Becoming a Star: Philosophy, star-worship and the death of the Body
Shamanism and Ancient Egypt
In considering the relationships between Plato, shamanism and ancient Egypt, I am going to be questioning some deep-seated assumptions held both within Egyptology and in the history of ideas, which also extend to our current understanding of the western esoteric tradition. I believe these assumptions need to be questioned because the relationships of Plato, shamanism and ancient Egypt to each other are far more intimate and profound than one might at first suppose. By understanding the nature of these relationships, it may become possible to gain further insight not only into Platonism but also into that deep current of thought and spiritual practice known as the Hermetic tradition.
First of all, let me say that by ‘shamanism’ I mean a form of mysticism and mystical experience, typical of archaic spirituality. While of course shamanism may be approached as a sociological phenomenon of tribal societies, its specifically religious dimension is what concerns me here. Understood in this religious sense, not only is there a great deal in common between shamanism and ancient Egyptian religion, but a shamanic element could be said to be absolutely intrinsic to Egyptian religion.
Can the Theories of McGilchrist and Žižek Help in Understanding and Responding to Ideological Influences on the Delivery of Psycho-Social Care?
Introduction: McGilchrist, Zizek and Healthcare
This article developed from my work as a psychotherapist and manager within the National Health Service (NHS) from 2008 to 2017. It is a response to the ideologies influencing those areas of health policy which are related to emotional wellbeing through the United Kingdom’s statutory health services.
My work has been based on the theory put forward by McGilchrist in The Master and His Emissary (2009) that traits associated with the natural functioning of the human brain’s left hemisphere, which have evolved to enable us to analyse and manipulate the world around us, also have a propensity to distort the ways in which people mutually interact with their cultures over time. McGilchrist’s book covers two main themes: the neurology of the brain hemispheres and the cultural influence that arises from this interaction. He proposes that when they are unchecked by the moderating effect of the right hemisphere, the left hemisphere traits have an undue influence which is reflected in deleterious effects upon people and their culture.
McGilchrist explores many cultural aspects but he does not include an overall sociological viewpoint from which to study the wider societal impact of his theory, and it is here that I turn to the work of Žižek, who writes extensively about ideology as well as many of the problems confronting societies today, such as subjectivity, capitalism, human migration and social exclusion.
What’s Missing?: What Michael Jackson, Wade Robson, and James Safechuck reveal about Childhood, Sexuality, and the Entertainment Industry
Introduction: Leaving Neverland
‘Never Leaving Neverland’ might’ve been a better title for this recent high-profile HBO documentary, given its relentless focus on the Neverland ranch as the sole cause of Wade Robson and James Safechuck’s later mental health difficulties.
Michael Jackson and Wade Robson
The exhaustive 4-hour documentary explores allegations made by Robson and Safechuck that they were sexually abused as children by the singer Michael Jackson. Robson and Safechuck are clearly articulate and thoughtful people, which lends their allegations initial credibility and persuasiveness.
But the documentary is equally striking for its one-sidedness, as many commentators (from Rolling Stone to Entertainment Weekly) note. “They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations. The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred.” It’s certainly striking that in 2009 Wade wrote that Jackson was ”one of the main reasons I believe in the pure goodness of human kind”, given what he now claims. His earlier court statements absolutely denying any sexual wrong-doing on the part of Jackson are as convincing as his later statements that Jackson was, in fact, a serial paedophile.
Vala’s Reich: The Idealisation of Nature and the Denigration of Humanity
It may come as a surprise to learn that the history of ecological politics has not always been inherently and necessarily progressive and benign. In fact, ecological ideas have a history of being distorted and placed in the service of highly regressive ends — even of fascism itself. As this article shows, important tendencies in German “ecologism,” which has long roots in nineteenth-century nature mysticism, fed into the rise of Nazism in the twentieth century.
During the Third Reich, Nazi “ecologists” even made organic farming, vegetarianism, nature worship, and related themes into key elements not only in their ideology but in their governmental policies. Moreover, Nazi “ecological” ideology was used to justify the destruction of European Jewry. Yet some of the themes that Nazi ideologists articulated bear an uncomfortably close resemblance to themes familiar to ecologically concerned people today.
Revelation as Revolution
Introduction: Politics and Vision
In the book by EO Abbott called Flatland: a Romance of Many Dimensions, ‘A Square’ tries to persuade his fellow two-dimensional beings – triangles, hexagons, and so on – that other dimensions are possible. William Blake lived in a four-dimensional moral world, and for that reason he was considered quite mad by ordinary citizens. He did not agree with them and is reported to have told a friend: ‘There are probably men shut up as mad in bedlam who are not so; that possibly the madmen outside have shut up the sane people.’
The Fall of Eternity into Materialism
America: An Essay in Art History, by Jacob Rabinowitz: please click on the video above
The following is a written transcript of the visual commentary above on Blake’s great poem America a Prophecy. The text is offered merely for the convenience of those who are interested in the video, or who would like to cite quotations directly from Rabinowitz’s illuminating take on this remarkable work, which as the video notes is one of “the most visually appealing of all his illuminated books”.
Recognising ourselves in Nature
Vogel’s work is one of the best accounts, and critical interrogations, of the concept of ‘Nature’ ever written. Its thoughtful and careful analysis of this complex and ambiguous concept makes you realise how crude and incoherent many of our contemporary discussions of Nature are. This is really environmental and philosophical thinking on a new level of precision and engagement, and is equally important for its revelatory implications for our understanding of ‘natural science’ both as a practice and an epistemological attitude towards the world, showing how what we call science is less an unproblematic description of an objective world and more a social product or construction shaped by ideology and concealed assumptions about the status of the ‘observer’. Indeed, he suggests that one of the points or byproducts of the concept of ‘Nature’ is precisely to naturalise these ideological and socially informed ways of thinking and relating to the world.
How Late Capitalism Writes Itself Into Nature
‘David’, an ageing patriarch whose time at the top is nearly over and who is clearly anxious about challenges from his younger rivals and concerned with his legacy, narrates this compelling programme about ‘David’, an ageing patriarch whose time at the top is nearly over and who is clearly anxious about challenges from his younger rivals and concerned with his legacy.
The BBC’s new block-buster, Dynasties, can perhaps best be seen as an impressive and timely reflection of the unconscious concerns and obsessions of late capitalism – as Marx presciently observed, ‘The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas’ (e.g. ideas of power, dominance, hierarchy, survival as telos, become ‘naturalised’), and nowhere is this unconscious dynamic seen more clearly than in the dominant ideas of environmentalism.
How to Enter the Kingdom of Heaven: William Blake and the Erotic Imagination
When I first Married you, I gave you all my whole Soul
I thought that you would love my loves & joy in my delights
Seeking for pleasures in my pleasures, O Daughter of Babylon
Then thou wast lovely, mild & gentle, now thou art terrible
In jealousy & unlovely in my sight, because thou hast cruelly
Cut off my loves in fury till I have no love left for thee.
Thy love depends on him thou lovest & on his dear loves
Depend thy pleasures which thou hast cut off by jealousy.
— Milton (1804-10), plate 33
In 1863 Alexander Gilchrist corrected the claim made by J.T. Smith, a friend of Blake, that the artist and “his beloved Kate” lived in “uninterrupted harmony”. Such harmony there really was; but it had not always been unruffled. There had been stormy times in years long past, when both were young; discord by no means trifling while it lasted. But with the cause (jealousy on her side, not wholly unprovoked), the strife had ceased also. Read More
Consciousness and Revolution
The previous post reprinted Blake’s Europe a prophecy, written shortly after the French Revolution and depicting the political and psychological womb out of which it emerged. His illustrations and text are dense, poetic, and richly ambiguous. Here I unpack some of the main themes of the poem, which revolve around Blake’s critique of materialism, and explore the psychological subtext of the poem. As Paley notes, the function of the prophetic form for Blake was “to expose the otherwise hidden motives and consequences of human decisions”. Blake’s concept of ‘prophecy’ is therefore a form of political psychoanalysis, a powerful new way of going under the skin of contemporary events and accessing the deep psychological and sexual dynamics that lie behind both religious and political structures. This superimposition of different fields of reference (simultaneously political, sexual, religious, psychological) is one of the things that makes Blake’s works so striking and distinct, as well as so dense and multivalent. It is also a feature of his thinking that he has in common with modern psychoanalytic approaches. As Adam Phillips notes:
You can only understand anything that matters — dreams, neurotic symptoms, literature — by overinterpreting it; by seeing it from different aspects as the product of multiple impulses. Authority wants to replace the world with itself. Overinterpretation means not being stopped in your tracks by what you are most persuaded by; it means assuming that to believe one interpretation is to radically misunderstand the object one is interpreting, and indeed interpretation itself.
Blake located the source of contemporary struggle in a specific complex of psycho-social structures and dynamics, which we still see being played out and repeated in contemporary European politics. Until we learn to understand and recognise these processes, Blake believed, we will be doomed to repeat the same underlying cycle again and again: a world where revolution becomes simply endless re-cycling.