Schizophrenia, Spaceboys, and the Spiders from Mars
The death of David Bowie in 2016 revived both intense media interest in his work and astonishing creative legacy and also a plethora of unthinking and misleading cliches about who he was and what he signified. Foremost amongst these was the description of him as some kind of alien being, or “mysterious extraterrestrial”: “40 years ago, in millions of living rooms across the British isles,” one hagiographic BBC documentary started, “a strange alien creature was beamed onto our television screens”. Online and newspaper headlines were full of references to Starmen, Spaceboys, The Man who Fell to Earth – but there was very little attempt to explore or decode these references or to consider their psychological significance.
“This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism” – Einstein
Albert Einstein wrote Why Socialism? for the first issue of the journal Monthly Review. In the article he analyses the structures and processes of capitalism, noting that the profit motive of a capitalist society, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, leads to erratic economic cycles of booms and depressions, while also promoting selfishness instead of cooperation. He suggests that the educational system of such a society would be severely undermined because people will educate themselves only to advance their careers. According to Einstein, this leads to both the “crippling of individuals” and the erosion of human creativity. Einstein also saw that in capitalist societies, political parties and politicians are inevitably corrupted by financial contributions made by owners of large capital amounts, with the result that the system “cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society”. For these reasons, he concludes, socialism is not only socially desirable but also historically inevitable.
The Story of Kids Company and the Centre for Policy Studies
This month marks the third anniversary of the closure of the children’s charity Kids Company. The charity had been forced to close in 2015 following allegations of serious sexual abuse broadcast by BBC’s Newsnight programme, and stories of “gross financial mismanagement”, led by the Spectator magazine, including mismanagement of a £3 million grant given to the charity shortly before it closed. A subsequent investigation by the Metropolitan Police into the allegations of sexual and physical abuse that were aired so sensationally by Newsnight however found “no evidence of criminality” and no fault with the charity’s safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. In 2017 the courts finally confirmed that the £3million grant that had been given to the charity did not have to be returned, and that the terms of the grant had not been breached by the charity. But by then the doors were closed and the charity in liquidation.
BBC Newsnight’s damaging report was instrumental in the destruction of the children’s charity, as the Parliamentary Enquiry into the Collapse of Kids Company noted: “The charity closed on 5 August 2015, following the launch of a police investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at the charity.”
Mystical Islam: Integrating the Left and the Right
The original post exploring the ’40 Rules of Love’ by the great Persian mystic and Sufi, Shams Tabrizi, has been the most viewed of all the posts on The Human Divine. The earlier blog, which is available here, only covers the first ten of the ‘rules’ though, so here’s the next ten of his observations, a continuation and elaboration of his teachings.
Blake on the Move
For those in cars, planes and fast trains, here’s three excellent audio podcasts giving an overview to Blake’s life and works. The programmes include interviews with top Blake scholars such as Northrop Frye, Kathleen Raine and Gerald Bentley, and excellent readings from Blake’s own poetry and letters.
Prophecy and Social Change: the Unacknowledged Legislators, the Watchmen, and the Prophets
A prophet, Shelley once observed, is someone who can see into the present. And like all great poets, he added, they not only see – they communicate, they rage, and they galvanise, and in this role they’ve traditionally presented a major problem for the ruling elites. As Andrew O. Winckles notes in this compelling article, prophets have always told it like it is, spoken truth to power, and their main object of scorn and anger has usually been the elites themselves. It’s a tradition that political and religious authorities have always found uncomfortable, always sought to silence, for what the prophets say fundamentally challenges the authority of their rule and lays bare its usurping, brutalising character.
Awakening from the Material Body
The central idea of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, to put it crudely, is that the unrest which has produced the French and American revolutions indicates that the end of the world might come at any time. The end of the world, the apocalypse, is the objective counterpart of the resurrection of man, his return to the titanic bodily form he originally possessed. When we say that man has fallen, we mean that his soul has collapsed into the form of the body in which he now exists.
Freemasonry, Illuminism, and the New Jerusalem
If the philosophy of Immanuel Kant is now studied worldwide, the current climate of philosophical investigation ignores the mystical thinker Emanuel Swedenborg – at best relegating him to footnote status. But towards the end of the eighteenth century, the interest in Swedenborg among intellectuals was immense; his writings “made a lot of noise in the speculative world,” as the leading journal on esoteric matters, The Conjuror’s Magazine, commented in 1791. Kant even felt compelled to respond to Swedenborg in Dreams of a Spirit-Seer (1766). Swedenborg’s teaching became the main substance of the occult revival in the late eighteenth century, and his ideas have had a lasting appeal as a source of inspiration to many intellectuals who were not converts, such as Lavater, Goethe, Coleridge, Emerson, Balzac, Baudelaire, Whitman, Melville, Henry James, and, not least, the poet and painter William Blake, on whom the essay at hand will focus.
How to create and live in a free society
The English poet and painter William Blake (1757-1827) left a body of breathtaking art and stirring, sometimes obscure poetry, much of it concerned with religion and much with the revolutionary struggles of his time—the American and French revolutions, the British radical movement of the 1790s, and later, the growing British labour and constitutional movement in the years 1810-1820. Blake’s major poems—which are also beautiful artworks incorporating his own illustrations—include those collected in Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1789-1794); short narrative works like The Book of Urizen, America a Prophecy, and Europe a Prophecy, all written in the 1790s; and three long, complex narrative poems, The Four Zoas (1797-1807), Milton (1804-1818), and Jerusalem (1804-1820). This article is about Blake’s idea of Jesus and its relation to revolutionary anarchism.