Sunday, March 17, 2019

Ramtha the Barbarian

This is the first of two clips about J Z Knight, an American New Age channel who is supposedly possessed by a 35,000-year old spirit named Ramtha. You can easily find the second part on YouTube. Both clips are from an ABC News feature from 1988.

I have to admit that I got *even less* respect for New Age channels (except maybe our very own Ambres) after watching these clips. Ramtha is so obviously fraudulent, that it challenges my credulity how anyone can possibly believe any of this. For starters, Knight is obviously not in a trance when transmitting Ramtha´s messages. She looks like a cringey amateur actor when playing out her part as the 35,000-year old “spirit”. According to the back story, Ramtha is a warrior from ancient Atlantis (or perhaps Lemuria – Wiki´s version is somewhat different from ABC´s) who seems to resemble Conan the Barbarian, except that in this version, the barbarian is saved by the light and ascends to heaven á la Jesus (again according to Wiki).

Despite the above, Knight has or had many prominent supporters, including “Dynasty” actor Linda Evans and the ever-present Shirley MacLaine. Knight lives in a stately mansion in the Pacific Northwest and breeds Arabian horses. The money comes from her own devotees. More disturbingly, Ramtha´s message has apocalyptic overtones but apparently the Northwest will be saved from the floods and earthquakes, making many of the true believers move there (closer to Knight, that is). Needless to say, none of the converted barbar´s prophecies have come to pass.

ABC has interviewed critics, including disenchanted former associates, who claim that the whole thing is a hoax and that Knight is simply greedy. One former classmate from high school claims that Knight was at one point channeling a demon! The mostly female devotees come across as incredibly stupid women taken in by America´s largest Gypsy scam, or something to that effect.

But then, I suppose it´s always possible that *something* is coming true in the séances. However, I don´t think it´s a 35,000-year old Lemurian (or lemur). Rather, it´s a very modern egregore, known as Mammon… 

I feel bored tonight

There is a lot of trash like this on YouTube. I don´t usually link to it, but being a bit bored tonight, I couldn´t help myself. 

This is supposedly an authentic message from a time traveler from the year 4932. OK, it´s possible that I misunderstood something and that it´s really just a fanciful ad for T-shirts, but it´s treated as "real" by the commentariat. 

The hoax (if that´s what it is) is more transparent than usual. 

For instance, imagine how much the English language has changed in 3,000 years. (There hardly *was* an English language 3,000 years ago.) Yet, the time traveler from 3,000 years into the future speaks perfect vernacular early 21st century Anglais. Also, it is hard to believe that the United States will still exist in 2085, or have the same constitution as today, but I suppose you *could* make that case, LOL. Even funnier is the "philosophy" of the future POTUS, which is simply basic bitch theism. Billions of people already believe in that, so what´s the prob? 

Oh, and time travel isn´t possible for humans. 

I hope Apex Predator TV at least sells some of UFO-themed T-shirts... 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

It begins

I´m not surprised. 

Class struggle in the public loo

This is apparently what passes for "Trotskyism" and "revolutionary Marxism" in California these days, brought to us by the Fourth International´s Cali section Socialist Action. 

Here are some of the highlights:

"In short, socialists must oppose the ideology and activism of TERFs and instead embrace the fight for trans liberation all over the world."
"Political rights for trans people is an essential part of today’s class struggle."
"There is nothing radical about denying children the right to transition despite expressing persistent and consistent desire to do so."
"Trans people are an extremely vulnerable and oppressed part of the working class, and the class struggle cannot advance when trans-specific demands are abandoned."
This, I suppose, is 21st century Trotskyism. 
Socialist Action on TERFs and trans

Friday, March 15, 2019

Symbolum Nitzschenum

”Kristendomens idéhistoria: från medeltiden till vår tid” is a book in Swedish by Austrian expatriate Aleksander Radler. The author was revealed to be a Stasi informer some years ago, and forced to leave all his political and religious offices (he was a Christian Democrat and an ordained priest in the Church of Sweden). This is outside the scope of my review, but for obvious reasons, I have to point it out…

Radler´s book is a huge volume about the history of theology from Augustinus to Karl Barth, with an obvious emphasis on German-speaking theologians. Protestantism is more extensively covered than Catholicism, and Orthodoxy is hardly even mentioned. Some anti-religious thinkers and higher critics have been included, such as D F Strauss or the Pan-Babylonians, since they influenced the theological debates. Likewise, some philosophers who influenced theology are covered: Kant, Fichte, Hegel and Nietzsche. Interestingly, Radler has penned a lengthy chapter on Jakob Böhme and also exposits on Master Eckhart and Valentin Weigel. Disappointingly, Franz von Baader is mentioned mostly in passing.

However, the bulk of the book deals with ”all the usual people”:  Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Schleiermacher, the various Pietist currents, the Oxford Movement, Ritschl, Troeltsch, Harnack, Barth, und so weiter. Since the book is Swedish, important Swedish and Danish theologians have been included (think Anders Nygren or Grundtvig). The style is rather heavy and in-house, and often presupposes some background knowledge of the thinkers covered. No hard feelings – this is obviously a tome for the advanced theology student! Radler´s own opinions on theological matters is difficult to fathom from the material, but here and there a conservative political outlook is visible, as when he implicitly supports the Holy Alliance. This may explain why the book never mentions feminist or liberation theology, to take two examples of more radical causes.

I got some sympathy for the quip ”theology – is that even a subject?” after reading Radler´s work. To a modern observer, the never-ending controversies between different Protestant factions with exotic names such as Philippists and Gnesiolutherans sound like much ado over nothing (or something impossible to really ”prove”) and I sometimes wonder how much of a headache the poor German princes got from listening to these leading lights – the rulers, after all, had to ”solve” the theological disputes according to the principle ”cuius regio, eius religio”. (Had I been a Holy Roman princeling, I would have been tempted to impose Hoodoo on my regio, just to make a point.) 

I got my first immersion in the strange thought of Böhme from this book. I admit I was appalled. Böhme sounds ”seriously stoned”, to be somewhat diplomatic. But then, Zinzendorf´s "time of sifting" was probably even worse! I laughed when I read that one Karl Immanuel Nitzsch was once considered to be the greatest theologian who ever lived, ”greater than even Schleiermacher”. Today, nobody has heard of him and even his John the Precursor (Schleiermacher, remember?) has probably fallen on posthumously bad times. Another strange factoid: yes, the confessionalist Lutherans really did believe that *all* of Scripture was inspired by the Holy Ghost, including the Hebrew vowel marks?! Ahem, there were no vowel marks in the original manuscripts…

Although ”Kristendomens idéhistoria” is rather heavy, I have from time to time used it as a resource, and I think you will too, provided you are interested in the topics covered and/or plan to take over some obscure German principality…

White flag over Kronstadt?

The link below goes to an interesting article in ”Spartacist” no 59, titled ”Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs Counterrevolution”. As I noted in an earlier blog post, ”Spartacist” is the publication of a small leftist group in the United States, the Spartacist League. I usually trash this publication, so clearly the time has come to give the Red Dare Devil his due!

In 1921, the sailors at the Kronstadt naval base outside Petrograd (today St Petersburg) mutinied against the Russian Bolshevik or Communist government. The rebellion was soon suppressed by Red Army detachments. Some of the rebels, including the leader Petrichenko, managed to escape to Finland. The Bolsheviks claimed that the mutiny was either led by or inspired by White counter-revolutionaries. Today, both Stalinist and Trotskyist groups take this position. Anarchists, by contrast, claim the Kronstadt mutineers as some kind of honorary libertarian socialists and deny any collaboration between them and the mostly monarchist White Guards. They see the Kronstadt uprising as a legitimate popular rebellion against Bolshevik ”betrayal” of the Russian revolution.

I have commented on the Kronstadt uprising before, for instance in my review of Paul Avrich´s seminal ”Kronstadt 1921”. Avrich, who is an anarchist, created quite a stir among his libertarian-socialist comrades when he unearthed evidence for at least some White involvement in the uprising. The Spartacist League (which as good Communists oppose the uprising) has found much more. The article in ”Spartacist” references and quotes a Russian collection of documents on Kronstadt published in 1999 but never translated to English. The volume is called ”Kronstadt Tragedy” for short.

The article makes two interconnected claims. First, Petrichenko and a small clique around him frequently went behind the backs of both the Kronstadt soviet and the Provisional Revolutionary Committee (PRC), the nominal leadership of the free soviet and the mutiny. In public, Petrichenko called for free elections to the soviets, an ”anarchist” demand. In reality, his clique consisted of Mensheviks and Kadets who really supported the Constituent Assembly, a demand the Spartacist League regards as ”counter-revolutionary” (and so would the anarchists, for somewhat different reasons). Since Kadet leader Miliukov openly advocated the anarcho-populist ”free soviet” demand as a steppingstone to anti-Bolshevik regime change of a more bourgeois-monarchist nature, Petrichenko´s strategy could be seen as a direct emulation of Kadet strategy.

Second, Spartacist argues that the Petrichenko faction of the PRC had direct contacts with Russian White Guards in Finland, and that the British government secretly encouraged the Finnish White government to aid the Kronstadt mutineers. Under the guise of the Finnish Red Cross, a delegation of White Guards visited Kronstadt. One of them, a White officer named Vilken, stayed behind to coordinate with Petrichenko. Vilken also offered Petrichenko 800 armed fighters, but this was rejected, probably because the general mood of the mutinous sailors was ”left-wing”, making such a White intervention too blatant. Petrichenko had to tread carefully. Meanwhile, two prominent supporters of White General Wrangel in Finland, Tseidler and Grimm, were recognized as foreign representatives of the ”independent republic of Kronstadt”. Thus, the collaboration between Petrichenko and the Wrangelites didn´t begin after the suppression of the mutiny (as asserted by the anarchists), but already during the actual mutiny itself.

One of Avrich´s more sensational claims was that a secret White plan for a Kronstadt uprising had been hatched before the ”spontaneous” uprising actually took place. Avrich, however, didn´t believe that this proved the Whites were really behind it – the execution of the mutiny does look spontaneous and amateurish, something to be expected from anarcho-populist sailors but not from seasoned White officers. The Spartacist League believe they have solved this mystery. A report from a White leader in Finland reveals that some Kronstadt conspirators had compromised themselves by attempting to intervene in a Petrograd ”uprising” which turned out to be fake news. This forced the conspirators to stage the rebellion at Kronstadt sooner than they had originally intended to (before the ice connecting Kronstadt and Petrograd had melted). Of course, the subsequent military-tactical blunders of the PRC could still be explained by anarcho-populist incompetence (or the fear of the Petrichenko circle to be found out working with the Whites).

The anarchists will probably continue supporting Kronstadt 1921, perhaps by claiming that Petrichenko – hitherto treated as a hero of the resistance – was a White mole in a rebellion which was fundamentally libertarian and sound. Or they will simply not read ”Spartacist”! Of course, for the ”authoritarian” left, ”Kronstadt Tragedy” simply proves what they claimed to have known all the time: the Kronstadters really were counter-revolutionary, objectively or subjectively. Or, translated from Red lingo: ordinary people can ´t be trusted to defend the socialist revolution, so a single vanguard party is needed instead. 

Revelation on the road to Montreal

”Spartacist” is the publication of the so-called International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), a network of small revolutionary groups centered on the U.S. Spartacist League (SL). The Spartacists are notorious on the far left for their pro-Stalinism (despite being Trotskyists), sectarianism, and general kookery. They have also been frequently accused of First World chauvinism, anti-immigration racism and pro-imperialism. In issue no 65 of ”Spartacist”, dated Summer 2017, the group reprints a conference resolution titled ”The Struggle Against the Chauvinist Hydra”. The issue itself has the title ”The Fight for Leninism on the National Question”. The resolution supposedly reverses the erstwhile chauvinist course of the organization.

Or does it *really*? The traditional Spartacist position on the national question is that ”interpenetrated peoples” can´t demand self-determination under capitalism. The examples usually given were Israel-Palestine and Northern Ireland. In practice, the Spartacists defended the national rights of the Jews in Palestine and the Protestants in Ireland beneath a cover of ra-ra-revolutionary verbiage. It´s *not* clear from ”Spartacist no 65” whether they have revised their understanding of these conflicts. Nor is it clear whether the SL has repudiated its opposition to open borders or it´s de facto pro-British stance during the Falkland-Malvinas War.

What is clear is that the SL has changed its understanding of many other national conflicts, but these don´t involve ”interpenetrated peoples” as usually defined. Still, it does represent a break with the traditional line of this particular tendency. Thus, the SL now supports independence for Quebec and a privileged position for the French language in that province. Their previous position is condemned as Anglo-chauvinist. (Strictly speaking, the Spartacists began calling for Quebecois independence already in 1995, but mostly to get rid of the national question from the Canadian agenda altogether, in effect a position of kicking Quebec out so Anglo workers could go on with more important ”class struggle” issues.) The Spartacist League now also calls for the independence of Catalonia, the Basque countries and Corsica. Further, they propose the partition of Belgium into three or four new republics.

Only a few Third World issues are commented upon. Apparently, the Spartacist tendency used to oppose the independence of Guadaloupe, a French colony in the Caribbean with nominal status as a French departement. This position was reversed by the conference. Curiously, the Spartacist take on Puerto Rico used to be the exact opposite: this U.S. dependency should be *forced* to become independent regard less of whether the inhabitants like it or not! Here, the international conference took the eminently sensible position that the Puerto Ricans themselves should decide on their exact relation to the United States – many Puerto Ricans, in fact, demand statehood (i.e. they want the island to become the 51st U.S. state).As for Syria, the SL upholds the (bizarre) position of military support to the Islamic State terrorists against the Kurds – the Kurds, it seems, are still Turds. If the Albanians are still goat-fuckers is, alas, never explained…

Why did the ”International Communist League” suddenly change some of its long-standing positions in this manner? I suspect the reason is a power struggle within the tendency between a certain Comrade Coelho and an old guard of entrenched petty apparatchiks at the Spartacist HQ in New York City. Spartacist founder-leader James Robertson has apparently left his semi-retirement and joined forces with Coelho, who thus carried the day. The new ICL executive committee is said to be 70% non-American and the goal is to make the entire organization 70% ethnic minority. In their fight against the old-timers, Jim & Coelho had the support of non-Anglophone sections in Quebec, Greece, Mexico and elsewhere. Since the Spartacist League and their co-thinkers don´t really *do* much, I strongly suspect that the entire change of line is really the reflection of a change of guard within an increasingly irrelevant sect. Those who liked the old line better can join two old splits from the SL, the Bolshevik Tendency and the Internationalist Group, which both uphold the right of English-speakers to carry out their business in Anglais even in Montreal, Acadia and (perhaps) Paris.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Cool ferns

A new theory about why the Earth cooled about 50 million years ago. Yes, it was thanks to a fern known as Azolla! Could this save us from global warming? The short clip doesn´t say... 

God has a sense of humor

This bizarre clip has 1.1 million views on YouTube. I don´t think it´s a true story. May I guess that it has been taken from one of the supermarket tabloids also peddling Elvis sightings and UFO abductions? 

In case you don´t get it, the clip claims that the son of a KKK leader had a near-death experience in which Jesus and the angels turned out to be...Black. 

If only. LOL!

Some stray thoughts

Here are some stray thoughts…

I find it hard to believe in “hard” or “deep” teleology, according to which humans (or human-like creatures) are somehow predetermined or fated to appear – no, more, they are the actual *goal* of cosmic evolution itself. Presumably, God directs this entire process. This simply doesn´t compute with what we know about evolution and Earth history. For instance, if that meteorite hadn´t collided with Earth, non-avian dinosaurs would have survived, continued to dominate the fauna, and humans might not have evolved at all. Note also that Earth is at present in an interglacial between two Ice Ages. (Or should be, unless we screw up the atmosphere with AGW.) Thus, our entire civilization is made possible by a temporary warm-temperate period and might not survive its end. Doesn´t sound like we are “supposed” to be here as some kind of “crown of creation”… If neo-catastrophism is true, and I strongly suspect that it might, human or human-like civilizations might have existed in the distant past and been wiped out by cyclically reoccurring global cataclysms!

That being said, I do believe in a “soft” version of teleology. Consciousness and intelligence may be part of the deep structures of the universe. They have always existed, at least as a potentiality. Evolution is simply the unfolding of this potentiality. Or perhaps they exist all the time, but usually in forms undetectable to the tiny brains of naked ape-men. If consciousness and intelligence are eternal, it stands to reason that at some point, they will manifest themselves in the form of human or human-like creatures (or non-human like creatures with human-like intelligence). However, this is not the “goal” of The Process, anymore than ravens, elephants, whales, chimps or Neanderthals are the “goal”. Besides, what makes us assume that intelligence can only exist in a human form? Ants, bees and termites strike me as intelligent. For all we know, forests may have an intelligence, and so may the biosphere itself. If you believe in the paranormal, the varieties of consciousness and intelligence are almost endless! Why think the intelligence of the Western White 21st century scientist (or philosopher, or TV personality, or autistic nerd…) is the “goal” of cosmic evolution, or the only form creative intelligence can take in an infinite cosmos?

A religious believer may object that humans are the only creatures that can know God, so therefore we do play a central role in the cosmic process. But even religious people admit that there is at least one other class of beings which can know God: the angels. Strictly speaking, even the demons know God! And what makes us think that animals and plants *can´t* know God? For all we know, there could be different ways of knowing God (I mean, why not). Or maybe they don´t *need* to know God, perhaps that´s a human weakness…

The historical process doesn´t strike me as teleological either, at least not in the “hard” sense. The rise of the modern West seems to be the result of contingent events and processes which could have turned out differently: the concrete way in which the Western Roman Empire collapsed, the defeat of the Muslims at the hands of Charles Martell, the death of Genghis Khan which saved Europe from the Mongols, the low resistance of the Native Americans to our diseases, the prohibition of cousin marriage by the Catholic Church (which may have made our societies more “open” rather than clan-based), the fact that Nero or Diocletian didn´t manage to exterminate Christianity, the fact that some of us survived the Black Death, China´s unexpected isolationism shortly after Columbus… Of course, there is a “point of no return” somewhere, perhaps during the Late Middle Ages or Early Modern Period, beyond which the rise of modernity becomes near-automatic, and this creates the illusion that it has always been so, when in reality, Europe might still have been a cluster of warring tribal kingdoms in the North and “Asiatic” modes of production in the South (perhaps Muslim ones), both constantly threatened by the Jade Emperor. Besides, our downfall might be equally near-automatic, since the system doesn´t have any natural brakes stopping us from overexploiting our finite resources, so who is the “god species” exactly…?

None of the above means that human intelligence and Western modernity are “bad”. The one doesn´t follow from the other, anymore than peace is bad just because it´s rare. However, it does mean that once lost, we won´t be able to resurrect the modern West (or human intelligence) anytime soon. On the positive side, I suppose you could argue that the cosmos will continue turning even after we´re gone…