The Death and Rebirth of Culture

I recently made the mistake of purchasing a used book online, not realizing that it had a previous owner’s comments scrawled inside. Although I, like probably everyone who still has a quaint attachment to paper, have seen this before, I was struck by these comments in particular.

Though short — mostly only four or five words at most — the scribbler’s nauseating snobbish personality and sense of self-importance shined through. He had dated many of his worthless comments, addressed the publisher (Oxford University Press) in several of them — as if to psychically alert them to his overblown sense of self-importance — and had concluded the 300-plus page book with, “Interesting, but reference material.” He had, of course, signed and dated this as well, as if it were equivalent to Picasso signing Guernica. Continue reading “The Death and Rebirth of Culture”

Syncretism Versus Sublimation: Thoughts on Developing an Esoteric Culture

Recently, in response to my article “Creating a Tribal Culture: Principles and Pitfalls,” I was asked whether Freemasonry was syncretic. It’s a good question, though the short answer is that I do not. However, prompted by the question, I thought I’d take the opportunity to look at syncretism, and what we might call sublimation, in regard to developing a culture, a group, organization, or movement, etc.

Sublimation has occurred throughout history. Shaolin martial arts absorbed elements of Buddhism (itself of Indian origin), Taoism, and various Chi exercises (that had already been absorbed into Taoism), etc. Islamic gnosticism absorbed the philosophy of Aristotle and Plato. The Catholic Church absorbed the thought of Aristotle and was shaped by the religious imagery and festivals it encountered as it swept (not always peacefully) across Europe. Christian mysticism borrowed very significantly from Cabala and Hermeticism (the latter of which itself leaned heavily on ancient Greek imagery). Though no one would suggest that these are syncretic. Continue reading “Syncretism Versus Sublimation: Thoughts on Developing an Esoteric Culture”

Creating a Tribal Culture: Principles and Pitfalls

Increasingly, we are under siege from the inversion of those values accepted, until recently, by every culture the world over — from the classical Chinese to the Arabic, and from dharmic Asia to Europe. Instead of health, we see the promotion of unhealthy lifestyles, diets, fast food, and obesity. Instead of inner and outer strength, we are taught to respect hurt feelings and to regard them as representing inner truth. Instead of tribe, community, and strong bonds between those in the physical world, we are offered only the abstraction of identity politics, virtual communities, and the promise of one day uploading our consciousnesses.

Some groups remain, attached to a way of looking at the world that is shared by the traditions of all developed cultures, derived from such roots as the classical Buddhism of China to the trade guilds of Europe, with their rituals, ethics, religion, and way of life. However, below I have attempted to sketch out a few basic elements that I believe any non-conformist group will need to survive in the modern age, and a few threats posed to them. Continue reading “Creating a Tribal Culture: Principles and Pitfalls”