Friday, March 11, 2016

Fascism and the Occult


Roman symbol of the Fasces - bundled sticks with attached axe head carried by lictors to denote the authority of magistrates

During my long engagement with occultism, magic and witchcraft, I have found that politics tends to play a peripheral role in these disciplines. It is not obvious and it is not central. Yet sometimes the boundaries between politics and the occult seem to be more porous, and in other situations they seem to be mutually exclusive. It really depends on the particular bent of the individual practitioner or the group, but there are traditions whose emphasis is very political in nature. I have tended to behave as if the magic and occultism that I practice is politically neutral, but other individuals and traditions have a long history of engaging their practices and beliefs in the political arena.

For instance, the Reclaiming tradition of Witchcraft is very politically based, and some of its magic is founded on making social and political changes in the world. Most of the individuals that I have met who operate in this tradition are very liberal. They believe in the social empowerment of all people, especially those who politically lack such a presence or a voice. I believe that democracy is a good thing, and I agree whole heartedly with the ideals of consensus and equality in regards to groups. I have had my fill of undemocratic hierarchical groups, and I feel that they tend to bring out the worst in human nature when practiced on a small scale.

All leaders within an occult group should be chosen by a majority consensus, and that authority should always be vested in the group and not specific individuals. Otherwise, groups tend to coalesce around a powerful personality and soon only that person’s directives and desires are being fulfilled. The Masons have run their Blue Lodges quite successfully for years using democratic principles and rotating authority roles within their organization. They also have strict by-laws for governing their lodges. Their main operating principle is that everyone is considered an equal member despite their outside social standing. I think that this model of egalitarianism, equality, personal liberty and consensus are very important, but also there should be some kind of functional by-laws that keep a group’s operations within some kind of definable boundaries.

Still, groups functioning within this kind of democratic organizational structure are quite unsatisfying to some people. Some will say that getting things done will take more time. That it requires everyone to have a say and state their own opinion, however erroneous or misguided, and this just seems too inefficient. It is tempting for some to make organizations more efficient by imposing upon the group the leadership and direction of an elite sub-group or a single individual. I believe that such temptations to use hierarchical organizing systems often produce regrettable circumstances, since without proper checks and balances, human nature often is unable to withstand the corrupting influences of personal power.

We live in a social organization that has a lot of undemocratic structures in it, such as the business model for management. A manager seldom seeks complete consensus before following a directive from the corporate leaders, and there are hierarchies that are established that are not based on actual voting. Corporate officers are chosen or voted into their positions by an exclusive board of directors and voting stockholders. It is not really democratic, and when a single individual or a family owns a business then whatever they decide becomes the primary directives followed by managers and laborers. Bureaucracy tends to run using a similar model, but the authority invested in leaders is also held accountable to politicians and more distantly, the voters.

A bureaucratic official might be able to act in an executive manner, but such actions are bounded by law and limited by budgets. However, these social models have a certain currency and necessity, but they tend work best when there is some kind of balance imposed, either from within or from the outside - or both. We have, in the West, graduated from social and governmental forms of despotism (hopefully) so there isn’t any need to allow or even tolerate such organizational structures to endure in smaller social settings. However, for some reason they tend to persist, despite the idealistic intentions (or lack of the same) from some individuals and groups.

One organization structure that is quite infamous is, of course, fascism. This has become something of a pejorative term since it is associated with the German Nazis of the early to mid 20th century. Calling someone a Nazi or a Fascist is a kind of meaningless ad hominem attack that happens all too often in conversations on the Internet. In fact there is a term called Godwin’s Law that states if an online argument goes on long enough that sooner or later someone will declare someone else either a Nazi or compare them to Hitler. Of course, the moment that happens, the person who made such a declaration immediately loses all credibility and therefore, loses the argument.

Still, fascism is an actual political phenomenon that has been studied quite a bit, and examining its definition might shed some light on the social organizations of occult and magical groups. It could be said that some groups have certain structural characteristics or social tendencies that would make comparing them to the political movement of fascism instructive and insightful. It would also seem to explain why some individuals who strongly gravitate to fascist ideals seem to permeate the body of occultists in the West. Fascism still has a certain following and romantic appeal today, even though it was thoroughly vilified and rejected by the world body politic at the end of WWII. Let us look at how fascism has been defined as a political and social movement and see if what we discover can help us understand its allure and engagement by certain types of occult organizations.

The birth of the fascist political movements can be traced to the impact that the First World War had on certain political organizations in Europe. Some historians have stated that the real advent of the 20th century occurred at the start of the First World War, since it was only after that time that Europe finally shed its monarchies from their various institutionalized social structures. The map of Europe was redrawn after WWI, and the many kingdoms, duchies, and principalities became, in some fashion, modern liberal democratic states.

Fascism was a reaction against liberal democracy on one hand, and also against conservative traditionalism on the other. It was initially neither politically left or right, but it did realize and invest itself in the power of mobilizing the public into a homogeneous organization that eliminated the barriers of family and region. This mobilization and homogeneous unity, as well as the unprecedented intrusive ruling authority wielded by governments, was the by-product of the First World War. The power of governments to employ, in this manner, the masses of people and material for production and war was not lost on certain individuals who lived through that terrible time. In many ways, Fascist political organizations sought to continue the kind of authoritarianism that had been a hallmark of the emergency governance used during the war. Because Fascist political parties needed the businesses and industries to build up their capability to project international military power, they became aligned to, and later co-opted, the wealthy elite who belonged to the various nascent right-wing political groups. (Fascism is now considered an ultra right-wing political philosophy.)

Sociologists have argued for decades over the definitions of what characterizes fascism as a political organization possesses, but they have settled for the following common characteristics. One of these sociologists, named Roger Griffin, has defined fascism as being a palingenetic form of ultranationalism. Palingenesis is a word that means rebirth, so fascism is a political system that is based on a rebirth or restoration of a nation or empire to its more illustrious predecessor, such as the German Reich or the Roman Empire were to Germany and Italy. Fascism can be defined as a political system that promotes:

  • A rebirth myth,
  • Populist ultranationalism,
  • Myth of decadence,
  • Single state political party,
  • Heroic and charismatic leader,
  • Violence against targeted "others."

Ultranationalism is defined as an extreme devotion to a nation in exclusion to all other nations. It is the exact opposite of international cooperation. Devotees to ultranationalism promote a nation’s unilateral pursuits and exploits within the world community. They tend to despise collective organizations and treaties, such as the United Nations (previously, the League of Nations) or the Geneva Conventions. Ultranationalism is obviously a problem in a world of many nations striving to achieve some kind of overall peaceful co-existence and economic cooperation, but the cause of such unilateralism in a nation or a group is basic self aggrandizement. This has often manifested as a form of aggressive imperialism, although it can also manifest in nations that are not readily defined as being fascist, such as Russia, China, or the U.S.

The myth of decadence represents the belief that the current national state has been brought down to a lower (degenerate) level because of social and political plurality. This myth presupposes through nostalgia a previous golden age where the societal beliefs and practices represented a purer and more idyllic condition when the nation-state was believed to be at its height of achievement. The fall from that height is due to the successful conspiracy and intrusion of certain specific scapegoats or undesirables who represent a deviant “other” that does not belong. The myth of decadence is used to galvanize the populace to violently oppose a selected minority of people who are powerless to defend themselves against these accusations. It has the dual purpose of coalescing the majority of people into a conforming and depersonalized mass, and it shifts the blame for any problems or issues away from those in power to a minority (who do not belong to that group).

Social redemption, such as a national palingensis, must also have some kind of hero to appeal to the populace as their national savior. Typically, a single charismatic individual is endowed with this popular mystique, and he becomes the leader of this homogeneous political regime. Such a leader appeals to the basic need that underlies this political philosophy, and that is the need for order, authority and a respect for hierarchy as determined by a single charismatic individual. Fascist regimes are totalitarian dictatorships with an overly romanticized nationalistic character, but it is one that is based almost entirely on a mythic and nearly religious consensus. Those who either don’t believe in the myth or are unable to conform to it are forever outside of the political and social organization, and such individuals are considered dangerous and subversive. (They are ultimately declared "enemies" and either imprisoned or executed.)

So now that we have briefly defined and examined the basic premise of fascism as a political philosophy, we can ask the question whether any of this would be something that might impact or infect occultism, paganism or the practice of magic. If you are functioning as a completely autonomous practitioner and adherent then all of this speculation is irrelevant. However, if you belong to groups of occultists who are loosely functioning as a social organization then you will find this analysis useful. We need to determine why fascist romanticism is so alluring to various occultists, and why some organizations become fascist or develop fascist tendencies.

First of all, fascism affects the emotions and it uses some very power mythic elements to cloth itself. The ideals of cultural, religious or racial purity, when given a mythic quality, can seem to be quite compelling because they represent an allegiance to the supposed core values of the genetic or cultural self. If you identify emotionally as a white person then romantic notions about a superior white Aryan precursor race might appeal to you. This is particularly true if you feel that the current world of racial mixing and cultural/social diversity is troubling and intrinsically wrong.

Such an identification would produce both a sense of being a part of a potential mythic rebirth and also would starkly identify those who are enemies attempting to thwart this renaissance. The world would become simplified within such a belief system, with good fighting evil, light opposed to darkness, and all of this played out within a profoundly mythic background. Of course, all that is needed is some kind of messiah or deliverer and you have the basic structure of a monotheistic cult. Because such a mythic structure speaks directly to the emotions and even one’s soul it is able to resist any kind of reason or rational exhortation. It becomes an enclosed religious creed that powerfully motivates one’s actions and sustains itself through circular reasoning and the denial of detracting truths. It is a system that confers power and authority on those who participate in it, since such members represent an elite group who are seeking to impose on their nation or society a final solution to all of its supposed problems.

When you think about the various elements of the mythic foundation of fascism, you can see just how intoxicating it is, and how difficult it is for the rest of society to uproot or eliminate. Like an evil weed, it is pernicious and continually threatening to grow and expand its influence. People who feel powerless, nostalgic for a fallen past and alienated by the chaotic nature of diversity are the kinds of people who will gravitate to fascism. Myth is a powerful anodyne to an emotional and psychic crisis. Since we live during a time that represents the end of traditional society and values, more people are investing in mythic perspectives to heal and empower themselves. All magicians engage in this activity as a matter of course, however, only some seek to empower themselves at the expense of everyone else. That is an important difference between those individuals who are seeking to enlighten themselves and the world at large, and those who are just seeking to empower themselves and the specific psychic clan to which they belong.

Groups that espouse fascism sometimes are difficult to identify if they are not engaging in obvious racism or cultural imperialism in the public arena. They can sometimes share the same attributes as those who would be classified as a cult, since such groups often become cults at some point. Certain qualities that would classify an occult order as being fascist would be:

  • Strict differentiation between members and outside “others,”
  • Initiation that confers personal racial, religious or cultural redemption,
  • Participation in a mythic battle for racial, religious or cultural rebirth,
  • Nostalgia for spiritual and cultural antecedents,
  • Charismatic leader invested with a savior role,
  • Unquestioned adherence and obedience to authority,
  • Maintenance of internal secrecy and conspiratory beliefs,
  • Group empowerment and the suppression of individual identity.    

As you can see from this list, such a group might be easily identifiable to outsiders, but then again it might be quite hidden or subtle. Certainly, few individuals would be interested in giving up their freedom and individuality to be a member of this kind of group. However, such a group would maintain a very reasonable facade to outsiders, and only the inner-most members would be fully aware of what was really going on. It is a gradual process of assimilation that begins with a seemingly reasonable perspective. The mythic elements that such a group would employ to attract certain individuals would be seductive, and once fully engaged it would be tough to undo the deep level of imprinting and brainwashing that members have undergone.

What can anyone do about such groups or individuals when discovered in our communities? What can we do to arm ourselves against such seductive romantic notions that fascism appears to use to attract the alienated and disaffected? I have found that “shining a light” on such groups and individuals is the quickest way to damage their effectiveness. We do have an extensive social media at our disposal and an internet, so questioning someone or some group is the first step to nullifying the effects of fascism in our community.

You don’t have to be rude or start out by accusing someone of being a fascist. However, if someone is making a lot of racist statements or behaving like a bigot then don’t be afraid to call them on it. Keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to change their minds since they have become wired to respond exclusively to their own form of motivational reasoning. You can refuse to deal with them and can reject them socially once it is clear that they are actually expressing views and opinions that are fascist. As for what we can do to arm ourselves against fascism? Here are some important considerations to think about if you ever feel alienated or somehow threatened by what is happening in your world, and you start feeling inclined to promote some kind of final solution.

  1. There is no Golden Age - things were never better in the past. They were just different.
  2. There is no such thing as purity in race, culture or religion. Diversity is good, both genetically and culturally. We are part of one species.
  3. There is no group or organization with a monopoly on truth. There is no hidden organization of elites who can transform your life if you give up your freedom and autonomy.
  4. No single leader or authority figure can help you change and master your life. Only you can do that.
  5. Democracy is better than tyranny. Rule of law is better than anarchy. Consensus is better than coercion. Peace is superior to conflict. Love is the ultimate self-government.
  6. Cooperative efforts are longer lasting and more satisfying for the group and the individual.
  7. You are not alone and your troubles are not unique.
  8. Learn to listen to others. Be open minded and maintain curiosity.
  9. The only conspiracy that is lasting is the conspiracy of one individual - the rest ultimately fail or never occurred. World conspiracy is an oxymoron.
  10. Respect the dignity of others and you will gain their respect in turn.  

These are my ten conceptual remedies to fascism, but I am certain that you could probably add a lot more. We live in a pluralistic society that is full of diversity; this is also true regarding occultism, alternative religions and the practice of magic. It is a fact of our lives, and it has been a reality in our nation since its inception. There never was a period of homogeneity in our country and I think that is good thing. We are a nation of immigrants and we live in a culture that is a fusion and a patchwork amalgamation of many cultures, ideals and beliefs. We haven’t suffered because of this seemingly chaotic intermingling; in fact it gives us our strength, resilience, and the ability to constantly reinvent ourselves. Our country is diversity itself, but we can, when required, work together as one people. That, by itself, represents the beauty of our culture and our system of government.

Frater Barrabbas

4 comments:

  1. Excellent article about fascism! Thank you for taking the time to write it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Frater Barrabbas!

    Thank you for the article - very good and timely as we enter an age where again more right wing ideologies are merging with populism and personality cults.
    "Love is the ultimate self-government" that is a great phrase!

    ReplyDelete
  3. While there is a certain amount of truth to the much-repeated formula that "fascism was a reaction against liberal democracy", it is also (and probably more importantly) true that fascism was actual a direct consequence of the popular democracy. That's because fascism was a genuinely mass movement. Any "fascism" that doesn't have the support of millions of people isn't really fascism. Fascism isn't an idea - it is a social phenomenon - and as a social phenomenon it only exists when it is a truly mass popular movement. This is important because otherwise we find ourselves trying to concoct various ideological litmus tests to guard ourselves against crypto-fascists lurking under the bed-sheets. Real fascism does not hide in the corners pretending to be something else. It goose-steps down the street in broad daylight - proudly proclaiming it's ideas and it's goals. Hunting for supposed crypto-fascists has become too much of an obsession among modern Pagans and Occultists. There are real honest-to-Gods white supremacists who call themselves Heathens - but these are easy to spot. These are the ones openly promulgating racist ideas and braking bread with people like David Duke.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I don't agree - Fascism has always been the core movement of a minority. It only comes out in public when it is strong enough to influence and abrogate the power of the press. Then it is too powerful to easily defeat, since by controlling the media, it becomes a supposed popular movement.

    Fascism is a powerful emotional based political ideology - it is easy to be seduced by it and not so easy to fight it. Also, while fascist ideology is unpopular, it can be promoted secretly and discretely, using the techniques of crypto-fascism.

    Right now, the U.S. Republican Party is espousing an ideology that is a form of proto-fascism. It should be vigorously opposed by intellectuals, the political opposition, the press and members of the same party. It shouldn't have a place in the U.S. political discourse.

    I think that vigilance is not inappropriate, and it isn't paranoid to be suspicious of those who are espousing beliefs and sentiments that are on the cusp of fascist ideology. Call them out via social media and getting them to declare their true intentions is probably a good thing.

    If you read my article carefully you will see that fascism is a very attractive and seductive ideology. As long as people gravitate to authoritarianism and seek to retrieve a past golden epoch that they believe has been lost (by the actions of some targeted "other") we will be in danger from this ideology.

    ReplyDelete