We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea. The naked woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixteenth floor is a victim of accidie, or the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be “interesting” to know which. We tell ourselves that it makes some difference whether the naked woman is about to commit a mortal sin or is about to register a political protest or is about to be, the Aristophanic view, snatched back to the human condition by the fireman in priest’s clothing just visible in the window behind her, the one smiling at the telephoto lens. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.
(Or at least we do for a while. I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling…
Joan Didion, “The White Album”
Rob Irving, Art and Artifice
The world we experience is not an exact image of objective reality; it is a virtual reality, generated from sensory input filtered through theories, knowledge, emotion and associations and so on. This is not to say that nothing is real, just that we can never experience reality directly. Our natural instinct to make sense of our perceptions – the desire for order – can be so strong that the obvious can be obscured and the mundane made mysterious, magnifying the merest conjecture into astounding fact.
Rick Paulas interviews Spencer McCall “San Francisco’s Baffling Jejune Institute Gets A Documentary”
Did you ever see The NeverEnding Story? What’s cool about that is, the people of Fantasia need a human being to give a new name to the Empress. And the only way they can get someone to come to their world is to create a story that someone can immerse themselves in, they can only come to this world and save it if they believe that the story they’re reading is essential and necessary. The story doesn’t matter. It’s just the tool to get you to come together and open up your eyes. It’s not the Holy Grail; it’s the quest for the Holy Grail. But everything that the Holy Grail would give you, you could gather on the quest. So that was the message. And that’s not necessarily a new message. You know, “it’s the journey not the destination.”
So that’s what’s really cool to me, is that you can believe in something more going on. You can believe in magic and you don’t have to attribute it to a God or whatever…
… or a corporation, or a movie…
… but at the same time, people love to say they’re spiritual but not religious, and this was definitely religious but not spiritual. Because it was all the tradition and story that religions have, but none of the necessity to believe in any of the magic. And I don’t know if that was really Jeff’s idea. His idea was to get people to stop looking at their phones, to explore the world they live in, not be afraid to go down an alley because they think it might be owned by someone. You know, don’t go robbing anybody, but explore it. It’s your city, too. That would be Jeff’s thing.
Mine would be just to question the media you’re presented with. I think a movie has the ability to make you open your eyes and linger and bounce around in your brain for awhile, but don’t take it too seriously. And if you do, be sure you really question it and get the answers. It’s like Jaws. If you’d seen the shark in the beginning, would it be that sharp or spooky of a movie? Probably not. You know at the end they do show the shark. I don’t think I ever showed the shark in this movie. But that’s the idea. Go find the shark yourself. You decide.
The clown’s mysterious appearances in grainy photos, sinister and forlorn, had many of the hallmarks of a Moore creation: absurd, fascinating, troubling and thought provoking.
In fact many internet users had already had the same thought.
“Apparently there had been a certain amount of comment on the internet suggesting probably some connection. No it’s not me.
“I am getting kind of used to this. After having a comic strip I wrote 30 years ago spewing masked anarchists across the global political stage for the past couple of years. Things that I write do have a tendency to spill into reality. Since that was one of the principles behind Jimmy’s End [an episode in The Show] – to blur the boundaries between one and the other – I suppose that getting clowns manifesting in my neighbourhood is only to be expected.
“We had only just done that thing on Kickstarter with His Heavy Heart which starts shooting in a few weeks. I had said it was about Strippers and Clowns. The suggestion is that there is some kind of dream time existing under Northampton and that occasionally things will break through from one realm to the other. It is just a demonstration that Jimmy’s End is a kind of a documentary. It’s reportage. We are not just making this shit up.”
Apparently coincidentally, Alan has found himself close to the heart of the clown story. One of its first eerie appearances was in Alan’s road, standing on a corner in the dark with a light shining from a window above.
Alan’s explanation for this is simple: it’s just a weird road.
more on Northampton Clown here
hat tip to Technoccult here
So. Chaos Magic. The typical start date of chaos magic as an occult system and worldview is 1976, in a meeting between Peter J. Carroll and Ray Sherwin, but if you want to give it a date of public appearance you’d have to pick 1978 and the publication of Liber Null. It’s important to sort out what was going on here, and this requires flipping back in our playbook a bit because we haven’t actually dealt seriously with the evolution of modern occultism since about The Daemons. The signposts for this blog being what they are, Chaos Magic was invented in the Tom Baker era right around the transition from Hinchcliffe to Williams. It is, at least in its basic form, occultism’s reaction to punk. Where previous magical approaches focused on reinventing or subverting existing structures and traditions, chaos magic’s basic attitude was “fuck it.” Its core belief is that magic is simply the exertion of will upon reality, and that the trappings of magic are just there to shape what one believes in and thus what one can will. The core chaos magic belief is that of “consensus reality,” the default order of things that persists because we all believe it to be so, and the chaos magician’s basic tactic and maneuver is to defy consensus reality by imposing their own beliefs on the world, often changing their beliefs to fit the circumstances.
But there’s a more fundamental problem that gets at the nature of chaos magic as a worldview. It is, ultimately, a worldview based on a radical individualism. In one regard it seems the perfect counterpart to the sort of hedonism implied by The Scarlet Empress, but there is far more to it. Central to chaos magic is the idea of imposing one’s will upon the world. However much one rejigs it to be about changes in perception and internal consciousness, the crux of it is still an immensely practical sort of magic that’s focused heavily on the idea that it is, in fact, possible to alter the world through the exertion of one’s will. It’s magic with a single-minded goal of doing things.
Which is to say that in hindsight chaos magic fits perfectly into the narrative of the nineties that has in hindsight proved so disastrous: the “third way” liberalism of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair that took for granted that it was possible to achieve meaningful social justice while fawning obsequiously at the feet of the most powerful people in the world. While it is largely a given that any attempt at radical reform of political institutions will swiftly be watered down and compromised, the triangulating leftism of the 1990s made the somewhat astonishing decision to sell our the possibility of major social change as its opening gambit, foreclosing on the possibility of revolution first and trying to bring one about second. In hindsight we can look at the consequences of the neoliberal consensus – a massively expanded wealth gap, a financial sector that can crash the global economy on the back of what is in practice little more than a terribly complex version of video poker and see no significant regulation in exchange, and all that good stuff.
No, of course Grant Morrison didn’t cause the financial crash. But as a form of radicalism, the one he spells out is fundamentally and irretrievably complicit in it. Chaos magic is magic for libertarians. It sprung up, unsurprisingly, in the late nineties because it was a flavor particularly suitable for the techno-libertarians who disproportionately dominated the early Internet. And it was, in hindsight, a complete and utter bust. It’s just another flavor of the Heinlein-style science fiction that animated Babylon 5 and space opera in general. It amounts to Robert Heinlein in fetish gear, which is mostly just redundant.
well worth reading in its entirety, including the discussion in the comments
hat tip to Technoccult’s Critique of the Invisibles