‘God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms.’ — Nietzsche, The Gay Science.
‘In one period of experimentation with acid, Barrett and another friend, Paul Charrier, end up naked in the bath, reciting: “No rules, no rules”.’ – Manning, Toby (2006). The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd.
Ok here we go… I had a dream last night – I was in a large, old-fashioned wood-panelled library; on the wall was a painting of a mischievous looking wizard – in appearance something like a cross between Alan Watts and Gandalf as played by Sir Ian McKellen. He was winking. The painting was somehow alive, and I realised that he was watching me – I ducked under the large wooden table which occupied the centre of the room (not unlike the table in Da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper) and his eyes followed me down there. On waking, I realised that this paternal figure represented God and his omniscience – he knows everything we do, he is watching all the time, he knows when we’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake (or was that a different conditionally-loving Father-figure?).
So Nietzsche told us that God is dead, in other words: no one is watching us, there is no sin, no external judgement – this was his reaction to contemporary discoveries in science, in as much as we realised that any potential god is not to be found in the immediate physical vicinity. We know he is not sitting on a cloud just out of sight, and the theory of evolution means we can explain how we got here without an external Creator.
I am very fond of the YouTube videos of a man called Benjamin Smythe – he often repeats the phrase ‘No-one is coming’, by which I understand him to mean that no-one is coming to save us, we have to do it ourselves, but also that no-one is coming to judge us, we are free to do as we like.
The implications of this, if taken fully to heart, can be summed up in one word: freedom. But as the 70s jazz rocker Stomu Yamash’ta noted in an album title, ‘Freedom is Frightening’. It sure is – if we are alone here, and there really are no rules other than the ones we’ve created for ourselves, in other words the rules we more or less arbitrarily made up, and no-one is coming to save us, not Jesus, not the ETs, not Ronald Fuckin’ McDonald, then it’s basically all up for grabs – with all the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ consequences that implies (of course our notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ themselves are part of the made-up rules too).
So into the void of no-gods has stepped the modern technological secular state – in its unholy marriage with large corporations it is not (yet) omnipotent, but seems to regard itself as such to all intents and purposes, and it is certainly now taking king-sized steps towards omniscience – it is watching us all the time, as made overtly clear by the infamous, almost a parody of itself, GW Bush era logo of the Information Awareness Office project (presumably made secret and renamed PRISM after an unexpected public backlash into the idea of all communications being intercepted by the government):
I don’t want to go too far down the occult conspiracy theory rabbithole but as a sidenote ‘IAO’ was the name for a Crowleyan magickal formula for contacting one’s Holy Guardian Angel – without the obviously occultist logo I would have just dismissed that as a coincidence, but with it, there is ample backup for believing that this worldwide surveillance project was consciously intended as a kind of god-replacement. The slogan, Scientia est Potentia (Knowledge is Power) seems to add further weight to this – when we have the knowledge of Everything, we will be All Powerful. The eye in the pyramid is, in Masonic mythology, of course supposed to be that of the Architect of the Universe, i.e. God. The traditional geometrical shape for a PRISM is triangular (pyramid).
So… we feel lost and alone in the universe with no handed-down rules set in stone, and no-one looking out for us. Rather than rejoicing in the realisation that: there is no sin in reality, we are free, and choosing to evolve into a future where we recognise that we own our power and develop our powers of negotiation in order to improve the arbitrary rules by which we live, we choose to recreate the Nitzschean ‘shadow of God’, the judgemental patriarch who is always watching us, ready to reward the obedient with cheap credit, access to politicians, and all manner of toys, and damn the infidels with water cannons, tear gas -and if we really displease Him, rendition, secret prisons, and waterboarding.
I propose that it is our need for a Father figure that makes us unwilling to step out from under the shadow of God, but why do we feel this so deeply in our psyche? Is it because we have been conditioned to remain childlike and therefore feel abandoned without at least the illusion of someone watching over us?
The educational theorist John Taylor Gatto suggests that a conscious decision was taken when setting up the school system in the industrialised world to keep children infantilised for as long as possible:
‘Theorists from Plato to Rousseau to Frederick of Prussia knew and taught explicitly that if children could be kept childish beyond its term in nature, if they could be cloistered in a society of children without any real responsibility except obedience, if their inner lives could be attenuated by removing the insights of history, literature, philosophy, economics, religion, if the imminence of death and the certainty of pain and loss could be removed from daily consciousness, if the profound reflections on one’s own death could be replaced by the trivializing emotions of greed, envy, jealousy and fear, young people would grow older, but they would never grow up, and a great enduring problem of supervision would be solved, for who can argue against the truth that childish and childlike people are much easier to manage than critically trained, self-reliant, ones.‘
People in this state will, as a first resort, look ‘above’ themselves, appeal automatically to a ‘higher’ authority, whether it be God, teacher, parent, or government, to fix whatever problem they perceive is afflicting them. This has the effect of absolving them of any responsibility and they are able to ineffectually complain that ‘the powers that be’ are not helping them as they should be, rather than seeing what steps they themselves can take to improve the situation.
‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ is a hoary old maxim but we are potentially seeing a lot less invention and innovation than would otherwise be the case due to this deeply ingrained mindset of ‘someone else should fix this’. Add the apparent inherent distrust of innovation (outside of very narrowly corporate-defined boundaries) by those who seek to protect the status quo (it may introduce an element which will be difficult or even impossible to control) and this goes some way to explaining why humanity, despite the mind-blowing brain power available to it as a whole, continues to repeat the same elementary mistakes time and time again.
This may have a bearing on the need to protest loudly, but often apparently ineffectually, when the state does something we do not agree with. We believe that protesting in itself is sufficient to show that we have ‘done our bit’ to change things and when ‘the powers that be’ don’t listen to us we give up and sink back into a quiescent state, possibly sulky and resentful, but more or less like a child who has been forced to go to bed early against its will. Legal or other possible remedies requiring innovation or new ways of thinking remain unexplored, and the situation that has been oppressing us remains, to the benefit of the self-styled ‘powers that be’.
When people have taken all they can take from those ‘above’, the protests spill over into violence and ultimately revolution, with the oppressed becoming the oppressors and the game continuing as before (Orwell, genius that he was, of course explained this perfectly in ‘Animal Farm’). It is because we never question the game itself that we are compelled to keep playing it.
As a side note I would not include the Occupy movement and its offshoots in this criticism of protest – to me, it seemed that Occupy was never a protest, despite the at times superficial appearances, it was a simple re-taking of public space by the public. People who took part were accused, mostly by the corporate media, of having no agenda, no demands, but in fact it was too simple for them to grasp – the occupation of the Commons was itself the demand and its fulfilment. There was seemingly very little asking for favours from a perceived higher power; the power was assumed to already belong to the people and the gatherings were a demonstration of that already-existing state of affairs. This does seem to be a great evolutionary step and shows that despite everything, people may be waking up from the childlike state they have been programmed into by industrialised society and its schools.
Another facet of the planned prolongation of childhood is that we in the mechanised West are now lacking any sort of initiation rituals in our society. Until very recently in human history, all cultures had structured rituals which provided a demarcation point between the world and mindset of childhood and that of adulthood. This continues in the families of those who follow a religion of course, but the number of people who take the ritual seriously has of course dwindled almost to nothing, even if they still go through the motions. We grow up, reach puberty, grow adult bodies, but something in us feels like childhood has never really finished. I remember a friend of mine, aged maybe twenty one, deep in the throes of a psychedelic experience, exclaiming ‘I need to close the doors to my childhood’ – this has stuck with me over the years. We never definitively close those doors, make the mental jump from being a dependent being to one who expects, and is expected, to stand on his own two feet.
This may explain the fascination teenagers have with alcohol and drugs of all kinds – of course there comes a moment, due to their age, when they feel that have the keys to the medicine cabinet, figuratively (and maybe literally) speaking – but they are also creating their own rituals, their own rites of passage, after which they will never be the same again. I would however argue that these improvised rites, while maybe being better than nothing, have nowhere near the transformative power of socially sanctioned rituals which involve the whole family, and indeed the whole community. Teenagers may experiment with magic mushrooms or LSD but they know they are breaking the law by doing so in most countries; that this technology of transformation is frowned upon by society as a whole and very likely by their own parents. This produces a stunted rite, a passage into the world of criminality, a possible descent into an underworld of paranoia which may harm their self-esteem and produce a longing to return to the simple childlike state where they were absolved of responsibility. They may subsequently feel less able to deal with the demands of the adult world rather than empowered to do so, which surely is the intention of the properly structured coming-of-age ritual.
So in this way we end up with a society of people who are complete strangers to self-reliance, who don’t know how to move one foot in front of the other without asking for a permit to do so, who are constantly looking heavenwards to see if what they are doing is being approved of by ‘The Man Upstairs’, whether that be Father, Boss, God or Government. This is paradise itself for those for whom control over others is a drug of choice, although even these people have been bred to be the Controllers and are in fact just as much slaves as the rest of us; forced, often against their will, to be ‘leaders of men’ and the stifling role which that presupposes.
Joanna Harcourt-Smith, the writer and podcaster (formerly known as the girlfriend of Dr. Timothy Leary) mentioned in one of her podcasts that in the ‘upper class’ Swiss family in which she was brought up (she was the stepdaughter of wealthy financier Arpad Plesch), it was considered proper to brutalise children so that they might grow up to be without compassion and therefore better suited to the future that awaited them as ‘leaders of men’. I found this text online which is attributed to her:
‘Much later, I was to learn that my family had a complete lack of values, their genetic memories of belonging burnt away by greed and hatred through the brain damage that occurs from not receiving the proper kind of care and loving in infancy. Generations of neglect by parents for their young had created a group of ruthless monsters that by the year 2000 were to rule the world spreading famine and disease throughout the African continent, extreme poverty to South America while the other animal worlds disappeared at an alarming speed…’.
Of course Joanna ultimately reacted against this state of affairs in the strongest possible terms, by becoming Leary’s partner in the various adventures they shared together in Europe and eventually being kidnapped with him by the CIA in Afghanistan.
In this way, we see that the ‘elite’, the ‘1%’, the ‘powers that be’ are brought up to consider compassion a weakness almost from birth. Theirs is a Darwinian universe where only the strongest survive, and they propagate this world view throughout society via the media that they own. If you are ‘poor’ you are a ‘loser’ – you need to work harder, use more of your precious time on this planet to gather the tokens known as money and then spend them on items which will increase your social standing and thereby immunise you from the dread tag of ‘loser’. People don’t buy the latest iPhone despite the fact that they don’t need it, they buy it because they don’t need it – they feel they have to show that they have enough money that they can afford to waste it on something that is just a slightly different iteration of a thing they already have.
There seems to be a feeling that ‘the hard reality’ is that which is measured in dollars and cents and everything else is just a refusal to face the truth. In fact, as with almost everything in our Through the Looking Glass society, this is a complete reversal of the truth – money and social status represent utter chimeras, always promising more than they can deliver. We are always on the edge of the ‘big breakthrough’ and will remain so until our hopes of finding fulfilment in this way are ultimately dashed, as they certainly will be.
Life is now, no-one is coming, this is it. There is no big breakthrough worth waiting for, this is just the dream of salvation, the messiah, big brother, the fake Hope and Change promised by all politicians, keeping us entranced like children in a fairy tale, always looking upward for answers…. not realising that we are the answer, in all our ordinariness and extraordinariness, right now, this moment – we are life itself and have no need for God or Big Brother.