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News from Nowhere
14 Jun 2022 | 10:29 pm

A Vision of the Future: Jewish Mysticism in the Twenty-First Century


TO a large extent, the steady advance of materialism, scepticism and atheism in the modern world has seen the gradual withdrawal of the Jewish mystic, and whilst these visionaries were once fairly commonplace within their respective communities they are now part of a religious dimension that, for outsiders, is becoming increasingly more difficult to penetrate. As one writer has observed, the

Jewish mystical path is long, arduous, austere, joyous, isolated and communal, ethereal and earthly all at once. For two thousand years it was plagued by charlatanism from within and hostility from without; in modern times it has virtually disappeared. [1]

Perhaps, amid a vast proliferation of New Age claptrap, one of the few interesting sources of Jewish mysticism in the twenty-first century comes to us in the shape of Sanford L. Drob.

An accomplished psychologist, philosopher and artist, Drob is currently based at the Fielding Graduate University in California and has produced some outstanding work on the relationship between Lurianic Kabbalah and various forms of Western thought. Not only has Drob capably demonstrated that Isaac Luria's (1534-1572) ideas can be linked with Neoplatonism, Advaita Vedanta and Zen Buddhism, but also Western thinkers such as G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854) and Hector Sabelli (1937-2012).

Using his theoretical and practical knowledge of psychology, Drob has discovered that each of these seemingly disparate scraps of philosophy and spirituality contain a common thread and that it is possible to unite them beneath the banner of what Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) described as the coincidentia oppositorum. As Drob explains:

It is important to state from the outset that the notion of the coincidence of opposites, if brought to its logical conclusion, requires that we consider even the most general philosophical oppositions to be interdependent ideas. This includes, as Jung noted, oppositions related to the coincidence of opposites itself. Thus the idea that philosophical oppositions are in coincidentia oppositorum is complemented by and interdependent with the notion that such oppositions are in conflict. While this leads to a contradiction – i.e. that the interdependence of opposites leads to a conclusion that the opposites are distinct and not interdependent – this contradiction (like other philosophical contradictions) is not fatal to the coincidentia idea but essential to it. [2]

What this process achieves, therefore, is a dissolution of opposites through which it becomes possible to formulate both a view of reality and a unification at the level of the Absolute.

As far as Jewish mysticism is concerned, this idea can be seen in the work of the first Rebbe, Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812):

[Looking] upwards from below, as it appears to eyes of flesh, the tangible world seems to be Yesh and a thing, while spirituality, which is above, is an aspect of Ayin (nothingness). [But looking] downwards from above the world is an aspect of Ayin, and everything which is linked downwards and descends lower and lower is more and more Ayin and is considered as naught truly as nothing and null. [Looking] upwards from below, as it appears to eyes of flesh, the tangible world seems to be Yesh and a thing, while spirituality, which is above, is an aspect of Ayin (nothingness). [But looking] downwards from above the world is an aspect of Ayin, and everything which is linked downwards and descends lower and lower is more and more Ayin and is considered as naught truly as nothing and null. [3]

What Zalman means by this, is that the Kabbalistic principles of Yesh (being) and Ayin (nothingness) represent a complementarity of opposites in the sense that looking upwards from the earthly realm seems to offer a radically different perspective to that of the downward interpretation of the Divine and yet they form part of the same interdependent system. Jung's psychological approach, then, is a modern echo of the early Hasidic understanding of Kabbalah.

Zalman's son, Rabbi Dov Baer (1704-1772), believed that everything derives its nature and power from that which is opposite to itself:

For the principle point of divine completeness is that […] in every thing is its opposite and […] that all its power truly comes from the opposing power. [4]

Later Hasidics, like Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson (1880-1950), continued the tradition of the coincidentia oppositorum by insisting that day and night are both part of the overall experience of the 'day' itself. He compared this to the complementarity that exists between aspects of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, such as Chesed (kindness) and Gevurah (judgement).

Drob finds traces of this dialectical idea in one or two of the German Idealists and Hegelian philosophy, in particular, bears a remarkable similarity with the teachings of Kabbalah. This is what Hegel has to say in his Science of Logic, which was published between 1812 and 1816:

Speculative thought […] consists solely in grasping the opposed moments in their unity. Inasmuch as each moments shows, as a matter of fact, that it has its opposite in it, and that in this opposite it rejoins itself, the affirmative truth is this internally self-moving unity, the grasping together of both thoughts… [5]

By utilising the work of Hegel and other nineteenth-century examples in which the timeless principle of the coincidential oppositorum is at work, both Hasidic and philosophical alike, Drob relates them to the studies of Carl Jung. We know that the Swiss psychologist had an interest in Jewish mysticism from a February 1954 letter that he sent to a Wesleyan reverend by the name of Erastus Evans (1902-1969), in which he mentions that he had recently discovered the Kabbalistic ideas of Shevirat ha-Kelim and Tikkun ha-Olam:

In a tract of the Lurianic Kabbalah, the remarkable idea is developed that man is destined to become God's helper in the attempt to restore the vessels which were broken when God thought to create a world. Only a few weeks ago, I came across this impressive doctrine which gives meaning to man's status exalted by the incarnation. I am glad that I can quote at least one voice in favour of my rather involuntary manifesto. [6]

Despite the fact that Jung was not familiar with the Hebrew language, towards the end of his life he took a deep interest in both Lurianic Kabbalah and the Christian Kabbalah of Christian Knorr Von Rosenroth. Indeed, in his Mysterium Coniunctionis (1954) Jung discusses the Kabbalah in some depth and refers to the Tree of Life, Adam Kadmon and the Shekhinah. He is then able to relate these concepts to his own psychological archetypes, something the Hasidim were never able to do prior to the development of psychology itself. Jung even claims that he had a series of visions inspired by the Safed mystic, Moses Cordovero (1522-1570), and was also in possession of material by Rabbi Joseph ben Abraham Gikatilla (1248-1305) that focussed on one of Jung's own chief interests: dreams.

It was Jung's immense fascination with Gnosticism which finally led him in the direction of Issac Luria and other Kabbalists, but there had always been something lacking in his earlier work. As Drob explains:

The major difference is that Gnosticism has no equivalent concept or symbol for the Kabbalistic notion of Tikkun ha-Olam, the restoration of the world. As we have seen, for the Gnostics (as well as for Jung in the Septem Sermones), the goal of spiritual life is not a restoration, but an escape from what they regard to be this worthless, evil world. The Gnostic identifies with the divine spark within the self in order to transcend the physical self and the material world. The Kabbalist holds a radically different view. Although there are also escapist or "Gnostic" trends within the Kabbalah, the majority of Kabbalists held that the realization of the divine spark both in the person and the material world, brings about an elevation, restoration and spiritualization of the individual and the environment. In Gnosticism the world is escaped, in the Kabbalah it is elevated and restored. The latter view is one that is much more congenial to Jungian psychology, not only on the obvious principle that for Jung life in this world, and the world itself, is worthwhile, but also with respect to the (less obvious) psychological interpretation which Jung places on the Gnostic myths. [7]

Interestingly, just as the coincidentia oppositorum results in a form of completion, so too was Jung's own work greatly enhanced by his belated familiarity with Jewish mysticism. Psychologically, Kabbalah actually solves the dangerous problem of the multiple self by encouraging a dialectics in which our perceived opposites are incorporated within the sanctity of our own being. This imitates Kabbalah in respect of unifying the Four Worlds of Atziluth, Beri'ah, Yetzirah and Assiah that were first discussed in the mystical writings of the Merkabah-Hekhalot literature. Ultimately, the result is what Jung describes as individuation and it is through the sterling efforts of Sanford L. Drob that these important associations are finally beginning to come to light.

Although my own 2019 work, Jewish Mysticism, dealt with the Jewish mystical tradition and its path from the early days of paganism and Biblical prophecy right through to modern Kabbalah, it must also be seen in a wider perspective and, as Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi (1933-2020) rightly states:

The Work of Unification must involve contact with other spiritual traditions. At this level the outer forms of worship become less important: mystics meet in a spiritual World that is above form. A Jewish Kabbalist might converse with a Muslim Sufi or a Christian contemplative and discover the same reality beneath differing theories and practices. This unity at the spiritual level does not mean that the outer form of a tradition is redundant – each religion has its role to play – but that all human begins are made in the same Divine image. [8]

This coming-together of the Sacred and Profane is a perfect fulfilment of the Hermetic maxim 'as above, so below' and finally brings Jewish mysticism out of the shadows and into the wider domain of what is known as the philosophia perennis. Indeed, perhaps one day Luria and others will be discussed alongside scholars of Comparative Religion like Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) and Georges Dumézil (1898-1986), not to mention Traditionalist School aficionados such as René Guenon (1886-1951), Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998), Ananda Coomaraswamy (1877-1947), Julius Evola (1898-1974) and others.

Notes:

1. Frank, Adolphe; The Kabbalah: The Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews (Lyle Stuart, 1977), p.193.

2. Drob, Sanford L.; Archetypes of the Absolute: The Unity of Opposites in Mysticism, Philosophy and Psychology (Fielding Graduate University, 2017), p.26.

3. Zalman, Schneur; Likutei Torah, Devarim, quoted in Rachel Elior's The Paradoxical Ascent to God: The Kabbalistic Theosophy of Habad Hasidim (State University of New York Press, 1973), pp.137-8.

4. Baer, Dov; Ner Mitzvah ve-Torah Or, II, quoted in Rachel Elior's The Paradoxical Ascent to God: The Kabbalistic Theosophy of Habad Hasidim (State University of New York Press, 1973), p.64.

5. Hegel, G.W.F.; Science of Logic (Cambridge University Press, 2010), p.122.

6. Jung, C.G.; Letters, Volume 2 (Princeton University Press, 1973), p.157.

7. Drob, Sanford L.; "Jung and the Kabbalah" in History of Psychology, Volume 2, Number 2 (1997).

8. Halevi, Z'ev Ben Shimon; Kabbalah: Tradition of Hidden Knowledge (Thames & Hudson, 1979), p.92.

News from Nowhere
12 Jun 2022 | 11:19 pm

Kabbalah for Gentiles: The Wider Influence of Jewish Mysticism


WHEN Moses de León (1240-1305) was said to have produced the Sefer ha-Zohar at the end of the thirteenth century, with much of the text bearing the scholarly hallmarks of Simeon bar Yochai (d. 160), it was inevitable that news of this hugely important Kabbalistic work would extend far beyond the borders of the Crown of Castile. More unexpected, however, was the fact that its secrets would fall into non-Jewish hands. Adolphe Franck notes that the

rabbinate has for a long time perceived this danger; many rabbis have evinced their hostility to the study of the Kabbalah, while others protect it even today as the holy ark, as the entrance to the Holy of Holies, to keep the profane away. [1]

Given the immense influence of Greek Neoplatonism on Jewish mysticism, it is perhaps unsurprising that Jews themselves would inadvertently reciprocate by sending their own spiritual and philosophical ideas back in the opposite direction. The first of the Gentiles to recognise the great value of the Kabbalah was Ramon Llull (1232-1315), a Franciscan monk from the Kingdom of Majorca. Despite having no Kabbalistic pretensions of his own, Llull used its ideas as a means of converting Jews to Catholicism by engaging them in debate and thus seeking to play them at their own game. Given the rising hostility that Spanish Jews were beginning to face at the time, something that would eventually develop into full-blown religious and ethnic persecution, Llull hoped to convince some of the more influential Jewish scholars to embrace a more rational and considered form of Christianity.

Ironically, once Llull had used Kabbalah in his efforts to seduce Jews into the Church a number of Judeo-Spanish conversos tried to contribute to this process in the period between Llull's own century and the 1492 Expulsion. Rather than risk upsetting the authorities by returning to Judaism, they hoped to retain some of their former beliefs by promoting a Christian Kabbalah.

One Spanish converso, Abner of Burgos (1270-1347), who was inspired to join the Church after experiencing a vision in which crosses began appearing on his clothes, used Kabbalah as a means of undermining those who continued to follow the Jewish faith. At first, Abner tried to entice those who had recently become disillusioned after a failed attempt to form a messianic movement in Avila and this was followed by a series of polemical works in which scores of Talmudic and Midrashic sources were used to demonstrate the truth of the Christian message. His Moreh Zedek ('Teacher of Righteousness') remains one of the most out-and-out assaults on Judaism that was produced during the Early Medieval period. The fact that it contains so much detailed information about the various Jewish sects and their theological differences – including discussions on Kabbalah – meant that this sensitive information was now beginning to enter into the Gentile domain.

By the the fifteenth century, Renaissance figures such as Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) were beginning to familiarise themselves with Jewish mystical teachings. Between 1480 and 1482, when Pico was studying at the University of Padua, he had the chance to study both Hebrew and Aramaic with a Jewish manuscript specialist called Elia del Medigo (1458-1493) and this stood him in good stead for his later work. After a stay in Florence, Pico decided to travel to Rome and was almost killed when he tried to run off with the wife of someone in the notorious Medici family. Nursing his injuries in the Perugian municipality of Fratta Todina, Pico was overjoyed when a collection of rare texts fell into his hands. Many were Chaldean oracles, but others concerned the Kabbalah and he discusses these in depth in the controversial '900 Theses' that were published in December 1486 as Conclusiones philosophicae, cabalasticae et theologicae. Such is the heretical nature of these documents, that the following year Pico's exploits upset Pope Innocent VIII (1432-1492) and a total of thirteen theses were officially condemned by the Church. Nonetheless, both as a result of his breathtaking research and his attempt to forge a profound religious syncretism based on Platonism, Neo-platonism, Aristotelianism, Hermeticism and Kabbalah, Pico is today viewed as the first Christian Kabbalist. As we shall see, in the seventeenth century his ideas were adopted by Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680), who discussed Kabbalah in his Oedipus Aegyptiacus (1652).

Another of Pico's posthumous disciples was Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522). Born in the Black Forest city of Pforzheim, Reuchlin's father had been an official at a Dominican monastery and thus he had become familiar with modes of deep religiosity at a very young age. Proficient in Latin and Aristotelian philosophy, Reuchlin became a keen student of Hebrew and used it to further his knowledge of ancient Christian literature. Despite his own regular use of Latin, he believed that the Hebrew Bible was fundamentally superior to that of the Latin Vulgate and it was this higher degree of scriptural reliability that interested him most. For a more concise understanding of Christianity, therefore, it was necessary to study the Jewish texts.

Examining the work of the medieval rabbi, David Kimhi (1160-1235), in 1506 Reuchlin produced a grammar and lexicon called De Rudimentis Hebraicis. Before long, he had immersed himself in some of the later Kabbalistic teachings and realised that Pico had actually been on to something. However, when a famous Catholic theologican called Johannes Pfefferkorn (1469-1523) tried to drum up support for his plan to destroy all Jewish books on the basis that they not only defamed Christ but were preventing Jews in Germany from converting to Christianity, Reuchlin decided to intervene. Although, in 1510, Pfefferkorn had obtained permission for this act of religious suppression from Maximilian I (1459-1519), Holy Roman Emperor, Reuchlin launched an appeal and demonstrated to a tribunal that hardly any books were attacking Christian teachings and that the few that did were very obscure and had fallen into disuse. His solution, as a humanist, was that Jews begin submitting their own texts to German universities. In the wake of this proposal Pfefferkorn began accusing Reuchlin of 'heresy' and it was not until July 1516, six years later, that Reuchlin managed to clear his name at some considerable expense. In the meantime, he has left us with two crucial works on Kabbalah: De Verbo Mirifico (1514) and De Arte Cabbalistica (1517).

Like Pico, Francesco Giorgi Veneto (1466-1540) was of Italian stock. A Franciscan friar based in Venice, he produced both De harmonia mundi totius (1525) and Scripturam Sacram Problemata (1536), believing – like Abner of Burgos before him – that engaging with Jewish texts could ultimately assist in the conversion of the Jews themselves. Given that knowledge is power, he possibly harboured the notion that to know is to surpass. Notwithstanding Veneto's desire to turn Jewish mysticism into a weapon for the harvesting of souls, his work also discussed Platonic philosophy.

A further personage in the field of Christian Kabbalah is Paolo Riccio (1506-1541), who was quite open about his attempts to create a theological synthesis between Jewish teachings and those of non-Jews such as Pico and Reuchlin. Riccio himself was a German Jew and physician to Maximilan I, so more than aware of the religious antagonism between Pfefferkorn and Reuchlin. In fact it might even be argued that Riccio was well-placed to have a positive influence on the Emperor and it was the latter who asked him to produce a Latin translation of the Talmud. A professor of philosophy, Paolo Riccio was also extremely knowledgeable in matters relating to Kabbalah and astrology, using his wisdom to persuade Jews that their future lay in Catholicism. His De Porta Lucis R. Josephi Gecatilia (1516) is a translation of the Kabbalistic teachings that appeared in Joseph Gikatilla's thirteenth-century Sha'are Orah. He also wrote the four-part De Cælesti Agricultura (1541), which examines the 613 commandments that comprise the number of mitzvot in the Torah. The work continues by introducing the tenets of the Kabbalah and making a further appeal to the Jews to convert to Christianity.

Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a Silesian by the name of Balthasar Walther (1558-1631) who had trained to be a physician at the University of Frankfurt subsequently travelled throughout the Holy Roman Empire and became familiar with magic, Alchemy and Kabbalah. As a great collector of manuscripts, he also went to Palestine and North Africa, where he met the earliest Kabbalists of Safed and had the chance to learn about the mystical practices of both Jews and Arabs. A friend of the great German philosopher, Jakob Böhme (1575-1624), Walther did not write anything on Kabbalah himself but went on to spread his compatriot's mystical ideas far and wide. Böhme, of course, had a deep interest in Alchemy, Kabbalah and Neoplatonism.

Another German, Athanasius Kircher, was a Jesuit scholar who wrote a total of forty books on spirituality, medicine and geology. Kircher is also considered to be the founder of Egyptology, but his importance with regard to Jewish mysticism lay in the fact that his studies inevitably led him to examine many of the ancient texts. Between 1652 and 1654, Kircher used his Oedipus Aegyptiacus to discuss a unique syncretism of Orphism and Egyptian mythology, but more interestingly he included an illustration of the Tree of Life. With its complexity of geomantic figures, including the incorporation of the Law of Moses and both the 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments of Maimonides, Kircher's graphic construction has since become one of the most commonly used features of Western Kabbalah.

Like Balthasar Walther, Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) was a philosopher-physician and student of Kabbalah. Living in England at a time when Renaissance science was beginning to assert its dominance over the outgoing Catholic theology of the Medieval period, Browne was a devout Christian who used his interest in esoterica to further strengthen his existing religious beliefs. In 1711, when his famous library was sold at auction, it was found to contain scores of esoteric works and nestled among the alchemical tracts and books of Hermetic magic was Athanasius Kircher's Ars Magna Lucis (1646), Obeliscus Pamphilius (1650), Oedipus Aegyptiacus, Magnes sive de Arte Magnetica (1654) and two-volume Mundus Subterraneus (1665). Elsewhere, there was a copy of Raymund Llull's Vademecum, quo sontes Alchemica Art (1572) and Francesco Giorgio Veneto's De harmonia mundi totius. Browne also mentioned Kabbalah in his 1658 work, The Garden of Cyrus, which looks at Neoplatonic and Neopythagorean influences within the spheres of art and nature. Browne's 1646 encyclopaedia, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, also mentions Kabbalah.

Some of Browne's work was translated by Christian Knorr von Rosenroth (1636-1689), who is perhaps the most famous of all Western Kabbalists. Indeed, as a student of Hebrew he went on to diligently translate a large number of Jewish mystical texts into his native German and these have furnished the non-Jewish understanding of Kabbalah considerably. Whilst Knorr was the son of a Protestant minister, his enquiring mind drew him to seek out both Christian and Jewish sources alike and he eventually struck up a relationship with Meir Stern (d. 1680) of Amsterdam. Prior to his appointment in the Netherlands, Rabbi Stern had been driven out of the German city of Fulda when the local Jewish community was expelled. Knowing that he was an expert on Kabbalah, Christian Knorr became his student and thus learnt its secrets first-hand. He even managed to obtain rare Lurianic manuscripts. Once he had done so, and this is perhaps something of a disservice to his Jewish mentor, Knorr knitted these Kabbalistic teachings into his own eclectic formula. These ideas were modified, however, and the primordial figure of Adam Kadmon was transformed into that of Jesus. Knorr's main work is the 2,600-page Kabbala Denudata, sive Doctrina Hebræorum Transcendentalis et Metaphysica Atque Theologia (1677–1678) which, issued as two volumes, contains rare sefirotic diagrams and a wealth of esoteric knowledge. As Scholem explains:

In his translations Knorr aimed at precision, sometimes to the extent that the meaning is obscure to those not familiar with the original. Although the book contains many errors and mistranslations, particularly of difficult Zoharic passages, there is no justification for the contemporary Jewish claims that the author misrepresented the Kabbalah. [2]

The work, on the whole, is pretty comprehensive and not only explains the significance of Kabbalistic symbolism in all its graphic finery, but draws upon the writings of Isaac Luria, Joseph Gikatilla's Sha'are Orah – as Riccio had done before him – and Moses ben Jacob Cordovero's Pardes Rimmonim. It also contains Abraham Cohen de Herrera's (1570-1635) Sha'a ha-Shamayim and Beit Elohim, Hayyim Vital's Sefer ha-Gilgulim, Issachar Berman ben Naphtali ha-Kohen's (c. sixteenth-century) Mareh Kohen and, needless to say, translations from the Sefer ha-Zohar.

Some of the commentary in Knorr's Kabbala Denudata was provided by his English contemporary, Henry More (1614-1687), who was connected to the Cambridge Platonists. More went on to create his own brand of philosophy that was inspired by Neoplatonism and the Rationalism of René Descartes (1596-1650). His objective was to prove the existence of spirit, but when he met the Flemish alchemist, Francis Mercury van Helmont (1614–1698), More was soon introduced to the ideas of his friend, Christian Knorr. This introduction to Kabbalah by way of its chief Western exponent led More to write his Conjectura Cabbalistica: Or, A Conjectural Essay of Interpreting the Minde of Moses According to a Threefold Cabbala (1653). The three ways in which More sought to discuss Jewish mystical ideas were based upon what he termed (i) The Literal Cabbala, (ii) The Philosophick Cabbala, and (ii) The Moral Cabbala. On account of the jumble of ideas contained in this work More has since been accused of scriptural reinterpretation, although to his credit he soon realised his error once Knorr's Kabbala Denudata had introduced him to the work of Isaac Luria. Nonetheless, a scandal ensued and More lost a large number of friends in the Christian Quaker movement of which he had been part.

Johan Christian Jacob Kemper (1670-1716), formerly known as Moshe ben Aharon of Kraków, was a Polish Sabbatean who moved to the Swedish town of Uppsala before converting to Lutheran Christianity. Kemper's 1711 work, Matteh Mosche ('The Staff of Moses'), was an attempt to convince Jews that the Sefer ha-Zohar contained the intrinsic teachings of the Christian trinity. He also translated the Gospel of Matthew into Hebrew in a further effort to create a Christian-Kabbalistic text and convert Jews to Protestantism. It is also thought that Kemper taught Hebrew to the famous Swedish mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).

There was even a little-known Christian Kabbalist in Eastern Europe. Adorján Czipleá (1639-1664), a Hungarian mystic, wrote a controversial book called De ente et malo ('On Being and Evil') and it soon attracted the interest of the aforementioned Henry More and Francis Mercury van Helmont. Unfortunately, the work was considered to be heretical and has since been lost. Fortunately, we know something of its character from a September 1670 letter that was sent by the classical Anglo-French scholar, Méric Casaubon (1599-1671), to the English theologian Edward Stillingfleet (1635-1699):

One such queer scholar was Mr. Adorján Czipleá, who held that the fallen angels did nevertheless not fall from Being since they possesse the attribute of intelligence which is, according to Plato, equivalente to that of existence. From this he deriv'd the preposterous idea that the first emanation, or Intelligence, or Being, is compromis'd withe the fallen ones: esse (sive intellectus) est diabolus. Being is thus always torn, in perpetual strife, between Satan and the Lord's angels. The Kabbalah, the Magyar claim'd, is the only one capable of discerning the two sides, and therefore delivering us from the grasp of Being towards Union to the One and Only God, for it alone can accesse His angels through His Word and climbe to the mystical Presence of God. [3]

In fact More's Conjectura Cabbalistica owes a good deal to Czipleá's De ente et malo.

Throughout this period, Western Europe's growing interest in Alchemy meant that once Böhme's work became more readily available other writers also began to fuse it with aspects of Jewish Kabbalah. Those who used Alchemy for this purpose included Jean Thenaud (d. 1542), Heinrich Khunrath (1560-1605), Blaise de Vigenère (1523-1596), Abraham von Franckenberg (1593-1652), Robert Fludd (1574-1637), Thomas Vaughan (1621-1666), Georg von Welling (1655-1727), Martinez de Pasqually (1727-1774), Louis Claude de Saint-Martin (1743-1803) and Franz Joseph Molitor (1779-1860). In the view of G. Mallary Masters, an expert on the Platonic-Hermetic tradition:

Clearly a major aspect of Renaissance thought, Kabbalah contributed significantly to the renewal of spiritual awareness on the part of Renaissance humanists. They placed the work of the kabbalists either in line with the other sciences they viewed in the tradition of prisca theologia or, like Thenaud, they viewed Kabbalah as prefigural, much as the early fathers had treated the Old Testament. [4]

* * *

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, after the so-called Enlightenment had ended, the Western interpretation of Kabbalah that had first appeared under the guidance of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and other Hermetic syncretists enjoyed something of a revival. Figures such as Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), Dion Fortune (1890-1946) and Israel Regardie (1907-1985) formed part of an occult tradition that reinterpreted the teachings of Jewish mysticism in evermore unique and controversial ways. All three magicians came from England and it was there that non-Jewish forms of Kabbalah took on a life of their own. Interesting, the idiosyncratic formulae developed by Crowley, Regardie, Fortune and others was often dramatically repackaged as 'Hermetic' Kabbalah.

As the name suggests, it was the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn which first tried to continue the syncretic phenomenon of the Medieval era by blending Kabbalistic mysticism with some of the Greek and Egyptian gods. Inspired by the hierarchical structure of both Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism, the Golden Dawn built upon Levi's early attempts to create a link between Western magic and Jewish esotericism by developing a system based on 'orders of angels'. Believing that ten archangels control ten different angelic choirs, each corresponding to one of the ten Kabbalistic sefirot, they concluded that it was possible to list these heavenly beings in the following 'Choir / Archangel / Sefirah' rankings:

1. Hayot Ha Kodesh (Holy Living Ones) / Metatron / Keter

2. Ophanim (Wheels) / Raziel / Chokmah

3. Erelim (Brave Ones / Tzaphkiel / Binah

4, Hashmallim (Glowing Ones) / Tzadkiel / Chesed

5. Seraphim (Burning Ones) / Khamael / Gevurah

6. Malakim (Messengers) / Raphael / Tipheret

7. Elohim (Godly Beings) / Haniel / Netzach

8. Bene Elohim (Sons of Elohim) / Michael / Hod

9. Cherubim (Unspecified) / Gabriel / Yesod

10. Ishim (Men) / Sandalphon / Malkuth

One of the main sources for the Golden Dawn's brand of magic appears in Crowley's Liber 777 (1909), a collection of papers relating to the organisation's more dogmatic approach towards Kabbalah. Crowley spends a good deal of time discussing his own system of gematria, or numerology, before addressing the idea of a descending lightning-flash that corresponds to three diminishing number 7s and their relation to what he calculates as the 191 columns and 35 rows of the Tree of Life. This, he claims, is a previously unexplored area of Hermetic magic. Further links are made between the Kabbalistic sefirot and astrology. Again, there is a decidedly syncretic perspective to Liber 777's methodology in the way that Greek deities are linked to each individual sefirah. When Crowley left the Golden Dawn and formed the Astrum Argentum (A∴A∴), the group's official symbol – the Sigillum Sanctum Fraturnitatus, or Holy Seal of the Brotherhood of the Silver Star – used Babylonian imagery that Crowley associated with Binah. Crowley was later involved with the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), which had been formed by Carl Kellner (1851-1905) and Theodor Reuss (1855-1923), and retained his interest in Jewish mysticism by fusing it with other forms of spirituality to form part of his own 'Thelemic' religion. The Egyptian deities Nuit and Hadith, for example, were not only melded into the Tao and Teh of Taoism and the Shakti and Shiva of Hinduism, but mixed with the Ain Soph and Kether of the Tree of Life.

Dion Fortune, meanwhile, in the wake of the Golden Dawn's gradual demise, joined the Alpha et Omega group that had been founded by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers (1854-1918) and went on to produce The Mystical Qabalah. Published in 1935, it is a concise explanation of the philosophical structure of the Hermetic Kabbalah and probably the best introduction for those readers wishing to find out more about the reconfiguration of Jewish mysticism within the overall tradition of Western magic. Others who have contributed to the growing body of literature pertaining to Western Kabbalistic thought include Gérard Encausse (1865-1916), who also wrote under the name 'Papus'; Paul Foster Case (1884-1954) of the American occult group, Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A); and Samael Aun Weor (1917-1977), a Mexican-Colombian esotericist who wrote several books on both Kabbalah and Hermetic themes.

* * *

The Hermetic Kabbalah that was revived and expanded by the Golden Dawn and those who went on to form their own magical fraternities, often takes another form. Known as English Qabalah, this hugely modified variant claims to represent an esoteric system of its own and despite the name does not confine its interests to Jewish mysticism alone. Indeed, whilst the Kabbalah of the Sefer ha-Zohar and Isaac Luria often involves the mathematical significance of Hebrew lettering, its English counterpart has a system which seeks to apply the use of Roman script and Arabic Numerals. English Qabalists were not the first to use this form of gematria and the magical significance of the English alphabet was first discovered in 1532 by a German monk called Michael Stifel (1487-1567). Other individuals who used English as a means of numerology include John Shelton (1463-1529), an accomplished poet and tutor of King Henry VIII (1491-1547), and the Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), who used it in his 1867 War and Peace to make a connection between Napoleon and the coming Beast of Revelations.

It was Crowley who first laid the foundations for the idea of English Qabalah in his Liber AL vel legis (1904), or The Book of the Law, which he claimed was revealed to him by the voice of a mystical entity known as Aiwass. In Verse 2:55, for example, one finds:

Thou shalt obtain the order & value of the English Alphabet, thou shalt find new symbols to attribute them unto. [5]

Crowley subsequently carried out this mysterious instruction in his Liber Trigrammaton Sub Figura XXVII: Being the Book of the Trigrams of the Mutations of the Tao with the Yin and the Yang (1907), at least in part, when he formed a correspondence between the twenty-six letters of the Roman script and the diagrammatic lines of the I Ching. This, however, is as far as Crowley got and he never went on to use the English alphabet to develop a larger system of any kind.

In the wake of Crowley's discovery, there have been a number of self-styled English Qabalists who have sought to expand upon this basic idea and yet their findings are often decidedly laboured and, on the whole, quite unremarkable.

Notes:

1. Frank, Adolphe; The Kabbalah: The Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews (Carol Publishing Group, 1995), p.193.

2. Scholem, Gershom; Kabbalah: A Definitive History of the Evolution, Ideas, Leading Figures and Extraordinary Influence of Jewish Mysticism, p.416.

3. Casaubon, Méric; Letter to Edward Stillingfleet, September 1670.

4. Masters, G. Mallory; "Renaissance Kabbalah" in Antoine Faivre (Ed.) & Jacob Needleman (Ed.), Modern Esoteric Spirituality (SCM Press, 1992), p.148.

5. Crowley, Aleister; The Book of the Law (Samuel Weiser, 1976), p.35.

News from Nowhere
30 Apr 2022 | 9:37 am

The Challenge of National-Anarchism


(Originally published in Tribes Magazine, 2018)

"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. This principle is, contempt prior to examination."

– Attributed to William Paley

In approaching a term as contentious as 'National-Anarchism', I'd suggest beginning by taking a moment to consider the subjectivity inherent in the act of conceptualisation. In spite of having pondered this subject a good deal since having it brought to my attention around the age of 18, I still find it necessary to remind myself on a regular basis of the following fact: that the concepts I've evolved through the course of my lifetime, through calibrating inherited linguistic structures with my own experience, may well have precious little correspondence with the concepts that another person employs precisely the same words to describe.

Further, that this can only be the case, since no two human beings' experience is alike, and therefore each of us will have a different contextual substrate from which our respective concepts were shaped. And subsequently, that I should never allow myself to assume that the concept I intend to transmit through the use of a word is the one that will be received in the mind of another. Hence, if one wishes to honestly approach the question of 'what is National-Anarchism?', then, I propose, these things must first be taken into account. And it is through inquiring further into the nature of this dynamic that I hope to shed some light on the term itself.

The extent to which such conceptual divergence occurs is subject to a number of factors, many of which are extremely subtle; it would nonetheless seem reasonable to expect that where culture (by this I mean both way of life/material culture, and cosmology/nonmaterial culture), and genetics are shared to a greater extent, the amount of variation in conceptual ideation between individuals will be lesser compared to where culture and genetics differ. And while the influence of culture is fairly self-evident ('nurture'), the contribution made by genetics ('nature') might be harder for some to grasp. If, however, we posit the possibility that one's ancestral experience is somehow encoded within and inherited through the DNA, then we may acquire a means of orientating ourselves within the murky realm of 'ethnicity'. In addition to these factors, we should also acknowledge the role of 'individuation' – a subject I'll return to later.

The critical element here seems to be that those who belong to an 'ethnic group' – to varying degrees, depending on how the term is defined – share a commonality of experience, and so possess a shared context from which to communicate about their situation. Thus, the extent to which the culture of one ethnic group differs from the next, and to which the group either keeps itself isolated from or intermarries with culturally distinct neighbouring groups, will be a major factor in informing the degree of similarity of 'experiential substrate'.

And even in cases where members of discrete cultures regularly mixed, incomers would still be brought into what might be described as the collectively-held informational field that constitutes the cultural inheritance of the group they've joined; while their offspring will likewise receive the genetic inheritance through the other parent. Hence, the defining characteristics of an ethnic group's culture are resilient to a certain amount of influx of 'new blood'. Nonetheless, it must be emphasised that instances of the mixing of completely disparate cultural-ethnic groups on the scale of what we see today would have been previously unimaginable – not least because the large discrepancies in the range of knowledge and skills required to survive in the places inhabited by different cultures would've meant that most people would have been completely out of their depth if transplanted to an unfamiliar bioregion, among unfamiliar people and languages. Rapid urbanisation and globalisation have of course now significantly altered this terrain.

In times of yore, the sociopathic personalities that sought to appropriate the resources of autonomous peoples came to learn that in order to be effective in their goal, they needed to combine the use of physical force with a justificatory narrative that was well-tailored to the conceptual framework of the group in question. Whilst the uptake of this narrative might not have initially been great, pomp and bombast, combined with ongoing capture of slaves, brutalisation of dissenters and indoctrination of subsequent generations could broadly be relied upon to create a manageably docile citizenry over time. The nature of this dynamic is portrayed very clearly in James C. Scott's The Art of Not Being Governed, a study of southeast Asian hill tribes' relationship with valley civilisations, where he describes both the pivotal role played by the wholesale kidnapping of hill peoples into slavery in the valleys, and the ongoing attempts of captives to return to the hills where a less coercive existence was possible.

And yet, for the more enterprising empire builders, the limitations of this approach would soon become apparent, since the peculiarities of diverse cultures would require that a 'bespoke' narrative be created in each case – for example concocting a genealogy for the new ruling class which portrays them as being descended from the ancestral spirits of that people. To have to do so for each new group subsumed into the empire would be something of a strain on its resources, and given that those resources were all requisitioned from its conquered peoples, they would need to employ them judiciously to prevent the entire Ponzi scheme from collapsing (something that nonetheless happened on a regular basis). Far easier, hence, to seek to standardise and homogenise the cultures and ethnicities in question to the point where an abstracted identity could be used to make overtures to an entire administrative area, rather than only to a few related tribes.

One should also note, for fairness' sake, that from time to time, benevolent beings have come into positions of influence within this impersonal expropriating machine, and striven to improve the lot of the wretched, stunted creatures that it holds under its sway, perhaps partly as a result of having themselves taken at face value the 'noble lies' that empires spread amongst their subjects – a phenomenon which, conversely, lends undeserved legitimacy to the whole endeavour. But that ultimately, the effect of such interventions is severely limited by the fundamental disjuncture between what we might dare to call 'natural laws', and the anti-natural, cancerous basis upon which centralised empires are founded. Equally, an understanding of this fact periodically arose among larger segments of the subjugated, leading to wholesale 'reversions' to simpler lifeways. However, such manifestations either leave little mark on history, or suffer the iniquity of having their insights distorted into 'mysticisms' and are thereby co-opted into the canon of civilisation – Taoist teachings being a case in point.

Thus, these empires – built by uprooted peoples – rose and then fell, often taking entire ecologies with them in the process, whilst creating widespread social turmoil in which the capacity for ruthlessness was often a prerequisite of survival for those in the areas affected. When the tide had receded, people once again regrouped into smaller, more autonomous units, albeit carrying the scars and traumas of what had come before. And with each ebb and flow, the boat of human consciousness was carried to new vistas both high and low, experiencing both insights and ruptures never before known. Wave after wave of empire building was somehow weathered by our forebears, whose cultures and genes we've inherited. Such were the forces that sculpted the languages that we speak; we must not forget that the substrate for our very thoughts was brought into being on an anvil of strife; percepts hammered into concepts, themselves forged into new hammers in an accelerating cycle of adaptation and maladaptation. One might take a moment to stop and ask oneself how many of our inventions have been created to address the problems caused by previous inventions? But I digress…

What is significant is that with each turning of this cycle, the potential for the diversification of the psyche has increased. Novel environments, combined with novel means for the dissemination of narratives, creating endless bifurcations of culture: from oral transmission to vellum, parchment, printing presses, and so forth – continuing to create new permutations, with the employment of propaganda technologies since the 20th century leading to untold follies and brutalities.

With the increasingly all-encompassing reach of digital media, I sense that aside from the very noticeable way in which the elites of the nascent globalist empire are using them to remould their debt-slave subjects into entirely rootless, mindless, emotionless, genderless automata ('homo economicus'), it seems that the primary drivers of our degeneracy may now be the technologies in and of themselves. Having perhaps inadvertently enabled some of us to gain a breadth of insight never afforded to our ancestors, and come into contact with those of like mind who one might otherwise never have known of, these communications technologies now also threaten to undermine that which makes us human.

Hence, once you have 'found the others', as the (very likely intelligence-service directed) counterculture phrase goes, what should you do with them? Some, it seems, direct their collective energies towards attempting to identify the defining characteristics of those that currently hold the reins of empire, which, depending on the colour of one's ideological lenses might be any combination of 'Whites', 'Zionists', 'Capitalists', 'Fascists', or 'Liberals', to name but a few. Such activity, however, seems in many cases to issue from the fallacy that 'the righteous people' (whoever those might be within a given belief system) could somehow assume control over the current highly centralised structures and steer them in a manner where their enormous concentrations of power wouldn't be abused.

Entertaining such a supposition seems to be the primary means by which one can avoid having to examine a fundamentally flawed article of faith: that a centralised civilisation is in any way a viable proposition. I would suggest, meanwhile, that the only means by which true, rather than token sovereignty and dignity can be achieved, is through the development of a radically different culture – one that has decentralised autonomy at its foundation. It would appear, however, that for the vast majority, entertaining the fantasy of imposing their preferred political system through the agency of the state is preferable to embarking upon the long, hard road of building such autonomy. We must, therefore, 'find the others' who have come to a point where they are ready to commit themselves to such an undertaking.

And so, finally, on to the question of the word 'nation' in National-Anarchism. I would hope that by this point, the reader might be prepared to accept the possibility that it may not mean what they first imagined it to mean. The significance of the word 'nation' in this context is a common cause for confusion, which one might argue also functions as a filter for those in whom presumption outweighs curiosity. Whilst a name is ultimately of little significance – for it is the 'how' that matters, not the 'what' – nonetheless a name is needed to articulate a concept that is foreign to modern minds.

Thus to clarify: in my own conception, and seemingly in the minds of a number of others with whom I associate under the banner of N-AM, the words 'nation', 'folk' and 'tribe' are largely synonymous. The indigenous tribes of North America, for example, employ the term 'nation' in this very manner. Meanwhile, the more commonly conceived of idea currently associated with the term, that of 'the citizens of a nation-state', is a result of the term having been appropriated by the empire-building impulse described above.

It should quickly become evident to anybody that takes a few moments to engage with our community that we wholeheartedly reject the latter term and all it implies, whilst underlining the critical role of 'national' or 'tribal' consciousness in human relations. The word nation derives from 'natio': to be born (from which we also get the word 'nature') and hence points to the fact that the bonds of kinship are far stronger than that of any abstract ideology that centralising elites may foist upon the masses. For they are wrought of the love and respect that in normal conditions, will exist between family members – the frequent absence of which in today's times is surely a consequence of the wedges which the architects of empire have managed to drive between us.

We appear to find ourselves at a point of transition between two civilizational narratives: the 'old world order' of so-called 'traditional' authority structures – what was initially simply a sense of duty to one's kin, over time becoming increasingly coercive with allegiances transplanted onto ruling elites, religion and the state, and enforced by the physical suppression of dissent; and the presently encroaching globalist 'new world order' of self-centred, instant gratification and resultant pernicious debt-slavery, brought about through seduction.

Today there are many who strive for a restoration of 'old world order' values, whilst seemingly failing to notice how those values constitute a corruption of what they once signified, or indeed how changes in human consciousness have made their corruption inevitable. Meanwhile, those who oppose them usually likewise fail to see how the 'new world order' values that they typically espouse amount to much the same thing, albeit in a different flavour: a narrative employed to justify oligarchy – and thus the heart of the matter is never addressed. As Ezra Pound reputedly pointed out, "the technique of infamy is to invent two lies and to get people to argue heatedly over which one of them is true."

The reason I've decided to associate myself with National-Anarchism is because it is the only branch of political discourse I've come across prepared to earnestly broach the subject of the role that culture and ethnicity play in how mutualistic associations of sovereign individuals, assembled in the spirit of enlightened self-interest, can organise themselves in resistance to the state-corporate-usury complex. I view the combination of the terms 'nation' and 'anarchy' as a form of what Hakim Bey calls 'poetic terrorism', employing the cognitive dissonance it elicits to reflect on the manner in which political ideology has fragmented the wholeness of the human social ideal. For there is no reason that these principles should be divorced, other than our own rigid preconceptions. One could also see such a juxtaposition serving as a verbal equivalent of the fearsome spirits placed at the entrances of Eastern temples, to deter those whose motivations are insincere; persevering in one's attempts to understand the significance of the words is a key to uncovering the riches that lie within.

What is being proposed here is much more than simply another form of collectivism. It is a recognition of the inherent need in human beings to both freely associate with others, and to possess a socio-cultural identity. Or, to come at it from another direction, that the co-operation of individuals within communities is a prerequisite for their attaining any degree of autonomy from coercive systems. Further, that in order for these communities to meet their members' needs, they must seek to uphold the sovereignty of individuals, whilst providing the individuals of which they are made up with a sense of shared destiny. Yet, in our strange times, such a line of enquiry is considered taboo by many who would consider themselves 'respectable'. It seems that the mere mention of these ideas is sufficient to scramble the mind of such a person, and especially if the community in question is made up of people of European extraction.

With this said, the truth is that making the transition from an atomised, alienated modern existence to one that relies on extensive co-operation with others is no small task. What, then, will it take to midwife such associations into being in this age, given the decay of kin-based social structures and authentic group identity? It has been said in the context of contemporary identity politics that "our macro-politics have gone tribal because our micro-politics are no longer familial." 1 It might serve to inquire into this statement. An ever larger number of people have grown up in broken families, which in many cases have buckled under the strain of economic pressures and socio-economic propaganda (although, it should be emphasised that in many cultures, the rot had set in a long time prior). As such, a vanishing number of us have a relationship to our extended families that involves significant degrees of economic co-operation, and therefore lack any real understanding of what a strong family unit looks like – the decline of family trades being but one example of this.

It should also be acknowledged that the flight from family-based living situations has been driven by a genuine need for freedom of self-expression in people who are increasingly individuated and therefore at odds with their family's or culture's worldview; often manifesting in a seeking out of new opportunities and increased anonymity offered by urban life. Equally, the reality for many has been that their naïveté and vulnerability have been exploited by a ruthless capitalist class, resulting in widespread debt-slavery and alienation, and a culture of mercantile nihilism. And so we find an uncomfortable tension between 'tradition' and 'modernity' – out of the pan, and into the fire, as it were. It may be that only once we have experienced the degradation of so-called 'independent' living for ourselves that we can be truly motivated to realise the potential of a restoration of community, though one built up along somewhat different lines to what we have ourselves known.

If I'm proposing that certain aspects of tribal life are called for in response to our current predicament, then which aspects do I have in mind, and how would one go about putting them into practice? To get right to the root of it, it's worth pointing out what is likely the most challenging aspect of this question for Westerners: that living as a 'nation' demands a strong commitment to the future prosperity of the group and its environs, to the degree of possessing a willingness to place the needs of the 'nation' above those of the individual when it is called for. It is likely the case that the inability to make such sacrifices accounts for the failure of most modern 'intentional communities', which are overwhelmingly bourgeois or utilitarian in their ethos. In other words, they lack a uniting principle that their members are willing to sacrifice themselves for.

It is quite understandable that this statement may evoke discomfort in some, especially given the manner in which such instincts have historically been exploited by ruling classes. However, what may be most significant here is scale. The notion of 'Dunbar's number' – of 150 being the maximum number of stable human relationships that an average human can sustain, beyond which it is believed that far more regulated forms of social structure are necessary – points to the possibility that human social dynamics are very different when one lives among people to whom one feels a close bond (and presumably, likewise shares a culture with). This doesn't mean that everyone must be best of friends or indeed self-sacrificing all of the time; simply, that when conflicts or demands do arise, the principle of group unity will tend to give precedence to feelings of animosity or selfishness, since for a sufficient proportion of the group, group unity is of utmost value.

Herein lies the 'anarchy' of our 'nations': through living in appropriately sized social groups informed by anarchist ethics, we remove the need for rigid hierarchies, thereby allowing individuals to freely find their own niches within the group – including that of the fringe-dweller! It is only in an environment where human social organisation is in alignment with 'natural order' (which, I contest, we can only guess at, given our current state of alienation therefrom) that innate intelligence and co-operation can truly unfold, and any kind of effective response to our current predicament ensue. Hence, the answer to all of the other 'what-if'? questions that are posed in attempting to imagine what such a world would look like on a larger scale is singular: we strive to create conditions that facilitate human intelligence and co-operation, and through this, to increase our ability to respond to whatever challenges we may encounter in the future. Without coherent social units, all other human endeavour is doomed to failure. Whereas if a means is found by which to successfully rebuild community, then it will be a resource available to all. Effective innovations spread rapidly.

The accusations one can expect to be levelled at such an outlook are that it is parochial, insular, inward-looking, small-minded, sectarian, and so on. 'Tribal' has become a dirty word; the corollary to this being the idea that more 'enlightened' folk have the interests of all of humanity at heart. In most cases, what this amounts to in practice is looking after number one while cheerleading for the murderous globalist project, and feeling a sense of moral superiority in doing so. After centuries of failed utopian politics, enacted in the name of religion, state, or nowadays, 'the global community', it would seem to me that what is needed first is to ensure that one's own house is in order, so to speak, before looking further afield. 'Anarchy begins at home'.

The Iroquois confederacy provides but one known historical precedent for how decentralised tribal units can co-operate in a broader context; while Proudhon's ideas for federalism give further hints at how the bigger picture could look. I for one do not propound the fallacy of 'closed systems', since they do not appear to exist in a natural state. Meanwhile, natural systems strive for resilience through building diversity and redundancy; I'll leave it to the reader to determine whether the multiculturalism of the industrialised West constitutes a true diversity or simply a prelude to monoculturalism. What is being sought here is an arrangement which puts the individual, their community, and 'the world' in right relationship. I am not suggesting that we ought to mimic tribal lifeways in all areas – only where they constitute an 'appropriate technology'. And yet, it must be said that we may find that if we allow ourselves to engage with such an avenue of inquiry, the insights may reach further than we had anticipated – Pierre Clastres readers, take note.

Inasmuch as anything is clear with regards to the 'how' of this challenge, it seems that the only way I can make any inroads into it is to cultivate real-life relationships with those with whom I share an affinity of culture and values, and likewise very practical things such as dietary requirements (which I might add, are very much influenced by one's ancestry2), as well as a desire to increase autonomy from the 'tech-debt-slavery system'. As for how this relates to identity, my own ancestry is spread over a large expanse of northern Europe, and hence no historical identity correlates well with my individual sensibilities. While I feel a strong connection to the broader bioregion and its cultures, having grown up in a repulsive megapolis, there's no place I can truly call 'home'. Given that so many of us today are either displaced former or alienated current urbanites, the question of 'where?' will in many cases require a good deal of consideration. It's likely best that this be something of a non-analytical process, to be pursued by divining the degree of resonance between the coalescing group and the places, peoples and cultures that it considers locating itself amidst, through which in turn, a new type of relationship to place can begin to develop.

Furthermore, the group will need to reach a strategic consensus on its economic arrangements – how the provision of its needs is to be achieved and resources delineated, and likewise, depending on the degree of independence sought between individuals or family units, what means it will employ for assigning roles and responsibilities, and resolving conflicts that may arise. My feeling is that there is much to be learned from how anarchic outlaw communities such as pirates and Cossacks managed themselves through vesting authority in 'codes', or 'articles of agreement'. If this worked for the most hot-blooded of men (apart from when it didn't!), then it might also work for our groups. Historically effective ways of managing collectively-held resources, or commons, should also be studied (see the research of Elinor Ostrom for abundant examples), while the establishment of land trusts is a way of removing land from the realm of market speculation.

As the industrial system that most of us still depend on for survival begins to falter under its own weight (while jettisoning humans in favour of robotics), and our health continues to be eroded through exposure to its pollutants, there is no time to waste. We need to learn how to restore vitality to both our bodies and soils, so that we can access proper nourishment for ourselves (most agricultural soils, even those under organic management, are increasingly bereft of nutrients), and likewise restore habitats for the wild creatures on the lands that we steward. Further, since many of us are already poisoned to varying degrees, it's crucial to gain an understanding of which toxins have been released into the environment, and how to remove them from the body. The same applies to the mental pollutants and traumas that many of us have taken on. My advice is this: find a way to live and create livelihoods with those that you hold dear, and if you can, do so far enough away from large cities to be in with a decent chance of protecting what you build should the breakdown of society progress rapidly. Developing a shared sense of the sacred is likely essential. And do try to retain your sense of humour as you go about it – it may be one of our most valuable assets.

Territory, shelter, nutrient-dense food, unpolluted soil and water, community, and meaning – all to be protected, cultivated, and passed down the generations. If anything of value is to have a chance of surviving the rising tide of insanity, then such 'refugia' must be established rapidly. In all probability it is those that are committed enough to their objective of living as a group, yet flexible enough to question their assumptions around how to attain it who will have most success. Further deteriorations in the quality of life will likely only serve to reinforce the need for such endeavours. And should the Fates smile kindly upon foolhardy humanity and permit us to continue inhabiting this planet, then perhaps such places can provide a seed stock for the proliferation of saner ways of life in times to come. While the detractors of National-Anarchism continue to waste their energies on attempting to discredit us based on intellectual positions that some of our number may or may not have once held, I propose that engaging with this process must be the primary undertaking for those of us who practice the alchemy of continuously transforming our understanding, then applying it to the circumstances at hand. As the alchemists say, 'festine lente' – 'make haste slowly'.

References

  1. The Primal Scream of Identity Politics by Mary Eberstadt
  2. Food, Genes, and Culture: Eating Right for Your Origins by Gary Paul Nabhan
News from Nowhere
29 Apr 2022 | 11:06 am

CHARLES’ EMPIRE: THE ROYAL RESET RIDDLE


1. Charles the Great Resetter

When the Great Reset was officially launched in 2O2O, it was not done so by Klaus Schwab or Bill Gates, but by Charles, Prince of Wales, heir apparent to the British throne.

Born in Buckingham Place in 1948, Charles is best known worldwide for his failed marriage to Lady Diana Spencer, who died in a road crash in Paris in 1997, a year after their divorce.

His official website announced on June 3 2020: "Today, through HRH's Sustainable Markets Initiative and the World Economic Forum, The Prince of Wales launched a new global initiative, The Great Reset".

A royal tweet declared: "#TheGreatReset initiative is designed to ensure businesses and communities 'build back better' by putting sustainable business practices at the heart of their operations as they begin to recover from the coronavirus pandemic".

This may come as a bit of a surprise to those who see Charles as a bumbling but affable figure, who talks to his plants, loves traditional architecture, protects nature and tries to help young people get along in life.

But the reality, as we will show here, is that he is the head (or the very willing figurehead) of a vast empire of nefarious financial interests hiding hypocritically behind a facade of charitable philanthropy.

2. Global goals

Charles has been very busy over the last 50 years or so, establishing an alliance of organisations called The Prince's Charities, which describes itself as "the largest multi-cause charitable enterprise in the United Kingdom".

These have also spread overseas to create a bewildering global web of trusts, foundations and funds.

To make things simpler, we will focus here on just a few of the better-known organisations, starting in the the UK with Business in the Community.

This body describes itself as "the largest and longest established business-led membership organisation dedicated to responsible business", having been initially established in 1982 as The Prince's Responsible Business Network.

Its agenda is very much in line with all the key elements of the Great Reset.

It declares, for instance: "Business in the Community (BITC) is working with business to accelerate the pace and scale of action to deliver against the United Nations Global Goals, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)".

The great news for Charles's money-loving entourage is that "running their businesses responsibly" in line with the UNSDGs "also opens business market opportunities".

Business in the Community boasts its own WEF-style "Future Leaders Board" and in 2017 was already insisting, like Klaus Schwab, that "business must ensure an inclusive digital revolution".

Its report called "A Brave New World?" features all the familiar Great Reset "priorities", such as inclusivity ("Build digital access, capability and confidence to allow all to benefit from the digital economy") and lifelong learning ("Prepare employees. Provide digital skills and lifelong learning to create an adaptable workforce").

It looks ahead to a Fourth Industrial Revolution ("Anticipate automation. Create new roles, where technology complements humans, and support communities to manage the transition") with bigger profit margins naturally being its aim ("Transition to new business models that cut waste and increase asset productivity").

There is an early mention of the "track and trace" phrase which became so familiar during the lockdowns ("Track, trace and resolve") with a plug for Blockverify, "a London-based start-up that uses technology to track, record, and verify products in a way that is permanently logged in the blockchain… Blockverify has been piloting solutions with pharmaceutical and beauty companies".

The report promotes smart agriculture in the form of Unilever's Marcatus Mobile Education Platform, "a collaboration between Unilever, Oxfam and Ford Foundation to train smallholder farmers in rural areas" which aims for "additional farm revenues of £1.5 trillion by 2030".

It concludes by giving "thanks to our corporate partners, Barclays and Fujitsu, for supporting our programme of work to create an inclusive digital revolution".

The Prince's Trust Group expands this same agenda across the Commonwealth, the vast sphere of influence formerly known as the British Empire.

It describes itself as "a global network of charities" delivering "education, employment, enterprise and environmental projects that enable young people and communities to thrive".

It is all about "transforming lives and building sustainable communities", it seems.

One of its reports tells us: "During 2020/21, together with our partners we supported 60,146 young people in 16 countries across the Commonwealth and beyond: Australia, Barbados, Canada, Ghana, Greece, India, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Malta, New Zealand, Pakistan, Rwanda, Trinidad & Tobago and the United Kingdom. We also began our work in St Lucia and the USA".

The Prince's Trust is joined in this task by another important node of Charles' network, the British Asian Trust, as we will shortly see.

3. Impact imperialism

The impact industry is a sinister entity which, over the last few years of research, we have found lurking under every dubious stone we have turned.

For more info, check out our articles on Extinction RebellionRonald Cohenintersectionality, the WEF Global ShapersGuerrilla FoundationEdge Fund and also our general overview.

Impact profiteering is very much tied in with the Great Reset and its Fourth Industrial Revolution, which aims to set up the infrastructure through which this new form of digital serfdom can be imposed.

Inevitably, then, the impact agenda is very present throughout Charles' empire, even if somewhat hidden from casual view.

Sometimes it is just the word itself that gives the game away.

Business in the Community, for instance, says on its site that it works with its members "to continually improve their responsible business practice, leveraging the collective impact for the benefit of communities".

"Impact" crops up three times on the introductory page.

It appears again on the page consecreated to BITC's entirely predictable commitment to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, those cornerstones of impact capitalism. The term "positive impact" is here linked to another related buzzword, "purpose".

The impact theme is also very much embraced by The Prince's Trust, which is very keen on "digital and blended programmes" and "online business simulation games".

In line with the Great Reset promoted by its founder, it used Covid to advance a hyper-industrial agenda, describing in one post how it had been measuring its "digital impact".

It was pleaed to report that 61% of its respondents said "online learning had supported them to make changes in their life, with the majority developing new skills and making plans for the future".

One of the tools which the Trust uses for what it worryingly terms "digital programming" is something called Vibe Check.

This bespoke programme, aimed at young people, is a "free (fancy that!) interactive personal development tool delivered via WhatsApp, that creates a safe and supportive online space for them to develop key life skills".

"The programme has piloted in Barbados and Ghana during 2020 and early 2021, using innovative automation technology to tailor each young person's experience with the service.

"Designed for the needs of young people in each country it rolls out in, Vibe Check focuses on confidence, communication and managing feelings in Barbados, and self-employment and entrepreneurship in Ghana".

This obsession with developing "new digital processes for gathering data", hidden behind a do-good facade, is classic impact-think.

Indeed, the Prince's Trust International boasts its very own Head of Impact, Diletta Morinello, a professional "impact measurer".

In January 2020, just before the Covid moment, Morinello was recruiting a data analyst "as we start our exciting new 5-year strategy" and "significantly upscale our operations".

The role was "to ensure our data is robust and supports our ability to accurately and effectively monitor our impact on young peoples' [sic] experiences of education and employment as well as our financial performance and fundraising.

"Impact will need to be measured across a range of programmes or interventions, with a range of stakeholders across the world".

Impact, data, stakeholders… three terms from the same familiar crib sheet.

It is, however, with his British Asian Trust that Charles exposes most fully his involvement with the insidious world of impact imperialism.

He founded this organisation in 2007 with a group of well-connected British Asian businesspeople.

Although the British Asian Trust prefers the term "social finance", it does little else to hide its impact agenda.

Its website even proudly displays a recommendation from the "father" of impact investment Ronald Cohen, who declares: "What the British Asian Trust is doing in social finance is truly groundbreaking: it is capable of delivering vital social improvement at scale".

Indeed, as we have previously reported, Cohen gives an approving mention to Charles and the British Asian Trust in his 2020 book Impact: Reshaping Capitalism to Drive Real Change.

The Trust, of course, claims to be "improving" the lives of children and young people in Asia "in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education".

It says: "The Quality Education India Development Impact Bond (QEI DIB) is an innovative results-based funding mechanism that aims to improve learning outcomes for more than 200,000 primary school children".

And then it adds: "As the QEI DIB progresses, we aim to create an education rate card, setting out the costs of delivering specific outcomes at scale. Such a card can be used by government and funders to make informed policy and spending decisions and improve education across the whole country".

This is what impact is all about. The "cost" of meeting UNSDGs is calculated and "stakeholders" take on this cost from public purse. If the "outcomes" tick all the right boxes they will be reimbursed, plus a little extra to make their "investment" worthwhile.

In the meantime, the lives of these children, bundled together "at scale", are turned into financial commodities – like the bundles of sub-prime mortgage debts that prompted the 2008 crash – which can be tracked, traced and traded in real time via 5G/6G and the "inclusive" global digital panopticon.

Speculators can bet on the "success" of these children's lives or against it – little matter, as long as they are available as products for this vast new profitable market.

As we have previously warned, "social finance" or impact investing reduces human beings to the status of potential investments, sources of profit for wealthy ruling vampires.

It is a digital slave trade.

4. Powerful players

So what kind of people and organisations are involved in Charles' global network?

Let's start with Business in the Community. This label is probably intended to conjure up fond images of tiny cornershops in English market towns (like Grantham?) or of organic Buddhist basket-weaving start-ups in Charles' pseudo-traditional Poundbury development.

But no. As we would expect from the launcher of the Great Reset, the project is a typical corporatist mixture of public and private sector, uniting loyal servants of the British empire with their extremely well-heeled friends in the world of big business and high finance.

BITC's dauntingly long list of members includes the likes of Accenture and Unilever (both hailed by Cohen for their participation in his nefarious impact scam) and Big Pharma businesses AstraZenecaGlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer.

While the BBC, Sky, Facebook and Google presumably constitute the propaganda and censorship wing, British Airways, easyJet, Heathrow Airport Limited, Shell UK and BP were no doubt all included for their special contribution to environmental sustainability.

Charles' passion for the health of his family's grateful subjects is reflected in the inclusion, alongside Knorr's Quick Soups manufacturers Unilever, of Greggs and PepsiCo UK.

We also find the likes of the Bank of AmericaMcKinsey (the US consultancy firm controversially employed by Emmanuel Macron in France) and Morgan Stanley (the WEF partner and impact investor remembered for its financing of both Hitler and Mussolini).

Other Business in the Community members are arms dealers Rolls Royce and Thales Group, superb examples of what Charles has in mind with "responsible" business activity.

The organisation is governed by a Board of Trustee Directors. This is chaired by Gavin Patterson, president and chief revenue officer of Salesforce, the cloud computing business headed by billionaire Marc Benioff, owner of Time magazine and inaugural chair of the WEF's Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco.

Another director is Dame Vivian Hunt, senior partner, UK and Ireland, of the aforementioned McKinsey. A member of the secretive Trilateral Commission, she is the former chair of British American Business, an exclusive transatlantic business networking group.

Mark Weinberg

One of the vice-presidents is Sir Mark Weinberg, "a South African-born British financier who co-founded J. Rothschild Assurance, which later became St James's Place Wealth Management, and is chairman of blockchain company Atlas City Global".

The advisory board features Sir Ian Michael Cheshire, formerly chairman of Barclays UK and currently chairman of Menhaden plc with its "long only, multi-asset investment strategy which seeks to provide the best balance between risk & reward across equity, credit & private universes" offering "asymmetric risk-reward pay-offs".

Alongside this banker sits none other than Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the UK's Trades Union Congress (TUC). As befits a representative of the British working class, O'Grady is also a non-executive director at the Bank of England.

Finally, on the BITC's Community Leadership Board we find none other than Owen Marks of everybody's favourite vaccine manufacturer, Pfizer.

There he incarnates the striking overlap between the world of Big Pharma and the world of "woke" impact-intersectionality, co-chairing the Pfizer UK Inclusive Diversity Group with its focus on "OPEN (LGBTQ), Ethnicity, Gender, DisAbility and Cross Generational and Social Mobility".

Let's next turn to The Prince's Trust Group, the global network of charities founded by Charles in 1976.

The UK entity involves very much same kind of people as Business in the Community.

Its council is chaired by John Booth, an "entrepreneur and philanthropist" who boasts "a range of venture capital interests in e-commerce, media and telecommunications".

It features two former partners at Goldman SachsMichelle Pinggera and Ian Mukherjee, who went on to found Amiya Capital, a "global emerging markets fund".

There is also Suzy Neubert, former global head of distribution at JO Hambro Capital Management, and Mark Dearnley, previously a "digital transformation" advisor with global management consulting firm, Bain & Company.

The council's vice-president is Michael Marks, former chairman of Merrill Lynch Investment Managers and founding partner of MZ Capital and NewSmith Capital Partners LLP.

It is informative to note the people and businesses with which the Prince's Trust group is enmeshed worldwide.

In New Zealand, chairman of the Prince's Trust board is Andrew Williams, co-chairman of Alvarium – "With $15 billion in assets under management globally, Alvarium is a collaboration between wealthy families, entrepreneurs and institutions in Asia, the Gulf and Americas".

The Australian entity's corporate sponsors include Macquarie, Australia's largest investment bank, while in Canada, the Prince's Trust is supported by Finistra (working hard "to accelerate digital banking") and by Bank of America.

Its supporters also include ScotiabankKPMG and arms dealer Lockheed Martin.

Over at the British Asian Trust, one member of the Board of Trustees is Farzana Baduel, former vice-chair of business relations for the Conservative Party and founder/CEO of Curzon PR.

She appeared in The Times in May 2021 to explain how much she loved "remote working", that mainstay of the "New Normal" promoted under the Great Reset.

Another is Varun Chandra, managing partner of "London-based corporate intelligence specialist" Hakluyt, whose astonishing recent £12.8 million rise in profits was "helped by the reduction in staff travel thanks to the pandemic", according to The Times.

In the words of one media report, "Hakluyt is an ultra secretive firm whose client list reads like a who's who of the business world with corporations retaining their services for strategic intelligence and advice as they look to expand operations".

The British Asian Trust site says of Chandra: "Trained at Lehman Brothers, he went on to help build a regulated advisory firm for former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair".

Also on the board are Dr Shenila Rawal (who previously worked for the World Bank) and Ganesh Ramani, former partner at Goldman Sachs.

Ramani in fact has a family connection to the Trust's Big Chief, having married Ruth Powys, widow of Mark Shand, brother of Charles's wife Camilla.

Vice-chairs are Asif Rangoonwala (once described by The Independent as "powerboat playboy, bakery baron, property plutocrat") and Shalni Arora, who has a background in Big Pharma with AstraZeneca and DxS Ltd and is the wife of retail magnate Simon Arora of B&M Bargains.

Jitesh Gadhia

Chair of the Board of Trustees is investment banker Lord Jitesh Gadhia, who has worked for Barclays CapitalABN AMRO and Baring Brothers.

He was previously senior managing director at global investment business Blackstone in London. On being appointed there in 2010, he enthused: "Blackstone's powerful network of relationships, access to capital and expanding geographic reach, across developed and emerging markets, offers a unique proposition for clients".

Gadhia was also – surprise, surprise! – a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

5. Banksters, cheats and spooks

From any genuinely ethical vantage point, the business activities of those involved with Charles' empire are, in themselves, cause for concern.

But the problem goes further than that. The amount of controversy and scandal surrounding numerous participants in his various projects makes one wonder how someone who likes to be referred to as "His Royal Highness" can associate with so many examples of what most of us would regard as low life.

Here are some illustrations:

HSBC is the Prince's Trust's Global Founding Corporate Partner and is praised in its Impact Report for its "transformational investment in young people", being identified as "one of our most committed and loyal supporters". Never mind that the British-based bankers have a long history of vast tax avoidance schemes and criminal activity such as money laundering. Dubbed "gangster bankers" involved in "stupefying abuses", Charles' loyal supporters even "hooked up with drug traffickers and terrorists", explains this 2013 article.

KPMG (Business in the Community and Prince's Trust, Canada) has faced "multiple accusations of negligence, fraud, and conflicts of interest stretching back years" and was recently involved in a giant "cheating scandal".

NatWest (Business in the Community) was fined £264.8 million in December 2021 for failing to comply with money-laundering regulations.

Bank of America (Prince's Trust) faced boycott calls after spying on its customers' activities for the FBI with regard to the January 6 2021 protests in Washington, DC.

PwC (Business in the Community) has a "long history of controversies" all over the world, not least in India, where it is said to have "a chequered past" with the tax authorities.

Goldman Sachs International (Business in the Community, Ganesh Ramani of British Asian Trust) is afflicted by so many "controversies" that even Wikipedia devotes a whole page to them!

Lockheed Martin (Prince's Trust, Canada). The arms dealer is notorious for its many bribery scandals.

Macquarie. (Prince's Trust, Australia). Australia's largest investment bank was involved in a recent $80 billion controversy labelled the "biggest bank scandal in history".

Scotiabank (Prince's Trust, Canada) had to pay out more than US$120 million dollars in 2020 because of its price-manipulation activities.

Jitesh Gadhia (British Asian Trust), a Conservative Party donor in the UK, was involved in David Cameron's "cash for access" scandal in 2014 and in 2018 he was accused of a conflict of interest because he had become a director of fracking business Third Energy, while also being a non-executive director at UK Government Investments.

Shalni Arora (British Asian Trust). Her husband Simon hit the headlines in 2021 for handing himself a massive payout of £30 million. His firm, B&M bargains, had enjoyed a surge in sales because of its "essential" status during Covid lockdowns.

Varun Chandra (British Asian Trust). His firm, Hakluytsays The Times, advises FTSE 100 companies and "was founded 27 years ago by former MI6 intelligence officers". An article in The Evening Standard describes the business as "very secretive Mayfair company full of spooks" and "a convenient rest home for MI6 men". "The company attracted unwelcome publicity in 2001 when it emerged it had used an undercover agent known as Manfred to penetrate environmental groups targeting Shell and BP". And Hakluyt was again forced into the media limelight in 2012 due to "the mysterious death of one of its occasional investigators in a Chinese hotel room".

Finally, Charles himself has been caught up in various controversies over the years, not least regarding his links to BBC paedophile Jimmy Savile or indeed his role in helping arms dealer BAE Systems sell fighter jets to Saudi Arabia.

Reported Scotland's The National: "MP Margaret Ferrier said Princess Diana would have campaigned against its bombing raids on Yemen, which allegedly involve the use of banned cluster munitions, and claimed Charles was part of a 'great effort' to maintain the market".

And then, of course there there was that unfortunate incident in the Paris tunnel back in 1997…

6. The bringer of light?

One particularly intriguing figure in Charles' global network is another man who likes to be known as "His Highness", namely The Aga Khan.

Khan is none other than the Global Founding Patron of the Prince's Trust and, its site tells us, "supports the delivery of The Trust's work in the UK and Canada and through local partners in India, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan, Rwanda and the Caribbean (Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica)".

The business magnate has British, Swiss, French and Portuguese citizenship and his fingers in many a global pie.

One 2016 profile explains: "As founder and Chairman of the Geneva-based Aga Khan Development Network, he spearheads an organisation that employs 80,000 people in 30 countries, and spans non-profit work in poverty-stricken and war-torn areas of the globe, along with a huge portfolio of very-much-for-profit businesses in sectors ranging from aviation and energy to telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and luxury hotels".

Khan's net worth has been estimated at $13.3 billion and he is described as one of the world's fifteen richest "royals", although he does not actually rule over any particular geographic territory.

Instead he is the spiritual leader of some 20 million Ismaili Muslims, who donate significant sums to him and worship him as the "bringer of light".

Khan is a personal friend of Charles and his mum, Queen Elizabeth II, as well as of the Spanish king Juan Carlos.

He is also said to have long connections to British intelligence services and other deep state networks.

Khan has been involved in a number of international scandals.

In 2012 it emerged that, although resident in France, he had been "exonerated" from paying any tax by the country's former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

This, explained The Daily Mail, meant that he could protect his vast fortune across the Channel "despite being worth as much as £6 billion and owning mansions, yachts, private jets, some 800 race horses and even a private island in the Bahamas".

Then, in 2017, controversy broke out in Canada when it was discovered that prime minister Justin Trudeau had spent a holiday on a private Caribbean island owned by Khan.

While he was there, he also took a ride in the bringer of light's private helicopter.

Since the Khan's foundation "receives millions from the Canadian government", questions were asked about a certain conflict of interest!

Trudeau reassured the public that there was nothing to worry about because "the Aga Khan has been a longtime family friend".

But he nevertheless became the first Canadian prime minister to be found in violation of ethics law and was forced to publicly apologize.

Khan is also close friends with the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds.

In a speech at New York's Plaza Hotel in October 1996, David Rockefeller said: "His Highness The Aga Khan is a man of vision, intellect, and passion. I've had the pleasure of knowing him for almost forty years, ever since he was an undergraduate at Harvard and a roommate of my nephew Jay Rockefeller".

For his part, Khan expressed "warm thanks" to Rockefeller, adding: "He, his family, and his philanthropic organisations have been close to my family, our work, and me, for many years. I admire them for their consistent and exemplary commitment to world issues".

A message from their mutual pal Lord Rothschild praised Khan for his "promotion of private sector enterprise and rural development".

7. Neo-colonial land-grabbing

Khan, Rockefeller and Rothschild are also united by their common membership of the 1001 Club of the WWF.

According to researchers, this little-known group was set up in the 1970s by individuals including Charles's dad, the late Prince Philip, and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.

As we noted in this report, Bernhard used to be in the Nazi SS, before founding the WWF.

He also chaired the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group, of which WEF boss Klaus Schwab was a fellow member.

Bernhard was also honorary sponsor of Schwab's third European Management Symposium at Davos in 1973, when the body which was to become the World Economic Forum first adopted a more overtly political stance, by agreeing a document which became known as "the Davos manifesto".

The WWF is notorious for throwing indigenous people off their land on behalf of its big business friends under the false green flag of "conservation" and is today very prominent in the industrial-financial lobby calling for a New Deal for Nature.

For a full analysis of all this, we recommend the excellent work of the No Deal for Nature campaign, Survival International and Talking Africa.

Here, we will simply note that Charles is very much on board this agenda, endorsing the idea of "natural capital" and indeed launching a new "natural capital alliance".

But then that is to be expected, because he is president of WWF-UK and "proud" to be so.

He declares on the WWF site: "I have long admired its efforts to tackle the many threats to the world's wildlife, rivers, forests and seas. And I have come to see how effectively it uses its expertise and international reach to challenge the causes of degradation, such as climate change and the unsustainable use of natural resources".

Yet again, the worthy-sounding language masks a very different reality: in this instance a newly accelerated wave of the global land-grabbing which has been a feature of the profit-driven British empire for centuries.

8. Shaping history

If Charles ever emerges from his 70-year stint in the Windsors' waiting room, he will become King Charles III and thus historically linked with his two predecessors of the same name.

Charles I, who became king in 1625, was the last of the ancien régime, a defender of the feudal order. Having been found guilty of tyranny and treason, he was beheaded in front of the London crowds in 1649 (see above).

This was the apex of an English Revolution which, like so many others, was quickly shunted in a direction contrary to the interests of the mass of people who had fought and died for it.

When Oliver Cromwell crushed the radical elements in his New Model Army, at Burford, he was thanked with a celebratory banquet by the financiers of the City of London.

From that moment onwards, the focus of the country was on commerce, expansion and exploitation, including, of course, the slave trade.

Starting with Cromwell's bloody re-occupation of Ireland, the 11-year period of republican rule, known as the Commonwealth, saw Britain's empire begin to take shape, with the grabbing of Jamaica, Surinam, St Helena, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

When the executed king's son, Charles II, took the throne with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 it was as a "constitutional" king, beholden to parliament and happy to act as a figurehead for the military-mercantile entity known as the British Empire.

The future Charles III seems to be on course to combine the worst elements of both predecessors, fusing old-style feudalism with modern corporate control to forge a "sustainable" global empire built on digital serfdom and impact vampirism.

But it is important to remember that conspiracies cannot succeed if people are wise to what is happening.

By researching and exposing wrong-doing, we can shake off our status as helpless and passive spectators of history in order to become active and engaged participants, part of the resistance.

Charles and his ruling-class collaborators have to dress up their insidious agenda as "doing good", as "philanthropy" or "conservation", because they know that otherwise the rest of us would not go along with it.

Once this illusion has been destroyed and the horrible reality exposed, then decent people everywhere will turn their backs definitively on these vile parasites and their evil empire of exploitation.

Original: https://w/2022/04/15/charles-empire-the-royal-reset-riddle/

News from Nowhere
24 Apr 2022 | 10:41 pm

The Individual in Community


(Original version delivered as a speech in Porto on February 15th, 2020.)

"I would not encourage in your minds that delusion which you must carefully foster in the minds of your human victims. I mean the delusion that the fate of nations is in itself more important than that of individual souls. The overthrow of free peoples and the multiplication of slave-states are for us a means (…); the real end is the destruction of individual souls. For only individuals can be saved or damned…"

― C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (taken from Screwtape's address to the young devils graduating from Hell's training college).

Individualism and collectivism are two terms one often finds counterposed in the discussion of politics. Within the context of the 20th century, which might be understood as a battleground of mutually antagonistic political ideologies, we can employ George Orwell's term oligarchical collectivism in the case of fascism and bolshevism, and modify it into oligarchical individualism to describe the liberal Pax Americana. While adherents of those ideologies may have believed themselves to be fighting in the name of their nation, class, or individual freedoms, as the case may be, in truth their ideals served as vehicles for the mobilisation of entire societies into projects which would ultimately only benefit the interests of a miniscule oligarchical class. To provide an example, I present here an extract from Kerry Bolton's book 'Revolution from Above':

"Both Big Business and Marxism view history as dialectical. This means that history proceeds from the clash of opposites (thesis and antithesis) and from this tension emerges something new (synthesis). In the instance of dialectical capitalism, the synthesis that is supposed to emerge is a centralised world state controlled not by commissars and a politburo but by plutocratic coteries and their technocrats. A strategy of dialectics means backing movements in the short term to achieve quite different, even opposite goals, in the long term. Hence the rationale behind capitalists supporting socialist and even communist movements, as will be shown.

In the case of communist dialectics, the Marxists believe that socialism cannot emerge in a peasant or agricultural society and that a stage of capitalism and industrialisation must first be reached. Of course the communist analysis is wrong: the major communist revolutions have taken place in peasant societies (China, Russia, and Cuba).

On the other hand, the dialectics of Big Business considers that plutocracy cannot be achieved until a society has gone from its peasant stage into an industrial phase. In order to achieve this sudden and forced industrialisation from a peasant society, the plutocrats have used socialism. History has shown that the plutocratic dialectic is proceeding successfully: the plutocrats backed communist revolutions in Russia and China to overthrow the traditional peasant societies. Once socialism had been used to achieve the industrialisation of those societies, the next phase of the dialectic has been to introduce privatisation and globalisation to the economies of the former Eastern bloc."

Bolton refers in part to the work of Anthony Sutton, an Englishman, who worked as a researcher at the prestigious Hoover Institution of Stanford University, until controversy surrounding his research led to his dismissal. Sutton began by studying the transfers of western technology to the Soviet Union, which led him to discover just how extensively the supposedly anti-communist Wall Street banking interests had invested in the Soviet economy, and further, that it had helped instigate the Bolshevik Revolution through its support of Trotsky and Lenin. He then went on to find much the same scenario with regards to Wall Street and the 3rd Reich. Furthermore, it is now well documented how at the beginning of the 20th century, German militarism was deliberately inflamed by the actions of the British Milner Group in order to provide a justification for their much desired war with the German state, which at the time presented a formidable obstacle to the interests of British monopolists. History, as the saying goes, is written by the victors, or indeed its instigators.

How then, first as individuals, and subsequently as communities, might it be possible to overcome the manipulations of this oligarchy, who – it must be remembered, have nearly infinite resources at their disposal, as a result of their control of the debt-based money system? Investing ourselves in the ideologies which they provide for us has consistently been our downfall. We must also recognise that it is only through mass conformity that these manipulations are able to succeed. And human communities, for the most part, constitute a very efficient mechanism for eliciting conformity from their members, especially where dissent is punishable by exclusion – something most cannot not bear to face.

Hence, two questions emerge:

  1. What motivates those who risk expulsion from their communities in order to persue their own truths?
  2. What does a community that doesn't demand conformity from its members look like?

Apart from ideological wars, the 20th century likewise witnessed an outpouring of what are now referred to as 'intentional communities' – groups of people coming together to create lives in some way separate and differently organised from those into which they were born. What had in the past largely been the preserve of religious communities – whether sanctioned by the dominant powers, such as monastic orders, or persecuted by them, as with the Cathars, the Russian Old Believers, or the multitude of nonconformist sects that settled America – was increasingly sought out by people without explicit religious affiliations, though often with a romantic mindset and a desire to explore ways of life outside of the confines of their ever-more industrialised societies. This ethos crystallised in the form of the Lebensreform and Wandervogel movements in Germany.

A key development in this regard was the colony of Monte Verita at Ascona in Switzerland, created in 1900 by a group of well-to-do youths who advocated a co-operative lifestyle of spartan living, manual work and craftsmanship, vegetarianism, nude sunbathing, and the persuit of the arts. Monte Verita evolved over time into a nexus point for numerous thinkers and movements that would go on to have a major influence in the years to come – among them Carl Jung, Herman Hesse, James Joyce, Stefan George, and Rudolf Steiner. The anarchist Prince Pyotr Kropotkin is likewise said to have visited, as are his authoritarian communist rivals Lenin and Trotsky. Ultimately, some of the ideas explored at the community proved to be a good deal more useful to the oligarchy than others, and these would be appropriated into both fascism and communism. It is however an idea often associated with Jung that I wish to explore further here – the concept of individuation. Individuation is defined in Jungian terms as the development of the individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology, something perhaps best conveyed by Blake's declaration "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's; I will not reason and compare – my business is to create."

In Rudolf Steiner's model of human development, the Renaissance was the outcome of the emergence of a newly individuating consciousness, which felt the need to reach its own understanding of truth, rather than having it dictated by authority figures. This was expressed in phenomena such as the Reformation, the development of the scientific method, and a growing interest in mysticism as a path to personal knowledge of the Divine (then, students of science and mysticism were allied in their search for wisdom, rather than at odds). This development brought both great potential and immense danger, as exemplified in the story of the archetypal Renaissance figure, Dr. Faustus, or indeed his real-life counterpart, the British magus and mathematician John Dee. Dee's visions in turn fed into the conception of a Protestant British Empire, which over time came to be governed by an ethos of scientific materialism – something that has played no small part in bringing about the state of affairs in which we find ourselves today: rule by banking elites through capitalist monopolies.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't advise that we throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater – which is to say that, in my opinion, humanity has since the time of the Renaissance, been in the process of outgrowing traditional authority structures in the same way that a child eventually begins to outgrow the structures imposed upon it by its parents, and begins, hopefully, to take responsibility for its own actions. As with adolescence, this is a bumpy road, leaving many casualties along the way, but equally a very necessary one. Hence, the source of authority moves from being external to internal, and in parallel with the growth of the awareness of how our actions affect others, we may begin to develop what is called 'conscience', or 'the science of togetherness'. Through this may develop the understanding that, as the anarcho-punk group Crass put it, "there is no authority but yourself."

Returning now to the subject of community, some acknowledgement of home truths is called for. The first is that despite the many attempts made since the time of Monte Verita to forge alternative cultural, social, and economic arrangements, and the influence that the ideas of numerous pioneers and visionaries have had upon the world of ideas, the reality is that the vast majority of us in the so-called developed world are subject to a system which, in a multitude of pernicious ways, makes it a great challenge to create independence from it. This is, in my view, entirely deliberate – the architects of said system are monopolists by nature, and dislike competition. Hence, likewise, their drive to constantly extend its reach – what we now call 'globalisation'.

Consider in this light the proposal by Robert Anton Wilson, that "instead of governments, we should have contractual associations that you can opt out of if you don't like the way the association is going." Wilson's idea, which might be described as panarchist – in other words, allowing for the widest possible variety of social arrangements, under the principle of voluntary association, is one upheld by both panarchism and national-anarchism, positions I have (loosely) associated myself with. Ultimately, to the extent that they continue to remain subservient to the demands of capitalism and the state, intentional communities can have little meaningful effect on society at large, and will remain a mere refuge for the well-to-do from the horrors of our dehumanising technocratic society.

Another thing to note is the fact that the majority of attempts to form intentional communities are unsuccessful. And of those that do form, a great many flounder under the weight of interpersonal conflict and ideological strife, or the perennial tension between the needs of individuals and the group. To some extent, this is inevitable, and divergences of opinion are the basis of divisions and schisms which go on to spawn new communities – their means of reproduction, if you will. At the same time, we should acknowledge that our present mode of existence in for the most part 'unintentional communities' (and here, as with many symptoms of modernity, it is the Protestant cultures which might be said to be 'in the lead') does not encourage the sense of conscience and diplomacy which successful community living demands.

Living in community has never been, and never will be a perfect image of harmony. It requires a set of skills for dealing with conflict and resolving disputes, which if we do not wish to depend on the wholly corrupted capitalist institutions of today, we must learn and begin to practice. Here the words of metaphysical and folkish anarchist Gustav Landauer, one of the more mature proponents of that philosophy, seem fitting:

"One can throw away a chair and destroy a pane of glass; but those are idle talkers and credulous idolaters of words who regard the state as such a thing or as a fetish that one can smash in order to destroy it. The state is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another. (…) We are the state, and we shall continue to be the state until we have created the institutions that form a real community and society of men."

The isolated individual falls as easy prey to the trap of debt-slavery; hence the push to forge an autistic, deracinated homo economicus, driven by anxiety, vanity, and hedonism. Meanwhile, the ongoing challenge for the individual who seeks something better is to avoid losing one's autonomy to assorted collectivisms. This seems to be a balancing act much akin to walking a tightrope. And yet for many, it seems that the pull to identify with a 'consensus reality' of one flavour or other is too strong to resist. The distinction here being that some level of epistemological alignment is needed among peers. A healthy community, in my view, would be one in which intellectual diversity is truly respected, while core values and the relations between its members have been agreed upon. Taking up Landauer's challenge, we can look here to some curious historical institutions for inspiration – for example the 'articles of agreement' of outlaw groups such as pirates or Cossacks, to see how this might be achieved.

Regardless of scale, any steps taken in the direction of greater independence from the present economic system, and interdependence with those with whom we share values, are a step in the right direction. Food and housing co-operatives, farm-to-table box schemes, alternative currencies, barter systems, repair shops, community social spaces, homeschooling, and peer-to-peer education are all ways in which we can begin to form new relationships. Out of such experiences we may then grow our understanding of how critical the quality of our relationships is to either the continuation, or the overcoming of the present system. To borrow and old anarchist slogan, we must "build a new world within the shell of the old."

News from Nowhere
18 Apr 2022 | 6:33 pm

Against the Modern World: The Mystical Patriarchs of Later Hasidism


ONE fascinating chapter in the gradual evolution of Jewish spirituality during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was the mystical classification known as Baalei Shem ('Masters of the Name'). In order to be included within such a rare and esteemed category, the prospective Baal Shem had to excel in the field of practical Kabbalah and, most notably, be a practitioner of exorcism, healing and miraculous acts. It should not be confused with the term 'Tzadik,' meaning 'righteous one,' as this relates to those Hasidic individuals who spend a good deal of their time involved in charity work. The Tzadik is thus different to the Baal Shem in that his status represents the first real attempt to combine Jewish mysticism with social action.

In some ways, the assessment of who may be considered to be a Baal Shem is rather similar to the Christian interpretation of sainthood and the singular term 'Master of the Name' implies that the candidate in question must be aware of the secret pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, not to mention suitably familiar with the creation of Jewish amulets. Isaac Luria had forbidden this esoteric practice, but through the careful rendering of a magical talisman that is worn on one's clothes a Baal Shem can wield great spiritual powers.

Among the first to attain this hallowed status were Elijah Ba'al Shem of Chełm (1550-1583), a Polish rabbi said to have created a golem; Yhitzak Ayhiz Halpern, who prevented a ship from capsizing; Hirsch Fraenkel, a Jewish sorcerer with the uncanny ability to converse with the deceased; Elijah ben Moses Ashkenazi Loans (1555-1636), who appears to have been included on the basis of his great Kabbalistic scholarship and musical expertise; Naftali Katz (1645-1719) of Posnan, who once raised a man from the dead; Dr Hayyim Samuel Jacob Falk (1708-1782), a London Jew and suspected Sabbatean who was able to magically transport objects from one place to another; Yoel Baal Shem, who commanded a host of demons; Sekl Loeb Wormser (1768-1846), a fanatical vegetarian with extraordinary powers of healing; and the mysterious Adam Baal Shem, a visionary and revealer of ancient manuscripts about whom we know very little. By far the most famous of them all was a mystic called Israel ben Eliezer (1698-1760), better known as the Baal Shem Tov.

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Germany had a thriving community of Ashkenazi Hasidim and its members were thought to be descended from the Kalonymos family of northern Italy, which had relocated to the Rhineland in the tenth century, and the Abun family of France. Whilst it is debatable whether the influence of the Ashkenazi Hasidim extended beyond the Early Middle Ages, the Baal Shem Tov is said to be the patriarch of an entirely separate and later branch of Judaism called Hasidism. The fact that the story of the Baal Shem Tov has been infused with so much legend, much of it wildly speculative, means that to acknowledge the existence of a form of Hasidism prior to his birth is to undermine the beliefs of those who describe themselves as Hasidic Jews today. Nonetheless, as uncomfortable as it may sound for Hasidic purists the German Ashkenazi sect clearly existed several centuries before the founding of its eighteenth-century equivalent.

Israel ben Eliezer, the man who came to be known as the Baal Shem Tov, was born into poverty in the vicinity of the Okopy Świętej Trójcy fortress in western Ukraine:

At that moment Heaven revealed the noble soul of the Baal Shem Tov. The rays of his brilliant sun were to soon send the warmth and fire of a new spirit into all of Jewry. Both the scholars and the simple folk were to find new meaning in life from his sacred teachings. [1]

In 1703, when he was just five years old, Eliezer – who, retrospectively, and perhaps crucially, is said to have been descended from King David – lost both his parents and was raised by the other members of his extended family. In 1712 he had been made warden (shammash) of the village synagogue and become a school teacher, much loved by the local children.

Eliezer was married at just eighteen but his wife died soon afterwards, something that no doubt contributed to him subsequently experiencing a multitude of profound mystical visions. Travelling throughout Eastern Galicia, he finally settled in the small town of Tluste and studied Kabbalah under the direction of Adam Baal Shem. It is not insignificant, of course, that Rabbi Adam's own teacher had been based at Worms, the spiritual nerve-centre of the Ashkenazi Hasidim. Caring for the poor and setting up agrarian resettlement programmes for Jews who wished to move out of the cities, Eliezer also introduced the local people to the medicinal qualities of plants and regularly mediated between estranged neighbours who found themselves at legal loggerheads. Elsewhere, he turned his hand to managing a village tavern and, for a short period, worked as a ritual butcher (shohet).

Most of Eliezer's activities concerned other spiritual pursuits, such as preaching in the synagogue, making charms and amulets, exorcising evil spirits, and curing ailments and afflictions with his remarkable powers of healing. Eliezer is also said to have achieved a state of devekut ('adhesion'), meaning that he had the ability to communicate with God, and dismissed the more rigorous and ascetic aspects of Judaism in favour of practical works. This liberation of holy 'sparks' from the 'shells' that contained them was perfectly in line with the Lurianic concept of Tikkun ha-Olam. By creating a link between the earthly and the divine, Eliezer and his followers believed that God would show far more mercy to his creatures and that it would result in a more harmonious relationship between the two spheres. He also sided with the Talmudists against the influence of the Frankists, becoming so deeply moved by the movement's attempts to lure fellow Jews away from the traditional fold that when he died in 1760 it was said to be due to a broken heart.

The legends that followed hot on the heels of his death include stories about his having been seized from his home in Wallachia and sold into slavery. Once his captor, a powerful king, had discovered how wise he was, Eliezer was appointed royal minister and went on to secure an important victory on the battlefield. Consequently, the Baal Shem Tov became a general and then a prime minister. When he refused the hand of the viceroy's daughter, however, explaining that he was a Jew and already had a wife, he was forced to return to his own country.

Eliezer was also thought to have ascended into Heaven to ask the Messiah when he would appear, to which the Lord replied that he would only come to earth when the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov had been disseminated throughout the entire world. Another story concerns his claim that the prophet Elijah appeared before him and predicted that he and his second wife, Sarah, would have a son. Although, by this time, the couple were almost one hundred years old, the son was miraculously born.

The first anthology of such tales, 230 of them all told, was published as Shivchei ha-Beshtin in 1814 by Dov ben Samuel Baer (d. 1815). The nineteenth century eventually saw an entire litany of such volumes and they were published in both Hebrew and Yiddish. Although the Baal Shem Tov left no books of his own, what we do know about him comes from the modern-day descendants of the eighteenth-century movement that he inspired: Hasidic Judaism.

* * *

As previously discussed, the fact that Hasidic Jewry begins with the story of Israel ben Eliezer makes it difficult to trace a line between that and their Ashkenazi Hasidim counterparts:

The identity of name is no proof of real continuity. After all, the two are separated by two or three great epochs in the development of Kabbalistic thought. The later Hasidism was the inheritor of a rich tradition from which its followers could draw new inspiration, new modes of thought and, last but not least, new modes of expression. And yet it cannot be denied that a certain similarity between the two movements exists. In both cases the problem was that of the education of large Jewish groups in a spirit of mystical moralism. The true Hasid and the Zaddik of later Hasidism are related figures; the one and the other are prototypes of a mystical way of life which tends towards social activity even where its representatives are conceived as the guardians of all the mysteries of divinity. [2]

In many ways, Hasidism was a response to the more rationalist approach of the Haskalah ('wisdom') movement, which is alternatively described as Jewish Enlightenment. Beginning in the 1770s, this development sought to bring religious Jews kicking and screaming into the modern world. In line with the wider Enlightenment period itself, and at a time when support for Jewish emancipation in Europe was increasing, the Haskalah promoted liberal attitudes that would lead many Jews out of their closeted societies and into secular professions. Using language as a weapon, the Haskalah encouraged the use of Hebrew as a means of building a new Jewish counter-culture. Inevitably, its advocates came into conflict with both the traditionalists who were concerned about the decline of spirituality and the assimilationists who were attempting to end the portrayal of Jewry as a distinct religious and ethnic group. By 1871 the Heskalah movement had its own newspaper, Ha-Melitz, which evolved into a daily publication some fifteen years later. Operating out of the Ukrainian city of Odessa, the literary circle became known as the Maskilim and among its chief protagonists were men such as the famous philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786); the linguist and educationalist, Naphtali Herz Wessely (1725-1805); the poet and scholar, Isaac Satanow (1733-1805); and Haskalah founder, Isaac Abraham Euchel (1756-1804). Despite their liberal pretensions, it seems pretty clear that the group was part of a wider economic drive to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.

* * *

During his 1799 siege of Acre the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), released a proclamation to the Jews of Africa and Asia in which he called for them to unite under his banner to restore the ancient capital of Jerusalem. Napoleon himself, therefore, may well be regarded as one of the first proto-Zionists and it was only defeat at the hands of the British which ended his imperialist dreams of a Franco-Jewish conquest of the Middle East. Not only did Napoleon go on to liberate and empower those Jews living in the ghettoes of every land he conquered in the name of France, in 1806 he also helped to create a Jewish representative body known as the Grand Sanhedrin. By 1808, he had established a national Israelite Consistory that had sub-committees for each French region. Napoleon ensured that all laws and resolutions approved by the National Assembly were enforced by the leaders of the Jewish community itself, and made attempts to encourage Jews to join the French Army and turn away from money-lending by learning mechanics. These social changes were eventually taken up by the new Jewish Reform Movement of Germany and Hungary, who internalised the values of liberalism and equality. Needless to say, this completely transformed the status of the Jewish Diaspora. Napoleon even boasted that he had the Sanhedrin itself to thank for the fact that his armies were so heavily comprised of Jews during the French invasion of Prussia. The following year, along with Catholicism and selected forms of Protestantism, Napoleon made Judaism one of the country's three official religions.

On the other hand, Jewish religion in France eventually underwent a programme of forced secularisation and, in 1831, when King Louis Philippe I (1773-1850) had ratified a bill that had already been passed in the Chamber of Peers by 89 votes to 57, the final barriers to Jewish equality in the eyes of the law had been removed. However, that which was greeted by some as a form of progress, was interpreted by others to be a direct attack on Jewish cultural identity. The rabbinical college at Metz, for example, was made into a state institution and provided with generous funding, whilst those debts incurred by members of the country's Jewish community prior to the Revolution were systematically erased. In 1833, the so-called Guizot Law destroyed traditional Jewish education by outlawing forms of education provided by 'unlicensed instructors' and Jewish children were forced to attend public primary schools alongside their young French counterparts. As a result, those Jewish pupils who had studied little more than the Talmud now began learning Maths, Geography, French History and French Language for the very first time. It was no accident, therefore, that so many 'enlightened' Jews – detached from their roots – went on to become so directly involved in the insurrectionist uprisings of both France and Germany later that century, as well as in the Russian Revolution of 1917.

* * *

Whilst these important developments were hardly conducive to the facilitation of Jewish mysticism, there was an inevitable backlash. In defiance of the radical socio-economic changes taking place in the western half of the Continent, the Hasidim of eastern and central Europe began to reinvigorate the displaced souls of their people. Basing their theological principles on the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and placing a guiding Tzadik at the heart of each Jewish community, their blend of Kabbalah dialectics and communion (devekut) with God led to a great explosion of religious literature. Among their more important outpourings was the Hanhagot, a collection of booklets and pamphlets that focussed on the combination of deep mysticism and daily ritual, As Rachel Elior tells us:

This clarified the nature of the hasidic innovation: the increased mystical spirituality associated with the new consciousness of the presence of the divine in all things, and the new way of life thus engendered. [3]

As a way of containing the contaminating influence of its opponents, Hasidic Judaism also produced a wealth of polemical documents that made an attempt to contrast these outsider viewpoints with their own spiritual tenets. The community was also able to rely on a series of 'Letters' that (a) presented the Hasidic lifestyle as it was during the 1770s and 1780s, (b) outlined the importance of mystical leadership and its progression from generation to generation, and (c) engaged with fellow Jews abroad, particularly those living in the more important Hasidic centres such as Safed.

After the demise of Israel ben Eliezer, in 1760, the Hasidic movement came under the direction of Rabbi Dov Baer ben Avraham (d. 1772), or the Maggid of Mezritch. Having been a close disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, Dov Baer later moved the headquarters of Hasidism two hundred kilometres south-east from Medzhybizh to Mezhirichi. Now based in the district of Wołyń and straddling the borders of south-eastern Poland, south-western Belarus and western Ukraine, Dov Baer was able to create a formidable geographical hub for the propagation of Jewish mysticism. Although, like Eliezer, he left no literary corpus of his own, his inspired utterances were later published as the Likkutei Amarim in 1780; Likkutim Yekarim in 1792; Or Torah in 1804; Or Ha'emet in 1899; Kitvei Kodesh in 1862; and Shemu'ah Tovah in 1938. Believing that the entirety of nature is a manifestation of God, the Maggid of Mezritch endorsed the Lurianic doctrine that it is necessary to free the divine 'sparks' from entrapment. The only Jew capable of living a completely spiritual existence, he said, is the Tzadik. One modern scholar has described this role as

the tangible expression of the divine duality, of the ebb and flow, of emanation and withdrawal, expansion and contraction, nothingness and being, lights and vessels, creation and annihilation. He links the higher world to the earthly world by assuming comprehensive responsibility for the material and spiritual needs of his followers, expressed in terms such as love, abundance, grace and sustenance. [4]

One very pivotal figure in the growth of early Hasidism was Yaakov Yosef (1710–1784) of Polonne. Another western Ukrainian Jew, Yosef was an intimate of the Baal Shem and outspoken Chief Rabbi of Shargorod. Once he began criticising the methods of the Jewish authorities, he was expelled from the city. That, however, was not the end of the matter and Dr. Harry Rabinowicz notes that

Patience and forbearance were not characteristics of Rabbi Jacob Joseph. He believed that attack was the best form of defence, and to defend Hasidism it was necessary "to defend the citadel of the rabbinate." Severely he censured the rabbis, calling them the "little foxes who despoil the vineyard," for their sophistry, materialism and inaccessibility. [5]

Yosef's main contention was that, unlike the scholars of the past, those in the elitist hierarchy maintained a conscious distance between themselves and the less-educated Jews who nonetheless relied on them for spiritual guidance.

A capable theoretician, one of Yosef's theological mainstays was that the elevation of the soul could result in the fusion of both love and fear of God merging into one and becoming co-dependant. His 1780 work, Toldot Yaʿaqov Yosef, is considered to be the first Hasidic text and other books – mainly focussed on the Hebrew Bible – include Ben Porat Yosef (1781); Zefenat Pa'ne'ah (1782); and, posthumously, Ketonet Passim (1866). Yosef's other teachings involve the nature of prayer and spiritual solitude.

Levi Yitzchok (1740-1809) of Berditchev is also considered to be one of the more prominent founders of Hasidism – especially in Poland – and was a student of the Maggid of Mezritch. A specialist in Jewish law, Yitzchok became an important intermediary between God and the community he served. Whilst producing a series of commentaries, he also composed Jewish folk songs with mystical themes and these included A Dude'le and A din Toyre mit Gott.

Another disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch, Elimelech Weisblum (1717-1787) of Lizhensk was born in the Galician region of the Kingdom of Poland and was one of the more ascetic Hasidim. In the presence of his younger brother, the well-known Rebbe Meshulam Zusha (1718-1800) of Hanipol, Elimelech was known to enter states of mystical ecstasy during which other students became so overcome with the supernatural experience taking place before their eyes that they either fainted or were forced to leave the room. Together, the brothers travelled extensively and their adventures have been recounted in various Hasidic legends. After the famous Maggid of Mezeritch passed away, Elimelech took over the leadership of the movement in Poland and trained a number of highly capable students who went on to spread the message throughout Eastern Europe. The best of Elimelech's works is the Tzetl Koton, which includes a detailed set of instructions pertaining to the correct manner in which to live in accordance with the Jewish religion.

One of the more visionary members of the Hasidic expansion was Yaakov Yitzchak (1745-1815), also known as the Seer of Lublin. Hailing from the town of Łańcut, in south-eastern Poland, after Yitzchak had moved to the large city of Lublin on the Vistula River he became an important Rebbe with thousands of followers. When he began performing miracles, it was thought that he was engaging in the practice of Tikkun ha-Olam and helping to send lost souls to Heaven. These practices did not appeal to everyone, however, and Yitzchak found himself in a war of words with another leading Hasidim. Although he was to die almost one year after falling out of a window, Yitzchak left behind a quartet of notable works: Divrei Emet, Zot Zikaron, Zikaron Zot and Zikaron Tov.

Among the most influential of all Hasidic Jews was Shneur Zalman (1745-1812) of Liadi, not least for exporting his teachings to the Russian Empire. Whilst he had been born at Liozna, in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Zalman was to become a leading Hasidic emissary and the fact that he was the great-grandson of Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel of Prague, a consort of the legendary golem, certainly imbued him with a sense of prestige. Zalman had written a commentary on the Torah at just eight years of age and, four years later, had become proficient enough to run his own classes on the Talmud. In fact everything about Zalman just seems so incredibly precocious and at fifteen he married the daughter of a wealthy Jewish resident from Vitebsk. Zalman's main areas of study were mathematics, geometry and astronomy, although he took a special interest in Kabbalah and studied under Dov Baer. By 1767, he had been appointed Maggid of Liozna and continued in that role for thirty-four years. His own particular sense of religious destiny rests on the idea that the

Jew is a creature of heaven and earth, and of a heavenly Divine soul which is truly a part of godliness clothed in an earthly vessel […] whose purpose is to realise the transcendence and unity of his nature and of the world in which he lives within the absolute unity of God. The realisation of this purpose entails a two-way correlation, one in the direction from above downward to earth; the other, from the earth upward. [6]

At this point we enter another phase. Zalman is considered to be the first Rebbe of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, an 'intellectual' variation of Hasidism which takes its name from a shortened version of a Kabbalistic acronym for Chochmah-Binah-Da'at ('Wisdom-Understanding-Knowledge'). The main differences between the two varieties is that (i) the Rebbe is viewed not merely as a spiritual leader but also as a veritable 'messiah', (ii) the emphasis is on the systematic theology of Zalman's 1797 work, The Tanya, or 'collection of statements,' (iii) Chabad is considered to be a quintessentially Judeo-Russian development, and (iv) the group specialises in seeking converts from other Jewish congregations and setting up new centres around the world. Indeed, today the Chabad is head-quartered in the Crown Heights district of New York.

One of Zalman's keenest students was Aaron HaLevi ben Moses (1766-1828), who came from the small Russian town of Staroselye. When his master was imprisoned under the dictates of a Royal decree, Moses managed to raise the funds needed to bribe the prison authorities and secure a visit for both himself and his fellow students. Forming a Kabbalistic school called the Hasidim of Staroselye, Moses wrote his 1821 Sha'are Abodah, or Avodat HaBenonim. The text deals with the unifying features of God and human souls, as well as the way to repentance through Jewish law.

A further transmogrification of Hasidism came with the so-called 'imaginative' strain that emanated from the Ukrainian city of Breslov. Its leading figurehead was Rebbe Nachman (1772-1810) of Breslov who, like many other important personages before him, was born in the Podolia region that was once under the control of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. A great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov and thus highly-regarded by his peers, Nachman's movement was slightly different to that of his Hasidic counterparts elsewhere in that he sought to unite mysticism and scholarship. Kabbalah, in other works, with a deep and penetrating study of the Torah.

Married at just 13, Nachman already had a small circle of disciples and soon began teaching at the north-west Russian town of Medvedevka. By 1798 he had visited Palestine and met Hasidic leaders in Haifa, Tiberias and Safed, reconciling theological differences between different groups and bringing them under his guidance. When he returned to the fringes of Eastern Europe, greatly encouraged by what he had seen, Nachman travelled through the Ukrainian towns of Moheilov, Ossatin, Zlatopol, Odessa and, finally, Breslov, announcing that his form of Hasidism would take the name of Breslov itself. In 1802, Nachman and his followers settled in the town and he raised six daughters and two sons with his wife, Sashia.

Included among Nachman's teachings is the idea that hereditary succession among the Hasidim must be rejected in favour of actually finding the righteous ones who are best suited to the task of guidance and leadership. This, he argued, was in the capability of all Jews. In order to cultivate and develop these qualities, it is not necessary to become too ascetic but one must question what lies behind one's own personal deeds. The cerebral activity this demands is related to the more intellectual and scholarly dimension of 'imaginative' Hasidism and such introspection must also involve engaging in direct conversation with God. Nachman also believed that music could help to facilitate the higher states of mysticism necessary to achieve this communion. In addition, the recitation of the Psalms in a particular order could lead to the atonement of one's sins.

Opposed to these teaching were the rabbinical Misnagdim from Lithuiania, who focussed strongly on the Talmud and believed that Kabbalistic practices should be confined to a Jewish elite and that to over-intellectualise like Nachman and his circle was to risk the dilution of the teachings themselves. Coupled with the growing presence of the Jewish Enlightenment these were very trying times and there were often angry disagreements between them.

Nachman of Breslov went on to experience several personal setbacks in his life, however, and whilst his wife contracted tuberculosis in 1807 he managed to survive it. After a fire destroyed his home in 1810, Nachman was contacted by a group of Haskalah Jews and invited to move to Uman, in central Ukraine. The fact that a group of 'enlightened' secularists had given support to a renowned Hasidic scholar is perhaps a little puzzling, but soon after settling in Uman he died. He is buried in the cemetery beside the victims of the 1768 Haidamak Massacre and it is thought that up to 20,000 people attended his funeral. It is now the site of an annual pilgrimage. Although Rebbe Nachman always stressed that anyone is capable of attaining righteousness, the Breslov Hasidim continue to insist that only he was the 'true Tzadik'.

Several posthumous works followed, mainly centred on interpretations of the Talmud, the Midrashim and the Psalms: Ostrog Volume I (1808), Ostrog Volume II (1811), Ostrog Volume III (1815), Sippurei Ma'asiyot (1816) and Tikkun HaKlali (1821). Other texts were lost after Nachman asked his followers to destroy them on account of possessing complex mystical insights that few would ever be able to comprehend:

As soon as I am dead, while my body is still lying here on the floor, you are to take all the writings you find in the chest and burn them. And be sure to fulfill my request. [7]

These included the Sefer HaGanuz ('The Hidden Book') and the Sefer HaNisraf ('The Burned Book').

Nachman's official scribe was a man who came to be known as Nathan of Breslov (1780-1844). Born Nathan Sternhartz, his father was a wealthy businessman and strongly opposed to Hasidism. This view was shared by Nathan's eventual brother-in-law and thus in a theological sense he was forced to prove his theological credentials at a very young age. Once he had been introduced to Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, however, he began to gravitate towards Hasidism but it was only when he moved to Breslov and met Rebbe Nachman that he found what he had been looking for.

Nathan soon began collecting the teachings and stories of his spiritual mentor, eventually investing in a printing press to make them more widely available. Prior to his death, he also raised enough money to construct a Breslov-Hadisic synagogue in Uman and this became a focus for the many pilgrims who visited Nachman's grave. Nathan left behind a number of books on Jewish law and personal conduct, as well as letters, prayers and details of the Rebbe's life and travels.

Another version of Hasidism arrived in the shape of the more 'introspective' Peshischa-Kotzk movement. Founded in southern Poland by Yaakov Yitzchak Rabinowicz (1766-1813), or the Yid Hakudosh, this particular sect has been described as

an elitist, rationalistic Hasidism that centered on Talmudic study and formed a counterpoint to the miracle-centered Hasidism of Lublin. [8]

Rabinowicz was originally a disciple of the Seer of Lublin, with whom he shares a very similar name, although he eventually came to reject his counterpart's ideas in favour of those formulated by the slightly older Rabbi Simcha Bunim (1765-1827) of Peshischa. A skilled pharmacist, Bunim had received enormous funding from the wealthy Jewish businesswoman, Temerl Bergson (d. 1830). Together, the men demanded strict adherence to a rigorous Talmudic curriculum that went beyond the miracle-work of the Seer of Lublin. This also included a process of mental preparation before attempting to pray. Ironically, Bunim later became a follower of the Yid Hakudosh himself and continued to promulgate his teachings in the wake of his death in 1813.

Another dynasty of Hasidic Rebbes, the Izhbitza-Radzin, was led by Mordechai Yosef Leiner (1801-1854) of the eastern Polish city of Izbica. Best known for his Mei HaShilo'ach ('Living Waters'), Rabbi Leiner developed the idea that absolutely everything in the world is under the direct control of God. Given that sin also exists in the world, this doctrine is highly controversial and infers that such actions are committed with God's own blessing. Much of Leiner's work, therefore, concerns the justification of past sins, particularly in Jewish history. Even figures such as Judas were vindicated and this led to the burning of Leiner's work.

Regardless of the particular Hasidic sect under discussion, it seems fair to conclude that the phenomenon in general

offers a mystical approach to the great conundrums of the relationship between God and man, between the religious plane and the social plane. In its awareness of constant divine presence and the ever-renewed word of God, it takes upon itself the task of reading anew what is inscribed upon the tablets and of redefining God, humanity, and the world in a profound spirit of freedom. [9]

* * *

Whilst the bulk of this article has been taken up with the origins of modern Hasidism, one must not make the error of assuming that all forms of either Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism in general were operating under that particular umbrella. One example of what one may refer to as 'freestyle' Kabbalah is that of Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (1720-1797), better known as the Vilna Gaon. Having memorised the teachings of the Tanakh by the age of four, three years later he had also learnt whole swathes of the Talmud and by the time he was eleven able to recite it in its entirety. When the child prodigy became a young man he travelled throughout Europe and had become an expert on mathematics and astronomy.

Returning home to Sialiec in 1748, in what is now part of modern-day Belarus, the Gaon chose to reject Hasidic teachings on account of interpreting mysticism through the means of both Minhag prayer and the religious laws of Halakha. He even refused to become a rabbi, as he believed the religious authority of some of his contemporaries was being abused. After forty years of isolated study the Gaon decided to live in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, and clashed with the city's Hasidic leaders. In 1777 he was responsible for excommunicating some of their chief followers and, four years later, expelled Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi himself for refusing to minimise the movement's increasing activities.

The Gaon's legacy survives in that he produced some outstanding Kabbalistic commentaries. Some even argue that he was among the first to create a fusion between the emerging scientific discoveries of the Renaissance period, especially physics, and Kabbalah itself.

Another non-Hasidic mystic was Chaim (1749-1821) of Volozhin, a student of the Vilna Goan who later founded his own Lithuanian-style yeshiva in what was then part of the Russian Empire. Born at Volozhin in the Minsk region of Belarus, Chaim is remembered for his Nefesh Ha-Chaim ('Living Soul'). It is a deeply mystical text and remains very much part of the Kabbalistic canon. Its complex format is alluded to by Norman Lamm:

The Nefesh ha-Hayyim consists of five parts, four of which are numbered and are called 'gates.' The fifth part, which appears between the third and fourth gates, is unnumbered. The first three gates, which are primarily metaphysical-mystical, number, respectively, twenty-two, eighteen, and fourteen chapters. The fourth gate, or final part, which is more popular and exoteric and extols the study of Torah, contains thirty-four chapters. The unnumbered part, containing eight chapters, is in the nature of a preface to gate 4 (and henceforth will be termed 'pre-4') and deals primarily with ethical material, such as the suppression of pride and other undesirable character traits, especially as it relates to the study of Torah and the performance of the commandments. […] The fact that it is unnumbered indicates that it was written after the rest of the book had been composed and was already in completed manuscript form. Evidence for this may also be found from the glosses and cross-references that are found throughout the book. [10]

Although several of Chaim's other works were destroyed in a house fire he has left us with a curious passage about the golem. Discussing a conversation with his mentor, Elijah of Vilna (1720-1797), Chaim mentions in his Sifra di-Tzeniuta ('The Book of Concealment') that

it should not be too great and wonderful a thing to create a Golem. He replied: 'Indeed at one time I began to create a Golem, and while I was in my middle of making it a certain ghostly form passed over my head, so I stopped making it any further. I said to myself that most probably they were preventing me from heaven, because I was so young then.' I asked him how old he was then, and he replied that he was less than thirteen. [11]

Interestingly, there were also several 'Oriental' versions of Kabbalah that remained outside of the Hasidic sphere of influence and the first of these appeared in Yemen during the eighteenth century, under the direction of Shalom Sharabi (1720-1777). Having travelled through Palestine and India, even exploring the cities of Baghdad and Damascus along the way, Sharabi had acquired a wealth of mystical knowledge and devoted himself to the teachings of Isaac Luria. In one surviving document, Sharabi discusses the Sephardi mystics of Beth-El that he had encountered in Jerusalem:

Practical Kabbalah was completely prohibited. In its place came the insistence of a pure and holy life underlying was a joy as sincere as it was silent; a silence which was helpful and productive; a brotherly love. There was no pilgrimage to graves, no use of amulets. [12]

Working in Yemen as a mere servant he had tried to conceal his interest in Kabbalah from his neighbours, but when a wealthy Muslim woman made an attempt to seduce him it is said that she was eventually deterred by a miracle. Sharabi joined a Kabbalistic circle soon afterwards and was visited by the prophet Elijah. Among his writings are the Kabbalistic prayer book, Siddur Ha-Kavvanot, as well as extensive commentaries on Jewish custom such as Emet va-Shalom, Rehovot Hanahar, Derech Shalom and Nahar Shalom. One particular collection of volumes, dealing with the devotional character of Yemenite Jews, is called the Minhagei Rashash.

One slightly later example of 'Oriental' Kabbalah that has no relation to Hasidism is that of Yosef Hayim (1835-1909), who founded the Shoshanim LeDavid yeshiva in Jerusalem. When his father died in Iraq, Hayim was asked by the Jews of Baghdad to head the city's group of scholars and he eventually clashed with the reformist Bavarian Jew, Jacob Obermeyer (1845-1938), over the exact manner in which the Sefer ha-Zohar should be taught. Hayim's main speciality, on the other hand, was the Torah and his Ben Ish Hai remains a crucial part of the mystical understanding of the Torah itself. In total, he published around thirty books and the majority of these works deal with Jewish law, the Talmud and a large number of stories and parables. His Qânûn-un-Nisâ, written in Arabic and exploring the art of self-improvement, is aimed at women.

Notes:

1. Klapholz, Yisroel Yaakov; Tales of the Baal Shem Tov (Feldheim Publishers, 1970), pp.5-6.

2. Scholem, Gershom; Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, op.cit., p.118.

3. Elior, Rachel; The Mystical Origins of Hasidism (The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2008), pp.15-6.

4. Ibid., pp.128-9.

5. Rabinowicz, Rabbi Dr. Harry; The World of Hasidism (Vallentine Mitchell, 1970), p.45.

6. Schneur, Zalman; Tanya (Kehot Publication Society, 1962), p.vii.

7. Nathan, Rabbi & Greenbaum, Avraham (Trans.); Tzaddik: Portrait of Rabbi Nahman (Breslov Research Institute, 1987), p.77.

8. Shapiro, Rami M.; Hasidic Tales: Annotated & Explained (Skylight Paths Publishing, 2003), p.xxxix.

9. Elior, Rachel; The Mystical Origins of Hasidism, op.cit., p.210.

10. Lamm, Norman; Torah Lishmah – Torah for Torah's Sake: In the Works of Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin and His Contemporaries (Ktav Publishing House, 1999).

11. Volozhin, Chaim of; "Introduction" in Sifra di-Tzeniuta, quoted in Alan Unterman's The Kabbalistic Tradition (Penguin Classics, 2008), p.138.

12. Jacobs, Louis; Jewish Mystical Testimonies, op.cit., p.157.

News from Nowhere
15 Apr 2022 | 12:43 pm

School for Scoundrels: The Nightmare Vision of Thomas Wedgwood


IN the north-west midlands of England, there is a famous china and porcelain industry that has been operating since 1759 and which has since given its name to the part of Staffordshire known as the 'Potteries'.

The largest manufacturer, Wedgwood, went on to make a huge fortune in the ceramics business and leading potter Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) left half a million pounds to his three sons. The youngest of these, Thomas Wedgwood (1771-1805), was an early pioneer of photography and was so full of himself that he wished to create a school for genius. Ironically, despite his capitalist proclivities the young Wedgwood was a keen supporter of French Jacobinism and absorbed much of the movement's ruthlessness. As he explained:

I have been endeavouring some masterstroke which should anticipate a century or two upon the lazy-paced progress of human improvement.

As far as Wedgwood was concerned, the "unproductive occupation" of the child must come to an end and the school environment regulated down to the very last detail. "Romping, tickling and fooling" would be strictly forbidden, with no time for "solitary musing". The walls of the nursery should have grey walls to safeguard against distraction and be filled with hard objects "so as to continually irritate their palms". Children would be forbidden to leave the premises or venture outside and Wedgwood even proposed that they be taught by William Godwin and various other radicals and subversives of the day.

As a result, he travelled down to Alfoxden House in Somerset to recruit Romantic poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. As the pair's biographer, Adam Sisman, explains:

Two years before, while he was still under the influence of Godwin, Wordsworth might have considered such a proposition; but now it was anathema to him. To coop up a child indoors, to attempt to limit his sensory experience, not to allow him time for reflection – this was the very antithesis of the method William and Dorothy had adopted with success […]

Coleridge was also opposed to the idea and when Wedgwood made a derogatory comment about Wordsworth in the latter's absence, he replied: "He strides on so far before you, that he dwindles in the distance."

Wedgwood, who was said to be disinterested in women and have a taste for sensitive young men, died without children at just 34. One can only imagine the educational horrors if his perverse dreams had been realised.

News from Nowhere
15 Apr 2022 | 12:35 pm

Who Needs Morality? Goethe’s Passions


THE well-known Enlightenment figure, Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832), had an interesting view on maintaining virtue without relying upon bourgeois concepts of morality. In his 1810 poem, The Diary, a low-key exercise in erotic verse, the German insisted that sexual temptation is something that can be experienced by Christians and non-Christians alike:

We've often heard, and must at last believe

No one has ever fathomed the heart of man,

And, however much we bob and weave,

Christian or heathen, we're all prone to sin.

We know the rules and follow them when we can,

For if a demon tries to make us stray

Virtue's safe if higher powers hold sway.

The poem continues with the salacious tale of an adulterous traveller who finds himself temporarily stranded at a remote inn and who then becomes seduced by the feminine charms of an attractive chambermaid. Once he ends up in bed with the young lady, however, the wayward journeyman discovers that he can only become sexually aroused by imagining the naked body of his wife and thinking about the great passion they had experienced during the very onset of their relationship. At this point in the proceedings, the poem alludes to the sudden response of the male organ:

And then at last he's there: all of a sudden

He rises up and stands in all his glory.

Ready to do whatever he is bidden.

It is only now that the man loses interest in the servant girl entirely, leaps out of bed and returns home to his wife.

One of Goethe's correspondents, Karl Reinhard (1761-1837), noted that 'your characters are not spiritualistic' and he was right. Goethe, who was often accused of atheism by the leading theologians of the day, was not hoisting aloft the flag of heathenry at all and his vision was completely in lieu of spirituality. In short, the 'higher powers' Goethe speaks of are not supernatural in any way and merely centre upon the salvation of human virtue through physiological means.

Nonetheless, the traveller's paradoxical redemption is not drawn from prevailing notions of religious sin but the stark realisation that one can maintain one's own higher standards elsewhere. Morality, then, is replaced by an ironic sense of self-worth that has itself been fuelled by lust.

News from Nowhere
15 Apr 2022 | 12:28 pm

The Golden Thread: Walter Benjamin’s Romantic Side


THE Frankfurt School philosopher, Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), is often dismissed as a Marxist but his early writings display a far more traditional approach that drew heavily on the German Romantics.

Following on from the Cartesianism of the famous French thinker, René Descartes (1629-1649), known for his credo "I think, therefore I am" (Cogito, ergo sum), Romantics such as Novalis (1772-1801) developed the idea that everything is a self and each comes into being through the process of thought. This happens, he argued, due to "the reflection of spirits in themselves" and all beings are centres of reflection. He also believed that it is possible for one of these centres to radiate its self-knowledge onto others. This, however, requires very intensive reflection and yet can result in the incorporation of other beings within the one centre. This was considered to be a 'progressive' action that leads to evermore complex units of reflection, not in a linear fashion but as part of a universal interconnectedness. Thus, for people such as Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), "reflection constitutes the absolute, and it constitutes it as a medium". This means that an object and its knowing being merge into one another and become part of the Absolute.

Benjamin took the Romantic ideas of Novalis and Schlegel and set them within the context of art. As the foremost medium of reflection, therefore, art could lead to something infinitely more spiritual and transcendent. Benjamin achieved this by developing his theory of criticism, something that strips away the more peripheral aspects of a poem or painting and unearths the bare essentials. As he explained,

setting free the condensed potential and many sidedness of these forms [reveals] their connectedness as moments within the medium. The idea of art as a medium thus creates for the first time the possibility of an undogmatic or free formalism.

What, at face value, may be interpreted as an exercise in deconstruction, however, actually elevates the sacred at the expense of the profane and the work in question is able to realise its full potential through criticism itself.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) had a similar objective in mind when he searched for the "ideal of content" within a piece of art and, by doing so, suggested that the authentic components may be grasped only in the "limited plurality of pure contents into which it decomposes." In other words, what Goethe went on to describe as a "harmonic discontinuum" of the real becomes a repository for "true nature". Benjamin took this notion – similar, perhaps, to the Golden Thread of Classical antiquity – and subjected a particular artwork to the intense scrutiny of criticism, resulting in the systematic decomposition of the object concerned to the point that it became possible to reveal certain truths in the guise of a unique cognitive medium. This was achieved by comparing the artist's work in relation to the whole; be it history, religion, education or art itself. Furthermore, Benjamin even noticed the similarities between his own critical process and that of Alchemy. Art is transformed and renewed, just as basic chemicals are changed into other substances in a transmutational laboratory.

* * *

Walter Benjamin, therefore, believed that it was possible to use criticism of art as a unique cognitive medium in the wider search for truth. This is achieved by a reflective process that relates each artistic work to matters such as history, religion, education and even art itself. As I explained above, Benjamin's method is similar to the idea of the Golden Thread and his approach to the function of linguistic translation – an outgrowth of his developing ideas on criticism – has other perennialist ramifications and these also relate to Romantic thought.

Our usual interpretation of the work performed by a translator relates to one's ability to communicate what something in a foreign language actually tells us in a language of one's own. However, Benjamin insisted that translation was not simply a question of conveying the exact meaning of an original piece of text. Whilst this may sound highly questionable, perhaps even wildly eccentric and unorthodox, Benjamin explained that translation can actually reveal something about the text that was not apparent in the original and that

a specific significance inherent in the original manifests itself in its translatability.

In other words, and the example is my own, the role of the Benjaminian translator is rather similar to that of the holy man who meditates between God and the people to whom he ministers. During the Tridentine mass, for example, a Catholic priest is able to convey the liturgy to non-Latin speakers by way of the universally recognised symbolism that surrounds the transubstantive ritual, but for Benjamin the translator can perform such a transformation by using nothing more than the domain of the written word to create something altogether new. Not a textual falsehood, that seeks to distort in the way that a contemporary preface might warn us about the dangers of a politically-incorrect work, but through the creation of something which actually supersedes the original and conveys that which had previously lain undetected. This may seem like a form of linguistic embellishment, but as far as Benjamin was concerned through the skill of translation

the life of the original attains its latest, continually renewed, and most complete unfolding.

This stripping-away can lead to what the Frankfurt School thinker further describes as the

language of truth, a tensionless and even silent depository of the ultimate secrets for which all thought strives.

Past truths live on in the present and, for Benjamin, can be expressed through a pure language.

The inspiration for this idea arose from his familiarity with the work of the Romantic poet and philosopher, Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843), who diligently translated a series of Ancient Greek texts into his native German. So diligent were Hölderlin's efforts, mark you, that the translations themselves were literal in the extreme and his refusal to dismiss the original Greek syntax and morphology meant that he actually disfigured his own language in the process.

As a result of Benjamin's own penchant for Lurianic Kabbalah, he compared this activity to the repair of the broken vessels that one finds in Jewish mysticism. The important thing, he contends, is not to make them identical but to nonetheless piece them back together and, as a result, create the fragments of a greater language that is unquantifiable and yet centred on linguistic truth. When this revealed truth outweighs the purely material content of a text, since destroyed in the search for meaning, the "fallen language" that was previously hidden from view achieves redemption. In a sense, therefore, by using translation to change the nature of language in the quest for the authentic he allows something more transcendent to break through the surface of reality.

Ironically, it is almost as though constructivism was being used in the service of a more sacred Tradition.

News from Nowhere
15 Apr 2022 | 12:17 pm

The Romantic Manifesto: William Wordsworth’s Preface to the Lyrical Ballads


FIRST published in 1798, the Lyrical Ballads was a collection of poems by William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) in which an attempt was made to break with existing convention and create an exciting new wave of English Romanticism.

Whilst the 1798 first edition contained just four poetic contributions from Coleridge (including 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner') and almost sixty from Wordsworth, a frank and unequivocal Preface added by the latter to the second edition of January 1801 – and yet speaking on behalf of both men – was viewed as the unofficial 'manifesto' of the Romantic movement as a whole. By 1802, a third edition saw Wordsworth add an appendix ('Poetic Diction') to the Lyrical Ballads that elaborated on the ideas that had been discussed in the first Preface two years earlier. The original Preface was also greatly expanded. Meanwhile, the two versifying collaborators set about publishing a fourth edition in 1805.

Our task, then, is to examine the extended Preface that appeared with the third edition of 1802 and which clearly outlines the aims of Wordsworth and Coleridge in some detail. It was the former, of course, who was charged with the task of writing this important literary document and he begins by revealing the aesthetic motives behind the original publication of the Lyrical Ballads some four years earlier:

It was published, as an experiment, which, I hoped, might be of some use to ascertain, how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation, that sort of pleasure and that quantity of pleasure may be imparted, which a Poet may rationally endeavour to impart.

Whilst Coleridge and Wordsworth had fully expected their collected efforts to offend some of their worst critics, they were pleasantly surprised when the first edition of the Lyrical Ballads appealed to far more people than they had envisaged. This led some of their chief admirers to call for a clear statement of Romantic principles:

Several of my Friends are anxious for the success of these Poems from a belief, that, if the views with which they were composed were indeed realized, a class of Poetry would be produced, well adapted to interest mankind permanently, and not unimportant in the multiplicity, and in the quality of its moral relations: and on this account they have advised me to prefix a systematic defence of the theory, upon which the poems were written.

Wordsworth, however, realised that any excessive dissection of the actual meaning behind the poems themselves would not simply diminish their overall effect but appear presumptuous in terms of claiming to account for the public's favourable reaction towards them.

Due to the political upheavals of the time, something caused by the Industrial Revolution and the concomitant rise of capitalist exploitation, Wordsworth – who, alongside Coleridge, had taken a keen interest in the revolutionary upheavals of the time – stated in a letter to Charles James Fox (1749-1806), a prominent Whig statesman, that the

evil would be the less to be regretted, if these institutions were regarded only as palliatives to a disease; but the vanity and pride of their promoters are so subtly interwoven with them, that they are deemed great discoveries and blessings to humanity. In the meantime parents are separated from their children, and children from their parents; the wife no longer prepares, with her own hands, a meal for her husband, the produce of his labour; there is little doing in the house in which his affections can be interested, and but little left in it that he can love.

Wordsworth had understood that people had become so thoroughly desensitised by capitalism that poetry offered some form of hope and that Romanticism allowed people to reflect on nature and reconnect themselves to the realities of the organic world that was being actively denied to them. As he later explained in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads:

The principal object, then, which I proposed to myself in these Poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible, in a selection of language really used by men; and, at the same time, to throw over them a certain colouring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way; and, further, and above all, to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them, truly though not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature: chiefly, as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement. Low and rustic life was generally chosen, because in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of life our elementary feelings co-exist in a state of greater simplicity, and, consequently, may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings; and, from the necessary character of rural occupations, are more easily comprehended, and are more durable; and lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.

Clearly, expressions pertaining to "the primary laws of our nature" and phrases such as "less under restraint" are designed to associate the reconnection of man to his environment as a form of liberation. This, the first edition of the Lyrical Ballads had achieved by employing a radical 'conversation' style that ordinary people could identify with. Although other English poets like Alexander Pope (1688-1744) had tried to engender a new Christian order among the working classes, the approach of Coleridge and Wordsworth offered readers a more 'pagan' perspective. Instead of adhering to a strict moral order, the poetry of the Lyrical Ballads was born of a passionately emotive self-identification that had, nonetheless, arisen from a process of careful thought and consideration:

For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: but though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man, who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply. For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings; and, as by contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each other we discover what is really important to men, so, by the repetition and continuance of this act, our feelings will be connected with important subjects, till at length, if we be originally possessed of much sensibility, such habits of mind will be produced, that, by obeying blindly and mechanically the impulses of those habits, we shall describe objects, and utter sentiments, of such a nature and in such connection with each other, that the understanding of the being to whom we address ourselves, if he be in a healthful state of association, must necessarily be in some degree enlightened, and his affections ameliorated.

Coleridge and Wordsworth were adamant that there is no real difference between poetry and prose, and that both mediums – as with the more generally accepted relationship between poetry and art – are formed from the very same substance: the mystical life-force of humanity.

Wordsworth then turned his attention to the poet himself and his unique role in life:

He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endued with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the Universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them.

In addition, he argued that the poet is capable of "conjuring up in himself" those passions which are quite different to the more commonplace emotions that one ordinarily relates to real events. Wordsworth was convinced that the poet has an ability to generate a wellspring of passion without any external stimulation whatsoever.

As readers will have noted in my previous contribution to this website on Coleridge's Frost at Midnight, there is a very important philosophical dimension to Romanticism that often gets overlooked and Wordsworth is keen to introduce this factor into his Preface:

Aristotle, I have been told, hath said, that Poetry is the most philosophic of all writing: it is so: its object is truth, not individual and local, but general, and operative; not standing upon external testimony, but carried alive into the heart by passion; truth which is its own testimony, which gives strength and divinity to the tribunal to which it appeals, and receives them from the same tribunal.

Although many of the German Romantics were of the firm opinion that philosophy and poetry are complementary, Novalis and Schlegel among them, the medium of verse is far less rigid than the academic discipline one must employ elsewhere:

The obstacles which stand in the way of the fidelity of the Biographer and Historian, and of their consequent utility, are incalculably greater than those which are to be encountered by the Poet, who has an adequate notion of the dignity of his art. The Poet writes under one restriction only, namely, that of the necessity of giving immediate pleasure to a human Being possessed of that information which may be expected from him, not as a lawyer, a physician, a mariner, an astronomer or a natural philosopher, but as a Man. Except this one restriction, there is no object standing between the Poet and the image of things; between this, and the Biographer and Historian there are a thousand.

When Wordsworth tells us that the work of the poet is more fluid, therefore, he is highlighting the fact that poetry itself is comparatively more 'anarchic' and that it transcends the restrictive bonds of convention. This should not, however, lead us to imagine that poetry tends towards degeneration or a loss of control:

It is an acknowledgment of the beauty of the universe, an acknowledgment the more sincere because it is not formal, but indirect; it is a task light and easy to him who looks at the world in the spirit of love: further, it is a homage paid to the native and naked dignity of man, to the grand elementary principle of pleasure, by which he knows, and feels, and lives, and moves.

Wordsworth continues by explaining that whilst any excitement provoked by Romantic poetry has a tendency to "be carried beyond its proper bounds," this is always tempered by the fact that many poems deal with our everyday feelings. Not simply passion, in other words, but the intermittent pain of existence. Our reactions may oscillate between these two pillars, yet they act as a necessary balance that allows us to keep a firm check on reality. The key to all this, says Wordsworth, is enjoyment:

I have said that Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till by a species of reaction the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. In this mood successful composition generally begins, and in a mood similar to this it is carried on; but the emotion, of whatever kind and in whatever degree, from various causes is qualified by various pleasures, so that in describing any passions whatsoever, which are voluntarily described, the mind will upon the whole be in a state of enjoyment. Now, if Nature be thus cautious in preserving in a state of enjoyment a being thus employed, the Poet ought to profit by the lesson thus held forth to him, and ought especially to take care, that whatever passions he communicates to his Reader, those passions, if his Reader's mind be sound and vigorous, should always be accompanied with an overbalance of pleasure.

Finally, throughout English Romantic poetry one detects a healthy flourish of individuality in the sense that the reader is expected to reject literary opinion and judge for himself. The feelings and emotions that one receives from a particular work should be enough to determine whether one attributes any value to it. Allowing the poetic establishment to decide whether something has any worth is an abrogation of personal responsibility. Wordsworth, perhaps, realising that Romantic poetry would upset the jealous trend-setters of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, wanted people to judge for themselves. This was an appeal to individual reason, rather than a willingness to capitulate to the collective might of poetic convention. In this regard, the Lyrical Ballads remain one of the greatest achievements of European poetry.

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