exact opposite. The socialization of the economy remains curiously “hidden in the mists of a logic that can only be established concretely” through the development of confederated popular assemblies. Instead, he emphasizes the power of ideology to work in a socially progressive direction — notably ecological, feminist, ethnic, moral, and countercultural ideologies within which one encounters pacifist and utopistic anarchist components that await integration into a coherent outlook. In any case, new social movements are developing around us which cross traditional class lines. From this ferment, a general interest may yet be formed which is larger in its scope, novelty, and creativity than the economically oriented particular interests of the past. And it is from the ferment that a ‘people’ can emerge and sort itself out into assemblies and like forms, a ‘people’ that transcends particularistic interests and gives a heightened relevance to a libertarian municipal orientation.

However, despite the references to populism and a declassé; people who can “sort itself out,” this new movement is not conceived as arising spontaneously, nor as developing its own forms and types of autonomously directed activity. Recommending the formation of activist affinity groups and study circles, Bookchin insists that

It would be naive to believe that forms like neighborhood, town, and popular communal assemblies could rise to the level of a libertarian public life or give rise to a libertarian body politic without a highly conscious, well-organized, and programmatically coherent libertarian movement. It would be equally naive to believe that a libertarian movement could emerge without that indispensable radical intelligentsia whose medium is its own intensely vibrant community life.. Unless anarchists develop this waning stratum of thinkers who live a vital public life in a searching communication with their social environment, they will be faced with the very real danger of turning ideas into dogmas and becoming the self-righteous surrogates of once-living movements and people who belong to another historical era.

Among many others, this vanguardism remains one of the central contentions Fredy Perlman forcefully disputes.

Whatever their differences and similarities, Chomsky and Bookchin are clearly linked through their common participation in the terrain of political discourse. The same cannot be said of Perlman. Both Chomsky’s traditional formulations and Bookchin’s innovations are expressed in standard forms and styles which are readily recognizable as types of political discourse. In contrast, Perlman—particularly in his later works—employs a range of textual strategies to convey his anarchic vision. His 1972 volume, Manual for Revolutionary Leaders, published under the wickedly allusive pseudonym Michael Velli, combines a variety of discursive formations. The entire text is written as a devil’s advocacy of revolutionary authoritarianism. But interspersed among pages of closely written polemical argument can be found material organized in discrete epigrammatic paragraphs, narratives designed to illustrate ideological points, and vivid graphics. A footnote in the second, 1974 edition explains that “M. Velli’s thought is a synthesis of the ideas of the major revolutionary leaders of the age .. Velli has taken all of these ideas out of the context in which they first appeared and placed them into the single Thought of which each of these ideas is a mere fragment.” This edition also lists the source of each idea quoted. But the first edition lacks both the explanatory note and the list of sources, thus rendering the text’s intention even more equivocal and its effect even more disorientating.

Letters of Insurgents, a huge epistolary novel published in 1976 under the pseudonyms Sophia Nachalo and Yarostan Vochek, imaginatively explores the evolution of radical praxis in the West and the Eastern bloc from the second World War. Purporting to comprise a series of authentic letters between actual correspondents, it allows Perlman to develop and illustrate his vision of contemporary anarchic praxis in the form of fictional discourse. Similarly, his magnum opus, Against His-story, Against Leviathan!, published in 1983, “with Illustrations borrowed from William Blake,” develops a poetic style appropriate to his visionary account of human life from prehistory to the present day. And, finally, his huge epic novel, The Strait, unfinished at the time of his death in 1985, provides a panoramic view of Amerindian resistance to invasion and genocide from mythical times to the present day.

Perlman’s radical diversity in form and style finds a complement in the equally innovative content of his work. His central concerns can be illuminated by focusing on two key issues: the problem of representation, and the problem of alienation, or why the oppressed daily reproduce their own domination. The ways in which Perlman deals with these problems reveal the contours of his intellectual evolution from New Left Marxism to becoming, along with John Zerzan, one of the founders and leading theorists of antitechnological anarchoprimitivism.

As indicated above, Bookchin believes that anarchism can only develop through an organized libertarian movement, which in turn remains dependent upon the emergence of a radical intelligentsia, whose function is presumably to lead and coordinate activities, or at least to “try to speak for dominated people as a whole.” The issue of the intellectual as an agency for social change was raised, and dismissed, by Perlman in his critique of C. Wright Mills, The Incoherence of the Intellectual (1970). And the associated issue of the intellectual as a revolutionary leader was mordantly savaged in Velli’s Manual. But his most comprehensive formulations in this area appear in Letters of Insurgents. In the latter, leadership, organization and the entire ideological baggage which accompanies a movement for social change are characterized as repressive because they set priorities which serve the interests of the impersonal sodality, rather than the diverse desires of its individual constituents. Because ideology claims to represent the interests of many, it does not truly represent any single individual. And when it is able to persuade individuals of its representative legitimacy, it enforces a submission which remains indistinguishable from the routine coercions of everyday life. Representation constitutes an insidious form of repression, and each time ideological factors become operative in the novel, individuals are obliged to resist or renounce their desires. The text’s “heroes” and “heroines” are not the “politically aware” — they are part of the problem. Rather, the positive characters are either instinctive rebels without a formulated political ideology, but who maintain the capacity to respond and develop in emancipatory situations, or former ideologists who manage to expel their political impedimenta. Such people evolve their own projects without the direction of intellectuals and organizations. The narrative’s dynamic derives from the way in which the two correspondents reinterpret their past and present experiences in the light of each other’s insights. This provokes them to root out the repressive elements which have lodged in various facets of their lives, from their daily “political” praxes through to the deepest recesses of their psyches. This in turn promotes the realization that liberation begins when individuals open themselves to every conceivable experience and begin to do what they please.

From this basis, Perlman’s conception of freedom becomes more expansive and anarchic than those of his peers, and conditions his perspective on issues like technology and the social patterns of a functioning anarchy. Chomsky’s proud declaration that during the Spanish Revolution “production continued effectively” becomes a profound indictment, and an indication that liberation has not been achieved. In an authentic anarchy, factories would be closed or totally reconstituted, technological production would be abandoned or radically transformed. What truly liberated worker would consent to return to the factory and resume the same routine as before the revolution, even if the premises are now under “workers’ control”? Perlman’s penetrating vision cuts across and reveals the essential orderliness and limitedness of his peers’ conceptions of anarchy. By inscribing individual desire, particularly sexual desire, and the notion that all is possible at the center of his praxis, he makes other visions of anarchy seem pale by comparison.

But his repudiation of representation remains only half the story. Letters of Insurgents examines the way in which individuals are induced to renounce their desires, which then turn against them to cause self-repression and the perverse urge to repress others. But it does not satisfactorily account for the phenomenon of complicity in continued daily repression. Despite the depth of the cleansing operation undertaken by the novel’s putative authors, it does not reach deep enough to extirpate the most profound layers of allegiance to repression. The repudiation is not thorough enough. Hence, the composition of Against His-story, Against Leviathan!, which goes

beyond Marxist theory and anarchist historiography, beyond technology, beyond modernity to a rediscovery of the primitive and of primitive community, and to the understanding that capital is not the inevitable outcome of some “material” historical development, but a monstrous aberration.

The text recounts human history from the state of nature — an organic autarky for Bookchin, an ecstatic earthly paradise for Perlman — through the centuries of domination and revolt, and projects a renewed anarchic future. The villain of the narrative is Leviathan, the monster of power and domination, the megamachine of Western civilization. The State, the ruling class, capitalism, technology—these are all attributes of the Earth’s central antagonist, not the enemy itself. Leviathans are giant machines—sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally—which convert free communities of individuals into zeks, forced laborers who form the cogs and wheels that make the Behemoth operate. Such people are wrenched out of mythic or cyclical time into the linearity of history, or His (that is, Leviathan’s) story.

But this process is not accepted passively. The human side of His-story remains a tale of endless revolt, of repeated attempts to destroy or abandon Leviathan in order to reconstitute or return to primal anarchy, a period of total immersion in beatific dreams, visions and vocations. The “heroes” and “heroines” of this narrative are again of two types. They are either the Possessed — in contrast to the zeks, the dispossessed — who have never left the state of nature, or the renegades, those who rebel against Leviathan from within, or withdraw from its entrails to create their own utopias or live among extant communities of the Possessed. These individuals and communities do not possess ideologies, intellectuals or organizations. Where any of the latter elements intrude, they spell the end of a community or the cooptation of revolt.

Although the experiential loss caused by the eradication of free communities remains inestimable, and their numinous lifeways could not in any case be conveyed in written form, Perlman attempts to imitate the cyclical motion of mythic experience even while recounting the linear His-story of Leviathan. Certain events continually recur throughout the narrative, notably the way in which the Behemoth’s organized opponents repeatedly develop Leviathanic traits until they become indistinguishable from their adversary.

As with Bookchin, America remains the terminus of Perlman’s narrative, but there the similarity ends. The colonization of the New World destroys the last free communities on Earth. The Enlightenment and the American revolution, with its libertarian tradition, are a cruel and gigantic hoax, mere rhetoric which conceals and justifies genocide aimed at communities of the Possessed, unprecedented ecological denudation and wholesale plunder which converts the entire planet into a huge forced labor camp. The text, however, ends on a note of hope. Leviathans are in a continual state of decomposition. They can only survive by constantly consuming other societies, whether free or Leviathanized. But now, for the first time in His-story, a single Leviathan embraces the whole world. And with no external sources of nutrition, it is beginning to consume itself. Perlman points to the appearance of “the new outsiders” who, like Bookchin’s People, are displaced and superannuated by automation: “the new outsiders are not radicals. They are people who happened to animate springs and gears which can now be automated, namely artificialized.” As with Bookchin, class composition remains irrelevant: Perlman looks to these “displaced zeks,” not a class-conscious proletariat, for manifestations of the “inner light, namely an ability to reconstitute lost rhythms, to recover music, to regenerate human culture.” But unlike Bookchin, he deliberately fails to formulate any recommendations, and certainly does not advocate the formation of an organized anarchist movement. Nevertheless, he does sense the American millennium’s increasing imminence. But its forms and contents can only be spontaneously determined and generated by individuals and collectivities in the process of liberating themselves. The closing passage of the text announces:

In ancient Anatolia people danced on the earth-covered ruins of the Hittite Leviathan and built their lodges with stones which contained the records of the vanished empire’s great deeds.

The cycle has come round again. America is where Anatolia was. It is a place where human beings, just to stay alive, have to jump, to dance, and by dancing revive the rhythms, recover cyclical time. Anarchic and pantheistic dancers no longer sense the artifice and its linear His-story as All, but as merely one cycle, one long night, a stormy night that left Earth wounded, but a night that ends, as all nights end, when the sun rises.

Anarchy & Ecstasy reviewed by Hakim Bey

Nineteenth century rationalist/materialist/atheist anarchists were wont to assert that “Anarchy is not chaos.” In recent years, a revaluation of the word chaos has been undertaken by a number of anarchist writers (the undersigned included) in the light of both “mythohistory” and science. Both fields now view chaos as more than merely violent disorder or entropy.

Classical physics and mechanics, like classical political theory (including socialism and anarchism), were based on a masked ideology of work and the “clockwork” universe. A machine which went haywire or ran down was a bad machine. Chaos is bad in these classical paradigms. In the new paradigms, however, chaos can appear as good—synonymous with such affirmative-sounding concepts as Prigogine’s “creative evolution.

Meanwhile, and simultaneously, mythohistory has uncovered the positive image of chaos in certain cultural complexes which might be called pre-Classical (or even pre-Historical). Thus, the very new and the very old coincide to offer us what can now be seen as an anti-Classical or anti-mechanistic view of chaos. For an anarchist to use a word like chaos in a positive sense no longer implies a sort of Nechaevian nihilism. Case in point (as Rod Serling used to say): John Moore’s pamphlet Anarchy & Ecstasy: Visions of Halcyon Days.

Moore appears not to have read any of the american “chaos” school of anarchism (such as Discordian Zen, anarchy-Taoism, “Ontological Anarchy,” etc.). Nor does he refer to any works in chaos science. He seems to have “made his own system” (as Blake advises) in relative isolation, utilizing an idiosyncratic mix of readings, which in some ways mirrors the american synthesis (as in his absorption of Situationist “pleasure-politics”) but in other ways diverges from it.

Image of Paradise

Moore’s brilliant analysis of the figure of Chaos in Milton’s Paradise Lost, for example, gives his work a distinctive british flavor, as does his evocation of Avalon (the apple garden) as an image of paradise worth regaining. But Moore certainly does read american books—including F. Perlman, K. Rexroth, Margot Adler and Starhawk. His reliance on the latter pair of authors reveals an interest in “neo-paganism” which will no doubt annoy certain anarchists, despite his claim to oppose “religion” (and “God”) with “spirituality” (and “the Goddess”). I admit to some problems with this aspect of Moore’s work, and will return to the question again.

Moore is at his best in the presentation of what I call “poetic facts.” For example, he investigates the etymology of the words wild and wilderness, connecting them with will (to be wild is to be self-willed) and bewilderment (to wander in a trackless forest; also “amazement”). From all this he creates a portmanteau-word, be wilderness, which he offers as a description or slogan of his project, his “brand” of anarchy. This is a ploy worthy of a poet.

In games like this Moore achieves his best writing and clearest thinking. When he relies on solid facts (such as dictionaries contain) and his own imagination, he makes real donations to anarchist literature (in fact I intend to appropriate the term be wilderness for my own purposes immediately).

An Order of New Age

In dealing directly with a text such as Milton or the Oxford English Dictionary, Moore shines. However, when he relies on secondary material (the theories of other theorists) his insights become less convincing, less luminous. The extensive quotations from Starhawk are permeated with an odor of New-Age, and the semantic vagueness of the whole feel-good school of neo-shamanism. Moore also makes excessive use of an author named Henry Bailey Stevens (The Recovery of Culture, 1949), whom I have not read, but whose theories appear to me questionable, to put it mildly.

Forgetting his implication that the earliest human society must have been (like Chaos itself) without “gender,” Moore uses Starhawk to assert the primordiality of matriarchy. My own position on this vexing question is polemical: I oppose the idea of primordial matriarchy because I oppose the idea of any primordial “-archy.” The “Rule of Mom” may in some ways be preferable to the “Rule of Dad” (or then again it might not)—still I prefer to vote for Nobody (an-archy, “No Rule”) rather than for the lesser of two evils.

As for H.B. Stevens, he supposes that the original society was not only matriarchal but exclusively agricultural, or rather (to be precise) fruitarian-vegetarian, based on an economy of orchards or groves. Admittedly this is not labor-intensive agriculture aimed at the production of surplus—rather an agriculture “before the fact,” before the “Agricultural Revolution” of the Neolithic. The Fall from Stevens’ paradise was precipitated by the Ice Age and its naturally-imposed scarcity, which led to the evil innovations of hunting and then animal husbandry.

The meat-eaters (referred to as “barbarians”) then overcame the fruitarian Southerners, thus introducing oppression into human society. In the Stevenian ethos, Cain the agriculturist was quite right to murder Abel, the herdsman, in defense of genuine paradisal economy and freedom from “private property.” This reversal of biblical values suggests the influence of Gnostic Dualism, and indeed Stevens creates a strict dichotomy in which “good” represents tree/fruit/ gathering/female/South and “evil” becomes ice/blood/hunting/male/North.

A fascinating thesis—but unfortunately for its supporters no “arboricultural” tribes have survived to be studied by anthropologists, nor can any trace of such economies be uncovered by ethnohistorical means. Structurally speaking, the “earliest” societies we can observe are hunter/gatherer societies which practise no agriculture, not even the cultivation of orchards.

Moreover, the concept of non-authoritarian societies (as developed by Sahlins, Clastres and others) depends for its illustrative material on hunter/ gatherer economies. “War,” according to this school, does not develop out of hunting but out of agricultural economy with its dialectic of scarcity and surplus.

Hunter/gatherers possess non-hierarchic organization and are frequently more gender-egalitarian than agricultural societies. Etc., etc. A great deal of writing on these subjects has appeared since 1949. None of it should prevent Moore from admiring the poetic vividness of Stevens’ theory—but some of it might lead him to doubt the factual basis of Stevens’ claims.

There may exist medical or political reasons for frutarianism—or veganism but Moore appears to imply the existence of moral reasons, a stance strangely out of harmony with his promise to adopt an “antinomian” position. If he were to argue that such-&-such a behavior is “natural” (rather than “moral”)—and therefore somehow a categorical imperative of sorts—might I not then reply (as many have done) that it is “natural” to obey authority, or at least to accept on authority that the behavior in question is “natural”?

I see no way out of this dilemma—and thus I cannot help feeling that the inhabitant of the Bewilderness would do well to avoid all concepts of “natural” rights and wrongs (including the “naturalness” of hunter/gatherer societies and even of anarchy itself). The chaote is free to imagine—to imagine Nature as Desire or Desire as Nature.

If the chaote desires such-&-such a behavior, then let it be proclaimed by the Sovereign Imagination that the behavior is “natural” for that chaote—not as an inalienable right, but as an act of will. And if anyone should ask what then prevents the outbreak of violent disorder and the spread of entropy, we may refer them to Moore’s own analysis of chaos as a positive force of liberation, situated beyond the false and oppressive dichotomy of cosmic good and evil.

Moore makes fun (and rightly, I believe) of the usual pallid anarchist version of a future free society, in which everything human seems to have disappeared except the politics of consensus. In its stead he offers a vision, centered on a mystery of wildness, wilderness and chaos, based on a personal reading of myth and history but also involving practical and experiential inspirations for action in the here-and-now.

As such, as vision, I find Anarchy & Ecstasy an “attractive” work (in the sense C. Fourier used the word, to mean lovable and sexy). There are pages, however, where Moore seems to take his vision for revelation, something beyond the personal, something absolute—and here I begin to tune out.

But as pure rant, the book overcomes its own limitations—and for its “delirious rhetoric” it deserves a proud place on the shelf labeled “Chaos.”

Interview with John Moore by John Filiss

An important essayist and author of four short books — Anarchy and Ecstasy, The Primitivist Primer, Lovebite and Book of Levelling — John Moore stands out for his observations on primitivism as social theory. Though his books unfortunately see little distribution in North America, John’s excellent writings frequently appear in Green Anarchist, (BCM 1715, London, WC1N 3XX, U.K.).

Could you give a basic definition of “primitivism.”

In ‘A Primitivist Primer’ I define primitivism as ‘a shorthand term for a radical current that critiques the totality of civilisation from an anarchist perspective, and seeks to initiate a comprehensive transformation of human life’, and as ‘a convenient label used to characterise diverse individuals with a common project: the abolition of all power relations — e.g., the structures of control, coercion, domination, and exploitation — and the creation of a form of community that excludes all such relations’. I’m not sure now whether ‘current’ is the right word. Certainly primitivism is a position within the broad spectrum of anarchism. I’m also more critical of using the concept ‘community’ now. But these caveats aside, I’m happy enough with my formulation.

How comfortable are primitivists in general with the term and label “primitivist?”

I’ve no idea. I can only speak for myself. Personally, I find it very restrictive and these days try to avoid using it whenever possible, for a number of reasons. First, it’s a very ambiguous term because — like its counterpart, civilisation — it has many meanings, and as a result it’s easily misunderstood or caricatured. Second, there’s always the danger — as witnessed recently in Fifth Estate, for example — where hostile commentators can twist your words so that it looks as if you are constructing a primitivist ideology and setting up a primitivist political movement, even when you state exactly the contrary.

As I said just now, in the ‘Primer’ I refer to the word ‘primitivism’ as ‘a shorthand term’ and ‘a convenient label’, and to me that’s all it ever can be. There’s a certain idealism floating around that makes a fetish out of avoiding labels, and of course if we lived in an ideal world such labels might be meaningless. But we don’t live in an ideal world (assuming that it’s desirable to want to do so!). The situationist position on this issue seems to me much more sensible. Asked why they considered it necessary to call themselves situationists, they replied: ‘In the existing order, where things have taken the place of people, any label is compromising … For the moment, however ridiculous a label may be, ours has the merit of trenchantly drawing a line between the previous incoherence and a new rigorousness. What thought has lacked above all over the last few decades is precisely this trenchancy’. Using labels unfortunately excludes some people and closes some paths, but refusing to use labels to define positions leads to fuzziness and confusion — in other words, just those conditions where reformists can undermine anarchist revolutionary practice.

It’s important that people don’t get hung up on labels, but recognise them for what they are — tools for creating clarity — and then move on to forwarding anarchist projects. In the ‘Primer’ I said that ‘primitivism’ is merely a convenient label. But for me, anyway, it has lost its convenience: not that it has become inconvenient, but rather that it now strikes me as a disenabling rather than an enabling term. In a recent issue of Social Anarchism I have tried to outline my current perspectives in an essay entitled ‘Maximalist Anarchism/Anarchist Maximalism’. I am not recanting on primitivist or anti-civilisation positions, but attempting to recast them in a different and more explicitly insurrectionalist terminology and set of references. And one that hopefully avoids the restrictions and failures of ‘primitivism’.

How would you contrast primitivism with environmentalism?

Environmentalism has a single focus: the environment. From this perspective, social critiques of varying degrees are launched. Often these critiques are partial critiques and not necessarily either anarchist or revolutionary. In contrast, ‘primitivism’ (for want of a better word) critiques the totality of civilisation from an anarchist perspective and seeks the abolition of all power relations. This is a massive contrast. Further, like leftists who worship the abstraction called ‘the proletariat’, environmentalists often subordinate themselves to the abstraction called ‘the earth’. The name of the group Earth First! illustrates this point perfectly. Such a perspective remains alien to a project seeking the dismantlement of what I call the control complex. The historical agent in the revolution of everyday life can only be the impassioned free individual, grounded firmly in his/her will to rebellion, not some vague and potentially totalitarian abstraction such as ‘the earth’.

To what extent do you feel primitivists seek a literal return to primitive lifeways, vis-a-vis the extent to which examples of primitive life are simply a tool for social critique?

A difficult question to answer. I am sure there are people who seek a literal return to primitive lifeways. I am not one of them. In fact, I am not interested in a return to anything. My sense is that the future which might emerge from the anti-civilisation anarchist project would be sui generis. I am not interested in precedents. Of course one might see premonitions of the future in moments of rebellion such as the Spanish revolution or May 1968, or in some primitive lifeways. But the world I envisage as emerging in an anarchist post-civilisation situation is, I think, largely unimaginable, precisely because of the unprecedented scope of its abolition of power relations.

What do you feel are the seminal primitivist texts?

For me personally, everything follows from Perlman’s Against His-story, Against Leviathan!. Every time I re-read it I find something new in it — it’s just sparkling with insights. But this isn’t to say that I regard it as holy scripture. It has its flaws and faults, like every piece of writing. Further, social processes have moved on since it was written, as has the project of struggle against the totality, and so like any text — however inspirational it might be — it cannot be the last word.

One apparent division within primitivism involves the center of critique. Fredy Perlman and others disparage civilization, contrasting it with the vitality and spontaneity of primitive cultures. John Zerzan, however, goes further and critiques culture as such, with its constituents art, language, and number. With respect for both sides, how separate do you see this division?

Well, primitivism — if that’s a useful or valid word to use in this context — isn’t a unitary project with a set ideology or ‘line’. If people insist on using the word, then it might be more useful to speak of primitivisms rather than primitivism as such. If anarchism contains a spectrum of positions, so does ‘primitivism’. Marshall McLuhan — someone who’s definitely not a primitivist! — once said that his texts didn’t aim to provide answers, but rather to act as probes. And I think it might be appropriate to think of the work of thinkers like Perlman and Zerzan in this way too. I like to think of my work as anarchist speculations, which I see as a synonym for probes in McLuhan’s sense of the term. If we think of writers within the ‘primitivist’ or anti-civilisation orbit in this light, the apparent division to which you refer then appear to be merely shifts in emphasis or perspective, or as proposals thrown out for others to consider, refine, revise and act upon, rather than absolute truths.

In what countries or parts of the world does there appear to be the greatest interest in primitivism?

At present, at least, the greatest interest seems to be in Britain and the United States. The collision between Anglo-American ‘primitivism’ and continental European anarchism — which seems to me to be becoming increasingly imminent — is likely to throw up some strange and beautiful mutations. If ‘primitivism’ catches on in other parts of the world, the outcomes are likely to be even more intriguing.

In response to an essay of yours published in Social Anarchism, Noam Chomsky writes, “The idea that scarcity is a social category is of course true, but not relevant to the real world, in my opinion.” And later, he adds, “I can’t spend my time arguing about things that seem to me hopelessly abstracted from human existence, now or in the foreseeable future.” Do you feel that Chomsky’s own efforts are somehow more relevant to human existence than the perspectives of primitivism?

If Chomsky’s books and the Manufacturing Consent film are indicative of his ‘efforts’, then certainly not. Chomsky is basically a wealthy, mass media star who addresses the concerns of American bourgeois liberals in typical reformist rhetoric and mass formats. He is completely out of touch with the trajectories of contemporary anarchist practice, which is hardly surprising given, I understand, his failure to inhabit — or situate his daily practice in — an anarchist milieu. Chomsky’s comment, in the item to which you refer, that ‘The world I live in, and see around me, has no resemblance to what Perlman writes about…’, speaks volumes to me about his stance. Perlman was exemplary in the sense of being an anarchist intellectual who inhabited an anarchist milieu. Perlman lived and breathed in that milieu, whereas Chomsky’s natural habitat appears to be the mass media, the auditorium, and the academy.

Chomsky voices a fairly common objection to primitivism when he states that “going back to such a state would mean instant mass genocide on an unimaginable scale.” For me, at least, it is easy to see that such critics are imposing a time constraint (“instant,” in this case) on a transition which would doubtless take generations to effect.

Your response to Chomsky’s comment seems reasonable to me. However, it rests on the tacit notion that the transition to a post-civilised or post-control complex situation can and should be equated with ‘going back’. It may seem as if I’m trying to avoid answering the question here, but as I said earlier, I am not interested in ‘going back’ to anything. A transition from ‘here’ to ‘there’ or from ‘now’ to ‘then’ is necessary. But, for me anyway, this transition isn’t a return, but a moving forward which is simultaneously a coming home. And that process is one that is lived by each anarchist individual at each moment. The ‘transition’, the revolution of everyday life, is an ongoing process. Power is perpetually vulnerable because it has no guarantee that it will continue from one moment to the next. Hence, anarchist spontaneism. There’s no need to wait for ‘the historically appropriate moment for revolution’. Individual and small-scale insurrections take place all the time. When they combine and coincide, power is threatened and revolution becomes possible. The pressing issue, it seems to me, is not to speculate abstractly about the transition, but to work out projects which forward the revolutionary process.

In that same essay of yours, you describe the first hierarchy as being based on “subjugation of the female (and ultimately on the gerontocracy’s subjugation of the young).” And yet most of the animal kingdom tends to be either male or female dominant. E.g., our most similar living relative, the bonobo, is female-dominant. Even positing that our ancestors found a happy medium where neither sex held sway, wouldn’t the beginnings of a hierarchy which ultimately gave rise to civilization have found a more likely source in the movement away from perceptual consciousness and towards systems of belief?

Again, I’m not trying to avoid answering the question, but this issue no longer interests me. Figures such as Perlman and Zerzan have undertaken some valuable work in discerning the origins of power and hierarchy, and in no way do I want to disparage their work. I do feel, however, that the issue of origins has become something of an obsession with some people. Discerning origins is important in so far as one wishes to become aware of the dimensions of power that need to be exposed, challenged and abolished. After a certain point, however, no more can be said about origins. No doubt some people will continue to work on refining our understanding of the origins of power, but to my mind that kind of investigation should now be considered peripheral to the main concern of developing projects which furthers attacks on the control complex.

Primitivism draws much of its useful insights from observation of primitive tribes. Do you feel that we run into special difficulties in even trying to describe their way of life as compared to ours? For example, I have seen primitive tribes described as democratic in their functioning. But in the modern world, democracy is a farcical term, used by pundits from all sides, which has no direct correlation with freedom. But among members of a small tribe, it can mean active input into any form of group decision-making which affects the tribe as a whole.

As you rightly suggest, part of the problem is perceptual and terminological. It’s a truism that different languages produce different realities, and interpreting primitive peoples with hermeneutic codes derived from the discourse of civilisation is inevitably going to result in distorting characterisations of the primitive (for example, seeing such peoples as ‘primitive’, with all the ideological weighting that such a word carries). But the problem goes beyond a phenomenological level, I think. Archaeological and anthropological endeavours are so profoundly implicated in imperial and civilised projects of domination and exploitation that I view them with deep suspicion. There is such a high level of mediation in such disciplines that I sometimes think it is rather ironic that their materials are appropriated to bolster a project — ‘primitivism’ — which affirms the need for immediacy.

Another term commonly used to describe primitive tribes is egalitarianism, which in our society carries a veneer of leftist spite and envy, as well as Christian insipidness. But among primitives it is merely a natural outcome of individuals self-actualizing outside the specializations imposed by our artificial way of life.

Well, that’s another example of imposing categories on ‘the primitive’ which are ideologically loaded. Egalitarianism is a bourgeois ideal because it merely means ‘equal before the law’. As anarchism wants to abolish the law and the social contract upon which it supposedly rests, egalitarianism has nothing to do with anarchism. The abolition of power means maximising the possibilities for individuals to self-actualise themselves, but has nothing to do with making people equal or equivalents — an impossible and potentially totalitarian aim, in any case. In this sense, one can discern a rough equivalence between primal anarchy and post-civilisation anarchy, but nothing more.

On the other hand, do you feel that primitivists tend to present an overly idyllic version of primitive life? Cannibalism, infanticide, senilicide, head-hunting, and ritual torture are among the many atrocities once seen among the pre-civilized of every continent, including Europe.

The myth of the noble savage is always a temptation for those who see themselves as primitivists. And it’s a convenient knee-jerk criticism for those who are hostile to primitivism. That’s another reason why I try to avoid using the term ‘primitivism’, and a good example of why it’s a disenabling — rather than enabling — term. I get rather tired of continually having to hack through the thickets of misconceptions that come along with the word. And as most people seem to think that primitivism means a desire to return to an idyllic version of primitive life, and this is not my project at all, I don’t identify myself in this way. As a result, I don’t feel the need to defend the practices of non-civilised people. It’s more important to me to develop my own practice. If this draws upon those elements of primitive lifeways that I feel are sufficiently substantiated and congenial, then that’s my concern. But in no way do I feel the need to take on board the whole kit and caboodle of that range of diverse practices which are (rather confusingly) lumped together under the heading of ‘the primitive’.

From what quarters on the political spectrum do you perceive the greatest hostility towards primitivism? From where the greatest empathy?

At present, anti-civilisation anarchism unfortunately remains a rather marginalised form of practice, and so hostility remains limited due to ignorance of its existence. But, as the most advanced and radical form or anarchism, the entirety of the political spectrum is its enemy. It is, to appropriate the individualist anarchist slogan, the enemy of society, and as such can expect nothing but hostility from the dominant social order once the latter becomes aware of its existence.

At the moment, the greatest hostility comes from those who are aware of its existence and are in immediate danger from it: i.e., the varieties of classical, workerist and leftist anarchism. Anarcho-leftism rightly fears that its antiquated ideologies are being superseded by anti-civilisation anarchism in terms of its analyses and revolutionary fervour, and hopefully soon by its insurrectionalist interventions.

What are some of your upcoming projects?

There is only one overwhelming project: the revolutionary and comprehensive transformation of human life in an anarchist direction, and the self-realisation of my individuality in conjunction with generalised self-realisation through the destruction of power and the construction of a free life. All of my personal projects are subsets of this project. The one closest to my heart is developing my writing of short fiction. In their different ways, Hakim Bey and Alfredo Bonanno have drawn our attention to the importance of anarchist ontologies. Within this framework, I am interested in fostering distinctively anarchist epistemologies. And the discourses and practices of art, it seems to me, have potential in terms of developing such epistemologies, and far more possibilities for forwarding the anarchist struggle than political discourses.

How do we make this world a better place?

The short answer to this question is: through anarchist revolution. But the most urgent question, and the one with which I am primarily interested, of how this is to brought about is the one that ‘primitivists’ have studiously ignored. Thankfully, however, others have not. The ideas and activities of Alfredo Bonanno and the Italian insurrectionalist anarchists strike me as key here. Studying, adopting and innovating practices of attack along the lines developed by the insurrectionalists, as well as cross-fertilising our ideas and activities with theirs, seems to me the most important task now facing anti-civilisation anarchists, and one that I intend to pursue.

In Memorium by John Connor

Formative British anti-Civilization theorist and poet John Moore collapsed on his way to work as a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Luton last 30th October, 2002.

Originally writing from an autonomist perspective, John was heavily influenced by anarcho-primitivist Fredy Perlman, particularly his early — 1980s mythopoeia classic Against His-Story, Against Leviathan! John’s key pamphlets Anarchy & Ecstasy and Lovebite challenged boundary distinctions in almost every respect, certainly concerning authorial authority. These pamphlets’ employment of myth to this end was widely misunderstood, particularly by willfully literal-minded reviewers at Fifth Estate, which led John to even more determined attempts to subvert the authoritative voice through “The Book of Leveling” and poetry emphasizing cultural challenges to the Totality.

John played a big role in the Anarchist Research Group throughout the 1980s and also founded the Anarcho-Primitivist Network following the 1993 Anarchy in the UK festival in London, publishing the Primitivist Primer, an instant classic still in wide circulation today. APN counted editors of Do Or Die and Green Anarchist amongst its enthusiastic participants, and so was influential in the green wave of em-radicalism that characterized the mid-1990s. John’s contacts ranged through Lorraine Perlman to the editors of Freedom, dealing with each with good humor and principle.

John was erudite, generous, and brave. He left us all too early and with much still to say, and has already received tributes from the likes of John Zerzan, the Black Badger, and the editors of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed. He leaves his widow and co-worker, Leigh Starcross, and will be much missed.

Obituary by Steve Booth

October 2002

Anarcho-Primitivist Theorist and Poet John Moore died just 12 days after the London Anarchist Bookfair, at the end of October 2002. John was the author of Anarchy and Ecstasy, Love Bite, The Primitivist Primer, and The Book of Levelling. His “Poetry, Revolt, Renewal” featured in the anarchist bookfair. During the 1980s, John worked at the Kingston Upon Thames Polytechnic, and then latterly at the University of Luton. He was a member of the editorial board of the Anarchist Studies journal. John Moore’s tragic and sudden early death at the age of 44, has left the anarchist movement that much poorer, and made many of us ponder our own mortality.

John Moore’s best known work is perhaps Anarchy and Ecstasy: Visions of Halcyon Days . His work here is a fusion of anthropology, with poetic myth-making, interpreted and reinterpreted within a framework informed by, and thoroughly infused with contemporary critical theory. Nietzsche was one influence. Beyond this, Fredy Perlman and the anarcho-primitivism of the early 1980s Fifth Estate newspaper from Detroit were also formative.

John Moore sought to recast anarchism in a spiritual dimension, and therein lay the nub of his problem. In his essay on Milton and the expulsion from paradise, he said “Religious issues constitute a vacuum at the centre of anarchism which limits its appeal and cogency” . Moore calls for anarchists to reclaim spirituality. This is, to put it mildly, a problematic direction. In Eversion Mysteries he writes of the Mysteries, ancient religious rites. Zen was interesting, hallucinogenics, kundalini, tantra.

Perhaps the clearest statement of his overall position is found in his Bewilderness essay. Wilderness, “self-willed land” is set in dialectical opposition to the order and control enforced in civilization. Moore challenges the value judgement which equates wilderness with evil. Instead, he suggests that it is numinous. Wilderness is both a location, and a condition, “a state inhabited by willful, uncontrollable natural energies. In such states, humans surrendered their individuality, renounced personal volition to the will-of-the-land, and merged individuated desire with the expansive needs of the wild” .

Thus, the New Age would make a strong claim of influence on him. I venture to suggest that this aspect of John Moore’s work will not wear well with the passage of time. Even in his own day, it proved a barrier to the acceptance of his writing. There is a sense in which this wilderness stuff is sinking in nothingness, or as some would respond to it, like “knitting with lentils”.

Were he to stand on top of the remotest part of Saddleworth Moor, or alone on the deck of a ship in mid Atlantic, his point of view would probably change on this. This points us towards the weakness of Primitivism, its unreality. We value our warm coats, central heating and the distinctive places we visit too much to reject them. It is not a live option, nor is it a productive way of thinking.

In Lovebite: Mythography and the Semiotics of Culture (1990) John Moore uses the fairy story of Little Red Riding Hood to invert the patrician, authoritarian myth making of Freud’s Primal Scene, in Totem and Taboo. Instead, he posits matriarchy. From this he moves on to the myth of the “Cannibal Monster” as disclosed by Tenskwatawa in 1813.

Part of what Moore is about relates to the matter of alienation. ‘Liberal’ and ‘reformist’ were two of his bogey words. Some of this turns back inwards against himself, on his own activity as a thinker and writer. Along with the later Lewis Mumford of The Pentagon of Power and of course, Perlman, we find that, according to Moore the poetic register, within civilization, has become atrophied. Language itself has turned to machinery. “The mechanical style, which began in the counting house, has now infiltrated into the university, some of its most zombiesque instances occurring in the works of eminent scholars and divines“. This is an illuminating point of view for an academic to express. It would be interesting to know which of the academics and divines he refers to here, but it is part of the measure of Moore that he does not go on to name names.

Much of Moore’s intellectual adulation was directed towards the North American continent, but as is so often the case with these things, his love was not reciprocated. Exhibit One here was the hostile review of Lovebite written by one “Debye Highmountain”, published in Fifth Estate, Summer 1991. Moore’s response to this exposed the essentially Postmodern core to his thinking: “Here’s the real source of my disappointment with the review: It doesn’t notice what I’m trying to do with form, style, and language“. As with Lovebite itself, it is all about language: “I’m trying to push back the boundaries of what constitutes anarchic textuality“.

Somewhat floundering in his Postmodernism, Moore appealed to the sages:

“Foregrounding the constructed nature of the text exposes the artificial nature of all ideological representation and liberates those suppressed energies delimited by Barthes, Derrida and Kristeva.”

John Moore then went on to lay his full Postmodern orthodoxy on the line: “Unlike many Fifth Estate writers, I don’t believe that one can unproblematically engage with primal lifeways through (anthropological or any other) discourse. Due to the self-reflexive nature of discourse, it remains impossible to engage directly with referents (‘the world out there’) All we do is allow our texts to engage in an intertextual dialogue with one another. Meaning remains deferred. The referent always remains radically other” Well enough, we see the weakness of Moore here. Postmodernism is a false position, for as Genoa and the 11th September indicate; life is for real and life is in earnest, ‘the world out there’ intrudes, in the form of events, conflicts, capitalism, government, food shortages, disaster, disease and injustice — it is our task to work at this, to knock up against them, to fight injustice, even dare, it be suggested, to try to change things for the better. We might not want to engage with ‘referents’, but these have a nasty habit of turning round and kicking us in the teeth. This ‘world out there’ is a cruel place, but one which the Postmodernist cannot ultimately evade with his or her textual games.

Exhibit Two here is a more general dispute. After the transatlantic conflict in Fifth Estate, Moore and the leading American Primitivist John Zerzan differed over art; Moore believing it to be useful, Zerzan condemning it . Thus Moore quarrelled with both strands of North American Primitivism, a fact which ensured his work was less well known than it deserved. Moore’s poetry demonstrates his identification with aesthetics, his final position on art thus, indicative of his rejection of direct engagement in politics, and in my opinion a position of evasion: “And the discourses and practices of art, it seems to me, have potential in terms of developing such [anarchist] epistemologies, and far more possibilities for forwarding the anarchist struggle than political discourse” .

In the mid 1990s, Moore went on to write The Primitivist Primer which is perhaps the best and clearest short outline of what anarcho-primitivism was. Even by this time, the cracks were starting to show. The Primitivist Network got lost somewhere in the primal mists. A Primitivist journal The Missing Link failed to take off. ‘Primitivism’, even as a label, was found to be ‘inconvenient’, and Moore found himself forever denying that he was making a call for a return to the stone age. He toyed with the idea of relaunching the brand as ‘anarcho-futurism’, taking up this theme found in his own work, that time is circular or cyclic, not linear. Towards the end of the decade, his interview with John Filis shows Moore’s frustration with this failure. “…this is not my project at all”. This interview also reiterated his commitment to Postmodern orthodoxy.

Setting aside the long running, but essentially cordial spat with Brian Morris about the Enlightenment, and the way he was attacked by the late Nicholas Walter, the last controversy John Moore was involved in which I wish to discuss here, and Exhibit Three, concerned the article Swamp Fever by David Watson . Again, this was indicative of his unrequited love for the USA. Much of this article was useful analysis, but part of it a sectarian attack against Moore, denying that there ever was any coherent, organised Primitivist school or tendency based around Fifth Estate in Detroit during the Perlman years. Moore’s Primitivist Primer was attacked for the crime of lese majesty, because it “borders on an attempt to codify a primitivist taxonomy“. Watson accused Moore of trying to be the founder of a Primitivist movement. In my opinion, Watson was unfair on John Moore here. From this side of the Atlantic, this looked like sour grapes, yet another clash of the egos. It was unworthy of the rest of the Swamp Fever piece. Ironically, Watson’s article is elsewhere cited as marking the beginning of the decline of Primitivism. If origins are all important, and Primitivism, in its ‘origins’ did not, and never could hold together, then the raft breaks apart into disconnected straws mid Atlantic.

So, how to sum up the work of John Moore? There seems a savage and distressing irony in Britain’s leading Primitivist dying while running for a bus. I think we are to understand him as fundamentally a Postmodernist, a New-Ager, searching for a novel and distinctive mode of expressing himself. He did not find it, which leaves us with a sense of incompleteness when we think about him. This is a pity.

[1] http://www.europeansocialecologyinstitute.org/site/news/obit/moore.html Appendix 1

[2] You can see my initial thoughts on this in both “Toward a non European Anarchism” and “Locating an Indigenous Anarchism.”

[3] The way activists talk at their meetings is primarily in margarine-words. These may be slogans, phrases whose function is to circulate, not to mean; or they may be certain oily words that slip from mouth to ear, person to machine, situation to scene. One way to recognize margarine-words is repetition: they are used a lot, functioning as code words or passwords, their appropriateness assumed, never shown. Ultimately, this is because their circulation is also the usually unquestioned circulation of moral beliefs; but in any given iteration, the repetition may be wellnigh meaningless, just a little index, gentle reminder of the shared morals rather than harsh mnemotechnic. — Alejandro de Acosta, “To Acid-Words”

[4] Editors’ note: this was the second draft of John’s chapter, completed about two months before his death. Whilst we believe that this stands as a finished piece in itself, because a substantial proportion of the text is dependent on a translation of Max Stirner’s The Ego and its Own from the German, there are a number of areas which we hoped to clarify prior to publication. This should not be seen as a weakness, but more in the spirit of ongoing debates about the relationship between theory, method and practice, which were always central to John’s concerns. We have edited the chapter sparingly and in keeping with the writing style to which many around the world have become accustomed.

[5] The usefulness of the term ‘new anarchism(s)’ — or indeed ‘anarchism’ per se in the current context remains somewhat dubious. Like many contemporary radical antiauthoritarians, Stirner refused any reductive ideological labelling, and neither referred to himself as an anarchist nor labelled his perspectives as anarchist. This label has only retrospectively — and rather unfortunately — been appended to his writings. Some contemporary radical theorists (notably Fredy Perlman) have not only refused labelling but have distanced themselves from the (classical) anarchist tradition. Others have attempted to define various post-(classical) anarchist positions and terminologies. Bob Black, for example, has posited a ‘Type-3 anarchism’, neither collectivist nor individualist — a label which Hakim Bey has characterised as a useful ‘pro-tem slogan’ (Bey, 1991: 62). Black also authored an essay with the self-explanatory title ‘Anarchism and other impediments to anarchy’ and in a subsequent critique of ‘anarcho-leftism’ termed contemporary proponents of anarchy as ‘post-leftist anarchists’ (Black, 1997: 150). Bey has similarly written an essay entitled ‘Post-anarchism anarchy’ (in Bey, 1991) which distances contemporary anarchy from a moribund, dogmatic and outdated classical anarchism, and has attempted to launch the term ‘chaote’ (a proponent of chaos) as an alternative to the term ‘anarchist’. In my 1998 essay ‘Maximalist anarchism/anarchist maximalism’, I adapted the terms ‘maximalist anarchism’ and ‘minimalist anarchism’ to draw a comparable distinction between the first wave of (classical) anarchism which effectively climaxed at the moment of the Spanish Revolution, and the second wave of post-Situationist anarchy which emerged in the wake of May 1968 (Moore, 1998a). I have since abandoned the use of the terms ‘anarchism’ and ‘anarchist’ in my theoretical and creative work, although like Perlman, Black and Bey (among others), I have retained the use of the word ‘anarchy.’
In the present chapter, however, I use the term ‘anarchist’ and the label ‘new anarchism(s)’ as a kind of shorthand and for the sake of convenience. They are not necessarily the most accurate or suitable terms, not least because they do not do justice either to Stirner’s thought or the range of contemporary radical antiauthoritarian formulations, but they are perhaps the best currently available. Readers should bear this caveat in mind.

[6] Malcolm Green, for example, notes that Stirner ‘was forgotten until the turn of the [twentieth] century when his work influenced among others: Scheerbart, Hausmann, Wedekind, B. Traven, Shaw, Gide, Breton, Picabia, Kubin, indeed the whole November 1918 generation, and later Sartre, Camus and Heidegger. Also, of course, the Vienna Group’ (Green, 1989: 241). This roll call of modernist figures influenced by Stirner remains very selective, however, and excludes several major names (e.g., Nietzsche), as well as a diverse range of individuals and currents within the radical anti-authoritarian milieu (e.g., John Henry Mackay, Otto Gross, Albert Libertad, and the Bonnot Gang). Stirner’s influence on modernism should not — perhaps cannot — be underestimated.
In scholarly terms, Redding (1998) continues the tradition of marginalising Stirner in terms of both anarchism and modernism, but Weir (1997) and Antliff (1997, 2001) redress the balance somewhat by re-establishing Stirner’s significance in both discursive spheres and at their points of intersection.

[7] ‘Today’s reactionary social context greatly explains the emergence of a phenomenon in Euro-American anarchism that cannot be ignored: the spread of individualist anarchism … In the traditionally individualist-liberal United States and Britain, the 1990s are awash in self-styled anarchists who … are cultivating a latter-day anarcho-individualism that I will call lifestyle anarchism’ (Bookchin, 1995: 8-9). Bookchin’s jaundiced and distorted account has rightly received numerous trenchant critiques within the anarchist press, notably Watson (1996) and Black (1997). The accuracy of his observation concerning the resurgence of Stirnerian anarchist individualism, even though he sees this as a negative phenomenon, cannot be contested.

[8] See for example pp. 211-13 of Foucault’s ‘Afterword on “The subject and power”‘ in Dreyfus and Rabinow (1982) which focuses entirely on ‘forms of resistance’ (p. 211) — i.e., struggles which are essentially negotiations with power instead of seeking its abolition.

[9] And accounts of anarchism too. Bookchin, for example, devotes several ill-tempered pages vainly trying to dismiss individualist anarchism or cast it as reactionary (Bookchin, 1995: 7-11).

[10] Others — notably, for Carroll, figures as diverse as Nietzsche and Dostoevsky (but also Freud and the existentialists) — are to develop the anarcho-psychological paradigm in various directions, which are beyond the scope of this chapter, but Stirner’s formulations are originary.

[11] On the contrast between politics and antipolitics, I refer the reader to my text Anarchy and ecstasy: ‘by antipolitical I do not mean an approach that pretends it has no ideological dimensions. I do, however, mean an approach that is not political. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines politics as the “science and art of government” and political as “of the State or its government”. Political praxis, in this definition, thus remains the ideology of governance, and as such it remains appropriate to the shared discursive territory of the forces of control and counter-control. In attempting to transcend that territory, therefore, it is necessary to construct an antipolitics, an anarchic praxis that is more germane for those whose aim is the dissolution, not the seizure, of control’ (Moore (1988: 5-6)).

[12] The issue of gender — i.e., the question of whether the Stirnerian notion of the individual is gendered or whether it escapes gendering, as well as the question of the relationship between language acquisition and gender identity in Stirner’s work — requires consideration in its own right, and unfortunately lies beyond the scope of this chapter.

[13] The Stirnerian entity appears to be a divided or unary subject, but might more appropriately be characterised as a heterogeneous subject. Despite the emphasis in The Ego and its Own on the ego and uniqueness, the Stirnerian subject is not unitary because it has no essence, no basis in being. ‘Nothing at all is justified by being. What is thought of is as well as what is not thought of; the stone in the street is, and my notion of it is too. Both are only in different spaces, the former in airy space, the latter in my head, in me; for I am space like the street’ (Stirner, 1993: 341). The Stirnerian subject remains a space, a void, within which heterogeneous desires, wills and impulses arise and are then consciously owned. Hence Stirner’s paradoxical self-characterisation as ‘I the unspeakable’ or the assertion that ‘neither you and [sic] I are speakable, we are unutterable’ (Stirner, 1993: 355; 311). In this way, Stirner eludes the Derridean charge of logocentrism, despite the importance of the logos in his work.

[14] ‘Stirner at times uses “State” as no more than a convenient shorthand for supraindividual authority’ (Carroll, 1974: 136n).

[15] Green, who has himself translated the opening passage of The Ego and its Own, regards the standard Byington translation as ‘hopelessly turgid’ (Green, 1989: 241). Editors’ note: having referred to the original German ourselves, we feel that Byington’s translation is a reasonably faithful representation of Stirner’s (complex and technical) original; therefore, we would have sought to question and clarify John Moore’s (secondhand) claim here. Again, we believe that John would have relished the debate.

[16] The specifically French tradition of the prose poem, made famous later in the nineteenth century by Baudelaire, Lautréamont and Rimbaud, seems to have been initiated by Aloysius Bertrand in 1842 — only three years prior to the publication of The Ego and its Own — and is therefore unlikely to have influenced Stirner.

[17] For sound rhetorical reasons, Stirner employs the same term — ‘society’ (‘Gesellschaft‘ in the original) — to designate both the mother-child relationship and the organised social aggregation of individuals and groups.

[18] The dissolution of the initial mother-child ‘society’ forms a paradigm for the disintegration of (the totality of power relations which comprise) society. For Stirner, however, society is a form of mass psychological regression. Social formations arise when unions lose their motility and become subject to stasis. The erotic energies invested in the union are no longer fluid but ‘crystallised’ and fixed — or, rather fixated on a reunion with the mother’s body. In contrast to the life-affirming erotic drives characteristic of the union, society constitutes a mass reactivation of death drives, a psychological atavism whose sociopolitical expression is obedience to authority and support for totalitarian projects (here, John is paraphrasing p. 306 of Stirner (1993)).

[19] Jay Hansford C. Vest. “Will-of-the-Land: Wilderness Among Primal Indo-Europeans,” Environmental Review, Vol.9, no.4 (Winter 1985), 324–5.

[20] By “states,” I mean both a state of existence and the state of nature, not the State.

[21] Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), 74–5.

[22] The Mysteries were part of a long and integrated tradition, much of which has now been lost. The access routes toward bewilderness were highly structured and thoroughly understood, even if the condition itself allowed total liberation. For additional information, see “Eversion Mysteries” below.

[23] Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex and Politics (Boston: Beacon Press, 1982), 55–6. The magic techniques can be found in The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979).

[24] Jacques Camatte, The Wandering of Humanity trans. F. Perlman (Detroit Black & Red, 1975), 35n. As the context renders apparent, by “capital” Camatte means much more than the mere Marxist economic category.

[25] Fredy Perlman, Anti-Semitism and the Beirut Pogrom (Seattle: Left Bank Books, 1983) 14.

[26] Ibid., 15.

[27] Idem, Against His-story, Against Leviathan!: An Essay (Detroit: Black and Red, 1983), 301.

[28] This can be pieced together from the evidence scattered throughout R. Gordon Wasson, Alfred Hofmann, Carl A.P. Ruck, The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries (New York: Harcourt Bruce Jovanovich, 1978). The present essay focusses primarily on the European experience.

[29] See the following essay for a detailed examination of the process responsible for this inversion.

[30] I have employed hierarchical terminology as little as possible and only for its emotive value. As Buckminster Fuller indicated long ago, the universe contains no ups and downs, only ins and outs. One task of contemporary visionaries of anarchy must be to replace terms like “the underworld” by a richly textured non-hierarchical vocabulary.

[31] Marvin W. Meyer, The Ancient Mysteries: A Reader (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987), 41.

[32] Wasson et al, 19, 23, 56.

[33] Meyer, 189.

[34] Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1979), 161.

[35] Meyer, 86.

[36] Henry Bailey Stevens, The Recovery of Culture (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1949), 166,198.

[37] Ibid., 198.

[38] Ibid., 165.

[39] Ibid., 85.

[40] For additional evidence, see Jon Wynne-Tyson, Food for a Future: The Complete Case for Vegetarianism (London: Centaur Press, 1979). The distinction between human and animal creatures is not ontological, but epistemological. Humans know and communicate things in different and more diversified, although not necessarily more complex, ways than animals.

[41] Three points should be made at this juncture. First, the generative capacities attributed to women here should not be understood merely in the narrow sense of parturition, but in the wider sense of creativity and inventiveness in general. Secondly, I am aware that the picture I am painting of the northern “blood culture” remains stark, even exaggerated. It is certainly true that in certain instances — e.g., in some Amerindian tribes — patriarchal/hierarchical elements have been accommodated within wider egalitarian structures. War then becomes the sport of counting coups, whilst opportunities for the development of a rich culture still remain available. However, whilst these societies are far preferable to their Western counterparts, they remain tainted by the same sanguinary virus which flared up amongst their central American cousins, the Aztecs. And, anyway, this stark depiction clearly remains applicable to the Western path of development. Thirdly, it should be borne in mind that the developments deliberately telescoped here for purposes of coherence, actually took hundreds or thousands of years to take shape.

[42] Stevens, 106,

[43] Ibid., 153.

[44] Ibid., 33.

[45] Ibid., 34.

[46] Ibid., 121.

[47] Ibid., 157.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Kenneth Rexroth, Communalism: From Its Origins to the Twentieth Century (New York: Seabury Press, 1974), 89.

[50] Given the existence of multiple versions of the Red Riding Hood narrative, it remains necessary to specify exactly which scenario is being referred to at this juncture.
Zipes distinguishes between two types of Red Riding Hood narrative: the traditional oral folk tale of indeterminate but presumably considerable age, and the literary tale whose chequered history commences with its initial publication by Perrault in 1697. The latter type derives from but also reshapes the former in correspondence with ruling class requirements. Modifications in the literary narrative become explicable in terms of its shifting ideological deployment. “The appropriation of folk customs and beliefs was translated by the church and civil order into forms and modes of control to legitimate the dominance of Christianity, men over women and children, and rising industrial groups, specifically among the bourgeoisie, overall other social classes… The fact that the Little Red Riding Hood syndrome as a cultural configuration of legalized terror has endured and remained so powerful can only be attributed to the significant role it played in the rise of a new ideology. This can be traced to the socio-religious transition during the Renaissance and Reformation. That is, Little Red Riding Hood as part of the literary socialization process came to reinforce socially accepted ways of viewing women, sexuality and nature”. More concisely: “The historical evolution of the literary Red Riding Hood parallels a development in sexual socialization in Western society” (Zipes 1983, pp.52–3,25).
Zipes’s thesis concerning the historical trajectory of the literary narrative remains convincing. But the subject of the present text is the traditional folk tale, and on this ground his analysis becomes more problematic. He admits that Perrault’s version of Red Riding Hood “was one of the few literary fairy tales in history which, due to its universality, ambivalence, and clever sexual innuendos, was reabsorbed by the oral folk tradition. That is, as a result of its massive circulation in print in the 18th and 19th centuries and of the corroboration of peasant experience, it took root in oral folklore and eventually led to the creation of the even more popular Grimms’ tale, which had the same effect”. Yet he uncritically accepts as his ur-text the folk version collected by Paul Delarue “about 1885” (Zipes 1983, pp.14,5). Zipes very much wants to have his cake and eat it. Although insisting that modifications in the literary versions of the tale correspond with changes in its ideological functions, and that literary and folk versions reciprocally interacted over time, he still maintains that an oral version collected during the late nineteenth century remains uncontaminated and representative of the tale’s original pattern. At the very least, given Zipes’s Marxist orientations, such an approach remains ahistorical and undialectical. But more importantly, it reveals a naïvety about the ways in which inscriptional encodement transforms, standardizes and crystallizes oral traditions, replacing a fund of motifs, themes and figures which can be adapted to different circumstances, with the rigid notion of a definitive version.
Moreover, Zipes suppresses some evidence which remains essential in establishing the tale’s pre-literary genealogy. He avers that “Little Red Riding Hood is of fairly modern vintage. By modern, I mean that the basic elements of the tale were developed in an oral tradition during the late Middle Ages”, and goes on to assert, among other things, that “the independent [i.e., oral] folk tales lack the motif of the red riding hood or the color red” (Zipes 1983, pp.2,6) — an assertion he uses to discredit mythopoeic interpretations of the tale. The independence from literary influence of any folk version of the tale collected after the immensely popular texts by Perrault (1697) and the Grimms (1812) has already been contested. The question of how one measures developments or dates elements in oral tradition that are not corroborated by written evidence — which in itself automatically renders an oral tradition neither oral no traditional — merely requires articulation to expose its absurdity. But in addition Zipes omits to mention some important facts, namely “When Perrault published his collection of fairy tales in 1697, “Little Red Riding Hood” already had an ancient history, with some elements going very far back in time. There is the myth of Cronos swallowing his children, who nevertheless return miraculously from his belly; and a heavy stone was used to replace the child to be swallowed [as in some versions of “Little Red Riding Hood”]. There is a Latin story of 1023 (by Egbert of Lieges, called Fecunda Ratis [“fruitful ship” — a fertile womb image]) in which a little girl is found in the company of wolves; the girl wears a red cover of great importance to her, and scholars tell that this cover was a red cap. Here, then, six centuries before Perrault’s story, we find some basic elements of “Little Red Riding Hood”: a little girl with a red cap, the company of wolves, a child being swallowed alive who returns unharmed, and a stone put in place of the child”. Furthermore, this commentator prudently remarks, in contrast to the spurious certainty of Zipes: “There are other French versions of “Little Red Riding Hood”, but we do not know which of them influenced Perrault in his retelling of the story” (Bettelheim 1985, p.168n).
Given such a context — one in which an ancient oral narrative has been appropriated, encoded and distorted for authoritarian purposes during historical times — how can one determine the nature of the original narrative (or more precisely the assemblage of narrative components which form the tale’s various permutations), let alone restore it to its pristine condition? This question remains all the more pertinent given that any written version, by codifying an essentially fluid aggregation of narrative components, necessarily distorts its source materials. But even granting the fidelity of a transcriber to an oral source, there are no guarantees that the source did not convey — wittingly or unwittingly — a corrupt or deformed version. Deformation may have begun at a date far earlier than Zipes suspects; the present text maintains that he merely documents the most recent, although particularly virulent, wave of distortion and misrepresentation.
Given this hermeneutic quagmire, how can retrieval occur? The answer lies in an application of the method of iconotropic recovery invented by Robert Graves. According to the latter, all myths have been subject to iconotropic deformation: “I define iconotropy as a technique of deliberate misrepresentation by which ancient ritual icons are twisted in meaning in order to confirm a profound change of the existent religious system — usually a change from matriarchal to patriarchal — and the new meanings are embodied in myth”. To reverse this process, ritual icons must be restored to iconographic form. In the present case, the Red Riding Hood narrative can “be recovered intact by the simple method of restoring the… myth to iconographic form, and then re-interpreting the iconographs which compose it” (Graves 1986, pp.219n, 229). And such restoration occurs through the use of intuition.
The exact degree of empirical evidence required to substantiate intuitive insights and subsequent hermeneutic processes remains subject to debate. Graves asserts that “I [do not] trust my historical intuition any further than it can be factually checked” (Graves 1986, p.488). D.H. Lawrence reverses this emphasis by according corrobative data a merely secondary position in comparison with intuitive insight: “I am not a proper archaeologist nor an anthroplogist nor an ethnologist. I am no ‘scholar’ of any sort. But I am very grateful to scholars for their sound work. I have found hints, suggestions for what I say… in all kinds of scholarly books… Even then I only remember hints — and I proceed by intuition” (Lawrence 1975, pp.11–12). Fredy Perlman takes this process further and denounces empirical evidence as the antithesis of intuition: “The seer of now pours his vision on sheets of paper, on banks of arid craters where armored bullies stand guard and demand the password, Positive Evidence. No vision can pass their gates. The only song that passes is a song gone as dry and cadaverous as the fossils in the sands” (Perlman 1983A, p.2). Graves grounds modifications in poetic myth in changing historical conditions. Lawrence subordinates fact to poetic intuition. Perlman abandons the discourse of history even while taking it as his subject. The present text takes a synthesis of these perspectives as its departure point. It rejects history and linear historical consciousness, and seeks in myth — myth restored to its primal iconographic form — and cyclical mythic consciousness, techniques for effectuating total liberation.
In a series of provocative essays, John Zerzan has called for the abolition of representation, suggesting that “Only a politics that undoes language and time and is thus visionary to the point of voluptuousness has any meaning”. At the basis of this conclusion lies the insight that “the origin of all symbolizing is alienation” (Zerzan 1988, pp.35, 49), but his formulations lead to stark inexpressivity and barren silence. Viewed from the perspective of myth, however, Zerzan’s intuitions are revivified. Iconographically restored myths, incorporated as lived experience, abolish time because they are timeless, derived from the achronous condition of Dreamtime. And myths are embodied, not in referential language (in which words are taken as referring to some external reality), but iconic language (a term which denotes the notion of mythic language being its own reality, rather than merely symbolizing some external reality).
Zerzan complains that art, like all systems of symbolic representation (including language) “is always about ‘something hidden’. But does it help us connect with that hidden something? I think it moves us away from it” (Zerzan 1988, p.54). Symbols “stand for” a reality which can be apprehended only through their mediation, which inevitably produces alienation. But mythic thought does not function in this way. It operates in a metaphorical, not a literal, manner. And metaphors function, not by pointing to a reality which they symbolize and thus render inaccessible, but through a play of resemblances and differences. Mythic consciousness results from a “desire to apprehend in a total fashion the two aspects of reality… [the] continuous and discontinuous; from [a] refusal to choose between the two; and from… [an] effort to see them as complementary perspectives giving on to the same truth”. Rather than signifying a concealed reality, it perceives analogies through modes of associational thought: “it is this logic of oppositions and correlations, exclusions and inclusions, compatibilities and incompatibilities, which explains the laws of association, not the reverse” (Lévi-Strauss 1963, pp.98–9, 90). The resulting semiotic lattice, based on the principle of bricolage, remains entirely ludic. Mythic consciousness thus avoids the alienation inherent in all symbolization, yet retains the possibility of linguistic expressivity. It abolishes language, and yet facilitates unestranged intersubjective communication.
But mythic language, to be reactivated, must be purged of its historical accretions, all those iconotropic distortions and misrepresentations (including those perpetuated by Zerzan) which have deformed it into a key instrument of domination and control. A major problem in this context remains the fact that myths have been subject to iconotrophy for so long. Hence, Andrew Lang’s remarks on totemism — an important issue in the present text — are also relevant to the methodology of iconographic recovery: “By the nature of the case, as the origin of totemism lies far beyond our powers of historical examination or experiment, we must have recourse as regards this matter to conjecture” (Freud 1983, p.109n). Intuition, imagination, speculation and conjecture are inevitably the most useful tools in an area which has been subject to systematic social amnesia.
“As anthropologists have recognized, drawing parallels between archaic cultures and their contemporary surviving remnants remains fraught with danger. Just because primal peoples have not been subject to history does not mean that their myths have not been subject to iconotropy. “The beliefs and rituals of present-day preliterate peoples represent only the most recent phases in a long, complex and, to us as well as to them, unknowable sequence. We cannot draw definitive conclusions as to their origin by studying the characteristics they exhibit today” (Bettelheim 1955, p.11). And as Freud rather quaintly but nevertheless lucidly explains: “It should not be forgotten that primitive races are not young races but are in fact as old as civilized races. There is no reason to suppose that, for the benefit of our own information, they have retained their original ideas and institutions undeveloped and undistorted. On the contrary, it is certain that there have been profound changes in every direction among primitive races, so that it is never possible to decide without hesitation how far they are distortions and modifications of it. Hence arise the all-too-frequent disputes among the authorities as to which characteristics of a primitive civilization are to be regarded as primary and as to which are later and secondary elements. The determination of the original state of things thus invariably remains a matter of construction” (Freud 1983, pp.102-3n).
Freud’s caveat remains relevant. Only intuition can determine origins, including the original configurations of primeval mythic paradigms. Empirical evidence can serve to illustrate intuitive insight, but its absence does not render the latter inauthentic. “At the edge of history, history itself can no longer help us, and only myth remains equal to reality. What we know is less than what we see, and so the politics of miracle must be unacceptable to our knowledge to be worthy of our being” (Thompson 1971, p.163). When history can no longer act as the final arbiter, myth must.

[51] Primal peoples were well aware of a distinction which has only recently been rediscovered in the West: namely, the difference between sexuality and reproduction. Neumann emphasises this point: “For many good reasons, the basic matriarchal view saw no relation between the sexual act and the bearing of children. Pregnancy and sexuality were dissociated both in the inner and outward experience of women. This may be readily understood when we consider that these early societies were characterised by a promiscuous sex life that began far before sexual maturity” (Neumann 1955, p.26). Amongst the additional reasons Neumann neglects may be mentioned the following. First, anthropologists and mythologists habitually equate sexual relations with heterosexual copulation. Western academics may experience sexuality in this limited form, but they should not attribute this deficiency to primal peoples. The latter are not constrained by Western puritanism, and hence attribute a positive nature to sexual pleasure totally distinct from any procreative purpose. Moreover, ethnologists should not assume that primal people dissociate sexuality and reproduction through ignorance of the connexion — in the specific case of copulation.
Walker makes an interesting point about primal birth control, but then falls into the copulation trap: “Transition from matriarchal to patriarchal societies usually destroyed the natural mammalian system of birth control practiced by animals and primitive people: women used to refuse sexual relations [read: heterosexual copulation] during pregnancy and lactation, a period lasting from two to six years for each child… In pagan times, women used some fairly effective birth-control devices, ranging from vaginal sponges to abortifacient drugs” (Walker 1983, pp.103,104). The fact remains that varieties of sexual experience were available to all — even pregnant and lactating women! — and sexual relations should not be exclusively correlated with sexual intercourse.
Nevertheless, in the context of determining the significance of the hood worn by Red Riding Hood, it is worth emphasising Neumann’s point about primal promiscuousness, particularly in childhood. Bettelheim attacks the notion that adolescent initiation rites are designed to prevent incest — a point taken up later in the present text. “If, indeed, the purpose of initiation rites is to enforce the incest taboo, they occur too late in the child’s life. Among the tribes that have the most elaborate rites, children begin to have sexual intercourse at an early age, long before the ceremonies take place. Also, a rite that is immediately followed by indiscriminate cohabitation with, among others, mothers and mother substitutes cannot be said to be successful in enforcing the incest taboo”. Indeed, Bettelheim continues: “Among the Australian aborigines, whose society is one of the most primitive known to us and whose initiation rites are very elaborate… they [children] may be invited by a mother, older brother or sister, or some other person to indulge in sexual intercourse with an adult or a child [not necessarily of the opposite sex?] of the same age standing near by” (Bettelheim 1955, pp.75–6). The implicit correlation of sexuality and copulation should be noted in passing, but the main point here remains to emphasise the lack of sexual inhibition among primal peoples, including children.
Given this degree of sexual licence, it may seem unlikely that Red Riding Hood has retained her hymen, although even if she has this should not be construed to imply a lack of erotic experience. During such eras females were designated as “‘virgin’ not because they took no lovers, but because they took no husbands” (Walker 1985, p.74). Certainly, however, any childhood sexual intercourse could not have resulted in any issue. Hence, the hood signifies, at least, an unfecundated womb.
Given that in the above both Neumann and Walker refer to the notion of matriarchy, it may well be opportune to tackle this problematic term. Concerning the latter, Perlman points out that “Matri refers to mother, but Archy comes from an altogether diferent age. Archy refers to government, to artificial as opposed to natural order, to an order where the Archon is invariably a man. An-archy would be a better name… The Greek prefix ‘an’ means ‘without’” (Perlman 1983A, p.11). All quoted references to matriarchy in the present text should be regarded in this light.

[52] As “grand” remains a synonym for “great”, the grandmother can be identified as a type of the Great Mother.

[53] Menopause is “the phenomenon which is limited for all practical purposes to the human species alone” (Fisher 1980, p.159). It not only remains a defining characteristic of humanity, but testifies to its cooperative, humane capacities. In primal contexts, however, “a term such as ‘old’ signifies status rather than chronological age” (Bettelheim 1955, p.193). Red Riding Hood’s grandmother may not be senescent, particularly given the early age at which sexual experience commences in such communities.

[54] “Theriomorphic imagination is at the bottom of the whole concept of totemism” (Huizinga 1970, p.164).

[55] The verbal element remains minimal. In a contemporary account, initiation appears almost entirely beyond words. The neophyte responds directly to the initiator: “I instantly felt a melting away of every barrier between us; we were as one. The mere glance of an eye had infinite meaning. The slightest change of expression conveyed full intent. We had complete rapport at all levels of understanding. I knew his thought as he knew mine. Did this telepathic facility come from some primitive recess of the mind used before ancestral man communicated in formal language?” (Halifax 1980, p.144).
The ritual scarification perceptible on the faces (and bodies) of some people from primal communities may represent the teethmarks made by the totemic animal while being eaten by it.

[56] Walker suggests that the wolf was the “sacred totem of many European clans during the Middle Ages” and probably before: “Early medieval wolf clans… worshipped their totemic gods in wolf form, as did some people of the Greco-Roman world centuries earlier”. She also avers that the Red Riding Hood narrative is “traceable to wolf-clan tradition”. The reasons for this reverence were due to the fact that “the Great Goddess herself was a wolf” (Walker 1983, pp.1091,1068,1070). Duerr indicates that “Roman Diana, who later became one with Artemis, was also a goddess of wild animals. As the mistress of wolves, she ruled over all those who lived outside the social order: outlaws and strangers”. Artemis, deity of forests and wild nature, including wild beasts, was “an ancient women’s goddess” (Duerr 1987, pp.13,12) also revered by witches in later times. Zipes suggests that “The wolf was crucial in archaic thinking as a representative of the human wild side, of wilderness. He was more of a hazard of nature linked to sorcery and part of organic nature”, and proceeds to outline the contemporary significance of the wolf: “To recapture [read: recover] the wolf in us is part of a general counter-cultural movement against the nuclear extinction of the human species, made possible in the name of technological progress. As raw nature, the wolf is threatened by chemical pollution, scientific automation, and the general drive for scientific human perfection. This is why the wolf is no longer pictured as a real threat in radical adaptations of the traditional Red Riding Hood story” (Zipes 1983, pp.16,43).

[57] On this issue Noble quotes Mary Daly: “Crone-logically prior to all discussions of political separatism from or within groups is the basic task of paring away, burning away the false selves encasing the Self, is the core of all authentic separations and thus is normative for all personal/political decisions about acts/forms of separatism (Noble 1983, p.79). Separatism here may be taken as a synonym for revolution. Crone-ology connotes Dreamtime.

[58] One commentator attacks the notion that young primal people “gain sexual freedom through initiation”, suggesting that “among the peoples who have developed the most elaborate initiation rites, children enjoy such freedom all their lives, and the rites add nothing in this respect” (Bettelheim 1955, p.97). Transformational abilities — the freedom to transform oneself, not sexual freedom — are acquired through initiation. The mysteries transform consciousness — the child becomes an adult — and in the process teach the process of transformation. Through undergoing a single transformative experience, one learns how to undertake other transformations.

[59] “According to Horace, the real primal scene was not the sexual drama postulated by Freud, but ‘A child by a fell witch devoured, dragged from her entrails, and to life restored’” (Walker 1983, p.135) — a version slightly patriarchally deformed, although essentially accurate.

[60] The emphasis on blood relationship appears even more explicitly in some versions of the tale, when the maid is deceived into drinking her grandmother’s blood, thinking it to be wine, and eating her grandmother’s flesh, thinking it to be meat. Consumption remains mutual in such versions.
Lévi-Strauss acknowledges the global dimensions of the incest-cannibalism-totem complex when he notes “the very profound analogy which people throughout the world seem to find between copulation and eating. In a very large number of languages they are even called by the same term. In Yoruba ‘to eat’ and ‘to marry’ are expressed by a single verb the general sense of which is ‘to win, to acquire’, a usage which has its parallel in French, where the verb ‘consummer’ applies both to marriage and to meals. In the language of the Koko Yao of Cape York Peninusla the word kuta kuta means both incest and cannibalism, which are the most exaggerated forms of sexual union and the consumption of food. For the same reason the eating of the totem and incest are expressed in the same way at Ponapy; among the Mashona and Matabele of Africa the word ‘totem’ also means ‘sister’s vulva’, which provides indirect confirmation of the equivalence between eating and copulation” (Lévi-Strauss 196, p.105).
At this juncture, it might be useful to offer a conventional account of the phenomenon denoted by the term totem. The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following definition: “Among American Indians: The hereditary mark, emblem, or badge, of a tribe, clan, or group of Indians, consisting of a figure or representation of some animal, less commonly a plant or other natural object, after which the group is named; thus sometimes used to denote the tribe, clan, or division of a ‘nation’, having such a mark; also applied to the animal or natural object itself, sometimes considered to be ancestrally or fraternally related to the clan, being spoken of as a brother or sister, and treated as an object of friendly regard, or sometimes even as incarnating a guardian spirit who may be appealed to or worshipped… By anthropologists the name has been extended to refer to other savage peoples and tribes, which (though they may not use token marks) are similarly divided into groups or clans named after animals, etc.; such animals, animal-names, or animal-named groups, being spoken or written of as their totems, and their organization, their complex system of mutual and marriage relations and religious usages, being styled TOTEMISM”.

[61] Commenting on the phrase “all my relatives”, the Amerindian shaman Leonard Crow Dog says: “That meant all two-legged ones, all four-legged ones, even those with fins, those with roots and leaves, everything alive, all our relatives” (Halifax 1980, p.82). Amerindian pipe ceremonies conclude with the participants asserting “We are all related”: ‘The act of smoking is a ritual communion with everything in creation, with every possibility of being”. “The Native American grasp of the solidarity of life is an expression of kinship and not a conviction of unity” (Highwater 1981, pp.189, 69).

[62] “In many of the most ancient images of the Goddess, she is shown with both breasts and phallus, as hermaphroditic… Divine bisexuality stressed her absolute power — especially over her own sexuality, which was a spiritual as well as an emotional-physical expression” (Sjöö’and Mor 1987, p.67).

[63] “In a true stage of illumination… one feels the universal compassion of unity with all sentient beings”, a condition which results in “a politics of Buddhist compassion in which the common suffering of all sentient beings leads to a more egalitarian vision of the commonweal” (Thompson 1981, pp.227,49), according to one commentator. But com/passionate consciousness remains nearer akin to a kind of passional ahisma than the antisexual Buddhist variety.

[64] Note the incestuous conjunction between mother-love and sexual relations in this characterization.

[65] “The word lictor then became popularly connected with the word religare, ‘to bind’, because it was a lictorial function to bind those who rebelled against the power of the Consuls” (Graves 1986, p.479). Tellingly, a term which denotes binding rebels against authority (religare) appears at the root of words denoting law (lex) and religion (relligio).

[66] “In the experience of initiation through which the shaman passes, the mythic images woven into a society’s fabric suddenly become not only apparent but often enacted and made bodily visible and relevant for all. The initiatory crisis and the experience of death and resurrection, then, do not represent a rending of the individual from his or her social ground. Rather, they are a deepening of the patterns that compose the sacred, ahistorical territory that supports the more superficial and transient aspects of human culture. The direction that the psyche takes as a result of the crisis is not circumscribed or curtailed by society. Rather, the human spirit is oriented toward the cosmos, the ground of being is the universe, and the life field is therefore amplified to include all dimensions of Unconcealed Being’” (Halifax 1980, p.18).

[67] Hekate was mother of the witches and the crone aspect of Diana/Artemis.

[68] Such an assertion may seem incredible, but such acts are only an intensification of practices known to occur in primal communities. One commentator indicates that female elders teach young girls in their charge erotic enhancement techniques, including masturbation (Bettelheim 1955, pp.258–9). Another suggests that “rules governing sexual intercourse, methods of preventing conception, and finally love magic” were imparted during “feminine initiation” (Neumann 1955, p.291). And certainly, among the Picts, “a Lesbian/bisexual sisterhood was entrusted with the guardianship of their tribe’s secret powers and visions” (Sjöö and Mor 1987, p.68). Compare also the following account of part of the ritual initiation of a young female Mapuche shaman by older shaman women. ‘The candidate undresses to her undergarments and lies down on a couch where an old machi or shaman rubs her with camelo and makes passes over her body. According to Alfred Metraux, the elder women bend over the initiate and suck her breasts, belly, and head with such force that blood is drawn” (Halifax 1982, p.22). Here, in this Chilean rite, the administering of the lovebite, mark of com/passional consciousness, remains explicit.
For those who continue to shy away from this vision of lesbianic incest, however, some consolation can be offered in the form of qualifications deriving from the issue of social parenting. In varying ways, different authorities aver that in primal contexts, characterized by close communal interaction, biological parents are less important to a child than the collective parentage. One author suggests: “In the context of communal living arrangements, the children defined all resident adults as social parents and vice versa” (Arens 1986, p.57). Another writer intimates: “Many versions of the extended family in which children are communally raised exist. Sometimes all women of a certain relationship are called ‘mother’, all men ‘father’, though the child usually knows who is its real mother, if not necessarily its father” (Fisher 1980, p.110). And a third critic asserts regarding Australian aboriginals: “a man uses the term ‘father’ not only for his actual procreator but also for all the other men whom his mother might have married according to tribal law and who therefore might have procreated him; he uses the term ‘mother’ not only for the woman who actually bore him but also for all the other women who might have borne him without transgressing tribal law; he uses the terms ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ not only for the children of his actual parents but also for the children of all those persons who stand in the relation of parents to him in the classificatory sense; and so on. Thus the kinship terms which two Australians apply to each other do not necessarily indicate any consanguinity, as ours would do: they represent social rather than physical relationships” (Freud 1983, pp.6–7). Given this degree of fluidity in terms of identity and relationships, it remains difficult to locate incest semantically — it pervades the entire field. The intellectually timid may therefore take comfort in the fact that, in patriarchal terms, Red Riding Hood and the crone may not be literally related. From the perspective of universal interrelatedness, of course, this distinction remains entirely immaterial. But it should be noted that “the incest prohibition is not universal, since the very concept is culture-bound… it is not possible to conclude that there is anything resembling a uniform response to violation of what we call incest taboo. Some societies are very tolerant of or oblivious to such behaviour, express no collective horror, while others take drastic action in cases of sexual relations between individuals to which we would have no objection” (Arens 1986, pp.5–6).
Furthermore, “The custom [in antiquity] of lifting the incest rule on the day of the ‘Great Mother’, may be a memory of those days when the ‘dying’ in the womb of the earth represented icest with the mother” — a clear indication that incest constituted a major component of female initiation. (And not only incest, but cannibalism too: paleolithic initiation caves were simultaneously vaginas and mouths in which neophytes were sexually and alimentally devoured.) However, such acts were not necessarily identified as incestuous: “the act of insight gained through initiation was at the same time also an act of love, which would have represented incest with the mother if at the place of origin incest itself had not dissolved together with the barriers to incest. There is no sin at the place of origin. Where there are no longer any norms, no norms can be violated” (Dierr 1985, pp.25,42).

[69] “Everywhere in world myth and imagery, the Goddess-Creatrix was coupled with the sacred serpent” (Sjöö and Mor 1987, p.57). But in some versions the Goddess also transforms herself into a snake to engender the cosmic or world-egg. “The creation of the world… resulted from the sexual act performed between the Great Goddess and the World-Snake Ophion” (Graves 1986, p.248). Later, when Ophion was interpreted as male, the image of the two coupling snakes — figured in the caduceus — led to the idea of the male snake-god being sexually/alimentally devoured by the serpent-goddess. “The image of the male snake deity enclosed or devoured by the female gave rise to a superstitious notion about the sex lives of snakes, reported by Pliny and solemnly believed in Europe even up to the 20th century: that the male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting his head in her mouth and letting her eat him” (Walker 1983, p.904). Even this patriarchally impaired version of matristic cosmogony retains the link between sexuality and alimentation.
But initially the world-snake was evidently female. “The ageless serpent was originally identified with the Great Goddess herself… She was… Kundalini, the inner female soul of man in serpent shape, coiled in the pelvis, induced through proper practice of yoga to uncoil and mount through the spinal chakras toward the head, bringing infinite wisdom… Egypt agreed with India in depicting the first serpent as a totemic form of the Great Mother herself.” The Goddess and the serpent represent the two aspects of the “dual Moon-goddess of life and death” (Walker 1983, pp.903–4).

[70] The kiss completes the uroboros, the symbol of anarchy. Conjoin this emphasis on the kiss with the fact that “if one needs a single, simple name for the Great Goddess, Anna is the best choice” (Graves 1986, p.372), and immediately an apt appellation for proponents of anarchy becomes apparent. The Goddess of Chaos and I have kissed: therefore, I am an “Anna-kissed”. (As a palindrome, Anna — like Eve — lexically reproduces the uroboros.)

[71] Intimacy and close identity with the collectivity of women remained “conducive to bisexuality in both sexes” during archaic eras. Lesbianism was based “on the daughter’s desire to reestablish union with the Mother, and with her own femaleness”, and typified women of the period: “the further back one goes in time the more bisexual, or gynandrous, is the Great Mother. As Charlotte Wolff says in Love Between Women, perhaps the present-day Lesbian woman is the closest in character to ancient women” (Sjöö and Mor 1987, p.67).

[72] The word vulva may well share a common etymological root with vulvus (wolf), indicating a special correspondence between devouring animal and devouring female genitalia.
The term myth, meaning oral communication, also derives from the same etymological root as mother and mouth. A myth is a tale originating in the mouth of a mother.

[73] “Much of the ‘art’ of American Indians is not art in the formal Western sense at all, but the careful representation of the iconography given to a person during a vision quest, or given in the dreams of later life”. Such images are “secret pores into a knowledge that lay in the memories — in the bodies — of a whole people and not in their signs or writings” (Highwater 1981, pp.86,75).

[74] Leonardo Da Vinci understood the basis of this distinction: ‘Though nature has given sensibility to pain to such living organisms as have the power of movement — in order thereby to preserve the members which in this movement are liable to diminish and be destroyed — the living organisms which have no power, consequently do not need to have a sensibility to pain; and so it comes about that, if you break them, they do not feel anguish in their members as do the animals” (Eisler 1951, p.193).

[75] “The taboos on animals, which consist essentially of prohibitions against killing and eating them, constitute the nucleus of Totemism” (Freud 1983, p.23).
An illuminating Eskimo narrative relates how this people’s ancestors “got their food from the earth, they lived on the soil. They knew nothing of all the game we now have, and had therefore no need to be ever on guard against all those perils which arise from the fact that we, hunting animals as we do, live by slaying other souls. Therefore they had no shamans”. In those times, “everyone was a physician, and there was no need of any shamans”: “There were no shamans in those days, and men were ignorant of all those rules of life which have since taught them to be on their guard against danger and wickedness”. Evil, law and the shaman as specialist and appeaser of hostile slaughtered animal spirits all originate when one individual, “the first shaman” (Halifax 1980, pp.164–5 passim), inaugurates the killing of game in order to end a famine. The development of a priesthood, and hence the entire control complex, remains implicit in this act.

[76] “For both women and men there is a close identification with the collective group of mothers, with Mother Earth, and with the Cosmic Mother” during archaic eras. “The collective of mothers, identified with by both daughters and sons, was made up of strong, creative, protective, sexually free, and visionary women” (Sjöö and Mor 1987, p.67).
The notion of the “community of women” need not be interpreted literally. This term can be taken to connote the Platonic chora or mother and receptacle of all, particularly as it is appropriated by Julia Kristeva. “We borrow the term chora from Plato’s Timaeus to denote an essentially mobile and extremely provisional articulation constituted by movements and their ephemeral stases. We differentiate this uncertain and indeterminate articulation from a disposition that already depends on representation, lends itself to phenomenological, spatial intuition, and gives rise to a geometry. Although our theoretical description of the chora is itself part of the discourse of representation that offers it as evidence, the chora, as rupture and articulations (rhythm), precedes evidence, verisimilitude, spatiality and temporality. Our discourse — all discourse — moves with and against the chora in the sense that it simultaneously depends upon and refuses it. Although the chora can be designated and regulated, it can never be definitely posited: as a result, one can never give it axiomatic form… Neither model nor copy, the chora precedes and underlies figuration and thus specularization, and is analogous only to vocal or kinetic rhythm… The theory of the subject proposed by the theory of the unconscious will allow us to read in this rhythmic space, which has no thesis and no position, the process by which signifiance is constituted. Plato himself leads us to such a process when he calls this receptacle or chora nourishing and maternal, not yet unified in an ordered whole because deity is absent from it. Though deprived of unity, identity, or deity, the chora is nevertheless subject to a regulating process [réglementation], which is different by temporarily effectuating them and then starting over, again and again… The mother’s body is… what mediates the symbolic law organizing social relations and becomes the ordering principle of the semiotic chora” (Kristeva 1984, pp.25–27 passim).

[77] After discussing what he considers as the obsessive primitive avoidance of incest, Freud rather ironically remarks: “It must strike us as all the more puzzling to hear that those same savages practise sacred orgies, in which precisely those forbidden degrees of kinship seek sexual intercourse — puzzling, that is, unless we prefer [sic!] to regard the contrast as an explanation of the prohibition” (Freud 1983, p.11). At this juncture the threadbare nature of his contentions becomes quite apparent.

[78] “In addition to being a feature of human culture in a broad sense, incest, in the form of an institutionalized relationship in a particular society, has the responsibility of transmitting specific cultural messages… a main concern of the deed is with the transmission of profound cultural messages about what it means to be human” (Arens 1986, pp.122,137).
By this point, it should have become apparent that references to incest should not be interpreted in the contemporary sense of abuse and coercion. In the present context, incest could be termed “matristic uncest” in that it connotes incestuous acts which are non-exploitative and non-abusive because they take place under the auspices of the community of women — a guarantor of their benificent nature.

[79] Diagrammatic representation and the use of spatial terminology inevitably implies that the two spheres of consumption and sexuality are distinct, when in fact they are clearly coterminous. Similarly, the use of spatial boundaries does not imply the actual existence of limitations in either “sphere”.

[80] Cf. this remark by Van Gennep: “If… a people combines exogamy with totemism, this is because it has chosen to reinforce the social cohesion already established by totemism by superimposing on it yet another system which is connected with the first by its reference to physical and social kinship and is distinguished from, though not opposed to it, by its lack of reference to cosmic kinship. Exogamy can play this same part in types of society which are built on foundations other than totemism; and the geographical distribution of the two institutions coincides only at certain points in the world” (Lévi-Strauss 1966, p.109). Needless to day, the invasion of coercion, in various degrees and various manners, distorts integral totemic consciousness into the diverse partial, flawed forms endlessly examined by anthropologists.

[81] Arens rightly catches “a glimpse of the origin of incest in the reflection of the unique human capacity to generate rules”. He correctly asserts that “human culture created incest” (Arens 1986, pp.101,99) — but as a category, not (as he avers) as a practice. The degree of relatedness between partners in a sexual act remains immaterial in the anarchic model. It is only in the coercive model, with its rules and regulations, that it becomes an issue.

[82] Freud comments: “The meaning of ‘taboo’, as we see it, diverges in two contrary directions. To us it means, on the one hand, ‘sacred’, ‘consecrated’, and on the other ‘uncanny’, ‘dangerous’, ‘forbidden’, ‘unclean'” (Freud 1983, p.18). These divergent meanings are historically relative. ‘The widespread customs of menstrual restrictions do not necessarily represent disgust or even a low status for women; they may be connected with the mana — the magic and fearful power of the blood itself” (Fisher 1980, p.157). Indeed: “Such taboos were originally restrictions made by women themselves — menstrual-hut customs — to protect their bodies and guarantee their sacred solitude during the moon functions, their separateness from men and children. But as male power structures and religious reactions against the Goddess rise, seeing the Great Mother more and more as the castrating other, the terrible devourer, these moon-blood taboos are given negative connotations” (Sjöö and Mor 1987, p.185). And the more authoritarian a society becomes, the stronger these negative menstrual taboos are made.

[83] For Lévi-Strauss, “neither a feature of nature or culture, nor a composite of the two, the [incest] prohibition’… is the fundamental step because of which, by which, but above all in which, the transition from nature to culture is accomplished’. In effect, as with Freud, Lévi-Strauss views the prohibition of incest as the capacity which sets in motion social and cultural systems” (Arens 1986, p.44). If the latter phrase denotes the control complex, then these commentators are correct in their assessments.

[84] The Fifth Estate group, for example, point to “an emerging synthesis of postmodern anarchy and the primitive (in the sense of original), Earth-based ecstatic vision”. Outlining the reasons for their “profound appreciation of the social and cultural forms of the primal societies which preceded the relatively short epoch of human existence we call ‘civilization’”, they state: “for us, this inquiry into the primitive affirms those pre-technological cultures, not only because of their mythic ties to the cycles of the earth, but also because of their communal solidarity and stateless freedom. We do not see these early anarchic social patterns so much as a distinct goal to replicate, but rather as a guide for creating a vision in which social peace and ecological balance are re-established” (Fifth Estate, Vol. 20, no. 3 (Winter/Spring 1986), p.10; Vol. 24, no. 1 (Spring 1989), p.2).

[85] “According to old ballads gathered from the bards of northern Europe, in ancient times men could not perform sacred poetry, invocatons, or any form of magic unless they were educated and directed by women” (Walker 1985, p.53).

[86] In certain traditions, a “total feminization of the male shaman” occurs. Initiates become so-called “soft men”, and experience bodily, behavioural and vocal changes. “The transformative process can also involve an actual change in sex roles. The ‘soft man’ comes to experience himself sexually as a female”. Such males are reputed to be capable of giving birth and possess great medicine power: “androgynous shamans were believed to be the most potent of all wizards” (Halifax 1980 pp.23–4).
By this point it should be apparent that the divergencies between male and female initiation rites are based upon the biological differences of sex, rather than the cultural differences of gender. In archaic eras, gender identities were free-floating and subject to modulation by desire. As will become apparent, however, the rise of the control complex is marked at this level by a canalization of free-flowing libidinous energies and a subsequent regidification or crystallization of compulsory gender identities.

[87] “The phallus, male sexual energy,… was understood to be originally contained inside the Goddess.” Images show “the phallus serving the Goddess, women, and the life processes of all” (Sjöö and Mor 1987, p.61).

[88] What are the origins of this gradual shift from reverence to hatred of the womb among males? One commentator discerns its provenance in the discovery of fatherhood, a phenomenon itself rooted in the domestication and exploitation of animals. In archaic eras, “there is a sense of kinship between animals and humans,” an “interrelationship between the animal and human world”: “Humans did not always make sharp distinctions between themselves and animals”. This sense of kinship was based on the fact that “most people on earth… probably lived largely on plants”. But animal domestication — undertaken by men — completely altered this situation. “The insecurities of the human male in front of an incomprehensible and powerful universe were much intensified by the advances made with discoveries stemming from animal breeding. Crucial markers in the development of those most puzzling of human phenomena, sadism and seemingly motiveless malignity, can be chartered therefrom”. Male sexual — and existential — anxieties derive, not as in the Freudian model from misinterpreting the menstruating vagina as a wound, but from animal emasculation: “How much more sense it makes to associate man’s castration anxiety with his own aggressive powers and the fear thereby engendered, the practices humans learned through animal breeding” (Fisher 1980, pp.196,179,193,198).
“In the importance given to animals, the difficulties of taming and killing them”, by incipient patriarchal males, “there is a mingling of identification and cruelty which sheds light on the phenomenon of sadomasochism”. This ambivalent intermingling remains the crux of the issue: “humans violated animals by making them their slaves. In taking them in and feeding them, humans first made friends with animals and then killed them. To do so, they had to kill some sensitivity in themselves. When they began manipulating the reproduction of animals, they were even more personally involved in practices which led to cruelty, guilt, and subsequent numbness. The keeping of animals would seem to have set a model for the enslavement of humans, in particular the large-scale exploitation of women captives for breeding and labor, which is a salient feature of the developing civilizations” (Fisher 1980, pp.229,197).
During this period, as a result of male discoveries in animal breeding, “the distinction between fertility as generation-creation and fertility as fecundity-production is becoming confused in human thought”. For women this resulted in a gradual deterioration in prestige: “in historical times clear reference to fertility goddesses accompanies a progressive decline in the status of women. Emphasis on fertility was an opening wedge in the debasement of the female. The power of generation was removed from the individial woman and credited to a divinity, albeit a female one at first. Fertility worship led to the forced breeding of women; more imporatant, it signified the perversion of sex from pleasure to production” (Fisher 1980, pp.285,215).
This shifting emphasis from pleasure to (re)production, derived from the patriarchal recognition of the male role in fertility, effects a complementary remodelling in concepts of male sexuality. “Only after humans have begun to control and breed animals, in particular the massive wild cattle, does the horn alone and unmistakably appear in conjunction with fertility worship. The new ideology — envisioning the human penis as a hunk of horn — denies the pleasurable aspects of sexual congress to focus on an ideal of the ever-ready breeder. In a positive view the phallus would be valued in all stages from the excitement of erection to the happy shrinking of realized satisfaction. The whole misplaced construct of the phallus as plow, harrow, sword, or gun begins in sadomasochistic imagery of fertility worship. Women are enslaved by being worshipped as mothers, more specifically as breeders. Men are enslaved to the religion of a massively erect phallus as a weapon or producer. Nowhere in these metaphors is it acknowledged that the penis is an organ of exquisite pleasure”. Womb denial is based on the fact that “Through animal breeding man discovered that he played a role in creation, albeit a minor one, and his sense of superfluity was partially relieved” (Fisher 1980, pp.241,192). Gradually this minor role was inflated, while the female came to be seen as a passive receptacle for the actively generative male principle. As this process unfolded, men denied their castration/death anxieties by negating the womb, and its cycles of reincarnation, empahasising in its place the phallic quest of personal immortality through the linearities of dynastic continuity and individual salvation.
The discovery of paternity constituted a frontal assault on matristic cosmogony and hence cosmology. It called into question the uroboric act of cosmic creation, and thus the entire cult-lore of incest-cannibalism which was founded upon it. “As a number of anthropologists have suggested, fatherhood, in the sense of the social definition and recognition of the status, represents a dividing line between human and animal society” (Arens 1986, p.96). The inauguration of the category of fatherhood severs the cosmic unity of consanguinous interrelatedness.

[89] In contrast: “Nowhere can we find any rites or mysteries in which women have tried to imitate a male process or function; this alone tells us about the source of original mana, or power. All blood rituals derive from the female blood of menstruation and childhood” (Sjöö and Mor 1987, p.184).

[90] In contrast, males initiated into the (female) mysteries of cyclicity remain intimate with death and do not fear it. Such men master death by becoming shamans (a word which means “One Who Has Died” [Walker 1985, p.103]) and experiencing “the ordeal of entering the realm of death”: “The encounter with dying and death and the subsequent experience of rebirth and illumination are the authentic initiation for the shaman” (Halifax 1980, p.5).

[91] Shaman women were credited with the capacity to comfort and direct the dying soul. For example: “Often, in the process of caring for dying persons, a dakini [crone priestess of India] was supposed to take the final breath of the deceased into herself with the ‘kiss of peace’, signifying the Goddess’s acceptance of the wandering soul… It was said of them also that they could bring the dead soul to a rebirth by sucking it into themselves with the final kiss, and that death in their arms could be sweet and painless, even ecstatic” (Walker 1985, p.75).

[92] The “male principle of consciousness, which desires permanence and not change, eternity and not transformation, law and not creative spontaneity, ‘discriminates’ [!] against the Great Goddess and turns her into a demon” (Neumann 1955, p.233). “But man couldn’t establish his ideological denial of death unless the Goddess’s death-dealing aspect was vehemently denied also” (Walker 1985, p.33).

[93] Thus, in the Demeter-Persephone myth — a variant of the Red Riding Hood tale — the chthonic crone aspect of the Triple Goddess was converted into the male underworld ruler, Pluto. (The Snow White (Graves 1986, p.421) and Sleeping Beauty tales are also variants: both revolve around the patriarchal interruption of a young female’s shamanic initiation trance. See Halifax 1980, pp.25–7 for an Eskimo variant.)

[94] “The shaman’s vocation may… be passed from generation to generation, creating a shamanic lineage” (Halifax 1980, p.5).

[95] Incipient control forces, implementing their regime in civilizing areas, were clearly subject to defections by disaffected elements. The latter, needed to operate the developing machine of domination, fled to the forest to escape enslavement, Two of William Blake’s visionary poems, “The Little Girl Lost” and “The Little Girl Found”, indicate the kind of process taking place. An analogue of Red Riding Hood called Lyca (from lycos, wolf) wanders into the wilderness, falls into an ecstatic trance beneath a rising moon, and is protected by playful beasts of prey who lick her, strip her, and convey her to an initiatory cavern. The maid’s parents search for their daughter in the desert, seeking her through a seven day trance. After completing the latter, they are confronted by a fearsome lion who bears them to the ground, but then manifests himself as a spirit or vision, and takes them to their enchanted daughter in the underground cavern, “To this day they dwell/ In a lonely dell,/ Nor fear the wolvish howl,/ Nor the lions’ growl”. Like Red Riding Hood, the innocent young girl does not fear her animal nature and communes with it freely. Her parents, however, are conditioned to be afraid of transformation. But after confronting their fears through shamanic trance, they realize the benificence of the sacred, and abandon the settlements for the enchanted wilderness.

[96] The extermination continues today: “Spurred on by bounties and rewards, modern men using poison, trap, snare, and gun, together with new weapons provided by an enlightened technology including helicopters and fragmentation grenades, have waged and continue to wage war to the death against the wolf in a campaign that will evidently only cease with the extinction of the animal in North America, if not the world” (Mowat 1986, p.157). Why? Because “In today’s world, wolves still experience the joys that come from sharing. Maybe thaf s why governments pay bounties to the killers of wolves” (Perlman 1983A, p.8).

[97] Paradoxically, the father figure imposes the homogeneity of heterosexuality in place of the heterogeneity of polymorphous sexuality preactised by the women.

[98] “The woodman, as the feller of the trees, opened the forest for seed cultivation: as the maker of dams and irrigation ditches, the provider of fuel for pottery kilns and metal furnaces, the builder of rafts and boats, sledges and wagons, he plays an obscure part in the earliest phases [of history], since his special tools and products, unlike stone, survive only by the happiest accident. But the woodman is in fact the primitive engineer; and his work was essential to all the metallurgical and engineering activities that grew out of the neolithic economy. The first great power machines of modern industrialisation, the watermill and the windmill, were made of wood; and even the boilers of the first steam-engines and locomotives were made of wood” (Muford 1967, p.156).
“When the relative values of the trees can be expressed in terms of cash-compensation for their illegal [i.e., against the lore] felling, the sanctity of the grove is annulled and poetry itself declines” (Graves 1986, p.263).

[99] According to the control complex version, the maenads are guilty of these crimes. Reputedly, at the peak of their frenzy they indulged in a ritual sparagmos, the tearing into pieces of a live animal, followed by omophagy. This clearly remains a propagandistic projection of berserker activities onto the ecstatic primitivists. Any sparagmos perpetrated by the latter would be directed, as in the case of voyeurs like Actaeon or Pentheus in The Bacchae (or even Teiresias or Peeping Tom), at male aggressors.

[100] “Ancient Greek men personified their terror of women’s ‘devouring’ sexuality as the hungry Lamiae, she-demons whose name meant either vaginas or gullets” (Walker 1985, p.l7) — another clear linkage of sexuality and alimentation.

[101] Hercules, perhaps the prototypical, certainly an archetypal hero, wields an oak-club. He is also a warrior, a hunter and an animal domesticator.

[102] These socially sanctioned “outlaws” are periodically required by the control complex to extirpate pockets of resistance, but after the latter are eliminated, these berserker figures have no victims upon which to vent their rage. They rapidly become a social nuisance and are then defined as enemies of order, as werewolves who should be hunted down. These groups serve a purpose during periods characterized by the primitive accumulation of capital, but once they are no longer needed the control complex ruthlessly suppresses them.
During lulls between pogroms, however, less rowdy berserkers partly integrate themselves into society, although barely concealing their true identities. Referring to the Middle Ages, one commentator notes: “The fact that in central Europe it is so often the butchers who are privileged to conduct the Carnival may have some historical connection with the corresponding liberty accorded to the same social group in Byzantium”. It cannot be accidental that butchers — animal slaughterers and consumers — policed medieval carnivals which often included representations of the wild man, leader of the masculine Wild Horde. On such occasions, “groups of masked young men belonging to secret societies took it upon themselves to enforce the traditional standards of behavior which were not expressly regulated by the church, and thus to play the part of a community police” (Bernheimer 1952, pp.166–7). Carnivalesque irruptions of popular paganism were contained in festivals organized and managed by shadowy groups, unofficial agencies of the control complex, and precursors of contemporary death squads and vigilante gangs.

[103] “The persons most prejudiced against a concept of nonordinary reality are those who have never experienced it. This might be termed cognicentrism, the analogue in consciousness of ethnocentrism” (Harner 1986, p.xvii).

[104] In this respect, references in the present text to the Goddess should be understood as a form of shorthand; or, more precisely, they should be taken as originally (i.e., archaically) intended: as metaphoric expressions of the ineffable.

[105] “‘… The gradual extension of our settlements will as certainly cause the savage, as the wolf, to retire; both being beasts of prey, tho’ they differ in shape’ (G. Washington in 1783)” (Perlman 1985, p.44n).

[106] Ball recovers the rightful male role as agent of the Goddess, a function perverted by the patriarchal hero. To feminists and others who may complain that the present text represents women (in the Red Riding Hood tale) as defeated and in need of redemption by a male (in the Ball fable), I can only point to the available mythic resources as a partial excuse. Precedence for selection of a male child as a redeemer does exist in The Bacchae and the actual maenadic movement it represents, however, in the shape of the androgynous Dionysus — an analogue of Ball.
Women clearly do not need a male saviour to redeem them from patriarchy. But any liberation will remain partial until we all, regardless of gender or any other distinction, cooperate to eradicate the control complex through a total revolution aimed at the creation of universal anarchy.

[107] “Although the Prophet’s new creed attacked some facets of traditional Shawnee culture, it attempted to revitalize others. Indeed, much of Tenskwatawa’s preaching was nativistic in both tone and content. If shamans and medicine bundles were forbidden [because corrupt], the Shawnees were encouraged to return to many other practices followed by their fathers [sic], Tenskwatawa urged them to renounce their desire to accumulate property and to return to the communal life of the past”. Nevertheless: ‘The rituals [introduced by Tenskwatawa] probably reflect the Shawnee’s contact with Roman Catholicism” (Edmunds 1983, pp.36–7,40).

[108] “Witch doctors, shamans, and other spiritual leaders often wrapped themselves in a wolfskin or bearskin and were said to have been possessed by the animal, thereby acquiring magical powers” (Zipes 1983, p.47).

[109] Uncle clearly represents Tecumseh, whose military resistance had been discredited. “For the Prophet, politics and religion were merged”. However: “The months following the Treaty of Fort Wayne [30 September 1809] formed a major watershed in the career of the Shawnee Prophet. Before the treaty Tenskwatawa and his emphasis on spiritual renewal had dominated the Indian movement… But after the Treaty of Fort Wayne, the nature of the Indian movement changed. Concern over the continued loss of land shifted the focus of Tenskwatawa’s followers away from religious solutions toward the more pragmatic leadership of Tecumseh… And so Tecumseh used the religious movement of his brother as the basis for his attempts to forge a political and military confederacy among the western tribes”. Tenskwatawa resented his brother’s actions and became particularly bitter after military resistance proved futile — especially given that “In many ways Tecumseh’s efforts to destroy the position of the village chiefs and become ‘alone the acknowledged chief of all the Indians’ (as he boasted to Harrison [William Henry Harrison, governor of Indiana territory] at Vincennes) was a concept more alien to traditional Indian ways than any of the teachings of the Prophet” (Edmunds 1983, pp.39,92,93). Tenskwatawa revenged himself on his authoritarian, centralizing brother by representing him as a weak and beaten man in the figure of Uncle.

[110] Ball evidently represents Tenskwatawa. Like the former, the Prophet was an orphan — his father was killed while fighting invaders, his mother abandoned him while fleeing from them. “Either abandoned or ignored by parent figures, he overcompensated for his insecurity [as a boy] through boastful harangues on his own importance. To add to his woes, while playing with a bow and iron-tipped arrows, he suffered an accident and lost the sight of his right eye” (Edmunds 1983, p.30). Hence Ball’s braggadocio and concern with bow and arrows.

[111] “The shaman’s ability to subdue, control, appease, and direct spirits separates him or her from ordinary individuals, who are victims of these powerful forces” (Halifax 1980, p.11). Uncle becomes a passive victim of the cannibal monsters, who were earlier identified as “evil spirits”. Although possessing potential — witness his fanged sphere, medicine pouch, and use of the bearskin — Ball has yet to become a fully-fledged shaman, as his inability to defeat his opponents testifies.
Although as Ball is an aspiring medicine man, it should be noted that the English term medicine derives from Medea (or wisdom), a crone mother of theMedes. In becoming a shamanic healer, the young man consecrates himself to the dispensation of the grandmother, the matristic anarchy.

[112] In European tradition, “the Wren is the soul of the Oak” (Graves 1986, p.298) — a further link between Ball and the oak-cult of Red Riding Hood.

[113] Indeed, the entire cannibal kinship group — husband, wife and dog — are a distorted, nuclear family version of the Shawnee trinity, the Grandmother, her Grandson and Brother-Dog.

[114] “Sharing is the heart of the lost community. It is antithetical to Leviathan’s very existence… By having all things in common, the resisters are melting the beast from within its entrails” (Perlman 1983A, p.107).

[115] “Shaman and waterbird were essentially analogous, as both were masters of the three realms of existence [earth, water, air]” (Halifax 1982, p.86). Ball’s plunge echoes the global folk-motif of the Earth-Diver, a male figure who dives into the primal female ocean to haul up some earth to form dry land — i.e., symbolically create the world. This action becomes significant in the context of the young man’s later world-generating activities which this incident prefigures.
Ball’s journey to the Great Turtle may represent Tenskwatawa’s search for his mother — earthly embodiment of the Great Mother — who abandoned him as a child and was called Methoataske (“Turtle Laying Its Eggs”).

[116] This apocalyptic scene depicts the message given to Tenskwatawa by the Great Spirit: “‘If you Indians will do everything which I have told you, I will overturn this land, so that all the white people will be covered and you alone shall inhabit the land’” (Edmunds 1983, p.38).

[117] The symbolic dimensions of Ball’s shamanic quest become apparent in the complex of factual inaccuracies contained in the image of the nesting turtle. First, the female turtle does not lay eggs underwater, but buries them in mud or sand on dry land. Secondly, she does not incubate her eggs, but abandons them once they have been concealed. Hence, thirdly, it remains inconceivable that anything alien could be nurtured in her bosom. But comparable behaviour patterns, inapplicable to turtles, remain relevant to birds. Some aquatic avians — including varieties of cranes — build floating nests in open shallow water or hidden among reeds. Birds incubate their eggs, and, as in the case of the cuckoo, extraneous eggs can be deposited in the nests of other fowl. Metaphorically, then, Wren and Crane return to their origins by undertaking the journey to the nest-womb. But Ball too makes a comparable return: the Great Turtle clearly remains a mother or grandmother analogue.

[118] The maiden’s cloak remains relevant here not merely because of its colour, but also due to the fact noted earlier that in some versions of the tale Red Riding Hood’s clothes are thrown into a fire — a fiery image echoed in the funeral pyre in “The Cannibal Monster”.

[119] The complementary centripetal and centrifugal motions of the toothed vagina and the fanged sphere echo the identical motions of alimentation (or compassion) and sexuality (or passion) in the model of archaic psychosocial relations.
But reconciliation also occurs on another iconic plane. In global mysticism, the kundalini snake energy ascends through the seven chakras situated in the spine until it reaches the head, when the initiate becomes capable of shamanic flight. Typically, this process is imaged by the plumed serpent or Bird-and-Snake Goddess. Conjoining the Red Riding Hood tale with “The Cannibal Monster” produces a comparable effect. The uroboric serpent of the former modulates into the avian journey of the latter, creating illumination through union.

[120] Turtle, who remains “in charge of a shaman’s lodge” (Halifax 1980, p.379) in Amerindian mythology, possesses a mystical connexion with the number seven.

[121] Like the Red Riding Hood tale, ‘The Cannibal Monster” can be interpreted on several levels of meaning literal or historical, moral, allegorical, and anagogical. Such stories are “cultural autobiographies” in which “the ‘truth’ is made up of what lies at the bottom of various events of a perpetual now” (Highwater 1981, pp.113,117) — in other words, the Dreamtime. Their scenarios encapsulate the dynamic experience of an individual, a community, a people, a species, a planet, a galaxy, a universe. They acquire this capacity because “at the level of consciousness of the Daimon (“the integral being of all one’s incarnations”] … there is a form of thought which is archetypal and a form of thought which is hieroglyphic”: “Hieroglyphic thinking is polyphonic thinking; it is like a four-voiced fugue in which a sound, a geometrical figure, a mathematical equation and a mythopoeic image all become expressed in a single, crystal-like form. In hieroglyphic thinking there are not words and concepts but crystals which are like seeds; if you drop just one of these crystals into the solution of time-space, it would take volumes to express all its meanings”. In order to render these noumenons intelligible, and to conceal them from hostile control forces, numinous images are created: “No human individual can have the entire knowledge of a civilisation, and so the gods mercifully digest the cosmic truths and pass them on to us in the forms of myth and legends and children’s fairy tales. It is hard to remember all the knowledge of a civilisation, but if the thoughts are compressed into an image, then that image can be easily remembered and passed on from generation to generation in legends” (Thompson 1982, pp.58–60 passim). Unfortunately, however, these myths remain subject to iconotrophy, i.e., distortion by the control complex, and hence require periodic icongraphic renewal. The present text undertakes this task with regard to the two tales which fall under its purview, although it makes no pretence to comprehensiveness in its treatment. It merely hopes to recover some fundamental significations.
The initiatory connotations of the Red Riding Hood narrative have already been rendered apparent. It may be worthwhile, however, to underscore the complementary aspects of “The Cannibal Monster”. The globally typical elements of Ball’s shamanic initiation are displaced onto other figures in the tale and appear in a redistributed order. The youth undertakes a vision quest into, not the sacred wilderness, but the barren wastelands created by control complex depredation. The preparatory purification rite in the sweat lodge and the ordeal of submersion are both attributed to the prisoners. This also remains true with regard to symbolic dismemberment and death, an element of shamanic initiation likewise present in the Red Riding Hood narrative. ‘The often terrifying descent by the shaman initiate into the underworld of suffering and death may be represented by figurative dismemberment, disposal of all bodily fluids, scraping of the flesh from the bones, and removal of the eyes. Once the novice has been reduced to a skeleton and the bones cleansed and purified, the flesh may be distributed among the spirits of various diseases that afflict those in the human community. The bones are all that remain of the shaman, but like seeds, the bones have the potential for rebirth within them. These bone-seeds are covered with new flesh, and the shaman is given new blood. In this transformed condition, the resurrected one receives knowledge of a special and sacred nature and acquires the power of healing, most often from spirit allies. The intense suffering of the neophyte and the subsequent experience of transcendence and knowledge render sacred the condition of this individual, and recovery from the crisis that has immobilized his or her body during this terrifying journey establishes the shaman as one who has met death and been reborn… To divest oneself of flesh and be reduced to a skeleton is a process of reentering what Mircea Eliade has called the ‘womb of primordial life’ in order to be born anew into a mystical condition… Thus freed from the decaying and evanescent flesh, the shaman has access to the eternal being, ever capable of rebirth from his or her bones” (Halifax 1980, pp.12–3,14,15). The psychosymbolic dimensions of initiatory illness are readily apparent: in this condition, barriers between life and death are lowered and access facilitated, the importance of eradicating pain and preventing death is realized, and the significance of universal compassion becomes clear.
Another customary element in shamanic initiation appears in the tale, albeit in an unusual form: namely, the initiate’s ascent of the Sacred Tree. “The Sacred Tree path to rebirth, symbol of the plane of confluence of the human collective, draws the society together by directing its energy toward its powerful center. It is also the means of achieving a transcendent vision of the culture by directing the spirit heavenward. As the shaman is one who is in dynamic relationship to this ‘axis of the world’, the shaman is also the one who balances and centers the society, creating the harmony from which life springs. When this precious equilibrium is lost, the symbolic expressions of the culture’s deepest structures are also lost, as though the skeleton were to turn to dust and the primordial forms were no more” (Halifax 1980, p.15). In “The Cannibal Monster”, such a loss has occurred, and as a result Ball attempts a profound re-equilibration, not through climbing the tree, but by felling it.
More orthodoxically, the youth finds his “soul-bird”, becomes a “bird-shaman”, and undertakes a spirit flight: “The wizard’s soul is transformed into a bird, the wings and body of the spirit-bird and the shaman’s soul are one body, and the distinction between the shaman and the animal ally dissolves. Nature, culture, and supernature merge into the field of transcendent consciousness” (Halifax 1980, pp.16,17). And just as some fledgling shamans find themselves being nurtured in nests situated in the Sacred Tree, so Ball finds the hearts in a nest. He also, of course, returns from his journey endowed with healing capacities.
Out of a common fund of stock mythic elements and devices, Tenskwatawa thus formulates the myth of Ball — and “myths are the maps for the voyage of transformations that the shaman makes time and time again in the course of his or her life” (Halifax 1980, p.277).
(Indicative of the nature of this common fund remains the parallel between Ball and Llew Llaw, mythic Welsh son of the Goddess. “The child Llew Llaw’s exact aim was praised by his mother Arianrhod because as the New Year Robin [i.e., clothed in red], alias Belin, he transfixed his father [a patriarch figure] the Wren, alias Bran to whom the wren was sacred” (Graves 1986, p.318). Llew is slain by his enemy, Gronw Pebyr, and his body cannibalistically consumed. His soul undertakes a nautical journey to the home of his goddess mother, where he undergoes renewal. Returning to life in the shape of a shamanic eagle, he is resurrected and kills Gronw.)

[122] ‘To bring back to an original state that which was in primordial times whole and is now broken and dismembered is not only an act of unification but also a divine rememberance of a time when a complete reality existed. In many instances, shamanic rituals of initiation put the neophyte or apprentice in relation to a mythological origin, connecting the individual with a continuum that transcends the confines of the human condition. The neophyte ultimately embraces the mystery of the totality that existed in illo tempore, becoming that totality, a process of profound recollection… The perfection of the timeless past, the paradise of a mythological era, is an existential potential in the present. And the shaman, through sacred action, communicates this potential to all” (Halifax 1980, pp.22,34). The four cornerstones of the paradisal Golden Age are “nudism, communism, vegetarianism, pacifism” (Bernheimer 1952, p.109).

[123] Along with Lawrence, they cry: “We have lost the cosmos, the sun strengthens us no more, neither does the moon. In mystic language, the moon is black to us, and the sun is as sackcloth. Now we have to get back to the cosmos, and it can’t be done by a trick. The great range of responses that have fallen dead in us have to come to life again. It has taken two thousand years [a conservative estimate] to kill them. Who knows how long it will take to bring them to life?” (Lawrence 1977, p.30).

[124] The use of the word “companion” (Greek hetairismos) may be taken to imply a renewal of hetaerism.

[125] John Moore Anarchy and Ecstasy: Visions of Halcyon Days, Aporia Press, 1989.

[126] Fredy Perlman, Against His-Story: Against Leviathan, Black and Red, Detroit, 1983.

[127] Anarchy and Ecstasy, page 10.

[128] ibid, page 21.

[129] Lewis Mumford, The Pentagon of Power, Secker and Warburg, NY 1964, 1970

[130] Fifth Estate, Winter 1992, page 27.

[131] For more discussion of John Moore, and the relationship between Primitivism and Postmodernism, see my Primitivism: An Illusion With No Future at http://www.greenanarchist.org.uk/Prim.htm & here on the Blue site [as “The Primitivist Illusion”].

[132] see John Zerzan, The Case Against Art eg.

[133] Moore / John Filis interview at www.primitivism.com

[133] Moore / John Filis interview at www.primitivism.com

[134] John Moore, “Primitivist Primer”, published in Green Anarchist 47 / 48, Summer 1997, and many other places, often on the internet.

[135] David Watson, Fifth Estate, Autumn 1997, page 15 ff.

[136] Jason McQuinn, “Why I Am Not A Primitivst”, Anarchy A Journal Of Desire Armed, Spring / Summer 2001.




Source: Theanarchistlibrary.org