This Text Can Be Found in the Book,
The Evolution of Consent: Collected Essays (Vol. I)
This piece is dedicated generally to The People’s Arcane School, and specifically
to my friend and teacher, Mercurious Magus, without whom I’d have been unable to put this together.
Metaphysics and the Alchemy of Society
Many people, the world over, face very real problems: pain, stress, anger, sadness, hunger, and much more. To have these emotions is normal, what it is to be human, but when people start to face these difficulties for an extended amount of time they can begin to act out in frustration or become depressed. When they feel like they have no other resort, people in the West resort to praying, looking outside to help from a higher power than themselves, one which they have never seen; while many others, especially in the East, look within for that higher power, by way of meditation.
What does modern science have to say about the effects of such theurgical practices as meditation and prayer? Well, though skeptical at first, all kinds of scientific studies have come out that demonstrate that prayer and meditation can both be beneficial for people’s lives. They can, indeed, both be positive. Meditation can lead to calmer mental states, and praying can lead to adhering to higher goals, creating better outcomes through acts of faith.
It should come as no surprise that metaphysics and self-help share a close relationship to one another. If you haven’t seen the mass of yoga advertisements in all of the hip spots in your town, you must not be living in a mass urban environment! Most of you, I am sure, have seen them. You know, they’re next to the other hippy stuff (posters, flyers, and cards), like the ads for Buddhist meditation, acupuncture, liberal church groups, and New Age speakers. It’s no accident that you’ll also find cards for psychologists, nutritionists, and natural healers in these kinds of places; these all developed from metaphysics. Hell, even modern medicines came from metaphysics, as made bright and clear in the symbology of the Hermetic caduceus, still used in the medical industry. Chemistry—pharmacology— is just alchemy, afterall. This should be no surprise, considering most of our scientific knowledge came out of metaphysics and its offshoots!
Despite the influence of faith on human consciousness, and, therefore, outcomes, modern scientism, with a fundamentally atheistic worldview, rejects all notions of faith whatsoever. Yet, as I’ve written in “A Mystical Look at Evolution,” empiricism, while having value, restricts us from inquiry about future potentials, by limiting all potentials to successes of the past. Without faith, life would be inorganic, for it is the faith in outcomes that drives an organism to action. As William James famously argues for us in his lecture, “The Will to Believe,”
A social organism of any sort whatever, large or small, is what it is because each member proceeds to his own duty with a trust that the other members will simultaneously do theirs. Wherever a desired result is achieved by the co-operation of many independent persons, its existence as a fact is a pure consequence of the precursive faith in one another of those immediately concerned. A government, an army, a commercial system, a ship, a college, an athletic team, all exist on this condition, without which not only is nothing achieved, but nothing is even attempted. A whole train of passengers (individually brave enough) will be looted by a few highwaymen, simply because the latter can count on one another, while each passenger fears that if he makes a movement of resistance, he will be shot before any one else backs him up. If we believed that the whole car-full would rise at once with us, we should each severally rise, and train-robbing would never even be attempted. There are, then, cases where a fact cannot come at all unless a preliminary faith exists in its coming. And where faith in a fact can help create the fact, that would be an insane logic which should say that faith running ahead of scientific evidence is the ‘lowest kind of immorality ‘ into which a thinking being can fall. Yet such is the logic by which our scientific absolutists pretend to regulate our lives![i]
Metaphysics can be very important for people’s lives. With a focus largely on ontology— studies of modes of being, the way change occurs— metaphysics is of great importance to people, often supplying them much needed faith and ambition. Naturally, this is where alchemy has its roots. As a friend first demonstrated to me, alchemy is not merely about the physical transformation of “lesser” substances into gold (though it certainly includes such inquiries about nature); this transition is largely metaphorical, with gold representing a purer, higher state of mental well-being and free will. In transforming the lesser elements into gold, alchemy touches on a metaphor for turning lower states of consciousness into higher modes of being. In terms of Hermeticism, this can be seen as transmutation from one “mental gender” to another.
In many ways, metaphysics, as well as mythology, has contributed to the very rise of civilization. Without faith, without goals, psychological well-being, populations would likely be unable to create the standards of living they have come to enjoy today. They’d be lacking the will to believe, as discussed by William James earlier, without which social organisms are hopeless, helpless. Lenski and Nolan say, in Human Societies;
The experience of Mesopotamia and Egypt thus supports the impression from horticultural societies concerning the importance of religion in the formation of an economic surplus. Technological advance created the possibility for a surplus, but to transform that possibility into a reality required an ideology that motivated farmers to produce more than they needed to stay alive and productive, and persuaded them to turn that surplus over to someone else. Although this has sometimes been accomplished by means of secular and political ideologies, a system of belief that defined people’s obligations with reference to the supernatural worked best in most societies of the past.[ii]
Mesopotamian religion is oftentimes considered polytheistic, and in many ways it was, but a more accurate depiction is one of henotheism, wherein deities are sorted into various hierarchies. In Mesopotamia, some of these deities, often considered the most important by their claimants, were patron deities, which represented, or governed over, a particular city. Marduk, for instance, was the God of Babylonia, and Enki was the God of Eridu. The belief in these Gods contributed to the success of the particular city-states. For the longest time, city-states held their own deities up high, but saw the deities of other cities, oftentimes, as enemy forces. They didn’t disbelieve in one another’s deities, necessarily, but neither did they worship them. Just as henotheism united people into their many city-states, the rise of monotheism allowed for ideologies to create and maintain nations. Atenism, Zoroastrianism, and early Judaism, for instance, further united the Egyptians, Persians, and Hebrew people under their nation’s singular Gods, which gave them a common national identity. Metaphysical inquiry contributes not only to the individual, but also to the well-being of society as a whole. Carl Jung believed that myths were the dreams of a society; as an individual has their dreams, so too societies have their myths. One can easily see how spirituality and psychology share a common root.
The mental and physical well-being that spirituality encouraged developed strong, healthy, and united individuals, who formed temples and the first sedentary lifestyles. Afterall, the first city-states were theocracies, and temples played the role of church and government simultaneously. Silos, which held the harvests of the community, were placed in the hands of the priests, and therefore the entirety of the economy was as well.
It’s necessary to point out that these originated as voluntary communities, but soon degenerated, for many reasons, into city-states, which were prone to slavery, caste systems, and other systems of involuntary hierarchy. Spirituality was largely responsible for the creation of civilization, and had also been the medium used by the new priestly castes of the city-states to seize and maintain power. This did not usually occur from within societies, but from without; as communities conquered one another, they would establish hierarchies to maintain power. Spirituality itself should not be blamed, but hierarchical relationships of domination, which allow spiritual knowledge and culture to be kept in the hands of the few, rather than spread
A Masonic Nation
Pagan mystery religions were responsible for setting up civilization, but getting a little closer to home, their modern rivals and variants may also be responsible for the way we live our lives today. Freemasons, for instance, heavily influenced by the ancient mystery religions, claim the American and French Revolutions as successes of their own. For more, see the cited article by Alex Davidson, who says,
“Freemasonry was one of the channels, perhaps the main channel, by which the values of the Enlightenment were transmitted from Britain to America, France, the Netherlands and, eventually, to all civilised countries.”[iii]
This should really come as no surprise. Afterall, there is Masonic imagery all over government resources, such as on our money, embedded in the bricks of public buildings, and much much more. A simple online search should be enough to demonstrate that. Now, a lot of crackpot ideas may come along with the resources, but the fact will remain that the crackpots themselves, though crackpots, are discussing very real phenomena, even if they blow them out of proportion. For this reason alone, it is interesting, and perhaps even rewarding, to listen to crackpots sharing rather objective data or sound concepts, though crackpots they may be.
The Enlightenment era came with a massive shift toward industrial capitalism, which was coupled also with a transition toward the modern Republic. The French, and especially American, revolutions helped usher in the new paradigm, with, apparently, great help from the Masons, some of whom became our first presidents. Is it a coincidence that Adam Weishaupt founded the Illuminati on May 1st, 1776? Or that many conservatives and religious zealots blamed them for the French Revolution? Is it a coincidence that these revolutions ushered in a new form of government, and that which was preferred by Plato, a republic? Afterall, the Masons frequently studied the works of Plato himself, as well as the work of the Neo-Platonist tradition, as founded by Plotinus. Republicanism, practiced within the society as well as desired without, only came natural to the Mystery traditions.
Republicanism is not the only philosophy of the Freemasons, it’s just their preferred political system. The philosophy and theology— or theosophy, if you will (not to be confused with the organization so named)— of the Freemasons is very diverse, but when one looks into their origins one quickly sees ties to the occult, esoteric, or arcane perspectives of reality. A major component of many of these worldviews is the contradictory nature of reality—duality or polarity—as expressed in Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, and Hermeticism. Take, for instance, this passage from The Kybalion, published by the Yogi Publication Society (The Freemasons’ publishing company), which makes clear the importance of polarity, and how it may be used to seize power:
By an understanding of the practice of Polarization, the Hermetists rise to a higher plane of Causation and thus counter-balance the laws of the lower planes of Causation. By rising above the plane of ordinary Causes they become themselves, in a degree, Causes instead of being merely Caused. By being able to master their own moods and feelings, and by being able to neutralize Rhythm, as we have already explained, they are able to escape a great part of the operations of Cause and Effect on the ordinary plane. The masses of people are carried along, obedient to their environment; the wills and desires of others stronger than themselves; the effects of inherited tendencies; the suggestions of those about them; and other outward causes; which tend to move them about on the chess-board of life like mere pawns. By rising above these influencing causes, the advanced Hermetists seek a higher plane of mental action, and by dominating their moods, emotions, impulses and feelings, they create for themselves new characters, qualities and powers, by which they overcome their ordinary environment, and thus become practically players instead of mere Pawns. Such people help to play the game of life understandingly, instead of being moved about this way and that way by stronger influences and powers and wills. They use the Principle of Cause and Effect, instead of being used by it. Of course, even the highest are subject to the Principle as it manifests on the higher planes, but on the lower planes of activity, they are Masters instead of Slaves.[iv]
To the Hermeticist, polarity is no joke; it is nearly the only fact in reality. The elite, while not exclusively tied to Hermeticism, are well aware of this polarity, and use it to maintain power. A more modern variety of the polarity in use may be supplied by the dialectic of Hegelianism. No matter the source, be it from Zoroaster, Hermes, Hegel, etc., polarity and dialectical processes have been used by the elite for centuries to keep the populace in line, and to maintain “higher states” of consciousness. It is very much in use today. Take, for instance, the symbology in use by the Democratic and Republican parties, which has been passed down through the occult tradition; Democrats wear blue ties, and Republicans wear red ones. This is no coincidence, nor is this where the duality ceases. If we look at the image of the School of Athens, painted by Rafael and finished in 1511, we can see the very nature of today’s political parties.[v]
In this incredible masterpiece, we can see many of the great thinkers throughout history, including Zoroaster, Pythagoras, Socrates, and more. In the center, however, stand the masters of masters, according to the strokes of Rafael’s brush: Plato, and his equally impressive student, Aristotle. If you notice, the republican, idealistic, and more conservative Plato stands in his red robes to the left, while the more democratic, realistic, and liberal Aristotle stands in blue to the right. Is it a coincidence that today’s Republican party is conservative, highly Christian, and accorded the red (fire) tie, while the Democrats are liberal, secular, and accorded the blue (water) tie? I certainly don’t believe so; not after my occult studies, as in the works of Hermeticism, some of which I quoted for you. The elite use polarity to control us, to preempt, and thus manufacture, our choices. Let me repeat: to preempt, and thus manufacture, our choices. Because polarity is also the nature of the Universe, the elite may pick up on tendencies of resistence, and co-opt them, only to be able to put them down.
There are many who argue that the extremes of Marxism and Rothbardianism, if not completely manufactured, were sponsored by the central bankers in order to co-opt populist movements as part of a larger dialectic. They suggest that folks like Friedrich Hayek, Milton Freidman, Ludwig von Mises, and Murray Rothbard were probable direct cogs in the plot, having received funding from the elitist Volkner Fund. There are others saying that the Rothschilds were funders of Marxism and the Bolsheviks. Marxism and Rothbardianism are, respectively, the Democrats and Republicans to the extreme, created to confuse populists, and thwart true libertarian socialism. The elite don’t only use Marxism and Rothbardianism as part of the dialectic; they also make use of race wars, gender wars, etc. Just about any polarity will do. Take the example of the hidden hand. You know how Napolean famously has his hand in his shirt for no good reason? Well, there is a reason. It’s a symbolic gesture, which can be confirmed in their own literature. One article describes it thusly:
The “hidden hand” can, in fact, be found in the rituals of the Royal Arch Degree of Freemasonry and the world leaders that use this sign are subtly saying to other initiates of the order: “This is what I’m part of, this is what I believe in and this is what I’m working for.”[vi]
There are many examples of the hidden hand. Some people may be doing it because they saw initiates of secret societies do it, and may think it is a fashion statement, not knowing its meaning, while others are likely demonstrating their association to a hidden agenda.
So, let’s recap real quick: Metaphysics is largely the study of ontology (modes of being and becoming). This study promotes faith, which may help the individual accomplish goals and attain well-being. This well-being and goal-setting of individuals led, by way of spirituality, to the shared goal-setting of the first civilizations. Just as metaphysics helped establish the first societies, it also helped transmutate more recent ones, such as France and our own country. Further occult investigation shows a strategy of using polarity, passed on from the ancients and on to Hegel, and that the victors of these liberatory revolutions now use their strategies to repress the masses. Democrats, Republicans, Marxists, Rothbardians, are all extremists, and their positions are used by the elite to polarize, divide, and conquer.
What can be learned from the success of the Freemasons, from an anarchist perspective? Well, before we start, we have to rid ourselves of hard moral absolutism, the idea that things are absolutely good or bad. Instead, we must take a position of soft moral relativism; things may ultimately be good or bad, but they are relatively good or bad according to their position in time and space. In “The Journey of Realization: The Metaphysics of Dualist Pantheism” I go in depth into the philosophy, but, in the short, good and bad must be seen within sequences of necessary events. What is good today will be bad tomorrow. Standards change as possibilities open up. A horse was good transportation in 1700, but today it is obsolete in most parts of the world, due to technological advance.
We need to see the Masonic revolutions through the lenses of soft moral relativism in order to gain anything from the Freemasons. Indeed, at the time, progression into capitalism, republicanism, and industrialism was a positive move away from feudalism, monarchism, and agrarianism. Sure, it was not a transition into mutualism, anarchism, and convivialism, but those are transcendental ideals that were not allowed for until the advent of modernism. Modern, industrialist, capitalist, republics were an ideal to the peasants of medieval, agrarian, feudalist, monarchies, but to us living as workers in the new republics, they are mere reality, with nothing ideal about them. The new ideal is anarchy, not mere republicanism! Alas, Proudhon’s first positive usage of the word anarchist:
What is to be the form of government in the future? hear some of my younger readers reply: “Why, how can you ask such a question?
You are a republican.” “A republican! Yes, but that word specifies nothing. Res publica; that is, the public thing. Now, whoever is interested in public affairs — no matter under what form of government, may call himself a republican. Even kings are republicans.’— “Well, you are a democrat.”— No.” […] “Then what are you?” “I am an anarchist.”[vii]
Indeed, the Freemasons and anarchists have more in common than they’d like to admit. For instance, take the masonic concept of liberty, as provided by Alex Davidson, the Master Mason mentioned previously:
Freemasons did more than simply convene and converse. In their private sociability, they established a form of self-government, complete with constitutions and laws, elections and representatives. They bestowed sovereignty on this government and gave it their allegiance, yet it could in turn be altered or removed by the consent of a majority of brothers. The lodges became microscopic civil polities, new public spaces, in effect schools for constitutional government.
The virtues sought by the lodges were presumed to be applicable to governance, social order and harmony, and the public sphere. Their significance was their ability to teach men distinguished by their assumed merit how to integrate enlightened values with the habits of governance. The lodges endeavoured to civilise, to teach manners and decorum, to augment civil society. They taught men to speak in public, to keep records, to pay ‘taxes’, to be tolerant, to debate freely, to vote, to moderate their feasting, and to give lifelong devotion to the other members of their Order. Thus they became citizens, in the modern sense of the word, rather than mere ‘subjects’.
The gist of masonic rhetoric was invariably civic. The miniature polities created were intended not only to possess internal government, but also to be social and intellectual in character. They were never intended to be political in the partisan sense of the word. One might say the lodges were deeply concerned about the political without ever wishing to engage in day-to-day politics. Masonic records are clear on the lack of specific political involvement on the part of almost any European lodge. The official masonic Constitutions published in London in 1723 prohibited ‘any quarrels about religion, or nations, or state policy […] we […] are resolved against all Politicks, as what never yet conduc’d to the Welfare of the Lodge.’ But to understand this position, we need to know what London Freemasons meant by politics.
‘Politics’ in 1720s Britain meant something rather different from the rest of Europe. When discussing ‘politics’ the masonic Constitutions meant party politics, the conflict of organised groups precipitated by the evolution of a new political nation as the result of the Revolution Settlement of 1688-89. ‘Politics’ was the competition for power between Whig and Tory, Jacobite and Hanoverian, in a constitutionally protected parliament.
However, to avoid politics did not mean to deny the civic. As the Constitutions proclaimed, Freemasonry was practised ‘when the civil powers, abhorring tyranny and slavery, gave due scope to the bright and free genius of their happy subjects […] The enjoyment of social harmony by the lodge members relied upon peace and freedom as guaranteed by the civil authorities. Each lodge was intended as a microcosm of the ideal civil society.
The goal of government by consent within the context of subordination to ‘legitimate’ authority was vigorously pursued by the Grand Lodge of London and was demanded of all lodges affiliated with it. Thus, the lodges were political societies, not in a party or faction sense of the term but in a larger connotation. The form of the lodge became one of the many channels that transmitted a new civic and political culture, based upon constitutionalism, which opposed traditional privileges and established hierarchical authority.
This new culture, with Freemasonry as its vanguard, is known today as the Enlightenment, a key passage in European development.[viii]
Sound familiar? In my opinion, this view of social revolution, wherein party politics are internally avoided, but politics are instead practiced directly in the organization, mirrors many anarchist strategies. Particularly, those of syndicalism come to mind. Organizations like the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, take a similar kind of approach. Anyone is allowed in the IWW, regardless of party affiliation, so long as they agree to the constitution. This means Marxists, anarchists, liberals, and even conservatives oftentimes end up sharing the same organization. Party politics would tear them apart, so it is necessary to keep them out of the conversation, and, for this reason, they are internally forbidden by the IWW’s constitution. Instead, the IWW is interested in practicing democracy internally, in order to, as its “Preamble” states, “form the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.” Now, certainly, the Freemasons were not anarchists, and, upon further reading of the article quoted above, it becomes clear that the two groups have much to quarrel about in the way of politics, but if considered in the context of history, the two have a very similar ontological approach to revolution: practice politics directly and inside, until they overwhelm the outside.
Now that we have a brief but, hopefully, clear understanding of soft moral relativism (if not, please see “The Journey of Realization: The Metaphysics of Dualist Pantheism”), we can move on to see what anarchists may take from the ontological strategies and successes of the Masons and global elite.
Well, to begin with, anarchists could shake off the atheism—a polarized viewpoint—in favor of pantheism, the synthesis of atheism and theism, which is naturally inclusive of positions no matter how polarized. The elite use division in order to weaken their opponents, but in order to maintain their internal strength, they practice synthesis and balance. We must take upon ourselves a similar strategy; instead of falling for the Democratic or Republican parties, instead of falling for the extremes of Marxism and Rothbardianism, we can work toward a higher synthesis, a libertarian and egalitarian third-way, as represented in such ideologies as mutualism, Georgism, distributism, panarchism, and more.
My own interest in this subject arose only after having participated in a mystery school (of which I was a co-founder, though I was rather ignorant, compared to what I have learned from the school). This school is called The People’s Arcane School, and it is a democratically functioning mystery school, taking influence from the Greco-Egyptian mystery societies. We have no instituted leadership. We work on consensus and we are quite organized for a small group; in fact, into three separate paths: science and mathematics, philosophy and history, and metaphysics and self-help. At the school, I have learned lessons of great importance to my own worldview, and mostly from my own friends. We have learned about quantum mechanics, the harmony of the spheres, sacred geometry, Aristotle’s virtue ethics, formal logic, and much, much more. I learned about Rafael’s painting, The School of Athens, at our school.
What I’m ultimately trying to get at with writing this is that anarchists should open themselves up to metaphysics, even if not to any particular variety. They should at least be open to the discussion, no dogma needed. Our school, for instance, has no dogma other than consensus, which keeps us respecting one another’s values, and creates a soft pluralism, but one which is strangely united by agreement. We have atheists, Christians, New Agers, pantheists, and many others participate, and even teach, in our school. It is a place for free discussion and personal growth.
Naturally, many of our topics focus on issues of purpose, self-help, and mental well-being. The value this can have for an anarchist organization cannot be over-stated. In my own time organizing, with anarchists and other folks, the biggest hurdle I have come across is not in finding agreement with anarchist values, but that individuals feel helpless, and helpless individuals don’t organize. They feel ontologically disempowered, and feel no urgency, or gumption, to do anything to incur change. Metaphysics combats this directly, by saying that everyone has the potential to create change in their lives. So long as metaphysics isn’t taken to be absolute metaphysical libertarianism— the hard belief in mind over matter, absolute freedom of will, idealism, without respect to determinism and the effects of matter on mind— this personal change can translate into social change.
I have mentioned, though admittedly briefly, that metaphysics was a large cause for the rise of civilization and for the Enlightenment revolutions, and transitions into industrial, capitalist, republics. There is, without a doubt, a certain power in faith, and anarchists would do best to accept, rather than reject, the fact that anarchism is a religion, a spiritual path, unfounded (on the large scale) by hard empirical evidence. This does not mean that it is impossible or any less valuable, but rather that it is rooted in the grounds of the future, the ideal, rather than the past, the real. It may be hard to admit, but let’s take a look at the behavior of any proponent of a political ideology as radical as anarchism, which may include proselytizing, community-building, judgement, faith in results that have not yet occurred in history, and much more. These are not bad, but can actually be positive things, so long as they are seen for what they are. At this point, then, one must learn that they don’t have hard answers for anarchism, as anarchism is a product of the will of all, but must instead appeal to the emotions, the human spirit of those they communicate with, and must heed their words and make sense of them. So long as the individual feels ontologically disempowered, either by the deterministic philosophy of atheism, or the authoritarian theology of Christianity, ideologies like anarchism, concepts such as freedom, which place the will of the individual at the center of concern, will be a foreign concept, a bad idea. Anarchism requires social faith, faith that society can function without authority, which requires a foundation of self-confidence. Anarchism requires the will to believe. Without this will, this thing, which has never existed on the scale we propose it should, never shall. It is under these circumstances that I propose anarchists directly involve themselves in the mystery tradition, and in order to do this we must form our own organizations, which reflect our anarchist values. It’s worked once before; now, it’s our turn.
[i] William James
[ii] Patrick Nolan and Gerhard Lenski,138.
[iii] Alex Davidson
[iv] Three Initiates, 220.
[v] I was taught about the School of Athens firstly by a friend and colleague at The People’s Arcane School, named Raquel Oropeza.
[vii] Pierre-Joseph Proudhon5, 257.
[viii] Alex Davidson