Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Not Sure How Phineas Priesthood Escaped My Attention

The 1990's were weird times to develop ones political persona. I was left-leaning since becoming thoroughly disillusioned when the Iran-Contra clusterfuck came to light, which was only driven home by a 1988 election that turned into a referendum on whether ACLU-card-carrying l-words could ever quite love Mom, the flag, and apple pie, enough for the estimation of real he-man Uncle Sam types who supported an "out of the loop" "wimp".

But I think my opinion got hardened by my understanding of the existence of right-wing militias and my ever-lowering opinion of the Christian right. See, I started noticing that the right-wing religious freaks like Falwell and Swaggart and Robertson always supported Republicans. But the PTL scandals that erupted in 1987 made it pretty clear to me that these types of people were basically carnies making a dime off of people's thirst for gnosis. So why wouldn't they superciliously shill on behalf of the team of law and order and no fun with your fun parts? I watched Footloose, and if I couldn't dance, I didn't want to be any part of their revolution.

So I took note of things like the OKC bombing by Christian Identity white supremacist Timothy McVeigh.  I noticed that Ruby Ridge and Waco had a strong religious/anti-government paranoia aspect. I tracked with interest the long story of the capture of Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph, who had more than a little help from his friends.

These people were out where the buses don't run. That wacky militia-tinged disinfo game is why I don't actually find the nonsense, unreality-based burblings of Steve Stockman or Louie Gohmert as hilarious as some people do--I get that there are real people for whom the possibility of being secretly micro-chipped with the number of the beast by the government is a real thing. And I mostly just think it's sort of like ignorance on steroids, you know?  The reality for people raised in movements that tell them that everyone outside of the movement is a liar, is that it produces brains exceptionally good at finding lies in all the things regular people, schools, universities, scientists, government figures, mainstream news reporters, and so on, say.  It would be exhausting for me to counter that much countervailing evidence. But they can deny it outright and feel really satisfied that they did. You can't hardly argue with people like that. They have to step on the rake and slap their selves upside the head on their own to come around.

I saw the story of Larry McQuilliams originally as just kind of a sad case of someone simply losing their shit in a pretty flagrant way--firing more than a hundred rounds at various buildings and so very fortunately, not harming actual people (other than giving them one hell of a scare). Understanding now that he might have viewed himself as a kind of soldier/martyr--not unlike a al-Qaeda shahid, genuinely unsettles me. Somehow, even if such terrorists were active in the 90's, I never came across that term -Phineas Priesthhood--before. But I think I might want to pay attention to that current, now, especially as racial tensions and distrust in government seem to be on the rise.


mikey said...

For me, I was never political at all until the 2000 Bush v. Gore SCOTUS Coup. I was dumbfounded. I mean, this was SO obviously wrong, so clearly an assault on basic small-d democratic norms that even a self-interested Silicon Valley geek could see (and smell) it.

Like you, I've had concerns about right wing militias and their hangers on for decades. It's just so clear, the combination of guns, tribal hatred, conspiracy theories, bigotry and apocalyptic rhetoric is utterly toxic, and I keep waiting for the Next Big Bloodletting.

But just as I've been surprised that Jihadists can't figure out how to cook off a few truck bombs in America's Heartland (or can't see how destructive and crippling such pin-prick attacks would be in our culture), I've been somewhat surprised that for all the spittle flecked hatred for the Kenyan Usurper and "Libtards" in general, there's been so little right-wing terrorist violence.

To be honest, I was very disappointed that BLM backed down in the face of the Bundy Ranch Militia threat. At some point they're going to have to be shown somewhat graphically that you can't fight the US Government with assorted small arms you bought from KMart...

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, you are right to scorn these discredited militant groups. And you are also correct in pointing out the carnie aspect of some TV preachers.

However, you discredit your point of view as so many others on the left do when they talk about these subjects. You're wise enough and literate enough to understand that a few fringe organizations and carnival hucksters scarcely defines Christianity or the face of Christianity. You don't mention Bush 41's quiet and private Episcopal faith, you don't mention Bush 43's Methodist faith, you don't mention the many Presbyterians across the country, and for that matter spokesmen for this point of view never talk about Union Theological Seminary or Stanford Theological Seminary or Notre Dame or Fr Thomas Keating, O.P.C.S.O. (the Benedictine monk who developed centering prayer). In fact, they never even mention Louis Dupre, the T. Lawrason Riggs professor in the philosophy of religion at Yale University. Paul Tillich is never mentioned by this group, and not Karl Rahner or thousands of other theologians and dozens of other wise principles and different denominations.. Just Jimmy Swaggart, Tammy Baker and a handful of others.

You don't mention the Unibomber. You don't mention the black Panther Party. Back in the 60s we had H Rapp Brown, Stokely Carmichael, members of the Weather Underground.

I wouldn't want people to evaluate the Democratic Party by thinking of Cindy Sheehan or Al Sharpton. I could only conclude from Sharpton that Democrats are completely bereft of the faintest tint of honor or integrity. Fortunately I know better.

Another problem is that people who argue from the secularist, atheist point of view act like something as empty as secularism offers an alternative to admittedly flawed religions. Most of the atheists I've talked with make Madalyn Murray O'Hair look like a genius. They are not arguing form the point of view of Sartre or Camus or even Ayn Rand. They are usually just yelling empty slogans and act like attacking something automatically gives them validation. I've seen nothing in secularism that offers some greater truth.

These arguments that try to suck in the lowest common denominator in their aggressive race to the bottom by the right and the left remind me of that old poem about a darkling plain “where ignorant armies clash by night.”

The fact is, most of the time the right and the left, the religious and the secular, speak from the same glaring level of ignorance. It's sad, but that's the kali yuga. Self-righteous indignation from a platform of banality offered up as a solution.

mikey said...

I won't go all flamer in your blog comments, VS, but that previous comment is an awfully narrow view of modern atheism or secularism. I won't pretend to speak for others, although I know many who believe as I do - but my rather militant form of atheism is driven by two powerful forces. The first is science - the well known "god of the gaps", where the terrain on which an imaginary super being can exist keeps shrinking as greater scientific discoveries are made. God is reduced to something of a functionary since we are discussing the first milliseconds of the existence of the universe. The second force is the long toxic, destructive history of religion, from the crusades to the Catholic charities refusal to allow condom distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa.

And I'm sorry, you can name any number of so-called "great religious thinkers", but their thoughts are always tainted by their willingness to believe seven impossible things before breakfast.

I'll just leave it at this. There have been at LEAST a hundred thousand creation stories invented by human societies in the last 100,000 years. Isn't it interesting that religious zealots reject ALL of them except the one they were born into? Hey, the difference between me and Rick Santorum is I only reject ONE more ridiculous just-so story than he does. And if Pope Francis was born in Tehran or Quetta, he'd be equally convinced of an entirely different set of "facts"....

Vixen Strangely said...

The reason I don't address respectable religious scholars when talking about Christian extremists is something along the same rationale for not bringing up my elbow when discussing my headache--part of the same general body, but not connected. I reckon there is a genuine seeking of truth with an aim of actually being a good person, or trying to be, behind much of what established religions profess, and I don't believe I was trying to characterize some deluded bugger firing rounds into random and not-so-random buildings as being an exemplar of the faith.

Actually, what concerns me is that faith gets used as a kind of "carrier oil" for a lot of absolute poison. When couched in hymns and interspersed with "almost-true" news tidbits, the psychological technology of religion can make a lot of bad ideas sound plausible. When the Bible that talks about being hospitable to strangers, is supposedly the basis of the belief system of someone who doesn't see foreigners as fully human, I have to balk.

I think Cindy Sheehan was a symbol for a time--not a natural politician and a bit naiive. I think Sharpton has improved from his 1980's incarnation. They are examples of different flavors within the liberal spice cabinet, I guess.

There has definitely been echoes of H Rap Brown ("If America doesn't come around, we're gonna burn it down!") lately. If you recall, I'm from Philadelphia, and Mumia Abu Jamaal killed a police officer here and is lionized by some patchouli smelling wankers. He had connections with MOVE, and frankly, being related to white cops I feel some kind of way about that.

But illegitimate tactics don't illegitimize causes except in the the court of public opinion. It's one of the reasons I don't feel optimist about the possibility of results from direct demonstrations regarding Ferguson and now, Eric Gardner (and probably the cop that killed Tamir Rice, too.) Weather Underground being a bunch of mostly overprivileged green-ass fuck-ups didn't suddenly mean the Vietnam War was a brilliant success (we don't make them quite that stupid these days, though--from your basic G-8 (7 or whatever number of first-worldies are attending) conference protests to Occupy to the Iraq War protests and all that--mostly not actually shooting shit up, flying planes into government buildings or blasting them with fertilizer trucks and whatnot. Stuff like what's going on in Ferguson etc, or the LA riots--they aren't even political. They aren't left or right. Communities like Ferguson were sitting in kerosene and a match was coming.

Granted--politics is a human vehicle and imperfect. But where it at least doesn't demonize and responds to facts and trusts in processes that are effective--I think it does better than the raggedy kind of conspiracy theory with a halo stuff that unfortunately, some mainstream pols on the right dip into. Ted Cruz' father Rafael is an interesting example of that kind of thing.

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, this post is sort of a test.

I really liked your answer, and I particularly liked the way you characterized some of the old timers, and I agree with you.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother to defend the religious community. For example, I have, as it happens, pointed eyebrows. You know, like Satan. And at one time I was high-profile as an advocate for the Western mystery tradition.

You probably haven't had whole Sunday schools full of Baptists praying for your demise. In my case a guy with pointed eyebrows (like Satan) speaking on behalf of Western magic was enough to profile me biblically as the unmistakable purveyor of evil. Ergo, it was quite justifiable for some in the religious community to spend a lot of time praying for my quick exit from the mortal vehicle. I tried to explain that the soul wears many vestments. Alas, to no avail.

However it goes, I enjoy our conversations and appreciate your generosity with me on this site. I like your intelligence and your cleverness, and you can be assured that you have my sincere goodwill.

Vixen Strangely said...

You probably haven't had whole Sunday schools full of Baptists praying for your demise. In my case a guy with pointed eyebrows (like Satan) speaking on behalf of Western magic was enough to profile me biblically as the unmistakable purveyor of evil. Ergo, it was quite justifiable for some in the religious community to spend a lot of time praying for my quick exit from the mortal vehicle. I tried to explain that the soul wears many vestments. Alas, to no avail.

That sounds terrifying, especially given that some fundamentalists might see being G-D's vehicle of wrath against a "witch" a "Phineas Act", in itself.

I like our conversations too. I have wondered at times if my interest in the middle pillar is because I'm like an ass presented with two piles of hay labeled "faith" and "rationality", and can't choose between them.

The truth is something more like--why can't I have a bit of both--or all of it? That the search for union between what we do here materially and how it is meaningful spiritually and affects the future also leads me to read history and literature with a different perspective is like a bonus, really. And I genuinely have had hardly anyone I could discuss this sort of thing with at all, actually.

I still kind of like my doubts:

I slept with faith and found a corpse in my arms on awakening; I drank and danced all night with doubt and found her a virgin in the morning. ~AC

But the problem with agnosis is the not knowing. So I leave lots of mental avenues open.

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, never dismiss the efficacy of regular practice of the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram. Especially if it is done correctly, which means that the physical movements are simply an assist to the visualization. The visualization is 60% of the power, and the physical movements auxiliaries. With a level of practice it can be done entirely in the visual imagination while one is sitting in a chair with the eyes closed.

If it can hold off a Sunday school of praying Baptists, you know it's got to be pretty good.

I find the study of the Qaballah and Jung and Eliade and psychical research to be extremely rigorous intellectually, but all of them contributing to faith and even experience. The biblical injunction is to have faith but then add to your faith knowledge.

Let me quote something that I make my students ponder long and hard over. Because it very succinctly describes the basis for all of our problems with religion, and politics as well.

It is from Revolt Against the Modern World by Julius Evola. He was a “Traditionalist.” It was a movement started by Rene Guenon and Ananda Coomaraswamy. The movement is not as well known as some because it never existed popularly; it only existed in universities and secret societies. It is conceivably the most intellectually rigorous movement in the esoteric world.

“Anywhere in the world of Tradition, both East and West, and in one form or another, this knowledge (not a mere 'theory') has always been present as an unshakable axis around which everything revolved. Let me emphasize the fact that it was knowledge and not 'theory'. As difficult as it may be for our contemporaries to understand this, we must start from the idea that the man of Tradition was aware of the existence of a dimension of being much wider than what our contemporaries experience and call 'reality'. Nowadays after all, reality is understood only as something strictly encompassed within the world of physical bodies located in space and time. Certainly, there are those who believe in something beyond the realm of phenomena. When these people admit the existence of something else, however, they are always led to this conclusion by a scientific hypothesis or law, or by a speculative idea, or a religious dogma; they cannot escape such an intellectual limitation. Through his practical and immediate experiences, modern man, no matter how deep his 'materialistic' or 'spiritual' beliefs may be, develops an understanding of reality only in relation to the world of physical bodies and always under the influence of his direct and immediate experience. This is the real materialism for which our contemporaries should be reproached. All other versions of materialism that are formulated in scientific or in philosophical terms are only secondary phenomena. The worst type of materialism, therefore, is not a matter of an opinion or a 'theory', but it consists in the fact that man's experience no longer extends to non-physical realities. Thus, the majority of the intellectual revolts against 'materialistic' views are only vain reactions against the latest peripheral effects stemming from remote and deeper causes. These causes, incidentally, arose in a different historical context from the one in which the 'theories' were formulated.”